About Shanda

wife, mom of seven, friend, child of God

jam mama (part 2)

Ten years ago almost to this very day I wrote a post on my blog which was untitled but included the words…..JAM MAMA……

“You should have seen small Grace
diving into the warm cup of jam
that I set out on the table,
with a loaf of soft white bread from the bakery.
She tore of big chunks of bread
and dipped the majority of it down
into the bright red jam. . . .
there is just nothing like that warm, strawberry taste
. . . .it’s heavenly.

She called me ‘jam-mama’.”
July 12, 2008

Ten years have come and gone……

Grace is 18 now and was at work (as a cashier downtown at the grocery store) yesterday when I walked up the road to “see if there were any raspberries left”.  I determined to really look and really pick every single good enough berry I could find.  This involved lots of bending over and looking underneath the tangle of vines and briars and taking my merry ol’ sweet time.


I eventually came home with 6 cups.

Incidentally, these berries grow on the side of the road, free for the foraging!  I already have a gallon of them frozen in our chest freezer in the pantry.  Once they ripen, we have to go back every couple of days to pick some more until they are finally all done.  They are productive!

We have a small patch of wild raspberries over by the chicken coop, too, which the chickens love to jump up and eat off the cane.  Then they lay us the most lovely eggs out of appreciation.

The black-cap raspberries grow on the bank by our drive way and under the dead pine tree at the bottom of the yard by the pond.


I always pick clean but you never know what little creatures may have taken a ride home with the berries.  So I dumped them out to look through them.

I put them in a pan and simmered them until they released all their juice.  I strained out the seeds, measured the juice (2 cups) and added them back to the pan with the same amount of sugar (2 cups).  Brought to a rolling boil for 3 minutes and then beaten with the mixer for another 3 minutes.  Done!  So easy, so satisfying.

I was given the recipe by my very own jam mama, Cindy.


Jacob said the jelly would taste good on “that cake you made the other day” and Ethan suggested some other baked good and I said “How about homemade biscuits?” And he said YES PLEASE.

I made a double batch of biscuits and we all ate them up right away with the homemade jelly on top.

Everywhere I looked there were children grabbing  another and another biscuit, slathering it with butter and jelly, and walking away with it………

This morning my feet are sticking to the carpet and the floor.

lovely things

Jeremiah 32:17   Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm!  Nothing is too hard for you.


Lovely things are silent…
Rosebuds waxing bloom,
Shadows stealing softly
In a darkened room;
Dragonfiles on rushes,
Stars in dark blue skies;
Hatching, fuzzy birdlets,
Love in sweethearts’ eyes.




Lovely things are silent…
Rainbows in the sky,
Violets shedding fragrance,
A soft breeze waltzing by;
An apple tree in blossom,
Sunsets all aglow;
Moonlight on the water,
Falling soft white snow.






Lovely things are silent…
Foam clouds in the sky,
Hummingbirds at flowers,
Butterflies gliding by.
A spider’s dainty spinning,
Wild flowers on a hill.
I bow my head in silence
And in my heart I’m still.
~Betty Fox Solberg




The cobwebs look blue in this light.  I’m down on my stomach in the woods to take a picture of a mushroom and I ask God to show me one more thing and I turn my head and see another tiny mushroom pushing up the leaves that I wouldn’t have noticed if I was walking…….

I like this feeling of walking without being in a hurry.  The woods around me are so still.  And I’m becoming still as well……..

I stand in one spot and don’t move anything but my eyes.  

Shanda, July 13, 2018 6:26pm


what are the odds?!


Rich and I and the boys were binge watching one of our favorite shows on Netflix and when I finally turned it off and back to the TV there was a cooking show on and the chef was plating chicken from the grill RIGHT ON TO A beautiful COBALT FIESTA HANDLED CAKE PLATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I screamed, “Rich!RICH!  Take a picture, take a picture, quick!”  (I didn’t have my phone on me).  And he did!!



Collectors are always trying to spy fiestaware on movies and television and this was a particularly surprising and fun sighting!

camp fire pizza

When I was in Alaska I was blown away by the campfire pizza they made out in the backyard over a hot fire amongst the trees and canopied by a tarps just in case it started raining.


While Hannah and I were out about town and exploring Glacier Lake, her daughter Rebekah prepped everything for the pizza.  She made homemade sauce (red AND white!) and dough, busily chopped vegetables and got the meat ready, too.

Here are a couple of short videos to “set the scene” so to speak.  Hannah and her husband worked like a well-oiled machine and had the entire process down like a science.  I asked her about campfire cooking in general and she said they don’t really have any favorite recipes especially for campfires; they just figure out how to cook their favorite foods over a fire.  They have done A LOT of camping over the years……


seven puppies, my friends, seven puppies…. and the first-time mother dog didn’t ever want to nurse them, thus Jacob’s foot on her neck.  LOL  The puppies spent most of the time wandering around exploring.


