Shoe Box Garden

By Sally Loesch
on March 20, 2017

We've had some cold, snowy weather here in the last week, and as much as I'd like to be out planting in the garden, it's just been too unpleasant to spend much time outside with a toddler. So we've been finding the usual things to do inside: reading, playing hide and seek, and having tea with Spider Man. But my two-year-old is starting to take an interest in activities involving fine motor skills, and although we have a few sewing cards that she loves, we don't have many other options. So I thought I'd try to come up with something spring-related to keep her occupied and get her ready to head out to the garden in a couple of weeks.The result: a shoe box garden. I had all of the materials around the house and was able to put it together in a couple of hours while the kid was napping, so I encourage you all to give it a try. It gives toddlers great practice with hand-eye coordination and starts to teach them about where food comes from.
Here's how the shoe box garden is made:

The materials you'll need are:

A shoe box
Heavy card stock, dirt colored if you have it
Green, orange and pink card stock or construction paper
Blunt-pointed toothpicks
Glue
Scissors
Craft knife (it makes life easier, but scissors will do if that's what you've got)
Pattern for vegetables, which you can download and print here.

Once you've printed the pattern page, cut out each shape and use it as a template to trace and cut as many of each vegetable as you'd like from paper of the appropriate color.

Instructions for assembling vegetables:

Carrot: Roll the paper starting on a long edge, with the point forming at the narrower end, and glue the outer edge down. At the top, make several small snips so that you can fold the top edge down into the inside of the carrot. Cut out the carrot top and snip the edges to make it feathered. Put a dab of glue down into the hole at the top of the carrot, insert the carrot top, and set aside to dry.

Cabbage: Roll the cabbage piece starting at the smaller end of the pattern, trying to arrange it so that the leaves don't line up on every round. Glue the outer edge down and fold the outer leaves toward the outside to expose the inner leaves a little.

Pea Plant: Once you've cut out each plant and as many peas as you'd like, cut a small slit on the ends of the branches you'd like to hold peas. Slip the "stem" ends of the peas into the slits.

Flower: Cut out the circle, and starting on the outside, cut it into a spiral, all the way to the center. Then, starting with the outer end, roll the spiral up to form a flower (the end you begin rolling from will be the center of the flower). Put a bit of glue into the inside of the flower from the bottom and insert a toothpick as the stem.

To put the "dirt" in the shoe box, measure the width of your shoe box and mark that measurement in the center of your card stock. Fold down the two sides to fit along the edges of the inside of the box. If you can, make it a snug fit so that the paper doesn't get pushed down into the box too far. You can glue the paper to the inside of the box if you want to, but I left mine loose so that I can store the vegetables under the dirt when it's put away.

You can then remove the "dirt" paper and mark where you want to plant the vegetables. Cut holes just larger than the diameter of your cabbages, just smaller than the top edge of the carrots, and cut slits for the pea plants. Poke holes with a small nail for the flowers' toothpick stems.

Put your vegetable in their rows and you're done!

 

 

 
I hope you enjoy making and using this garden. My toddler loves pulling the vegetables and flowers out of their holes and very carefully putting them back in. She's great at picking the peas off their plants, though it'll be a bit before she's able to put them back on. I hope she enjoys playing with it for a long time!


If you make a garden with your kids, we'd love to see how it turns out. Share a picture with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. Have fun planting!





















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The Octo Project

By Sally Loesch
on March 13, 2017

Many of you have probably seen the adorable crocheted octopuses making their way into NICUs around the world. We are pleased to announce that we're organizing our own Octo Project here in central Maryland! We've been working over the past few weeks to get local crocheters together to make octopuses to be donated to babies in a NICU in our area. I wanted to update everyone on our progress and let you know how interested crafters can get involved.

