Friday, April 19, 2013

My Favorite Time-Out


Reading has not always been something I love to do, but in my adulthood I have learned to really enjoy it.  It's legitimate free time for me.  I don't feel guilty taking time out for myself to read, not in the least. It's especially enjoyable if I'm soaking in a giant bubble bath while I am reading.
No bubbles this time, but a giant bath nonetheless

I was talking with my sister in law a few weeks ago about our kids and reading.  We both have a child that does not love it, and has difficulty with reading comprehension.
What is the remedy for this? More reading, of course!  
Those kids just love that!  My sister-in-law and I both decided that if someone told us to grab a book, any book we wanted, and that we were required to read for an hour a day, there would be NO complaining.  It would be a welcome assignment!  One of my favorite assignments of the day, actually!

I've been in a habit of finishing every book I start, regardless of whether I like it or not. *which is actually a very strange thing since I don't feel that obligation toward the more important things*  I recently realized that this is not a good habit.  It wastes a lot of time actually.  Somehow I felt I owed it to ?someone?, the author maybe? to finish the book.  Why is this?  Strange.

So, I have set a new rule for myself:
If I check a book out of the library and don't finish reading it before it's due, I have one chance to renew it.  If I have to renew it more than once, then I obviously didn't love the book enough to finish, and it's not worth my time!

I'm not sure what started this impulse to finish every book I pick up, but I realized that there is no need to spend my limited reading time on a book I don't love.

I am in the middle of reading "Between Shades of Gray" right now.

No, not the other "shades of gray" book, this one is about a family taken into slavery and their struggles and strengths.  I love to read books about people overcoming trials and learning how they dealt with hard things.  They help me appreciate my many blessings, and they inspire me to be better than I was yesterday.

You can link up with me on Goodreads and see all that I have read and want to read.  Please recommend books you love to me, I'd love to hear what y'all are reading!

Anyone interested in starting a Book Club?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Apples, Apple Juice, Applesauce...

My windows are all foggy.  I've been busy in the kitchen tonight making apple juice and applesauce in my steam canner.  I have never made either, but it both turned out delicious!

About 2 weeks ago I ordered a 40 pound box of fuji apples from Bountiful Baskets for $23.00.  It was such a good deal, and last time we did this we ate them all up in no time.  I guess now the kids are a bit sick of raw apples and I still had half of the box left.  It was time to do something with them before they got mushy.

So I got to work washing:
 Apples cored, sliced and put into the steam juicer.
This particular steam juicer is the Nutri-Steamer.  It has a water pan on the bottom, then the juice pan with the dispensing tube, then the colander holding the apples, then the lid on top.
This is all the apple juice I got from all those apples, sadly.  Only two quarts.  I sealed the bottles using my steam canner, boiling for 20 minutes and then removing the jars from the canner (with a jar lifter) and letting them cool on a towel on the counter.
Then I mashed up what was remaining of the apples with a potato masher,
and put the mess into my food processor to puree the mashed apples.
I added a little cinnamon and filled 3 jars with this deliciousness!
Put them in the steam canner to process for 20 minutes. 

Here is my loot.  Three quarts of applesauce and two quarts of apple juice. I drank a glass of the apple juice just now and it's like nectar.  It's so sweet and tasty!  The applesauce is also very delicious.

I have quite a few apples left, and I think tomorrow I will be dehydrating them and adding some to my homemade granola!  Click on the link for the recipe, it is divine!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Gratituesday-A Friend Saved

This is a post about my gratitude to God

Today was a scary day for me.  My friend Rachel ran in the Boston Marathon and she finished in 3:41:21 - AMAZING!!!!!  This is the finish line the day before the race.  She's a little excited! :)

I'm sure you've heard about what happened today in Boston.  The bombings were horrific.

I signed up to receive text updates on Rachel's progress.  Every 10 km I would get updated on her time and pace.  After the third text, I was anxiously waiting for the final one to come through telling me her finishing time.  I kept thinking about it and wondering if she was ok.  Then, I got the update and was so impressed with her time!  She is in terrific shape and runs speedy fast.

