Friday, August 22, 2014

The start of canning season

Our garden is finally picking up speed.  Each year, the trees in our yard shade the garden just a bit more which, in turn, slows down the harvest a bit more.  We have generous friends who have shared their beans, dill, cucumbers, and tomatoes with us long before we've gotten a taste of our own so we've been able to enjoy garden fresh treats while waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.

August finally brought us beans from our garden so, with my friend's dill, I was able to make dilly beans.

In fact, my friend shared so much dill with me that I made a couple batches of dilled carrots as well (though not with homegrown carrots-those prepared carrots from the store are a huge time saver).  Our dill will be ready any day now.  Now that I don't need it.

Recently, Julianne took some meat down to the freezer for me and found the door not quite closed.  Thankfully, I only lost the contents of the door.  Almost everything else was still frozen hard-except some of my berry supply.  My blueberries and raspberries still had blocks of frozen berries but they also had some liquid in the bags that isn't normally there.  After I had already dumped a couple bags of strawberries, it dawned on me that I could thaw them the rest of the way and make something, rather than pitching them all.  As a result of that decision, I tried a new recipe for Bumbleberry jam-blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry-perfect!


 I also tried making blueberry syrup, which are the larger jars in back.  The jam is good enough that it might be an addition to my annual "to-can" list


The first of our cucumbers were ready a few days ago.  I didn't think there were enough to do much with, other than eating them fresh.  I weighed them, though, and had exactly enough for a batch of bread and butter pickles.


Honestly, we aren't big pickle eaters here, though you wouldn't know it by looking at what I've canned so far.  The girls love the bread and butter pickles and we use the dill ones here and there.  I like having them on hand for relish trays I may take somewhere and I have some friends who are thrilled to take care of the excess dilly beans in particular. 

Since making all this stuff, I've canned 21 quarts of green beans and am finishing up a dozen more as I type.  And I was worried we weren't going to get many beans this year.

Our tomatoes are just getting started. Hopefully, they will produce well enough to yield a lot of tomato sauce and salsa this year.  It's been a couple years since we've had a really plentiful crop of tomatoes so I'm hoping this year will be abundant.  Michigan peaches are due soon and I have a peach-tomato salsa recipe we all enjoy so we're keeping our fingers crossed that the peaches and tomatoes will be ready at the same time.

Ah, the joys of gardening.  Every year is different and every year I'm so thankful for the growing number of jars filled with organically grown vegetables on my shelves as the plants start producing in quantity.


 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Victoria and Mark's wedding

My niece, Victoria, got married last night.  I probably haven't mentioned it here (and this might be the only place I haven't mentioned it) but I set her up with Mark.

Mark has been a quizmaster at the girls' Bible quizzes for several years so we've gotten to know him a bit over that time.  Last year he came in to the office where I was helping with stats and was moaning that he couldn't find a good woman to date.  Since the lady I help in the office happens to attend my brother's church, I suggested that Mark visit their church some Sunday and have Dawn introduce him to my beautiful niece.

It took him a few weeks to get there but, once he did, they seemed to hit it off right away.  (Whew!)

And the rest, as they say, is history.


It was a lovely wedding.  The pastor they used was a family friend of Mark's and she made it personal and special.  The reception hall was gorgeous, which was no surprise with both Kathy and Victoria's talents for making things beautiful.  (I'm sure you'll see a lot more detail on Kathy's blog sometime soon-when she's had a little time to recover!)  My niece, Kayla, who abandoned our family for NYC to go to culinary school, came home for a couple weeks and made the fantastic chocolate-with-raspberry-filling wedding cake.  I'd recommend her!

I made the same thing for Mark and Vicky that I made for Lauren and Brian when they got married.  Not original, but I think it's such a fun memento that I wanted to do it again.  Plus, Victoria's choice of dates allowed me to use the cool "9" I found back when we thought Lauren was having a 9/9/12 wedding.


 We loved seeing family members that we don't see often enough, as well as chatting with some of our friends from quizzing who attend Earl and Kathy's church.  It was a fun evening and we were so glad we got to be there to celebrate their wedding day with them.

Did I happen to mention that I set them up? ;-)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Celebrating the 22nd anniversary of my 29th birthday

I gave up keeping track of my age years ago-make that decades ago.  Life got too busy once I was an adult to automatically remember my age and stopping to do the math simply seemed too time consuming.  (Yes, I truly am that lazy.)

This past year has been different, because I hit a milestone last year.  As of yesterday, however, I'm going back to choosing a number and sticking with it.  I'll admit that it's probably time for me to upgrade the number a bit-after all, no one would ever mistake me for 29 anymore-but now that I'm 50-something I likely won't remember my exact age for another 9 years.

I had a most enjoyable day.  My mom stopped by for a visit, bearing gifts, as did my best friend and her mom.  My friend, Cinda, knows me so well and always manages to find or make something I'll just love.  This year was no different.

 I think she bought this at a Relay for Life fundraiser, though she is certainly crafty enough to do this herself.


