Jam Session on The Lake

~ Cathy López Negrete ~

When COVID-19 hit earlier this year, I freaked out. I wanted all my family and staff to go home, take care of each other, isolate and cuddle up ASAP!

When we started working from home, thank God, all our clients supported our decisions! We didn’t have to worry about losing business and we were all healthy and our jobs safe. I’m still so grateful.

Straightaway, we formed a ‘pod’ comprised of myself, Alex, our daughter Michelle, her husband Renzo, and our two granddaughters Mia and Catherine. By July, we decided to go spend the summer at our lakehouse on Lake Michigan. It’s rural, isolated, beautiful – and safe. So off we went.

Every summer, Michelle and I pick strawberries with the kids and make jam. Our little girls love making the jam with us. They pick and clean the berries like pros. Mia, my six-year-old granddaughter, helps us fill the jars and seal them. Catherine, my little two-year-old granddaughter, puts the stickers on each jar to make them pretty. So darn cute!

The next best part was putting the jam jars in little baskets and dropping them on the porches of all my relatives that we missed seeing so much. We were so near, yet so far.  

Once the little baskets were on their porches, we’d call my relatives to come out so we would see each other, wave, blow kisses and sometimes even share a tear, hoping we could be closer together soon.

This was such a bittersweet summer. So many good times, yet not being able to hug, laugh and be with our family that lives up there was a huge heartache for me. When it was time to leave Michigan, we waved goodbye to the eagles, deer, butterflies, bees, bunnies, bears, hummingbirds, dragonflies and owls that had been our neighbors all summer.

When we arrived in Houston, we quickly felt the heaviness of the pandemic, not being able to be with our loved ones or friends.
The only thing Michelle and I thought to do was to take the jam jars we brought home and start dropping them off to our friends and family here, which really helped. Just like it did up north.

The other day I was in the kitchen and Mia told me she was bored. I looked at her little face and told her I agreed.  She walked away, turned and said, “I love you.”  It melted my heart. Then out of the blue, little Catherine ran in the kitchen, clapped her hands and yelled out loud, “Let’s make jam!”  We all screamed, “ Jam!”

Michelle and I shared a lot of laughs creating these memories with our little girls. So darn cute!"
Stories good for the soul

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam


  • 8 cubs rhubarb cut in 1/2 inch bits
  • 8 cups strawberries cut in 1/2 inch bits
  • 14 (yes 14) cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 pouches Certo liquid pectin 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract


Get your jars, canning supplies, and water canner at Walmart. Add the fruit to a large metal pot. Add sugar, lemon juice, butter, salt and pepper. Cook on high until the pot comes to a full boil (meaning it doesn't stop boiling when you stir it). Boil for 1 full minute. Add Certo and bring to another full boil, stirring constantly. Turn off heat and add vanilla and almond extract. While making the jam, get out your big water canning stockpot and fill ½  with water. Sterilize the jars in the dishwasher. Wash the lids/bands and place in a pan of boiling water. Take out jars and place on a clean towel. With a jelly funnel and a soup ladle, place the jam into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe the rims of the jars with a paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings. (Be careful not to touch the inside of the jars or lids; use a magnet stick, from the canning kit, to place the lids on.) Next, bring water in stockpot to a boil over high heat, and carefully lower the jars into the canning pot. Pour in more boiling water, if necessary, until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 15 minutes. Remove the jars from the stockpot and place on a cloth-covered surface until cool. This takes 24 hours. To help the jam set, don't move or touch the jars until cooled. Once cool, press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all). Store in a cool, dark area.