Monthly Archives: July 2013

Juicing and Canning Citrus Juice- Key Lime Juice

 

IMG_1767Today’s project is to show you how to juice and can key lime juice. This works the same way for most any citrus, not just key limes.

I have a wonderful key lime tree in my back yard, and it produces a ton of fruit at least twice a year.  I suggest planting a lime tree, or lemon if you don’t have one and you live in the south. It is one of the few things that we get to grow down here that will flourish.  I will have another blog post soon on all the things to use your lime juice for, but for now, I will just show you how to juice and can it to preserve it to use all year long.

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Be sure to watch the video above for more instructions.

Step 1: Wash the limes thoroughly.

Step 2: Cut the limes in half

Step 3: Squeeze juice from the key limes

Step 4: Strain Juice, or filter

1. Ways to filter: Refrigerate for 24-48 hours, then carefully without mixing it pour off clear liquid and dispose of sediment. 2. Line your colander or sieve with several layers of cheesecloth or layers of coffee filters, keep in mind this may take a few hours. 3. Another even longer option is to use a jelly bag, pour hot juice into the jelly bag and let it drip, do not squeeze. I’m not patient enough for this process.

IMG_1753Step 5: Boil water in canner

Step 6: Sterilize the jars, lids and rims in boiling water.

Step 7: Heat Lime juice to a boil

Step 8: Place sterilized jar on a clean towel, fill with lime juice 3/4″ from the top using a scoop and large mouth funnel.

IMG_1755Step 9:  Wipe edges of jar with a clean paper towel.

Step 10: Lift lid from boiling water, place evenly on top of jar, lift rim, carefully screw it on to the jar.

Step 11: Place jars in boiling water in the canner with rack up, make sure they are sitting in at least 1 inch of water while you finish filling the rest of the jars.

Step 12: Lower the canning rack, submerging all the jars into the boiling water for 5 minute (8-10 for higher altitudes)

Step 13: Remove jars from canner, place on a clean towel several inches from each other.

1 colander full of key limes, filled about 7 half pint jars.

 

 

Is “Natural” really NATURAL? What you might be Eating

In th20130729-140216.jpgis modern day craze of eating organic and buying products that are natural you really need an education to know what exactly you are buying. I don’t personally buy all organic or natural products anyway, mainly because of the cost and availability. I do prefer however to make everything I can from scratch so I know exactly what is being put in my food. Ideally I would do this a lot more than I really do. Hopefully I will get better about making this a habit and spending the extra time to do it.

I have read several articles lately that have explained the terms that many food manufacturers use to lure you into thinking their products are “natural” organic or humane to animals etc. I also did a little research on the FDA website to verify this information was still up to date. Visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/default.htm to do your own research.

Here are some key things you need to take into account when buying items you are hoping are any of those above for whatever reasons you buy them, whether it is to eat and live healthier, help reduce your carbon footprint, or promote humane treatment of animals.

With regards to poultry and meats:

“Free range” – All it takes for chicken to be labeled as free range is access to the outside. How much space the access is or space outside, or time given outside to the chickens is not standardized. This wording isn’t regulated, so it could be miss used by food manufactures to give you a false idea of how their chickens are raised.

What you should look for instead is

“Organic”, with regards to poultry, meat and eggs, this must according to the US department of Agriculture have access to the outdoors, must not be fed animal by products and not be given antibiotics or growth hormones.

“Cage free”- Most chickens are already raised in cage free barns, so this term doesn’t hold that much weight.

“Hormone Free”- The USDA prohibits hormones for poultry but does not certify “hormone free” chicken like it does for “organic” ones.

“Natural”- Is not allowed to have anything artificial, including coloring, flavoring, chemical preservatives and other synthetic ingredients, but the animals cn be treated with hormones or antibiotics.

“Certified Humane” and “free farmed” are labels to look for if you are concerned to how the animals are raised.

In regards to other food items:

“Natural” and “All Natural” The FDA does not define these words so any company can label its items natural and all natural no matter how the ingredients are produced, even genetically modified foods. However the FDA does strictly regulate the ingredients that are processed, by making manufacturers prove that an ingredient is safe in order to include it in their foods. A few of the ingredients they can include in so called “natural” foods are high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors, potassium citrate, citric acid.

“Organic” – with regards to produce it must be grown without conventional pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers. with regards to packaged foods, if labeled “USDA Organic” they must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. If they contain at least 75% organic ingredients they are allowed to use “made with organic ingredients”. If they have any less amount they are only able to identify specific organic components.

All of this is why I feel it is most important to prepare food, cleaners and other items from as scratch as possible. Then you will truly know what you are eating and using. It won’t need to be regulated by any organization or government, because you will be doing the regulating.

 

Free Listings on Ebay this week

ebay1Check your ebay messages to see if you received this email like I did about free listings from July 25-31. Up to 80,000 listings, and this doesn’t include the normal 50 free a month that I mentioned in my post about turning your clutter into money.  When they have a deal like this I take advantage and list everything, including my Summers Closet merchandise, and then re list 50 of them each month. If you have a business where you sell something you could potentially sell on ebay, this is also a great time to take advantage and try it out. You only get charged a final value fee if the  item sells, so all it is costing you is your time.

