Monthly Archives: July 2013

In a Jam!

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I’m back! We have been pretty busy the past few weeks, We are almost ready for our grand reveal of our backyard renovations…it has been a disaster area here for the last month…but we are onto the finishing touches now.
So, between the reno, and going to Darien Lake, then Niagara Falls… we have had our hands full packing, unpacking and cleaning. In between all this chaos, I have had a little time, just no time to write about what I have done!
Every summer I make 15 to 20 batches of jam, jelly, and sauces. I do this for Christmas presents for the kids teachers, hostess gifts, etc. Everyone is so busy around Christmas, there is never enough time to do something personal or homemade, so all I have to do is reach into the cupboard and grab a couple bottles of jam and put them into a fancy basket… My first time making jam was for my wedding. I decided to make a jar for each guest (no pressure there, right?) FYI John and I celebrated our 11th anniversary yesterday.
To make strawberry jam, John and I took the kids strawberry picking, and there is nothing better than strawberry jam made from freshly picked strawberries. I also buy fruit as it is in season during the summer. Best is straight from a farm…

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The thing that takes the most time when making jam is the cutting the fruit, but luckily, I have great helpers! Here is the kids helping with a batch of cherry jam…maybe I will do the cherries by myself next time!

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When it comes to ingredients, I am a loyal Certo customer. (Certo is the pectin that you add to thicken the jam) I have tried other brands over the years, but I have always gone back to the powdered Certo. I find I can substitute different fruits, and almost always, I end up with a great result.

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Here is my top secret trick for sterilizing jars….Once all of the fruit is prepared (washed, peeled and cut up), turn the oven to 300 degrees, take the lids off the jars and put both the jars and lids in the oven. The heat of the oven sterilizes the jars. You only need to leave the oven on for about 10 minutes, but keep the empty jars in the oven.
Add the Certo to the fruit in a large pot and heat until it comes to a boil for one minute. Make sure it is boiling for at least a minute. This part is important – put on the timer because if it doesn’t boil long enough, the jam wont thicken, and if it boils too long, the fruit will thicken too much, and will be clumpy after you add the sugar. (The good news is that the jam still tastes amazing even if it is too runny or clumpy, so really, it’s a win-win situation here..)

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Then add the sugar, and bring to a boil. Important :Not a boil like this….

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It has to be a full rolling boil, like this….
Wait until the jam boils to almost double its size, then set your timer again for a minute and let it boil. For this step, it is ok if you let it boil for more time. Stir if you want to, I really can’t tell you the difference between stirring and not stirring.

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After the minute has passed, take the jam off of the heat and let it sit for five minutes. This allows the jam to thicken for a couple minutes so all of the fruit doesn’t end up floating at the top. Skim of the foam if it bothers you. Also at this point turn off the oven. Get a slice of toast or bread and try a spoonful -I love warm jam! Trust me, it’s good!
Then fill the jars, wipe off any excess jam off of the tops and sides of the jars and screw the lids on. Don’t forget to use oven mitts, I have burned my hands at this stage more times than I want to admit without sounding like an idiot.

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Now here is the cool thing I learned from John’s mom; put the hot jars back into the hot oven, and leave them there until they have completely cooled. This will seal the jars. No need to boil or process the jars! I have a couple jars I have purposely kept for 4 or 5 years, and they are still fine. As long as the oven is really hot to start with, they will seal perfectly overnight.

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I’ve lost count of how many batches I have made this summer, but here is my jam cupboard…

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Gotta go, time to make some toast!

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Touching up the stairs

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So we have been off for almost three weeks now, and it’s amazing how fast the time goes. I have spent a lot of time on sewing the cushions for the wicker furniture. I have also made a few batches of jam, and a few other small projects around, I just haven’t been that great about writing about them lately!
I tend to save up a lot of household jobs for the summer, so this is one that I have been meaning to get at for months. As like most houses with young kids, our furniture and floors take a beating. One of the things I loved about our house was the stair case, but it takes a lot of abuse! I love dark wood floors and furniture, but it does tend to show wear and tear (is that how you spell tear?). Anyways, I would love to say I do this every few months, but I have done it once since we moved in this house!
Here is a shot of our staircase, I still love my photos I put up last summer!

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Black and White Stairs original blog post
Now, when you look closely, here is what the edges of the stairs look like …

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At the dollar store, they sell these markers…

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So I thought, why not? What have I got to lose…a dollar? Why pay seven bucks for the ones at Home Depot when you can pay a dollar? All you do is colour,

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Then wipe it off with a paper towel. I only wipe it to blur the lines a little so you can’t see the exact marker lines.

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I did the stairs, and then moved on to the bannisters. The kids are always twisting these two loose ones…

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They look much better after a little touch up…

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These pens also work great on furniture. Here is the side of one of our kitchen chairs…

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And here is after a little touch up…

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That should last another few years!

