Friday, December 30, 2011

My Vanilla Smells Like Booze!

I decided to make my own vanilla extract, after reading about others making their own and how wonderful it was. I wrote about it here.

During the time my vanilla extract has been “brewing”, I would be sure and give it the occasional shake and every once in a while I would open the jar and take a sniff.

Yeck! It always smelled like booze. Hubby says it smells chocolaty, but all I smell is booze.

It had been brewing for 3 months when I was making jam, so I decided to add some to one batch of cherry jam. So, it became Cherry –Vanilla Jam. I think it tastes great, but it does not taste vanilla-y to me. Hubby says it tastes like cherry pie with vanilla ice cream. So, HE can taste the vanilla.

The jam smells like cherries and booze. I know the booze burned off when boiling the jam, so I finally realized that the Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans just smell like booze to me.

But the vanilla extract is really gorgeous and made delicious jam. It looks like this.

I figure it is a good enough strength to start baking with.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I just want to take a minute to wish all my bloggy friends a very Merry Christmas, surrounded with family and love.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Almost ready for Christmas.

Well, I am really ready for Christmas all year round. I just love Christmas.

Almost all of our gifts are wrapped and under the tree. We just have to go get a gift for one of the grandkids, as I tested the ones we got and wouldn't you know it, one of them didn't work. I took it to exchange it and the store didn't have another, so we will go to another store and see if we can find one.....that works.

I have a 4 day weekend! Yes! Tomorrow we will go get the above described toy. Then I will bake 4 loaves of cranberry almond bread to give to the kids and MIL. I have 7 loaves in the freezer, but we love the stuff, so I will save them for us. I also plan to make some raisin bread for Meredith and Samantha, to add to their bags of jam and cranberry almond bread. So, tomorrow will be productive, but not terribly busy.

We are having our get together Saturday evening. Just me, Hubby, his mom, our kids and grandkids. No sis-in-law drama for us this year. It should be really nice. MIL will only let me bring deviled eggs, so really easy prep for me. I will make those on Saturday.

On Christmas Day, it will be just me and Hubby and he is looking forward to it. We have never had a Christmas Day alone. Well, maybe alone. Last night Chance sent me a message regarding Saturday and asked what Hubby and I were doing on Christmas Day. I told him and said that if he had no plans he was, of course, welcome to come over. I told him I wasn't inviting him as I thought he might have plans and didn't want him to feel obligated, but that he is always welcome. So he might come over, he might not. Either way is fine with us.

A wonderful, stress free holiday for us and I am loving it!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I fixed our icemaker!

I am such a Mrs. Fixit!

A few months ago, our ice maker was not making as much ice as it used to. I figured it must be time to change the valve. I have done this before and it is pretty easy after the first time…when I knew what I was doing.

I replaced it and the icemaker started making more ice, but then a couple of weeks ago, Hubby told me it was not making ice. I didn’t know what the heck the problem was and I didn’t feel like messing with it, so we just bought ice. Then Sunday, we pulled out the fridge so I could check and see if maybe the line was kinked or the valve clogged. Hmmmmm…..I could see water going all the way up to the fill tube on the backside of the freezer.

I was stumped.

So I started researching on-line and after a little while searching, I followed the easiest bit of advice. Point a blow drier at the fill tube as it can freeze up. I could see a fill tube, but knew it had to be somewhere back there. So, I plugged in my handy blow drier and blew at it for a couple of minutes.

Voila! Apparently that was what was wrong, as the ice maker started filling with water. Yeah! We don’t have to buy bags of ice anymore.

I am so handy to have around the house.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Last day of my mini-vaca.

It's my last day off....for a whole 3 days. LOL! I have another 4 day weekend next weekend, so I won't complain too much.

It doesn't seem like we have done a lot, but a lot of stuff has gotten done. All our Christmas gifts are wrapped and under the tree. Christmas cards are ready to be mailed. Jam is packed up to be sent to my family in Tennessee and South Dakota and we are heading to the post office in a few minutes to drop off those packages...already paid for on, using Click and Ship. So much faster than waiting in line at the PO and got a discount! Yeah for discounts.

We also have a lot of packages of Hubby's ebay sales to drop off. I didn't realize he had so much stuff listed until he started packaging it up to ship. He may have made some good money. Yeah! He had said he was going to list a lot of stuff he has one time and if it didn't sold, it will be donated. I think he has burned out on ebay. Though I don't know if he will stop.

