Monthly Archives: May 2013


I interrupt this long delayed trip report to tell you about my new toy.

It is the “Ball Jam and Jelly Maker” FreshTech machine.  Yep.  I bought a small appliance.  I need another small appliance like Au needs more candy.  But BFF was not fulfilling her role as budget minder and instead was filling in at the enabling department.  I can justify it though because I found it at my favorite way below retail outlet. 

The indiscretion (purchase) happened Monday.  Today is Wednesday.  I tried it out for the first time.  Here is what happened.


Cost of machine $25

Cost of Sugar $3?

Cost of Fruit  $10

Cost of Juice $5

Cost of Pectin $7


Total Spent  $50

Mr.T’s favorite jam is $4 a jar.  He eats about a 6oz jar a week.  For the past 3 years I have made him homemade strawberry jam for Father’s Day to substitute for his favorite (super expensive) jam.  It is hot, laborious, and although I feel proud and triumphant when I am done, it is a labor, out of love, yes, but labor none-the-less.

Today I tried out my new machine.  Ahem, I mean, toy.  I washed the thing and followed the directions.  I began with low sugar strawberry around 3:30pm.  The most difficult part was hulling and smashing the strawberries.  That took, whoa, about 10 minutes to do all 4 16oz containers.  By 4pm I had jam.  Yep.  It was about as easy as typing those sentences.

I ladeled it into 2 6oz jars, 1 8oz jar, and had a bit leftover.  It tasted pretty good spread on a toasted English muffin.  For once, I had jam that set.  (The previous 3 years I had a lovely, thick strawberry syrup.) 

I did have to wait 30 minutes between batches because the machine has to cool.  With the next batch I decided to do regular sugar strawberry jam.  At the last moment I decided to pour some vanilla in and make strawberry vanilla jam.  WOW.  It was amazing.  Oh, and just as easy.  So, by 4:50pm I had another batch done, didn’t even break a sweat.  That batch produced 2 8oz jars and 2 6oz jars.  More sugar mant more product I guess.  Although neither batch had the yield the recipe stated (4 8oz jars). 

Finally, for my last trick (I only stopped because I was out of pectin.  I would have made jams and jellies all night otherwise!) I decided to make grape jelly.  I only had half the amount of pectin needed so I made a half batch.  I think it turned out fine (tasted amazing) but there wasn’t enough liquid to cover the stirrer and the evaporation rate of half a batch is different than a whole.  So, I pulled it off early (a little more than halfway through the cycle) and then had to restir it in the jars to get a consistent consistency.  I know I have already said this but it tasted amazing.  That batch yielded 1 8oz jar and 1 6oz jar.  I finished just before 6pm. 

So, in summary, I spent $50.  I yielded 5 6oz jars and 4 8oz jars for a total of 62oz of jam/jelly.  It took me 2 ½ hours, of which an hour was spent waiting for the machine to cool, and an hour and 6 minutes were spent with the machine doing it’s thing.  So, I actually spent 24 minutes actively “working”.  Mr. T’s jam is 66 cents an ounce.  This jam/jelly is 80 cents an ounce but includes the cost of the machine. 

Next go-round (since I just ordered lots of pectin from Amazon I’m fairly confident there is going to be some exciting developments like jalepeno pepper jelly, peach jam, blackberry, raspberry, and of course, more strawberry) won’t have that cost factored in so it will be closer to 40 cents an ounce.  (Although I just realized I put down $5 for juice but only used a cup and a half of it not the whole container.  Oh, well.  I am satisfied with the mathematics of the situation.)  I have to confess that I am thinking of people to give jam to so that I can make and try more varieties.  I cannot in good conscience plunk down $4-8 a jar for gourmet stuff but I can sure spend a buck or two trying out exotic flavors like peach melba or pomegranate.  Yum!


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Days 7, 8, and 9!

In the morning we head to town center to pick up some things from the outdoor Saturday market. We decide to go play at the park as well. Then we decide to have real tea for lunch.

We head to Brysons Tea Room. This will be my first real tea in England despite previous visits. We order a “tea for two” and I laugh when Mr. T says he might need to get a sandwich too because he is really hungry. The tray comes with 2 sandwiches (ham and cheese, egg salad with cress), 2 slices of plum bread, 2 large fruit scones, 1 large lemon petit four, 1 carmel bar, and 2 dessert plus a pot of hot tea. Even with AU doing her best we do not finish it all by a long way.

After our tea we head to the cottage for naptime. Everyone naps and then we watch a little television, do laundry, and make french bread pizza for dinner. I am quite proud of my ingenuity when I realize we have salad but no dressing. So, I use two cooked slices of bacon leftover from breakfast, OJ, and maple syrup, pepper to make salad dressing. It is very good!

After dinner we do more laundry and walk down to the lake hoping to take an evening cruise. No luck. They only offer them in July and August now. Shame. i really enjoyed my previous cruises. We walk around by the lake some, AU chases sheep. We managed to stay out of the car for 24 hours!

The next morning we have breakfast and head out for a Rick Steve’s car hiking drive trek around Lake Windemere. It is spectacular! It is cold and rainy. We are pleased to be driving and not walking. We stop for lunch at a place he recommends.

