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Hello, all. This is “Mason Jar Middle Sis” here (MJMS, if you’re in a rush), embarking on my first blog post for Mason Jar Lifestyle. Thanks for joining me on this journey!

A couple of weeks ago, my husband came home from the grocery store with an apple cake mix that he thought I might like. (Awwww.) The back of the box had instructions to turn the ingredients into a salted caramel apple crisp, which I thought I might like even more.

I gathered my ingredients and peeled and sliced several apples only to discover, after opening the box, that the caramel sauce was not included. Shoot! After digging through the fridge and confirming that we didn’t have any on hand, then digging through the pantry and confirming that the caramels we’d gotten “for Halloween” had all disappeared well before Halloween, I decided to make caramel sauce using ingredients we already had, which were sugar, butter, vanilla, and a can of sweetened condensed milk.

I’d never made caramel with condensed milk before; luckily, it turned out great! (Scroll down for the full recipe.)  While it was still warm and gooey, I drizzled some of it over the apple crisp.

The rest went into a jar and into the fridge for later.

I only made a half batch, since I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I’d recommend making a full batch if you do it yourself, since it’s easy to store and would be fun to share with people. I think this would make a great little gift for friends, so there’s really no reason to worry about making too much. You could bring a jar with you to share at Thanksgiving this year, or add a fun lid insert and a cute gift tag and give it as a holiday gift to anyone with a sweet tooth. It’s good with cake, ice cream, or even stirred into your hot cider or cocoa.

To turn this into a tasty treat to-go, you can put some sliced apples into a jar and a couple spoonfuls of caramel into one of our divider cups, then pop on a lid and you’re all set.

Since the divider cup is silicone, you can stick it in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds to soften the caramel before you eat it, if you prefer yours warm, like I do. That makes it softer for easy dipping/drizzling.  (Just don’t heat it longer than that or the caramel might boil/burn.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some delicious caramel apples to enjoy.

Caramel Sauce Recipe Makes about 2 3/4 cups

Ingredients: 1/2 cup water 2 cups sugar 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter, divided 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions: Add sugar and water together into a medium sized, heavy duty saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil. Allow it to continue to boil, without stirring, for 10 to 14 minutes.

It will slowly start to darken. Tilt the pan occasionally to redistributed the mixture and keep the cooking even until it turns a deep caramel color. Remove from heat.  Stir in sweetened condensed milk. It will bubble up and expand a bit, which is why you need a medium pan to keep it from flowing over the edge. Do not scrape the sides of the pan during this stage.

Add the first half of the stick of butter, one tablespoon at a time, thoroughly stirring after each piece. Stir in the remaining half stick of butter and vanilla extract until smooth.  It will thicken as it cools.

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So this week’s topic doesn’t have anything to do with Mason Jars, but how could I not talk about the total solar eclipse happening this month?  The only tie-in I could think of was that we do carry Mason Jar solar lights that you can find here.  But other than that, this is just a blog post about the solar eclipse because we’re really excited about it!

Here are some fun facts about the solar eclipse and resources.  If you’d like to know more, go to Astronomy Magazine’s website for the full list of fun facts.

The total solar eclipse will happen on August 21st, 2017 This will be the first total solar eclipse in 38 years A solar eclipse is a lineup of the sun, moon, and earth A solar eclipse happens at New Moon Everyone in the continental U.S. will see at least a partial eclipse. First contact of the solar eclipse will be in Oregon This eclipse will be THE most viewed The city with the best and longest view is Nashville.  Below is a list of some other cities that have some decent views.  So some of us will get a decent look at this pretty big solar event.

 

One fact to also remember is the importance of protective eyewear when viewing the total solar eclipse, so make sure and check out different sites that list appropriate eyewear.  NASA has the following guidelines listed on their site:

Have certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard Have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product Not be used if they are older than three years, or have scratched or wrinkled lenses Not to be used with homemade filters or be substituted for with ordinary sunglasses — not even very dark ones — because they are not safe for looking directly at the Sun

And they have verified these five manufacturers as credible: American Paper Optics, Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold film only), Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17.

Click here for the full description and list.

Here are some other resources for this rare celestial event happening in just a few weeks.

Eclipse 2017 Website

More Nasa resources can be found here.

“Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul.” -Victor Hugo

It’s hot – everywhere right now!  So, to help everyone cool off and hydrate, I thought I’d find some yummy flavored water recipes to share this week. These waters can be used for hydrating purposes, or as a detox from all the summer treats you’ve eaten.  You can also use them to help aid weight loss or get glowing skin.

No matter the reason you drink these waters, we all know the most important thing they do is hydrate.  During these very hot summer months when we are outside lounging or exercising, we are sweating, which causes us to lose water.  What better way to put back some of that water, but with some of these yummy fruit/veggie/herb infused water recipes.

Take it up a notch with this watermelon and jalapeno infused water.  You can find the full recipe here.  Reader’s Digest is actually a great resource for fun and easy healthy eating and lifestyle habits.  There are plenty of other Infused Water recipes there as well!

