Making Loquat Jam

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Our two loquat trees are producing in abundance. It’s been cool to see the development over the months and I’m trying to not let it go to waste! We’ve shared the fruit with the birds, and we’ve gathered and eaten them off the tree.

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I did a search on the web for loquat recipes and there are some. I would love to learn to make wine, but that’s not in the cards this year.

I’ve made loquat bread (will share soon) and now I can add loquat jam to the list. I actually made a batch that ended up way, way too sweet for our taste, so Brian went out and pulled some more for our second attempt.

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I bought some jelly glass mason jars so that we could give away some as gifts.

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I tried two different methods, and this one was the easier one. Chop the ends of the loquats and empty the seeds.
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Put the rest into a large pot.

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I used around 8 cups of water (enough to fill up the loquats), the juice of 2 lemons, and 4 cups of sugar. After it got going and simmered for a while (30 or so minutes in), I tasted it for sweetness. I ended up putting back the overly sweet previous batch, mixed it all together, and it was good.

I simmered until most of the liquid was gone, and stirred every so often. After a couple of hours, when it was thickened, I used our blender, pureed it in batches, and put it back into the pot.

Make sure your jars are clean, use new lids, and start pouring it in! They end up sealing themselves.

My jars came with fancy stickers and I used it to make it look all pretty.

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Whew! The most time consuming part was seeding the fruit. It was taking so long that I asked Brian to help me and we got pretty efficient at it.

Have you had loquats before? They’re pretty good! They taste like a cross between a peach and a plum. The downside is that they are small (like grape tomatoes), and it takes effort! My family peels the skin of the fruit too, but that’s totally optional.

Keeping it Real, House Edition

Brian and I have been really piling on the home improvement projects recently. At the end of this month, we’re planning on getting the backyard fixed up, so right now we’re focused on the interior.

It all started with a simple idea. Let’s buy a bed. Then it turned into, let’s give Nagini her “big girl bed.” Then it turned into well, if we’re doing that, let’s get a better chair. Well, if we’re headed out we should do something about our office and family room.

Next thing you know, there are headboards in your hallway to hold tools:

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Your entryway is a pile up of stuff:

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You marvel at the size of your bathroom counters to hold all those tools, plus your contact lens solution:

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You are thankful you can still sit in your office chair to write this blog post:

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I’m not even going to show you our bedroom or the family room. It’s too scary.

Oh, and did I mention we have company coming on Friday?

Wish us luck! I keep finding new things to rearrange, build, or clean, so it’s chaos around here. The playroom is a mess, but I blame that on my kids!

Stuff I Buy at Trader Joe’s

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I love shopping at Trader Joe’s. I can buy organic food at a reasonable price. We don’t go all the time, usually I go every 3 months and do a huge stock-up of food for our pantry. We’ve also done two shopping carts a time to get everything!

Today I’m going to share with you some of my favorite items to buy. I generally try to watch for prices, though I could probably improve a bit on comparison shopping. My shopping list is almost always for our pantry.

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Organic marinara sauce and pasta sauces. We don’t buy canned food in our house, so when a recipe calls for a can of tomato-something (sauce, diced, crushed), I use their organic marinara sauce. I usually buy the one that has “no salt added.”

Organic jams and fruit spreads. I like the ones that have no sugar added.

Nuts and berries. If your local grocery store doesn’t have the bulk bins, this is the next great place the stock up.

Almond butter. Okay, and for a while there we were addicted to their cookie butter too.

Coffee. We pick up the French Roast and also a fair trade one.

Coconut water, coconut milk, and almond milk. The prices are pretty good, especially for the Zico brand of coconut water.

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Pasta. Unless our grocery store is having a good sale on them, I buy my pasta here. I try to pick the more fun ones that aren’t as readily available at the grocery store like orzo.

