Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Years Resolution ideas

Well, Christmas is pretty much out of the way. The kids didn't do too bad even though we didn't buy much this year. Lots of friends and family pitched in and the kids don't even know we had a tight budget this year.

So this year, I've been considering a few ideas for a new year's resolution. So much can change in a year, and especially this coming year. It will be a miracle if I still live in the same house. This year will be a roller coaster for sure, and hopefully we'll land on our feet. Last year, my new years resolution was to give only hand made items as gifts. What a ride that was. I learned how to make jewelry, and learned it wasn't really my thing. I learned how to make melt and pour soaps, also learned that wasn't my thing. I had already known how to knit, but I did learn a few more stitches. So, I'm a better knitter. I'm also better at sewing. One thing I did learn how to do this year that I think is one of "my things" is canning.

I got a few books last year on preserving food, and off I went. Everyone in my family just about got a jar of something. Apple butter, tomatoes, jellies and jams. I had a lot of fun, even was canning applesauce and apple butter yesterday.

So, for this year, one of my ideas for a new years resolution is to start a business selling my canned goods. It's a lot of work to get started, selling food. You have to get a license, you have to have a certified kitchen, so, it's not something on a whim. My family is in a crisis though, and finding a job seems impossible right now.

So anyway, here is a list of ideas that I've done and am considering doing for new years.

1. Stop drinking soda. (I did this a number of years ago, my waistline and my teeth thank me).
2. Start my own business. Just like I had mentioned above.
3. Loose 20lbs, who doesn't want to loose 20lbs right?
4. Continue only giving handmade items. Not only does it save money, but it's a more thoughtful gift. Most people seem to appreciate handmade items much more then store bought too.
5. Organize the house. Big one for me, I'm naturally disorganized. I feel like I'm always "starting the organization process." It just sucks.

I'm out of ideas now, more to come I'm sure.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Meme

I saw this meme floating around the interwebs, and decided to give it a go. If you want to do it, please link in the bottom. I'd love to read it. :)

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate? Depends, I like both, but I suppose I lean towards hot chocolate.

2. Does Santa wrap the presents or leave them open under the tree? Santa wraps them, part of the fun is unwrapping! :)

3. Colored lights on tree or white? I prefer white. I think it's the nightmares of the huge colored blinking lights that made no sense on my parents tree.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? I'd like to, but I'm not sure where I could get some in our neck of the woods.

5. When do you put decorations up? We start on Thanksgiving, and usually finish up by the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.

6. What's your favorite holiday dish? Unorthodox I know, but one of the family's tradition is to have steamed spiced shrimp. It's a Maryland/Chesapeake style of shrimp...and it's to die for.

7. Do you open gifts Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? We open a few gifts Christmas Eve and everything else Christmas morning.

8. How do you decorate your tree? Our tree is pre-lit, and we have ornaments that we've collected over the years.

9. Snow. Love it or hate it? LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!!

10. Can you ice skate? I've been twice. I'm horrible at it, lol.

11. What's your favorite holiday desserts? Pumpkin Pie

12. What's your favorite holiday tradition? Just getting together with family. I get so happy to have everyone around.

13. Candy Canes- yum or yuck? Yum!

14. Favorite show? Charlie Brown's Christmas, tied with Rudolf the Red nosed Reindeer. I am a big kid afterall.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I'm sore

Ok, we have snow. Lots of it. We got that blast of snow over the weekend, and we're still working our way out. We have a "let the cobwebs be" mentality at our house. Playing with the kids and general merriment usually have a priority over housework, and that includes shoveling our long driveway. I did quite a bit of shoveling yesterday, hence being sore. My husband finished up today while I scrubbed the floors in the house. I've added some pictures of our snow for your enjoyment. My dog and his boy had a ton of fun, and continue to enjoy the 12+ inches of snow that's still on the ground.

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I've included this picture here just to give you an idea of how much snow we did get. Believe it or not, it eventually reached the top of that wood before the snow stopped falling.

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In the mean time, I want to show you my husband's latest creation. While we wait for his hopeful employment offer, he's started up (at my request) an Etsy account. Spread the word, take a look at his photos. Offer comments, they're always welcome.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Well, Christmas is almost here. Sadly this season has been only filled with stress. My husband hasn't snagged a job yet. It's sad to say, but people drag their feet. Companies take so long to bring people on, he's been interviewing with one company in particular for over a month, and we just had word they wouldn't be making any more decisions until after the new year. So that's almost six weeks my husband has been unemployed.

I've begun my job search too. Talking to old employers, and applying for teaching positions. Sadly it's hard to find a teaching position in the middle of the school year. Bad timing for me I suppose. Luckily, we have supportive family and friends. We'll pull through, it just might take a while. So, when people ask if the economy is better. Perhaps for some it is, but for us, no it's definitely not. I'm hoping this Christmas will continue to be wonderful. We have our health, and we still have a roof over our heads. We have a lot to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Back to Blogging

This fall has been tremendous. We have been so busy and my life has been so full that I have had no time to keep up with any kind of posting to this blog. I hope to change that, I always have good intentions.