Benefit: the capsaicin in the jalapeno has been shown to help provide pain relief and aid in weight loss.  Check out Dr. Axe’s website for full benefits.

Nourish and hydrate your skin with cucumber herb water.  You can find the recipe here on the blog A Couple Cooks, along with some other great infused water combinations.

Benefit: Cucumber is ultra-hydrating!  Rosemary is a great anti-inflammatory, check out full benefits for rosemary here.

Mocktail anyone?  Try this blueberry/mint/lemon water that I found on Chelsweets blog.

Benefit: Blueberries are full of cancer fighting antioxidants. Mint is great for digestion. Check out the full benefits for mint here.

And for fruit infusing Mason Jar lids visit Mason Jar Lifestyle’s website. Because of course Mason Jars and infused water go together like peas and carrots!  I don’t recommend that as an infused water though!

 

 

Not only will you be saving money buying infused waters, but you will be reducing waste and reducing plastic use.  Bonus….and being that it’s still plastic free July, double bonus!!

We are half way through July.  How is everyone doing with their plastic free goals?  Hopefully you found some great alternatives and suggestions on the Plastic Free July website.  I thought it was a great resource and definitely wanted to share it with you all.  As July continues to speed by, I realized I have been doing great on my plastic free goals, but not so great on the healthy eating goals.  I’ve been utilizing convenient eating way too often.

With the higher temps and busy summer schedule it is easy to grab a quick bite at a drive through, or a sit down restaurant.  I try and make healthy choices there, but it’s always better to cook your own food.  I decided for the next few weeks I was going to do a gentle whole food detox.  I’m doing this to help get me back on track with my healthy eating as I’m starting to feel a little sluggish and tired from more than just those 90+ degree days!

A couple of my strategies when doing a detox like this is food prep!  That is really the best advice for any dietary change. Food prep. Food prep. Food prep!  Also, making a big salad for the whole week that I can bring for lunch, and have a small serving of before lunch.  I go and pick out all my favorite produce and through it all together with a few of my favorite greens.

If you are looking for a good detox salad recipe check out this one from Mind Body Green.  Feel free to swap at anything or use it for inspiration for your own creation.  I also make sure that I make my own dressings.  Store bought dressings are either full of chemicals, or the better quality ones are way too expensive.  For a few bucks in ingredients you can make an amazing healthy dressing.

Last week we posted some really great basic salad dressings that you can of course make in a Mason Jar!  My favorite is the basic Balsamic Vinegar dressing.  It’s simple and does not mask the flavor of the veggies.  I am looking forward to trying the ranch dressing.  My daughters eat ranch on pretty much everything, and making this favorite will be much cheaper than buying the natural one I found for them!  I love being able to dump all the ingredients in a Mason Jar, shake it up, and voila! yummy, healthy salad dressing!

 

Here are the Mason Jar salad dressing recipes courtesy of Buzzfeed.  Let us know which one was your favorite, and some of your tips and tricks for whole food detoxes.

Since July is the official “Go Plastic Free” month, I thought I would continue the love and share some more ideas of going plastic free.  Here are some ideas from Mason Jar Lifestyle’s customers who recently participated in a social media challenge we held recently:

“We just recently replaced all of our food storage containers with a good quality glass set, and I haven’t purchased any sandwich-sized Ziploc bags since our last box ran out in April. My son takes a lunch to his day camp this month, and all of it is going in reusable containers except the milk — cartons are recyclable.”

“Replaced food storage containers with glass, we use BeesWrap instead of plastic wrap and we use stainless steel or paper straws instead of plastic! “

“Used mason jars to pack everything in my cooler for camping 5 days. Condiments, grapes, butter, taco meat, milk, etc. Worked perfectly.”

“All small things but they add up! Remembering to bring my own real fork to work for my lunch, making my own mason jar coffee in the morning, and going to actually use all those reusable shopping bags we have!”

“I used to go through lots of Ziploc bags but now that I’ve invested in Bento boxes, I can’t remember when I bought them last.”

“We are doing the challenge and July is hard!!! We take our stainless steel cups, sporks, and other items but it is the eating out that is killing us. Twice this month ordering an ice cream cone we have been given a plastic spoon. I am documenting it all and even going to Beth Plastic-Free Terry for advice and it has been a challenge. Good challenge to recalibrate how we do our thing.”

“Not able to go out and buy glass containers I save every glass jar that food comes in. They are sterilized in the dishwasher..and I paint the lids a unifying color. Although its just for show and not use I also glue on decorative handles on the lids. I am very careful not to buy food in plastic containors but until they pkg. Everything in glass you have no choice. Leftovers go into glass bowls with a glass lid or glass jars that Ive saved for that purpose.Its not easy getting away from plastic but it can be done!!”

“I am slowly moving to all mason jar and glass storage. Plus we are using cloth napkins instead of paper. It’s a process but a worth it one. Good luck all.”

