Thursday, April 30, 2015

Strawberry Jam Time

It's strawberry time again here in the southeast and that is one of my most favorite times! These red, juicy, jewels are a treat that just can't be beat!
My kids have really been eating them up, but they also have been asking for their favorite jam too. Strawberry jam! It's the most requested when I make it up each year and always the first that is emptied off the canning pantry shelves. I know you can find strawberries at almost any time of year now, but please be careful... Strawberries are highly sprayed in commercial farms. I know we have to do the best we can and we can't always afford organic... but if you can, find someone that you know how they grow their food, or for that matter, grow it yourself if you can! Even if you can't grow it all, and most of us can't, grow some! It gives such satisfaction seeing a meal on your table that comes from your garden or homestead. What a blessing!

I am going to show you how I make my most favorite strawberry jam. I've made many variations of strawberry jam before. Strawberry honey jam, strawberry rhubarb jam, just straight up regular strawberry jam.... 
But this one is strawberry jam with Pomona pectin.
By using Pomona pectin, you can substantially lower the amount of sugar you use! Because I know we have all been there when pulling out everything to make jam, we see the instructions telling us to use massive amounts of sugar. It's gut-wrenching to think we have to use that much. I've got your solution and I'm telling you, it's really good jam! No joke! 
Here's how I do it.

Wash your strawberries and cut them up into slices.

For one batch of this jam, you need 4 cups of mashed berries. 4 cups of mashed berries are about 8 cups of sliced berries. I just use a potato masher. I don't want them pureed, I like chunks.

With Pomona, you have an extra simple step... You make calcium water.
All you do is take a 1/2 cup cold water and add 1/2 tsp calcium to the water (It comes in your pomona pack) and shake. Store in a small jar, label it, and keep it in the fridge... you will have more for the next time you want to jam.
For our jam today, all you need is 2 tsp of calcium water.
Add this to your mashed berries. This is an important step, so don't forget it. The calcium water helps to activate your pectin powder. 
Take your measured 4 cups of mashed berries and your 2 tsp of calcium water and add it to your stockpot. 
Begin to let your berries cook down slightly until they come to a boil.
In the meantime get out your pectin.
I buy mine from Azure Standard. I buy it in bulk because pretty much that is ALL I use. I love it! If you have some likeminded friends who love natural food and buy in bulk, see about getting an Azure drop in your hometown! It's a great place to order from. 
You are going to need 1 cup of sugar, I'm using evaporated cane juice crystals.
And to that sugar, you need 2 tsp of pectin. 
Mix them both together. 

Once your berries are beginning to boil, drop in your sugar/pectin mixture. Stir till combined and then bring back up to a rolling boil. Boil the mixture for 1 minute!
Have your clean jars ready and your lids and bands in simmering water. 
Once you have boiled your jam for 1 minute, pour up into jars.
One batch made about 2.5 pints of jam or 5 half-pints.
Clean your rims, add lids and bands and put in your hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.
Once finished, transfer to a safe place to allow your jars to cool COMPLETELY. Approx 24 hours. This will help your jam to set up. 
Yum. Yum. Yum... 
You won't regret the time and effort for this delicious treat. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baskets aplenty

A new craze has been sweeping my creative outlet lately. Basket making. Without any real knowledge or know-how, I dove in head first.

I asked my husband to go by the hardware store and buy me some clothesline rope. He brought me home a few packages. It was what I used to make my first two baskets. The aqua and red. Then I was at another store and found some thicker clothesline rope and got some to try also.

Different feels and different strengths, but I like how all of them turned out. 

I can't give you a tutorial on how to make a perfect basket, but I can tell you that I took the clothesline rope. I started coiling it around and around and zigzag stitching around each coil. It began to take a form of its own and it was a very neat project to see unfold. I had no idea where any of them were going as I was sewing... I just let it take shape. 