The inspiration for this is of course The Danish Octo Project, the group in Denmark that has been featured in the news recently for their program delivering octopuses to babies in sixteen hospitals in Denmark and one in Greenland. They have found that when given these small octopuses to hold, premature babies are comforted by the tentacles that serve as a replacement for the umbilical cord they often hold onto in the womb. And with their hands otherwise occupied, the preemies are less likely to pull on their tubes and wires.

We're starting out small because we'd like to be sure that every family that goes through the NICU we're working with can be offered an octopus and there are only so many I can crank out in a day. But we would love to make this a larger project, so if you live in central Maryland or south central Pennsylvania and would like to get involved, we would welcome your participation! You can download the pattern here. It has been very slightly adjusted from the original Danish Octo Project version (which you can find here) for American crocheters. Please feel free to use it to make an octopus for a friend or loved one with a preemie. Or if you'd like to make one (or more!) to donate through our project, please contact me at sally@preemiepride.com and we can discuss details.

We are also partnering with The Knitting Cottage in Waynesboro, PA to make kits available, which include the pattern and enough yarn for an octopus (sold at the cost of the yarn alone). The shop is located at 6768 Iron Bridge Rd just south of Waynesboro, so if you're in the area and want an easy way to get started, please do stop by and see them. You can return the finished octopuses to the shop and we'll collect them to be packaged and donated to the hospital.

We're so excited to be working on this and are looking forward to sharing more as we progress. Stay tuned for updates and pictures of lots of adorable octopuses!Save

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Preemie Parent Stories

By Sally Loesch
on March 03, 2017

 

The willingness of parents to share their experiences of premature birth is a gift of encouragement, hope, and perspective. Their generosity and desire to help someone else, even a complete stranger, by being open about their struggles and triumphs is truly remarkable. It can bring comfort to families going through the same experiences and understanding to those who may not be aware of the challenges a preemie faces. These are some of my favorite preemie parent blogs and story collections right now. They’re inspiring, eye-opening, and heartwarming.

Graham's Foundation Preemie Stories
Graham’s Foundation features family stories written by various contributors. Topics range from birth stories, to life after the NICU, to what it’s like to care for a child with a particular condition. The Preemie Stories section of their website is full of information and encouragement for families all along the journey of prematurity. http://grahamsfoundation.org/preemies/preemie-stories/

My Kota Bear
My Kota Bear is a new blog that follows Dakota, born in early January, 2017 at 22 weeks. Her mom, Shirley, offers encouragement and hope to other parents, even as she’s in the NICU herself every day. My Kota Bear is a beautiful example of community-building through shared experience. www.mykotabear.com

The Preemie Prince
If you haven’t been following the Preemie Prince on Instagram, you’re really missing out. He is baby Austin, born at 25 weeks. His mom, Ashley, and dad, Aaron, have documented his NICU stay and transition home with humor, positivity, and an infectious hope that is such a joy to experience. Now 7 months old, Austin is just as adorable as ever and so fun to watch grow.
https://www.instagram.com/preemieprince/

The Smallest Things Blog
The Smallest Things is a UK-based organization that supports and advocates for families with premature babies. The Smallest Things blog is another good place to read about how parents deal with life in the NICU. Guest writers share their unique experiences of premature birth. You can also find advice on how to make it through the most difficult periods, the perspective of an obstetrician, and discussion of the importance of mental health care for parents.
https://thesmallestthings.org/blog/

The 4 P's of Prematurity
This is a single post on a wider-ranging parenting blog, but I think it captures very succinctly some of the commonly-shared experiences of giving birth prematurely. Courtney, mom of a 25-week preemie, describes how if feels to be thrown into the often overwhelming world of the NICU. If you want to try to understand what preemie parents go through, this is a good place to start.
http://twincities.citymomsblog.com/4-ps-prematurity/


These are just a few of the very many preemie parent blogs that are out there. We would love to hear about your favorites; if you have suggestions for other parents, feel free to leave them in the comments or on any of our social media pages! SaveSaveSaveSave

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Spring Is on the Way

By Sally Loesch
on February 24, 2017

After a few mild days here in Maryland, the daffodils are starting to sprout and we’re looking forward to spring! I wanted to take the time this week on the blog to let everyone know what we’ve been working on lately. At the top of the list, St. Patrick’s Day is coming up in just less than a month and we’ve been busy cutting and sewing lots of shamrocks! We started making a new pink shamrock dress this year and are so pleased how it has come out.

