Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!!!
We hope your day is full of love, laughter and the true meaning of the season :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Jam Failure

First off please forgive the amount of crap on my kitchen counters, I could make excuses but really we just know that it just happens sometimes right?  Please let me not be the only one....   Anyway Jeff and I had our first batch of failure to seal jam.  This is the batch that was made at my jam making class, if I had to guess it would be because they were moved before they cooled completely.  But that's totally a guess.  You could tell these just weren't right because the strawberries had oxidized and it was just an off tint.  They smelled fine though but we just were not going to take chances.  Have you ever had a batch go bad?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Harry Potter Done and Early Christmas

So my set of Harry Potter gear is done, this is Aden it is his gift actually.  He seemed really happy with the way it all turned out, I have to say that I was really happy with it too.  I have been knitting up a storm getting ready for the holidays. 
Not the best photo but this is the Christmas party we had at my house on Sunday.  When I was a kid we always had our extended family party the first Sunday of December no matter what because it was easier for everyone to get away from work than closer to the holidays.  We had loads of great food and everyone really seemed to enjoy just hanging around together.  It feels a little weird that Christmas is still coming since the party was over but it is nice to make the season last a bit longer.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Spoon Care

 Hey everyone what's been going on?!  We had snow for the first time yesterday!  The kids thought it was FABULOUS!!  Mommy did not think so since it was freezing cold out.

 So last winter I saw this post on Food In Jars (one of my favorite blogs).  I've been meaning to make it for ages and finally got a round to doing it.
 The wax I used is from the same bee keeper that I get our raw honey from.  I paid about $2 for the quarter pound of wax.  Chopping it up really helped it fit into the jar and melt quicker.
 The mineral oil came from the pharmacy section of the grocery store. I will say that I wish I had reused a tin can like Frugally Sustainable did here instead of using the mason jar.  If the spoon butter was not going to be moved into smaller containers this probably would have been great but it is kind of a pain in the butt to clean up from the glass (and I'm lazy don't forget that).
 The mixture looks a bit like chicken fat or something doesn't it?
I got several of these cute small jars out of just one batch!  They are going to be great holiday gifts along with a set of spoons for some of my cooking friends.  I love the way they made my bamboo spoons look too!  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

More Knitting

 I have been knitting like crazy lately trying to get some projects done for Christmas and Molly's birthday in December.  This hat that I'm wearing is Hermione's Cable and Eyelet hat from the third movie I believe.  I found the pattern here.  I had the whole thing done and then realized there was no way it was going to fit the first time.  I had to go up to a size 7 needle and redid it from the start!  This hat took me about a week and a half to do.  Cables are so simple but look so gorgeous don't they?  My ponytail is pulling it a bit weird in the photo but it sits great in real life.
 This hat is done in Griffindor colors for a friend's son at our karate school.  This one is done from the top down instead of the bottom so you can try it on while knitting to make sure the fit is perfect.  It starts with Judy's Magic Cast-On and used the same pattern I used in the hat I made for Jeff.  I like the way it turned out a lot.
This is my very first pair of mittens and my first time doing stripes, these got done before the hat.  I think they turned out really well and I got to make them nice and narrow for the boy they are going to be worn by.  
Now all I have left is his Griffindor scarf and Molly's Griffindor scarf and I'm done with red and yellow for a bit.  I have really enjoyed working on these projects but I'm quite ready to be finished.  Next week I start a class on how to make socks!  I can't wait for that!  Jeff went and looked at spinning wheels this week, we are hoping to get one when we get our tax return then I can do some fun homespun projects.  What are you guys working on now that the weather is turning cooler?  Any Christmas projects started up yet?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Trying to Surface

    Oh My Goodness!!!  I always forget how insane fall gets around here.  We've had so much going on as a family I'm not sure which end is up some days.  This hat is a project that I've been working on for Jeff for a few weeks Jack is modeling it for me.  I don't have a pattern for it but it is just a basic beanie style.  One thing I do love about this is the way that the increases create this awesome spiral effect.  It's pretty neat. 
   I'm also working on another hat for Molly for her birthday.  The whole family loves the Harry Potter books and movies, she decided she needed a house scarf and we found a pattern for one of the knitted hats that Hermione wears in one of the movies to go with it.  I'll show you that later as it actually starts to look like a hat.
   We have 30 quarts of tomatoes put up and a ton of other stuff to.  30 quarts is not going to last us through the year but we have not been able to harvest as much from our own garden as we had hoped.  The weather turned really cold and most of our tomatoes have simply stayed green.  This last week we've had some gorgeous days in the high 70's so maybe we will get a few more jars but I'm not going to hold my breath.  What have you guys been doing?  Any good canning recipes I should try with all those green tomatoes?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Apple Pie

