What do you do when life throws you a curveball?

What do you do when life throws you a curve ball?  I have no idea, because I don’t watch baseball.

Today the contract on the lake property we were buying fell through.  It’s a long boring story and I won’t bore you with it.  The short story is, sometimes situations stink and the best thing to do is walk away before you get stinky too.  So this week, instead of closing on the new property, we are out looking for a new one.

This one here is a contender.  It’s a different lake.  Which my husband loves!  Me, not so much.  It’s a larger property, which we both love.  It’s going to make the whole process take longer, which we both don’t love.  But sometimes you have to roll with the punches.

Time to fall back and punt and hopefully find something we can both agree on that works out for the family.

Was that enough sports metaphors?

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Grape Jelly

How to make jelly from wild Mustang Grapes.

or more appropriately (Pictures to go along with the Sure Jell directions)  Seriously people, don’t reinvent the wheel.  The sure jell people know how to do this.  It’s sort of their job.

First, don’t eat them.  The skins are bitter and they have seeds.  When we were little, we used to pop out the guts and try to spit out the seeds and eat the centers, but it’s a lot of work.  The best thing to do with them is make jelly!  We found that the vines on our property were loaded down and perfectly ripe so we decided it was jelly making day.  We are going out of town again so it was now or never.

The first thing we did was remove all the stems and wash them.  There can be some white foam on them.  No, it’s not toxic.  No, there isn’t anything gross about it.  No, it’s not bugs.  The grapes just do that when they get fully ripe.  We just filled our bucket with water and gave them a swish.  Then we pulled all the grapes off the stems and put them into a large stock pot.  We mash them up with a potato masher.

Once they are mashed up, we put them on to boil.  We don’t add water.  There is plenty of juice from the grape centers.  But don’t try to squish out the centers only.  The pretty purple color comes from those skins.  We bring this to a boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir often.

 

Next we layer 3-4 pieces of cheesecloth in a colander.  Then we pour the cooked grape mixture in and let it sit and drain.  This will take a while.  Don’t try to squeeze it all out, just be patient and let it sit and drain.  Go do something else.  Get your jars ready.  Those need to be immaculately clean.  We also get our lids in a small pan of water.  We bring it to a quick boil to kill any germs.  Don’t boil the crap out of it though.  You will melt the seals on the lids.

You can also get your pectin ready.  You need to stir in one package of sure jel into 3/4 cup of cold water in a small saucepan.  boil for two minutes, stirring the whole time.  Then remove from heat and set aside until you are ready for it.

Once it’s drained, you get beautiful grape juice.

Measure out five cups of the juice and seven cups of sugar.  Yes.  Seven.  Don’t act surprised that jelly has that much sugar in it.  And do a good job measuring.  I fill the measuring spoon and use the back of a knife to level it off.  If your recipe is off, your jelly won’t gel.  This is science, not art.

Put it back on the stove and bring to a simmer and add your sugar and pectin mixture in, whisking well.  I also add a small piece of butter.  It keeps it from foaming up so much.  Once this is in, bring it to a rolling boil on high heat.  What is a rolling boil?  The bubbles don’t stop when you stir.  Let it boil like this for thirty seconds.  And don’t stop stirring!  Sugar can scorch in an instant.

Take it off the heat and skim off any foam.  Then you can fill your jars.  Fill to within 1/8 inch of the top and make sure no jelly is on the rim of the jar when you put the lid on.  It will prevent the lid from sealing.  Once the jar is full, put the lid and ring on and just hand tighten.  The hot jelly should make the jars seal on their own.  If the lids don’t pop, you may need to water bath them.  We have never had an issue with jars not sealing if we use the very hot jelly mixture.

Make sure to label your jars so you know the date it was made.  We never keep jarred foods for more than 12 months.  Who are we kidding.  With seven kids, the jelly will last a couple of months at most.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How do We do it?

This is the question I get asked most, hands down.  How do you travel so much?

