Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Every Breath

I used to read Nicholas Sparks books as soon as they were printed, but I haven’t read any of his in a long time. They honestly got to be a little predictable and blah. But my mom brought one of his newer books to me recently so I gave it a shot.

Every Breath is based on a true story and it’s obviously (if you know anything about Sparks’ novels) a love story. Main character, Hope, is “on a break” in her relationship and escapes to her family’s beach house to think about some things. Other main character, Tru, born and raised in Africa, receives a letter and plane ticket from his biological father, who he has never met before. Tru, of course, ends up staying at the beach house next to Hope’s and they have an instant connection.

They spent a little less than a week together, walking the beach, cooking dinner, getting to know each other. They visit a known nearby destination called Kindred Spirit – a mailbox where people leave stories, letters, and thoughts and other people can come and read them. Kindred Spirit will play an incredible role in their story later on.

Again, I’m always torn on how much detail to give. The story is pretty absurd but you can expect nothing less from a Sparks novel. It’s a story of love, loss, and making difficult decisions. Good, quick read. Enjoy!


1 Comment

China Rich Girlfriend

Kevin Kwan really fought his niche with this series. They are really fascinating and entertaining! China Rich Girlfriend picks up where Crazy Rich Asians left off but I felt like it’s not as focused on Nick and Rachel. It’s mainly the same characters with a few new ones thrown in. I was glad to have a character recap at the beginning of the book as a reminder of the main characters back-stories and relationships to one another.

Nick and Rachel are planning their wedding but Nick has only invited a couple of family members who were not concerned that Rachel was not from a prominent Asian family. But word gets out about the wedding and, of course, drama ensues. I’ll go ahead and tell you as well that they find Rachel’s real father (hence the new characters) so she and Nick end up honeymooning to Asia. There, they get to spend time with old and new friends and new family. But, again, there is drama. So much drama, in fact, that someone almost dies. Don’t worry, I won’t tell you who. All in all, it is a mostly happy ending but I am excited to see what the third book brings. Because I cannot imagine what the level of drama could be bumped up to. It almost reminds me of Gossip Girl on steroids and with adults instead of teens (side note – new Gossip Girl coming to HBO?! Anyone?!).

Great summer/beach read and I can’t wait to read the next one!


Leave a comment

Palm Coast

July 4th can be a tough holiday because it sometimes falls in the middle of the week and most people just get the one day off. Luckily this year (and for the next couple of years) it fell on or near a weekend. So it was easy to take one day and make it an extra long weekend.

My father-in-law has a condo on the beach in Palm Coast, Florida, just south of St. Augustine, and we try to get down as much as possible (free beach and visit family? no brainer!). That usually ends up being just a couple times a year since it is about a 6 hour drive, but we decided to make an extra long weekend of it for the 4th this year.

I grew up going to the gulf almost exclusively, so I remember my first time to Palm Coast very distinctly. The beach looked so weird because there are tons of rocks. You can only be out on the beach during specific times (lower tides) because otherwise there’s not really a beach. But there’s still plenty of beach time and it’s kind of remote, so it’s never crowded, even during the July holiday. Our dog Royal loves the beach and he would run and splash and chase the ball and roll in the sand all day if he could.

We usually eat out when we go to visit and get around to different places, but there is one restaurant we go to every single time. Osteen’s Restaurant in St. Augustine has THE best fried shrimp you will ever eat. I’m sorry (but not sorry) I cannot speak to anything else on the menu but I’ve never gotten anything else on the menu. The shrimp are giant, the sauces and hush puppies are delicious, and the sides are always fresh. My go to sides rotate between green beans, coleslaw, and fries. Pro tips: cash only and no reservations; there will be a wait so either go at an odd time or get there between 7:30-8pm (they stop seating at 8:30); or get it to go!


Leave a comment

The Silent Patient

This is going to be a difficult one to review without giving away too much information. So fair warning. I’ll go ahead and say this was a great book and I definitely recommend it. Keep reading if you don’t care about reading a few details.

I would say The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a mystery/psychological thriller. Theo is a psychotherapist and has the opportunity to work with a notorious criminal, Alicia Berenson. Alicia, a renowned artist, was found having brutally killed her husband. But she never speaks again. Not to defend herself, not to give an explanation, not to give an apology.

She lives at a residential home for criminals with mental illnesses and a position opens up. Theo has dreamed of working with Alicia and takes the job because he thinks he can get her to talk. You don’t find out why he is so obsessed with her until the end of the book but he has very personal and egotistical motivations to try to get her to talk. However, it almost backfires.

The format of the story is interesting and jumps in time between present and the days leading up to the murder of Alicia’s husband. But I never would have guessed the twist that the story takes towards the end of the book. Though there is a feeling of something being slightly off throughout the book, it’s pretty much impossible to put your finger on until the end.

