Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Jam Time...

No, not "crunch time," but "jam time."

Hubby bought a BUNCH of strawberries. I mean, like 10 quarts of strawberries. We froze them with the intention of "sometime" making jam or using them over ice cream. Today, a beautiful day with a good breeze, we jammed...

He brought out the jars, the lids, the berries. And I dug up my Canning Bible - also known as the "Ball Blue Book of Canning" - and looked for my favorite recipe. Don't you love the "I eat local" apron? I needed it! 

The dogs got sequestered, the pots got filled and we got to work, at about 9-ish this morning. We finished about 3 p.m. We have 40 half-pints of strawberry jam and about 20 half-pints of a "berry blend." Because we had a little batch of the frozen strawberries left, I grabbed a bag of frozen "berry blend" that I had stashed for my smoothies. 

Wowza. Was that ever (in my humble opinion) a brainstorm! As you can see, the strawberries were pretty big. We couldn't really get them to mash down properly. But I don't care. 

I had a chance to try some Young Living Essential Oils - their "Vitality" line - and put a drop of Ginger Vitality in the strawberry jam. I usually put ginger in my strawberry jam, because I like that tiny kick - it cuts the sweetness. Young Living Essential Oils is the only company that differentiates, having its oils FDA-compliant for ingestion as well as topical use and diffusing. 

As you can see, I don't skim. Hubby and I talked about it, and every time I have skimmed my preserves, I've lost a lot of the good stuff. So we just call that top layer a "mousse" and live with it. It tastes fine. Put it on your muffin and go for it. 

What we did find was that with the "berry blend" it actually "moussed" less. 

For the berry-blend batch, I switched up the oils, again using the Vitality line, but in Orange this time. It brightened up the flavor. 

Oh, and new tip!!! I ran out of lemon juice. Thanks to The Google, I found that yes, indeed - you can use LIME juice. Which I had. It's a little more acidic, so it helps the pectin along, and it's a little milder in flavor, so you don't necessarily get that sense of "lemon" in the jam or preserves. And I like lime better anyway. 

Again - half-pint jars to the ready; I like the quilted ones. Not for any other reason except that they're pretty. They're all cooling now and we'll put labels on when they're finished - probably tomorrow night after work. 

So in the pic where Hubby's scraping out the pan, you'll be happy to know that I also tossed in the recycle bin a BUNCH of phone books. Remember those? Well, for some reason, we had a bunch that we hadn't yet tossed. Out they go. I'm reclaiming the "crap-catcher" desk area too. 

I was really happy to have the 5 day (Squeeeeeeeeeeee!) Memorial Day weekend off. We got a lot done, and it was nice to get organized, feel accomplished and spend some time not having to be anywhere for once. 

I taught, of course, and we all had a blast, but overall, it was nice to have a break from the day-to-day routine. 

Hubby and I are going to take an inventory of what we have in the basement in regard to what we've canned over the past few years. Stuff in "the pit of despair" migrated a bit and we have to put it all on one shelving unit. If we have to toss stuff, we will - I did have an incident with some apple butter where the seal failed... It happens. I can salvage the jars and rings. The lids get pitched. 

As long as the seals are good, we can keep the stuff and eat it. It's stored in a cool, dark place, so it's still good to consume. 


I've been catching up on my blog-reading. I also pulled out a WIP since my office is about 80% organized. Or at least I have the piles under control. I still have a lot of work to do, but it's getting there. 

So the WIP I pulled was the February Lady Sweater - from 2013. Go ahead, smile. But anyway, it's on my list of things I want to wear sometime soon. 

This is a beautiful yarn: Classic Yarns Silk Wool DK in "Geranium" - which is actually a lovely lilac color. It actually looks brighter in the picture; it's a "dusty" lilac in person. It's a 50% silk / 50% wool blend, which has great stitch definition and a soft, soft hand to it. It is, to my dismay, a tad slippery. I'd prefer bamboo needles, but the Addis were the only ones where I could hook an extra cable length to them. 

Here's the issue...well, here are the issues... I've been knitting baby stuff and socks for a long, long time. Those are small things. 

I picked up this WIP because my left thumb wasn't happy with the sock, and yes, I know - Second Sock Syndrome. I figure I can knit on the sock at work, because it's small and easy to memorize in terms of the simple pattern. 

This is Gull Lace once the yoke is done. And I'm not "winging" that one! And the issue is that at this point in the yoke, there are 296 stitches. 