I wore thick clothing so as to discourage the mosquitos which were large and very plenteous.  I could kill five in one slap to the leg.


I don’t know where everyone was when I took this photo……which is of a pizza on the fire, covered in foil held down by sticks.  This is the final step in the pizza making, in order to get the toppings melted.  LOTS OF CHEESE.


This was the white pizza with bacon, chicken, and onion…the best pizza I ever had!!!!

(besides my moms…..)


BEAUTIFUL evening.




The fire was extremely hot they had to work fast…….



They made pizza after pizza………



And it was cooked to perfection!



our family happenings


I picked 8 cups of raspberries the other day from the side of the road!!  I made a raspberry ripple tea cake with some of them and froze the rest.


The library book sale was a few days after I came back from my trip.  Sarah was the only one who would agree go with me.  But then, as we were browsing, Jacob called my cell phone.  He had gotten home from work and wanted to join us at the library.  It really blessed my heart to have my oldest and my youngest children with me at my favorite place in town.  I ended up with a big box of books for myself and the kids and Jacob bought……ONE BOOK.


“Mom,” said Ethan and Tessa, “The sky is really cool we thought you might want to take a picture of it.”  Another heart-blessing.  Yes indeedy.


Then I turned around and took a photo of Grace and her friend who were right behind me enjoying the evening sky.


I took the children to the batting cages and mini golf.  This is Grace, Caleb, and Sarah, with Dave and Seth in the background.  David won the course out of all of them and Caleb came in last.


Seth got done with regular season Little League and then was picked for the All-Star team.  After their wins, the coach treated them to ice cream downtown.


Rich and I relaxed on blankets under a pine tree.  I had to get up to run up the hill to the house, to retrieve my camera with the zoom lens:


Because there was a big heron perched in the tall dead pine tree.


We took the kids to the little league fields for batting practice.


I love this photo of Seth so much.


We took them to a huge used bookstore about an hour from home.  They were delighted with the cats.


We went out for ice cream that same day.  (This was during the super hot days we had recently.)


Aren’t they just the dearest and cutest?  Right behind Seth is Jacob’s girlfriend, Brittnee.  I had braided all three girls’ hair in two french braids that morning before we left.  (Jacob and Ethan didn’t come with us).  And as you can see, Caleb is taller than Grace now.



One day at home Seth painted himself with mud.


And naturally had to swim in the pond to get clean again.


I had to run errands downtown and the kids played at the park.  Aren’t they beautiful?


After their second-to-last game of the season, Seth was given a game ball for his good playing.  We absolutely adore watching our boys play, and getting to know the other parents.  I love how sports build community.  In winning this game, the boys made it to the Championship game.  They lost that one, but it had been the first time in about 10 years that our town made it that far for this age group.


Another photo to treasure and hold close to my heart of memories…….Seth loves his Dad so much, and Rich loves his little Scrapper/Tiger/Sethie.


Dear Jacob and Brittnee.  They light up our family with joy.


MORE BERRIES from up the road!!!  I remember this was on the 4th of July.  I can remember that because I eventually had to laugh when I realized we were both wearing green when we should have been wearing red, white, or blue.


Seth did all the grilling on the 4th of July.  (Just kidding).


Pretty Girlies.  Sarah, Grace, Erinn, and Brittnee (their boyfriends were playing basketball on the driveway and they sat on the bench to watch).


That morning when my cat matched my coffee cup.


Relaxing with my girls.  🙂  We talked and flopped on the bed and looked at photos and baby books.


Seth finally got tired.


I made the boys match socks.


Later on that day, they found me in the laundry room to show me the turtle that Seth stepped on and found outside.  Look at its claws!!


Sarah in a tree by the river at a baseball game.


I was watching the kids swim when the chickens came over to me to say hello.


My niece Abbie graduated from HS and I took this photo of Dave and my mom at her party.


My brother Nate and his wife are about to have a baby girl!!


On Sunday morning, Grace had Sarah put her hair in a braid.


When she was done, Grace had her do it over because she had accidentally left a chunk of hair out.  So after she braided it over again, she realized she had left the chunk out AGAIN and started crying……..but Grace let it stay that way that time.


During Seth’s last baseball game that same afternoon.


Ethan went camping with his girlfriend’s family and Tessa sent me this photo of him.


Sarah’s raspberry teacake remains…..she had two pieces for breakfast.


Rich and I took Jacob and Michael downtown for ice cream and Jacob was going through the 1,000 items stuffed in his wallet.  We were laughing and laughing but you can’t tell Rich was happy by this photo because he actually wasn’t that happy….he was in pain.


When we got back from ice cream we found out that Parker had broken through his electric fence to run away.  The neighbors brought him back but he had been zapped so fiercely by his fence that he couldn’t stop panting heavily for about 1/2 an hour.  It was scary.  And we hope that will be the last time he tries such a thing.


