Jam Sessions: Pickling Basics : Spicy Pickled Asparagus!

29 July 2013

Let's talk about pickles, shall we?  Pickling is the act of perserving food using a high acid vinegar solution.  Pickling is really easy.  If you have never canned before, pickling is a great first project because it not very temperamental & it's pretty close to fool proof.  You can pickle just about anything your heart desires - fruit, veggies, eggs, shrimp...ALL THE THINGS!  Let's focus more on the simple veggies and fruit pickling today though!

Pickling requires 3 basic things:
1. Vegetable or fruit to pickle - cucumber, asparagus, cherries, etc
2. Pickling liquid - generally a mix of vinegar with water, perhaps also sugar
3. Seasoning - additives that pack the flavor, mostly herbs or garlic

There are a ton of variations on each one of these components, but you will generally find all of these parts in each pickle recipe.  There are two methods of pickling and each recipe varies on which one to use.  The first is the hot-pack method which involves heating food and putting it in the jar while hot - this menthod expels the air from the food and allows a tighter pack in the jar.  The other is the raw-pack method or cold-pack method which, as you may have guessed, involves not heating the food prior to packing it in the pickling liquid.

The process is pretty basic and the same no matter what you are picking:
1. Sterilize jars & prep your vegetables or fruits (clean & cut them to fit the jars and heat them if hot packing)
2. Put your seasonings in each jar
3. Add vegetables/fruit
4. Fill with hot pickling liquid
5. Process in hot waterbath

Once you have these steps down, you can pretty much pickle anything.  You could also even skip the last step and make refrigerator pickles.

Oh, one more note about pickling!  All vinegars are not created equally.  Each time of vinegar has a different acidity level (white vinegar is much more acidic than champagne vinegar for example), so always use the type called for in your recipe.

Got it?  Great! On with the recipe!

I love asparagus!  Spring and early summer are the perfect times to find these little spheres of deliciousness at your local farmers market or in the grocery store.  When you get tired of roasting or grilling them (but really, how could you get tired of that?), try making them into easy pickles!  I like a spicy pickle, but feel free to omit the pepper flakes if that is not your think.  The herbs added to a pickle can be customized safely.

Spicy Pickled Asparagus

Liquid ratio: 2 cups white vinegar to 1 cup water.
Depending on how many jars you are filling you will need more or less of this liquid mixture.

Per Jar:
1 garlic clove
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 sprig fresh dill (or 1/2 dill seeds)
1/4 tsp salt

1) Wash, snap and trim your asparagus to fit into the size of you jars (I'm using half-pints). Peal the garlic cloves and have them ready to go.

2) Sterilize your jars by dipping them in boiling water for about 5 minutes or use your dishwasher's

3) This recipe calls for raw packing, so snatch up your hot jars and put in all the spices, peppers and garlic at the bottom.  Next, pack them with the asparagus, pack as tightly as you can.

4) Once that is done add the liquid heated to just pre-boil, or boil in a large pot on stove (careful - that gas is not something you want to breath in!). Pour vinegar and water mixture over the asparagus leaving just about 1/2 inch head-space (meaning don't fill all the way up leave 1/2 inch).

5)Heat the right amount of lids in boiling water on the stove, when they are ready place them on the jars and screw on the rings. Process in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes.

6) Remove from canner and place on a counter to let them cool.  Wait at least 2 weeks for the pickling juices to take effect and enjoy!

10 Flea Market Tips & Tricks

22 July 2013

Top 10 Flea Market Tips & Tricks!

One thing I often miss about living on the east coast is the abundance of flea markets...every weekend you had multiple flea markets in PA or NJ to choose from and they all were filled with gems and deals to be had. When I was a little girl, my mom would always take us with her to the flea markets on the weekend and it was something I always looked forward to.  It was my mother that really taught me the art of the flea market deal & the thrill of the chase. Now that I live in Oregon, we sadly don't really have those amazing weekly flea markets.  We do, however, have one that happens two weekends a year and I look forward to it every time!

