Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Homemade Glass Cleaner

If you are a long-time reader of my blog, you have probably heard about my love for natural, homemade cleaners. In 2015, I shared my homemade all-purpose cleaner recipe, and earlier this year, I posted my recipe for homemade toilet bowl cleaner. I still use both of those to this day, and they continue to work wonderfully.

As a Christmas gift, my youngest sister-in-law, Lena, gave me a set of natural cleaning solutions and bath products. My favorite item was the homemade glass cleaner. Until then, I had been using store-bought window cleaners (like Windex or a comparable generic brand), and although they worked decently well, I wasn't thrilled about the toxic smell they left behind.

This all-natural glass cleaner recipe is tried and true, and it's so easy to make. I just have to share it with you!

Homemade Glass Cleaner

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups lukewarm water*
15 drops essential oils (optional)

Whisk together ingredients, and pour into a spray bottle. (Be sure to shake the bottle well before each use.) How easy is that?

*This glass cleaner stores well, so feel free to make an entire bottle. For those who have asked, the warm water helps the ingredients dissolve better initially, but the solution does not need to be warmed before each use.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Pectin-Free Peach Jam Tutorial


Mr. Handsome and I are celebrating the new week with our fresh batch of homemade peach jam (on homemade bread, of course). Would you like to celebrate with us?

This year, we were so busy with moving and our trip to Canada that we hardly had time to eat any peaches. How sad is that?

Well, just last week, my in-laws got their hands on a few bushels and graciously shared some with us. Last year, I canned peaches (click here to view my tutorial), so this year I decided to do something a bit different...homemade preach preserves. (We ate about two dozen fresh peaches before canning the rest.) My recipe follows the old-fashioned method that does not require pectin.

Homemade Peach Preserves (Without Pectin)

10 cups diced peaches (skin and pits removed)*
3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Pint or half-pint jars

*As a general rule of thumb: 1 pound of fresh peaches=3-4 medium peaches=approximately 2 cups sliced peaches

Step 1: Put a large pot of water on the stove to simmer. This will be your water bath for canning, so make sure the pot is large enough to allow the cans to be completely immersed, with 2 inches of water above the lids.

Add as many jars, lids, and rims as will fit in the pot at one time (with jars standing up). I added four. In order to fully sanitize, make sure the water is simmering for 15 minutes. When finished sanitizing, turn off burner, but leave jars in hot water until ready to use. Side note: For extra sanitation, I run jars and rims (not lids) through the dishwasher before placing in simmering water bath.

Here is a note from the Ball/Kerr website on sanitizing your canning lids: "Our Quality Assurance Team performed comprehensive testing to determine the need for pre-heating lids. Ultimately, we determined that it’s completely safe to skip pre-warming lids in the canning process. While it’s still safe to simmer your lids before use, you should never boil them. Our recommendation for over 40 years has always been to simmer (180°F) - not boil (212°F) - the lids."

Step 2: Load your peaches into the sink, and rinse.

Step 3: Fill a medium-sized pot with water, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium, add several peaches, and cook for 1 minute. If the water begins to boil, turn the heat down. Meanwhile, prepare a medium-sized bowl of ice water.

Step 4: After peaches have been in the hot water for 1 minute, transfer peaches to ice water for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

Step 5: Remove peaches from ice water, and gently remove skin with your hands. If your peaches are well-ripened, the skin should come off easily. If it doesn't, let peaches soak in the hot water bath for another 30 seconds and then in the ice water for another minute.

Step 6: Dice peaches (removing pits), and add to a large mixing bowl. Per 10 cups of diced peaches, add 3 cups granulated sugar and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice. Mix well with a wooden spoon. If time allows, cover the bowl of peaches, and leave it to sit at room temperature for an hour to enhance the flavor. If time does not allow, continue to the next step.

Step 7: Transfer peach mixture to a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Use the back of the wooden spoon to mash peaches against the side of the pan as they cook.

When peaches start to boil, begin stirring constantly. Continue stirring over medium heat until peaches cook down and reach jam consistency (25-50 minutes). To determine if jam is ready, place a small amount on a cold plate, and place the plate in the freezer for a few minutes. If it gels, the mixture is ready.

When peaches reach jelly consistency, remove empty jars, lids, and rims from hot water, and set on a towel. Fill jars with hot jam, leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top. To release air pockets, run a butter knife or wooden skewer around the sides and through the middle of the jars.

Wipe rims of jars with a clean cloth, and place lids on each. Screw rims on firmly (not too tight). Now it's time to process your jam. Using your tongs, place jars in your makeshift water bath canner. (Jars should not touch each other.) The water level should be 2 inches above the lids.