Then, it wasn't until hours after it happened that I heard about the bombings.  I had no idea.  My concerns for Rachel's safety were there before I even knew she was in actual danger.  She crossed the finish line 30 minutes before the first bomb blew.  Not only am I amazed at how fast she runs, but I'm also thankful for it today.  Here she is after the race.

Rachel came to visit me just 3 days ago.  She surprised me by showing up at my house after not seeing her for over 4 months!  She is a very inspiring person in my life.  I'm thankful for her safety, that God protected her, that our visit last week was not the last time I will see her.  I am heartbroken at the loss of those that were killed and those that were injured today.

My friend was saved.  Mother of 4 beautiful children, a wife, sister, daughter, and friend.  I'm grateful to God for all that He has blessed my own life with.  The blessings are countless and continual.  I owe Him so much, yet I know it can never be re-payed.  The best way for me to show my gratitude to God is by the way I live my life.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Blah Ewww Ugh, Ya know what I mean?

Do you ever have those days where you just feel...blah...?  Ugh, today is one of those for me.  I have done a lot of productive things, such as:

  • pay my taxes  (Booooooooo)
  • pick up my book on hold at the library
  • exercise
  • go to lunch with a friend
  • babysit my cousin's darling son
  • send off a birthday package
  • wash 4 loads of laundry
But somehow I still feel like a slug, a useless blob of wasted flesh.  Probably because I focus on all the things I have yet to do today, like:
  • fold those 4 loads of laundry
  • make my bed
  • clean the floors
  • shower
  • start cooking dinner
  • and an endless list of must-do's
I'm trying to Enjoy what I can.  I just hate the gloomy days that keep me indoors instead of in the dirt where I long to be.  Growing things.  Looking at my flowers.  Pulling the weeds from around my raspberries.  Mowing the lawn.  Pretty much anything in the sunshine and nature.

I just want summer.  I guess I'll go eat some of my Summer In A Bottle! And maybe I'll vacuum for a bit.  I always feel better after dumping a canister of filth into the garbage can.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Summer in a bottle

I picked up my Bountiful Basket this morning, which included bananas, oranges, apples, asparagus, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, celery, zucchini, peppers and a pound of strawberries.  To that I added 16 additional pounds of fresh strawberries!  It's jam-making day for me.

Have you ever wished you knew how to make home made jam?  I know a lot of people say they would like to do it, but they think it's too intimidating.  Let me tell you, bottling/canning/preserving is NOT as hard as it seems.  It is actually pretty straight just have to have the right equipment.
*Leave a comment below if you are interested in a post about the necessary equipment

Ok.  Here we go.  This is how you make home made strawberry jam that will last for years and years.  Not only is it delicious, but look how gorgeous it is!
Nom Nom Nom
5 cups crushed strawberries
1 package pectin
7 cups sugar

large pot
1C measuring cup
potato masher
4 pint jars with lids (or 2 quart size jars)
canning funnel
jar lifter 
Step 1:  To start, you need 4 pounds of strawberries, this will yield approximately 5 cups of crushed berries.  Cut the stems off the berries and crush them with a potato masher.  The jam is much better if you leave the berries a little chunky, so the potato masher works great.

(Before you move on to step 2, you'll want to get your canner ready.  I use a steam canner.  I get the water in it, turn the heat up and let the jars get hot inside the canner.  I also put the lids in hot water to soften the seal, which helps ensure a good seal on the finished product.)

Step 2:  Mix a package of Pectin (Sure Jell) into the strawberry mixture and bring to a boil on high heat.  Once it gets to a rolling boil (does not stop bubbling when stirred) add 7 cups of sugar.  Return the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly, and let it boil for exactly one minute.  Remove the pot of jam from the heat, and using a ladle and a canning funnel, pour it into your hot jars.  Place the preheated jar lids on the filled jars (leave 1/8" space for expansion), screw the tops on, and close the steam canner.  The jam needs to process for 12-15 minutes.

 Once the time is up, use a jar lifter to remove the jars of jam from the canner.  They will (obviously) be very hot.  Set them on a towell on the counter to cool for up to 24 hours.  This is my favorite part of all time...the popping!  One of my favorite sounds is that of the lid popping, telling me that the seal is good and the canning was a success!  When you hear this sound, it should put a smile on your face.  It means you did a great job!

