Saturday, November 5, 2016

a pretty great day in November

Saturdays off from work have been relaxing and filled with hour long tasks and cuddling with Alfie, the cat.

Today has been another such a day.

I awoke sans alarm with pancakes on the griddle and coffee already made.

I read the books we were given from friends, Robin and Ludie, to you (and to Alfie, who hopped up on my lap.)

I took a picture with you today for the first time. You're starting the show, since you're already three months along.

I did the laundry. It was only three loads and I'm confident I'll have it all folded and put away before dinner.

Every year I make donuts and I finally had the time to do it today. I have been wanting donuts a lot lately, so I thought that would make you happy, too. I used a different recipe, which used mashed potatoes and yeast. They took all morning and rose three different times before I could fry them up. (You're Dad said they were perfect.)




With the extra scraps, I made cinnamon rolls, too.
 

It's been a beautiful, sunny day, for the beginning of November. We're going to go for a walk in the woods in a little bit, one of the first things your Dad and I ever did together when we were in college before we started dating.

With all the sugar you've gotten from the donuts and the warm Fall sunshine, I'm sure you're having a pretty great day, too. <3

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

where we are now

My favorite time of year is upon us.
It's time to wear cozy sweaters, drink hot apple cider and watch the leaves change.

The garden is slowing down and we are thankful.
We are thankful for the bounty that we've been blessed with and now for rest!

There have been projects that I've wanted to start, but I've had to resist. Wintertime is for such long awaited projects.

It's a time to recharge our batteries and slowly begin to like tomatoes again (after being sick of canning them).

It's a time to turn on the oven and heat up the house with baking bread.

All of these things I look forward to.

Looking forward to something is great and gets us excited for the future, but I can't forget to stop to look at where we are now.

Right now, there are parsnips and carrots still in the ground waiting to be dug.

Right now, the Buffalo Bills are holding onto a winning record (??!)

Right now, we have a quiet house and a handsome cat to keep us company.

Right now, I spend my days off baking confections and learning new things to do with my hair.

Right now, I won't admit how many times I press snooze before I finally get up.


And right now, our family is growing.


It's still sinking in. A little life is growing inside of me. Just a few days shy of entering the second trimester, it is still hard to believe.

We have told our family, friends, church family, the world (via facebook) and it gets more and more exciting. We are so grateful for all the well wishes and prayers. We know that this is truly a blessing and a gift.


What happens now?


My husband continues remodeling our bathroom [hopefully, finishing soon]!

I need to turn my craft room into a nursery. (This is going to be a tough one!)

We need to move our bedroom down the hall to the larger, former guestroom.


T-minus six months. Ready or not... baby is coming! <3

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Zesty Salsa

Summer is on its last leg.
School has begun, but the warm temperatures and tomatoes keep coming.
Alas, another month has gone since a blog post. There haven't been many opportunities to relax and blog. The snow will fly sometime and I'll be forced to write.

I'm at my wits end with canning anything tomato related. I canned many a pint and quart of tomatoes and we made spaghetti sauce for the first time this year.

I had been voluntold (someone volunteers you to do something, but really is telling you to do it) to make salsa by my husband twice. Since I failed to make any effort, the other night he prepped it all; chopped onion, tomato, peppers- sweet and hot. I canned them the next day before I went to work.

Zesty Salsa, found in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, has been our go-to recipe for the past three years. It's not complicated at all, just time consuming with all the chopping. (For the onion, we use a mini food chopper, but if you have a fancy Vitamix or nice food processor, all the veggies wouldn't take long to chop.)

Zesty Salsa
10 c. chopped/cored/peeled tomatoes (about a 4 qt basket)
5 c. chopped/seeded/ green bell peppers (we also used some red peppers)
5 c. chopped onions
2 1/2 c. chopped/seeded hot peppers (this is where you can get crazy- we used hot banana and jalapenos)
1 1/4 c. cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 T. finely chopped cilantro
1 T. salt

In a large saucepan, combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and gently boil, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Ladle salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Put on the lids and bands.
Put jars in a water bath canner and process for 15 minutes. (I make pints, but you can also use half pints using the same amount of time for processing.) Remove canner lid, and wait five minutes. Cool jars and store.

