The Fruits of My Labor Have Never Been Sweeter.

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I am an anxious person. I like to think I hide it well, but the anxiety is always there, under the surface. Lately I’ve been working on trying to catch myself before falling into an anxiety spiral. If you suffer from anxiety you know what I mean. All of the negative thoughts pile up, one on top of the other, until it feels impossible to do even the simplest task for fear of messing up. It isn’t easy to catch oneself when the thoughts pile up like that. There are a lot of techniques for dealing with it. I try to remind myself to focus on the moment I’m in, instead of ones in the past that I can’t change or ones in the future that I can’t control. Sometimes I’ll watch a favorite show or reread a favorite book to switch my focus.

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People have anxiety for a lot of reasons. I think for me, and maybe for a lot of people, in comes down to being scared we won’t be good enough. In our jobs, our relationships, and our passions. When you can deeply about something you want to do well. You want the people you love to love you too.

When I first started teaching I was afraid I would somehow be “found out” as if I didn’t deserve to be there. I worried my students wouldn’t take me seriously because I look young. But I am young! And I did deserve to be there. When I stood in front of my class, as nervous as I was, I realized that if I showed them I how much I care about writing and about helping them, then they would care too. I doesn’t matter that most of them are taller than me or that I have bangs, or what I wear. It comes down to doing the thing even if you don’t think you’re ready. Even if you’re scared. I know the fear of failure can make it hard to even begin. I have been trying to be braver. I want to try things I know will be hard or scary.

But I’m not always ready for that big step. When I am really anxious there are a few things that I know I can do and do well, no matter what. I can knit a hat, bake a loaf of bread, and I can make some damn good jam. So when I get really overwhelmed I go back to these simple projects to help ground myself. And once I’m grounded all of the rest becomes a little less scary.

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Making jam requires enough steps that you can get lost in the moment and push those negative thoughts to the back burner, but doesn’t require the time commitment of croissants or other pastries. I love fresh fruit, but I rarely eat a whole package of berries before they go bad. Making jam is a great solution so that food doesn’t go to waste. It is also a great way to preserve some of your favorite fruits before they go out of season. Add a handmade label and it makes a great gift. Once you taste homemade jam it is hard to go back to the store bought stuff. With the MereBerry Jam recipe you’ll be making jam for days, look good doing it, and still have time to binge watch Stranger Things.

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Mereberry Jam

100 grams of Raspberries
100 grams of Blueberries
100 grams of Strawberries, chopped small
100 grams of Blackberries
325 grams of granulated or jam sugar
Juice of ½ lemon (make sure seeds are removed)

The first step is to sterilize your jars (I got mine at Target.) If like me, you don’t want to boil them, there is another way. Preheat your oven to 230°F. Wash the jars and lids with hot soapy water, then put them in the heated oven to dry out, about ten minutes. Place them on a clean towel while you make the jam. Place a small plate in the fridge to chill for testing the jam later. The typical ratio for jam is 1:1 fruit to sugar, but for this recipe I have cut the sugar a little to bring out the sharpness of the berries. This will fill 2- 3 small jars or 1-2 medium jars.

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1. Combine the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice in a large, thick-bottomed pan. Heat over medium heat, stirring consistently until all of the sugar is dissolved. You will also want to begin to smash the berries with your spoon (I recommend a wooden spoon, but use the tool your prefer, metal or rubber are also fine.)

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2. Once the sugar is dissolved turn heat up and allow the jam to come to a boil. Boil for 6-8 minutes. Be careful, as the jam will bubble up. I don’t recommend trying this recipe with children. To test if the jam is set, spoon a bit onto the chilled plate. Count to thirty, and then push the jam with you a finger. If it wrinkles it is set. If not, boil for a minute or so more and test again.

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3. Remove from heat and carefully ladle into the jars, screwing on the lids tightly.

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The jam does not need to be refrigerated until opened. It will keep for about a month in the fridge once opened, and for several months unopened in a cool dark place.

Every time I eat jam I’ve made I feel a little invincible. Just a little. It is a small, simple thing, but it can give you that little something you need to take the next, bigger risk, and learn something new.

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