Catching Katy

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Fig Jam

In the process of buying our house a few months ago, we were at the house a number of times for various walk-throughs and inspections. But it wasn’t until after we moved in that we noticed the large tree on the side of the house with something growing on it. After some picture sharing and investigating, we determined that it is a fig tree! And it is a beautiful fig tree.

Over the next couple of weeks, I would mention this to people and so many would reply that they love figs and/or volunteered to make fig jam. Well I immediately started doing some research. When are figs ripe? How do you know they’re ripe? What do you do after you pick them? I learned more about figs in a week than I had known my entire life!

Well, fast forward a few weeks. We got back into town from a long weekend in DC and discovered that the figs were ripe (a good month before everything I read said they would be). We proceeded to fill a large basket with figs on that one day. And the next day. And the next day. We picked that entire week and luckily read that you could freeze them before making jam. Just rinse, cut off them stems, and freeze in a freezer bag! We ended up with about 4 gallon-size bags of figs. Just make sure you thaw them before canning.

My mother-in-law and brother-in-law were two of the first to volunteer to make jam, so that weekend they came over and we got to work. It was not difficult, just a little time-consuming. We decided to make 2 different recipes since we had so many figs: regular fig preserves and strawberry fig jam.

Next you may ask what the different between preserves and jam is. It’s pretty much the consistency. Preserves have the whole fruit or chunks of the fruit, while jam is more mashed. In our first full batch, where we made both, the jam also “set” more than the preserves, which were more runny and in more of a sauce. They are delicious either way, I think it’s just personal preference!

The first and last steps will be the same no matter what you are canning. First you have to sterilize the jars. lids, and rings. Simply place the jars, lids, and rings in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. You can let them sit in the water until you’re ready to fill them.

Now for what you put in the jars! Recipes vary slightly, as you’ll see below, but most involve the fruit, sugar, and water. We did the strawberry fig first. For that one we combined the figs and sugar in a pot. Let that cool for a while then add a box of strawberry Jell-O®. Boil for about 7 minutes. Figs are really juicy, so you don’t even need the water that a lot of recipes call for. It also, again, depends on what consistency you like. Lastly, if you want a more jam-like consistency, simply mash it all up with a potato masher. (recipe from allrecipes)

The regular fig preserve recipe did use water and we did preserves (didn’t mash it all up), so the final consistency was not as congealed, but you can use less water than the recipe calls for if you want it thicker. You toss the figs and sugar together (not over any heat) and stir occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Then add water and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes. (recipe from Food and Wine)

Now is where your typical canning steps pick up again. When you’re ready to fill them, use a jar lifter (this is a handy one on Amazon – you can pick it up and dump it without burning your hands!) to remove from the water, and fill with your jam. I used a measuring cup to fill my jars.

After you fill them, you will wipe the jar to remove any drips and put on the lid and ring. I used a towel to hold the jar while doing this since they are still warm (glass stays hot for a while).

After all your jars are filled, you’ll fill a large stockpot half with water and bring it a boil. Use your hand jar holder and put in your sealed jars. Make sure there’s about an inch of water over the jars – add more water if needed. Let them boil for about 10 minutes then remove (jar lifter!) them to cool on a towel.

The recipes calls for 1/2 pint jars but we used pint jars. And we still got 12 jars out of it – and didn’t even use all the figs. Again, this is pretty simple, just a little time consuming, but definitely worth having homegrown and homemade jam!

Here are the recipes for both and you can download them and/or print. Enjoy!


Strawberry Fig Preserves

Ingredients

  • 4 C fresh figs, stems removed
  • 3 C white sugar
  • 1 3oz. package strawberry Jello-O
  • 5 1/2 pint canning jars with lids and rings

Instructions

  1. Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Mix figs and sugar together in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring often until sugar has dissolved.
  3. Mix in strawberry gelatin. Bring to a boil and boil for 7 minutes.
  4. Mash preserves with a potato masher (if you want jam) or don’t (if you want preserves)
  5. Pack jam into the hot, sterilized jars, filling to within 1⁄4 inch of the top.
  6. Run a knife or thin spatula around the insides of jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles.
  7. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any drips. Top with lids and screw on rings.
  8. Fill a large stockpot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Lower filled jars into boiling water using a jar holder. Leave a 2-inch space between the jars. Pour in more water, if necessary, so that water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars.
  9. Bring the water to a rolling boil, cover the pot, and leave for 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from pot and let cool on a dishcloth. Once cool, press on the lids to confirm that they have “popped” – lid does not move up or down.