The recipe says it makes 12 8 oz jars or 6 pint jars, but ours made 9 pints. You have been warned.

We like our salsa chunky, but you can chop your veggies however you want to get the consistency you desire.

I still need to can tomato soup, pickled beets and pears. I'm ready for Winter, I mean a break. <3

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Oh, Summer!

Oh, Summer! I love you in so many ways:
Fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs, the warm nights, wearing sandals, fresh cut flowers on my table, a break from school...

Yesterday, I did something that I've always said I wanted to do, but never did- make pesto and freeze it. Actually, have I even made pesto before?? Maybe once. We have a little patch of basil growing in the garden and something needed to be done with it. My husband asked if he should bring it to the farmer's market. I replied, "No! I want to make pesto!" After making a double batch of pesto, we still have a whole bunch of basil. I guess I need to make more pesto. (I need to apologize to any of our market customers reading about my basil hoarding problem. It's not you, it's me. I mean, we can't sell everything. Please don't hate me.)


This recipe for pesto comes from The Classic Zucchini Cookbook. This book is great and boasts that it has "225 Recipes for All Kinds of Squash." You won't be bored with squash ever again.

Every pesto recipe is slightly different. I made basil pesto, but you can use other herbs also. I looked at just three different cookbooks and all had the same ingredients, but different amounts of them. If you are like me and need exact measurements, follow the recipe below. If you don't like something about it, next time tweak it a little bit. If you don't need a set recipe, this can be a guide for you. I doubled the recipe because like I said, we have a lot of basil.

Pesto

1 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
2 cloves of garlic
3 T. pine nuts, toasted (you may also use walnuts)
1/4 c. olive oil
3 T. Parmesan cheese
Salt and fresh cracked pepper

1. Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor. (I used a blender.) Process until finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour the oil, until it all comes together. Add the Parmesan and salt and pepper; pulse to combine.

 
2. Use right away or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
   NOTE: To preserve the light green color of the pesto once you have transferred it to a storage container, cover the pesto with a film of olive oil to seal out the air.
Makes about 2/3 cup.

For dinner tonight, I made fresh fettuccini, sautĂ©ed some yellow zucchini and tossed it all with the pesto.  It was fantastic.


This Winter, when I use the rest of the pesto, the aroma of basil and garlic will for sure take me back to this day. Thank you, Summer for being so delicious. <3

Monday, July 18, 2016

Introducing: Good Stuff Farm

Two years ago, when we adopted our furbaby, Alfie, it took us about a week to come up with a name. At the shelter, Alfie was "Little Man." (Which is funny because he is not little at all.) My husband and I kept coming up with names. Alfie came up a few times, but was then nixed. One day, my husband decided to start calling him "Alfie," and thus his name stuck. This kind of happened again. No we didn't get another cat. We finally named our little farm.

It has taken us over a year to pick a name. We have bounced so many names around for our little vegetable operation. I even asked for suggestions on facebook. There were so many names we liked, but then I'd google them and the name was already being used somewhere else in US.

Last year, I only worked half days at the thrift store, allowing me to work at the farmer's market in the morning, quickly drive home to unload any unpurchased produce and/or coolers and drive to work. This year, I am working full days. My husband changed his schedule, so he could go to the market.

A couple days before the first market, my husband asked, "Can you paint a sign for our stand at the market? Paint "Good Stuff Farm" on it."

After all the discussion, all my little sketches and designing, he says what the farm will be and it is so.  (There is another farm somewhere with the same name, but obviously my husband doesn't care. Right now, this is a hobby farm.)