Every single solitary photo in this post so far was taken with a heavy heart because we knew that Rich was going to have surgery soon for his neck.  He has been living with a very damaged disc for several years and we finally decided to get it surgically repaired (replaced).  We were all nervous and concerned for him but having him in pain all the time made us sad, too.   He had the surgery on Tuesday of this week (just 2 days ago!!!)  This was the waiting room where I sat and waited for him to be done.


And here he is after a very successful repair!!  The doctor only had to replace one disc and it went “textbook perfect” in his own words.  In order to replace the disc, the doctor had to make an incision on Rich’s neck in the front.  Before the surgery, he marked the incision site with a purple marker and accidentaly marked Rich’s chin as well.  This bothered the nurse and after I took the photo she scrubbed it off.


After a six hour recovery, he was cleared to go home!


This was taken yesterday by our daughter Grace.  We went on a short walk.  Rich already felt and looked like a new man.  He is so happy after living with chronic neck/shoulder pain for two years.


We spent a lazy day, as Ethan was gone to Vermont to get Seth, David, and Caleb from wrestling camp (they were there from Sunday-Wednesday)   My sister had Sarah for two days.  So we watched TV, read books, and took naps together on the couch.  It was marvelous.




And an egg (dyed with berry juice).


After dinner last night they helped me pick another 6 cups!




Rich and the kids are waiting for me to finish this.  We are going downtown to the coffee shop and the park.  Rich has the rest of this week plus all next week to recover from surgery.  He’s doing great and my heart is light and happy.





There is LOTS of living going on in our house this summer.  It’s one event after another with not much time to really think or try to be a writer.  My Alaska trip is a fond memory but I haven’t done a thing with my photo albums or scrapbooks.  I’ve hardly looked at my photos or brochures and papers from the trip.  So I am taking the time this morning to post some photos from our journey of 178 miles from Valdez to Kennicott/McCarthy.

We weren’t even out of Valdez before we pulled over on the side of the road to take photos of the falls.  As we opened the doors we were blasted by the loud roaring of the water.  You can’t help but feel happily overwhelmed, almost like a burst of energy from the sounds and sights.  Water poured down the mountains and fed the river below, which whisked it all away, down stream, as fast as it could flow.


We weren’t expecting to see men dangling from a helicopter.  They were replacing the yellow spheres on the power lines.  We had to stop for a few minutes and it was fun to watch them.


We stopped at a convenience store in the middle of nowhere and I saw that someone had planted a bed of flowers in the bed of this old old truck.  Whoever that “someone” is must  be a kindred spirit.


My beautiful friend on another one of our stops.   We took our time driving so we could soak in every sight and breathe in all the fresh air.

I remember the wind was whipping our hair around during this particular stop.



Our favorite Alaskan wildflowers with the suitably romantic name of “Languid Ladies”


Coming into McCarthy I felt as if it were all a dream………

With children and dogs running free without a care in the world.


With my fisheye lens I was able to capture almost the entire town.  😉

“Kennicott and McCarthy sit five miles apart at the end of the McCarthy Road, about 90 miles from the turnoff from the Richardson Highway. Today, Kennicott is a ghost town and McCarthy has a year-round population of just a couple of dozen people. After copper was discovered in the area in 1900, a group of wealthy investors formed the Kennecott Copper Corporation (named when a clerical worker misspelled Kennicott) to mine the incredibly rich veins in the jagged mountains above Root Glacier.” ~the internet


View from an observation deck.


Hannah and I explored the old Kennecott mining town and enjoyed both the big and small details of this amazing place— like the big heavy door in the butchers, and the old iron heaters.


beauty in the details


Post office where I thought of Mom— and my brother who would have certainly quoted the “registered mail” line from the Anne movies……..


The scent of so much wood, sound of our footsteps on the floors, photos, displays, and information on the walls to bring the town to life again in our imaginations.


THIS is a great post to read for more information about Kennecott Copper Mines


All of the buildings are painted in the same color red….truly a sight to behold.   Photos, as always, can’t tell the truth of the place, only give an idea of what it was like to visit.  I felt small and almost lost amongst the grand but now empty buildings.




You can go inside several of the buildings, but then there are several that are still empty and shut off from wandering visitors.

There were tours that you could go on to see more rooms and get access to other places, but Hannah and I much preferred going alone at our free pace.


wooden details


This series of buildings was built up the side of the mountain.


Mountains beyond


Looking from an observation platform; our imagination could see the  bustle and labor of so many men when it was truly a working town.




small family cottage (kitchen) We loved the creamy yellow paint.


We walked through and then turned around to go back again.


Same series of buildings built up and up the hill.





I stood on the bridge to take this photo of the water.  Probably my favorite of the day.