This weekend was one of those rare & coveted weekends and I had an amazing time with my favorite yard sale co-pilot!   Between the two of us, we scored a hodgepodge of really cool items and we had a really fun day of exploring the piles of treasures.  I came home with a strange mix that included vintage posters, art supplies, a seal vertebrae bone, an old metal test tube rack, & a collection of Star Trek ornaments.

I thought it might be nice to share my top 10 favorite insider tips to having a successful flea market trip...

Wear comfortable shoes.  It's a lot of walking around, so get ready for it and dress for the part.  The more comfortable you are, the more focused you can be.

Choose your companions thoughtfully.  This may sound a little odd, but if you are going to shop with friends, it’s important to pick a flea market buddy that can match your stamina.  You should try to decide in advance if you want to leisurely peruse for an hour or if you want to go all in and spend hours digging through every booth.   If you go on your treasure hunt with someone who’s expectations are not at all like yours, you are both in store for a rough day.  I am always up for hours of digging and I need to look at every single booth, so I’ve learned who in my life can hang with that and who will hate me at the end of it.  I consider myself pretty lucky to have an amazing friend that I often refer to as my “yard sale soulmate” because we are perfectly matched on our yard sale aspirations & stamina.

Top 10 Flea Market Tips & Tricks!Bring an extra bag.  I like to bring a messenger bag that can be thrown over my shoulder and loaded up so that the weight of my buys is easier to carry and I also bring another smaller bag that is easy to carry (a tote bag with long handles or one of those lightweight backpack totes are perfect) so that I can keep buying without being too weighted down with the purchases.  If the flea market is on even ground like asphalt or inside, you might even consider a rolling suitcase or cart to avoid carrying anything.  I have one like this for just such an occasion.

Bring small bills and change.  Cash is king at the flea market and the ATMs there will have huge fees, so come prepared.  Making exact change is always helpful for the sellers.  Plus, if you are going to haggle a price from $3 to $1, don't be the jerk who then ask for change for a fifty.

Get ready to haggle.  A lot of vendors price items a little higher to leave room to haggle and if you have a price in mind that you want to pay, it doesn't hurt to ask.  Bundling items is also a great idea - if the seller has multiple things you are interested in, ask what they could do on the price if you bought all of them or make an offer.  It helps the seller move more items and you get a great deal.

Be nice.  No really, be nice to the vendors & make a connection.  If you walk up to their booth with a big smile and say hello to them, more often than not, they will be much more opened to making you a good deal.  It's human nature to be a bit more generous with people we like.

Timing is everything.  There are pros and cons to the time of day you go to the flea market.  If you are the first wave of people there, you get the first pick of the goods and may find more gems, but the sellers will likely be a bit more firm on higher prices.  As the day goes on, later shoppers may find that things are a bit more picked over, but sellers are much more interested in moving items that saying firm on prices, so you are likely to get a great deal.
Top 10 Flea Market Tips & Tricks!
Watch out of knock offs.  Don't get me wrong, I won't judge you for getting that really cute purse that says "Coach" on the tag for $20 if you just like the way it looks, but don't think for a minute that it is really Coach.  There are fakes of almost everything from MAC makeup to vintage reproductions at the flea market.  Just be aware of it and check the quality of the items carefully before you buy.

Think outside the box.  If you find something that catches your eye, but you hate the color, you can always repaint it.  If the glass for that beautiful frame is missing, maybe it would make a great art piece or boarder for a bulletin board.  Be open minded because you never know what you will find at the flea market.

Most importantly, have fun! Enjoy being outside and learn new things about history through the items you find.  Sometimes you hit score after score and sometimes you come home empty handed, but if you set yourself up to have an adventure instead of creating a rigid agenda of must haves, you are sure to have the perfect flea market day!

What are your favorite flea market tips?  Have you found anything amazing lately?

Liebster Award : Probably More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Me!

21 July 2013

The always lovely & inspiring Sarah @ Exploring Woods nominated me for a Liebster Award!  I can't say no to a list and I really love the idea of the Liebster, so here we go!