Fig Jam

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. figs, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C + 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 C water

Instructions

  1. Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for at least 5 minutes.
  2. In large, nonreactive saucepan, toss the fig pieces with the sugar and let stand, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the sugar is mostly dissolved and figs are juicy.
  3. Add lemon juice and water. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved
  4. Simmer jam over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft and the liquid runs off the side of a spoon in thick, heavy drops – about 20 minutes.
  5. Optional – mash fruit with a potato masher.
  6. Pack jam into the hot, sterilized jars, filling to within 1⁄4 inch of the top.
  7. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any drips. Top with lids and screw on rings.
  8. Fill a large stockpot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Lower filled jars into boiling water using a jar holder. Leave a 2-inch space between the jars. Pour in more water, if necessary, so that water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars.
  9. Bring the water to a rolling boil, cover the pot, and leave for 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from pot and let cool on a dishcloth. Once cool, press on the lids to confirm that they have “popped” – lid does not move up or down.


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Wedding Wrap Up

Our wedding was 9 months ago but I took a blog hiatus last year, so I wanted to do a quick post with some tips. Obviously different things work for different people and many factors go into how you plan your wedding, but I think there are some general suggestions that are helpful for everyone.

  • Spreadsheets. They are your friend. Even if they aren’t very detailed I highly suggest a spreadsheet for various aspects of planning: comparing venues and/or vendors, budget, timelines, deadlines, checklists. Being organized will help keep you sane. We used Google docs so everyone involved in certain parts could have access to what they needed.
  • Coordination. No matter what your budget, you need a day of coordinator. I can be a professional. It can be a friend of a friend who is very organized and who wouldn’t have been invited to the wedding anyway. But you, the bride, do not need to be thinking about details the day of the wedding. And your mother or mother-in-law, or anyone already involved in the wedding shouldn’t have to either. If you’re in the Atlanta area or North Georgia, I highly recommend White Vine Weddings because they were amazing.
  • Food. Obviously you want it to be good, but rarely do people remember the food. We hired a caterer and hadn’t even tasted the food but they had great reviews. There are numerous wedding websites now that have reviews of any company that does things wedding-related. Use them. In the end, there were a few things we would have changed about our catering experience, but it did not make or break our wedding. People ate, enjoyed the food, and the service was good. Check out Zest in Atlanta!
  • Friends. If you’re like me, you had a number of friends get married before you. Ask them questions, ask for recommendations, and ask for help. I don’t think I asked for much help (though my friends may remember differently) but I did ask one friend in particular a lot of questions. She had gotten married in the same city about a year and a half before me. She had great recommendations and we ended up using the same DJ, who people still talk about today as being the best wedding DJ they had experienced. DJ Spontaneous will not disappoint!
  • Decor. It can be simple or it can be elaborate, but make it what you want. It’s your day. If you have the budget, rent items so you don’t have to figure out what to do with them afterward. If you lucky enough to find a company that does multiple things, you can cut down on vendors. White Vine Weddings (read coordinator above) also did beautiful decor that can be customized just for your wedding! See photos below of signs and flowers that they did.
  • Photo and Video. These are the things you will have from your wedding for the rest of your lives. Make it a planning and budget priority. Use reviews and recommendations. Every person I asked when my planning our wedding said they either regretting not have a videographer or that the videographer was the best thing they spent money on. We were lucky enough to have connections for both of these things. My friend did our photography and my husband’s coworker shot video. Then if you’re even luckier, like me, your husband can edit the video and you get a perfect, personalized reminder of your special day.

In the end, you want your wedding day to be exactly what you want and not what other people want (except maybe ask your fiancé’s opinion occasionally…I guess it is his day too). Make it perfect for you and enjoy the process!