Autumn is in the air and apples are coming in at the Farmer's Market!!!  The kids and I are so excited about the delicious things we are going to make this year.  We of course had to start with apple hand pies.  Last fall I was very inspired by this blog post at A Cozy Kitchen  

I diced up two honey crisp apples and one granny smith (Miss M's favorite).  A squeeze of lemon juice, 
1/4 C. sugar, dash of salt stirred around with the apples.  In another small bowl I mixed a tablespoon of flour, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice, 
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom and 1/8 teaspoon of clove.  Mix in the apples.  I wish that I would have used brown sugar but didn't think of it until I had already poured in the white sugar.
I totally cheated and used premade pie crust.  Pie crust is my enemy and I still can only get one in four to turn out well :(  The nifty tool came from Target it's by Nordic Ware.  The back side cuts the dough in the perfect sized circle.
I placed the dough in the pie mold and only about a tablespoon of apples fit in without tearing the crust.  Maybe if I had peeled the apples they wouldn't have been so sharp?

Out of two pie crusts I got five pies there should have been six but I tried to over stuff one with apples.  Before baking I cut small slits in the top for venting.  
They baked for about 25 minutes at 375 the whole house smelled of apple pie goodness.  We had ours with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce delicious!!
There were a ton of spiced apples left over (probably enough to make a full sized pie) so we saved them in the fridge and then used them up in oatmeal for school the next day.

Monday, September 12, 2011

DIY Fruit Leather

 Molly got a new issue of Food Network magazine this weekend.  In it was how to make your own fruit roll ups.  The kids decided that we NEEDED to do that!  We were headed to the farmer's market anyway so we grabbed some extra fruit while we were there.  I read through the Food Network recipe and realized that they used a lot of white sugar, not gonna' happen in my house.  The kids helped me pull out every book that might reference fruit leather and we sort of just did our own thing.  We had a pass/fail thing all at one time so we learned a lot in just one try. 
 We started with three pints of fresh raspberries rinsed off and put into a large pot.  Then we added about half a cup of raw honey, but we just eyeballed that.  Mush it up (this is the kids favorite part).  Cook the berry mush down until it starts to get sticky just like when you make jam. 
While it is cooking set your oven to 200 degrees and place parchment paper on some cookie sheets.  Lightly coat with oil or cooking spray (kinda important but not devastating if you forget).
Pour the sticky mess onto your covered cookie sheet in a nice even layer.  I found this bit tricky but if you have one of those off set frosting knives it is probably a lot easier. 
Bake for four hours and then start checking it as often as you think it needs it.  Like if it's super sticky forget about it for another hour or so. 
If you have two trays remember to check each one!!!  This is the mess that was left after my thinner tray burned it was a tragic mess.  Part way through I checked the bottoms of the sheets and then decided to flip over the leather for more even cooking.  That is were the oil would have been nice but it really wasn't horrible to get the parchment off just a little more time consuming. 
The slightly thicker tray was beautiful nice dark color texture was great everything.  I cut the leather into strips and Jeff wrapped them up in wax paper strips and twisted the ends like candy, very cute right?   
Jack said he loved the leather, Molly didn't like how tart it was.   Next we are going to try plums maybe that will be sweeter for her. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Snacky Bits

  I'm going to let you in on a secret, I'm not a big snacker.  It drives people crazy that I don't have a ton of snack foods around the house (including the ones living here!).   I don't really think to purchase or make snack foods very often because I'm more of a two square meals a day and coffee for breakfast kinda' gal.  Every once in a while though I will break down and feel like having something snacky and everyone gets happy :) 
This is a super simple Zucchini Hummus that we had after getting home from the county fair a little wind burned and definitely burned out on fried food.  If you have any zucchini hanging on in the garden try this for something to munch on.

