04 May 2012

Food Storage Friday: Strawberries!

I just thought that title sounded fun.  I am happy that it is Friday though.  I'm also happy that I have no more strawberries sitting in my house, waiting for me to do something wonderful with them before they self-destruct.  Our local grocery store had a great deal on a flat of strawberries and pectin, so naturally, I along with every other woman in the area decided to make jam.  My husband was thrilled, since he's not been too big on my mock raspberry jam.  He would never have known my secret ingredient if he hadn't come home early.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get to those strawberries for two days and by the time I did get to them, they were going downhill fast.  I hate wasting so much fruit.  About that time, I ran across this little tip to keep strawberries fresher, longer.  So of course, I had to go buy another flat of strawberries to try it out.  This time, I went through the strawberries sooner.  I washed them and sorted out the berries that needed immediate action and put the rest aside.  I don't know if it was washing them in vinegar, or being more diligent in taking care of them, but this bunch of strawberries did much better.

It occurred to me, as I was stirring in those ridiculous amounts of sugar, that I should find a more healthy way to enjoy this spring-time fruit later on.  I know there are low-sugar and no-sugar jam recipes out there, but I never think of them until I'm elbow deep in strawberries, pectin and sugar.  Even though I know that sugar is the main ingredient in jam, I'm just always blown away at how much!

Apparently, I'm not the only one with strawberries on my mind, because a friend pinned this blog about drying fruit.  And the lightbulb came on!  I have never tried dehydrating strawberries, but I don't know why.  It is so easy!  Well, except for the slicing uniformly part.  If I had an egg slicer, it would have been easy-peasy, but I had to free hand it.  I tried a few.  My husband ate them on his cereal and asked for more.  So I made more and then more.  I'm thinking of running back to the store again to see if the deal is still on so I can make even more, but that would mean sorting strawberries again.  I'm not even sure how many strawberries I dried, but I have about 6 cups of the yummy snack sitting on my pantry shelf.  If my daughter finds the stash, it will be gone quickly.  She already finished off the dried apricots from last fall as well as most of the peach fruit leather.  It's such a healthy snack, I don't really mind her eating them, but I would like them to last a few months!

My total (so far) tally of preserved strawberries:

6 cups dried
5 pints canned jam
13.5 pints freezer jam

I think I will pedal on down to the store again when the little one wakes up from her nap... or maybe not.

Now that the sale is over, I found some more recipes for preserving strawberries.
No sugar strawberry freezer jam
Low sugar freezer jams
Dried strawberries (in the oven)

Happy preserving!

17 April 2012

Score at the Second Hand Store!

Actually, I didn't find what I was hoping to find, which was some magical thing to help me organize my sewing/crafting projects.  I'm not sure what exactly I wanted, but they didn't have anything that excited me in that area.

What I did find was some cute fabric.  I hesitated to buy it, since it was a bunch of fabrics put together in a plastic sack and taped up tight.  Kind of a mystery fabric grab bag.  You can see what fabrics are on the outside, but you have no idea how much is there and what lies beneath.  5 dollars for a fabric grab bag seemed kind of high, but I liked the fabric I could see and I have a few skirts in mind for my girls, so I grabbed it.  I'm so glad I did!  Inside the bag was five coordinating prints with plenty of fabric to work with.  There are also two flannel pieces, not my favorite colors or pattern, but I'm sure I can find something fun to do with them.

Now I just have to go buy some more white thread.  I think it's a sin for a sewing lady like me to run out of white thread, but sure enough, halfway through a fun skirt for the little one, the spool ran dry and I can't find any more in the house.  That doesn't mean it's not here, just that I can't find it, which is why I went to the second hand store in the first place.  Must find a way to store projects and supplies so I can find them when I need them.  I did find bright blue and hot pink spools of thread...

16 April 2012

Cautiously Hopeful...

I feel kind of silly writing a little post after being absent for so long.  I went a month at least without reading a single blog.  It was no fun, but necessary, I guess.  My 2 year old hit a stage that was particularly rough on me.  It resulted in us putting a lock on my bedroom door to have somewhere safe from her.  My computer desk is bare of everything except the computer.  I figured if there was nothing there to play with, maybe she would stop climbing up there.  I decided that after she peed on my desk and on my chair.  Separate incidents, same day.  I spent several weeks following her path of destruction and that's about all I accomplished.  No sewing, no cooking, no gardening.  Just her and me battling our wills.

