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August 2010

The Art of Making Jam

First off, all those recipes/instructions for jam try to scare you.  They're all, follow these instructions PRECISELY!  Use EXACT measurements!  Do NOT deviate whatsoever from this recipe!  Or else your jam will FAIL, and YOU will fail, and the heavens will frown down upon you, and pigs and birds will get it on, and great monuments will crumble to dust just as your jam will not set and you will be stuck with runny jam to feed the mocking bird-pigs for all time.

And it's SO not true. I mean, birds like pigs, but only as friends.

Bottom line, once you get the hang of making jam you can tweak the shit out of it, just like anything else. And tis the season, since I've already made a few batches of our favorites, Keen and I were going over what new things we could try.

"How about nectarine/blueberry?" says Keen.

"Hmmm, I'd think the blueberry would overpower the nectarine. What about nectarine raspberry?"

"Oooooh!" (Yes, he said oooooh!)

So off I went, trip-trop trip-trop to the farmer's market.  The raspberries are nearing the end of the season, and it was near the end of the farmer's market so I swooped down on the last of the baskets. Then I started nibbling my way through the nectarines. (Farmer's markets - they're like the healthy version of Costco Sundays.)   Lo and behold! I bit into the most scrumptious nectarine ever!  Except apparently it wasn't entirely a nectarine, it was crossed with a plum, like a pluot... so that makes it a... plutarine?  Anyway, it tasted like nectarine only with a slightly softer texture and a bit more tang. Hot damn, I was cooking that up into something gooey!

After some debate at home I decided I would try jelly instead of jam. Doesn't that sound good?  Nectarine raspberry jelly?  I'd have to strain the raspberries regardless so why not the whole batch?  Cool beans.  Then I looked up a few recipes just to get the general feel, except there were only raspberry jelly OR nectarine jelly recipes. Still cool. I'll just combine them.  I needed about 3 - 4 cups of juice to make jelly. I had three pints of raspberries and 11 good sized nectarines (about 3 lbs.)... no problem.

I started with all the raspberries, crushing them a layer at a time and placing them in a sieve to drip. Then I took half the nectarines, chopped them, crushed them a layer at a time (which was fully a bitch), and placed them in a pot with a 1/4 cup water.  I checked on the raspberries.  They had dribbled... a little tiny bit. 

This was the first moment of deliberation.  Or improvisation.  Whatever.

"These are not dripping. The last recipe I had said to cook them, but this recipe says to juice them raw," said I.

"I'd cook 'em. It'll release the juices," said Keen.

So I dump the raspberries in with the nectarines and simmered those suckers for 10 minutes. Then back in the sieve.  Drip drip drip.  Shit this process is slow, why don't I stir it a little?  Drip drip. I was still not getting much so I press on the pulp gently. Then a little less gently.  Drip drip.  OK, now I had about 1 3/4 cups juice.  The juice wasn't exactly clear anymore but I had pressed as much liquid out of the pulp as I could.  I needed to use the rest of the nectarines.  

I tossed the first bacth of drained fruit pulp and I cut up the nectarines.  Since Keen had wandered back into the kitchen, I asked his help crushing the suckers. He worked on the first layer, muttered "Uh... no," and grabbed the hand blender. 

"Won't that make the pieces drop through the sieve?" I asked.

"THAT sieve? No way." And Keen proceeded to chop the fruit into little tiny pieces. This was the second moment of improvisation.

I dumped them back in the pot with another 1/4 cup water. Simmer another ten minutes, then back in the sieve again.  And you know what?  Nectarines drip SLOW!

Did I mention that we had a wedding that day?  Well, we did and my dreams of finishing the jelly before the wedding were being threatened by stubborn plutarines. Third moment.  I wrap the sieve and bowl in plastic wrap and leave it to drip while we're gone. 

Five hours later, I come back to... 2/ 1/2 cups of juice.  Jesus fricking christ!

"Hey honey, I think this is gonna have to be jam."  Fourth moment.


Luckily, since the nectarines were blended to hell and I was only adding in a portion of pulp I figured it would be a jelly-like jam.  That's close, right?  I dump the pulp and all the juice back into the pot, add my pectin, add some lemon juice, bring to a boil, add my sugar and a dab of butter, bring to a boil again (EXACTLY one minute!), and voila!  Jam to can. 

And you know what?  It was fucking delicious!  This lovely raspberry/nectarine crossed with a plum, processed over 8 hours, jelly turned jam that I'll probably never be able to recreate was WONDERFUL!  