If you aren't familiar with the Liebster Award, it recognizes new and upcoming bloggers with less than 200 registered readers who deserve some kind of recognition and support for their contribution.

In order to accept this prestigious award, one must abide by a list of rules. Here they are:
Each person must list 11 things about themselves.
Answer the 11 questions that the tagger has set for you PLUS you MUST create 11 questions of your own for the 11 people you will nominate with this award, which brings me to rule
Choose up to 11 bloggers linking them to your post.
Go to their page and inform them of the nomination.

11 random facts about me:

1. I really like Dr. Who...like so much so that our wedding party walked down the isle to the Dr. Who theme song.
2. There was a brief point in my childhood where I wanted to be a llama when I grew up.  My mother loves to tell that story to people.  Then I wanted to be a veterinarian, but as an adult I realized that career involved too much poop and blood to be realistic for me.
3. I'm a tornado of clutter.  I can't help it.  I've been working on being better and getting more organized.  My husband is amazing at wrangling it all in so that our house isn't a disaster all the time, but if we clean on the weekend, I will create a mess by Wednesday.  I have to remind myself a lot when I yard sale that there is a fine line between treasure hunting and hoarding.
4. I don't really love photos of myself, but I can't resist an old fashioned photobooth.
5. I really love fancy pens.  A good pen makes me want to write lists and fill up pages and it's so much more gratifying when I do.  If I can't find a good pen, it kind of bothers me to be using a regular ballpoint in my beloved day planner.  My favorite are Papermate flairs. 
6. I don't want to have children.  It's just something that has never appealed to me and I'm also not very good at interacting with them...probably for that reason.
7.  Growing up, my mom never used spices in her food, so my first experiences with herbs and spices only happened once I moved out on my own.  Now, I am always super excited about trying new herbs in the garden or adding new spices to our overflowing spice shelf.
8. I don't like garlic.  Sad, but true.
9. I still have a PA/Jersey accent sometimes and I really hope it never goes away.  It tends to come out more when I'm drunk.  I can't say "dog" without the "w".
10. When planning a vacation (of just dreaming of one), I often plan around what kind of animals I will get to see or interact with.  For our 5th dating anniversary, Bryan and I drove 6 hours just to hold a baby tiger.  Worth it.
11. I over-explain things frequently.

Sarah's questions for me...
1. If you drink, what's your all time favorite drink?
Oh! This is hard! My go to is a vodka-7 or a vodka soda. If I'm feeling fancy, I love infused vodkas with a splash of soda. My favorite beers are Pyramid Apricot Ale & McMennamins Ruby Ale.
2. Are you growing any plants inside or out?
I am growing so many plants! I have a massive container garden on my deck, a few small beds with tomatoes, rosemary, and cucumbers out front, and 3 beds on the side. We also have some raspberry and blackberry bushes around the house. The harvests are starting up right about now!
3. What would you bring in your picnic basket?
Good question! I adore summer picnics. I love caprese salad this time of year with the fresh tomatoes and basil in the garden, so that would definitely be there. I would also bring fresh fruit, sweet tea, sandwiches (my favorite is goat cheese, ham, and fig jam!), and maybe something sweet like homemade cookies or cupcakes.
4. What's the last book you read?
I wish I read more books! I often pick a book up and start to read it and never finish. The last book I read was A New Orleans Voudou Priestess by Carolyn Morrow Long - it's an interesting read about the legend and life of Marie Laveau. I was inspired to read more about her life after my trip to New Orleans and it was pretty amazing.
5. What color is your bathroom?
We rent, so we left our bathroom the beige color it was when we moved it and instead spruced it up with a nautical themed collection of paintings, ships, and a bright green diver shower curtain.
6. Favorite mythical creature?
Probably a Phoenix. There is just something so beautiful about their mythology and rising from the ashes and all that. Life lesson to be learned?
7. Early riser or night owl?
I'm an early riser! Even when I am not working, I am always up no later than 8 am. I feel like I just get the most done in the early mornings and I love that.
8. What's a word or phrase you use a lot?
Rad, lovely, & dude.
9. Current desk top picture?
At home - this adorable July calendar & at work - a photo of my dog snuggling with a baby goat on my lap*
10. Do you like watching and or playing sports? If so, what's your favorite?
Not really. When I was little, I was tomboy and a daddy's girl so I would go to Phillies games and I played softball for a few years in middle school. I was also on a kickball team a couple of years ago and that was fun, drunken silliness...but I am not really a sporty kind of girl.
11. If you had to choose between a million dollars and the ability to fly, which would it be?
Oh! So hard! If I could fly, I could travel without needing a million dollars and it would just be amazing. I guess though, I would choose the million dollars so that I could travel AND own a dreamy house.
*My work desktop photo.

