I want to thank Katie from Sled Dog Slow for nominating Oscoey for the Leibster Award! It was completely unexpected and the email was a wonderful surprise after a long week of craziness in our house. I have only been blogging for a few […]
When we moved into our house there was a very long list of things we wanted to fix. We bought our house based on location, layout and how much we loved living next to the woods. Although the layout was perfect for us we were not happy with most of the paint, flooring or much else. Over the last year and a half we have been slowly taking care of smaller projects. Some of them have been due to urgency and others because we had the time and they didn’t cost too much. The pantry was one of the first things we saw that needed major work but we hadn’t gotten around to it because it wasn’t urgent and there were other projects that took priority. About a week ago our super strong one year old decided to sneak off and pull the lower shelf down. He broke it off and luckily nothing fell down and he was not hurt in any way shape or form but it motivated us to replace the door knob to the pantry so we could shut it all the way and also fix the shelving.
Our old walls were very gross and the shelves were attached poorly. The previous owners seemed to have used several different security systems over the years and also had a defunct security box placed inside which took up a huge chunk of space.
Sketchy shelf placement. They were resting on these boards that don’t even go all the way across the walls.
They seemed to have just bent nails over the back of the shelf rather than install them correctly. The shelves were wobbly for sure and I had to be careful of how much weight I put on them.
There were also these ugly impractical shelves installed above and below the wire shelves, neither of which was in a good position to get anything off of. I wiped the pantry down when we moved in but we never got around to repainting the walls so they were still and eyesore from many years of use.
My husband yanked everything out, washed the walls with TSP, sanded everything down and then repainted them a basic off-white. It didn’t take too long. We spent some time waiting for everything to dry in between and shuffling around all of our pantry items on our kitchen counters for the weekend. If you use TSP make sure you are in a well ventilated area and wear hand and eye protection. It is a pretty strong chemical but it works well when you have dirty gross paint. We dilute it more than recommended because I don’t like using too many chemicals and avoid using it if at all possible but these walls really needed it.
Our pantry wasn’t a standard width so we ended up having to go to Home Depot to get some boards cut down to size. We installed them with adjustable shelving since we were adding a shelf and didn’t know how our food would fit. At some point we will need to replace the ugly flooring and somehow remove the crumbling cork board they glued to that back of the door with industrial strength glue but not this week. We will probably wait and redo the floors when we redo our kitchen/install hardwoods in a few years. I have no idea how to get the cork board off though. I still need to do some research on that but I may end up waiting until we get around to replacing all of our doors with solid core ones. The ones we have are super cheaply made and original to the house so they have taken a beating.
Overall the pantry looks much better! If you ignore the floor and the cork board it looks wonderful. I am really thankful my husband was able to complete it so quickly. He did an awesome job!
We bought some white bins from Ikea for all of our little items. We have a bunch of different kinds of flours and starches that are messy on the shelf and used to drive me crazy. The bins really help keep things organized. We bought a few when we moved in and we bought three more last week and they are working great so far. Now that the shelves make more sense we have a bunch more room. I will probably pull some unused dishes from our kitchen cupboard and some frequently eaten foods from our garage shelves since we are constantly in and out of there. The garage doesn’t hold and even temperature so sometimes we have to bring food in anyways to prevent it from spoiling.
I am really excited about our new pantry! It was a great weekend project and now we can check one more thing off of our list!
What projects are you working on?
A few days ago I posted about our strawberry picking and how we froze and dried the berries. We have been snacking on the dried berries all week and they are delicious! On top of drying and freezing our berries we also made two batches of strawberry jam. My husband and I love to make jam together so it took us a couple of days to coordinate our schedules so that we had enough time to finish. We kept the berries in the fridge and they were still delicious. You can store some varieties of berries such as Rainiers in the fridge for a few days before you make jam but others such as our favorites shuksans need to be processed as soon as they are picked. We had picked regular can be kept in the fridge strawberries so we had time to wait.
If you are new to jam making it is really important to do your research first. There are a bunch of awesome books and websites out there that walk you through the steps to process your canning jars safely and with minimal risk for spoilage. Some of my favorite are:
The Ball Book of Canning (The canning Bible)
There are many many more and a quick Google search can find you what you are looking for. We used the instructions that came in our box of Sure Jell Pectin for both batches but for the second batch we added a little bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice.
We wanted a “lower sugar” jam which you can do with strawberries but it still used 4 cups of sugar so don’t be fooled into thinking it is actually low in sugar, it just means you use less sugar to process it. Before you do any canning you have to make sure all of your jars, utensils and surfaces are clean and sterile. I always wipe down the counters and put a clean dry towel down to work on. We ran our canning jars and bands through the dish washer on the sterilize cycle. Before we placed our lids on our jars we put them into the boiling water for a few minutes to warm up the seals and kill any germs on them. We used the Kerr brand wide mouth jars and lids but any of the brands are fine. We just got a good deal on them so that is what we use.
The first thing we did was measure out and crush our strawberries. For the first batch we used a potato masher for chunky jam and the second batch we used an immersion blender to make a smoother jam.
Then we measured out our sugar and spit it into two bowls and added the pectin to one.
Next we put our crushed strawberries into a pot and added the first batch of sugar/pectin.
We stirred that up and brought it to a boil.
