Canning/Harvest, Recipes

Strawberry Preserves

 I’ve been experimenting with different preservation techniques over the past few years. I’m not really a jam/jelly fan, and I think it is because of all of the corn included in commercial pectin. I know there are other sources for pectin, and I have heard good reviews, but I haven’t purchased any yet. For now, I’m trying recipes that don’t call for pectin or using homemade pectin. The nice thing about preserves is that they are cooked down, so that they don’t require additional pectin to set up. And preserves just sound fancy. The drawbacks to preserves are that it 1) takes WAY more time (1-2 days!) and 2) the longer you cook a fruit, the more you break down the nutritional benefits within the fruit. I guess it’s a toss-up. less sugar and corny ingredients. More nutritional breakdown.

That’s why you make some of each, right?

I haven’t opened the jars yet, but they sure look purdy.

Strawberry Preserves
Author: Keira @ Searchforseven.com
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 half-pints
Ingredients
  • 3 lbs rinsed and hulled strawberries
  • 2-5 cups sugar (to taste. I like mine less sweet. It does make it a softer set, though)
  • 1/3 c strained fresh lemon juice [bottled has more consistent Ph, but I can’t have the sulfur preservatives]
Instructions
  1. Layer the strawberries and sugar in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 3 hrs.
  2. Transfer strawberries and sugar in 6-8 qt saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, being careful to not break up the fruit. Cook until sugar dissolves.
  3. Add lemon juice [I had to add the lemon juice before the sugar dissolved because it was just caramelizing the sugar. I think my strawberries were too fresh]. Bring to boil and cook to jelly stage220°, approximately 30 minutes
  4. Pour into cake pan. Let stand uncovered in cool place for 12-24 hrs.
  5. Return to saucepan and bring fruit and syrup to a boil.
  6. Remove from heat, skim foam. Immediately fill hot sterile ½ pt jars leaving ¼” head-space. Carefully remove trapped air bubbles with non-metallic tool (I use the end of a plastic spoon. You can also use a chopstick or canning knife
  7. Wipe jars clean, add lids and rings, and process in water-bath for 10 minutes [5 minutes at sea-level].
Notes
If you like more solid strawberries, you can boil for 10 minutes, strain juice, and then cook down the juice for another 15 minutes. I didn’t do this, but I might, after I try how these came out.[br]I double the recipe when I make it. It works just fine doubled.

 

 

Canning/Harvest, Recipes

2014 Strawberry Preservation

I didn’t get nearly as many strawberries as I wanted to, this year. By the time I realized I wouldn’t be moving “any day,” most of the strawberries were already gone. and there was that time I waited too long when I HAD purchased some strawberries and I had to throw most of them away. We won’t get into how happy THAT made me. Especially because my brother saw the boxes of strawberries and said I must really love him to have bought that many, and if I weren’t his sister he’d think I was intending some romantic gesture. For my not-so-affectionate little bro, that’s huge.

I did get some strawberries in the freezer, and I dehydrated a TON (That somehow only filled 1/2 a gallon bag. Seriously, if my little miss didn’t like them so much, I wouldn’t do them. But she won’t each much fruit, so the fact that she loves dehydrated strawberries makes them totally worth the work).

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The rest of the strawberries turned into strawberry preserves and strawberry jam. I am experimenting this year, so I tried a few different recipes.

Strawberry Preserves

Strawberry Lime Jam with Apple Pectin

Pectin-Free Strawberry Jam

A Day in the Life

The Eyes Have [Them…]

Week #1 "New" [1of52]

Glasses, I mean.

Not mine. I still have about perfect vision. I was a little far-sighted, he said, but not enough to bother putting glasses on. Basically, if my eyes get tired, I should exercise them by looking at something far away for a few minutes (like out a window).

But the other members of my family? Yup, they’re all glasses-wearing super-stars. Ranger has had glasses since he was in elementary school… but he NEVER wears them. And never isn’t an exaggeration. His best friends had no idea he even wore glasses. And he’s known them since before high school. He also got contacts this time. And he’s worn them about as long as it takes to leave the doctor’s office, go grocery shopping, and come home. Then he took them out. He’s supposed to ease into them and go back to see the eye doc. He hasn’t made it that far.

