Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The 52 Week Money Saving Challenge - Week #5

Welcome to Week #5 of The 52 Week Money Saving Challenge.  This week,  we save five dollars.  Congratulations to those who have already accepted the challenge and are saving right along with me.  So glad to have you all doing the challenge with me.  There is strength in numbers.

To those of you who are considering it but have not yet committed, consider the following statements.

Question: What have you got to lose?  

Answer:  You won't lose anything, because there is no requirement to report or register and no fee involved.  If you need a secure place to stash your cash, use your imagination.  How about an old sock under the mattress or an envelope hidden in a place that nobody would ever look?  Be creative, I know you can do it!  

Question:  What can you gain?

Answer:  $1,378.00 cash money

For a free printable chart, click on link in the photo caption below.

The 52 Week Money Saving Challenge

I am so happy to share this with you.  Saving money is fun!  We started with a meager one dollar bill, and as of today we have a grand total of fifteen bucks.  Until next week, happy saving!

Friday, January 25, 2013

The 52 Week Money Saving Challenge - Week #4

Welcome to Week #4 of The 52 Week Money Saving Challenge.  This week, I'm saving four dollars.  I know that some of you have already joined the challenge.  How is everyone doing so far?

For those of you that are new, I'm so glad you're here.  You can catch up with us pretty easily.Find yourself a jar, or a sock, or something to tuck your cash in and start saving.  Week #1 the challenge was one dollar.  Week #2 the challenge was 2 dollars.  One dollar + two dollars = 3 dollars total. That was when I jumped on the bandwagon. 

 Week #3 the challenge was to save three dollars.  Three dollars + three dollars = six dollars total savings. In other words, just save this week's four dollars + six dollars for the first three weeks.  You'll now have a grand total of ten bucks saved!  

Ten bucks?  You can do it!  I'm pretty excited about this because even I can do it!  What is even more exciting is thinking about how much we'll have by the end of the 52 weeks!!  Check the total on the chart!

The 52 Week Money Saving Challenge

For a free printable chart, check out Stuck at Home Mom's 52 Week Money Saving Challenge.  Happy saving!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Blackberry Jam - Fresh Berry Recipe and Hot Water Bath Canning tutorial

Ever since I was a little girl, our family has enjoyed homemade Blackberry Jam. The Ozark mountain roadside near my late Grandma Gracie's home had dozens of blackberry bushes that produced plenty of fruit.

Back then, before there was a McDonalds and a Taco Bell around every corner, people would actually pack their own "to-go" food for road trips.  Sometimes, Grandma Gracie would make her one-of-a-kind sandwiches and treats for us to enjoy on our long drive home after a visit to her house.  

To give you some perspective, Grandma Gracie was born in 1888.  She married young to a farmer who became the local minister and postmaster, gave birth to twelve children at home, raised all her children, and lived her entire life (over 90 years) in a very rural area of Texas County, Missouri.

Grandma Gracie Roderick family, Missouri, 1946

If we wanted jam or cobbler, all we had to do was pick the blackberries. Grandma Gracie would turn those berries into jams and cobblers for us, and it was the best stuff on earth.

Today, I live far away from the old Ozark Mountain family farm, and I miss the taste of her Blackberry Jam.  HEB had a sale on fresh blackberries. That was motivation enough for me to make some jam.  I bought two cases (12 tubs per case) of their 6 oz. tubs.  For your reference, that purchase of 24 tubs made enough jam to fill 27 half-pint (8 oz.) jelly jars.

Making Blackberry Jam conjured up wonderful memories of my dear Grandma Gracie.  Her irresistible Blackberry Jam and real dairy butter, spread between two slices of her famous homemade bread....those were the best sandwiches ever.  You just can't buy "to-go" food like that at McDonalds. 

There are plenty of great Blackberry Jam recipes available.  Because I know and trust the Ball brand, I chose to use a recipe that uses Ball Fruit Pectin.


Here is the recipe I use from the Ball Real Fruit Classic Pectin Label.  The red arrows and dots are the steps I followed for Blackberry Jam.

I'm including these photos from my own Ball Blue Book as a reference for quality information on proper procedures for hot water bath canning or "boiling water" canning.  The  1995 Ball Blue Book Volume I is available on, or you can buy the latest edition here on the Ball website .

When buying blackberries, the fresher the better. Prepare your jam as soon as you can when you get them home.  Start by sorting through all the fruit, discarding unusable berries.  Rinse thoroughly in a very clean sink filled with fresh clean water. I placed a dish towel in the bottom of the sink to keep the tender berries out of the sink strainer.

After rinsing, take a handful of berries and place them in a colander.

Spray the fruit in the colander with a solution of 50% water and 50% white vinegar. 

As a side note:  I use vinegar water to clean my sink, countertops, and other kitchen surfaces.  It is a great disinfectant and much safer than chemical sprays.

Vinegar Water Cleaning Spray

After spraying the fruit with the vinegar water. rinse thoroughly with running water to remove the vinegar.  Drain excess water. 

Place your drained berries in a medium size bowl.

Mash berries up well until you have a lovely, juicy pulp.  The directions suggest using a potato masher, but I prefer my pastry cutter to do this part.  It's rounded shape fits the bowl much better than a flat potato masher.

Your berries should resemble the berries shown in the photo below when they're mashed.