So, what's been up. Well, in early October, we took a vacation to see family. My brother and his wife had their first baby, so we traveled south. Our first stop was at my husband's brother's house in Alabama. We stayed there for a week, before heading to Florida. From Alabama to Florida we stopped to see as many friends as we could. We had lunch with friends in Tallahassee, stayed with my dear friend in Hernando Beach before heading out to Del Ray Beach. On our way back home, we saw a friend in St. Augustine, and visited his candle shop.

It was a refreshing break, but made me realize one very important thing about myself. I am a Virginia girl. When I got back home, the trees were so beautiful. They had really gone into the full change and the mountains just seemed to welcome me home. It was a beautiful vacation, the best kind seeing so many people I love that I don't get to see often. Perhaps I'll post some pictures, there are many great ones to pick from.

Sad news though on the home front. As tight as money has been lately, it will be getting worse. My husband was laid off from his job last week. Now our family is a statistic. We are part of that 10% of the unemployed. I have been working on a freelance basis, but it's not enough to support a family on, and it doesn't give us health insurance either. My fear is that this tough economy will split our family apart, forcing us to live separately to make ends meet. Hopefully though we'll just be able to make ends meet. Life is about to get harder then it ever has been for us. We'll have to toughen up I know, we've had an easy go at it so far.

Anyway, pictures to come of beautiful Florida and hot and sticky Alabama. Turkey day is coming too, so hopefully this will be another joyful time with family and friends. More soon.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Oriental Marinade

I was looking to marinade some veggies, and I found this recipe and adapted it a bit for my tastes.

Here's my version that filled my house with an incredible smell. I'm sure this would be good with chicken, too!

Here's my variation:
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 1/2tsp. dry mustard seeds
  • pepper to taste

    The pepper really was important, it wasn't mentioned in the first recipe, but it was so good. Worth adding. Enjoy!!
  • Friday, August 28, 2009

    Money Venting...

    A while back, we had to make some adjustments to our lifestyle. I quit working as a public school teacher about almost three years ago. The last school year I taught was 2006-07. Despite what many people believe, teacher's make a pretty ok salary. And when I was bringing home around 45k a year, to have that gone was drastic.

    I made up for it by freelancing and teaching privately, and I believe the income was comparable, until some more changes came about. I had to close an entire studio because of family changes. A torch had been passed that I feel most women bear as pillars of their family. My mom, our acting pillar was diagnosed with cancer, and thus, the torch was passed. I'm digressing.

    This passed week, the last of my own private students told me they couldn't afford me anymore. While this saddened me for personal reasons, as I've grown very fond of this family, it also puts a serious clamp on our finances, as they paid me almost $500 bucks a month.

    So my question is: How does one skim more off the top of an already skimmed budget?

    Well, for starters, if we turned off our T.V. and land line telephone that would save us $95.33 a month. My cell phone is 75.49 a month, however we can't cut the land line and the cell phone. I've been paying 2.99 a month from Skype for long distance, and I believe I can get my old phone number transferred to Skype and remove the land line all together. We've been cheating on the not going out to eat thing just a little bit. We've been going out about once a weekend, trying to spend less then 30-40 when we do. That could potentially add up to 120 bucks savings. I already do all of my cooking from scratch at home. We don't buy processed foods for health and money reasons.

    I'm spoiled being at home with my children. I love it. I answer to my heart, instead of a boss, and I know their lives are enriched because of it. Enough venting I suppose. I'm open to any ideas.

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    Tomatoes Pt. 3!!

    So, for part three as promised, I have canned tomatoes. Canning can be risky if you're not careful, and I'm not going to boast that it's this easy simple process. You have to be careful, you can't skip steps. If you don't think you can be thorough and precise, just freeze. I am not lacking in freezer space yet, but I have about 15 chickens coming from my farmer in a few weeks, so I might be tight on it soon.

    Anyhow, first step in canning is sterilizing your things. The cans, and the lids need to be boiled down. You should also consider boiling down your utensils. Next, you need to peel the tomatoes. If you drop them in boiling water for about thirty seconds, then drop them in a bowl of ice water, the skin practically falls right off.

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    I strongly suggest hot packing your tomatoes. Raw packing is considered safe by few, but with all the new hybrids it's hard to know if the tomatoes that your using are actually safe to raw pack. Hot packing only takes a few extra minutes, heat your tomatoes up for about 10 minutes, then slip them into their perspective cans.