Bring water to a boil, and boil 10 minutes (half-pint or pint-sized jars). If you live at an altitude above 6,000 feet, the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends processing for an additional five minutes.

Use tongs to remove jars, and place undisturbed on a towel for 24 hours. (Make sure jars don't touch each other.)

Lids should seal within 30 minutes. To check if they have sealed, press down on each lid. If they don't bounce back, they are sealed properly. Jars that don't seal within 24 hours should be refrigerated and eaten promptly. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Icefields Parkway Part 1

On day five of our Rocky Mountain adventure, we woke up at the crack of dawn and began our road trip up the Icefields Parkway. Cell service cut out almost immediately and would not return until the following day, so I pulled out the list I had made of all the stops along the way. The signage was pretty good, but we still would have missed some of the highlights had it not been for my handy list.

Our first stop was Herbert Lake. It was just off the road and definitely worth the 30 seconds it took to walk from the car to the lake. Simply beautiful.

We hopped back in the car and continued driving, passing the Hector Lake viewpoint after 10 minutes but deciding not to stop. About 10 minutes past that was a pull-off that provided a fabulous view of Crowfoot Glacier. Naturally, we snapped a picture from both sides of the road.

Another short drive (about 8 minutes) and we arrived at Simpson's Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. My family and I stayed there when I was about eight years old, so I have great memories of that place.

The lodge sits on the rocky shores of beautiful Bow Lake, making it a popular stop for tourists. When I visited as a child, it was an especially chilly summer, and the surrounding mountains were still covered in ice and snow, like a winter wonderland. I remember it vividly.

Our next stop was Peyto Lake (another 10 minutes up the road). Named after turn-of-the-century guide Bill Peyto, Peyto Lake is known as "the bluest lake in the Rockies."

Also in the same location is Bow Summit, the highest point on the Icefields Parkway (2,135 meters/7,000 feet elevation).

After a 25 minute drive, we stopped at Mistaya Canyon. We walked 0.5 miles down a steep incline and arrived at this spot.

If you look closely, you'll see the powerful current rushing through the canyon. Truly an incredible sight! There were additional trails we could have hiked, but we were on a tight schedule, as we had to make it to our glacier tour by 4:00pm. We made the grueling trek up the steep hill and back to our car.

A short five minute drive along the main road brought us to Saskatchewan River Crossing, the first oasis with gas and food that we had hit since Lake Louise. Still no cell reception, though. 

Twenty-five minutes later, we made our way up the "Big Hill" and pulled over on the side of the road for a breathtaking view of the North Saskatchewan Valley.

By that point, we were only 10 minutes away from our destination for the night, a large building that houses the Glacier View Inn and the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre.

I had called the hotel a few weeks before and booked their very last room that week. What a blessing! It is the only hotel and restaurant for many miles and was the perfect place to stop. But before calling it a night, we still had to take our glacier tour, my most anticipated stop on our entire trip. This has been a long post already, so I'll have to wait until next time to tell you all about our excursion on the Athabasca Glacier.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Rocky Mountains Paintings

Photos and details from Day 5 of our Rocky Mountain adventure (the day we drove up the Icefields Parkway and walked on a glacier that is as thick as the Eiffel Tower is tall) are coming soon. Until then, I have something else I would like to show you.

On my post about Moraine Lake, I mentioned that my husband has done multiple paintings of places we visited on our trip, and I have since received requests to share those paintings with all of here they are! I'll also include the photo(s) that inspired each painting. Which is your favorite?

Moraine Lake

Bow Lake

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Blueberry Pancake Recipe

Last Saturday, both Mr. Handsome and I woke up craving blueberry pancakes. I still had a large bag of frozen blueberries that I had picked in early July, so we decided to go for it. I pulled out a basic pancake recipe that I have had since childhood and tweaked it. Both of us loved the result!

Blueberry Pancakes

1/2 cup flour (I use white whole wheat--a mixture of white and whole wheat)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon olive oil
Oil or butter to grease griddle/pan (I use coconut oil)
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

In a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder Stir to blend. In a bowl with a spout, combine egg, milk, and olive oil. Whisk mixture until blended. Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir to combine, being careful not to overwork.

Fold in blueberries. 

Grease pan or griddle with oil or butter, and heat 2 minutes over medium heat before adding pancake batter. Pour 3-4 inch pancakes onto cooking surface. Flip when air bubbles form and a few have burst (approximately 3 minutes per side, depending on heat level). 