I nominate these amazing bloggers:

And here are the 11 questions for you guys:
1. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
2. What was your favorite book as a child?
3. What is your favorite thing that you've ever made? 
4. Who would you say is one of your greatest inspirations?
5. If you could have trade lives with one person for one day, who would you choose?
6. What is your idea of a perfect Saturday?
7. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
8. Favorite ice cream flavor?
9. Where do you most want to travel to?
10. Why did you pick the city/town that you live in?
11. What song do you blast to pick yourself up out of a bad mood?

Thanks for thinking for me Sarah!  And thank you all for sitting through a little self-indulgent blog session! <3

A New Tattoo & A New Outlook

16 July 2013

It has been a huge couple of weeks for me.  I started a new job & it feels a little like a new chapter of my life is about to start.  It's a bit intimidating, but my coworkers are lovely and I am full of hope and optimism about what it will hold for me.  I've never worked in the non-profit world before and it hold it's own challenges, but I am absolutely ready to be part of an organization that makes a difference for the community.  That explains my absence from the blog for a bit, but I am doing my best to find new footing and find the balancing act.

This week seemed like the perfect time to add some art to my skin as well.  I am really excited about my lovely new tattoo.  It still has another session for shading and touches of color, but I am absolutely in love with it.

My tattoos are the story of who I am.  Each piece represents something significant about where I was, where I am, or where I hope to be.  I've been thinking about getting this new tattoo for awhile now and this week seemed perfectly fitting to have it done.  It's inspired by my favorite Dolly Parton quote: "The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain” 

This tattoo is a reminder that life is going to have a lot of rainy days and even quite a few thunderstorms that knock us down, but it's the beautiful calmness and the amazing miraculous things after the storms that are what make life so worth living. The rain is sometimes necessary and when it breaks, the most amazing things can happen. It's a source of hope. When I left my previous position at the beginning of this year, I felt really lost and hopeless, but the past few months have been some of the most amazing months of my life.  I needed that storm to see that.

I am getting settled into a new schedule and I will be getting back in the swing of the blog-o-sphere very soon, but I want to thank all of you so much for following, commenting, and always offering your support and encouragement - you all are absolutely part of that rainbow after the storm. <3

Quickie Nail Tutorial : Strawberry Nails in 4 Easy Steps!

01 July 2013

Summertime has been really beautiful.  One of my very favorite things about summer is all of the amazing fresh local fruits and veggies in season!   Strawberries are one of my favorites, so it seemed only logical to make some cute strawberry nail art happen!

It's easy to do and it only takes a few simple steps.  Here is a quickie tutorial!

Strawberry Nails Tutorial!

Here's how:
Cute strawberry nails in just 4 easy steps!

1. Paint your nails red.

2. Use a dotting tool and some yellow polish to make a few dots randomly on your nails

3. Use a thin striping brush in green to create a small triangle on the top of the nail. No need to be precise, berry leaves are natural and uneven!

4. Add a few more triangles on the top until you get a leafy zig-zag tip. No need to be precise, berry leaves are natural and uneven!  Finish it off by adding a top coat and show off your cute fingertips!

There you have it!  Easy, adorable and perfect for summer!
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