I'm fine with that. I don't really like making decisions.

We have a facebook page. Check it out. Give us a thumbs up if you so incline.


After picking our green and yellow beans last night and filling up our tub, I text my Mom with a picture of said tub.



Me: "I guess beans are ready..."
Mom: "They are! Are you?"
Me: "I think so. I'm going to have to be."

After that I kept hearing The Fugees' song "Ready Or Not" in my head. Ready or not, here come the beans...

Last Summer, my mother-in-law, Renee, was recovering from surgery, so I picked and canned all of her beans along with ours. This year, we're working together. I was given my grandmother-in-law's 22 qt. pressure canner. I am able to can 18 pints at a time. You read that right, 18! It is a beast of a thing and I love it. It's amazing. I picked the beans, Renee came up this morning and helped me snap/cut them and now I'm canning them.




How quickly we forget how crazy Summer can get. Having a garden and picking the veggies is one thing, but then, oh wait- we have to can and freeze the stuff. It's a crazy time, but absolutely worth it.  Has anyone else started to preserve this tasty season? <3

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

reconnected in Connecticut

My husband and I had the chance to go to Connecticut a few weeks ago. One of my college friends is getting married in the Fall and had to go to her bridal shower. (She drove all the way NY for mine; I wasn't going to miss hers.)
As soon as I got the shower invite in the mail, I e-mailed my friend's Mom and volunteered for anything. I love making and creating. My arm was literally waving in the air like a student who knows the answer to an easy question, "Ooo! Pick me! Pick me! I want to help!" I was given the task of making centerpieces.

The theme was a conglomerate of things my friend loves: tea parties, Breakfast At Tiffany's, and Downton Abbey.

With all that in mind, I bought a bunch of gold, metal picture frames from the thrift store and any old looking books that there were. I borrowed a couple teapots from my mother-in-law as well as some tea tins.

I scoured pinterest.com for Downton Abbey quotes. I typed them up, printed them out and put them in the frames.

I bought some floral foam and made arrangements in the tins and teapots. Since the drive to Connecticut was about seven hours, picking the flowers and arranging them was the last thing I did before we left. My mother-in-law's garden was also utilized for the centerpieces. (Renee, you are so good to me!)



 


Another thing that I have been interested in lately is book folding; folding the pages of books to create a picture or word. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to google it. It's kind of nuts. Some people make sentences and can be very elaborate. I'm a beginner, so I just made a heart.


The last thing I want to share is one of the gifts I made my friend. For those who don't know, a few years ago, I rented space at the printing studio and did letterpress. I took several classes and then I started working on my own projects. I made cards, banners and posters. My friend, whose shower I went to, had asked me to make two wedding prints for her two friends that were getting married at the time. I printed in their wedding colors and personalized each print with the wedding dates. Since I am no longer working at that studio, I still wanted to do something special for my friend. I decided to recreate the print, but make it into a collage. I looked at my original design and cut out paper for the letters. I bought a pretty gold frame from the thrift store to finish it.




Everything was a lot of work, but absolutely worth it. The shower was as beautiful as the bride-to-be. There was so much love there and I was so happy to be a part of it.

The lovely, bride-to-be and myself in our tea dresses and hats.

On our drive to Connecticut, my husband asked how far away from the ocean we were. I looked at the map and since it's such a small state, it didn't look like it would be too far. We don't get to the ocean that much, so I thought it might be doable on our way out of town. After the shower, my friend and her fiancĂ©  asked my husband and I if we wanted to go to the ocean!
It was about a 45 minute drive to the beach. We went to Lenny & Joe's Fish Tail www.ljfishtale.com in Madison first. I got a fish sandwich, French fries and split a strawberry milkshake with my husband... yum-o!  The beach was just a few minutes away. There were clear skies with a slight breeze. We walked along the beach and I looked for seashells and sea glass. Of course, there were some nice places for pictures, too.
 

