Apologies

Guys, I’m really sorry about my photography skills.  To begin with, I am not a super photographer and I don’t have a fancy camera.  The only camera I have is attached to my phone.  Although it’s a good phone camera, it is not a great camera camera. I do have Photoshop CS5 though so there is hope for us. Shall we look back on all my terrible attempts at photography with the hope that I can improve? Let’s.

image
What a delicious angle!
image
Who needs to be able to read the words anyway? It’s not like they are the entire point of this post.
image
Love the washed out background. Avant garde!
image
Just disgusting.
image
The inside joke is that I didn’t want you to be able to actually see the lamp.

Thanks for bearing with me.  Maybe this will get better soon. I’m trying!

Advertisements

Jelly Jam

More than a year ago, my friend was engaged (now married) decided that she and I were going to make jam for her wedding favors. Neither of us had ever made jam, nor did we know where to start. It just happened to be around the time my cousin started her wonderful blog sharing traditional skills.  She gave me a simple recipe with advice based on her own experiences. Then my friend decided we would do cupcakes in jars instead. Sooooo…..I kind of put canning out of my mind.

Until yesterday. I just woke up and decided, “Today is the day!”  I went out and scooped up a few supplies.

image

Then I just followed my cousin’s simple instructions.

8 cups strawberries (4 lbs)
6 cups sugar
3 tsp cinnamon (my secret ingredient)

INSTRUCTIONS:

01.  Sanitize jars, lids and rings in the dishwasher.  Keep the dishwasher closed until it’s time to fill so they stay warm. Otherwise the hot jam will cause the cold jar to crack.

image

02.  Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir frequently until sugar is dissolved.  Keep stirring regularly until mixture thickens. This could take up to an hour.

image

03.  Using a candy thermometer, watch the mixture until it reaches 220 F.  Keep heat on medium, it’ll get there.

image

04.  Fill jars to below the threads. One recipe I found said 1/4 in below.

05.  Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a damp towel, and place the warm lids and rings on snugly.

image

06.  Bring water to a boil in a water bath canner or large stock pot.

07.  Once boiling, place jars on rack in the water canner or on kitchen towels (make sure these are level) with a jar holder so the jars are not touching each other with the water level about 2 in. above the tops of the jars.

image08.  Bring water back to a boil.  Once the water is boiling again, leave jars for as long as the recipe instructs (mine said 10 mins, it varies depending on your elevation).

09.  My cousin suggests turning the heat off and taking the lid off the pot and leaving the jars for 5-10 mins before removing them to avoid the jam rushing out of the jars. Gotta love life experience.

10.  Let the jars cool completely somewhere without a draft.

11.  Do NOT press the lids down. While they are cooling, you will hear little pings when the cool jam pulls the lid down, thus sealing the jar.

image

I bought a water bath canning kit, which ran me about $25.  It came with the pot, rack, funnel, rim cleaner (dirrty), jar grabber, and magnetic lid picker upper. These are all technical terms I made up because walking to the recycle bin is too much work. My grocery store and some big box stores carry a pretty good selection of canning supplies.  For something that doesn’t require a huge start-up cost, I’m surprised more people don’t do this. Canning isn’t limited to jams.  You can make your own pasta sauce, pickles, pie fillings. Basically anything you can find in a can can be canned (lo siento if that was confusing).

By making these things yourself, you can save money. You can  avoid preservatives and fake dyes and generally the crap that’s in processed foods that you would be smart to avoid. You can have a real choice in the quality of foods that go into your canning. Not to mention that what you can will stay unrefrigerated for up to year unopened. (Maybe something to have on hand as a part of being prepared for an emergency)

Please do not think this was all sunshine and roses. I did it right…sorta.  When I finished the jam and it had cooled it was very runny. In my disappointment, I posted a status on Facebook about how I had failed at jam and my cousin told me that this recipe isn’t supposed to set like I was expecting. Basically I just have to cook it down to a thicker consistency. She told me this after I had already reprocessed the jam with store-bought pectin. Which didn’t work like I expected either.  Anyway, I’m lucky to have someone so knowledgeable who can explain to me how/what/why I did wrong (or sorta right) and she has some great tips.  Seriously, check her blog out. Seriously inspirational. Seriously.

So tonight I’ll be cooking the jam down again. I might also try another flavor because I like to torture myself.