Remove from heat, and add desired toppings.

Blueberry Pancakes

1/2 cup flour (I use white whole wheat--a mixture of white and whole wheat)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon olive oil
Oil or butter to grease griddle/pan (I use coconut oil)
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

  • In a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder Stir to blend.
  • In a bowl with a spout, combine egg, milk, and olive oil. Whisk mixture until blended.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir to combine, being careful not to overwork. Fold in blueberries.
  • Grease pan or griddle with oil or butter, and heat 2 minutes over medium heat before adding pancake batter.
  • Pour 3-4 inch pancakes onto cooking surface. Flip when air bubbles form and a few have burst (approximately 3 minutes per side, depending on heat level).
  • Remove from heat, and add desired toppings.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse 2017 Photos

It's Monday afternoon, and we just experienced a total solar eclipse here in Nashville. I wasn't all that excited, but I must stay it turned out to be pretty neat. I was able to snap some pictures by putting my eclipse glasses over my iPhone camera lens. This photo shows the sun at its usual state.

This photo was taken 15 minutes before totality. The sun is small, but you can clearly see the crescent shape.

Here's another shot of the crescent:

By the time totality hit just before 1:30pm, the birds and insects were making their nighttime noises, which was quite strange. Through our glasses, we watched the sun disappear completely. Then we removed our glasses and were blown away. My camera didn't pick up the image, but this photo is a near-exact representation of what we saw:

Were you able to see the solar eclipse? What did you think?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Solar Eclipse

On Monday, the continental United States--as well as parts of Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America--will be treated to a partial solar eclipse. Those who live within the thin path of totality will see a total solar eclipse.

While total solar eclipses occur quite frequently (every 1-3 years) they are often in uninhabited areas of the world.

Here in Nashville, we are within the path of totality and are looking forward to the celestial show. We have been warned that our city will receive an influx of tourists, so we plan to just watch from home. (Flight prices to Nashville have increased by as much as 10 times on the days surrounding the eclipse!)

For those of you planning to watch the eclipse, I would love to hear what your plans are.

Be sure that your eclipse glasses are undamaged and unscratched. They also must be stamped to meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard. The market is filled with counterfeit glasses that wrongly claim to have that verification, so you'll want to read this article from NASA to make sure your glasses are manufactured by a legitimate organization.

Happy eclipsing!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Moraine Lake

A few days, I shared photos and details from our visit to Lake Louise on our fourth day in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Although it was late in the day when we finished our 6.5-hour hike, we were determined to visit Moraine Lake before leaving the area.

It was about 6:00pm by the time we started the 30-minute drive up the narrow, windy road to Moraine Lake. There was no cell service and no turnarounds. When we were about one mile away from the lake, traffic came to a stand still.

We had spent our first few days in areas where there were not many tourists, so this was a shock to us. But Moraine Lake is arguably the most iconic spot in the Rocky Mountains (both in the U.S. and Canada and is often used as the "postcard picture" of the Rockies. So considering we were in Banff over what was expected to be one of the busiest weekends in years, it actually wasn't all that surprising.

We sat in traffic for another 30 minutes before we were able to secure a spot in the tiny parking lot. There are trails to hike at Moraine, but we elected to just enjoy the breathtaking view from on top of the giant rock pile next to the parking lot. It was one of Mr. Handsome's favorite views, and after we returned home he painted a beautiful picture of it.

That evening, we stayed at a beautiful cabin at Storm Mountain Lodge.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mango-Broccoli Salad Recipe

Many of you know that I love salad. When I'm in a hurry, you'll often find me chowing down on a heap of raw spinach leaves or romaine lettuce, drizzled with one of my many homemade salad dressings, but when I have the time, I enjoy being more creative.

This salad is a tasty way to enjoy broccoli. It's easy to make and is the perfect addition to a holiday spread or as part of a weekday meal.

Mango-Broccoli Salad
4 cups chopped fresh broccoli
1 or 2 large ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and diced
3/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion (or chives, if you have some handy)
3/4 cup buttermilk ranch salad dressing
3 Tablespoons orange juice
1 Tablespoon prepared horseradish
1-11 ounce can mandarin orange sections drained (or sliced, fresh clementines)

Combine broccoli, mango, cashews, and onion in a large bowl.

Combine ranch dressing, orange juice, and horseradish in a small bowl.

Add the dressing mixture to the broccoli mixture, and toss.

Top with orange sections, and serve.

*If the salad will be sitting for a bit before it is served, save the cashews and add them just before serving so that they stay nice and firm.