Category Archives: musings

marmalade on cutting board

mixed citrus marmalade + thoughts on goals

My sister and I have an eight-hour record for one phone conversation. I know. It is a little extreme. I don’t even know how that was possible, and it was so long ago that I don’t quite remember the topics discussed. A couple of nights ago, we held another lengthy phone conversation, which turned into a Skype conversation. No new records were set, but we covered a lot of territory.

Over the course of about two and a half hours, we caught up on our daily happenings, shared a few tough stories, and even held a meet-and-greet for our cats. I’m so glad that we can be so open and silly with each other. Heather and I even completed some chores while chatting. She finished folding her laundry, and I managed to make some preserved lemons and Meyer lemon curd.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

– Chinese Proverb

Lately, both of us have felt compelled to do more of what we want to do, cultivate more confidence, and stop procrastinating the procrastination cycle. Together, we made lists of positive habits we desire in our lives, along with the action plans to accomplish them. One of our goals is a shared one: running a half-marathon this spring.

There’s something rather permanent, when you put a goal in writing. It is no longer just an idea. It is one step closer to a reality. So, we signed up for our races and made a pact to cheer each other on and hold each other accountable. To make it public, and seal the deal even further, I drafted a post on Facebook, cringed, and finally pressed “post.” It was out there. It was no longer a thought in my mind that could be rationalized away by fear or lethargy.

marmalade with citrus peels on cutting board

You might be asking, “What does this even have to do with marmalade!?

Marmalade is something I’ve always enjoyed and have wanted to master. I have messed up my last two batches of marmalade, and I seriously wanted to conquer this preserve. I needed redemption. Getting marmalade to set can be a challenge. Those last two batches were incredibly tasty but lacked a thicker consistency. They didn’t go unused, however. I used the thin marmalade as a glaze, an ice cream topping, an addition to yogurt and granola, and even a base for a cocktail.

I broke my losing streak and finally nailed a batch. Classic marmalade recipes call for Seville oranges, an acidic and bitter variety. Their seeds and pith provide a lot of pectin, which facilitates the setting of the marmalade. I can’t ever seem to find them, so I have always swapped the Sevilles for varieties that are less bitter and pithy, but I never made up for the lack of pectin. It finally made sense to me, and this time, I made the proper amendments. The resulting marmalade was delicious!

close-up of marmalade toast with tea and marmalade plate of toast with marmalade and tea tea with orange slices stack of toast with jar of marmalade

According to Marisa McClellan of the website, Food in Jars, there are three styles of marmalade: whole fruit, cut rind, and citrus jam. The method that I describe below is a cut rind method. This method requires removing the citrus pith by supreming and segmenting the citrus. Since removing these components decreases the amount of thickening pectin, it is important to make up for that loss by either adding purchased pectin or simply reserving the pith and seeds and infusing them, while cooking the marmalade.


mixed citrus marmalade


  • 4 pounds of oranges, any combination of blood orange or navel {depending up the size of the oranges, 7 or 8}
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice {about 2 large lemons}
  • 3 cups cane sugar
  1. Bring a large canning pot to a boil and sterilize your canning jars. For more detailed steps on the canning process, read this post by Kaela at Local Kitchen Blog. Also, place a small plate into your freezer. You’ll use this to test for proper setting later on.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peels of the oranges {kind of like zesting – you’re wanting just the orange part} in long ribbons. Stack several of the ribbons of peel and cut them width-wise to your desired thickness. I cut mine into 1/8″ strips. Set aside.
  3. Using a sharp knife, remove the outer white skins of the oranges and segment the oranges. Do this over a bowl to catch any juice that may drizzle out, and reserve the membranes, along with any pith or seeds. I found this video extremely enlightening.
  4. Take the orange segments, along with the peels, and place them in a large, wide preserving pan. I use my trusty Le Creuset 7 1/4 quart Dutch oven {it’s “red flame”, in case your curious!}.
  5. Strain the collected juice in your bowl into a large measuring cup and add enough water to bring the liquid to 3 cups. Pour this into the pot.
  6. Cut the tops and bottoms off the 2 lemons and slice them in half, lengthwise. Slice each of those halves width-wise. Place the lemon pieces, peel-side down, on a cutting board and slice into 1/4″ strips, leaving the flesh attached. It is okay if they aren’t perfectly sized. Toss all of the lemon pieces, along with any juice, into the preserving pot.
  7. Now is the time to put all of those reserved membranes, pith, and seeds to good use. Here is where your pectin comes into play. Take all of these bits and wrap them in 2 layers of cheesecloth. I firmly secured the makeshift bag but didn’t pack the pith and seeds too tightly. You want to give the pith and seeds a chance to infuse the marmalade mixture. Place this bag into the preservation pot.
  8. Bring the juice and zest {along with the cheesecloth bag} to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, taking a spoon and squeezing the cheesecloth bag a few times along the way.
  9. Turn off the heat. Once the bag is cool to the touch, squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Discard the bag and compost the remaining pith, membranes, and seeds.
  10. Over high heat, bring the citrus juice to a boil again and add the sugar. Stir along the way and bring the temperature up to about 220 degrees Fahrenheit. My mixture never reached this temperature, but it DID pass the “freezer test.” Remember that plate you placed in the freezer? Place a small amount of the mixture on your chilled plate, return it to the freezer for 1 minute, and check if it wrinkles when you touch it with a spoon.
  11. Ladle the marmalade, once it gels properly, into the sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace at the top. Wipe the rims with a damp cloth and seal the jars gently, just until closed, not too tightly.
  12. Place the jars into the boiling water bath, bring to a boil, and process for 5 minutes.
  13. Remove the jars from the canner and set on a heat-proof, flat surface. Do not disturb for at least 12 hours. Make sure that the cans have sealed. If they haven’t, just place the unsealed ones in the refrigerator and use them now. Store the properly sealed jars and use within a year for optimal flavor.