She seems to have hit her peak and started down, thank goodness.  Let's hope there's no more mountains like this one to climb.  I would post a picture of the little darling, but she is naked in every single one.  On this downward side, she is being very funny and cute.  Yes, she still makes messes, but she's willing to help clean them up.  She is mastering things like putting on her clothes and knowing how to throw garbage away and that makes her happy and a little more snugly, for some reason.  After finishing some job, she'll look at me, waiting for me to tell her what a great job she did.  It's quite fun.  She helped me plant peas and spinach a few weeks ago and has been pretty good about not climbing into the boxes.  She got a watering can for Easter and seems to really enjoy drowning one section of the garden.  

So, as she is moving on in her life, I'm slowly finding my way back to my life.  I finally read some postings from my blog list and today, I actually baked both bread and cookies.  Oh, and I did a load of laundry.  I'm on a roll!  I am looking forward to starting some new projects and finishing a few that I already started.

My little man is being driven crazy by a loose tooth.  It's been loose for over a week and I mean really loose.  It's been sticking straight forward and grossing me out every time I look at him.  I can't believe it's still attached to him.  This is the boy who, in the fall, decided it was time to loose a tooth and loosened and pulled one in one night.  Then he did the same thing on the other side the next week.  Those teeth are finally growing in, since they weren't really ready to come out.  This one won't give it up despite his best efforts.  I just tied another bit of floss to the tooth for him to yank on.  Yuck.  The life of a mother...

Anyway, I'm hopeful that I will again be able to do the crazy stuff I love and then maybe, if the stars align correctly, I'll share them with you.

01 March 2012

Beware the Ides of ...February?

I don't know what's going on, but I have had really bad luck these past few weeks.  Add to that, a very severe case of "mommy brain" and you have a recipe for (near) disasters.

First the bad luck:

My crock-pot cracked.  No, that is not a new way of describing a crazy person (although I do think I'm a few cards short of a full deck...) my crock really is cracked.  You can barely see it from the bottom, which is why I didn't see it and why I was baffled at the pool of water coming out from under the slow cooker while it cooked plain baked potatoes.  I'm not sure what to do with the darn thing.  Maybe Walmart will take it back... there's bound to be some kind of recall, right?

Then, the chair that I used to sit in to type at this very computer decided to try to kill me.  It looks perfectly normal, but lean a little too far in any direction and it will buck you out on your head.  The kids love it.  I now sit on it's twin and wait for it to hate me too.

Nothin' but her goggles on...
My thumb and two fingers on my right hand have split open in very painful ways and for no good reason.  Why is it that when you have a crack under your fingernail, you manage to bump or catch that fingernail on everything?  I suppose it doesn't help that I am washing my hands very often.  Have I mentioned that we are in full potty training mode?  Not by my choice, the little monster has decided to go through life in the nude.  When given the option of either wearing a diaper or using the potty, she chose the potty and has done a remarkably great job.  However, that leaves me to clean it out and wash my hands a few hundred times a day, leading to more cracking and whining.

We finally got some snow!  That's not a bad thing, but it just happened to come at the exact time that I had to drive my little wrestler across town. (wrestling started again, oh joy)  I discovered just how bald the tires on the car really are.  I felt like I was on skis.  You know, slide sideways to stop...  Fortunately, I did grow up in Wyoming, on cheap, second-hand tires, so I can manage.  The kids sure gave an interesting commentary from the back seat.

Oh, and my husband recorded some video of my kids trying to ice skate with the camera, but my computer has decided that it is too old and feeble to process anything like that and rather than just skip on over the offending videos, it refuses to let me have any photos at all, so I don't even have a photo to share with you, other than the child, au natural.

Now, the mommy brain:

While doing the routine task of throwing a diaper away, (she will wear them when we have to leave the house.) I threw it in the toilet instead.  Too much potty cleaning, I suppose...

I mentioned that wrestling has started again.  I do this because my son loves it.  I personally like the sport of wrestling as well, but keeping my little monster under control at wrestling practice has become way too much for me.  I found myself dreading practice and then leaving completely exhausted from the exercise of chasing her down every time she made a break for it.  She of course does not go down quietly, so we disrupt the entire practice with shrieks and a mad dash through the boys.  I decided that she and I will not be staying at practice anymore.  Yesterday, after dropping the boy off and making sure the dancing girl could stay and play with some other unfortunate sisters of wrestlers, the little one and I left.  We crossed the street and I attempted to un-lock the car.  Only the key wouldn't go in.  At this point I'm trying to remember if there is a separate key to unlock the doors. (I don't lock the doors all that much... I'm too trusting that way)  I tried the passenger side... no luck, (picture woman with squirming 2 year old in one arm) and I was about to call my husband to tell him to leave work and bring me his keys, when I look in the back seat and notice.... no car seat.  And there's a fold down arm-rest.  We don't have one of those in our car...  Look about 15 feet to my right, and there's my car.  I laughed really loud and then looked around to see if someone saw this whole production, but I don't think anyone did.