He looks like a sophisticated stud in his glasses. Too bad no one will ever know.

The girly got glasses, too. But they’re the same prescription as last year. She will only wear them if NO ONE comments on them. And since she never wears them, when she does people ALWAYS comment on them. So they get left at home quite often, too. They’re just supposed to be for reading, so it’s not really a big deal, but they definitely make a difference.

A Day in the Life

How Much Wood Would a Wood Chuck Chuck

… the moment you have to stop and think about the difference between wood and would… I don’t think I’ve ever bothered to write that out before…

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My Grandpa has a wood fireplace.

He ordered an entire semi-truck full of wood for said wood fireplace.

He is well into his 80’s. He used to tell people he was 9-squared, but he’s too old for that now. He’s also too old to stack an entire truckload of firewood, although most of the family knows he would if we’d let him. Mostly, if his kids would let him… his grandkids try not to let him, but he’s not one to take “no” too easily, especially from a grandkid.

Which would be why he has a chainsaw in his hands in this picture.

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Sorry this picture is blurry (as usual). This time I have an excuse. I took it while dodging flying logs as they soared through the window.

Over a series of days, some of the kids and grandkids got together to help cut and stack Grandpa’s wood. It brought back nostalgic memories of stacking wood as a kid.

We used to be the ones sitting just inside this window, on stacks and stacks of wood, so that we could hand it down to the ones stacking it below (find that same window on the first picture for perspective, and realize that the first picture is about 3 feet from the ground). I remember complaining loudly about all the WORK the kids had to do, but secretly enjoying being with my cousins. What I DON’T remember is any of the work… I also remember Grandpa’s old “CAT” that he’d occasionally let us ride after the wood was all done. Until Jake got stung by a bee one year (he’s allergic. He’s also the kid who helped us all learn not to stick your tongue on Grandpa’s metal screen door, but that’s another story).

The grownups always made the stacks we sat on. I climbed up there this time and wondered how on earth we didn’t kill ourselves. I’m sure our parents made it safe, I don’t remember being scared at all as a kid, but as a grownup, knowing full well how it was stacked… yeah, I didn’t last long up there.

That and the fact that as the only female helping stack that day, my brother told me I was too delicate to be there because he was afraid of tossing in the logs and hurting me. He had no qualms about tossing logs in on and hurting the other brother. I should feel loved.

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Instead, I stacked after the piles were thrown down. And when the pile got too tall, I brought armloads into the garage and stacked them myself.

We also had a little help from this young helper. He was pretty cute. There was one time I had a little log in my hands and I called him over and told him it was too heavy for me to carry and I needed him to help… Then about 5 minutes later, he brings ME one over and makes ME carry it. It was “too evy, Aunt-Keeaa, too evy!” Well played little man, well played.

BeFunky Fill Light on iPhone

The rest of the time, he was “helping” Grandma pick chokecherries by distracting her every few seconds to push him on the swings.

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On the way home, we saw a red sun! I wish phones could capture the amazing grandeur of the sky, but they don’t seem to do it justice. I just thought it was fitting to see a fire-sky after stacking fire-wood.

Educational

Name That Book

So… I’m stumped. I’m trying to remember 2 childhood books and I just can’t remember them for the life of me! They were old favorites. One my family owned (but no one but me seems to remember) and one that I always checked out from the library. They were both picture books. If I had any readers I’d create a prize for knowing the titles of the books. Maybe I will anyway. I’ll make up a bookmark or something.

Finger face with a question

Book #1: It was basically the same concept of Love You Forever,
but it was a girl as the main characther. And it didn’t have a mother sneaking into a room. It was a mommy feel-good book about a girl growing up. I remember a few of the pictures. One had the daughter riding through on a skateboard with her friends (yes, a girl skateboarder), and another illustration of the girl hanging (sitting? is it sitting if your feet are on the wall and your head is hanging off where your knees should be?) upside down on the couch talking to her friends via corded phone and eating pizza. Does this ring a bell to anyone?

