Jam Labels

So, you’ve made your jams, jellies and preserves. Now you need to make sure that you remember what’s inside.  Or you need to decorate them to give away as gifts. Let’s make some labels!

Instead of the oh-so-country tradition of tying some gingham fabric over the top, I wanted to do something a little more modern and sleek.  I traced the inner lid of the jars I was using and cut out a bunch of circles. I used a nice heavy weight art paper, in a color that corresponded to my Peach Jam.

Then I grab my colored pencils and markers to decorate the top.  I like to make a blended edge that fades into the center. the textured paper makes this look very pretty.  I use a felt tipped marker to write the contents on the top. I will use a pencil to write simple direction on the reverse, such as “store in a cool dry place, refrigerate after opening” etc. I also have a paper punch that makes little ‘price tags’ and sometimes I like to add one of those looped around the band. 

You can crank them out assembly line style.

I love how its sleek, a little modern and not a bit fussy.  You can decorate the tops in any way that you feel inspired.  Now, go label your jam jars!

Cheap organising tray

I love makeup, Mac is my preferred brand and eye shadow my weakness. There is something so alluring about the sleek black case and the way the colour peeks through the clear centre. I keep my goodies in the drawer of the vanity in the bathroom and it has gotten rather chaotic. I’d purchased a couple of clear acrylic trays to stash them in, but they were fairly pricy and I still needed a few more.

Then, the other day I was in Target looking for photo frames when I saw these;

4x6" clear plastic frame with a card back and stand

The frame is about 1 1/2" deep

I think the frames cost around $1.50, so I think I got a pretty good bargain.

I sorted the Mac into colour families

The trays stack 2 deep in my vanity drawer and now I spend less time rooting around looking for a specific shade when I’m putting on my face.

Yarn windin’

I have many clutter problem area; boxes and bins, a basement, and a storage unit. I decided to start slowly, something that my very short attention span could deal with, my yarn hamper. From the outside it’s a very nice basket with a lid, However inside is a different story..

A big tangled mass of lovely yarns

AAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHHH!!!

As you can see, there are half knitted pieces and swatches, all casualties of my craft A.D.D. I very paitiently and gently untied tangles and knots until I had each yarn on it’s own. Then the winding began.

The bowl contains the yarn and keeps it clean

The yarn like to dance about the floor. The I began to…

I wound

wind

…and…

wind

…and…

wind some more

Until finally (after a few hours) I had….

nice neat balls of yarn

Originally I was going to house them in the same hamper, but knew that sooner or later I would have to spend yet another afternoon detangling and winding. So I set off to find some new storage. Preferably plastic and stackable with little compartments for each ball.

I almost purchased an ornament box, yeas it had compartments, but you had to dismantle it to get to the middle, not going to work. And the boxes I saw with individual compartments were too small.

Then I stumble upon this..

Eureka

Plastic, yes. Stackable, yes. Individual compartments, no. What it does have is the ability to add more layers.

I love that the yarn will be in a single layer and that I can see in easily from the outside. It was $10.00 from Target and I’m on my way to get a couple more.

New Year Healthy Start

Between the binge of Thanksgiving  and the onslaught of Christmas over-eating I decided that I need to have a more healthier life so I began juicing. I dug my juicer out of storage and began a healthier start to my day. In my head I say to myself, ” If I start the morning with fresh juice then the rest of the day will surely follow suit.” Who am I kidding, this is not the case everyday. Somedays it’s just a downward spiral after the juice, but I least I’ve had ONE thing fresh and healthy.

Over the Christmas season I fell off the wagon, partly due to the fact that I had brunt the motor out on my juicer and partly because there were soooo many people at The Croakery and a lot to do. So a new year and a new juicer, I’m ready to begin again.

I try to have a whole spectrum of colours, but as you can see I’m missing purple today, Vegetables balance out the sweetness of the fruit

There’s a handy dandy pusher so I don’t have to get my fingers near the blade

It goes in solid and comes out juicy goodness

The pulp is contained in a outer chamber. The way it settles in layers reminds me of sand art

Mix it together and down it goes

The pulp may seem like a waste, but you can use it in muffins or breads, and I sometimes put it in the garden for the birds

Less Stress Christmas

I think there must be something in the air that makes this time of year so hectic, The short days make people go in to a tail spin. Santa is lucky that he only has to check his list TWICE, I consult my MANY lists several  times a day! I call my compilation of lists, notes, photocopies and tear outs my Christmas Brain.