Just in case any of you fine folks want to try it (and can find plutarines at your farmer's markets) here are the deets:

Accidental Jam (or Nectarine Raspberry Jam)

4 1/2 cups juice/pulp (about 2 cups was pulp)

1/2 cup water (to simmer the fruit)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 box Sure Jell pectin (regular)

5 1/2 cups sugar

a tablespoon butter

Follow instructions as listed above. Or maybe not.

Accidental jam 001

The bird-pigs aren't getting a smidgen of this stuff.

Enjoy and good luck!                - wg

Getting crotchety was not my intention

My computer has this power saving setting that dims the screen display when it's running on battery power.  Very earth friendly (you know, in this non-recyclable machine that will be obsolete in three years).  I am officially too old to see anything energy efficient.  Carting my butt back upstairs to retrieve the power cord makes me tired.  Grousing about it on the internet makes me... oh yeah, an old fart. Weeeeeee!

There are several excuses reasons I have not blogged lately.  I have chronicled them here for your condemnation perusal:

I am prepping for the beginning of kindergarten.

I am prepping for BlogHer.

I keep losing our kitten.  

I forgot.

Summer is going by really really fast and it's freaking me the fuck out.  Suddenly I have to shop for school uniforms.  Which, by the way, I am completely offended by, even if it will make getting ready in the mornings "easy".  Considering our school was just burnt down, I'm not convinced uniforms really cut down on hooliganism.  You want everybody calm?  I suggest something a little stronger than poly/cotton blend pique.  We're also still working on our Summer garage sale project, cleaning through every goddamn closet (but most importantly... the toys!), we've been on a major purge around here.  Which is turning into a Fall garage sale because by "we", I really mean me


Anywho, I'm skipping any BlogHer advice posts this year because if you haven't managed to learn how to shoot business cards from your cleavage I can't help you.  I am also NOT going to do the Everyone I Met at BlogHer wrap up post.  That was a lot of link love and my little fingers hurt.  Even though I do love you guys (awww, cue teddy bears).  

What I DO want to do is actually post.  I know, it's a radical concept.  Even if I am an old crotchety fuck who makes jam and complains about energy efficient light. (Don't get me started on the racket of light bulbs.) 

Oy! This should teach me not to blog after midnight.

I shouldn't be fed either.            - wg


So I made the first of my sewing projects!  Wanna see?

This is very basic t-shirt surgery but I cut down one of Keen's ringer tees into this:


It was my practice piece. See if a project takes more than a couple of hours I'm probably not going to do it, because I've realized I can only break my life down into two hour segments, tops.  Just reality.  Anyway, the tee was a little stained (with one particular mark right on the nipple!) so I wrote the first stanza to one of my favorite poems, The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, across the front and one additional line across the lower back.  I like the back lower than the front effect, it makes it all swoopy.  It came out pretty cute, huh?


This was another experiment... that came out very, very wrong. Theoretically it looks like it would be cute right?


Until you see where I sewed the top half on inside out!  And the back waist gathering is pretty much a hideous mess.  As soon as you put it on it screams bad home ec.  That's what I get for trying to remember skills I learned as a high school freshman.  What is this thing you call patterns?


I'm tempted to try and redo it... but I'm not holding out any great hope.

In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.

Sew anyway

Now that Keen has lost so much weight he has this pile of clothes that are waaaay too big.  Literally, it's a pile because I was all, "Hey, can I have some of your t-shirts that don't fit anymore?!" And he was, "Uh, why?" And I was like, "Because I can cut up your shirts into tank tops and things!" And then we stopped talking like teenagers and he pulled out way more clothes than I expected into this huge pile of recyclable materials that I could dumpster dive into to my heart's content.

(OK, I didn't really stop talking like a teenager.)

So I've been really into the whole idea of recycling/reusing clothes. I've seen some amazing, creative work by other fabric artists (they're called that, right?) and I think it's a perfect solution when you get bored by your wardrobe (like I do) and it's environmentally healthy (bonus!) and you also increase the chance that you'll make a cool, unique article of clothing, which I love.  You know me, in general I really like clothes and designers. 

Except... I'm a little scared of sewing.