Then we added our second batch of sugar and brought it to a rolling boil again for one minute.
Then we quickly poured it into our jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of head space. We used this Ball canning kit I found at our local grocery store to make sure we had the correct amount of head space in the jars.
Yum! Chunky strawberry jam. We opted not to skim the foam off but many people like to do that so that their jars look prettier. We won’t be giving a lot of it away so for us it wasn’t a big deal.
Next we wiped the jars clean with a paper towel so that they would seal correctly.
Then we used the little magnet thing to put the lids on the jars without touching them and screwed on our bands to finger tight.
Next we made sure the water in our canning pot was fully boiling and then we added our jars, brought it to a boil again and left them in there for 10 minutes.
This year I broke down and bought the special tongs for pulling the jars out of the water and let me tell you they are amazing. I don’t know how we went without for so long. They make it so much easier and I wasn’t worried at all about the jars slipping so if you only buy one canning tool I highly recommend the jar grabbing tongs.
After our jars were processed we put them on another clean towel to cool. We check them the next morning and only one of ours did not seal so we will be eating it this week. I am not complaining, our jam turned out delicious!
We had a great time with our strawberries this week and I feel much better about eating our own jam rather than buying some in the store that may or may not have high fructose corn syrup. I am already thinking ahead to raspberry season in July and how much raspberry jam I will be eating. Raspberry is my favorite and Costco has been out for months. I fully plan on canning a bunch of raspberry so that we don’t run out this year!
What types of jam are you making this season?
Strawberry Jam by Sure Jell
Make your own strawberry jam!
- 12 cups whole strawberries (6 cups crushed)
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 package Sure Jell Low Sugar Pectin
- Step 1 Use a dry measuring cup to measure exactly 12 cups of strawberries with the tops cut off.
- Step 2 Measure exactly 4 cups of sugar into a bowl.
- Step 3 Combine 1/4 cup of the sugar from the bowl with 1 package of Pectin in a small bowl.
- Step 4 Crush your strawberries and measure out 6 cups of crushed strawberries into a pot.
- Step 5 Add your sugar/pectin mixture and bring to a full boil on high heat, stirring constantly.
- Step 6 Stir in remaining sugar and return to a full boil. Boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Step 7 Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon if desired.
- Step 8 Immediately pour into prepared jars, filling within 1/4 inch from the top.
- Step 9 Wipe jar rims and threads, cover with lids and screw bands tightly.
- Step 10 Place jars into boiling water making sure they are covered with 1-2 inches of water.
- Step 11 Process for 10 minutes or adjust time based on Altitude.
- Step 12 After the jars are processed remove from the water and place on clean towels. Check the seals after the jars have cooled down.
- Step 13 Let jars stand at room temperature for 24 hours before storing in a cool dry place for up to a year.
When my husband and I first started really looking into our food many years ago one of the first things we looked at was high fructose corn syrup. We discovered it was really difficult to buy jam without out it so we decided to try […]
My daughter loves to play with baking soda and vinegar. She always helps me deodorize the garbage disposal by pouring the vinegar down the drain and making bubbles. Today my son got to watch and he was fascinated.
We were talking about how much she loved helping me and I remembered that last year she was obsessed with this activity I found on Pinterest (but unfortunately didn’t pin for some reason) where you put a bunch of baking soda in a dish and let the kids squirt different colors of vinegar on it to make a rainbow effect. My son was interested so I though I would let them out on the deck to play with some baking soda and vinegar for a bit. I opted not to use dye since I had no idea if my son would actually play with it or if he would decide just to dump everything out and I didn’t want to deal with dye in clothing today.
This activity is super simple. I just grabbed a couple of Tupperware containers, poured some baking soda in and leveled it, poured some vinegar into another Tupperware container and we were ready to go. I got my plastic eye droppers off of Amazon last year. They are super easy to clean and I ended up giving some to a friend since the 12 pack was more than we needed. Since they are plastic there was no worrying about the kids dropping them and breaking them. I just rinse them out in the sink and we are good to go.
The reaction goes pretty quick since the eye droppers don’t hold a lot of vinegar. My daughter loved to make patterns in the baking soda and systematically covered her available space. She is very focused when she works and it is always fascinating for me to watch her thought process.
My kids love bubbles so they had quite a bit of fun with it even without the dye. I am probably going to let them use a lighter color like yellow next time since my son was pretty good about it. It makes the bubbles much clearer and if you give them primary colors it can help teach them the color wheel.
My son always tries to figure everything out and if there are other possible ways of doing them. Part of his process today was grabbing a handful of baking soda and dumping it into the vinegar container. He was really pleased with the extra bubbles it produced! Most of his time was spent trying to scoop the baking soda with the eye dropper since he wasn’t quite able to squirt it with the vinegar.
We had some pretty patterns in the baking soda when we were done and the kids got to dump the rest of the vinegar into their baking soda containers which my daughter really loved to do! This baking soda and vinegar activity is one of the easiest and cheapest science experiments I have found to do with my kids. I buy baking soda and vinegar in bulk at Costco (maybe $10 total for both) and there is enough for hours and hours of bubble making fun. If you were really creative you could even fill a bottle with baking soda and a balloon with vinegar, mix them together and see how the balloon fills with gas. I may have to try that next time!