I have to play catch up with the blog!!! It’s been such a crazy couple of days- we just got back from our Washington D.C. trip, which was so much fun!  It was actually much colder than we expected (so I froze!), and the cherry blossoms were “past their prime,” but I still thought it was beautiful!  Here are some pretty pictures from our trip!

We were right in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival- and here are the stars of the show:

 And a stunning magnolia tree (I love magnolias, they were the only flowers in my wedding bouquet!):

And…..we made a little stop at Georgetown Cupcakes, the home of the TV show “DC Cupcakes!”  I have spent many an evening watching re-runs from this show…but to actually go to their shop?!  Amazing experience!

We waited outside for 2+ hours in a crazy line which went all the way around the block.  We asked each other over and over if it was worth it…

Um, it was.  VERY well worth it.  See that pretty cupcake with the blue fondant bird on top?  It was a hummingbird cupcake with cream cheese frosting- Chris & I shared that one right in their shop!  It was absolutely delicious- bananas, pineapple, and walnuts.  I think Chris found a new favorite cake to add to his very short list!  We brought the rest back & froze them.  Although Chris ate one tonight to celebrate his starting of his residency!!  More on that in a second…so here are our flavors, starting at the top left corner: Red Velvet, Coconut, Peanut Butter Fudge, Thin Mint, Salted Caramel, Hummingbird, Key Lime, Vanilla2, Mint Cookie, another Peanut Butter Fudge, Milk Chocolate Birthday, and another Red Velvet!

So, the Hubby has started his residency in Internal Medicine as of yesterday, and I was on call yesterday, or I would have written about it yesterday!  As expected, it was a rough first day for him.  No white coat, no computer access, no keys to any of his rooms, getting lost…the whole nine yards.  Already, though, he said today was a little better!  He said it was really weird when nurses addressed him as “Dr.” and he had to introduce himself as “Dr.” for the first time yesterday since he graduated.  I remember feeling the same exact way- I remember thinking, “Don’t call me a Dr, I’m a med student!”  It’s such an abrupt transition, and it’s not really a graceful one.  And already, we don’t see each other near as much as we used to (which wasn’t incredibly often then!); his hours are even crazier than mine!  He is at work from 5am – 7pm everyday, poor guy- such a long day!  I am really glad we had a chance to get away for a few days before the craziness began. 

That said, it’s really sparked our relationship to have our careers in common again.  We’ve always had medicine in common, since we met in med school, and we’d always been able to understand exactly what the other went through.  For the last several months, however, I know it’s been difficult for him to completely understand why I am so exhausted sometimes when I come home, or why I get so nervous about being on call, or why it really ruins your day when your attending yells at you again.  Now, we have all of this in common again and we have so much to talk about with each other at night!  It’s a bond I hadn’t even realized I had missed…but it makes total sense; he’s been my best friend since school started 5 years ago, and now we’re just like we used to be again- completely understanding each other’s anxiety, excitement, nervousness, joys, angers, and all of the in between emotions that come along with this career path.

Anyway, we stayed with my IL’s over our extended weekend in D.C., and my MIL is always a very very generous giver.  She gave me a flat of strawberries, a huge papaya, and a flat of mangoes.  What was I gonna do with all of that fruit?!  It was all starting to get a little ripe, so I needed to act fast.  So, I made jam.  It has no sugar or artificial sweeteners in it, and it is actually really tasty!  I’ve loved making jam since my mom & I made Muscadine jam in Texas one summer in college, probably almost 8 or 9 years ago (good grief, time flies).  They had a muscadine plant in their backyard, and I wanted to learn to make homemade jam, so Mom taught me (actually, come to think of it, that’s basically how I learned to cook…think of something yummy & ask mom to teach me!  Thanks, Mom!).  This time I made Strawberry-Balsamic Jam and Mango-Papaya-Peach Jam, both of which turned out much better than expected!  Pics & Recipes:

The whole process of making jam is laborious, albeit worth it in the end.  Therefore, here is a good resource I found for the actual process of making jam in a step by step guide!  I’ll just give my recipes below, and you can insert them into the step by step guide!  This website also has a directory of local farmers & markets listed in almost every state- it’s a great resource for a lot of different things!
How to Make Jam

Strawberry-Balsamic Jam
7 cups fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed, and sliced
1 c. strawberry juice (no sugar added & not from concentrate, if possible.  Apple will do, too)
1/4 c. Balsamic Vinegar (I used a Raspberry Balsamic)
juice from 1/2 of a lemon
1 packet of Pectin (must use the no or low sugar kind for this recipe)

Put the strawberries, juice, vinegar, and lemon juice in a large saucepot, cover, and bring to a boil.  Using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend all of the strawberries until it is a uniform liquid.  Stir in the pectin, and bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat & fill into warm jars immediately.  Process jars as directed.

Mango-Papaya-Peach Jam
1/2 large Papaya, skinned, seeded, and sliced into large cubes
7-8 mangoes, skinned & cubed
3 c. sliced peaches, fresh or frozen
1 c. fresh juice (can be any flavor, no sugar added and not from concentrate)
1/2 c. Peach White Balsamic Vinegar (White Wine Vinegar will work beautifully, too)
juice of 1 large lemon
2 Tbsp. Agave (or Honey)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 packet of Pectin (low or no sugar variety only)

In a large saucepan, bring papaya, mangoes, peaches, juice, vinegar, lemon juice, and agave to a boil.  With an immersion blender or regular blender, blend until it’s a uniform thick liquid consistency.  Add the pectin & stir.  Bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat & fill jars immediately.  Process as directed.

I created the recipes myself after reading about jam making for a while.  I added the lemon juice & the vinegar because both are very acidic, making them natural preservatives & stabilizers- the jam will keep for a little longer with the added acidity.  I had gotten a set of specialty Balsamic Vinegars from a very dear friend for my birthday, and I had been looking for an excuse to experiment with them!  Both brighten the jams a lot!  According to several resources, juice can sweeten jam pretty well while allowing it to be added sugar free, since I used sugar free fresh juice.  They have it in most grocery stores now, usually in either the produce or the drink section.  The strawberry jam turned out bright and a really nice balance of tart and sweet, while the mango-papaya-peach is comforting, almost like a tropical cobbler with the cinnamon.  I served the jam with a loaf of fresh bread with dinner tonight, and I loved both so much!  I love jam!

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