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    Here you see the set up in my kitchen. My husband got a shot of the large pot I use to sterilize the jars, the boiling water in the back I used to dip the tomatoes in and the bowl of icewater next to it. Then in the front is where the peeled tomatoes went.

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    To insure acidity levels are safe, I put two tbsp of lemon juice in each can. I don't add salt, however you can safely add salt. I prefer to preserve these tomatoes as simply as I can because they're used for cooking, so salt can always be added later. Leave about an inch of head space, clean the tops of the jars and put the lids on. Not too tight! Air has to vent out during the water bath to create a vacuum.

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    Set the cans in a pot so they aren't touching each other, with at least an inch or two of water above the cans. Process them for 45 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the cans sit in the hot water to cool for about 10 minutes before pulling them out. They may hiss when you pull them out, and there may be tomato debris in the water. That just means there was not enough space and some of the contents boiled out. It's ok. On the flip side, if too much water boiled out and if your tomatoes aren't completely covered in the jar, that's ok too. I had that happen with this batch, and I found that if the jars are processed correctly, the tomatoes not completely covered in water may darken, but will still be safe.

    Hope my bit of rambling has been helpful to any potential canners out there. Happy and safe canning!!

    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Tomatoes!!! Pt. 2..... Spaghetti Sauce

    So last night I burnt the crap out of my hand making those roasted tomatoes. I'm not going to post the pic, but cooking at midnight sucks. So here's what I did with the tomatoes today. I started off with the yucky tomatoes. The ones that have rotten spots, and bruises. I cut the spots off and cored them and stuck them in my food processor.

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    I'm ahead of myself though as always. In this pan, there is one green pepper, two small onions, and two cloves of garlic. I drizzled some olive oil on them, and cooked them on a low temp. Mostly because you don't want your olive oil to smoke, then it's rancid. Low temps here!!! Now, while that is simmering on a low temp, let's go back to the tomatoes.

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    Depending on how chunky you want your spaghetti sauce depends on how long you blend them. If you don't have one of these a blender would work, or just mushing them up. I did keep the seeds and the skins on this batch. I hate to waste, and there are healthy nutrients in there!!

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    So once I was finished with all of those tomatoes, I poured them in the pot, and cooked it uncovered for two hours. The last hour I kept a close eye on it. Waited for it to thicken. I added salt and pepper to it at this time, along with oregano, basil, two bay leaves (which I removed before storing), and a pinch of baking soda.

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    The next shot is an hour and a half later, just before it really started to thicken up. The whole family was complaining they were hungry because I was torturing them with spaghetti sauce.

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    To store them, you can water bathe them and keep them canned up, however I am uncomfortable with that. If you do choose to go that route, add 2 tbsp of lemon juice and boil the cans for at least 45 minutes. My safer route shown here, was to put them in cans with plastic lids. The head space is different in the two cans shown. The one with those most air space on top is destined for the freezer. The other will be tomorrow's dinner. I keep an eye on my cans when I'm freezing them. They go through a two step process. They go in the kitchen freezer first, and I check on them regularly. These cans can and do shatter, so I keep a close eye, making sure they don't expand so much the glass breaks. Once they've frozen solid, I take them in the basement to my big freezer, which will keep them at a lower temp.

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    Anyway, I hope this helps anyone not sure what to do with tomatoes. Be safe if your considering canning, know what you're doing. Part three will be canning!!

    Tomatoes!!! Pt. 1

    It's August, and in Virginia tomato season is in full swing. I've been snacking on my little pear yellows for a couple weeks now, and my beefsteaks are finally ripening enough to bring them in. This week however my farmer gave me a huge box of what she's been growing. We had some weird mix up with someone picking up my CSA share this week, leaving me with a half share instead of a full. She made it up to me by giving me this huge box of tomatoes.

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    She had suggested I try roasting some of them. Just to have some different twists on things. So that's what I ended up doing first. I googled some recipes, but none seemed accurate, so I'll share with you what I learned. First of all, I sifted through the box, and dug out all the Roma tomatoes. They are little skinny tomatoes, that are typically used for spaghetti sauces, pastes, etc. I'm not italian in the least, so forgive me for my Virginia girl rendition of what to do with tomatoes.

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    If you take a close look at these pictures, not all these tomatoes are perfect. That's ok!! Cut out any yucky spots and cook them anyway. I used two pans. One cookie sheet which really did the best job, and then an oven safe frying pan took the leftover tomatoes. I rubbed both down with olive oil, then lined the tomatoes on their backs, pulp/seeds up. Some websites mentioned flipping them, I did not and they turned out fine. I then sprinkled dried herbs on them. Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme. My favorite ended up being the ones with only rosemary on them. I bet if I had fresh rosemary that would have been great too. I also put sea salt and freshly ground pepper on them. Go easy on the salt. These tomatoes really pack a huge flavor when they're done, so they don't need much help.

