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.