This was a quick read (I finished in less than a week), which I appreciate and it definitely keeps your attention. You won’t want to put it down. Enjoy!


1 Comment

DC

We’ve been talking since before our wedding (yes, over a year ago) about getting to DC because we both have friends there. I really wanted it to be during baseball season so we could hit up one of the nearby stadiums. We finally made it happen a few weeks ago and it was perfect timing.

We stayed with friends in the Capital Hill area, which was beautiful and close to so many things. Flying in on Thursday night gave us the whole days Friday, just the two of us, to explore. We walked almost everywhere (with the exception of one Lyft ride towards the end of the day because our legs were wore OUT). We had both been to DC before, but I hadn’t been since elementary school. One completely free day obviously isn’t a whole lot for DC, but I feel like we made the most of it.

We hit up Bullfrog Bagels for a quick, delicious breakfast, then continued walking towards the mall. We made tentative plans the night before and it was actually nice to not be on a strict schedule. We just talked and took in the sites. The weather was beautiful too, albeit a little too windy for my liking, especially coming from the summer weather in Atlanta. We saw the Capital and made our way down the mall.

Our first official stop was the National Museum of American History. It’s so great that the Smithsonian museums are free because we didn’t even make a dent in all there was to see in just one of them. But we got to see some great stuff, mainly covering all of the wars. It sounds depressing but it’s really interesting seeing how men and women have fought for our country to make it what it is today.

We then made our way to the National Portrait Gallery, which was top of my list. They had a really cool women’s suffrage installation and then of course, the presidential portraits. Each president’s portrait is so unique, especially seeing them all together. I definitely recommend it.

On Saturday we hit up the International Spy Museum. I failed and took no pictures, but I definitely recommend it. It’s a private museum, so it’s not free, but it’s worth it. It’s great for families and very interactive. The only downside was that it’s so new (only opened a few months ago) that it was very crowded. So we didn’t do a lot of the interactive things because we didn’t want to wait and fight for space. But it was fascinating to hear and see stories of international espionage, techniques used in specific cases, and just how long spies have been used for various things.

Our final stop was, of course, a Nationals game and like I said earlier, it was perfect not only because they were playing the Braves, but it was the DC Vanderbilt alumni chapter game for the summer (go ‘Dores!). We added another new stadium to our lists (that makes 7 for me…8 if you include just a stadium tour for one). The stadium reminded me a lot of the Braves new(ish) stadium and it was a great time seeing lots of friends!


Leave a comment

Artisan Custom Closets

My husband and I bought our first house together a few months ago. We pretty much instantly fell in love with this house. It was built in 1965, had the same owner until 2018 when it was sold to someone who completely renovated it, who then sold it to us. So we are the second family to live in it!

The renovation was beautiful but there were still a couple things left for us to do. And at the top of that list was the closets. Of the 3 bedrooms, only one has closets with any kind of hanging or shelving system. The laundry room was a blank slate as well. And of course we needed to hang clothes when we moved in, so we were luckily able to get going on this project even before we closed on the house.

We asked my brother-in-law who they had used for their closets. They loved who they used but it had a been a while, so they had actually merged with another company (or something). So we ended up at Artisan Custom Closets with Andrea as our Design Consultant.

She came out to the house and talked about what we wanted. She took a look at the spaces and took measurements. A couple weeks later she came back and showed us designs, including a photo mock up. Everything looked great. We picked out our finishes and other options (drawer fronts, pulls, hanging bar finishes, soft close, etc.) and put half down.

Then came the only downside. We had to wait. It took about 5 weeks for production, so we had to go a few weeks just having clothes in piles and on beds. Which was fine. First world problem, right? They produce everything in house and have their own installation staff, which was comforting. Then came installation day. It took a whole day to do 3 closets and the guy who did the installation was great. He was efficient, polite, and cleaned up well after.

We were very impressed by the whole process and very pleased with the result. And the best part was that it was VERY affordable. And the initial consultation is free, so why wouldn’t you at least check it out if you’re considering custom closets? Check out Artisan if you’re in the Atlanta area.

Our closets and laundry aren’t huge, so ours were fairly simple. They work perfectly in our house and are already being used well. The master closet was the largest project and we were able to easily do his and hers sides, with slight differences to meet each of our needs. My side has a long hanging bar (dresses) and more shelves to shoes. Not the greatest pictures due to lighting and small spaces, but it should give you an idea. Definitely an added bonus to our new house!

Laundry room is a long, narrow walk-in room with washer and dryer on each end
Shelves, cabinets, & a hanging bar!
Guest bedroom reach in closet
Long, narrow walk-in master closet
His and her sides – love it!