We also have two new clothing collections: shorts outfits for boys and girls. There are some adorable new designs, and you have the option of a traditionally sewn shirt that opens in the front, or one with shoulder panels so that the shirt opens completely flat. We make NICU-safe designs like this with the goal of helping a preemie get used to the feel of clothes against the skin. And of course we want them to look great, too!

And finally, I’ve enjoyed developing some family-friendly recipes over the last couple of months and we have enough on the blog now that I think they need their own page. So we’re pleased to introduce the Jacqui’s Preemie Pride Recipe Box. I’m looking forward to doing more cooking and baking, so if anyone has a request for how to make a particular dish you think would be good for families with young children, leave a comment and I’d be glad to give it a shot.

We wish you and your families all the best; thanks for visiting!

~ Sally

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Preemie Parent Support Organizations

By Sally Loesch
on February 17, 2017

I’d like to share some information on just a few of the many preemie support organizations that encourage and advocate for families facing the many challenges of premature birth. From raising awareness, to research, to direct emotional and financial support, these groups offer a wealth of invaluable resources. If you are a preemie parent yourself, know someone with a baby in the NICU, or want to find ways to reach out to families who are struggling, take a look at what these organizations have to offer. While there will always be challenges, often terrifying ones, when you have medically fragile child, there are many, many people across the country working to make sure that no parent faces those challenges alone.

Graham's Foundation
Graham’s Foundation was founded by Nick and Jennifer Hall, parents of twins Reece and Graham, who were born at 25 weeks. After losing Graham after 45 days in the NICU, they formed the organization to encourage and empower other parents facing the challenges of premature birth. The foundation supports current NICU parents, advocacy efforts, and research in the field of premature birth. They offer care packages for NICU families and have developed the MyPreemie App. The app provides parents with medical information, encouragement, and tools to track their baby’s development. Graham’s Foundation also sponsors a Preemie Parent Mentor Program that connects current NICU families with parents who have had children in the NICU in the past.

Hand to Hold
Hand to Hold was founded by Kelli Kelley, a mother of both a micropreemie and a late-term preemie. Hand to Hold offers peer-to-peer support for parents, as well as sibling support resources for big brothers and sisters, educational videos, and a podcast on a variety of topics related to navigating life in the NICU. They also work with hospital staff to enhance family support initiatives, offering parents’ perspectives on how hospitals can best serve families during their time in the NICU. 

National Perinatal Association
The NPA prioritizes education, advocacy, and collaboration among organizations to bring together a variety of viewpoints in order to comprehensively address issues related to perinatal care. They organize annual conferences, sponsor webinars, and offer information on a wide range of subjects, from psychology to cultural sensitivity, as they relate to caring for families before and immediately after the birth of a child.
     Support4nicuparents.org is the NPA’s dedicated NICU parent support website. It offers information on topics including how to access peer support, be involved in your baby’s care, and take care of yourself while your child is in the NICU. Each subsection includes resources, links, and related organizations on particular topics. You can also find an extensive list of peer-to-peer support groups, many of which focus on specific conditions such as Down Syndrome or preeclampsia.

March of Dimes
Of course we can’t talk about premature birth organizations without mentioning the March of Dimes, founded by Franklin D. Roosevelt to combat polio in children. Now, the March of Dimes focuses heavily on preterm birth. The organization sponsors campaigns aimed at reducing the number of babies born prematurely in the US, as well as funding research on premature birth and birth defects. The March of Dimes website offers information on topics such as staying healthy during pregnancy, caring for a newborn, and childbirth complications and loss.

