Thursday, December 26, 2013

Vanagon Update: Bumpers!

Apparently you have to have bumpers on your car for it to be street legal. Did you know that? I didn't know that. I've seen plenty of bumpers along the highway shoulders, which leads me to believe there are lots of non-street legal cars out there...

So being mostly law-abiding citizens, Mike and I bought bumpers for the VW Vanagon. He wanted super manly bumpers so we got these really heavy metal matte black bumpers, and they look quite nice installed! Here is the front (you can also get a nice view of the newly installed headliner):

And here's the rear:
Hm, I just noticed the color of our van looks completely different in the daylight! It's a deep marsala red with a slightly off white top. We did realize in hindsight that it kind of looks like an ambulance, but hey, nothing we can do about it now. LOL.
We are SO CLOSE to having this thing completed. The last few weeks have been painful waiting for me. We have a trip planned in March to go up to Seattle and back. While I definitely think the Vanagon will be running by then, the interior might not be completed, but it won't be for lack of trying!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Canning Applesauce

Yesterday my lovely and talented friend S. taught me how to properly can fruit. We started with the simplest fruit to preserve: apples! The reason apples are a good starter fruit is because they contain a lot of pectin, which is what people add to jams, etc to get them to be thicker and properly gel. 

The ingredient list in our applesauce was extensive (sarcasm): Apples, Cinnamon, Cloves. And I guess a touch of water, if you count that. 

I started with apples. The best part is, you can get "seconds" from the farmer's market for $1.00/pound, which is crazy cheap, and they were organic! They don't even look that bad; they were just smaller, and a few had a bruise here and there. We checked with a few different vendors but Ha's apples were the best:

Wash them, cut them into eight pieces each, and toss them in a pot. You don't have to core them, peel them, or anything. In fact, you should leave all the peel and cores ON, because that's where the pectin is. The only thing you cut out is any really bruised part or wormholes or whatever. 

Then you cook them down with just a bit of water at the bottom of the pot to start (also we threw in 3 cinnamon sticks and 5 cloves per 10 pounds of apples), so they don't burn. Cooking time takes approximately 1.5-2 hours, and you must stir occasionally. No sugar needed!! Apples plus steam below:

Once they were soft, we cooled them and then ran them through a food mill, which is a machine that pushes it through a sieve. It would be an excellent way to make baby food. Anyways, all the stuff like cores, skins, and the spices get caught in the mill and don't go through, so all you get is the meat of the apple, with very little waste. I forgot to take a picture of S.'s which is a totally awesome old school antique Kitchen Aid attachment, but here's a pic of one so you can get the idea. Basically you crank the handle and it spins the food around and around over the sieve, where all the soft parts fall through. The bonus with the Kitchen Aid is that it does all the cranking. When you're dealing with tons of apples, that is a plus.  

Leftovers end up in the mill, which you can just pull out and compost, give to your chickens, or if you live in a loft like I do, just throw down the garbage disposal and make a resolution to get yourself a compost pile or chickens in the future. 

The picture above is from this blog, where the author makes her applesauce much the same way, except she cores her apples, which is an unnecessary step.

Then you reheat the applesauce to get it ready to jar - when preserving food it is extremely important that the stuff going in the jar is hot, the jar itself is hot and clean, and that the lids for the jar are hot. The reason is that the lid and the jar need to form a tight seal to lock out bacteria, and the contents need to be hot to help form that vacuum seal. So don't skip any steps on this one!

We stuck the jars in the oven (after cleaning them) on low (180 degrees), the lids in a pot of almost boiling water (you don't want it to boil and ruin the rubber seal), and brought the applesauce to boiling temp on the stove. Then we quickly pulled out 3-4 jars at a time, put the applesauce in carefully (don't let the outsides/top get dirty or it will mold later - ick!) to within 1/4 inch of the top, and put on the lids and rings. 

Once they were all filled, the jars got placed into a pot of boiling water (put the on a rack, not directly on the bottom of the pot, or they will crack), and boiled for 7-10 minutes. The water has to cover the jars entirely.

That's it! Once they cooled I used these super cute print-it-yourself labels and we will gift them next week! Mike couldn't believe how DELICIOUS the applesauce was with no sugar. Sweet and yummy (we love cinnamon, but you could totally fiddle with the spices). And the best part is, you know exactly what's in it and it's organic. We are totally planting an apple tree in our future yard!

Cost of the organic applesauce making endeavor:

$1.00/pound for apples. I bought 12 pounds. I have read other blogs where people got theirs for way cheaper by going to the orchard or the Amish! So shop around your neighborhood.
$11.50 for 12 jars, including lids/rings. If you had jars already, you could just buy the lids/rings, or just the lids. It's like $2.25 for 12 lids.
Spices were donated by S.! But they cost less than $1.00.

We had enough applesauce for about 18 eight ounce jars, with some left over for eating. So that makes it around $0.80-$1.31/jar, depending on how many supplies you needed. And if you got your apples cheaper, you could really cut down the price. Either way, awesomely cheaper than purchasing it from the grocery store (well, at least MY grocery stores here in SoCal!).

Monday, December 16, 2013

Life Changes Pending!

Mike and I have decided to make a huge change next year and I will be quitting my job! We'll be selling the loft and using that money to fund a few adventures, and a career change for me. I can't wait, I'm so excited!

In the meantime, we have plans for a camping trip on New Year's Day and a HUGE yard sale in March to get rid of everything and anything we have that is beyond the basics. We want to be light and mobile, just in case.

Happy Holidays and stay tuned for camping pics and a Vanagon update!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Update on the Vanagon!

It's month 22 of owning our Vanagon and we are SO close to finishing it! Little things keep popping up that are super frustrating, though, like....the windshield. We found out it was cracked - I think it was a itty bitty crack at first, but after being removed and then set aside for awhile during the paint job, and moved around some more, the itty bitty crack turned into a big ol' crack.

Since it was Mike's birthday recently, I told him I was buying him (us) a new windshield as his bday present. He was super stoked and got a guy to come out ASAP and install the new one (sorry about the quality of the pic, it's from his phone):

Woohoo! One more piece of the puzzle is in and we are one step closer to completion.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Life Is Short

We were stunned and saddened this weekend when we found out about Paul Walker's death. Mike is very involved in the racing community with Subarus, and obviously the Fast and the Furious movies are a mainstay with car enthusiasts worldwide. Paul Walker was also an extremely likeable and humble person, and it was devastating to hear about his accident. It happened on Mike's birthday, and really reinforced the ideas we have for our life, and drove home the fact that we should do them immediately.

Lots of people have future plans, grandiose vacations they want to take, and dreams about what they should do with their life. But too often, they can't see a way to make them happen, and then they find excuses as to why they should just keep going as they're going - money, time, whatever. Excuses pile up and they start to feel like valid reasons. It becomes super easy to say "No" to change, when the daily routine provides security.

But Mike and I never want to wake up and feel regret that we didn't "try something when we were younger," or "do it when I had the chance." It's not easy to leave your old life behind and not know how you're going to make ends meet, or what you'll be doing next year. But once you do it, it's like learning any new thing - the new and scary becomes familiar and friendly, and before you know it, you're living a new life.

If Paul Walker's death has reminded us of anything, it's that life is short. You don't know what might happen tomorrow, so you need to do what you wanted to do today. Don't wait.