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The Big 3-0

The day has finally arrived. The end. Well, at least the end of my 30 before 30 list. Today is big 3-0 birthday. And despite a sweet first grader (from #10 on my list) guessing this week’s celebratory day to be my 39th (which was better than the first kid’s guess of 80), I am excited! My 30th year was a solid – there was fun, travel, growing, and some major decisions. I did some awesome things to prepare for this day, as is reflected in my list that I spent a little less than 2 years working on. I’d call it a success – crossing off 24 things officially, but unofficially 25 as I am pretty much counting #5 to volunteer for a race – I signed up, I got up and was on my way, and they canceled the race. So we’ll call it 25.

Some that I did not complete simply required more prep than I had time for this year – training for one more triathlon or a bike race – while others just fell off the radar – learning to play my guitar or staying in a nice hotel. But I got to cross off some pretty amazing things: travels (GreeceOhio, & family road trip), running my 4th half marathon and blowing my best time to pieces, eating my way around Atlanta (#11), and loving the outdoors (#1), among many more.

I don’t understand the big deal about 30 (my dad still remembers one of his sisters thinking the world was over turning 30). I’m surrounded by people I love who care about me, I have a job and a great condo, I’m keeping my mind sharp in classes, I have been celebrating all week and I am now on the way to the beach with some of my favorite gals. Thirty, schmirty. This is the best birthday ever!


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Chalk Paint Projects

Pay attention because this is the most DIY you will ever get out of me. I bought a condo about a month ago and have some great pieces of furniture but wanted to update some of it. My brother and sister-in-law recently tried out Annie Sloan Chalk Paint – they loved it and it looked great so I decided to try it out. No sanding, no priming – sounds good to me! They had some leftover Duck Egg Blue color (it doesn’t take much of this to paint anything) which is the color I wanted for my desk anyway, so my mom tested it first on my wine rack when I was out of town one weekend. Easy!

So we plowed on forward. I apologize for the lack of great pictures for the desk – I forgot until we had taken it apart already. But we took it apart, painted it all (2 coats), then waxed it all with the clear wax, and bought new hardware! The wax acts as a sealer though I may go back and use a different sealer on the top since my hot computer sits on top of it. I LOVE how it turned out though.

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Tip #1: we painted inside and I have a dog – somehow little dog hairs kept getting into the paint and wax – so beware. We did my second piece at my parent’s house in the garage and did not have any issues with stuff getting into the paint or wax.

Tip #2: we used a old t-shirt to apply the wax instead of the official Annie Sloan wax brush.

Tip #3: we waited overnight to wax on top of the paint

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Next up: dining room table. I bought this table many years ago off Craigslist. It didn’t fit in my previous apartment, so it’s been in my parent’s basement – hence the no ‘before’ picture of it together – but here are all the pieces.

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After much debate and help from a wonderful woman at Chalk It Up, I decided to go with two colors: Coco for the top and Country Grey for the legs, with dark wax for the detail (getting adventurous). Then she recommended a different sealer for the top since it’s something that will be used a lot.

the goods

the goods

Now none of this would have happened without my mother’s help. She’s a little more DIY-ly inclined than I am. So we took a good part of a weekend and got to work – 2 coats of paint on each piece, letting the paint dry overnight, then my mom clear waxed the legs and we decided to just leave those as they were (no dark wax).

legsbeforeafter

tablebeforeafter

Next we had to figure out a technique for the dark wax. You want to clear wax first, so we did that and let it sit for a couple hours. Then trial and error ensued. The idea is for the dark wax to fill in the detail, then you clear wax away the excess. What worked for us: my mom used a small paint brush (like large art brush size) to put the dark wax on the detail edge, then I came behind with the clear wax and old t-shirt to remove the excess. It actually worked pretty well and I was really happy with how it turned out!

darkwax

Lastly we sealed the top with General Finishes topcoat (pictured above) using a foam brush (3 coats). Lots of coats of things overall which is why it was no quick project. Then we got it to my condo and put it together. I LOVE it! We may still paint the legs of my chairs but that’s a project for another weekend. Any other chalk paint experiences out there? Any additional tips? Any questions that I may or may not be able to answer?

Tip #4: it will depend on the project and what look you want, but we used a large art brush to apply the dark wax, then still a t-shirt with the clear wax

Tip #5: don’t use wax on a surface that will be used a lot for different purposes (i.e. hot dishes, sweating glasses, potential spills, etc).