marmalade with slices of citrus


a few tips for better marmalade


  • Always purchase organic oranges. Pesticide residue is only measured by the amounts in the flesh of the fruit; the pesticide levels are not measured on the skins. Play it safe by always buying organic fruit and thoroughly scrubbing the skins.
  • Read this post on getting marmalade to set and always save your seeds. Like I mentioned earlier, I have seriously battled getting my marmalade to set. Don’t let that deter you from trying a recipe. I can’t remember where I saw this tip, but always save your citrus seeds whenever you’re juicing in the kitchen. Simply collect them in a bag and store them in the freezer to use in your next marmalade-making session.
  • Process your jars for the correct amount of time. If you are at a higher altitude, like I am, the processing time might be a little longer. Use this calculator to make sure you process for the correct amount of time. I processed mine for 15 minutes, since I live at 5,280 feet above sea level.
  • Juice your citrus at room temperature. It is much easier to do, and obtain more juice this way.
  • Read up on your canning and marmalade basics, before you begin. Here are a few resources that I have referenced, myself:

 


some recipes to pin for later


marmalade with wooden spoon

I’m curious about your thoughts on jam- and marmalade-making. What are your current challenges? Do you have any tips to share? Do you have a favorite recipe or resource?

And back to what I was talking about earlier, it is never too late to start something you’ve always wanted to try or learn something new. I seriously wonder why it takes a breakup, a diagnosis of a disease, or the loss of a job to spring us into action. Why can’t we just jump out, go after what we want, and make that change? Is it any less noble to start something new simply because we want to?

So, go make that marmalade, run that race, start that business, climb that mountain {literally or figuratively}, learn how to sail, or tell that person you love them. And wish me luck on that upcoming half-marathon!

Cheers to a beautiful and inspired week!

Jayme

three books on preserving stacked in a row

two glasses filled with caipirinha cocktail

caipirinhas + new year’s intentions

Happy 2015!!

As I write my first blog post of the new year, I am compelled to revisit and thank this past year for what it gave me. 2014 was a spectacular year, filled with new friends, amazing writing opportunities, much dreaming of the future, breathtaking travel, lots of hard work, necessary goodbyes, and painful growth. I pushed myself to reach new goals, sometimes a little too hard, but I am grateful for the lessons I have learned along the way.

I took some time over the past few days to meditate on what it means to truly learn from both our successes, as well as our perceived failures. It’s a challenge to look at our failures eye-to-eye. But the fear of failing dissipates, when we realize that failure is almost always a prerequisite to success.

I am also learning that there is no such thing as an “overnight success.” Everything that I choose to do is propelling me toward the next goal. I am building upon what I’ve already done, and I am learning from my mistakes. As J. K. Rowling once said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” Pause and let that sink in.

I also recently read the book, Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon. His philosophy of putting yourself out there, failures and inchoate stages and all, really works. People are drawn to someone, who embraces an amateur-like stance, always learning something new and maintaining a teachable attitude. People love to see the actual process and behind-the-scenes photos or documentation of artists, makers, or business owners, for example.

So, I chose three words to conceptualize my goals for 2015. My friend, Kristy Gardner, wrote a post on compiling such a collection of words. I wanted to choose words that were measurable, positive, and conveyed action. I wanted them to resonate with my personal life, creative life, spiritual life, professional life, and physical life. What are my three words?