Zucchini Hummus
1 can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans whateva')
    save the liquid when you drain them
a generous half cup of diced zucchini
juice from half a lemon
one clove of garlic (or two if you feel spicy)
1 1/2 TBSP Tahini
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBSP Olive Oil
a sprinkling of cumin

Place all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth adding the reserved liquid from the chickpeas as necessary.  Enjoy with pita/flat bread crackers or veggies!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dried Apples

This past week we were gifted to grocery bags full of apples.  We got our dehydrator last summer and hadn't used it yet.  So we sliced up one bag of our apples and placed them in the dehydrator.  Just before bed Jeff played musical layers with them and put them in reverse order from were they started since the bottom ones were getting done much quicker than the top ones.  About 24 hours later the apples were done.  I"m not sure that we were the most efficient with how the vents were open but we don't have a manual and can't find one online (crazy right?) so we are winging this thing all the way!  What's in the jar is all that is left from what we started with mostly due to the kids eating them like candy, so much for stock piling supplies :)  Oh well at least they are going over well with everyone.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Garden deconstruction

 Over the weekend Jeff started deconstructing the garden.  The cucumbers had pretty much stopped producing and were completely out of control!  The zucchini plant was still going strong but with about 20 pounds of zucchini harvested from just one plant we felt that we don't need any more (especially since it seems to be all over the house right now).  Our poor pepper plants just didn't do well this year and I think that we only harvested about five peppers in total from six plants. 
 Last year we had tons of peppers from our plants I would like to figure out what happened because peppers are something that we use a lot of.   The jalapenos did very well and the Hungarian hot peppers are still going strong.  I have learned that licking them to see if they are hot or mild is not the best way to test peppers.  Yes I really did that but only once.  The squirrels got away with most of the watermelons, well we think it was squirrels but we don't know for sure.  We found this one under some of the freaking ground cover we can't seem to kill off.  I'm hoping it will grow to size before the frost hits.  You never know when that first frost is going to be here in Michigan tonight for instance it is supposed to get down to around 50 degrees. 
This is the one little squash thing that grew in the back garden.  We have no idea what it is but we are guessing it is an acorn squash.  The back garden was feral this year with only some seeds that Jeff threw at it out of sheer frustration at the late start to the growing season.  We haven't started any late season crops because we are hoping to get this whole area tilled up for next year before the ground gets hard.  The goal is to till it and get some good compost down for the winter.  I don't know why but it would make us feel an awful lot more ready for next spring. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

New Lawnmower

For the holiday weekend we spent a day at Jeff's family cottage with everyone.  We had a great time and the kids loved being with their cousins.  While up at the cottage we were given permission to bring home a lawnmower that had belonged to Jeff's great-grandfather.  It is still in good shape it just needs some tuning up and the blades sharpened.  It is definitely a work out to use it but should we loose power for an extended time we will have the best looking lawn in the neighborhood.  That would be a first for us!  As you may be able to tell cutting the grass is not one of our first priorities in life and if I could convince Jeff all that grass would be an edible landscape instead but he isn't buying into it just yet.  Maybe someday......

Monday, August 22, 2011

What's Off My Needles

Remember this post?  Well my project is done and this is what it looks like!  Isn't that color just stunning?!  I'm glad you can't see too close because they are far from perfect (like not exactly the same length) but I'm so very happy for my first attempt at anything this tricky.  If you click here it will take you to a link to the pattern I used and it's free!  Just in case you want to make your own pair of fingerless mitts.  The next pair is well underway for a Christmas present so I won't be able to show you.  This gorgeous yarn is what I'm using it is Malabrigo Rios a wonderful super wash 100% wool worsted weight yarn.  I have learned so much by taking the class to make the mitts, I've even started another project that works in a round for that one I'm using a 80% bamboo 20% wool yarn, it makes me smile to think of bamboo yarn I don't know why :)
What do you have on your needles?  Are you thinking of Christmas gifts yet?

This post is being submitted to Made by You Monday over at Skip to my Lou click on over and see what everyone else is making too!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We Love Pickles!

Last week was a little crazy here.  Poor Jeff had to leave for a week in San Diego for work so it was just the kids and I.  Luckily we have wonderful friends who helped keep us busy :)  Sunday we had a canning get together with our next door neighbor and we all made pickles, 57 pints and 6 half pints!  Without three of us working on the cutting and whatnot we would have been up to the wee hours of the morning I'm sure.  It is so nice to have friends to can with isn't it?  We tried a few different shapes this year hopefully they all turn out crisp and yummy. 
Here's the recipe we used for these babies (it's from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook).