I start by printing out a calendar of the month and jotting things onto it. Events that are fixed and unlikely to change I write directly onto the calendar and those which may move about are written on post it notes. I do this because I find crossing things out rewriting new things in the same space makes me confused. The whole point of this is to make organising myself and my time easier.

I also keep my Christmas gift list here and can tick off items when they have been purchased.

If  there is a day that will be extra busy I print a d day planner of that and behind each day I put photocopies and tear outs of recipes and other sheets of inspiration the pertain to that day. I keep it all together with a clip.

Another time saver I’ve found useful is to measure out and bag dry ingredients for baked goods. I them put them in the cupboard with a copy of the recipe and know I only have to add butter, eggs, vanilla and other wet ingredients. I usually keep a good stock of those things.

Remember to label them too.

I also bake several batches of cookies, form them into balls and freeze them, that way there is always a treat minutes away if anyone should drop by unexpected. This works really well with sausage rolls too.

Putting Vanilla Pods to Good Use

van2Have you ever balked at the high cost of pure vanilla extract? I know I have! A teeny little bottle can run upwards of $6 or $7, and I’m talking only 8 ounces of the good stuff. This is a little tutorial on what you do about it.

This can also be a great handmade gift for your special friend who loves to bake. Its easy to assemble, but you do need to let it marinate for several weeks, so if this has you thinking Christmas or Hannukah gifties make this now!

Get a bottle of a good quality vodka. I got a 357ml bottle of Absolute. You really want something that has good flavor. Its like cooking with wine, you want something that tastes good. So don’t skimp, even though it will be imbued with vanilla you will still get the flavor of the alcohol. If its bottom shelf swill, you may regret it later!

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Florrie, always the daredevil, decided to stray off the beaten path and use burbon for her batch, that should be divine! Since the bourbon is already a lovely caramel color the vanilla will get really dark and pretty. Bourbon is such an aromatic liquor that it should be something really special. When I asked her what it smelled like before she added the vanilla she replied, “Smokey and oaky and slighty vanillaery. Rich and complex, like a fine southern gentleman.”

She is such a minx. :O)

So! Let’s begin, shall we?

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Shop around to find the best price on vanilla beans. They can be pretty pricey. After some hunting I found a little grocery that sells two beans in a little vial for only $5, but I have seen them for as much as $8 for only one bean, so keep your eyes open.

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Grab a sharp little knife and split the pod lengthwise so we can get at all those lovely little black beans inside.

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Drag the edge of the knife along the split pod and scrape them out. Do this for each pod, and then put everything into your vodka. Pods and all.

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Put the lid on tightly and store in a dark cupboard for at least 6 weeks, if not longer. Take it out once a week and give it a little shake. Over time it will turn a lovely mahogany color, and the vanilla flavor will develop and deepen. Then you can use it for baking, cocktails or whatever you want! You can pour into individual pretty bottles for holiday gift giving, or put it in your pantry for yourself.

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This vanilla has only been sitting for about 3 weeks, and look at the color. When you give it a shake, you can see all the little beans floating throughout. Gorgeous!

Another great way to use vanilla pods is making Vanilla Sugar. Vanilla sugar is great to have around for baking (think crunchy toppings on muffins and yummy cookies)  for sprinkling on warm buttered toast, putting in your tea or coffee. Its pretty to look at and it smells like heaven. Its a breeze to make, too!

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You only need three things to begin. An airtight container, enough granulated sugar to fill said container, and a couple of vanilla pods. Don’t feel obligated to use white table sugar, though that works just fine. How about organic light brown sugar, or demerara sugar or even molassass-ey dark brown sugar.

Start by pouring your sugar into the container. I got a nice hermetic jar from the Container Store. Just make sure the mouth of the jar easily admits some sort of measuring cup or large spoon. It will save you some hassel later.

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Then do the same thing you did with the vanilla extract, split the pod and scrape out the seeds. Chuck the insides and the pods into the sugar, seal up the jar and give it a hearty shake to distribute.

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You can see some little clumps of vanilla in the sugar, but its just cause its a new batch.

The fresh beans do carry some moisture, so you may see some initial clumping, but the beans will distribute with agitation and with time. The beauty of it is you can just keep adding sugar to the jar as it gets low, and add in an occasional bean to keep the flavor strong.

vanilla3This would also be a terrific holiday gift in a pretty jar with some ribbon. What are you waiting for! :O)