Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hood Berry Jam

I mentioned in a previous post  that I was hoping we would get enough Hood Berries (strawberries) to make some jam and WE DID!

 This haul was too much to munch on or to put on cereal so we decided they must be processed.

First, I hulled the berries, washed them real good, and put them in a glass bowl.

Okay, here is where I completely deviate from most jam/preserve recipes. I just CANNOT get on board with the traditional 4:1 ratio of refined white sugar to berries. That's 4 CUPS of sugar to 1 cup of berries. I had about 6 or 7 cups of berries so that would be like 28 CUPS of sugar!?! Fug that.

So I found a few replacements for sugar -- and I don't mean artificial sweetener because that stuff tastes like chemical death to me.

Here's the alternatives I used to sweeten the berries (though they hardly need it!): honey and unsweetened applesauce!

I mixed the honey (about 1/4 cup), one snack pack size unsweetened applesauce, and maybe 1/4 cup regular sugar into about 10 cups of whole berries last night and let them chill out in the fridge overnight.


Then I took out the mixture today, smashed it all up, and put it on the stove to get thick and bubbly. Mixing and whisking away.


NOTE: DO NOT LEAVE COOKING BERRIES UNATTENDED!!!!


I learned that one the hard way. I put the lid on and went to do one tiny thing and totally forgot about it!! I came back 20 minutes later to massive berry explosion and a wrecked kitchen. It took longer to clean up the mess than it did to make the jam!!

Oh well,  c'est la vie! The outcome was worth it.

I managed to still have a lot of berries left in the pot so proceeded with adding some tapioca (about 4 tbsp) to the berry mix (which was closer to 5 or 6 cups after the explosion). I stirred and stirred till it thickened up, then I ladled it into jars. (Note: I used tapioca because I had it on hand. Sure-gel (pectin) works good too.)


I think (2) half pint jars, (1) pint jar, and a baby food jar full of yummy Hood Berry jam is a pretty good yield (considering the explosion and all)!

I was too tired from cleaning the mess to do water bath canning so I just filled up jars and put them in the fridge. To make sure it all is enjoyed before it spoils (since I didn't can them), we'll give some to neighbors and eat the rest.

I can't wait to try it out (on ice cream)!! YUM!

Monday, June 27, 2011

If I Needed You...

I had a very bad dream last night which left me feeling all alone when I woke up. Luckily Jason was there to comfort me.

But I still can't shake the feeling and it made me wonder...

If I needed you, would you come to me, and ease my pain?

"If I Needed You" by Townes van Zandt



If I needed you
Would you come to me,
Would you come to me,
And ease my pain?
If you needed me
I would come to you
I’d swim the seas
For to ease your pain


In the night forlorn
The morning’s born
And the morning shines
With the lights of love
You will miss sunrise
If you close your eyes
That would break
My heart in two


The lady’s with me now
Since I showed her how
To lay her lily
Hand in mine
Loop and lil agree
She’s a sight to see
And a treasure for
The poor to find

If I needed you
Would you come to me,
Would you come to me,
And ease my pain?
If you needed me
I would come to you
I’d swim the seas
For to ease your pain

(In the beginning of this video, TVZ explains how he wrote the song in his sleep.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Summer Solstice

Today is the summer solstice, which marks the first day of summer! Hooray!

The sun made an appearance this morning and it was beautiful.


This is the longest day of the year -- the sun came up around 5:30am and probably won't set until around 10pm!



We were really lucky to actually see the sun today. It was a gorgeous morning and has turned into a warm fluffy-cloud afternoon.



I just can't get over how blue the sky gets and how the clouds are so whimsical and light and fluffy.

It's definitely a beautiful sky here in the Pacific Northwest -- when you can see it!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Garden Update: Up, Up, and Away!!

The garden is growing like crazy!!

Here are some fresh pics from today to compare with the pictures from less than a month ago when we put the garden in.



The radishes are really bustin' out! They should be ready for Mom and Dad's visit this week. Prepare for stinky radish burps!


The carrots are still tiny, but pushing along none the less!


We have spring mix, romaine and kale in the pots and it is out of control! What the heck do you do with kale, anyway? I guess we better figure it out because we are going to have a ton of it!


The tomatoes are coming along nicely. We put the cages out last weekend.

 The green beans and snow peas are reaching high for the sky. We put out our only trellis and I think we'll need another.


The stars of the garden are, hands-down, the Hood Berries (strawberries). These guys are turning red faster than we can pick them!


 

Almost a whole bowl full!


I'm hoping enough berries will ripen at once so I can make a preserve or something out of them. If not, I'm just as happy eating them right out of the garden!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Meeting Harper

Jason and I had the pleasure of meeting our adorable niece, Harper, for the first time last week!