Project Sweet Peas
Project Sweet Peas was started by three mothers who experienced NICU stays as well as, in two of their cases, infant loss. It’s a national organization with divisions across the country that provide care packages, financial assistance, NICU support and bereavement support. They also moderate a Facebook forum where parents can connect to share stories and information. Anyone can donate to their efforts or request a care package or memory box.

I hope you find these resources useful. If there's another organization that you've found helpful, please let us know in the comments. As always, we'd love to hear from you!

Making a Gift Basket for Parents of a Preemie

By Sally Loesch
on February 03, 2017

    

     One of the first things extended family and friends often ask when they hear a baby has been born early is, “How can I help?” There are many ways to offer support, including making meals, house-sitting, and babysitting older siblings. Another thoughtful gesture is to put together a gift basket containing useful items for a NICU stay. Here are some suggestions of things to include.

Gifts cards for food. If the hospital cafeteria offers gift cards, those are a good option for when moms and dads are spending a lot of time in the NICU and don’t want to go far in search of a meal. Hospital food can get old quickly, though, so you might also find out what restaurants are in the immediate vicinity of the hospital and include gift cards to them as well.

Gift cards for gas. This is a big one. Traveling between home and the NICU is often a strain for parents, emotionally, physically, and financially. By helping to pay for gas, you can ease a little of the burden. Just make sure to buy cards for a station that is close to the family’s home, the hospital, or both.

Parking vouchers. If the hospital charges for parking, the cost for parents to stay with their baby adds up very quickly. You can often buy parking vouchers individually or as a pass for a longer period of time. They’re usually sold in the hospital gift shop.

Reading material. Books and magazines give parents something to do as they sit with their newborn, and reading aloud can help soothe the baby and promote bonding. You can choose something mom and dad will like, as well as children’s stories. If you’re not sure what books to give, here are some suggestions.

Healthy snacks. My mom knows I love almonds, so she brought me a bag every time she came to visit after my daughter was born. Even though it was a small thing and I had way too many almonds, I’ll never forget how cared-for that made me feel. Having a baby in the NICU throws off regular routines, including mealtime. Having healthy snacks on hand is helpful when life is in flux - everyone still needs to eat.

A Journal. Whether it’s a standard blank journal or one specifically designed for a premature baby, like these, a journal can help parents cope with life in the NICU. It can be a place to express emotions, mark milestones, and track the baby’s progress. 

Hand lotion. Spending time with a newborn in the NICU requires a lot of hand-washing, which can mean very dry skin. A bottle of good hand lotion, the kind that doesn’t leave hands greasy, will almost certainly be used and appreciated.

A note. Especially in the early days with a preemie, parents may be overwhelmed and not ready to visit and talk about what’s going on. Writing a heartfelt letter expressing your support lets them know you’re thinking about them without requiring a response. And make sure to acknowledge the baby by name. Parents often say that hearing others talk about their child as an individual and not just “the baby” meant a lot to them.

I hope this gives you some ideas. If you have more suggestions you’d like to share, or if someone gave you something that meant a lot to you, leave us a comment!

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Reading in the NICU

By Sally Loesch
on January 27, 2017

Reading is a precious and memorable way parents spend time with their newborns. Although many other expectations of what life will be like with a newborn get thrown out the window when the baby is born early, reading remains an important way parents can comfort and care for their children, even in the NICU. Nurses often say that when parents talk, sing, and read to a preemie there is a noticeable improvement in the baby’s condition. Because a newborn can recognize voices from a very young age, hearing the mother and father promotes bonding, even if the baby is to fragile to hold. So if you have a preemie, try to make a habit of reading aloud every day. If you know a family with a baby in the NICU, share books with them. You can choose favorite storybooks to give as gifts, or commit to making regular trips to the library to keep them stocked with fresh material. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  1. Start reading your favorite series to your baby. Series are great because if you have a set of books you like, they can provide consistency during a time that can be extremely unpredictable. Of course, you don’t have to read only children’s books. Choose something you like!
  1. Poetry. It can be Maya Angelou, Shel Silverstein, or Shakespeare. Of course it doesn’t matter if they’re not children’s verses. The point is for the baby to hear a familiar voice, and poetry is meant to be read aloud.
  1. Children’s storybook collections. There is a Winnie the Pooh collection that is 344 pages long sitting on our family bookshelf. Many classic children’s stories have been collected in single volumes and make great reading material in the NICU.
  1.  Books about prematurity written for siblings. If you have older children, there are several books that have been written to try to help them understand the world of the NICU and what it means to have a baby brother or sister there. A Very Special Preemie Book, by Clorinda Walters, is one.