Recovering Cushions

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I bought this old wicker patio set from our neighbours a couple weeks ago, and I have been trying to get the cushions recovered, and chairs repaired ever since. Hopefully I will have them finished by the time our reno is done, and judging by the speed so far, it shouldn’t be a problem! Here is what the chairs looked like when I bought them…

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I bought this outdoor fabric from Fabricland that I absolutely loved, but of course, they didn’t have enough for me to do the whole set, so I had to find some matchiing fabrics to use. I found a striped fabric for around the edges, and a plain blue and red for the underneath, and I decided to add some piping out of the blue as well.

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To make a pattern or template for the cushions, I laid out the cushions on top of some newspaper and traced around them. There was one size for the chair backs and another size for the seats of the chairs. There was also a separate size for the two couch seat backs.

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Then, I added about half an inch of seam allowance around each piec, and folded each piece in half to make sure it was even and symmetrical.

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I also added about 10 cm to the tops of each of the pattern pieces to fold over so I could sew them closed.
So, after cutting out strips of the striped fabric, strips of the blue piping, and the pieces for the cushion tops and bottoms, I started to sew…

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The trickiest part about sewing cushions with piping is rounding the corners. I found that the best way to sew it was to put the piping on the bottom. Then when you get to the corner, you rotate the fabric, then sew a few stitches, and rotate again. The trick is to try to keep the piping straight and rotate the fabric.

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Once I finished the cushion tops, I used a blue fabric for the cushion bottoms (I didn’t have enough of the other fabric, and the blue was cheaper. I sewed around three sides and left the back open, then turned it right side out and put the cushion inside and hand stitched it closed. Sixteen cushions later, all I have to do now is stitch a few more closed and add a few ties, to tie them on to the chairs. Here is what one of the chairs looks like finished. I am really happy with the way they turned out….

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I’ll post more pictures when I finish the set. I also have to sand and spray paint the wicker… fun fun fun!

Cutting Hair

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Alright! Happy belated Canada Day to all my Canadian friends, and Happy Summer to all of my teaching friends! June was such a crazy month for both John and I! We have been renovating our backyard, which has turned our house upside down; I am moving schools, which means I have had to move everything from school to home, plus we have had staff parties, graduations, teacher and staff gifts, as well as the usual day to day activities for a family of four! So, I have been crazy busy, but no time to write about anything I am doing!
Here’s the good news… we have absolutely nothing planned for summer yet. The kids aren’t in any camps, we don’t have plans to go away… we are free! (Mind you, finding a couple summer camps for the kids is first on my list of things to do!)
So, nothing like a good summer haircut to start off the summer! I have tried talking Dylan into growing his hair a little, and try out a Justin Bieber sort of style, but he isn’t going for it….maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned Justin Bieber when I was trying to sell him on the idea….oh well. Anyways, Dylan just wants his hair short now because it’s comfortable, and cool, so who am I to argue?
If you are thinking about cutting hair, I would seriously recommend buying an electric shaver kit. You can find them for $20-30, and the attachments make it almost idiot proof (notice I said, “almost”) I have been cutting John’s hair for about 15 years now… I offered when we were dating once, and unfortunately, he said yes, and I have been roped into doing it ever since.
Here is my beautiful boy….(pre-cut)

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So, to start, I always work from the back at the bottom to the front. So, start with the #1 attachment and trim about the width of the razor, starting at the bottom and cutting up, against the way the hair grows.. Because Dylan has inherited my husband’s crazy hairline, sometimes I have to go over the same spot a couple times, and shave sideways, or going down.
Here is the back of his head before…

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And after the #1….

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Then, now that you can see the hairline, take the attachment off and trim the hairline to neaten up the edges and back of the neck. I have found that the less you shave off here the better. If you shave off too much, it looks a little strange, so only trim off whatever you need to.

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From here on, you basically cut a row at a time, changing attachments with each row. Here is row #2, with the #2 attachment…notice I cut around the ears too..

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Row #3, with the #3 attachment…

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The #4 attachment for Dylan cut around the top of his head…

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Then, I used a sharp pair of scissors to trim around his ears. Once again, less is better here. Don’t cut any more than you need to here. Sorry it’s not a great photo, but it’s hard to hold my ipad and take a photo with one hand and cut around Dylan’s ear with the other… I didn’t want to give his ears a trim too by accident! (Which brings me back to my childhood where I would watch my mom cut my brother’s hair…she would give them a bowl of raisins to keep them quiet while she was cutting, but leet’s just say I remember a few accidental snips around the ears! And, a lot of hairy raisins too!)

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Then, because I didn’t want his hair too short, I used the scissors to blend in the part I had cut to the bangs. To do this, use your fingers to hold the hair, and snip at an angle to cut off the longer pieces like this….

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Repeat this several times. I have found that it’s best to cut the same spot a few times. I even cut in sort of a criss-cross pattern, to cut any stray long parts.
Here is the “finished product”… isn’t he adorable?? It’s ok, I’m allowed to take credit for not only the haircut, after all, I made him too!

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By the way, Happy Birthday John!