It's not that I'm terribly, horribly bad at sewing, but I'm not very good either and it makes me nervous.  Or at least, working up to the actual sewing makes me nervous, and threading the needles make me nervous, and cutting the material makes me nervous, but once I actually start working on a project I'm OK.  Sort of.  Kind of like doing math.  However, I'm also frequently gripped with an intense desire to MAKE something, with my hands, which usually involves materials other than, well, material.  Like metal, so it's OK.  I get my making fix elsewhere.  Also at the moment I am trying NOT to shop, because I want to save money for BlogHer (hello! New York!)

But at the same time I'm going to BlogHer.  Hello? Want new outfits!  (What? At least, I admit it.)

So here I am... trying not to shop, a little bored with my wardrobe, an itching desire to MAKE SOMETHING (and oh my god, this feeling is totally why Frankenstein was created) that just keeps building, and a big pile of usable material right in front of me. See?

  Keen's clothes 003

Sooooo... I'm going to try some projects, attempt some cute tops, maybe even wear them to BlogHer. Even though I'm scared (a little) that I will crash and burn.  That could be a totally new button for them... "I'm going to BlogHer in DIY clothes," or "I went to BlogHer as a craft project gone wrong."  Whichever.  I'm sure it'll be fine.  Even though I love clothes and designers, I have no pretension of actually being a designer. I was thinking more that I could cut down some of Keen's old tees into this shape...

  Keen's clothes 001

...which is a $15 dollar drapey tank from Forever 21 that I love! Seriously, it's all soft and flowy and versatile, and as you can see the material conversion should be pretty close. So I figure if I can get a couple more of these out of his t-shirts I'll be pretty happy.  Maybe I'll also try a tank I saw at Anthropologie that was the same shape but done in panels of different materials.  And then I'll get cocky from my success and I'll try something else that may or may not work (but I'll probably think it works because of my inflated sewing ego) and I'll keep tripping merrily down a path of textile danger and YOU will get to watch the whole accident-mesmerizing journey.

I'm sure it'll be fine.  

But if I come up with something really hideous for NY, you'll tell me right?

              - the weirdgirl

Swimwear Must Die '10

I'm late this year for the annual swimsuit wrap up, but better late than never.  However, I've got to tell you I am disappointed in this year's batch of designer swimsuits.  Really disappointed.  Swimsuits haven't been over the top, there have been no ridiculous embellishments, no poses with french poodles and feathers.  They have been tame, in traditional shapes and fabrics, even wearable... and that's no fun at all.

(Though it does make my prospects for finally finding a pair of 50s style full-cut bottoms a smidge more realistic.  Oh come on, with a halter?  You know that would be HOT!)

However, there are always a few that need mentioning.  Especially this disturbing trend...

Boys be warned!  Vaginas equal DEATH!  Oh, that winking boob might try to lure you in, but don't be fooled!  Clearly any fraternization with said vaginas may result in serious injury, as indicated by the oh so helpful warning label and skull.  

  Death bikini

This trend was obviously started by Ed Hardy's Swimsuits Love Kills Slowly line that showed up last year and continues today, despite the numerous unreported abuses that I'm sure occurred. Men, don't be afraid to come forward.  (How much more grief are you going to cause in the world, Ed Hardy?)

Hardy love kills
 slowly swimsuit

This one uses a hypnotherapy lure to suck you in. Or maybe vertigo.

  Hypno swimsuit

This one's a bikini!  No, an applique project!  No, a patriotic statement!  I'm so confused! VAGINA!

  Applique swimsuit
Honey, usually floss swimsuits are worn the other way. (poor girl)

    Maxim suspiro swimsuit

That headband there? That headband speaks volumes!

  Warrior princess swimsuit

But if you are going to chance the dangers and hook up anyway, try this one. She's got bandages.

  Bandage swimsuit

For more swimsuits, check out:

Juicy Must Die

Swimwear Must Die & Swimwear Must Die 2

Swimwear Must Die '08

Swimwear Must Die '09

(Yeah, I got a lot of time on my hands.)             - wg

On fires, catfights, and looking on the brighter side of life

I'm happy today.  No, really.  Even though... check this shit out... our local elementary school, the one Chance will be attending kindergarten in the fall?  It FRICKING BURNED DOWN!  I'm not kidding.

OK, it wasn't the entire school (that was me being "dramatic". I was just trying it on for size). But one whole building was lost, including the library and the first and second grade classrooms.  The fire started at 4:15 yesterday morning and quickly grew to a six alarm blaze.  No one was hurt. The cause of the fire looks "suspicious".  I feel really bad for the kids and the school.  I mean, it's gotta be devastating to lose your classroom, whether you're a kid or a teacher. 