Organic broth. I almost always buy the organic chicken broth and keep it in the pantry. I have tried a couple of other grocery stores and my advice is to read the ingredients list even if it does say organic on the box. You might not want to have sugar in yours. I learned this the hard way recently!  Anyway, this is great in a pinch if you don’t have homemade stock on hand.

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Spices. I buy most of my spices from here. As I’ve mentioned before, I love their spices. Their garlic salt is my favorite and I’m also a big fan of their cinnamon.

Maple syrup and Oils. I buy most of my oils from here, including coconut oil, olive oil, and ghee.

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Cheese. Oh man, if you buy it with an occasional smoked salmon or prosciutto, it’s so, so heavenly. I buy the fancier cheese in blocks (like Brie, Camembert).

Organic produce. This one is going to depend a little bit on how well-stocked your grocery store is and what’s on sale for the week. I think organic berries usually run a little less here, as do some of their vegetables like organic carrots and tomatoes.

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Grocery tote bags. We have two of the red and black insulated bags. They’ve held up for the last 4+ years and still going strong. Next time I’m going to pick up two of the large insulated bag (in blue, below) and then I’ll be all set for all my grocery shopping!

Chocolate. Oh my goodness, when I was pregnant with my kids I was obsessed with their sea salt and almond dark chocolate bars. I also love their chocolate truffles in a red box. It used to only be available around the holidays, but now I see it all the time.

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Wine. Ahhh, I saved the best for last! I love French and Italian wines and the best place to buy it has been at Trader Joe’s. Their prices are fantastic, and they’re usually really good, especially as we stay around the $5-$15 bottles. We usually buy a case or two at a time.

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So here’s a funny story. When we lived in the more rural part of Texas, we did a huge Trader Joe’s shopping trip when we picked up my mom from the airport. We stayed overnight at our family friend’s place. His elderly father was also there visiting. As we unloaded our Trader Joe’s groceries at his place, his father raised his eyebrows and asked if Brian and I were alcoholics! We had to explain that we lived too far away and our supply would last us for many months.

That’s my shopping list! Sometimes we’ll buy a snack bag, but those are my essentials.

Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? What’s on your to-buy list from here?

Fixing a Noisy Boxspring

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Our queen mattress set is about 5 years old. We’ve enjoyed it except for our extremely noisy, creaky boxspring. We can’t move without setting off a horrible squeaky sound.

Well it only took us about 4 years to get to the bottom of it, and it’s our boxspring. After lots of searching on the internet ranging from the semi-helpful to the highly suggestive (wink, wink) comments, we decided to try to solve the problem.

We’re moving our mattress set into the guest bedroom as we upgrade to a king (more on that in the next couple of weeks), and we didn’t want our guests to suffer and deal with noise and creaks as they tried to sleep in our home.

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First we pulled off the staples over the cloth to see what’s going on with the boxspring. I have to say that I cannot believe what a waste of money our boxspring was because it was basically a huge piece of cardboard, with wood and fabric around it.

We decided to try a couple of suggestions based on stuff I found on the web. The first was to spray WD-40 on the creaky areas…except it’s wood and thick paper. So that was a no go.

The next option was to take some of Brian’s old socks and shove them between the slats and the cardboard to see if that worked:

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It seemed to help a little bit, but it was still noisy.

Another suggestion was to tighten the screws, except, if you look closely, our boxspring doesn’t have any screws to tighten.

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In the end, we had to come up with our own solution. Brian drilled screws into the wood to tighten up everything. He added screws where the slats connected with the frame, and then around the edges.

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We stapled everything back together, and it is pretty much all fixed except for one small spot at the foot of the bed that just would not cooperate.

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Overall, it was a good lesson for us. The first is that I do not intend to buy a boxspring again because I cannot believe how it’s made and the price you pay for it. I also have to give us a little heckling because it took us this long to go and fix a relatively simple problem. I wanted to put our solution out there in case anyone is dealing with a noisy boxspring.

There you have it! Have you dealt with a noisy boxspring? How did you fix it?