Category Archives: For the Book

For the Book Recipes

4 Important Canning Basics No One Talks About

canning-jam-making-BASICS

 

Read more about my passion for canning: Orange Marmalade RecipePlum Jam Recipe  and Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe

The biggest challenge in canning is overcoming the fear that you are going to screw up. I remember reading a handful of articles that scared the daylights out of me talking about unsanitary canning and botulism. I didn’t want to can because I was scared I was going to poison my family or waste 20 pounds of tomatoes.

Canning on the surface seems like a great deal of work, but it’s a hobby that I enjoy. I like that I can experiment with recipes and try different things while saving a little money and lowering the amount of processed food and chemicals my family is eating and ingesting. One of the biggest myths about canning is that it is time consuming. If you are organized in your efforts and love to multi-task, canning might just be your thing.

I decided to write about 4 “canning secrets” that are often overlooked in blogs, articles and other resources. If you are new to canning, these are 4 areas that you need to pay attention to because they are used most every time you are canning. The recipes are really secondary.

 Step 1: Sanitize Your Jars, Lids and Rings

I sanitize my canning equipment with a pressure cooker. I picked this up years ago at Wal-Mart. Your local Ace Hardware, big box home improvement store or Wal-Mart should have these on hand. You can also use a pot. I like the pressure cooker because it seems to work faster and alerts me to when the jars are sanitizer by “whistling.”

Place about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of your pressure cooker. Place the circle rack in in the cooker that came with it. Add your jars, lids and rings to sanitize them. I suggest purchasing new lids for every time you are canning. You want your canning accessories to be clean prior to sanitizing.

You can add your kitchen tongs and funnel as well. Add your lid to the pressure cooker and slide to lock it in. For me, locking the lid is the hardest part of using the pressure cooker. Make sure you add your whistler top and ring the the cooker lid. Turn your stove top up on high. Once it whistles, you will slide your “whistler” to the side so the steam and pressure can leave the pot. Wait about 5 minutes. Slide to unlock and use your tongles to remove item. They are extremely hot!

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Step 2: Testing Your Jam

It’s really important to make sure that your jam or jelly has set. I’m not one to use a thermometer which you can absolutely do to determine if they have reduced enough to become jelly, jam or marmalade. Instead, I place 4-5 small plates in my freezer and chill them for 15 minutes. Once my jam has cooked for the recommended time, I pull my cold plate from the freezer and place a spoonful of my jam on the plate. I leave it for 2 minutes and then test to see if it has begun to set. If it doesn’t run off the plate or spread, then it’s time to place the jam in the canning jars. If it is runny, I cook my jam for another 4 minutes and test again.

The strawberry jam pictured below is almost ready. This is an important step for me when I am trying out new recipes. For example, I recently substituted 1/2 cup of honey for 2 cups of sugar and needed to make sure I got the consistency right. The cold plate test is the best way to make sure that your jam or jelly is done reducing and will set.

testing-jam-canning

Step 3: Seal Your Cans

After you fill your jars with jams, jellies or whatever canning goodness, you need to seal the jars. First, add the lid, ring and make sure they are extremely tight. This is key to making sure your canning goodies stay fresh. There are jar tighteners on the market that you can use.

Add your cans with the tightened lids back to the pressure cooker. Make sure there is enough water in the bottom to properly sanitize and seal the jars. I like to have a half inch. Slide your lid back on, place the cooker on a hot burner and wait for the whistle. The jars should make a popping noise when the properly seal. I like to make a mental note of how many jars are in my pressure cooker listening to make sure all the jars have popped. You can check them after you open the pressure cooker. Lids that are sealed should snap or bounce a little when you push the lid down.

 

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Step 4: Let Your Canning Sit

One step not to overlook is to let your cans sit and cool. I like to use a thick cutting board to set my hot jars on while they cool for about 24 hours before placing them in my pantry. This is especially important for jams and jellies. The sugars need time to cool so they can thicken. Otherwise, you have a bunch of syrup for your pancakes and french toast instead.

Read more about my passion for canning: Orange Marmalade RecipePlum Jam Recipe  and Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe

For the Book

Our Oakland Zoo Review

It’s no secret that I’m an animal lover. So it makes sense why I absolutely love zoos. In 2010 when Ryleigh was just 2 years old, we were fortunate in that one of the elephants at the Oklahoma Zoo had a baby. I remember Ryleigh’s first trip to the zoo (seen in photo below) there to see the new baby elephant. It’s because of that moment, she fell in love with those gentle giants.

Our house is elephant crazy. Ryleigh’s room is decorated in elephants. She can’t get enough which is why we jumped at the chance to Ryleigh and her cousin to the Oakland Zoo.

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We visited the Oakland Zoo.. It was busy but not overly packed with families. One of the main reasons I wanted to go to the zoo was because of their elephant sanctuary. The zoo keepers refrain from actually contacting the animals allowing them to really be elephants without using prods or sticks to direct them. I’ve read that elephants are extremely intelligent, but it was only after learning about the Oakland Zoo’s research that I really understood. Their elephants have been taught to communicate with the keepers and can respond to questions when asked by selecting tiles that are associated with words with their trunks. It’s very impressive.