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Plated

I am all about trying new things, especially when it comes to food, and especially if it is simple. I’m sure you’ve seen many different meal delivery programs – from the actual meal being delivered or the ingredients for you to cook yourself – but I’ve never tried one. My coworker, however, had tried and recommended Plated, and they have a great referral program, so I gave it a shot!

You pick the day you want it delivered, then it gives you 9 meal options to choose from. Each meal feeds 2 people and you pick 2 meals (or more). Or if you’re on your own, like me, you get 4 meals out of it! The description tells you what ingredients are included and what you should have yourself (simple things like olive oil, salt, pepper). And each meal is marked by difficulty, so you can keep it easy or challenge yourself!

And then it arrives!! In a cool insulated box with ice packs with everything you need!

it arrives!

it arrives!

all ingredients and detailed recipe cards with pictures

all ingredients and detailed recipe cards with pictures for 2 meals

Everything is even measured out (except for those basics). I thought the difficulty level was appropriate and both meals were delicious.

my first meal - every ingredient measured out

my first meal

meal #1 - meatloaf and broccoli

meal #1 – meatloaf with parmesan roasted broccoli

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ingredients for meal #2

ingredients for meal #2

meal #2: vietnamese caramel fish with vermicelli and bok choy

meal #2: vietnamese caramel fish with vermicelli and bok choy

Interested?? Give it a try! Have questions? Ask away! Want a referral code (2 plates free)? Just let me know!

If you are doing Whole30, you may want to wait to try Plated. If you are doing paleo, it’s probably doable. If you have an allergy, it’s probably doable. You can select, in your food profile, certain ingredients to leave out! It will automatically enroll you in the subscription, but you don’t pay anything for that up front and it will remind you before your card is charged so you can unsubscribe and not be charged.


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Commercial Round Up

I actually like watching football and although I was not really rooting for either team in the Super Bowl this year, I was so glad it was an exciting game – down to the last seconds. But I am no football analyst – I’ll leave that to the pros. I am, however, a connoisseur of commercials. Ok, not really, but that’s normally the other exciting part about the big game. Normally. I know the NFL has gotten a lot of bad press this year, but come. ON! The words that come to mind for this year’s ads: boring, serious, dull, emotional, sentimental. Some of them were cute – but it’s the Super Bowl! Show me the funny!

Anyway, there were a sparse couple that were funny and some sentimental ones that were cute and uplifting. So here’s my top 5. (I know you expect the “Like a Girl” ad to automatically make my list, but I saw that months ago, so I don’t count it as a Super Bowl commercial.)

Runner up: Coca-Cola Make It Happy. It’s cute and has a great message.

5. Nationwide Mindy Kaling (Nationwide’s only non-serious commercial; she’ll always make things funny).

4. Microsoft Braylon O’Neill (not funny but REALLY cool)

3. Snickers Brady Bunch

2. Budweiser puppy – always gonna be at the top. (and the cover of one of my favorite songs is amazing)

1. Liam Neeson Clash of Clans (yes, it’s for an app game, but this is not getting the credit it deserves)

 

But let’s be real – does anything actually beat DANCING SHARKS??


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Cilantro Lime Chicken

This was another easy crock pot recipe I found – but it is very similar to my taco chicken (which should have been obvious). Both are delicious, you just probably don’t want to make them in the same week like I did! Similarly, you can do many things with this chicken once it’s cooked. I served over some zoodles (sauteed and seasoned with chili powder) and with some sweet potatoes – didn’t really go together but I need the sweet potatoes as a was running a 5K the next morning. Enjoy!

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Cilantro-Lime Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 C salsa (I made my own or you can find some without added sugar for Whole30 – read labels!)
  • ~12 sprigs fresh cilantro
  • 2 limes (save the rinds)
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • dash or 2 cayenne pepper
  • dash of salt & pepper

Directions

Juice both limes and set the rinds aside.

Place chicken in bottom of crock pot. Add lime juice, chili powder, and salsa.

Tie or band cilantro together. Drop cilantro and lime rinds on top of chicken.

Cook on low 8-10 hours (or high for 6 hours).

When chicken is tender enough, remove the lime rinds and cilantro. Shred the chicken in the pot using two forks.

Stir well and add remaining seasoning. Continue to cook or simmer for about 30 minutes.

[from eatlivegrowpaleo.com]