  • Create. I want to delve into projects that feed me on all levels and to try new techniques and applications.
  • Release. I tend to put a perfectionist slant on almost anything that I do. That’s a plus but also a crippling negative, at times. I want to live freer and write fluidly and even draw or paint or cook with a looser hand.
  • Share. Back to Austin Kleon’s book, I want to openly share my progression. That is VERY challenging to me, for I only want to submit or post the final and best piece. But we lose the opportunity for connection and lose that in-the-moment, on-the-floor feel and liveliness of our work.

What are your three words for 2015?


“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”

– Robin Sharma


Alright. On to that refreshing, mid-winter cocktail I mentioned a few paragraphs back! I’m sure we have all had our fill of bourbon cocktails or ciders or hot toddies. Maybe some of us are still enjoying them. I needed a break. Something that reminded me of summer and let me know that spring is on its way. Enter the caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil.

Cachaça is the base spirit for this drink. It is a Brazilian rum made from fermented sugar cane juice that is distilled. The cachaça is muddled with fresh, quartered limes and raw sugar, yielding a tart and sweet cocktail. It’s simple to make and superbly refreshing. Let’s get our muddling on!


caipirinha cocktail


  • 1 lime, quartered
  • about 2 teaspoons raw sugar
  • 2 ounces cachaça
  1. In a pint glass or mixing tin, muddle the quartered lime with raw sugar until pulverized. {I just love that word!}
  2. Add cachaça and ice. I used about 8 ice cubes, but I’ve seen some caipirinha recipes use crushed ice.
  3. Stir to integrate.
  4. Pour contents into a double old-fashioned glass or “bucket”, and if you have a sugar cane handy, use it as a garnish!
  • If you are unable to find cachaça at your spirits shop, you may substitute rum. I use 10 Cane Rum, when I don’t have any cachaça on hand.
  • What are my favorite cachaças? Boca Loca, Leblon, and Beija.
  • Not a fan of cachaça or rum? Try making a caipiroska, which is a caipirinha made with vodka.


“In the midst of winter I finally learned

that there was in me an invincible summer.”

– Albert Camus


Cheers to a creatively inspired 2015! How are you making your resolutions stick? What is your mantra or three defining words? I’m super excited for all that this upcoming year has for each of us. It’s all about how we plan, react, and hit the ground running, despite the detour of a fall.

XO,

Jayme

swiss chard from the garden in fall leaves

hello, goodbye

Well, hello and happy….December!?! Yeah, I know it’s been awhile. I just got back from spending a week down in sunny Florida, in my hometown, to recharge, recenter, and visit my family. I had the most amazing and memorable time. The days there seriously flew by, and all of a sudden, here I am back in Denver, just as I was finally beginning to relax and regain a little sanity.

It is good to get back into the swing of things; although, I could easily trade Denver’s cooler temperatures and snow boots for the palm trees and sunshine I’m already missing.

Lately, in the midst of harvesting the last of the garden and preparing for a hectic holiday season, I’ve been meditating on the simple fact that time is truly a gift. We have the opportunity to either waste it, leisurely enjoy it, or make the most of it and squeeze every last drop out of it. Personally, I haven’t been the best steward of my time as of late. I have run myself ragged, been overly self-critical to an almost crippling degree, and not given myself the rest that I need for proper functioning.

So, here are my thoughts on saying “hello” to what I want more of and saying “goodbye” to the stuff that no longer serves a purpose, accompanied by some photos of our garden’s beautiful, final hurrah. And if you need a little reading music, this little song pairs quite perfectly.

Let’s rewind a few months back to summer. That blurry photo above? That pretty much depicts how my summer felt. My job at the restaurant demanded six-day workweeks because of our weekly summer concert series, a revamp of our by-the-glass wine list, and a cocktail list makeover. In the midst of the busyness, I squeezed in a trip to assist with wine-making in Oregon, flew down to Georgia for a weekend family reunion, and took a press trip to France.

Steve and I even did our first radio interview on Wine Life Radio back in September {if you want to laugh at my nervous self, talking about the restaurant, bubbles, and Pinot Noir, you can give a listen here}. As soon as I felt I had a moment to catch my breath, though, I would have a wine article due, or I’d glance out at the garden and realize I had herbs to harvest and tomatoes to pick, process, and preserve.

And then there was the blog.

I would eschew writing a post because I felt didn’t have the perfect photos, or I had gotten behind and felt the post was no longer relevant. And that is when the blog temporarily curled up and died. What once gave me joy became a looming, demanding burden in my mind’s eye. I have had to accept that there may never be a “perfect time” to write, and that the imperfections along the way and the messy reality are, surprisingly, captivating and endearing. I am realizing that it is also okay to give myself permission to actually live my life and not to feel compelled to document its evolution along the way. It is really okay to take a break.

