Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More Uses for Mason, Canning, Fruit Jars!

A look inside my refrigerator shows all my beloved Mason jars in use. In the back a 2 quart jar with Sun Tea, 1 quart jar with pasta sauce, pint of strawberry jam, left over mac and cheese, and some beet juice I’m going to use for another project in the craft room. In the front leftover curried rice and raisins ready for my lunch box, home made yogurt, jello in a half pint ready for hubbies lunch box, butternut squash soup, more jello and yogurt, and some fresh whipped cream to top the jello with.

My husband and I use the leftovers for a quick lunch box ready meal.  Sometimes I even take a drink in a jar with me, though my husband is a little shy about drinking from a jar at work.  Once when I had misplaced my travel coffee mug, I used a jar to hold my morning coffee; it fit nicely in my cars drink holder. I had to hold it at the top to keep from burning my fingers as I sipped, and it wasn’t great at keeping the coffee hot but hey, it worked in a pinch. I wonder if those cardboard holders would fit on a jar….hmmmm…….
Sometimes I make spaghetti sauce from those gallon size tomato sauce cans and I freeze it in 1 quart containers.  Nice on those nights when you know you will be home late, you can remove a jar from the freezer in the morning and hubby can put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Leftover pasta and sauce can be then added to the next days lunch menu, in a jar of course.

When reheating things like pasta and sauce in a jar, it's best to stir the sauce well into the pasta.  Fats heat the fastest, pasta slow, so mixing it together well will make for a more evenly heated food.  Also this will decrease the possibility of the jar breaking from overheating the fats in the food if you walk away from it or put it on a high cooking time with out stirring once in a while.  This would be true of any glass container.
  Don't do this; sauce on top, pasta on bottom. 
<--- Do this; stir well to evenly distribute sauces.
I always have a quart jar in the freezer to hold chicken broth that I add to now and then.  It seems that I rarely have a large amount of chicken broth and I hate to throw it out knowing I will need some for a recipe in the future. I cool it to room temperature then add it to my jar of frozen broth pouring it through a strainer. (if you try this make sure you cool the broth before adding it to your jar from the freezer. It will break if you add hot liquid to it!) This way I don’t have to make or buy chicken broth when I need it.

If I had a chest freezer I would probably not be so quick to use glass to store foods in it as the rummaging around for food items could break the jars. If you use a chest freezer and want to use glass storage in it then put all your glass storage items in a container with a lid such as a cardboard or plastic box/bin and pack them with cloth, newspaper or plastic bags stuffed around them to minimize breaking.  The container can be removed and the broken glass easily contained if something does break.  You can slip jars into old tube socks to help minimize breaking too.
So here you have a few more ways I use my Mason jars; more ways to come!

1.       Use all sizes of jars for leftovers.
2.       To go container when you have dinner guest who take food home.
3.       For your brown bag lunch, reheat in office microwave; great for salads too.
4.       To freeze large quantities of food like pasta sauce
5.       To hold freezer items you add to, like chicken broth.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

'Sleeves' for my Clothing Hangers

I have a good supply of clothing hangers for clothing pieces that easily slip off, you know strappy blouses, cami's and neck lines that are large.  I have both the satin ones you buy and home made crotched ones on wood hangers. The satin ones are nice but they don’t always hold on to those little spaghetti straps and seem to not stand up to very much wear and tear.  I don’t crochet much any more though crochet covered hangers work very well; and, I didn’t want to go buy new ones because they can be kinda pricey. I felt I could figure out a way to easily make something with what I already had in my home and with the plastic hangers I already had.
Remember that yellow and white with a green thread checkered/plaid fabric I used to pretty up my craft table? I had plenty left over and not a clue what else to do with it.  It has a bit of a texture so it worked well for this project.   

First I got out my hangers and decided how I wanted my design to work.  I thought that a sleeve that would slip over the hanger would be the easiest to make.  If it didn’t have to have a closure at the bottom it would be really fast to make too.  I laid my hanger on the fabric and decided how far I wanted the bottom of the ‘sleeve’ to be below the bottom of the hanger; about 2, 3 inches.  I used a pencil to trace around the out line of the hanger on the wrong side of the fabric, and cut out 2 pieces.

I made a couple of marks at the top opening on each piece with the fabric folded over. I took it to the sewing machine and stitched  the fold in place on each of the 2 pieces I had cut out.

Then with the right sides of my fabric together I stitched the 2 pieces together on the pencil line leaving the opening at the top where I had previously stitched. I turned the bottom edge up and hemmed it about ½ inch .

Turned right side out again I gave it a decorative stitch with a dark green thread around the hem. The sky is the limit for decorative possibilities here! 

I was pleased with my work and made few more. I dressed up one of them with a twisted fabric flower.

I decided to make a few for the grand daughters too.

I added a button at the bottom to keep the sleeve from coming off too easily.

On one I tried out a snap.  You could probably use ribbon to tie it on also, a closure of some kind would be best for ones for the kids so the hanger sleeve does come off when they remove the clothing from it.