We’d love to hear your suggestions - do you have a favorite book that you read to your newborn? Let us know in the comments!

Jacqui Wrote a Book!

By Suzanne Regan
on January 20, 2017
1 comment

A Word of Encouragement for Parents of Preemies

 

When I had my daughter, Jacqui, at 32 weeks, I didn’t know what the next three days would look like, let alone the next thirty years. We were both very sick and sometimes I wasn't sure if either of us were going to make it. That is one of the struggles of being a parent in the NICU: there is so much uncertainty. Part of the joy of new parenthood is picturing your baby as he or she grows up, but for moms and dads in the NICU, imagining life beyond the difficult early weeks can be hard and sometimes scary. We'd like to share a little bit about our daughter with you all, with the hope that you’ll be encouraged by the knowledge that preemies can, and do, survive and thrive after they graduate from the NICU.

Today, our preemie, Jacqui is doing great. We’re very excited to announce that she has written her first novel! She has been working as a freelance journalist for several years. She recently finished her book The Walls Are Closing In.

Decades after The Seclusion, during which America constructed massive border walls and sealed itself off from the outside world, thirty-one year old Patricia Evans lives within the panoptic nightmare of a total surveillance state. A cautionary tale.

She is collaborating with the reader-driven publisher Inkshares to develop it. Inkshares provides the opportunity for Jacqui to have her book published by demonstrating that she has a following of readers who are interested in it. The first three chapters of the book are available to read on the website, and if a reader likes it, they can pre-order a copy, in e-book or paperback, to receive when it’s published. If 750 readers support the book, Jacqui will be given a full publishing contract. (If the book is not published, all money is returned to the supporters.) We are so proud and hope she gets a lot of support!

So here’s our plug...if you or someone you know loves reading and wants to back a new author, have a look at Jacqui’s work.  The Walls Are Closing In

 So be encouraged! You never know what path your little ones will take - with love, support, and encouragement, they can achieve great things! And of more immediate use to those of you with a newborn, there are many support organizations, including Hand to Hold and Graham’s Foundation, that connect parents with peer mentors who have had a preemie. They can guide and support you through your baby’s early years. We wish you all the best and, as always, leave us a comment! We would love to hear what your preemie is up to, as a little one or all grown up.

Much love,

Sue

NICU Terms To Know

By Sally Loesch
on January 13, 2017

    Neonatologist; orogastric tube; pulse oximeter; continuous positive airway pressure; necrotizing enterocolitis; patent ductus arteriosus. The neonatal intensive care unit is a busy place with a language of its own that’s often difficult for outsiders to decipher, even with context. When parents of a newborn find themselves in the NICU, the amount of new terminology that has suddenly become critically important can be overwhelming. If you are a new parent with an infant in the NICU, the best thing you can do is talk to the nurses and doctors. Be involved in your baby’s care and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Hospital staff can explain your individual situation and help you learn the terminology relevant to your child.

For family and friends of preemies, it’s helpful to learn some basic NICU terminology so that when you ask, “How’s the baby doing?” you’ll have a better understanding of the answer. The same goes for anyone expecting a baby, even with a low-risk pregnancy. Birth can be unpredictable, and even a passing familiarity with the world of neonatal intensive care will be a benefit in the event your baby needs to spend some time there. Here are some basic terms, conditions, and treatments used in hospitals to care for premature and sick infants. This list is an introduction to the NICU; for more comprehensive information, have a look at the resource links at the bottom.