We do have to return two transformer type robots today. I decided to take the grandkids toys  out of the packaging and put back in without all they twist ties and other connectors. One toy was screwed into the box! I figured it would save some frustration for the kiddies when opening gifts. It took about 15 minutes to get one robot out of the packaging and I decided to see how easy it was to make it into a car. UGH! That thing sucked. After about 45 minutes, I gave up and told Hubby they are going back to the store. If I could not get those things to transform, I know 4 and 5 year olds won't be able to. We will find them something else that is more kid friendly.

I also will bake some cranberry almond bread to take to work tomorrow. I give a loaf to my  boss and a coworker. For the rest of the office, I will take a bundt for them to share. I only give to one coworker as he and I have worked together for years. The rest of the people that work around me are in my group, but used to work in a different area, so we haven't exchanged gifts. I will take each of them a jar of jam, but they can share the bread.

Oops! Hubby is ready to leave. Have a great day, all!

Friday, December 16, 2011

What a busy week!

Okay, my week was nothing compared to some people's, like McVal or Sluggy. They are always busier than me. But it was busy for me.

Since I took vacation days today and next Monday to have a lovely 4 day weekend, I had to work my booty off to make sure everything at work was at a point that they could manage without me for 2 days. Since my boss is also off today, I will probably not even be missed. He is usually the one panicking when I am not there.

Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, I went and worked out at Curves after work. After the Curves that I had been goind to for 5 years shut down, then the one I visited shut down, I didn't go work out for quite a while. A few months ago, the one close to my house that had closed re-opened and my girlfriend started going. Then about 6 weeks ago, I started back with her. I figured I probably needed it. :-) Plus the monthly fee is less than what we used to pay.

In the first month, I lost a couple of pounds and 2 1/2 inches from my bust, arms and thighs, so it is working. I think taking a break for a while helped, as I had not been losing anything at my old Curves in a long time. Though it did keep things like my cholesterol, blood sugar and heart rate at good levels.

Late Tuesday night, my girlfriend called and asked me if I would be a sub at her mom's Bunko game. I wasn't really up for it, but cannot refuse her mom, so said yes. We went after work on Wednesday and I ended up having a ball! First we had a fabulous dinner baked by gf's mom, who used to be a caterer. Yummy! It was delish! She made a ton of amazing food that was so good I wanted to keep eating even after I was full. I didn't, but I wanted to.

Then we played Bunko, which I had forgotten how to play, but pretty quickly caught on. It was really fun and I won $20 for winning the second highest number of games. Yeah me! It was "double money" night, so the winnings were double the usual. I didn't even have to put money in as I ended up subbing for gf's mom, since she said that would give her a chance to work on the desserts to be served after the game. All of which were amazing. She served tiramisu, individual apple crisps with vanilla ice cream and bananas foster. The ladies love it when the game is at her house as, apparently, she puts on the biggest and best spreads. I tried to give half my winnings to gf's mom, but she refused it saying I had done her a big favor by stepping in at the last minute. She is so nice.

Then, since it was the Christmas game, they exchanged gifts. Before everyone got there, gf's mom told me that they would be exchanging and not to worry that I didn't bring anything as subs were not expected to. And not to feel bad if I received gifts. Well, receive I did! I ended up with a bag of loot and was happy to receive everything. It was so much fun and everyone was so nice that if I am called again, I won't hesitate to go.

For this long weekend, my plans are to bake some more, wrap gifts and box up jam to send to my family in Tennessee and South Dakota.

Oh, and rest, since I still tired from my late Wednesday night.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Friday, December 9, 2011

I'm almost out of jars!

I have made 8 1/2 cases of jam! I only have 10 empty jars left and my  blueberry jam recipe says it makes 9 jars. How close is that?

I do have 5 wide mouth jars, but no wide mouth flat lids. I may grab a box when I go to the store so I can make some mixed berry jam. Hubby wanted me to make some for him, but it can wait until I have jars as it will not be Christmas gift jam.

After running out of Sure-Jell...for the first time ever during a jam making session.... I planned to buy some last Tuesday when Hubby and I went to the grocery store. The winner of my -grocery deal lottery was Sellers, so that is where we went. They don't even carry Sure-Jel! Big bummer.