I'm by no means an expert canner, but I do have a lot of experience  with canning jam, juice, pickles, peaches, pears, apple pie filling, salsa, tomatoes, and tomatillos.  I'm happy to answer any questions!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Arthroscopic Meniscectomy

We just can't seem to stay away from hospitals/instacare/dental offices, etc. around here!

Andy hurt his knee back in November when we were finishing up the construction on our house, and we were hoping it would feel better with time.  That didn't happen and I finally convinced him to go see a doctor.  We have an amazing Orthopedic Surgeon in our new ward, so I made an appointment with him for Andy to get checked out.  The verdict: A torn meniscus and Andy was to have knee surgery.  Today was the big day.

There is a good reason Andy has a sad face...
 He had to have his leg shaved!  Ha!  He didn't love this.  We realize there are plenty of men who shave their legs, but Andy has never been a huge fan of that.  He likes his legs manly.  Hairy.  Not soft and smooth like mine! :)
 One he got his IV placed, they put this lovely hat on him and took him back to the OR...

For some reason I was worried that things would not go well.  I'm not sure why I was so nervous, but I'm happy to say that everything turned out wonderfully.  There was a possibility that the damage in his knee was not only a torn meniscus, but possibly a fractured femur as well.  If that was the case, the bone would be screwed together and the recovery would be much more difficult.  

Dr. Cooley informed me about 20 minutes after Andy went back for surgery that it was finished, and only the meniscus was damaged.  The recovery will be quick and fairly painless!  Wahoo!
I am so grateful for modern medicine.  His knee was really hurting him, I'm glad that will be over once he heals from the surgery.

I got Andy his favorite soup for dinner, Chicken Tortilla Soup from Zupas.   It was delicious!  Then while he was sleeping I went out into the yard cut some flowers for him.  Ahhh, tender.  I know, what I should do is go get him so Peanut M&M's!
Maybe I'll shave his other leg while he is all drugged up.  Hehe!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

And so it begins...

I started my garden!  So far, I've planted lettuce and peas, but this is only the beginning.  They should germinate in the next week or so, and I can plant everything else in another month.  The transformation in my garden since last June has been unreal.  Here is what it looked like when we bought the house:

Just sorta mangy.  A teeny tiny bit weedy.  It was more than a few years overgrown.  BUT, here is what it looks like now:

Ahhh!  Look at that beautifully soft, fluffy, golden glowing soil!  It is like butter.  I love it.  This is (part of) my 2000 square foot garden just after I tilled it up with my new best friend:
The "Husqvarna DRT900H"
My new rear tine tiller turned this soil over in no time!

This garden was used my Mr. Orman, the previous owner, for years and years and years.  And years.  He passed on a few years ago and his children rented the home to a dear family.  They were here for 3 years when Mr. Orman's children decided to sell.  We were lucky enough to be blessed with this home in an amazing neighborhood with incredible people surrounding us.  The open house was crawling with potential buyers, and we somehow sealed the deal.  It was meant for us, I know we are supposed to be here.

So this garden has a lot of history.  I have been told by numerous neighbors about how Orman took care of it, how he invited all the neighbors to bring their leaves in the fall so he could till them into the soil.  How he was working outside every day he could, even when he could hardly see.  My sister had stories about him for me before I knew anything about this home.  She lived in this neighborhood years ago.  Mr. Orman used to dry the grapes on his roof to make raisins that he shared with my sister.  He left bags of apples on his porch for her and her husband to take.  Now those grapes, those apples, along with cherries, raspberries and pears, (and random garlic growing throughout the yard) belong to me and my family!  I am so excited to carry on Orman's legacy and share them with my loved ones.

I keep getting asked if I will be using ALL of my garden this year.  I plan to.  I will try to keep it up.  I have maybe unrealistic dreams of harvesting many different vegetables all summer long from every square inch of my garden.  I am, however, concerned with how I will water it...there is currently not a drip system in place.  I am trying my hand at irrigation ditches this week as an experiment.  We shall see how that goes.

Wish me luck as I take on this huge task.  I may need help eating all of the vegetables I hope will grow here over the next 5 months.  Just saying.