Which leads me to my next act of stupidity, although I should have seen this one coming.  Every time I go to a fabric store with a child, I leave with either the wrong stuff, or far too much (or little) of the right stuff.  Anyway, today the monster and I went to a fabric store.  I like to look through the remnant rack to get some inspiration.  I did find a few little scraps that I wanted to add to a skirt that is in the works for the dancing girl.  (Her skirts are getting way too short.)  I have to put them on the very bottom part of the cart, balanced carefully, because the baby will tear them to bits, making check-out difficult.  Anyway, I notice a sign saying that patterns are on sale for only $.99.  So I took the opportunity to pick up a few that I've been eye-balling, but could never bring myself to buy. (I mean, how can I spend $15 on a costume pattern?)  At this point, the monster escaped and scattered birthday cards on the floor, so I wrapped things up.   Checked out quickly, (a little too quickly as it turns out) and went to pick up the other kids so our evening ritual can begin... That means complaining about wanting a snack and fighting over who gets to stay up a little later.

It wasn't until later that I really looked at one of the patterns I bought, one for me, and realized that I bought it in teenage-girl size.  Oh, well, I thought.  At least I didn't attempt to buy any fabric.  And then I remembered the two scraps balanced on the bottom of the cart.  At least I didn't shoplift them.  I left the cart inside the store.  Maybe when I get back there tomorrow to exchange this pattern, they'll be there waiting for me, on the bottom of the cart that pulls to the right. 

Hopefully, March goes better for me.

10 February 2012

Yummy Buttermilk Bran Muffins

During my growing up years, my mom would occasionally make up a batch of bran muffins.  The batter would sit in a big pitcher in the fridge and every morning, we would bake a batch for breakfast.  They were good with some jam on them, but I preferred them with just a big slab of butter tucked in there.

A few years ago, I was sorting through my mom's recipes, looking for old favorites to copy for my collection and I ran across this one.

I scanned it and saved it on my computer and then forgot about it.  Then, a week or so ago, I got a sudden craving for my mom's bran muffins.  I think it must be a winter thing... yummy, hot muffins on a cold morning...  So I pulled up the recipe, and then added some scary (to my husband) ingredients to my grocery list and I prepared to make me some muffins.  My husband was truly terrified to see All Bran and plain bran flakes in the cart.  And he was even more scared when he came home early and saw the nasty looking mixture of buttermilk and bran before I mixed in the flour.  I admit, it looked bad, but knowing that I love the product, I plowed on and made the muffins.
Except this recipe is for a large family of hungry eaters.  I didn't have a bowl big enough to mix it in.  I had to use my two largest bowls.  Keep that in mind if you decide to make them.

The verdict:  Even after seeing what goes in and how funky it looks, my husband was willing to try one and then he ate another one and another.  The kids love them with raspberry jam and the little one eats them plain.  I don't know if it's the buttermilk, or what, but for being so full of healthy stuff, these muffins are delicious.  Try them!

09 February 2012

Where did January go?

...and where have I been?

I've been here, doing the things I always do, but for some reason there seems to be fewer hours in the day, or at least less time during the afternoon nap.  I just can't fit as much into that time slot as I used to.  We have been furiously filling out financial aide forms, scholarship applications and tax information. (My husband is a full time student)  We finally signed up the Dancing Queen for a dance class like we've been promising to do for at least a year, and that sends us hustling down the road each Thursday.  I'm also a cub scout leader, oh joy.  One hour a week with some wild and funny boys keeps life interesting.

We seemed to spend January shuttling our kids to and from birthday parties.  What's with everyone being born in January?  We took advantage of those parties to take the other, not invited, child out on a "date" with Mom or Dad.

We just had a February birthday.  My "baby" is now 2 and I suppose now she has an excuse for her monstrous behavior.  We celebrated by letting her run around naked and trash the house, her two favorite things.

This is the PG version.  There's usually more skin.
Okay, she does that everyday, so it wasn't that special.  We will be doing the whole cake and ice cream song and dance this weekend when we go to Grandma's.  I did make her some leg warmers to keep her somewhat warm while she goes through this phase of needing to be naked.