It is truly a hole in the wall place…perhaps a subterranean hole in the side of a hill place or maybe just a former barn. Two young adults sold us some soup and toasties with lots of interesting chatter- the woman was a painter, the man hopes to walk to Everest basecamp later in the year. While we are there two other groups come in making the cafe full to capacity. Definitely wouldn’t have discovered it on our own!

We return to Keswick and stop at the grocer for dinner. We had discussed going to the Dog and Gun pub but decide with the rain to stay in. Having a cottage is nice for keeping out of the rain! The girls nap, Mr. T dries clothes at the laundromat. Our cottage has a washer but not a dryer. Some of our stuff has managed to dry on the drying rack but not all. I watch BBC. Fascinating!

Mr. T and I do not watch much television at home so this was a treat! I watched a show about the Queen, a program about unusual or maybe historic homes in the UK, and then the drama The Village. There are only 2 more episodes in this season! It was riveting. I highly recommend it.

We shower AU and hit the hay. Tomorrow we are off to Hadrian’s Wall and the east coast of England. Hopefully the weather stays as gorgeous as it has been.

In the morning we pack up and head out of town via the Castlerigg Stone circle. It is grey, windy, and rainy but we drive out to it and walk around. Something like 70% of the UK or maybe England’s stone circles are in this region. This is a grand one, situated on a hill that probably has a lovely view at sunrise and sunset. The national trust though has done a terrible job with the information podium/placard. It essentially says, “here is a stone circle which we have zero information or clues on, enjoy!”

On our way to Hadrian’s Wall we go by two more stone circles. The first is Long Meg and her 69 daughters. It is the third largest circle in the UK in size taking up a field with a road going through it. It is well kept and has not been defaced/torn down too much. Some of the stones are worked with circular carvings.

The second circle which is just a few blocks away we do not find. It is Little Meg. According to my guidebook although the stones are also worked this circle has been badly damaged so I am not too disappointed we cannot find it.

We head over the mountainous hills to Hadrian’s Wall. On the way we stop for lunch at this mountain/hill top summit. I believe it was Hartside Hill. The cafe looks like a cinderblock cafeteria except they have hung really jolly pastel fabric bunting and painted the walls bluey turquoise. Then you turn around and see this breathtaking view of the valley. The national trust sign says, “top of the world” and it certainly feels that way. Also, it feels cold outside, with the wind blasting, but pleasantly warm inside. We have lunch and appreciate the view.

We stop at Housesteads Fort after driving much of the way along what is left ofHadrian’s Wall. Along the way, Mr T gets out at one of the outposts and hikes the short but extremely steep hillside to look around. The sleeping kiddos and I stay in the warm car. At Housesteads we all get out and start the half mile hill trek to the fort and museum. After a few screaming blocks JU and I turn back for the warm car (and the pacifier I accidentally left). AU insists she wants to go with Daddy.

JU falls asleep and I work on my travelogue. Over an hour later a beleaguered Mr. T and a peppy but runny nosed AU come back to the car. Several key things- AU flips out crying each time Mr. T tries to put her in the Tula, each time the wind blows her hair, which is down, into her face she cries and asks to be held. Thus a tortuous cycle is crated. Mr. T winds up carrying her almost the whole time including the half mile down hill and then back up hill walk to the car. They still had a good time. Oh, and the camera with its special rechargeable battery dies. Charger? In Nashville.

(Standing at the edge of the Empire is a very contemplative experience. The Romans consolidated their holdings in Britain by building a 20-foot wall across the entire island. They put a fort at every mile along the wall — that’s 80 forts — and a watchtower between each one. Imagine being posted on that frontier. Unlike Roman roads, which run straight as an arrow, the Wall follows the contours of this hilly terrain to maximize its defensive value. Both the fort and watchtower I visited had a commanding view in all directions. Even to the local auxiliary troops, this post must have seemed like the Edge of the World, and how much more so for those from other parts of the Empire. Trajan expanded the Empire to its largest extend and his successor, Hadrian, consolidated Rome’s holdings. After that, there would be good emperors and bad ones, and a lot of mediocre ones, but it was all a long, long downhill slide. One day, our culture will be no more. Indeed, I think we may be in decline already. What will remain of our civilization nineteen hundred tears from now? What will the people who stand on our ruins think of us?

Teacher told us
The Romans built this place.
They built a wall and a temple
And an edge-of-the-empire garrison town.
They lived and they died,
They prayed to their gods
But their stone gods did not make a sound.
Their empire crumbled and all that was left
Were stones the workmen found.)

We had booked into a bed and breakfast just outside of Holy Island, via internet, before leaving Keswick. We were excited because it was going to have a king size bed! Mr. T and I and JU had been sharing the tiny double beds that most places have. I was ready to stretch out!

We did not expect this glorious, gorgeous beachside haven though! Wow! We were probably 100yards from the beach, spectacular views of Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle, plus a large room, big bed, couch for AU, and a great shower. We eat a picnic dinner of bread, cheese, and ham before setting out on an evening walk. We find a herd of cattle, sheep, and the biggest wild rabbits (hare?) I have ever seen. We walk down to where the ocean would have met the land except the tide was out so we walked down to the marsh. Have I said it was lovely? It was lovely!!!

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