We took our groceries home, then headed to Big Lots for something Hubby wanted. We were passing by HEB and Hubby asked if they had Sure-Jell. I was sure they would, so we stopped and went in. They had it, but no low sugar vnariety, which is all I use. But I was looking at the shelf and right next to the regular variety was Ball brand plastic jars. Hmmmm.....pectin is pectin, right? I wasn't sure how many boxes it was the equivalent of, but they had low sugar, so I got a couple of jars of it. It cost right under $4.

So far, I have gotten 3 batches from that jar. I think it has enough left for part of a batch, so it is a good thing that I got 2 of them. The best part is that it was a LOT cheaper than 3 and a part boxes of Sure Jell would have been.Why didn't I think of buying it like this before? Next time I plan to make jam, I may research buying pectin in bulk.

I am done with jam-making except for one batch of blueberry, then I do some baking. It is Cranberry Almond Bread time!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, December 5, 2011

I am out of Sure-Jell!

Well, I will be after I make one more batch of blackberry jam. I thought I had enough for all the jam I am making but I miscalculated how much fruit I had. So, tomorrow, I guess I will head to WalMart to get some Sure-Jell.

Yes, I know you can make jam without it, but I am not going to. I am a little miffed, as in the summer I got some coupons for free sugar when you buy Sure-Jell, but I thought I had enough. So I gave them to my hairdresser. He was thrilled.

Oh, well, the grocery list is short, so we won't go too much out of budget.

Bummer for me.

I am jammin' again!

It has been a while since I posted about making jam. I posted here and here of my previous marathon. Well, it has been a while since I made any. Our stash was low. We were down to a case and a half in the stockpile and Christmas is coming. Since I started giving jam for Christmas gifts, it has come to be expected and what we had left was not going to do it.

I have been preparing since summer, stocking up on fruit when it was in season. The bottom two shelves of our large freezer were crammed full of frozen fruit. Not so much today.

My marathon started on Saturday. I made 22 jars of assorted sizes of peach jam. Yummy!
I set the fruit out to thaw on Friday night an on Saturday it was ready to process. After making 4 batches of peach, I set out peach juice and cherries to thaw overnight.

When I peeled and cut up my peaches for freezing in the summer, I took all the peels, dumped them in a pot, covered with water and boiled for a while to extract all the peachy goodness. I got 8 cups of juice and stuck that in the freezer. When it thaw, the top of the containers were pretty clear, so I poured off the top and just used the dense peach juice on the bottom for my jelly.

Yesterday, I made peach jelly and Bing Cherry jam.

I think the jelly turned out beautiful! It is not perfectly clear like some jelly, since when I drained the peels some particulates were left and I didn't want to strain them out. Too much peachy goodness to waste!

The cherry turned out excellent as well! I made two batches of just cherry jam, then decided to experiment....

I added some of my homemade vanilla to one batch to see how that would work. Some of you may remember that I posted here making vanilla extract back in August. Well, this is what it looks like today.

Yes, it is a deep, dark, delicious looking brown color. It has been "brewing" for more than 3 months now. I was starting to worry about it, since it still smells like booze to me. And I don't smell vanilla at all. Hubby says it smells chocolatey. I smell something other than booze, but it is not the vanilla-y smell I expected. Maybe it is because I used Mexican vanilla for so long and this is made from Madagascar vanilla beans and I just didn't know what to expect.

Anyway, I added some to one batch of cherry and Hubby proclaimed it delicious! He says it tastes like cherry pie with vanilla ice cream. It does tasted good, but I don't taste vanilla. Maybe my taster is broken. But since he proclaimed it delicious, that is good enough for me.

For those of you that make your own vanilla, does it quit smelling boozey at some point, or is that just normal? And have you used different beans? Do they make a different tasting vanilla? Should I get some differerent vanilla beans?

Back to the jam session....I took out blackberries to thaw last night. I will label what I made yesterday and put it away. Today, I plan to go work out with my girlfriend sometime. She is off today, as well, so we will go during the day instead of after work like we normally do. I also need to make a run to the grocery store...maybe. That can wait until tomorrow, since I am also off then.

Hubby and I will be going to get our Christmas tree today, too. So, today I will be making blackberry jam and pulling out our Christmas decorations on my breaks. We will probably put up the tree tomorrow, after letting it sit in a bucket of water overnight to give it a good drink. I will also be making strawberry jam tomorrow.

Hmmm...that sounds like a lot of work! Maybe I will let Hubby do the grocery shopping this week. He doesn't mind and usually spends less money than I do. LOL!

Happy Monday, everyone!