“Used mason jars to pack everything in my cooler for camping 5 days. Condiments, grapes, butter, taco meat, milk, etc. Worked perfectly.”

“I’ve been storing leftovers in jars instead of plastic containers. Works great-AND I can actually see what I have in the fridge!”

“I am only purchasing glass storage and drinking products.”

“Using parchment paper bags to replace zip lock bags and off course glass and metal water bottle”

“Not eating out!”

So many wonderful ideas to go plastic free this July, and I’m happy how much Mason jars play a part in most everyone’s strategy!

Please go to Plastic Free July website to accept the #choosetorefusechallenge – you will find some solutions for going plastic free this month, and beyond.

I suggest visiting the Case Studies section of the Plastic Free July website, as it offers many ideas for families, individuals, and workplaces to reduce your plastic use.

And in the Toolbox section it gives you access to all the logos and badges to start your own campaigns or challenges!

A lot of Mason Jar Lifestyles customers are interested in cooking and food storage ideas to go plastic free as was outlined in all the comments we collected from customers. The Plastic Free July website has some great ideas outlined in their Living Plastic Free section  – it offers up suggestions for all aspects of our lives.

 

Please make sure and check out Plastic Free July’s website for inspiring stories and ideas to go plastic free in July and beyond and #refusetochoose

And once you get all your wonderful plastic free ideas head over to Mason Jar Lifestyle to bring those ideas to fruition!

Is going “Plastic Free” on your family’s list to help the environment?  Does it seem like a huge task?  Well, I’m here to tell you that it is not!  A big step is to stop using plastic straws.  It’s as easy as that!  According to an article in the Washington Post, half a billion plastic drinking straws are used in America everyday.

If you carried your own reusable straws or only ate at restaurants that choose to use reusable straws, then you would be helping to decrease the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills and in the ocean.  Wondering where you can get reusable straws and how you can carry them around?  Mason Jar Lifestyle has the solution!

We carry an array of reusable straws along with straw sleeves.  These are easy to throw in your purse or stick in your pocket.  Keep a set in your car, and you will be covered on the go.  We’ve got everything–stainless steel, glass, silicone.  These are a great way to work towards your goal of going plastic free!  If you need a large number of straws for a party and don’t have enough reusable straws for everyone, consider using biodegradable paper ones rather than plastic.  The oceans will thank you!

To further your plastic free goal and expand it to styrofoam free, head over to the Surfrider’s website and check out their “Ocean Friendly Restaurant” movement.  On this site, you will be able to find restaurants that limit or do not use plastic or styrofoam, along with some other environmentally-friendly criteria.  It’s a great resource to help with your goal.

Remember: Every little bit adds up and helps.  With more and more people and restaurants having this same goal, we can all make a big impact! Here are a few other resources, courtesy of Surfrider Foundation.

http://www.beachapedia.org/Polystyrene

http://ecocycle.org/bestrawfree/faqs

https://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/conservation/waterwork/checklist-restaurant.html

You might be wondering how you do Father’s Day with Mason Jars.  Well, I’m glad you asked!

Who has a Dad?  Who has a Dad that is also a superhero fan…?  If you answered “I do!” to these questions, then this Mason Jar craft is perfect for you.  I found this on the fun site Sandy Toes and Popsicles.  This is such a perfect craft to do with the kids!

The kids will have a blast making these Mason Jars with all of Dad’s favorite snacks and his favorite Superheroes.  Dad will be excited to eat all of those favorite snacks out of his favorite Superhero Mason Jars!

If you’re not feeling the whole craft thing, then head over to Mason Jar Lifestyle and pick up a fun gift like our Faux Leather Mason Jar Cuff.  It’s great for your morning coffee or a Moscow Mule on the patio on a beautiful summer’s day.

“Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad!”

Happy Father’s Day from all of us over at Mason Jar Lifestyle!

Yesterday on Tuesday always has such great inspiration and crafts, and these Air Plant Mason Jars are just one of my favorites!  It inspired me to share with all of you some amazing Mason Jar Air Plants and Terrarium ideas.  With summer on the horizon, this is a great outdoor project to do with your kids because, let’s face it, it’s sometimes hard to compete with endless TV options and video games.  These are great crafts to inspire creativity and spark your child’s love for the outdoors and nature!

Yesterday on Tuesday’s Air Plant Mason Jar is a super cute way to help foster creativity and whimsy with your child.  These are very easy to put together, and with the popularity of fairy gardens there are a lot of fun fairies and gnomes to choose from! Find the full directions and printable tags here.

The Mason Jar Terrarium is great because you can either buy the supplies or have your kids go and hunt for them!  I found a quick and easy DIY Mason Jar Terrarium on Blue Bonnet Press.  Instructions are here.  Succulents are super hot right now, so you can find the real deal or fake us all out with the plastic versions.

Now go outside and get dirty!  And don’t forget to check out Mason Jar Lifestyle for all of your Mason Jar accessories and decor.

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