Now, a word of advice…I use the 50 free each month but when I get a deal like this, I post many more than 50 items. Ebay deletes your postings after 60 days if they are not active. It takes quite a bit of time to post new postings if you are doing as many as I do,so I make sure to re post the items in a time frame that they will all be active at least once during a 60 day time frame so I don’t lose all my hard time consuming work of initially listing them.

Also, this deal works on all time lengths of postings so if you post today and choose the 5 day, then you will still be able to re post once before the deal is over for the 30 day time frame and it will extend your time before the 60 days when they are deleted and also extend your exposure to hopefully give you more chances to sell the items.

Happy de-cluttering and selling!

Turn your Clutter into Money!

ebayI am not a fan of clutter. I am trying more and more to live a simpler life. I don’t like knick knacks, and only keep the stuff that is very meaningful, I use ALL the time, or that I really really like. The best way to reduce your clutter is to start by sorting your things into those categories. If they don’t fit in one of those three categories, it is time to get rid of it. Less things, means less clutter, a cleaner house, a streamlined look, and less to dust, wash, fold etc.

Why not turn those items into cash?

I am selling my house and have been getting rid of anything that doesn’t fit into those categories, so that I can make some extra money, and have less to move or store. Especially given that I don’t know yet where I will be moving or how much room I might have.

craiglistMy two biggest ways to sell my not needed items are Ebay and Craigslist. I don’t ever find garage sales worth the time. Chances are you won’t make a ton of money selling your stuff, but you might as well get something out of it. And if it doesn’t sell after listing it several times and adjusting the price, then donate it to a thrift store that will give you a receipt and use it as a tax deduction. The other site I use is an Ebay site called Half.com. It is for selling only books, cds, movies, video games etc.

halfThe great thing about craiglist is it is free, you don”t pay to list your items, and you don’t pay when you sell your items. The downfalls of craigslist is dealing with people who try to nag you down in price no matter how cheap you are selling it and who are less then reliable about picking the items up at the requested time. I mainly post larger things on craigslist that are hard to mail and not worth posting on ebay because of this. Furniture, electronics, party supplies, appliances, linens, lamps, etc are all things I have had success selling on craigslist.  My rules for craigslist are I do not deliver anything, or meet anyone anywhere to sell my items. It is not worth it in gas at the prices I sell them for I am practically giving them away. Also I only make arrangements for when they can pick items up when it is convenient for me. Once again, waiting around for someone to show up when they say they will when you have somewhere to be is frustrating. Also, I don’t give my address until they have decided to buy it and we have arranged a time when they will pick it up.  There can also be some very shady people on Craigslist, so you must use judgement when dealing with anyone you don’t know. I have a dog which helps me not worry as much if I am home alone when they stop by to purchase an item.

Ebay, I post most anything that is mailable on. The downfalls of ebay is you have to pay to post and pay a percentage when you sell an item. The trick with ebay is to at least not pay to post. Ebay currently offers 50 free postings a month to users. They also depending on how often you post and other factors send you promotions for other free postings. I take advantage of these and rarely ever pay to post anything on ebay. This way I can post lots of items without worrying that I am wasting my money on something that may never sell. Now, I still have to pay a percentage when the item sells, but it is still worth it to me if I can make a couple dollars off an item I was going to discard of or give away anyway. You do have to make the time to package and ship the item, but as long as you have some packing materials readily on hand and use there printable postage it is simple and less time consuming. I charge priority flat rate prices since you can get the flat rate boxes for free from the USPS. It keeps it simple and quick. You can leave these boxes for your regular mail man and usually don’t even need to make a trip to the post office. You can order these free boxes online at the USPS website. Since I mail a lot more items now, such as our Matching Mother Daughter Clothing and Handmade Dolls through Summers Closet, I invested in a postal scale which cost me about $30. I also have several different sized bubble envelopes and regular boxes ready in case it is cheaper to use first class mail than priority. This saves me money in the long run, but may not be worth the investment and cost of packaging if you only plan on mailing a few things. My top items I have had success selling on ebay are any and all electronics, and name brand clothing such as Victorias Secret.  Many things I may sell for .99, and charge a little extra for shipping, so making at least a few dollars.

The last site I use is Half.com, which is an ebay site. On this site you don’t pay to list the items, only a percentage when they sell. The best thing to do is list all your books, movies and video games that you want to sell, and then just wait and see what sells. You don’t have to keep re listing like ebay and Craigslist. My niece has decided this is what she wants to do after they move in, so she can use the money from selling her  beloved books to buy new ones, or books for her kindle.

How to Keep Candles Lit Outdoors

IMG_1505After a lonnnngggg day working on my sisters house renovations, I will leave you with a simple idea/project for all your party hosting events.