 
Next time we are in Connecticut, it will be for a wedding! It will be here before we know it! It's already July; the Summer is flying by. (I saw back to school supplies in Wal Mart this morning- yikes!) I'm going to enjoy the sun and warm weather as much as I can. Lots of fun things coming in the future. <3

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Where have you been?

I have the voice of Ronald Weasley's mother's thick English accent in my head asking me, "Where have you been?"

That is a great question. This thing called Summer happened and so staying indoors to write up a post has been on the bottom of my to-do list.

School is out; thank you, Lord, for vacation. As soon as school was done, I started prepping for our church's vacation Bible school. It was a fun and crazy week.


My husband and I got our garden in and every chance I get, I'm weeding. It is virtually weed free and looks gorgeous. (OK, by looking at the pictures, there are weeds, but not that many.) The past three days, in particular, I have been outside weeding the entire day. Sadly, my favorite garden gloves have bit the dust and since I bought them at Tractor Supply two years ago on clearance, I'm kind of doubting I'll find a replacement. (I wear a size small and those are hard to come by. Maybe I should just give in and buy the Mickey Mouse pair for kids.)
Most of the weeding is done by hand and my knees and shins will be black and blue all Summer. I think we should name our garden either "The Stoneyard" or "The Rock Garden" because we have a lot or rocks. I think the first question I'll ask God when I get to Heaven will be, "Why didn't you give us any cushioning on our knees?" I also like to use our stirrup hoe and rickety old wheel hoe cultivator. The stirrup hoe is from Johnny's. It's good for breaking up the top layer of soil and getting the weeds. Our rickety old wheel hoe is probably better suited for a lawn decoration. The handles are all rough and the wheel doesn't go straight. As soon as you hit a rock, you're in danger of going into the row of whatever you're trying to cultivate around. It has been some what of a torture device for my arms and shoulders. Whenever my husband uses it, it makes me laugh because it goes all over the place. I'm glad I can't see myself using it because I'm sure I look ridiculous.

 Kales, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages and Brussels sprouts
Rainbow chard

Zukes and yellow squash alongside celery

Potatoes in the front, beans (snap & dry) in the back

Tomatoes all mulched and trellised

After much patience (and prayer) my husband started renovating our bathroom! This is the room that I wanted fixed up so bad! When we moved into our house, my husband's Grandma was living here still and I was taking care of her. She had recently broken her hip and was limited in mobility. The bathroom situation did not help. It is said that when my husband's Grandpa designed the house, he planned everything the way he wanted it and with the space that was left, he made a bathroom. It is minute, people. Only thirteen measly inches between the tub and the vanity.
It came to a point where Grandma could no longer access the bathroom when she began to use a wheelchair most of the time. The tipping point for me came a while ago, when the occupational therapist came to help Grandma. The therapist's goal was the get Grandma to be able to get in and use the shower (via a shower chair). I told the lady that this was not going to work. The bathroom was just too small. She was persistent and I did what she wanted me to. We helped guide Grandma into the bathroom and she sat down on the shower chair. As we helped get Grandma's leg over the side of the tub, her foot barely brushed the edge of the shower wall, taking down two powdery pink tiles. Other than the size of the bathroom, the tiles have been hanging on by very loose grout. The therapist's eyes were huge and stared at the tiles that now were in the tub. She looked at me and said, "OK, I think we're done. I don't think this is possible." I was secretly happy that she finally believed me, but also extremely embarrassed as to the condition of our bathroom.
Our bathroom is down to the bones right now. The renovation involves moving the toilet and sink to be more efficient with the small space we have. The toilet has been moved and we haven't done anything with the shower (because we still want to use it.) Sink in the bathroom? That has become a novelty; we use the kitchen sink. With my husband working full time, he can only work on the bathroom after work and on weekends. In a week, we're having some of his college friends over. (And our guest room currently has all of our bathroom things in it... I hope they all like camping in our yard.)