This is a photo of the tiny cabin Hannah and I spent one night in during our visit to McCarthy, Alaska.

Places we Experienced:

Kenny Lake Mercantile (where I saw the truck)
Chitina Hotel (stopped at along the way and ate dinner)
McCarthy Road (62 miles of gravel road we drove to get to our destination)
Wrangell -St.Elias National Park and Preserve (entered as we drove to McCarthy)
Kuskulana Bridge (525 feet long, height above the river, 238 feet) single lane bridge.  Hannah had white knuckles driving across.
Chokosna Trading Post (tiny stop for fresh coffee and where we stopped on our way back with a flat tire) Small but very impressive with excellent coffee!
Gilahina River (sight of an old wooden trestle bridge for the railroad, and gravesite of Sam the dog)
Kennicott*McCarthy (our final destination and one night stay)
Blackburn Cabins (our accommodations)
McCarthy*Kennicott Historical Museum (SO interesting)
EDGE OF ALASKA (show filmed in McCarthy.  We stayed at Mark’s cabins, Mark is one of the characters on the show.  We saw a few of the other men at dinner in town.)



MORE PHOTOS FROM THIS ADVENTURE to come (Sorry, not sorry)…..

PS, please pray for Rich, as tomorrow he has corrective surgery first thing in the morning, and will be having two badly herniated discs in his neck replaced!!!!!  THANK YOU

ALSO:  Happy 13th birthday to my darling son CALEB, who is at wrestling camp until Wednesday with his brothers David and Seth.










June 17; first full day in Valdez, AK


I thought I would post some photos that I took with my phone on the first day at Hannah’s house in Valdez.

She is a very good seamstress and has a whole large room devoted to her sewing.  She has everything she needs there.  Her husband made custom work spaces for her and she has picked up things here and there to decorate with (she even has things she found during her visits to CT!).  She has a flannel wall so she can lay out quilt pieces on it before sewing and a most amazing stock of fabrics.


Hannah doesn’t do much sewing in the summer because she and her family also have a food truck.  She spends most of her extra time keeping it stocked and running smoothly.  They have delicious foods and the best ice cream.  If you’re in Valdez, look them up and go enjoy some yummy Alaskan treats including Halibut tacos and Caramel Cinnamon ice cream.


She drove me all around town and showed me the points of interest, all with the backdrop of the most gorgeous mountains.  It was a rainy morning and perfect for driving and visiting some of the small shops, the library, and a museum.


There is an old Valdez and a new Valdez…..or, “Old Town” and “New Town”.  The first was so severely damaged in a major earthquake that they pulled it down and rebuilt at a different location.  The museum had a scaled model of the old town, posters, photos, videos, and artifacts.


This man had such a friendly smile that his photo made me stop and notice.  He “cared for pets in Old Valdez, acting as the unofficial veterinarian for the town.”


I did a touristy thing.  I held the big gun for a photo.  Thanks, Hannah!


There was a small room dedicated to handiwork and needlecraft.  This quilt was on display with a plaque that explained that as the Quilter’s husband was dying, he asked his wife to spread this flag quilt she was currently making over him.  It was his last request and she never completed the quilt.


As we were getting ready to leave, I heard this man and his wife tell the museum desk worker that they were from “upstate NY” so of course I had to ask where.  Turns out they lived in the same city my Mom works and he grew up in a small town nearby.  He was a Christian and his dad was a Baptist preacher.  He knew last names of my family and my grandfather,  the church I grew up in, the college I attended, and we had mutual acquaintances.  It was such fun!


Large mural in town.


The library!!


I did a whole blog post about our love for Rosemary Wells and she sent me autographed books!  Therefore, it was a great thrill to see her original artwork in the children’s section of Hannah’s library.


We sat and spent the most time in the little “Alaska” library room, which was full of every book about Alaska that they had, including posters and papers.

Hannah found a book and read some of it out loud.  It was written by a man who met the love of his life in Alaska and they had a lifetime of adventures together.


“Ruth with a fifty-five-pound beaver.”


Last photo in the book, “I longed to see Ruth picking wildflowers.”

Oh it was just too delightful.


Also at the library I was able to add Miracles on Maple Hill to my Newbury awards collection because it was on their free shelf.  I also read the whole book while on my trip.  It was delightful and don’t you agree that books are the best souvenier?


We visited the old town sight, which was very interesting.  There is a map of it, and markers to show where each building used to stand.  Some of the buildings were actually moved to the new town and we visited some of those, as well.


**no words** for the beauty.



Two of Hannah and Ryan’s girls; Sarah (the babysitter) and Bekah (the baker).


Their two boys; big brother Jacob set up a tent right in their bedroom and put cots in it.  Then, they strung up the kindle so they could lay there and watch videos in the tent.

And  little brother LUKE.


Luke is 4 years old.


Sarah graciously let me have her bedroom while I was staying with them.