The color is just beautiful.

In my case, one 6 oz. tub of fresh berries made just over 1/2 cup of pure berry pulp.

When you're done mashing the berries, place your mashed blackberry pulp into a large pot.  Gradually stir in pectin and mix well.  Then, heat until you bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.  Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Use good quality sugar.  Cheap sugar is fine for Koolaid, but don't ever use cheap sugar when canning or baking.  Good sugar dissolves much better.  Return mixture to full rolling boil.  Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

Skim foam if necessary.  Some people add 1/4 tsp. butter at the same time as  the sugar is added to reduce foaming.  Hey, it's butter, so it WON'T hurt the flavor, lol.

Ladle jam into hot, sterilized jars, one at a time, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  It really helps if you have a soup ladle or a nice cup with a sturdy handle for dipping.  Tip: I kept the jars in hot water (inside tall pot on right) until it was time to fill them with fruit. 

It is best to use a ladle or cup for dipping the fruit out of the pot.

Use a metal funnel for pouring the hot jam from the cup or ladle into the jar.  Believe me, you'll be glad you did.

Use a jar holder to move the hot jars around.  It is nice to have a canning rack to keep the jars from touching the bottom of your pot, but I don't normally use a rack unless I'm canning using a pressure cooker.  Hot water bath canning is a bit less intense than canning with a pressure cooker.

After you fill each hot jar with jam, center the flat lid on top and then twist on the rim till it is finger tight.  To avoid problems with preservation, make sure the flat part of the lid and the top of the jar (the parts that touch each other to make the seal) don't have any stray bits of jam on them.  Then, place each jar into your prepared hot water bath.  As you can see, I used the same pot for preheating jars as the one for the actual hot water bath.  Just keep the water good and hot!  

Once your hot water bath canner is full of jam jars and those jars are covered with 1 to 2 inches of hot water, place the lid on the hot water bath canner and bring the heat up to a gentle, steady boil, adjusting for altitude.  Process for 10 minutes. Then turn off heat, remove hot water bath canner lid, and let jars stand inside canner for 5 minutes.

Remove jars with your handy jar holder and cool.  Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lids should not flex up and down when center is pressed. 

I hope you consider making some homemade Blackberry Jam.  I love it.  The second time I made some, I added about 2 tsps. flavoring to the batch of jam at the same time that I added the sugar.  It tastes great with or without the vanilla.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

DIY Vintage Lace Trim - Upcycle Your Lace Tablecloth or Curtains!

Once upon a time, 26 years ago, HUBBY and I were newlyweds.  We were blessed to have some incredible friends, BH and KH.  BH did me the honor of serving as a  bridesmaid for me and her husband KH was a groomsman for HUBBY.  She also hosted our wedding reception at a vacation resort in east Texas.  This included getting access to the areas where the wedding and reception was held, feeding dinner to all our guests, hosting a wonderful party, and providing overnight accommodations - furnished condos - for all our wedding guests.  A few months later, she and KH invited us to stay with them at their vacation condo in Cancun,  Mexico for a beautiful, belated honeymoon.  The atmosphere was perfect and the markets were amazing.  We returned home with our luggage full of wonderful mementos of our trip.  One item we treasured was a beach sand colored lace tablecloth.

Our lovely tablecloth incurred damage over the years, it's sweet lace pattern broken and scarred with a rip and a pull here and there.  Still, I couldn't part with it because it held such sentimental value to us.  What to do?  Upcycle!!  

Some trim was needed for the kitchen curtains I was making.  The lace tablecloth was perfect! But how would I get a roll of lace trim from a big oval tablecloth?  Crocheted cotton or linen tablecloths can be quite stretchy.  Plus, the oval shape provided no 90 degree angles to use as reference points to make nice, straight, clean cuts and seams.  

My prudent yet unscientific method is as follows:


Lace Fabric (tablecloth, curtain panels, etc.)
Sewing Machine or Serger


1. Iron tablecloth fabric if necessary.  Lay out fabric on large flat surface.  Determine where you want to cut the first strip.  Cut along weave of fabric.  This may not be a perfectly straight cut if your lace is crocheted cotton or linen lace, as it tends to shrink unevenly. 

2. After the first strip of lace is cut, lay it atop the next place where you wish to cut a strip, and use the first as a template.  This will help the width of the strips be as uniform as possible.  Cut the next strip and repeat the process, cutting as many strips as you need.

3. Sew the narrow end of one strip to the narrow end of another strip, making one long strip.  If you use a serger the process is faster.  However, you could certainly use a regular sewing machine.  If so, make sure you zig zag stitch over the edges of the seam after you've straight-stitched it to ensure the lace fabric doesn't unravel.

4. When finished sewing all the strips of lace together, the result is one really long strip of lace trim with unfinished edges.  Trim if necessary to ensure uniform width throughout the long strip. Serge or straight stitch and zig-zag over all of your unfinished edges (see #3 above)

The lace trim is ready to roll up and use for your next project.

The vintage lace trim was perfect for the valance I was constructing.

To see how this lovely lace looks on the curtains, check out Kitchen Curtains Tutorial - Give Your Kitchen Curtains a Fresh New Look FYI, I had no dishtowels to match my new curtains, so it was time for new ones.  Yep, a few of them have the vintage lace, too.  I'll be sharing that post soon.

All Things with Purpose

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