I especially love the interesting edges of the floral bowl-it's just beautiful.

Dinner out with Clarence and the girls, chocolate orange cake, and gifts rounded out my day.  I went to bed last night feeling spoiled and content.

This getting another year older isn't all that bad after all.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Anniversary party

Clarence and I are invited to a 25th anniversary party tomorrow.

I've never met this couple but Clarence has worked with the husband for over 30 years, so he really wants to attend.  Me, not as much-though I'm much more outgoing than I was when I was younger, I still have a very hard time going to an event where I will know no one.

I started with the questions early on, like what to wear and, most stressful, what gift to give these (to me) virtual strangers.  Since their last name is Logan, we decided on a gift card to Logan's Roadhouse (we hope it's a good place-we've never eaten there) but I saw a cute idea online and decided to do my own adaptation of it to go along with the gift card.


Although you can't really tell in the picture, I used a silver paint pen for the lettering (all 25th anniversary style).  Julianne was a huge help to me as I planned how I'd do it, with choosing fonts, and cutting the letters out on her Silhouette for me to trace around.

It was a challenging project at times, but it was fun and I'm happy with the way it turned out...as long as you don't look at that pesky black paint too closely.

What would you give as a 25th anniversary gift to people you don't know well?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fun eggs

I recently stumbled across something on Amazon that I hadn't seen before...egg molds.  I don't quite remember how I happened upon them, but they were so inexpensive and fun that I had to order some.

They took 2 1/2 weeks to arrive from Hong Kong.  As an aside, I had to drive to my post office to pick them up so I could sign for them, since I wasn't home when the carrier tried to deliver them.  Apparently, if something comes from another country, you have to sign for the delivery.  Who knew?  I laughed that the gas to pick them up probably cost more than the purchase price.
 
I tried them out right away, even though the reviewers on Amazon warned me that these molds need extra-large eggs to fill the mold well.  The result of not heeding their advice was that my stars came out looking more like a flower than a star.  I'm ok with that, though.  I'm a floral kind of girl, after all.

I boiled six large eggs to try them out.  You have to use hot eggs and let them cool in the mold.  I ran cold water over my just boiled eggs and didn't peel them until I was ready for them.  They all stayed hot enough to mold well.  I did have a couple lose some of their shape by the next day-maybe I hadn't let them cool long enough in the mold?

As I packed a salad tonight for Clarence's lunch tomorrow, I put the last heart-shaped egg on top as a surprise.  I still have a "star" egg in the fridge, but thought he might not appreciate a girly egg on his salad when he's eating with the guys.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gordon

It's a sad day at our house today.

Last night our dear friend, the girls' adopted grandpa, went peacefully home to Jesus.  We rejoice for Gordon, but weep for all of us who will miss his presence in our lives.

Less than four weeks ago, we found out he had an aggressive lung cancer.  We will especially treasure these recent days when he lived out his faith and assured all of us that whatever God wanted for him was fine with him.

The only picture I seem to have of Gordon is this silly one:


(You can read about this picture here.)

I am so thankful for the years of friendship we've had with Gordon and his family.  Gordon was always good natured when I teased him (which was often) and I especially appreciated his sweet words of encouragement to the girls through the years.  He was a loving, and well-loved, man and we will all miss him, but take comfort in the assurance that we will see him again someday.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It's the little things...

Last weekend we realized that every time the coffeemaker cycled on, it would make our ground fault outlet trip and we'd lose power to half of the kitchen outlets.

We, of course, didn't diagnose this problem before our planned visit to The Home Depot.  No, that just isn't our style.  Too easy, ya know.  Instead, later, I picked the girls up from work and took them with me to get a new GFCI outlet.  How hard could it be?

Do you know there are actually choices when you want a GFCI outlet?  I know now.  20 volts vs. 15 volts.  Red and black test/reset buttons vs. all white.  I thought I was doing well when I told the guy who offered to help me that I needed the Decora style.  He told me that's all they come in.  Who knew?  So, bottom line, I knew the info that wasn't necessary but didn't know the answers to the real questions.

Eventually, after a call to Clarence, I managed to choose the right outlet.  As I was leaving the mysterious land of electrical gadgetry, I happened to notice something interesting.  Another call to Clarence to check his willingness to do the additional installation and I happily headed to the check-out with this direct-wired nightlight.


You see, we have a nightlight we turn on in the kitchen every night, in order to safely climb the stairs to our bedroom.  Plus, we had this open slot where we had originally planned I-don't-remember-what (maybe a hard wired switch for our remote control ceiling fan?).  Anyhow, that spot hasn't ever had anything, nor had I ever managed to remember to look for a switch plate cover to cover up the hole.  (I know that's hard to believe, just keeping it real.)

Clarence installed it that night and I am simply delighted.  The gaping outlet hole is gone, and in its place is something perfect for our needs.  No more groping down the steps in the dark if we happened to forget to turn the nightlight on, plus this location actually gives us better light on the stairs themselves.

We all know that the little things can drive you crazy but, in this case, a little thing makes me incredibly happy.