 

Care Team Members

Neonatal Nurses provide most of the day-to-day care in the NICU. They are instrumental in almost every aspect of a baby’s care, including feedings and changings, monitoring the preemie or newborn baby’s vital signs, implementing a care plan, advising and carrying out a doctor’s orders, and supporting and educating families. They offer a wealth of information, experience, and support for families.

Neonatologists are doctors who specialize in treating newborns with medical conditions stemming either from premature birth or other complications in a full-term baby. The neonatologist is usually the attending physician who will manage the medical care of a baby, including making diagnoses, ordering treatments, and coordinating specialists on the medical team.

Pulmonologists are the doctors in a NICU who specialize in diagnosing and treating lung and breathing conditions. Because important lung development happens in the final weeks of a full-term pregnancy, preemies often require help to breath effectively. A pulmonologist will identify what is causing a baby's breathing trouble and recommend treatment.

Gastroenterologists are doctors who specialize in conditions of the stomach and intestines. Premature babies are sometimes born with conditions that cause complications in their digestive systems, making feedings difficult and increasing the risk of serious illness. Gastroenterologists diagnose and treat problems that arise involving a baby’s digestion.

 

Medical Conditions Treated In the NICU

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) is a lung condition that commonly affects preterm babies, especially those born before 35 weeks. Because a preemie’s chest and lungs aren’t fully developed, the baby may have difficulty breathing and take in an insufficient amount of oxygen. As a result, breathing is less effective and results in lower oxygen levels in the blood. Doctors and nurses pay close attention to the quality of a baby’s breathing and take steps as needed to make sure the baby is getting enough oxygen.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) is a condition related to an artery that connects two large blood vessels that leave the heart. In a healthy newborn, this artery, the ductus arteriosus, narrows and closes naturally within a few days. If it does not close and remains large, it can cause too much blood to flow to the lungs, resulting in breathing and heart problems. Doctors and nurses in the NICU monitor babies carefully to make sure that the ductus arteriosus closes and take the necessary steps if it causes the baby distress.

Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious condition of the digestive system in which cells in the lining of the intestines become infected and damaged. The risk is that the contents of the digestive system will spill out of the damaged intestinal wall into the baby’s abdomen, causing a potentially devastating infection. NEC is not completely understood, but babies who receive breast milk rather than formula have a significantly lower risk of developing it. Preventing NEC is one of the reasons that so much effort is made to provide preemies with human milk.

 

Common NICU Treatments and Equipment

Radiant Warmers and Incubators are the special equipment used in the NICU to maintain a baby’s temperature and, in incubators, a proper humidity level. They may be controlled by a sensor on the baby that monitors his temperature and adjusts accordingly.

Cardiorespiratory Monitor This is a device that monitors a baby’s heart rate and breathing and displays the numbers on a screen. If the heart rate or breathing rate fall outside of the normal range, the monitor with alert the NICU staff, who will check on the baby and make sure that everything stabilizes.

Pulse Oximeter This is another device that is connected to a baby to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. It is usually wrapped around the baby’s wrist, hand or foot and shines a red light through the skin. The pulse oximeter measures the oxygen saturation of the blood and displays it, along with the baby’s heart rate, for monitoring.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is a treatment for babies who have difficulty breathing because of RDS or other breathing complications. A tube is secured over the baby’s nose and a continuous flow of low-pressure air, with or without additional oxygen, is pumped into the baby’s lungs. This keeps the airways open and makes it easier for the baby to breathe naturally.

Intravenous Line (IV) An IV is placed in a vein to provide a baby with fluids, nutrients, or medication as needed. Because the baby squirms, the IV may be jostled loose and its location might be changed frequently between the baby’s hand, arm, foot, leg, or scalp.