Kosher Style Dill Pickles

2 1/4 lb. pickling cucumbers
3 3/4 C. water
3 3/4 C. cider vinegar
6 TBSP pickling salt
3 heads of dill per jar
1 clove of garlic, halved, per jar

Clean cucumbers.  Remove stems and slice off blossom end.  In a large sauce pan bring the water, vinegar, and pickling salt to a boil (be careful this gets friggin' hot!!!).  Pack cucumbers loosely into hot sterilized pint jars that have the garlic and dill already in them, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Pour the brine (water, vinegar, salt mixture) into the jars still leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Wipe jar rims and seals with lid and rings.
Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let stand 1 week for the best flavor.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On my needles

This is one of the two projects I'm working on right now.  Molly has been taking knitting classes every Thursday all summer long.  She has learned to knit, purl and bind off.  I'm very proud of her.  One day while I was killing time I asked about one of the projects hanging up in the store and got myself scheduled for a class too.  This is the very first time I've ever used double ended needles or knitted in a round.  When this is done I should have a pair of fingerless reading mitts!  Isn't the yarn I'm using gorgeous?!  The color is called Rio and it is a super wash wool.  I can't wait to keep working on it and showing off how it progresses to you guys! 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Blue Weekend

We had a wonderful weekend!  Our good friend Heidi took the kids and myself blueberry picking for the first time ever.  Her son is Molly's age and all three of the kids get along like siblings (a little fighting a little getting along it all works out).  We picked 9.25 lbs of berries and the kids probably ate a few pounds themselves.  We all got home and cooled off it was a hot day.  Heidi and her son came back to our house and we had blueberry pancakes for dinner and then I got to show her how to make jam!  I love getting to show people things that I love so much.  We made a spiced blueberry jam and a cherry berry jam.  We still have a ton of blueberries left.  Many of them are going to be frozen for future use.  Heidi and I are also thinking of getting out the dehydrator and drying some.  Both of us have dehydrators but neither of us have used them, this might be the perfect opportunity to do so. 
I'm linking this post up the the Homestead Revival: Barn Hop #22 just click on the link below and and see what everyone has going on.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I won!

A little while ago I entered to win a giveaway at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.  It was wonderful to get home from karate last night and find a big box on my front porch full of wonderful things!  Photo Dude has a new set of gloves and Mama has chocolate!!!   Everything in the box is from Seeds of Change.  The seeds are packaged in neat resealable packages that will be much nicer to keep all winter than trying to tape the others shut.  The chocolate is delightful and the reusable bag it all came in is wonderfully sturdy.  I'm so grateful to have gotten this prize.

I love A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, the posts cover a wide variety of topics from cooking to gardening, chicken keeping and the not so easy parts of homestead life.  She also hosts a wonderful weekly blog hop.  Please head on over to Ms. Bauman's blog and give her a "Hey there" won't you?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How does your garden grow?

      What in the world is wrong with me?!  I couldn't believe it the other day when I realized there were no photos of the garden up!  Geez!  Sorry about that I feel so silly.  Here are a few of the photos I took this weekend.  Please forgive the fact that we haven't cut the lawn or weeded.  The kids and I got out after I did the photos and got the beds cleaned up real nice.  Here are the three beds that Photo dude and Molly got built for us.  They are working quite well.  The heat and humidity that we've had seem to have really made the plants happy too :)  At least something likes the weather. 

The tomatoes are growing great and all of the plants have bunches of tomatoes.  The Hungarian Hot peppers are also doing really well and are almost ready to be harvested.   

I'm not sure we are going to get more than what you can see in the photo the plants don't seem to have more flowers on them.  Oh well, the Jalapeno plants are going gangbusters so we'll have plenty of those for poppers (or jalapeno jelly). 
I did not have the best planning skills this year.  My pepper bed is nicely organized in straight staggered lines but then you look at the other beds and they are no were near as neat.  The middle bed is especially a hot mess.  Every year those darn zucchini plants surprise me with there size!  

This bad lad is about four feet by four feet, it takes up most of the bed.  We also have three broccoli plants growing and a bunch of bush beans, watermelon and cucumbers!!!  What on earth was I thinking?  Guess that by the time we planted I just wanted to get stuff into the ground.  I will be making much better notes for next years garden.

   Photo Dude is very good at getting the vine plants trained up the lines.  He does yell at them a bit like they are kids invading each others space and I think it is really cute.  That's my guy :)