Book #2: This book was about a little girl who did not clean up her house. It never showed her parents at all in the book, and to me it seemed as though the only human in existence was the little girl. I specifically remember that she left the cap off the toothpaste and water in the soap dish. The house suddenly becomes human-like and gets mad at her and kicks/locks her out. Somehow, they are able to converse, and eventually she convinces the house she’ll be a cleaner little girl and is able to come back in the house.

I have Googled and Googled these books and I still get nothing. First of all, they are probably not still being printed. Secondly, without a name of any sorts, Google searching really has limitations. Even for this Google-junkie.

A Day in the Life

virtual tour

I’ve shown you all the work I’ve done, and glimpses of the house, and I’ve even shown you the yucky bugs! But I haven’t ever shown you the actual house! So here’s your virtual tour.

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Here’s the front room. I’m trying to decide if I want the couch to face the wall, and then consign myself to a TV upstairs, or if I want it to look out to the window, and keep the TV in the basement. It’s a c-shaped couch, so it’s either got to go with one side against the wall, one side facing the window, and the chaise closest to the picture, or it’s got to go with the wall with an entertainment center, the wall opposite the window with a couch, then the other side of the couch and the back of the chaise closest to the picture. I think I’ve lost you. Here’s a paint diagram… It’s not nearly to scale… but it’ll give you an idea.

-or-

 

I can’t get to the measurements right now, so I can’t check to make sure, but I’m pretty sure that if I go with option 2, I’m going to have to pull out the extra piece in the sectional. Which is no problem, I’ll just have to figure out where to put it. When I get into the house, and when I actually get my measurements back from a packed computer, I’ll be able to figure out where it would fit, but I can’t make up my mind either way. What do you guys think?

In our house right now, the TV is in the basement. It’s nice because that way it doesn’t become the focal point of the home. I think too many times, when the TV is easy to get to, people use it too much as an escape. It’s always on. I don’t want that. But then again, if the TV is in a central location, it’s easier to keep tabs on what is being watched. It also means that when Ranger and I just want to watch a movie as a couple and not as a family (Dates don’t always have to be out of the house), we could easily have little eyes watching from any vantage point in the hallway. We don’t watch movies that are inappropriate, but sometimes we just want to watch movies we don’t have to explain to a 9-year-old. And most of these movies are watched when she’s SUPPOSED to be in bed. I don’t know if a TV going on the same floor will make too much noise.

I’m pretty sure Ranger would love to have the TV upstairs, but he’s a TV junkie. I don’t think he’d care if I demanded it downstairs, but I can’t make up my mind, and until then, it’s all pretty much up in the air.

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Here’s the other side of the front room, with the entry way. Right now it’s cheap linoleum, but in my head, it’s either hardwood or laminate flooring (I was pretty set on the “laminate is cheap and tacky” mentality until I realized that hardwood flooring is NOT like it used to be and is pretty much identical to laminate but with twice the cost. Pressed wood does not count as hardwood. And then a woodworking contractor told me that laminate is not like it used to be either, and is now extremely durable and realistic, and he’d pick laminate over hardwood any day. Now I can’t decide). Eventually, whichever floor choice we go with will most likely extend all the way into the kitchen (the room to the left of the photo), but for now, carpet will fill the space. Our lender requires that contractors install everything that is tied to the loan, and carpet HAS to be tied to the loan or already present. If we wanted contractors to install any other flooring besides carpet, it’s an extra dollar per square foot. And the carpet can be moved to the downstairs hallway when we get that far. Until then, carpet wins.

You’ve seen the jimmy-rigged kitchen.

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Here’s the laundry room that will eventually be part of the kitchen, too.

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clearly, the mess on the floor won’t be staying.

Here’s the huge pantry that right now is connected to the laundry room (see why it’s got to go? It feels like it’s such a long walk to go through the laundry room to get to the pantry. I know it’s not any further, but it sure feels further going through a doorway.

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Really, though, the pantry is the size of a small bathroom. You have got to admit, that’s pretty cool.

back through the kitchen, you get to the dining room. The dining room has a perfect niche for an inset china hutch. That’s one other thing I’m begging my hard-working husband to build. It also has glass doors onto the tiny deck, but it allows for a picturesque view and lots of light. The Dining room’s not that big, but it’s big enough for my large kitchen table, so I’m content. I’m just hoping it doesn’t become a junk collector like my current dining room does. I dream of dinners actually at a table like the olden-days. I think that’s important.