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    After 7 hours at 225, I end up with what you see in the jar, and yes, that's all of the tomatoes. I also added garlic in there, and note, I did not skin the garlic. I just set them next to the tomatoes and roasted them. I haven't tried them yet, but from what I've read, they will be to die for. I'm a horrible photographer, so I took them outside in some natural light so you can see exactly how yummy they look. You want them to end up crispy, and not juicy. They can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week or two, and they can be frozen beautifully. I will be freezing about half of them. Next post will be about making spaghetti sauce. I feel almost silly posting that, but I have a huge box of tomatoes to go through! This was barely a dent.

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    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    It's official

    Today, I turned in my letter of intent to homeschool my son. It's a big, and nervous step for me. It's a researched and calculated step though. I've started a new blog to document the year for myself. Please feel free to check it out. I've already been working with him a little this summer, and I'm just going to pick up where we are in the blog. Good chance I'll be posting again some point today when we sit down and work on his things.

    Wish me luck!!

    Friday, July 24, 2009


    So, today I did a little sewing while watching the kids in the pool. It's nice to sew by hand now and then, but I had to learn this stitch I did today, so I googled blanket stitch, which was the kind I used. I found an easy video and got to work.

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    The onsie here is part of a pack I bought at Target a while back. I bought it just to do this craft, and I finally got around to it. The fabric used is "upcycled" material. That's a fancy way of saying I tore into some of my old clothes. The grey whale used to be a work shirt. I don't work any more, so I snipped away.

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    The denim I used to make the water came from one of my son's old pair of jeans that he thoroughly destroyed playing in. The thread was leftover from an old cross stitch project. I love that for pretty much the cost of a pack of onsies I have made an adorable shirt for my nephew who will be born this fall. I'm even considering making a pair of pants to match. We'll see. I still have left over fabric from that shirt. :)

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    Happy Friday!

    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    Summer Gazpacho

    So, I didn't realize that everyone in the world didn't know what Gazpacho was. I posted earlier on my facebook that I made Gazpacho today, and my friends were puzzled. It's a Spanish cold soup, made for hot summer days like today. Here's how I make mine.

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    First I start off with some veggies. Mostly tomatoes make this. Above is the ratio of what I put in. Four regular sized tomatoes, two cukes, today's had one banana pepper and one mystery pepper (that's what my farmer said...she didn't know what it was!). You can use any kind of sweet pepper in this. If you like heat, you can add hot ones too. Alot of people like to add red bell peppers too, I just didn't have any on hand. A small onion and two cloves of garlic also went into mine.

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    I added this pic just because I love my farmer. She doesn't know it yet, but I do! You can't get these kinds of veggies from the grocery store. The color I have seen this summer come from her pulls at my gardener's heart strings. I am delighted when I see unique tastey veggies each week, like my purple garlic and purple striped banana peppers. Even the rainbow chard with all the pinks yellows and oranges made my kids want to at least try it. :)

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    Ok so back to the recipe. I had no bread on hand, some recipes call for yesterday's bread, but I haven't made any this week, bread. On to the Olive oil and the red wine. Three tablespoons of EVOO and two tablespoons of merlot went into my soup, along with two cups of vegetable broth.

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    Stick it all in a blender, and blend it until smooth. Sit it in the fridge to chill for a day. Resist the urge to dip a spoon in it and eat's hard. I know.

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    Enjoy. :)

    Monday, June 29, 2009

    Happy Homemaker Monday

    The weather in my neck of the woods:
    Warm, a little humid, but sunny and pretty.

    One of my simple pleasures:
    Quiet time. :)

    On my bedside table:
    Two balls of yarn, my double edged knitting needles, my clock and a light.

    On my TV:
    Going to be watching starwars in a few minutes.

    On the menu for tonight:
    Fried Zucchini, home made cole-slaw.

    On my To Do List:
    Finish the cushions on the chairs, go test drive a van in the morning.

    New Recipe I tried last week:
    I wouldn't know which one to put, probably a new swiss chard recipe.

    In the craft basket:
    My craft basket is overflowing. I have a quilt that needs finishing, and some appliques that need to be ironed on.

    Looking forward to:'s been a long day. :)

    Homemaking Tip for this week:
    You can preserve onions best by using panty hose and tying knots between the bulbs. Hang them in a cool dark place, and they'll last quite a bit.

    Favorite Blog Post of the week (mine or other):
    I haven't had much of a chance to look at other blogs.

    Favorite photo from last week:

    This is the antique candy wrapper I found in the cushions I bought at the flea market last week. I snapped a few pictures before throwing it away. Was just neat to have a flash back from another time.

    Lesson learned the past few days:
    Flea market finds can keep you having happy vibes for a few days. What fantastic find.

    On my Prayer List:
    My mother in hopes her neuropathy eases off soon.



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