Aside from the elephants, we also enjoyed their children’s zoo and center. They had a nice petting zoo and insect section as well as fun statues and equipment for the kids to get wild and crazy including the web you see below.

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I’ve made it a personal mission to avoid amusement parks and fairs with Ryleigh. Those things terrify me as children are quick as lightening and I’m worried that I’ll loose her in a crowd. Our favorite part of the Oakland Zoo was their small amusement area where children can enjoy rides including roller coasters and a carousel. We watched Ryleigh experience her first roller coaster ride with her cousin. I even shot a vine video of the occasion.

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For the Book

Pictures of My Victorian House

2nd bedroom another kitchen view

dining room view from living room

entryway staircase

 

front of house in snow full view of front porch to high and aurora

guest house exterior

 


kitchen from swinging door dining room

living room from hallway

main floor bathroom

master bedroom

side view of house

snowy house

staircase with carving

view in front garden to neighbor_edited

For the Book Life Lessons

Change That is Destined To Be Happening

This week I awoke from a dream where I literally had a baby. It was the most realistic dream of my life. My water broke and I was in labor laying in my bedroom. I immediately told Greg, my husband to hurry that the baby was coming. Greg rushed around the house and amid my screaming I told him it was too late. He began searching for blankets and towels while I experienced labor pains. It seemed like less than 5 minutes passed but the pain was real. The labor was fast. Next thing I know I had a baby. I looked him in the eyes and immediately began cleaning him and making sure he was breathing and healthy.

I immediately awoke with the pains of labor still real not only in my mind but in my body. I laid in my bed just absorbing the dream. I have never given birth in the traditional sense. Ryleigh came into this world a little over six years ago via emergency c-section.

According to the online dream dictionary, a birth represents giving birth to a new project, plan or new life dream. Birth represents personal growth and learning. It’s also possible that I am thinking about my baby. Since losing Baby M earlier this year, I have been on a extremely difficult journey. I’ve struggled personally but can say that I am better for it. While the healing is still happening, I am drawn to personal happiness, transformation and change.

In 2014, happiness was hard personally as well as professionally. I can feel my personal transformation everywhere I turn. There are many ups and downs as I manage the direction that I’m moving. This year I’ve lost so much but also gained too.

I’m thinking not just about personal happiness but how happiness intersects not with just life but also work. Without happiness, we are not productive, engaged, passionate or interested in work projects, plans, living or being. And these last few weeks I’ve been pondering how much my personal happiness impacts work happiness and how they intersect. Maybe this is the project I’m birthing. I’m mulling over workplace happiness and how it can transform your business, organization and/or team.

The journey in life is one that is not certain, but I believe I’m being guided down a path. While I’m not extremely religious, I am a spiritual being. Following my inner thoughts, dreams and instincts is what has gotten me to this life path. I’m not finished learning, growing and transforming. This dream is helping hold me accountable to my 2015 focuses of hugs, mindful meditation and quality. I am committed to change in 2015 that is destined to be happening.

For the Book

How to Verify the Variables When Relocating

 

We are moving to San Francisco. As a bit of a control freak, I like to have all the information in front of me. It’s the best way to make a decision that you won’t regret. Except when you have variables like our house which will soon be available for sale and finding a place to live. The San Francisco Bay area real estate market is unfamiliar and uber competitive. I can’t have all the information and control things like timing, information and resources no matter how hard I try.

When verifying these unforeseen variables we’re doing the following:

  • Setting expectations. I’m not going into this house rental market blind. Although it’s been a while, I’ve been in the rental game before. This time I’m older and wiser but we must act fast. We’ve followed rental prices for the last 8 months so we have an idea of what to expect. We understand the market is competitive, and I’m doing my best going into this with eyes wide open.
  • Getting the Upper Hand. I’m not currently working with a relocation agent so I will resort to nontraditional tactics as necessary. I’m currently using IFFFT and have automatic text alerts set up with an RSS feed from Craigslist when a house meets my specific requirements. I receive a text the moment it’s posted so I can make a decision to contact the owner immediately. 
  • Asking the Locals. I have a great network of friends in the Bay area and all of them have opinions about where to live. Since locals know the market the best, I’m taking it all in. Making notes, researching and modifying my strategy as needed. It’s good to be connected in the area before you move.
  • Targeting Specific Areas. I’d like to think that our requirements for a house and relocation aren’t that unique. Our family is targeting specific areas to look for a home. I’m upfront about our pets and the fact that we are looking for a long term rental as we adjust to the area. Being this upfront could bite me in the short term, but I believe that it lends to a better relationship with our potential landlords in the long term. For our rental search we are targeting Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton areas. For my business, I need to be where the technology action is and since we both work at home, we need a place to spread our wings.

Will we be triumpht in our battle to find the perfect place for our life in the Bay area? I truly hope so, but I’m learning that flexibility is the real key to this hot real estate market and the relocation game. Nimble, quick and lightening fast.

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