From the dining room, you go down a hall and there are the rooms and bathrooms.

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This room is either going to be my sewing room/office or my brother’s bedroom. I would love for my brother to move downstairs (it’s currently unfinished) because when he’s not a student he works at a refinery. He comes home smelling like old nasty stale grease and leaves a black trail of footprints. As much as I love him, I don’t want ruined brand new carpet. Ranger doesn’t think it’s nice to stick him in the basement again, though, so we’ll have to see. I’d love for my crafts to not get stuck in the basement (and therefore ignored or forgotten). Priorities.

Check out the hanger set-up in the closet. Instead of a bar to hang clothes on, there are all these little hooks. I can’t make up my mind whether I think they’re pretty awesome or annoying. They’re unique, which makes them pretty cool, but they sure seem to limit how many clothes one could hang in a closet.

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This will most likely end up the miss’s room. It seems a good fit. Pretty sure we’re going to paint one wall purple, and she’s pretty adamant about clouds on the ceiling. I don’t want them to be too dramatic, so they might end up subtle shades of the same hue. If the room ends up like it is in my head, it’ll be the coolest room I’ve ever gotten to create. I am hoping Ranger will have time between cupboards and china hutches to build a new bed. The one I found and love (and this kid loves too) retails for almost $4000! There’s no way I’m paying that much $$$! I’m half tempted to build it myself, but the things that require power tools usually end up crooked before I’m done with them… It might be a good time to overcome my fear, though.

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The master bedroom has double doors. Tell me that’s not cool!

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I know I want to paint my ceiling with crown molding that goes in about a foot from the wall and frames the top of the room, with a nice decorated piece surrounding the fan. I’m thinking a greyish purple. Something subtle enough to not distract, and grey enough that it’s still appropriate for a man to sleep there. And then I’m trying to decide if adding one grey wall is too much with the painted ceiling. What do you guys think?

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Here’s a quick view of the master bath. There’s a closet and double sinks in the foreground, and behind the wall there’s a toilet and a shower. I want to take the door out and add a pocket door, so that the back room feels larger. Right now it feels pretty small back there, but it might be the rock slabs lining the shower, or the fact that it’s dark. I’d also love to take out the shower and put in a huge tub with a shower fixture. I relax with a bath, and right now the only tub in the house is a tiny one in the kid’s bathroom. Not ideal at all. I’m told that it’d be a shame, though because of how beautiful the rock shower is. It’ll stay for a while, I’m sure, since I have so many dream projects for this house, but I will probably keep dreaming of the tub I don’t have.

That’s the whole upstairs. Downstairs isn’t finished. And it probably won’t be for a while, with as many changes as I want to make upstairs. Never finish downstairs until upstairs is done.

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At the bottom of the stairs, I’m probably going to put a few book cases. I have tons of books. They’ve gotta go somewhere.

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Right now, this is a whole room just for the water heater. I think that’s silly. It will be a laundry room with a water heater, though, and that is MUCH less silly. I’m trying to decide if we should keep that window. It is in the way for where I want to re-build the deck outside, but if I take it out, there’s no windows on the whole corner of the house. I’m a fire-paranoid freak, and I don’t know if I like losing the only escape route.

There is another bedroom and a bathroom already framed in and plumbed downstairs, as well as a room perfect for cold storage (no windows and it’s on the same side of the house as the future laundry room), but the bedroom is going to need an egress installed. Then there’s a great-room.

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We’re pretty sure we’re going to put a fireplace back here, since the only heat source currently is ceiling heat, and that was the dumbest invention ever. And we won’t keep the laminate under it (seriously, laminate under a fireplace!?!). Otherwise, I’m not quite sure how downstairs is going to work. Or what will end up where. Just because the walls are framed in doesn’t mean they have to stay the way they are, but we do have to stay semi-true to the structure, especially for any walls running length-wise through the house.

I’d love feedback. How should I arrange my couches in the front room? Is grey too much for behind the headboard in the master bedroom? Am I being too paranoid about windows in the corner of the house?