 
BEFORE



 
CURRENTLY...

A new & functioning toilet!
(We have another wax ring to reset the toilet when we are ready to tile.)

Life can get busy and sometimes it isn't ideal, but we need to make do or do without. I'm still very thankful for a functioning shower and toilet. Someday we'll have a pretty bathroom with bead board on the walls and black and white hex tile on the floor. I can wait. Shoot, I've already waited three years, what's another few months?  <3

Saturday, May 21, 2016

celebrate more

I think when you turn 30 you don't really want to celebrate your age.
Or maybe it's 40.

As a kid, we looked forward to our birthdays: cake and ice cream, opening presents and having a party with friends. Maybe it was all the sugar, but it was always a fun day. It was our day to celebrate.

We need to celebrate more.
Celebrate life.
(But probably with less cake. I mean, we shouldn't have cake everyday. Wait, how about pie instead of cake? We're grown ups now. We can have pie.)

Everyday is a gift. We need to celebrate the life we've been blessed with.

Maybe you're at a point in life where you aren't able to get around like you used to.
Think about the memories you've made and the places you've been. Reflect on the good and celebrate that.




May is a busy birthday month. Three of our nephews were born in May.
We are celebrating 7 years, 6 years and 2 years of life.
Each year full of memories, achievements and adventures.

The next time you get a party invitation in the mail, I hope you take the opportunity to "Rejoice with those who rejoice." Romans 12:15. We have so much to be thankful for and we need celebrate that.

 
<3

Saturday, May 14, 2016

cute impractical things

College seems so long ago. A time when all my friends and I lived within walking distance of each other. I didn't realize how good I had it. Now, I have friends in Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut...? As we get older our lives get more busy and hectic.

This year, I am going to try my best to see them and reconnect.

This weekend, I am so happy, no- I am so EXCITED to see some faraway friends. Even though we have been separated by hundreds of miles and our lives have led us down different paths, we can still pick up where we left off.

I have been looking forward to this weekend and in preparation, I have been making some gifts. The reason we are coming together is to celebrate new life- a baby girl.

As practical as I am, for some reason when it comes to baby showers, I seem to make impractical things... but they're cute impractical things.

My friend and the Mama-to-be, Rachel, has a nursery theme: gray with some pinks and Tortoro. Yes, I didn't know who that was either until I looked him up. He is a character from a Japanese movie called My Neighbor Tortoro. I saw that Rachel and her husband Kyle had registered for a Tortoro stuffed animal. "Pssh," I thought, "I am totally going to make her one." I found a pattern on ravelry.com and got going. Mine turned out a little bigger than the indicated 9" tall. It will be bigger than the baby! I think it turned out really cute. (I even made a little leaf for its head.)





I wanted to make something else, so I went on pinterest and found some Tortoro art. I took a design and used some watercolor pencils to draw it out. For the frame, I bought it at the thrift store, sanded it a little and then painted it gray.





I bought some fun books from the thrift store, too and made a bag for everything to go in. That has been my thing as of late- making the gift bag. It is something that (hopefully) won't get thrown away and can be reused or regifted. This pink fleur de lis fabric I bought a long time ago, as in seven years ago. When my sister, Alice, was pregnant I made her first born a baby quilt. It had a similar fabric, but in yellow. I bought this pink at the same time. C'mon, it was on red tag clearance at Joann's and I thought that Alice would probably have a girl and then I could make her a baby quilt. Well, she has had two girls since and no baby quilt from me. I sound like a slacker aunt, but I have made other cute things for my nieces to make up for it, I think. I have to say I wasn't going to use this fabric at first. I had picked out a bold plaid with orange, green and purple. It totally looked like Rachel, but then I thought about it. I want this to look more girl-y, so I went for the pink fleur de lis. I constructed it with French seams, so the bag can be reversible.





 
Rachel and Kyle, may God bless your little growing family.
<3