I think next time I will try using a natural color canvas or even a drop cloth for the sleeves for my closet.  I would like the neutral color better.  I'll keep you posted on that project and add an up date here when I try it. The cost was next to nothing and could have been zero if I had used recycled fabrics from sheets or other suitable materials.   

If you don't sew, try this with an iron on seam tape strip.  Fabric glue could work, and perhaps even a glue gun. Fabrics with texture such as chinelle or linen works best to hold clothing in place on the hanger.  If you do make this sleeve and use a fabric with a smooth surface, consider adding needed texture by gathering  the fabric, ruching on the top edge.  

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring Time and Family Day

We celebrated spring on Family Day here at our house this last March.  The kids and grandkids gathered for fun and food and some life lesson teaching about sowing and reaping. Our day began with visiting and the kids playing.  Then we all gathered together while Gramma explained the natural laws of reaping what you have sown.  I had many kinds of seeds for everyone to see and feel and try to guess what kind of seeds they were. I included some sprouting potatoes too.  Everyone thought that looked gross! 

Then we headed to the crafting area to paint small flower pots for each to take home with chosen seeds planted in them. 

While the paint dried on the pots we went out side to plant spring vegetables in an old horse trough, the right height for little ones and also to make it easier for Grammas and Pappas backs. I had prepared popsicle sticks ahead of time and pushed them into the soil.  On them I wrote what was to be planted in that space and how many seeds should be planted there.  I gave some instruction on planting depth too.

With the pots filled and the seeds planted we all headed inside for a potluck meal, we had a wonderful time together; it was a good teaching time for little ones, and a good reminder for us older ones. Sharing times like this helps us keep our family bonds strong and relationships growing.

As if on cue, we heard the ice cream truck coming right as we finished dinner and we  ran out to find him and enjoy some ice cream.

Days later a few of the veggies were sprouting; I sent pictures out to all kids and grandkids by e-mail or phone.  We posted pics on Face Book too.

At 10 days things are looking good out in the tiny garden.
 It’s now 3 weeks since the seeds were planted, look how the potatoes are sprouting. There is also watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, carrots, lettuce and onions.  A LOT for such a small space.  We'll see how is goes as it grows!
Family time should be fun time.  Then you can use it as teaching time, not ‘preaching’ time. Let’s grow strong fruitful families!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Focusing on the Big Picture

It seems that the whole world is focused on money and ‘stuff’.  Making money, spending money, saving money, investing money, and all that money does for us.  We make a house payment, we pay for utilities, food and cars, insurance and the list goes on.  Then we buy clothing, household items, toys (an item intended for play time, adult and children’s); we entertain ourselves with money.
How much time do you spend making money, spending money, thinking about money and what you will do with the money you have or will get?  Or the money you won’t get? Hmm…….kind of sad isn’t it? What would we do if all that acquiring, spending and thinking about money stopped and we could spend time doing and thinking about other things?

We are a society lost in the middle of a money storm it seems; floundering around trying to find our way, and hold on to all that we can.  Please, take some time and reflect on your life as it is now and your life as you would like it to be. Can you for this little space of time remove the money aspect of life and see that big picture? What big picture? You know the one that shows the life you always thought you would be living, and I don’t mean the big house and big car. I’m not talking about things in the picture that money can buy.  I want you to get on track with that life; or back on track.
Let’s try to re-focus in the midst of all the ciaos around ‘money’ to re think our priorities.  Let’s make time for things that really matter in the end; at the end of our life. Focus on one area and make a plan on how to achieve your goal.  Then other areas, try to include all aspects of your life.  Do your goals all focus on attaining material possessions? Physical ones like working out, dieting, or getting a nose job;  getting the house painted, cleaning closets and garage? Then you are missing my point.

Set your sights on things that last, where moth and rust don’t destroy. Things that with your last breath you will know you lived your life to the fullest; you made a difference in your world.  What do you remember about last year? Do you remember all the stuff you bought and now it’s in the landfill? Or in the back of your closet forgotten, or stacked in your garage? Do you remember good times with your family and friends? A vacation or a life learning experience? You remember experiences, relationships, not the stuff you spent good money for that you spent your life earning that money for. Change your focus, look for things that last.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My 'Recycled Reused' Dust Mite Proof Pillow Covers

I wanted to get some new quilted pillow covers; the ones I had were beginning to be a little thread bare, so I went shopping at some home goods stores. I had looked around some for them but didn't find the quality that I was looking for at a price I would pay.   Most only had the one layer thin fabric covers that don’t really do the job.  You want a pillow cover to be thick enough to keep moisture and skin oils from getting to your pillow, made from a natural material so it doesn't encourage perspiration, (plastic covers are terrible to sleep on) and with a thread count high enough to keep dust mites from invading your pillow.

Did you know that most covers that claim to be dust mite proof (for mattresses and pillows) are treated with chemicals?  These chemicals will beak down with each laundering and perhaps also with the breakdown of the fibers through movement. Some studies say that these chemicals don’t even work against dust mite protection. I don’t want chemicals next to my face, eyes and nose; I don’t want to breathe it in.  But I don’t want to have dust mites either.  You need a cover with at least 246 thread count of a tightly woven fabric. I haven’t ever seen a 246 thread count fabric so look for 250 and up.  Your sheets should also be at least 250 thread count.  Be sure to wash them often, once a week is best but at least every 2 weeks.

