What was the best part of your day?

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JB read an article a couple of weeks ago that suggested identifying the best part of each day as a way of improving outlook and mental health. We had been on the Keweenaw Peninsula at the far northwest corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, camping with friends. JB and I wanted to go to a place northwest of Houghton where there is a covered drive that we have visited before and wanted to see again – along with some other sights that needed a little more exploring. Our friends didn’t want to drive that far, and probably didn’t want to ride in our truck that far, and golf was on their agenda so we struck out alone. This was good for my introverted personality that needed some alone time to recharge.

That night JB asked what the best part of the day was for me… I thought a minute or two and then we both said, “The picnic lunch on the covered drive.” It is a narrow road, just wide enough for two cars but only where there are narrow pull-offs. This works fine as we only passed four or five vehicles on the four (give or take a little) mile drive. Nothing on this drive except trees, up close to the road, and no picnic tables. We pulled over on one of the little bulges in the road and had a picnic in the truck. Just the two of us.

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Outside my window was a beautiful woods with a floor of sun-dappled ferns – and quiet and calm. I had packed crackers and humus and fig preserves. I also put in the cheese ball, an apple, and some trail mix I made from ingredients from our home-town health food store. And some of my home-made molasses cookies that have raw sugar on top that crunches when we bite into the soft cookie. What good eating as we sat and talked or didn’t say anything for long periods of time. Just sitting, knowing each other was there and being content with that.

Note: If you are ever in this area and want to get to the covered road, it is marked on the tourist information obtained at most retailers on the Keweenaw Peninsula. My directions are to turn onto the Portage Canal Road off highway 26 going south out of Houghton. The covered road goes between the Portage Canal Road and the road that goes to Redridge and Freda (old company towns for the mines). It isn’t far but make sure you have gas and a lunch because there isn’t anything out that way since the mines closed down many years ago.

Thimbleberry Jam

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During the middle of August we spent a week on the Keweenaw Peninsula. This is a body of land that juts into Lake Superior from the west end of Michigan’s upper peninsula. It has long been a special place for me; we spent many summer vacations camping there with our three children. A very fond memory is the year we stumbled upon thimbleberries growing very big, and plump, and ripe along the road. We just happened to have some containers in the car so the five of us picked and ate and picked some more. And we ate some more. I had learned that these berries contain their own pectin so there is no need to thicken them when making jam.

When we returned to the camper, I sugared them, and put them in a sauce pan to boil so the sugar melted. I then filled containers and put them on ice until we got home to freeze for winter joy.

This year we were there at the end of the thimbleberry season and there hadn’t been much rain so I could only find enough to remind me of how wonderful they taste. They are something like a raspberry but very soft and velvety. And they are very fragile – when picking them the most gentle touch is needed or they disintegrate into sugary juice in your fingers.

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This year I was on a mission to buy some thimbleberry jam so the first place we stopped was The Jam Lady. Her front porch was turned into a jam store and open even though she wasn’t there. I picked two jars of thimbleberry and also a jar of wild blueberry jam.

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JB put the correct amount of money in the can on a table – the honor system.

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We continued up the coast towards Copper Harbor and found a sign I couldn’t resist.

20150818-DSC_0083Can a person ever have too many good jams & jellies? And of course I had to check out the baked goods made by the Monks. Along with another jar or two of jams I bought some delicious almond flavored sugar cookies to share with JB. We ate them slowly so we could savor every decedent bite. One of the simple pleasures of life.

My most exciting find at the Jam Pot was a Blueberry Brandied Peach Conserve. The ingredients also include almonds, oranges, lemon juice and unnamed spices. I think it will make a wonderful side for meat – maybe a pork tenderloin. Any other suggestions?