All of this sounds so simple. Why is it always so difficult to actually put into practice? I’m totally chastising myself here.

I am realizing that living a “fulfilled” life does not necessarily mean cramming it full of activities, obligations, and projects. A fulfilled life means feeding ourselves with proper rest, letting go of things {projects, people, objects} that no longer serve a purpose, and making room for what we deem important at this point in our lives. So, yeah, I am ready for some change.

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I don’t know about you, but I am even more excited about making changes in the fall season, than I am come New Year’s Day. I guess it all traces back to my childhood, when I counted down the days until I could buy brand-new school supplies, go shopping for back-to-school clothes, and open those blank spiral-bound notebooks, just waiting for the first scribble. A fresh, new start with endless opportunity. Those memories symbolize change, newness, the learning of new skills, and the implementation of ideas. It was all so invigorating!

So, here are five actions I’m implementing right now, along with five that I’d rather never see in my life again.


5 Things I am Saying “Hello” to Right Now


  1. Being okay with where I am right at this moment. I don’t want to look back at the past or be upset with myself for not being where I think I should be. I want more contentment with the process of becoming. I could also add to this point, “manifesting happiness.” It is a choice. I am choosing peace and choosing to cultivate a positive outlook!
  2. Moving more. I want to run and feel physically strong. When I take the time to work out and fuel my body, my confidence rises. I am setting myself up to run a half marathon next year, and so far, I’ve already peaked at four miles just this evening. I’m still in my running clothes, as I’m typing this!
  3. Spending intentionally. My dear friend, Batya Stepelman, of the Sparrows + Spatulas blog, recently inspired me. She and her husband went on a “shopping fast” for a couple of months and saved an impressive amount. I am going to eat at home, deal creatively with the wardrobe I have, and rent movies from the library. No more absent-minded purchases!
  4. Creating daily. I’m not talking about placing unrealistic pressures upon me, but I am talking about looking for ways create more – sketching regularly, practicing my piano, making a new cocktail or recipe, or writing a haiku. Even rearranging furniture counts!
  5. Getting up earlier. I work late. That’s the nasty truth right now. It is so challenging, however, to simply put myself to bed, when I get home, sometimes around midnight. Can you imagine getting off work at 5:00 and then going to bed within an hour? Yeah, not likely. I am going to force myself to get up at the same time each day. The days are so short right now, and if I don’t get enough sunlight hours, I get seriously depressed.

5 Things I am Saying “Goodbye” to Right Now


  1. Procrastinating. I think I just might the world’s worst procrastinator. Sometimes it works out great, like when I clean my house, empty my email, and polish the glassware, all because I am nervous about a writing assignment. The procrastination feels justified! I was reading Real Simple recently and had a profound epiphany from one of their articles: if a task only takes five minutes, do it now, instead of putting it on your to-do list.
  2. Comparing myself to others. This one is lethal for me. Comparing my work, life, or ideas to someone else’s is creatively stifling. It kills friendships and prevents any forward movement in my own life. As I reinvent my creative and design career, I tend to look at others, who have “succeeded” and sometimes find myself depressed. I am trying to simply work hard and congratulate myself on my progress, as well as being genuinely happy for the success of others!
  3. Feeling guilty about relaxing. I have a tough time doing nothing. As soon as I lie down on the couch, my mind is racing onto the next project, and I am scanning the living room for my to-do list. I think that I will be a better relaxer, when I stop the procrastinating!
  4. Thinking the world is out to get me. I tend to brace myself, when I venture out into the world. All of that tension and worry is wasted energy, and my emotional state is a product of my own making, not a product of my environment.
  5. Over-committing. This one is a tough one. Sometimes, the timing just isn’t right. The opportunity might sound amazing, but what does it cost me or my family? My health, peace, sleep, and sanity are much more valuable to me. Instead of saying an emphatic “yes” to helping a friend or taking on another project, I am going to say, “I will get back with you.”

 

I will go ahead and close this post with a few more photos. They do speak a million words, and I have already written a little over my norm here already! Here’s to all of us living more intentionally, welcoming more creativity into our lives, respecting boundaries, being authentic with our answers, slowing down, knowing when to say no, and letting old habits die.

I wish you a very happy beginning to the holiday season!

XO,

Jayme

 

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putting the gardens to bed for the season

Prompted again by another “Grow Write Guild” post, I am writing about the transition that occurs in the garden during the fall.  It is such a beautiful time of year that builds in color, fans its vibrant wings, and flies by almost too quickly to experience its magnitude.