I came home from my shopping trip without any pillow covers.  I decide to make some and thought I would purchase a flat sheet at a local thrift store (with a thread count of 250 or higher) of 100% cotton and make my own. I would also need to get zippers. I wanted thick 2 layered ones so I planned to put some batting or flannel in between to make them. As it turned out I did neither. We recently got rid of the bed in our quest room and I kept the bedding to wash then send to the thrift store for resale, it was still like new. As I was packing it up in a box when I had an idea. The sheets were red so I didn’t want to use them but the mattress protector would work great for pillow covers too. It was 250 thread count and quilted. Most of the work was already done for me.

I tore the elastic stretchy fabric around the sides off first after clipping with my scissors to get it started.  Then I took my old pillow covers and removed the zippers by clipping and tearing the threads. I used the old covers as my pattern (the zippers removed will fit perfectly this way) and with the mattress cover folded in half I cut around my pattern leaving a half inch seam allowance.  I put the opening where the zipper would go along the edge of the mattress cover that was already hemmed over so that was one less step I needed to do. I’m sure you could use Velcro too if you don’t want to do a zipper. Sorry I didn't think to do a tutorial, if you don’t have an old cover for a pattern just measure your pillows and use that as your guide.

My mattress cover was a queen size and I made 2 standard size pillow covers from it. It took less than an hour start to finish. There are leftovers and I will use the leftovers to make a mattress and a pillow for the doll cradle. I have ‘new  to me’ quilted pillow covers that cost me $00, a future doll cradle mattress and pillow also $00, just some time and some know how.  That’s how my parents did things, I’m glad I learned that too. Recycle, reuse, it’s the best way to go when you can.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Glass Canning Jars, Fruit Jars, Mason Jars, Ball Jars

Mason is one brand name, Ball or Kerr another, and if your folks are from the south and a couple of generations back you might know them as ‘fruit jars’. They are jars used for canning fresh fruits and vegetables. Whatever you call them, they are workhorses in the kitchen and around the house.  I use them for all kinds of things besides what they were intended for. I try to stay away from using plastics as much as possible.  I also try not to use to many  disposable items in my home such as plastic bags. These jars really help out with that. They are air tight, **oven proof, **microwavable (with the lid off of course), and can be **frozen. 
I have antique jars, thrift store finds and ones recently purchased. Thrift stores and yard sales are great places to find odd sizes and extra small jars. If you are purchasing used jars or are the recipient of free ones, make sure they have no cracks, chips or other flaws in them that might prove a problem later.  If you plan on microwaving, baking or freezing in them use your new ones and save the antique and vintage for dry storage. 

There are a lot of articles and advice online about what to do and not to do when using these jars. Most will tell you not to freeze in the ones with ‘shoulders’, to use only straight sided jars.  I have found that I can freeze in either if I remember this; when liquids are frozen they will expand and need somewhere to go. Leave a couple of inches of head room below the shoulder of your jar, or below the top. Put the lid on loosely to allow air to escape while it freezes after which the lid can be safely tightened.  Jars can crack during the freezing process. I also think it's a good idea to place jars in a container that will hold broken glass should one break; you can place a few in a box or tube. You can even slide a jar in tube sock will work to help contain broken glass.
If you microwave food in them, be sure to stir frequently, and microwaving an almost full jar is best.  Be careful removing too as it will be hot! Use oven mitts to remove. If the food you are microwaving is high in fat, as with any glass container be careful not to over heat. You can heat frozen foods in these jars on the stove top.  Put the jar up right with the lid removed in a pot and fill about half way up the side of the jar with cool tap water; heat slowly on medium heat, stirring the contents when possible.

These jars have a nostalgia that takes me back to my grandmother’s house and connects me with generations gone by. I am after all using the very same tool she would have used in her kitchen to store and preserve food.  Besides that, I think they are kind of nice looking, a down to earth kind of assurance that you do indeed know a thing or two in the kitchen. Many things have changed in the kitchen since my grandmother’s day but canning jars are the same. How many ways can you use a canning, fruit, Mason jar other than canning? Here are 5 ways for today, and many more ways to follow in up coming posts.
1.       Store dry foods such as rice, beans, pasta. You can easily see when you are low and need to restock.
2.       Use the very small ones for bulk spices and herbs.
3.       Containers for dry specialty mixes like hot chocolate mix, dry soup makings.
4.       Making and storing sun tea. (see my previous post   Sun Tea )
5.       Use as canisters for flour, sugar, and cornmeal. Also great for storing dry cereals that need to be cooked such as oatmeal, cream of wheat or grits.
6.      Solar lites
**Please purchase new jars only if you plan to expose them to heat in any way including hot beverages; or if you will be microwaving with them or freezing with them. Please do not use vintage or older jars for these purposes but use older jars for dry storage or decor. Please note that some stores sell 'craft' mason jars and these should be used for crafting purposes only!

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