Two Hundred Ninety Six. In DK weight. This ain't no sock, folks! That's a lot of stitches. I'm at the point where I think I can start the lace pattern, but I have to have Hubby help me "size" it. You have to drape the yoke on yourself and see if the underarm area "almost" meets under the arms. Even though I've got a very long cable on this, I still have to hold onto the one part, because of the slippery nature of the yarn, so that the stitches don't fall off one end. So I'm "winging" this enough to say "If one side is 'almost' there, then the other should be fine." I have to have him help me hold it and measure it. 

The one thing I don't like is there's no schematic. I would love that. But I can deal with it, I guess. I have no choice. I'll have to show you the buttons later; they're vintage that I got as a gift. 


I have a sore rear end. We did another section of the Isle a la Cache trail - it actually goes from Romeoville up past Rt. 83. We got to Rt. 83 and I'd had it. Hey, only the second ride of the season and we did more than 16 miles. Not too bad. I did take some pics, and I have to go through them. Here's one that Hubby took of me. I have to find its corollary - I have a picture of me in basically this same outfit, 30 pounds ago. 

We figure we can work on this trail for a while. It's also part of the Centennial Trail and then hooks into the CalSag Trail. My aim is to get back to our longer rides. I find that the combo of riding and yoga are ideal for me. I find the riding meditative too. 

Not only the cadence thing (I'm getting the hang of it) - which means the pace at which your legs move while pedaling, but the trail itself. I used to try to keep up with Hubby - which is insane. He's more fit than I am and frankly,  he likes fast rides. I want to look around. 

I used to get mad. Really, I'd get peeved because I thought that maybe it's a nice thing to just talk while riding and spend time together. But we have different ideas of what a ride is supposed to be - and that's not a bad thing. It's perspective. 

Mine is this: My ride is my ride. His ride is his ride. At first, he wanted me to keep up with him, but physically - before the heart procedure especially - I couldn't do it. I just didn't have the hang of the gears (I have a 21-speed older Trek bike) and the cadence? Wasn't happening. My heart wasn't in the right shape, even though I was on medication. 

After the procedure, I was ok, but I still don't like whizzing by stuff. One thing our county and our state have done right: we have some remarkable bike trails. They're paved; they're mixed-use; they're well-maintained. Some are by the canals and some are by the rivers. 

This particular trail is between the canal and the river. We pass a shipyard, we pass through some areas of denser forest preserve, and we pass through some areas that are more open. This trail also utilizes some of the old bridges, and we see everything - deer, chipmunks, squirrels, and all kinds of birds, both flying and waterfowl, and of course reptiles and amphibians, including turtles sunning on the partially submerged logs and the odd snake in the middle of the path. The vegetation ranges from ash trees, oaks, vines, honeysuckle and those blasted cottonwoods. Seriously, whoever introduced the cottonwood to this country? Shoot 'em. We were chewing cottonwood fluff, when we weren't breathing it or having the fluffies poke us in the eyeballs. With glasses. Both of us were noticing our allergies kicking into high gear. 

As a matter of fact, on this 16.9 mile ride, we saw two - TWO - indigo buntings! We routinely see Great Blue Herons, and this time, we also saw a couple of Black Cormorants land in the river to feed. 

The trail is part sun and part shade, so it's always changing and always fun to ride. And - very few challenging hills! At least for now, that's what I want! I can wait to build strength a bit and then we can tackle the more strenuous trails. 

So you're likely to see more pictures, as I can snap them. I suppose one day I'll bring the "real" camera. I like my phone camera, but this trail is quite diverse, and there are some places where the phone camera just can't get to. For example, there are some gorgeous lilies in the swampy areas, but I can't get the zoom in close enough without it pixelating. 

Random Picture...

So Hubby got me a beautiful pendant for Mother's Day & our anniversary: a London Blue Topaz in a striking teal color. Today, while waiting for the jam to cool down, this pulled up next door... 

I'd wear this car! It's not the original color, but the restoration was amazing. It's a 1957, I think, but I didn't go out. My neighbor seemed to be in deep discussion, so I didn't want to bother him. 

They're getting the house ready to sell, and my mother has expressed interest in it. Not sure I want my mom next door, but I did tell her that I'd rather have her there than in my house. 

It's nothing personal...she feels the same way. But next door would help her. Might drive me nuts, and definitely would increase Hubby's workload... This will require further discussion and rules. And boundaries. Lots of boundaries. 

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