You can make the bottom begin to curve up by adjusting the basket slightly so you can begin the 'sides'. 
You will start seeing more of a bowl shape before long.
This takes quite a lot of thread. So it is a good idea to have several bobbins ready. I didn't do that. Take note if you decide to give it a try. ;) 
It's not perfect. The zigzags overlap and go a little wonky at times.
But... I just love it!

My next basket... I hope will have handles, like a market basket. I am going to need a LOT of thread for that one. Haha! 
Until then, friends... Have a great day! 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Make your own Sunflower Wreath

Over the past week or so, there has been a picture floating around the internet. A sunflower mesh wreath. I knew once I saw it that I needed to give it a try. A few friends even tagged me in different posts on Facebook saying, "Chas! This looks like you!" or "Hey, Chas! Try this!"
I loved it and wanted to give it a go.
Please note.... these directions are not perfect, nor is my method. It is just something I wanted to try and here is how *I* did it... 
Supplies include yellow, green and brown mesh
a 12" wire form
pipe cleaners
a ruler
A cardboard or styrofoam circle
hot glue

I measured to see how wide the deco burlap ribbon/mesh was. It is almost 6"
So I cut them 6" long as well, that way they would be somewhat squarish.

Now, turn the square slightly so that it looks more like a diamond.
Beginning one the bottom corner (the one closest to you) pinch it up till you get to the other side... like the picture below.
On the outer loop of your wreath, take a pipe cleaner and attach the pinched mesh and twist to keep it secure. I did about 2 per section on this wreath. 

With one piece of the pipe cleaner, make it go under the next loop of the wreath so you once you finish going all the way around with your first layer, you can come back and begin your second layer of petals on the next loop.

Continue forming petals all the way around the wreath. After you make another petal, continue moving your pipe cleaner section to the next level... getting closer to the final round each time.

This is how it should look when the final layer/round is complete.
With the green, I cut about an 8" long section. Pinched it in the middle just like I did with all the yellow petals and then wrapped a pipe cleaner around it to secure the leaf. Then I attached the leaf to the outer ring and pulled the leaves outward so they would show. 
With this wreath, there is no place to "hold" a center section. So I took three more pipe cleaners and attached them in a star pattern. Fastening them to the centermost wire ring so it will hold our middle section of the flower. 

Then I wrapped a styrofoam circle with the brown burlap. I WISH I had the dark brown burlap mesh, but I don't. So I wrapped it with regular and then painted it brown.
It doesn't turn out perfect, but I like the imperfectness of it! 
Fasten your middle section to your flower by hot gluing to the star shaped pipe cleaner section that you made on the back of the wreath. 

And there you go... A beautiful sunflower for your door or anywhere in your home!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Importance of Home

My heart has been so aware of the need of home lately. 

The place of comfort
The place of refuge
The haven 
The place to gather 
The place to enjoy

I know no matter where I went as a young person, I always looked forward to coming back HOME. The place that was always welcoming, always a sanctuary for me.

As an adult now, married with kids. I feel the same about our home. A prayer of mine is that my children will feel the same... now and when they are grown. 

Have you made your home a place to long for? That doesn't take loads of money to do.
 It takes effort.
 Do you add touches of nature here and there? 
Do you add real-ness? 
Is it stark and cold or warm and inviting?
 A home is not a museum, not a place of perfection. 
It should be lived in. 
It can be a bit of a mess at times, but I constantly try to maintain a certain level of tidiness to keep my own sanity and to make clean up times manageable. 
Is there comfort there? A place to sit and relax. A place to enjoy one another.
 A place to read. Learn. Live. Gather. Enjoy. 
Food is another comfort of home. Sometimes we allow ourselves to become so busy, the art of home-cooking gets pushed to the wayside. Make something today. I just finished up our yogurt. 2 quarts of good, nurturing, homemade yogurt. To enjoy with some berries later on today. Comfort. 
As we work on our lessons and our chores, I want to instill in my children truth. When we work, no matter at home or away, we are working unto the Lord. We should always keep in mind that we are serving Christ when we serve others. 

Home... it is so important. Remember, fill it with things you Love, people your adore and memories you share. It is so, so important. It is something you will never regret.