 

If you love the look of candles and want to extend them to using them in your outdoor decor or for an outdoor bbq or party, you need to invest in glass cylindrical vases such as these. They come in many different sizes. I have accumulated a large collection from giant ones 3 feet tall to smaller ones that I purchased at the dollar store. I also save old vases from flower arrangements that have flat sides or at least a larger opening. For my sisters outdoor wedding, we used tons of these all over the place to keep many candles lit for the evening outdoor wedding. Not only do they add ambiance but needed lighting in the dark.
 

IMG_1506I also use these indoors to keep candles from blowing out due to fans. I have also invested in lots of white pillar candles, as they last so much longer than tea lights and even votives. They stay lit throughout any party and you can reuse them for many occasions.

Creative Ways to Add Space- Building a Custom Recessed Shower Shelf

This is one of the first videos in our Bathroom Renovation Series. Be sure to follow our blog for more great ideas, pictures and videos!
This is a project not for the faint of heart but those who want to take their creativity to the next level. It may not be something you have the skills to do, but a great idea if you are hiring someone else to renovate your bathroom now or in the future. We give a basic overview about how we did our project. This bathroom renovation is one I am working on at my sisters new house. The video shows the basics for creating a recessed shelf in the shower. It is a project that needs to be done when you are redoing the tile in a shower or bath, since it takes removing the surrounding tile and durock.

My original idea was to create this shelf on the opposite side of the shower than where the plumbing was since when we removed the tile, we knocked a hole in the upper drywall anyway and would have to repair it. However, the studs on that side of the wall were only 2×4 and didn’t leave a lot of recessed space for a shelf. We considered adding a window sill type piece of marble as I have seen done to extend it a little, but for a low shelf that my sister wanted so my young nieces could reach it, the protruding edges could potentially be dangerous.

It turns out I had to remove the piece of durock on the wall next to the plumbing to replace the shower faucet anyway and those studs were 2×6’s which left a great space for a recessed shelf that would hold even the value sized shampoos and soaps. I framed the section we were going to use with another 2×4 on the bottom, and made use of the already there 2×6 cross bar brace in between the 2 studs as the top.
After adding that piece of wood, I cut the durock to fit in all the spaces, screwed most of it on except for the back piece which sits up against the drywall in the next room. The back piece I glued on with multi purpose adhesive caulk.
We then taped off all the seams of the durock with mesh drywall tape, and continued to tile it in in the same process you would frame the window and tile the rest of the shower.

I hope you enjoy our little video! (I have decided, I definitely hate hearing myself on video)

DIY Floating Candles

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Ingredients:

Old candles,

New Candle wax

Candle dye or old crayons

Candle Fragrance, Essential Oils or hard deodorant chunks

Candle Wicks (A nice thick wick works best)

Muffin tins, mini, regular and jumbo are great, tart tins also work great

Simple Metal Cookie cutters, aluminum foil, cookie sheet and masking tape for cut out candles.

Double Broiler for melting the wax

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These awesome candles I made from a mixture of new wax and wax from old melted candles. I like to use a mixture of the old stuff and the new to make a very cost effective project. These are awesome as gifts or to beef up your own decor.  Choose complimentary colors to add together in a set. I got the basic idea from Martha Stewart Living,

http://www.marthastewart.com/269549/light-up-a-table-with-floating-candles?search_key=floating%20candles

and of course made my own modifications.

Unfortunately, this is one project I didn’t get any pictures of the process but it is very simple.

IMG_1527Start with a double broiler pan, heat water in the bottom half.

Cut up your old candles into chunks, removing any paper or metal bottoms, and old wicks. Don’t use the parts with flowers or any other objects embedded as these items could burn when the candle burns.(They are specially done with a barrier on those types of candles).

Sort them into similar colors. Place a couple handfuls into the upper pot of the broiler and add some of the new wax chunks as well. Let the wax completely melt on medium high heat. Then add some color, you can use the stuff from the store that is made for candle making or old crayons work wonderfully as well. Add this a little at a time until you get your desired color. Then add some fragrance. Once again they sell this made for candle making, or I have used old unused deodorant blocks, and candle oils meant for warmers.

Coat the muffin tins with non stick cooking spray

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Pour wax into each muffin spot, filling the mini ones almost full, and the larger ones about the same 1 inch height.

Let sit for a couple of minutes (not too long) until the candle wick will stand up in the center on its own. Leave to sit until completely hard for several hours or overnight.

Place the pans into the freezer for a few minutes and the candles should come right out. You can use a small butter knife to slightly separate the side if you have a difficult one.

IMG_1387For the cookie cutter ones which are much more time consuming, take a simple metal cookie cutter and put masking tape all the way around cutting the corners so it folds neatly up. Place the cutter on a foil lined baking sheet and make sure the tape covers every bit of the bottom of the cookie cutter to the foil or wax will seep through. Then follow the same steps as above. The hearts and stars i sued turned out great, some of the more intricate shapes I tried didn’t work well.