It’s an Asbesty Situation

My house was built in 1976.  It has a certain rustic charm that makes me feel homey. It is also a bit of a health risk.  The seventies were not exactly great times for building materials.  My primary worries are asbestos and lead.  In my research, I found out that asbestos isn’t just found in insulation (which is how I imagine it), but can be found in linoleum and ceramic tile, ceiling tile, joint compound and so so much more.  I’m a little afraid to go home tonight.

However, if I don’t try to patch up this charming little house, who will?  I can’t blame the house for the lack of wherewithal of the contractors. I also feel a sense of responsibility for the people who live here after us.  This isn’t my forever home, but I’m certainly not going to pass on a house that is full of carcinogens like it isn’t my problem.  Now, if you look in the background of this picture you will be able to see one of the possible offenders.

Asbest-OH NO!

Here is a close-up

image

That dusty linoleum is:

  1. UGLY
  2. Impossible to get clean or keep clean.
  3. Adhered to the floor with a black adhesive that says,”I don’t look like any linoleum adhesive you’ve ever seen so perhaps you should test me for a deadly particle.” Or something.

Luckily for me, the contractor that redid the master bathroom left us a few boxes of tiles so I will be able to use those for our downstairs powder room (that contains the same dangerous/hideous tile as the kitchen) and have something to use when finding matching/coordinating tiles for the kitchen. We originally thought about wood flooring for the entire first floor, but there is something so wipeable and sturdy about tile that I really like. There are multiple places in the DIYosphere that say sealing and covering linoleum with ceramic tile is a safe and cost effective alternative to having the asbestoffender removed by asbestos professionals (a totally respectable option though). 

First things first, I will need to send a sample to a lab to determine whether or not the tile or it’s adhesive contains asbestos (my bet is yes). I found this lab that will test my samples for a small fee and get me results quickly.  The site has very clear instructions on how to gather your sample and how to ship it. My samples ship out in the morning and I’ll post the results here.  I guess we’ll see how they change the plans we had for our slooooow remodel.

Have you had to deal with asbestos or lead related issues in your home?  Have you ever had anything really surprise you while you were planning a remodel?

Preparation Makes Perfect

This weekend I got a little cray. Please excuse me using the term “Cray.” It just comes out and I can’t stop myself. Describing my weekend as crazy was half-truth, half-lie. It was true because I tried something I’ve never done with very little research. It was a lie because I laid around like a lazy bum the rest of the time.

Ok, you want me to get to the point. This is what I started with:

image

Weird holes all over the walls in my house. We’ve lived with these holes and imperfections for over a year now. So why fix them now? Painting next month! All the roommates agreed so I thought I would get a jump on the prep.

I used Dap spackle that changes from pink when wet to white when dry. Exhibit A:

image

Then some light sanding with a sanding block and we were ship shape. It was very easy to do as a beginner so I would say don’t be afraid to tackle (or repair tackle marks) the walls of your home. I still need to go through the house and see what might still need patching, but the bulk of it is done.

This is going to be totally worth it when we get paint up on the walls, and new white paint on the trim. I get the feeling it’s going to be a huge transformation.

Independent Pork

Sundays are football day in my house. This means the living room is taken over by my roommates, boyfriend and his dad for what seems like forever, but is something like 6 1/2 hours.  Sitting around and staring at fantasy scores seems to take a lot out of them (including manners). So, in all of my womanly kindness I decided to make them something every man loves. Pork.

Of the pulled variety.

The night before I drove out to my local grocery store and picked up a nice 5 lb pork shoulder and DEBONED IT MYSELF because the butcher had left the store. I rubbed it with a recipe I found online. I let it soak into the pork overnight and popped it in the oven to slowly roast for 6 hours.

image

By the time it was done and we had let it rest, people (my sister) were chomping at the bit to get some. The rub itself had bite to it, but just in case someone wanted more flavor and spice, we grabbed some all natural BBQ sauce.

image

Everyone loved it. The pork fell apart and was extremely flavorful. I felt like a real grown up who doesn’t need to but premade pulled pork from the grocery store.   I’m just saying that learning to do these things was not as hard as I had envisioned.  Cooking, at least from a recipe, is no different than following the instructions for a homework assignment.  The cooking is not that hard for me, but the home improvement is definitely a struggle. It’s completely outside my comfort zone but I’m still trying! Updates to come.