Orogastric and Nasogastric Tubes A small, flexible tube may be placed through a baby’s mouth (orogastric) or nose (nasogastric) and down the food pipe into the stomach. It is used to release gas or fluids that accumulate in the stomach, or to give feedings to a baby who is unable to take milk by mouth.

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The range of experiences in the NICU is vast. A family may be there for a couple of days for observation, or for weeks or months to treat a seriously ill baby. It’s a trying time for families in most cases. Learning about the baby’s challenges and treatment is an important way for parents to stay involved in his or her care. Extended family and friends can also benefit from learning about the NICU in order to understand what a family is facing and offer support. If you want to learn more or find out about a specific topic, many local hospital websites offer NICU information. Here are some other comprehensive resources:

From the American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/preemie/Pages/default.aspx

From the March of Dimes: http://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/the-nicu.aspx

From Graham’s Foundation: http://grahamsfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/NICU-glossary-b1a.pdf


The source I used for this article, which I highly recommend, is the book Understanding the NICU: What Parents of Preemies and Other Hospitalized Newborns Need to Know. Edited by Jeanette Zaichkin, Gary Weiner, and David Loren. Published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017. It’s extremely helpful, informative, and encouraging.

Homemade Fruit Juice Jellies

By Sally Loesch
on January 06, 2017

 

Jello occupies a special place in the world of quick and easy desserts. Many of us have fond childhood memories of it and the fun of molding it never gets old. You can serve it in individual dishes, cut it in squares or with cookie cutters, or use any shape mold you can find. While the commercial variety contains artificial flavors and colors that would be best avoided, making a gelatin-based dessert from scratch is almost as simple as preparing one from a box. Using fresh fruit juice and adjusting the sweetener to your own taste produces a beautiful and delicious dessert that’s a great choice for families who are trying to reduce the amount of sugar and artificial ingredients they eat. And you can get creative too! Try different juices, add fresh fruit pieces, and of course have fun with shapes. Here’s how I make homemade fruit juice jellies…

 

Start with 2 cups of fruit juice. You can use bottled juice or extract your own. Today, I’m using fresh oranges, Stayman apples, and a frozen strawberry/raspberry/blueberry mix. You can puree the fruit and strain it to collect the juice, use an electric juicer, or, for the apples, cook them with a little water for 10-15 minutes before pureeing and straining. I often use the berry puree rather than just the juice. The berries cost more and it seems like a waste to not use all of them, so I strain the puree to remove the seeds but keep most of the pulp.

 

Once you have two cups of juice, put 1 ½ cups of it in a small pot and bring it to a boil on the stove. Set aside the remaining ½ cup to soften the gelatin. When the juice starts to steam, sprinkle 2 packages (or 2 tablespoons) of unflavored gelatin over the reserved juice and let it sit for 1 minute as the rest of the juice comes to a boil. When the juice on the stove has started to boil, turn off the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1-2 tablespoons of whatever sweetener you like, to taste. Combine the hot juice with the softened gelatin and whisk until smooth. Taste it and add more sweetener or lemon juice if you want to. Then pour the mixture into an 8” x 8” pan, individual dishes, or molds and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. To help remove the gelatin from the mold or pan, place it in a shallow dish of warm water for a few seconds to loosen it, then turn it out.

 

Experimenting with flavor combinations is a lot of fun. Keep in mind that there are a few fruits that will prevent the gelatin from setting unless they are cooked first. These include pineapple, kiwi, mango, papaya, and ginger root. If the fruit is canned, you shouldn’t have a problem. If you’ve never made homemade jello, I hope you give it a try. Send us a picture of your results!

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From the Blog

Shoe Box Garden

March 20, 2017

We've had some cold, snowy weather here in the last week, and as much as I'd like to be out...

Read more →

The Octo Project

March 13, 2017

Many of you have probably seen the adorable crocheted octopuses making their way into NICUs around the world. We are...

Read more →

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