Create: Summer in a jar

Summer in a jar/ Good House Guest

With whipping wind, sideways-falling snow and ice slicks on every block, it’s been important to keep in mind that there will be life after winter. In New York, that also means remembering a tidier time – before sidewalks were hedged with diminutive mount trashmores (complete with Christmas tree husks) covered in snow, ice and slush.

Right now a little bit of sunshine goes a long way, blue sky days are that much better and best of all is when the forecast calls for a chance to leave the house in something other than clunky snow boots. So I’m even more appreciate than ever of the friends who preserved, canned and bottled summer’s sweetness and shared it with us. Our pantry is stocked with bright marmalades and dark fruit jellies that give us hope for the possibility of budding trees, picnics in the park and far less trash on the sidewalk.

Here is my friend Sarah’s recipe for her red currant jelly so you can have your own spot of brightness on a cold day. We’ve been slathering it on toast and mixing it into plain yogurt.

2 pounds currants (washed and stems removed – can be frozen until ready to use)
1 cup sugar

Place the currants in a large pot, add the water (about 1/4-1/2 cup) and sugar (1 cup + to taste, some people so equal parts but I like it more tart than sweet). Cook over medium heat. The currants will start to release all their juice and pop out of their skins. Once you have a more liquified consistency, about 20 minutes, drain the currants over a bowl. I did this using cheesecloth and the help of a mesh strainer. Be careful not to squeeze the cheesecloth or you’ll get more of a cloudy jelly. Once all the liquid has been drained, you can pour into canning jars and process in a water bath (water bath canning instructions here).

Gift: Something Old

With the discerning eye of a museum curator, my dear friend Sarah surveys flea markets and antique stores to discover the most wild and wonderful treasures. Lucky for us, she can’t find a wall for every set of mounted deer antlers or a shelf for all the vintage glassware in her own lovely home in Montclair, New Jersey. So she’s set up an Etsy shop, Building Castles in the Air, to share her scores. I asked Sarah to tell me a little bit about the magic behind her thrifty and imaginative knack for finding just the right thing.

How did you develop your salvaging skills? Growing up, my parents were always hitting flea markets or antiquing. In fact, my mom still does. So when my husband and I bought our first home, we needed furniture and decor to fill it with and naturally, my first inclination was to start scouring all the markets in the tri-state area and beyond. We both have more modern tastes but love to mix in rustic, cozy and worn in accents. We ended up finding so many things we loved that I had a surplus, and that’s what motivated me to start my Etsy store.

What’s what’s your criteria or the key to a good find?
I’m a bit picky but generally, my criteria is a personal one. Would I want this in my house? Does this align with my tastes?  Also, how hard will this be to ship? Working full time and also having an Etsy store to maintain, keeps me away from larger pieces I might find. I would love to buy furniture because I come across so many great pieces but its hard to turnover unless I have a place to store them and then sell them.

What are some of your best scores? Four pieces come to mind and three of them sold instantly as soon as I posted them in the store: a set of small brass deer candle holders, a duck planter, an abstract needlepoint and a boy scout’s keepsake box (still available). All of them have this great vintage modern look that I just love.

How can you stand to give these treasures away? It’s an ongoing conversation at my house. My husband and I are constantly trying to convince each other which items to keep and which to put online. I love when I sell an item, but almost every time I do have small pangs of regret that I didn’t keep whatever it is that I am packaging up.

What’s your process for shining things up before you sell? My process is minimal. I always clean off all the items but I stay away from purchasing anything that is broken or in rough shape. Any flaws that an item has, I try to be as transparent as possible about in the posting. I would hate for any customer to be disappointed.

I like that vintage objects arrive with a story. Have you heard how the story continues with these pieces by any of the people who’ve purchased them? I haven’t but I would love to. Knowing that each item I hand picked is going to be part of someone else’s home and story is part of the fun.

Bonus: Sarah shared some of her favorite scouting resources, too. Be sure to check out her Etsy store and happy hunting!
The Golden Nugget
Lambertville, NJ
Mower’s Flea Market
Woodstock, NY
Garage Sale Rover App
Garage and estate sales are full of goodies. Download this app to locate sales in your neighborhood.