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Many of you already know I fill many roles in my everyday life: Wife, Mother, QC Chemist, Photographer, Food blogger, Chief Boo-Boo Kisser and Resident Bottle Washer … the list of roles a parent fills is seemingly endless — as are the chores. My days are busy and with the constant hustle and bustle in my house, most days are also very messy! Between mealtime, playtime and craft time, I’m always washing or cleaning something around my home or auto. When I was younger, I didn’t think I had an allegiance to any specific product or brand but as I’ve grown older and really started paying attention to the products I use and my reasons — I’ve found its in the small details why each of them matter so much to me. I’ve noticed it’s these same small details in my favorite Procter & Gamble Household Needs products from Costco that make them stand apart from the other brands. This has never been more apparent to me than this past week when I was planning, packing, and shopping for our family vacation to a lakeside cabin in the Smoky Mountains. If you’ve ever rented a cottage or cabin then you know it comes equip with just a basic set of dishes and a meager set of pots and pans but otherwise, if you want it (or need it), you’d better haul it with you — or plan on buying it when you get there. This is as close to “roughing it” as I can get because I know I just can’t live without certain luxuries — and I’m okay with that.
Luckily, we were driving only a few hours away from home and up into the Smoky Mountains, so I was able to shop ahead of time and stock up on a few of my favorite products beforehand. Ordinarily, I would just make a list and do my shopping once I got there, but with no Costco locations on my way into the Smoky Mountains or around my final destination, shopping ended up being a “must-do” for us prior to the trip. So a quick jaunt over to my local Costco was penciled in at the top of my already too full “Must-Do-Before-We-Leave” list. Still, somehow, we managed to get it all done.
You’ve probably already experienced this for yourself, even on vacation; there are certain products you just can’t live without. One of these, for me, is Cascade Complete Action_Pacs. They get my dishes really clean (even the tough stuck on bits from not pre-rinsing) and make it quick and easy for my daughter to accurately dispense the detergent so that she can help with the nightly load of dishes to be washed. Cascade Complete Action_Pacs contain the added grease fighting power of Dawn which incidentally is also the only brand I use for hand washing my dishes as well. With a limited amount of dishes supplied to us in the cabin, it was a necessity to wash the load every night to have dishes for the following day. Personally, I’ve found over the years that bargain brand dishwasher detergents just don’t clean the dishes as well and liquid dish detergent brands just do not “make as many bubbles” – and you wind up using twice as much of them to get the dishes clean.
So, aside from mountains of dishes (pun intended!), another thing we do a lot of in my family, and probably your family, too, is laundry. To say I did at least one load a day at the cabin would be an understatement. And usually, I would say “No” to laundry because I’m on vacation but doing just this one thing kept me ahead of the laundry so I didn’t find myself doing 10 loads when I got home. I found with the activities of the day (fishing, hiking, & swimming to name a few), we were accumulating a lot of laundry daily and it was just easier to wash them as needed rather than to put it off. Anyway, we all know there’s nothing better than fresh, clean clothes warm from the dryer. For me, Tide and Downy April Fresh Liquid Fabric Softener go together like peas and carrots. The scents of these two products complement one another leaving my laundry fresh and clean smelling – without any heavy or overpowering perfumes. It’s the only combination of detergent and fabric softener that I’ve used since college when I realized that using my “bargain brand” wasn’t really a savings for me at all – in fact, I was using more detergent per load than my roommate and my clothes never smelled as fresh and clean as hers did. It was then that I made the switch to this dynamic duo.
But let’s talk paper towels for a minute before we move on to the recipe. I use paper towels a lot. I use them absolutely everywhere in my home and my favorite brand is Bounty Advanced Paper Towels. They are essential to my everyday living. I keep a roll pretty much everywhere messes happen — the car, garage, kitchen, bathroom, and as you’ve probably already guessed – they also went with us on vacation as well. Bounty Advanced Paper Towels are my first line of defense when it comes to cleaning anything from sticky, messy hands to accidentally spilled drinks and everything in between. I am a big fan of the select-a-size sheets, too. One sheet for small jobs, like washing my hands during food preparation, is the perfect size. For a larger mess, I can select the size that I need for the task at hand without wasting them. I think this helps me use less paper towels overall. And I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve tried others brands in the past but found them to be less absorbent and just not as durable as the Bounty Advanced Paper Towels®. In the long run, the cheaper brands ended up costing me more money. Real life example: Your little girl has slimy fish gunk on her hands? Not a problem! Bounty Advanced Paper Towels to the rescue — glad I also keep a roll in the tackle box!
After a full day of fishing, we ran into town (it’s not close by the way – 9 miles and 20 minutes later) to pick up some miscellaneous items we needed at the cabin. While we were at the market, I came across fresh rhubarb. I’ve been looking for rhubarb around the Charleston area since the beginning of Spring with no luck whatsoever. So, when I saw it, I knew I had to get some or I may not find anymore this year otherwise. As I mentioned earlier, we were “roughing it” at our cabin, which is to say I didn’t have any of my normal kitchen equipment like pie pans or even casserole dishes for that matter, not to mention a single sharp knife or a decent cutting board so I opted to make a Small Batch Strawberry Rhubarb Jam for our morning toast.
Rhubarb is something I grew up eating in New England. My Mom had a small garden and this was one of the items she grew. In season, she’d always make strawberry rhubarb pies and I’d get a small stalk with a bit of granulated sugar. This was always a welcomed treat on a warm summer day.
Rhubarb is a bright magenta color and has a certain tartness to it — okay it’s pretty dang tart — but that makes it the perfect accompaniment to sweet, fresh sliced strawberries. But be warned, the magenta colored juices in rhubarb readily stain everything — and I mean everything from your cutting board to your clothing so be careful while dicing the stalks. While helping me toss the rhubarb and berries in the sugar, my daughter got some of the rhubarb juice on her shirt, but I wasn’t worried — and I know you already know why. Tide and Downy April Fresh Liquid Fabric Softener to the rescue in yet another stain-fighting load of laundry. I know! Who would have guessed, right? A Mom’s work is never really done — even on vacation.
After that mess was cleaned up and taken care of, it was back to making the jam. Small batch jams are the best. It’s one of my favorite ways to capture the season. Each recipe makes just a few jars (about 3 pints) at a time which keeps the process from being daunting. As a bonus, the jars make great gifts. After canning, the jars will last up to a year on the shelf and about a month in the fridge once opened. We never have a problem with them lasting past the expiration.
Small Batch Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
- 1 pound strawberries (about 3 cups)
- 1 pound rhubarb stalks (about 3 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- In a heavy bottomed saucepot over medium-high heat, bring the fruit, lemon juice, and sugar to boil and stir occasionally. Over medium-high heat, this should take 12 to 15 minutes to cook.
- It is done when it has thickened up; you can tell it is ready when you stir your spoon through the jam and it doesn't immediately fill the void space left by the spoon.
- Remove the jam from the heat and funnel it into the cleaned and prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
- Start the timer when the water returns to a boil.
- After processing, remove jars from canner and set them aside to cool on a wire rack or tea towel.
- When the jars are cool enough to handle, test the seals. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and eaten promptly. Properly sealed jars will last for one year on the shelf; once opened, they will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 weeks.
- This makes for a delicious Holiday gift basket.
Pectin or gelatin are not needed in this recipe but may be used if desired. Follow the package directions.
Well, I’m off to do another load of laundry and surely another load of dishes is in my future after that. If you have a favorite recipe using rhubarb you’d like to share, or favorite Procter & Gamble products from Costco you love please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.