A Day in the Life

And It’s Not Even Ours Yet

I have done more work on our new house than I’ve done the entire time I’ve lived in this old house, and it’s not even finalized yet! All thanks to a paranoid state housing department.

I can’t really complain. When we get in, this house will be the best and safest house I’ve ever lived in. It’s pretty sad, considering all the upgrades I know we will do to it in the future. It’s no where near as nice a house as it will be.

What can I say, I’ve lived in some pretty trashy places. Trashy might not be the right word… we’ll call them Ghetto. Which is derogatory, again. What can I say… Sometimes knowing the history of words gets me into trouble. For instance, in my life, I’ve lived in two single-wide trailers fastened together. I’ve lived in houses where I had to duck to get into my room. I’ve also lived in a house where my bedroom was on the other side of the bathroom. i.e. I had to wait to go into or out of my room whenever anyone showered. And then there’s the current model, that is falling apart and flooding around me. (Seriously, if we get any more rain, we’re going to have to wade in my basement. I’m NOT happy about it, and I keep telling myself it doesn’t matter because I’m moving, but my house smells like wet basement now. Not a fan). I can’t wait to move into a house that needs some personality, but doesn’t need new everything.

And doesn’t flood when we flush the toilets.

Let me tell you THAT’s fun.

Not.

It started simply enough. First we had to put these counters together. They DONT match and are incredibly cheap, like really really cheap, in that the center cabinet where the sink is doesn’t even really exist cheap.

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We recruited our friend Mike to help with that. He nailed the counters together, and we nailed the top to them. It passed inspection, even though I hate it.

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As soon as we can actually sign the papers and move in, I’m going to tear out the wall connecting the kitchen to the laundry room. Right now the kitchen is pathetically small, and I LIVE in the kitchen. It’s not a good situation. But the laundry room can easily go downstairs. I know it means more walking for laundry, but I do laundry a few times a week. I cook a few times a DAY. A bigger kitchen is pretty important to me. I’ve had it all designed and graphed out for months. And when Ranger found out how much it costs to get cabinets installed (hence why Mike’s jimmy-rigging the counters in the previous picture), he agreed to make me a custom kitchen. He’s pretty handy, but getting him to make time is another story. He is always tired after work, and then there’s everything that NEEDS done… I might just have to make this kitchen a need… But anyway, it’s functional. And I hooked up the plumbing myself.

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And between Ranger and I, we also got the toilet in … a more toilet-y location. As in, back where the toilet hole actually is and not in the tub. I hooked up the pipes to it as well, and I added the toilet mechanism all by myself. Call me Rosie.

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Then, on to round two: We had to add a stair rail (which is silly, in my opinion) and fix the stucco in the back.

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The stucco was fixed in the front and on one side, but the seller ran out of $ so that’s as far as it went (seriously, the cost of repairing stucco about equal to the cost of putting up siding! Pretty sure when we go about fixing the stucco in a few years (because stucco only lasts a few years), we’ll just upgrade to siding.

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Most of the back of the house is just tiny cracks, and when we asked Lowe’s a while ago, they said if it’s just tiny cracks, you can get away with just painting over it and it’ll last an extra year. Since our extra income this year is going into GETTING the house (and getting out of debt), an extra year is just what we need. Also, the appraiser pointed out how the stucco wont stick to wood anyway and so it would need to be painted. So, I painted it. And in the process, I broke the paint can. So… I painted a little more than I would have liked. It looks Über-fab right now, but hey, it’s less I have to worry about when winter comes. We also calked up the obvious cracks. This wood slab really belongs to what used to be the deck. My guess is that the seller put up as small a deck as possible (it’s tiny!) in order to call it a deck after the wood deck needed replaced, and the wood slab is what’s left over from where the deck used to be.

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It’ll pass appraisal, at any rate. And at this point, I don’t care, I just want IN IT. No one sees the back of the house anyway… at least they don’t when the yard is non-existent.

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This is one of the few windows that still needs replaced. This one and two windows in the main part of the house are still aluminum. The rest have been upgraded to vinyl. You see that white half-circle up on the railroad ties? That’s what is left of the lid.