Jason's brother Josh and his wife Diana journeyed all the way to our side of the country from Texas to introduce us to their daughter, sweet little Harper Mae. Thanks guys!

(Harper laughs at Lambie)


We had a blast cruising the Pacific Northwest in their giant Grand Marquis rental car. This thing fit four adults and a car seat with no problem! We nicknamed it Dragnet because it felt like we were kickin' it cop-style. Diana was the driver extraordinaire for the whole trip. Thanks, Diana! Some of those roads were pretty hairy!

(Dragnet the super-cruiser)

First, we headed east in the Columbia River Gorge to check out Multnomah Falls and Vista House.

(Josh, Diana, Harper at Multnomah Falls)

Then we headed west to the coast to check out the Pacific Ocean. We stopped at Cannon Beach and Indian Beach (where you can see the rocks featured in the movie "Goonies" which is a favorite for all of us). This was also Harper's first ocean experience. We can't wait until she's old enough to watch Goonies and see these same rocks.

(Josh, Harper, Diana at Indian Beach with Keyhole Rock in the background)

On the last day of their visit, a few of our Hood Strawberries were ready for picking. Harper got the first one of the year!

(Diana and Uncle Jason picking strawberries with Harper)

It was so great to see family and meet the newest addition -- we can't wait until next time! We've already started our Capehaven jar ;-)

We did tons of other things so check out the slide show below to see all of our pictures from the visit.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

My Mens

Just thinking about how much I love these men of mine and how lucky I am to have them in my life. 

Clancy Pooh and Derville Too:

(they love lounging on my pillows)

My Main Man:

(Shadow on the wall)

Love Ya'll!!

Friday, June 03, 2011

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Oh glorious sunshine!

We are experiencing some incredible weather here today -- the sun is full-on and there is not a rain cloud in sight!



Everything is SO green and flowers are blooming everywhere! It's been gray and wet for so long that all the plants are going crazy with the warm sunshine.

(Rhododendron)

(unknown to me)

(Bleeding Heart Flowers)

Also, we are rabbit-sitting for the next 17 days for our neighbor, so I decided to enjoy the weather and walk over and say hi to Rabbit. Isn't he precious?!


Poor guy doesn't have a real name and I LOVE to name things so I think I'll just give him a temporary name.

Let's see...what are some names that I've liked recently? Can't think of any.

Hmmm...I really like using old men names for pets...I've already had a Meryl and a Cecil...hmmmmm...


I'VE GOT IT!! We'll call him Gus!




Everyone, say hello to Gus the rabbit!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Gardening and some dirty nostalgia

The garden is finally IN!!!

We planted tomato starts and used seeds for green beans, snow peas, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, beets, lettuce, kale, basil, and pumpkins.

We had to hold off on putting the garden in this year due to all the rain and the lingering low temperatures. But this weekend we finally did it and it looks great!!


Larry came through again this year with a truckload of bomb-ass soil for our garden boxes. This time he had it delivered straight to our driveway. It's interesting how they do it here -- the truck just dumps the dirt at the end of your driveway and you wheelbarrow it to the back. I told him this was new to me for residential purposes. (Funny how you don't really think about some things until you see the antithesis.)

In true Oregonian form, he asks "So what did you do when you needed dirt?"  I told him, looking back over the years, that I guess we just bought a shit load of bags of dirt. I know, not very green of us.

Start nostalgic tangent:
I only remember about the bags of dirt because one time in high school, the guy I was "going with" and his buddy came over to my house while my dad was doing yard work. They puffed up, trying to look manly (ha!) and in their deepest voices greeted my dad with hearty handshakes and "Hello Mr. K! Doin' some yard work? Need some help?"


In true Dad form, he said, "Hell yeah, grab those bags of dirt and carry them to the other side of the house."

Oh my gawd, I died right there in the driveway. 

There were probably 50 huge bags of soil lined up in the garage! Of course, my guy could hardly lift one bag, but luckily his friend knew what it meant to do hard work and they moved the bags in about an hour. It seemed like a lifetime, though, because we were trying to get the hell outta there under the guise of going to the movies or something but instead doing stupid teenage things like playing quarters till I puked. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's how that night went. End nostalgic tangent
 
So yeah, bags of dirt is how we did it when I was growing up, Larry.

Back to the garden, our Hood Berries are growing out of control! We only had two plants last year and harvested about 3 berries. This year we already have over a hundred little greenies set and a hundred more blooms getting ready to fruit.






Hopefully, we'll have tons of  red, ripe berries for our special visitors next week! We're so excited to share our little piece of the world with them!