Fall.

Even the word itself suggests movement, transition, and change.  When I grew up in Florida, I didn’t experience the full spectrum of seasonal change, as I do now in Colorado.  I kept poinsettias on my front porch throughout the month of December, cranked down the AC in order to build fires in the fireplace, and wore sweaters any day below 70 degrees, sweating, yet smiling, along the way.  I forced an excuse to celebrate a change in season or temperature, despite the fact that my climate didn’t let me fully experience it.

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sip, read, repeat | loimer grüner + the drunken botanist

Those who live in, say, North Dakota, may scoff when I say that I am beginning to understand their frustration with snow and cold.  Another “wintry” spring day here in Colorado, preceded by a few 80-degree, sunny days, has my mood stability mimicking this late spring’s indecisive highs and lows.  Put away the boots, paint the toes, shave the legs (yes, at my best, it is a weekly treat, over the winter!), and start sifting through the seed catalogs.  Ahhhh…not so fast.  Better keep those boots and scarves handy because the next day might greet you with a soggy, bitter snowstorm…

snowy tulips

Snow-covered red tulips, most likely enjoying their last day in my backyard. Enjoy the beauty, while you can!

I guess I set myself up for a leisurely afternoon from the get-go.  I caught up with a great friend earlier this morning, and we exchanged plans for our gardens, discussed kitchen remodeling dilemmas, and enjoyed a light, spring salad, accompanied by some Pinot Grigio.  Yes, it is Wednesday, but it is my day off.  Sometimes, I have to throw in the justification, since I do work “off-peak” hours and days.  I did have to drop by work to pick up some material, so I grabbed some coffee on the way just to wake myself up a little.

Upon entering the restaurant, the two other sommeliers greeted me with a short glass of crisp, white Naschetta.  I had some impeccable timing stumbling in on their tasting session!  The three of us are trying to flesh out our “old world” whites section on the wine list, and this particular Italian gem is a prime candidate.  I grabbed my needed items, selected a bottle of Gruner Veltliner for the evening, and got away, before I was sucked in to help out.  Today is a delivery day, and the boxes of wine were piling up.  Thanks for the sip, guys, but, goodbye!

gruner goodness

One of my favorite white wine varietals, Gruner Veltliner, a food-friendly, crisp white wine that often exhibits notes of citrus, peach, spicy pepper, and sometimes tobacco. Not very viscous, it is lean and acidic.

Gruner Veltliner felt like just the choice for this evening.  This up-and-coming grape from Austria is crisp, lean, bright, and racy.  Great alone and perfect with rich, herbaceous sauces or lighter meats.  I always enjoy pairing Gruner with many of the vegetable-based dishes that I make.  What am I pairing with this glass tonight?  That is to be determined.  So far, it is pairing quite nicely with a cozy chair and a copy of Amy Stewart’s latest book, The Drunken Botanist.

Loimer, Gruner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria 2011

Breaking it down:  Loimer is the producer, Gruner Veltliner (100%) is the grape, Kamptal is the region within Austria, and 2011 is the year the the grapes were picked.  It is fermented in stainless steel tanks.

  • On the eyes  –  brilliant, pale yellow with green reflections.
  • On the nose  –  spiced kaffir lime, white pepper, green apple, and almost a chalky, lime Sweet-Tart candy.
  • On the palate  –  dry, crisp, lively, grapefruit, lime peel, mineral notes, with bright acidity, leading to a lengthy mineral-driven, medium-bodied finish.
  • On the table  –  perfect with trout  or other light fish, chicken, or sauteed vegetables.
  • On the shelf  –  about $18 to $25.
  • On the ears  –  enjoyed and paired with Ladytron’s “Destroy Everything You Touch” from their album, “Witching Hour.”  This snowy afternoon begs for some sharp, experimental, electro-pop like this.  This lean, racy white wine really mimics the structure of this song.

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By no means is this a review of Amy Stewart’s latest book, for I have yet to even pass part one.  I am simply excited to read a book that combines two of my favorite subjects:  cocktails and botany.  “Every good drink starts with a plant.”  This phrase is true on so many levels.  Every good wine.  Every good perfume.  Every good piece of chocolate.  Even every papery page of every good book.  It all begins with plants.  I am anxious to further connect myself and my loves of wine, gardening, cooking, and cocktails to the world of botany.  To my Denver friends, be sure to attend Amy’s lecture at the Denver Botanic Gardens this October.  I will be sure to grab a seat, while they last.  Cheers!

the view out the window

I really hope that this is the last of the snow that falls at Holly and Flora. There is beauty, even in the frustration.