Still need to fix the gray socks to make them leg warmers.

Her birthday hits at a perfect time, as far as my crazy creating whims go.  During the month of January, I discovered this blog, and was inspired to make some stuff.  Lucky for me, I just happen to have a couple of little girls that like to play with kitchen stuff.


The carrots took forever!

Eggs over easy...

A few varieties of cheeses.

The radishes aren't finished yet.
I think everyday for a week or two, my husband would come home to find me in the middle of some other felt food project.  I find it makes me happy to create something fun and quick like this.

What have you been up to?

10 January 2012

After a lovely little cold and some house cleaning, I finally feel like I'm myself again.  For some reason, I feel the need to catch up on some past stuff before I can move on to the new year and future plans.  I forgot a few things that I made for Christmas.  The pictures were still on my camera until this morning.  My siblings and I have a gift giving rotation.  Last year, I tried to finish a quilt that one of my sisters had started.  The top is finished, but I haven't finished quilting it yet.  Maybe by the time the rotation goes around to me having her again?
This year I took another go at finishing an unfinished project for another sister.  Several years ago, she had started working on a wool saddle blanket, like this one.  I knew she had stowed it away in her attic, so sometime in October, I snuck into her house and swiped it.  Sort of.  Actually, I broke a shelf while trying to hoist myself into her unfinished attic access door.  It took some stealthy gluing and sweater rearranging to cover my tracks as well as a more flexible and tall husband to finally get up there and hand down the project.
I also made her some sheep potholders from old sweaters.  I originally planned on making a pillow, like some of these, but I just didn't have it in me.
I found a picture of the ninja suit, which was an even bigger hit than I expected.  Too bad we left the pants at Granny's house.
And here's the football cake that he requested.  The kid didn't pick a theme, unless it was just "BOY".  He wanted a dress-up party with a football cake at a bouncy house place.  So that's what we did.
We've been enjoying this July January weather.  Yes, that is my husband wearing a t-shirt outside in January.  We actually got outside to do the fall clean-up that didn't happen in the fall because winter was here then.
My husband and I celebrated our 8th anniversary.  "Celebrated" gives the impression that we did something special.  We cleaned the bedroom.  It really needed it since that was the dumping place for all Christmas projects and supplies.  He also brought me some flowers and a sweet card, once again proving that we have completely switched places on the card giving spectrum.  I guess "special" is all relative.  He also called me into the office and surprised me by playing 'our song' and dancing with me right there.  That was special to me.

I have a few other things on my mind too, such as trying to figure out why the salt is sabotaging my baking.  Is it possible for salt to be saltier than it should be?  Everything is coming out too salty, no matter how much I cut the salt back.  Maybe I have a little kitchen elf "helping" me...

I'm also needing to go through my pantry and figure out what I need more of, and how much has been used, but I'll probably never get around to that, so don't hold your breath.

02 January 2012

Hello 2012!

Wow, the last few months flew by!  I entered my Christmas preparation hibernation sometime in November and I feel like I'm just barely coming out of it.  It seems like once I get a few ideas of things to make, I just can't stop.  Here's a few snatches of what kept me busy for the past two months:

I decided that we really needed Thanksgiving napkins when I found a yard of clearance fabric.  One yard of fabric makes a lot of napkins.  Napkins take longer to make than you would think.  I'll finish the rest next year on Thanksgiving Eve.

Also in the fabric clearance was this cute scrap.  Since my 5 year old girl has grown out of her old apron, I couldn't help making a new one.

Hand puppets are a lot harder to make without a pattern than  you would think, but I had a lot of fun with these.  The old king is my favorite, although I made his outfit too small to fit my hand into.

Since the little one pretends to ride anything she can while yelling Yee-Haw, I thought she could use a stick horse.  I adapted several horses that I found online to achieve this particular breed of old levi and cast off sweater.  Unfortunately, I think it's too heavy for her.  I'll have to make a smaller version for her birthday.

I had to make another one of these for the little one, since I was lazy last year and never did it.  Coincidentally, her stocking matches her horse.

There's a few more things that I don't have pictures for, like the puppet theater and the ninja costume that we put together out of cast off clothing.  I must have been too tired to take pictures of them.  And suddenly, it's a new year and I'm still recovering from the old one.  Hopefully, I'll get all this holiday stuff put away and get my head facing the right direction soon.

Happy New Year!