But the absurdity of following up my whiny post with this news is just... absurd.  You can't make this shit up.

On a completely different note, remember how we have a new kitten?  Well we also have two other cats, Jake and Missy. Relations have been a bit... shall we say... rocky?  Especially with our girl cat.  She was queen you know. I just never realized how much of a queen bee.  Here's a basic run down. 

Day 1

Jake & Missy: Um, what the hell? That kitten better be visiting. *cold shoulder*

Kitten: People!  And cats!  And FOOD!  I love you!

Day 2 - 7 (while cats are still separated for safety)

Jake: What the...? Who the hell are you?! *swat hiss*

Missy:  I'll fucking kill you! I'LL KILL YOU!! You better get the hell out of my house!  I'll go circus freak crazy on your ass! I'm not KIDDING!! *attack attack attack*

Kitten: Hold me.

Day 8 - 20 (kitten is being allowed to roam the house with supervision)

Jake: What the...? Stop following me! *hiss*

Missy:  I'm still going to fucking kill you, but I'm getting tired of getting yelled at so now I'm going to do it quietly. *stalk stalk attack*  I'll KILL YOU!!  *attack attack*  KILL!!!

Kitten: Jesus fricking christ!  What is wrong with that lady?!  Is she completely psycho?!  Mom, hold me.

Day 21 - 30

Jake: What the...? Stop it! I don't want to play! *meow*

Missy: You are never going to be part of this house. Do you hear me? NEVER! *hiss swat attack*

Kitten: Listen, I'm impressed OK? How about you stay out of my way and I'll stay out of yours?

Missy: Screw you!  This is MY territory!  I once took out a catnip cartel.  You underestimate me, kiss your furry ass goodbye.  *hiss growl*

Kitten: Yeah? Try it while I'm sitting in mom's lap! *glare hiss glare*

Day 31 - to present

Jake: What the...? Where do you keep coming from? Jesus, you're like a pesky ninja.

Missy: I KNOW you're afraid of me! And you better keep being afraid. *hiss swat*

Kitten: I'll get big some day. I'll cut you.


Kitten: Nothing!

Missy: Yeah. I thought so.

Kitten: Cut. You. *purr*

So as you can see... PROGRESS!  Woo!

In my next life, I'm gonna be a cheerleader.

                - the weirdgirl

And then

Every time I have a day where I think I'll get caught up on things, something happens.  And that goes the same for blogging.   Yesterday was one of those days.  Looking back at the week it seems to have been a whole series of those days.  (And then the last month(s) seems the same.)  Saturday Chance and I went to an early screening of Despicable Me and we both really enjoyed. It was a very good movie and I wrote a review at Culture Brats.  Then we went to the county fair and 20 minutes after we paid for the stupid tickets in the very hot sun I could feel a bladder infection starting. 

OK? Got to the doctor later that afternoon and got it taken care of. As much as you can "take care" of it.

Then Tuesday morning, Keen woke up sick.  We ended up in the ER.  He was passing a kidney stone.  (He's feeling much better now.)  I actually had a really funny post about our painful peeing all lined up in my head.

And then yesterday I found out my grandfather is in the hospital again.  It's bad.  At the same time, one of my best friends really needs some support for a bad turn in her life.

And then. And then. And then.

Sometimes I feel worn down because life Just. Keeps. Happening.  It's not all bad.  It just doesn't stop.  This week should have be classified as "hard" but instead it just feels " typical".  Hard doesn't get easier, you just get used to it.  And I know a lot of other families in the same boat right now.  Which is about where I start feeling really tired.  I think my family is lucky I'm not a drama queen (and by drama queen I mean those people who get something small like a window installed and call the experience "a fucking nightmare!"  No, it's a window.  Deal.) because I don't think I'd be able to cope. 

(At the same time, I wonder if those drama queens get to deal with less crap because they're so over the top?  hmmm)

I don't know where I'm going with this.  I think I needed to vent a little.  I frustrate myself with blogging because I enjoy writing the funny stuff but there's always so much going on, (and I know I'm not the only one) that I feel like I ping-pong between funny and blah.  Because I hesitate to write about the bad stuff. Like I shouldn't be a downer. Or worse, like it's a shopping list of what went wrong. So I end up writing throw away posts and I don't feel good about those either.

And always, ALWAYS, there is a voice in my head going, "wah wah, whiner."  I call her Perspective the Bitch. 

I'd really like someone else's perspective, besides hers.              - wg