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The Giving of a Gift to Another

December 23, 2012

Steve and I enjoy making Christmas gifts for our friends and family, like the year we made vanilla, and the year after that we made vanilla moose nugget soap (the process of which I apparently have no photos, but involved molding real gross moose nuggets and then filling the molds with brown vanilla-scented melted soap and let me just say that some family members didn't appreciate it).

UPDATE: I have no photos of the moose poop soaps because Steve took them.

One year we made mustard and ketchup from scratch (also no photos? what?), which was damn good. This year we kept with the same spirit and made fireweed jelly and scone mix.

We spent an afternoon at Arctic Valley picking fireweed blooms while the entire rest of the Anchorage population was there picking blueberries. We had decided that we needed 8 cups of packed flowers to make enough juice for the jelly, but eyeballing that in a plastic bag isn't as easy as we had expected and so we ended up with all of the flowers in the entire valley.

Along with all of the extra cups of flowers, we also brought home four live bees. They were very friendly and happy and high on all of the pollen, swimming around in the flowers like Scrooge McDuck. This doesn't count the two or three bees I noticed at the time I picked them and proceeded to freak right out because OMG bees.

After we sorted all of the sticks and leaves and bees from the petals, we gave everything a really good rinse and then brought them to a boil in water on the stovetop. The fireweed juice was done when it turned a fantastic purple color and the petals turned grey. Then we threw the juice into the freezer to wait until we were ready to make the jelly.

Once our jars arrived, Steve and Donovan teamed up on making and canning the jelly while I took on role of photographer and shouty-director. MOVE YOUR ARM. MOVE YOUR HEAD. I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU BLEW THAT SHOT. Because the photos were more important than not getting burned.

All of the extra flowers made a ton of extra juice which made for gobs of extra jelly, about three times as much as we needed for gifts. So much that Steve ran to the store in the middle of the canning to buy more jars.

Despite all of the extra work, the heat from the canning definitely went to everyone's heads and productivity waned.

Except for the dogs who never had any productivity to begin with. Mitzi plopped her giant anchor-like self into the middle of the kitchen floor to be near her pack, because being tripped over with hot jelly jars is the same as love.

Olive took the opportunity of the entire pack congregating in the kitchen to hog the entire love seat for herself. The humans didn't know what they were missing.

After the jelly was all canned and set aside, Donovan and I made scone mix bags. We bagged twenty two scone mixes, in fact.

Do you know how much butter that is? It's a lot. Good thing I always have a lot of butter in the refrigerator. Also sugar.

Meanwhile, Steve got to designing labels. The jelly jars got round labels and the scone mixes got labels with instructions. We included variations so each scone can be tailored to personal preference. Before printing I noticed that he added one un-approved variation, and he laughed at my eye to detail. We both laughed when my niece pointed out our Use By date was the wrong year.

With all of the pieces ready, we assembly-lined the packing: folded and stapled scone instructions on the bags, labels and fireweed print fabric on the jelly jars, hand-written notes on the Christmas cards, packed into boxes with brown kraft paper and bubble wrap, taped and labeled for mailing.

It was a pretty impressive amount of boxes we had ready to mail out, everywhere from as close as Homer to as far away as New Zealand. I love having loved ones all over the world.

I am really happy with how everything turned out. The jam is yummy and the scone mix is easy to make, with or without crickets. And the branding Steve did is fun and festive.

Wishing you and yours the merriest of everything this year! Now if you will excuse me, I haven't watched Muppet Christmas Carol yet today. That needs fixing.

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Hi, I'm Valette

I'm a photographer based out of Anchorage, Alaska. I've recently become a wife, a stepmother, and a homeowner. Life is pretty awesome. You can email me anytime. Learn more...

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