Wing, Plane, Flying, Airplane, Sky, Airplanes, Clouds

There are more ways to arrange travel than there are places to go!  But these are a few of the things that have worked for us.

Accomodations

We bought a time share.  Wait.  Before you start, realize that ours is not like the old fashioned time share.  We do not have one week at one resort once a year.  Our time share is very different.  Believe me, we went fully prepared to say NO!.  But when we heard how different this program was, be both agreed it would be a great opportunity for us.  We have over 60 different resorts, most in the US, that we can go to any time we want, no trading necessary.  Every resort is given a point value based on time of year, day of the week and size of the unit.  Most of ours come with a full kitchen, which I love!  I get tired of eating out every meal every single day.  Some times, I just want to cook a quick meal and get on with the sight seeing.  When you buy into our time share, you purchase a certain number of points.  You can choose how and when to use those points.  We can stretch our points really far by going Monday through Thursday and travelling off season.  I prefer to go some places when it is less crowded anyway.

 

Wakoola Springs Pool

This is one of our favorite resorts in Orlando.  We always plan a day or two to just hang at this fabulous resort when we take a trip to Disney.  If you would like more information or a really inexpensive three day/two night stay at one of our condos, just shoot me an email to michelle@ tablefornine.com and I will send you a link to arrange a trip.

 

What about getting there, Michelle????

I’m getting to that.  Some places we drive to.  We don’t mind car trips.  And we usually stop at some nerdy educational place along the way.  We geek out over historical markers.  If it’s too far to drive to, or we are flying out of the country, we have a companion pass.  Which means that when I pay for my airline ticket, I get to take someone along with me for free.

How can I get one of those companion passes?  Well, we have a rewards card.  It takes 110,000 points to get one.  Again, if you are interested, send me an email to michelle@ tablefornine.com and I will send you a link to apply.  When you apply with the link I send you, you will get 40,000 points automatically.  Once you get to the 110k, you get a companion pass for the rest of that year and the entire year after that!  If you don’t want to put your household bills on that card, there are other ways to get points.  We booked a trip through a program called rocketmiles and got 40,000 points for going to Cancun for three nights.  You can’t beat that with a stick.  We booked a really reasonably priced trip and I earned a companion pass for a year and a half.

 

We have several other tips and tricks for inexpensive travel, but that’s a lot of information for one blog post.  Keep checking back for more ideas, travel destinations, tips and tricks.  You can also follow us on facebook, instagram, pinterest or google+ to stay connected.

 

Happy Trails

from my herd to yours!

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Torr Na Lochs Winery

We decided to take a leisurely sunday drive today.  We wanted to go by the property we are buying to see if they had surveyed it yet so we drove towards the Texas Hill Country down Highway 29.  As we were getting close to Burnet, I remembered that a friend had recommended a new winery that opened up.  We had our nine year old with us, but she had assured us that it’s family friendly.  And dog friendly too.  When we pulled into the gate, it was clear that they had spared no expense creating an absolutely stunning winery with adjoining vineyard.  The view from the deck of their tasting room was spectacular.  Even thought it is close to 100 degrees today, we opted to sit outside and enjoy the view.  There was plenty of shade from the patio umbrellas and luckily for us, there was a breeze that helped cool things down.

We opted for both of the appetizer plates since there were three of us and it’s a good thing we did.  Both plates paired well with the wine and our adventurous eater tried everything.  (except the wine!!!)  We both know our wine tastes pretty well so instead of doing the wine tasting, we both opted for a glass of wine.  My husband prefers sweet wines so he went with the sweet sunset and I tried the Fion Dearg.  I would order either one again.

 

We didn’t stay long, mostly due to the heat, but I can’t wait to grab a few of my friends and head back.  If you want to stop by, keep in mind that their tasting room is only open Thursday through Sunday, 1-6.  If you want to sample six of their wines, a tasting is only $15.

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