Thursday, September 29, 2005

Pigtails!

Pigtails! Posted by Picasa


We finally managed pigtails in Peanut's hair. My baby was a baldy for a long time. Then, she inherited Mama's straight, slick, hair. Add that to it's baby-fineness and you have a little head of hair that is very stubborn and frustrating. But we conquered it! (For a whole two hours! LOL!)

Twins!

My niece and nephew were born on Monday, September 26. My sister and the babies are doing well and are now home. Peanut is enraptured and asks to go see the "new babies" all day long!
Alana Marie, 5lbs, 6oz Posted by Picasa
Alan Michael, 5lbs 13oz Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 23, 2005

Impromptu-mom's Winter Checklist

Lovely H-H has asked for a few request posts. While I'm definitely not a role model when it comes to the housewifely duties, I will try to oblige you as best I can H-H!

I'll start with the first one.

H-H writes:
1. Please give some guidance on what to do (if anything) to prepare for winter. This is my second winter and the first where I get to plan. And I don't know where to start, what to shop for and when to do all that. Honestly, am quite scared.


If I remember correctly, H-H lives in Michigan, but she originally hails from India.
Michigan mostly has the same type of winters that we have here in Northern Ohio, cold, snowy after Christmas, and long, so the things that I do to "get ready to hibernate" will translate very well to your area H-H.

I usually start out the fall with a "Do Before The Snow Flies" list.
Do not let the title fool you. Seventy percent of my yearly list never gets finished in time, but it helps to focus my energies a little and bring to mind all of the little things that are not done and that will drive me crazy when we are stuck inside for five months. This list includes any little household projects that need finished, like fixing hinges and putting up the screens. It also includes outside chores like putting away patio furniture and big outside toys, cleaning out the gutters and mulching the vegetable beds. Anything that can not handle extreme temperatures or severe weather should be protected or put away. Also bring in any outdoor perennials that will not stand the winter and protect any young or delicate trees or shrubs with burlap.

Next, I go through all of our cold weather clothes and weed out what is too small or too worn and pass it around to family and friends who can use it. I pull out all of those sweaters that I have been buying for half price at Goodwill all summer long, (This is an obsession of mine, sweater shopping at Goodwill. No one looks for sweaters in July, so you always find beautiful stuff, and I usually pay $1.25 or less.) air them out and put them away. I check to see that everyone has a good fitting coat, hat, and gloves, plus I stock up on a few spares of hats and gloves for inevitable losses. I dig out the heavy scarves and buy a yard or two of fleece to cut out a few lightweight spares. (you can buy a yard of fleece, cut it into a few wide strips and you have "instant scarves". No sewing required!) I go over my Hubby's winter sports gear (parkas, snowpants, heavy gloves, boots, ect.) and make sure nothing is missing or needs repaired, and I check on and schedule appointments to have his snowboard serviced and waxed. (I'm not quite sure how this became my duty, as I couldn't snowboard to save my life!) And I go through and make sure everyone has good fitting boots and heavy shoes and pass around the too-smalls.

I check that we have a good stock of candles and lamp oil, as occasionally, but not often, we lose power in the winter due to ice storms. Plus, candlelight and oil lamp light are so beautiful and cozy in the winter! ( if you want a great place to buy candles in large quantities at a great price, check IKEA) I dust out the fireplace and put down rag rugs in the kitchen and by the bedsides (hard floors are a cold shock in the winter!). I get out the throws and small blankets that we keep in a basket in the livingroom to snuggle up under while reading or watching TV, and put up heavier curtains or curtain liners to help keep out drafts. I bring out the heavy quilts and the flannel sheets and make sure eveyone has at least one matching pair of slippers. We also buy our ice melt salt now because the stores inevitably run out on the middle of winter when you need it most. (we just keep it in a five gallon bucket next to the snow shovel) This is also a good time to check out your snow shovel and sleds to make sure that they are in working order and don't need replaced.

I don't go overboard on stocking up non-perishable foods (twenty quarts of tomatoes isn't "overboard" is it?) but I do make sure that there are a few things in the pantry in case of bad weather. I also buy a few boxes of powdered milk (which my husband hates and refuses to drink!) for this same reason. I go through the deep freeze and check on the levels of frozen foods and meats, and I usually have a few loaves of bread and bread dough frozen and on hand at all times. I like to stock up on things for yummy cold weather foods like cocoa, chili, and soup so that I can make them up on short notice. Most of my winter prep in the pantry is just normal, everyday supplies just plus a little. I also tend to get a small back stock of things like toilet tissue, toothpaste, and paper towels, depending on storage space (which is a real premium at our little house!)

I do stockpile books and movies. In fact, my hubby and I joined NetFlix last year during the cold weather months and plan to do the same again this year. This being my first full "knitting winter" I've also added to my stash of yarn, hoping to keep my hands busy. The internet is also such a bonus during the cold weather. It helps you feel connected, even when you can't get out!

As far as when I do all of this, mostly I'm done preparing by mid-October. I like to get everything sorted and ready early. It makes me feel prepared and peaceful. The truth is though, depending on how rural you location is, most of this is not necessary. Many people may not have to worry about extended snow-ins or lengthy power outages. It's mostly depends on where and how you live, but as the old saying goes "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". It can't hurt to be prepared!

Hope some of this helped H-H! And if anyone else bothered to read this lengthy tome, feel free to leave your suggestions for H-H in the comments or a link to your own winter checklist post! I'd be very interested to see how others prepare for winter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Well, a few new projects will be getting their start this weekend. The yarn for my birthday-present-to-myself Hufflepuff POA scarf should be arriving tomorrow from KnitPicks. I went with the Merino. I just ordered a whole bunch and crossed my fingers that it will be enough. I'm going to knit it as a tube (No 1x1 rib for me! I'd never finish!) using Lauren from atypicallyknit's pattern slightly modified for the lighter weight yarn. I also ordered some Gossamer in the Leprechaun colorway, hoping that it would inspire me to a beautiful shawl. I want finish my scarf in time for the movie release in November. We'll see!

This weekend will also see me slogging my way through the one-day sale at our local Joann Fabrics. I need to get the material for Peanut's Trick-or-Treat costume and some fabric for a few new cooler weather skirts. Things will be crazy because of the sale, (probably a 25 minute wait to have fabric cut!) but luckily, everyone is very nice and polite. I've even swapped some great ideas and patterns with other ladies who were waiting around during previous sales. It almost has a festive air!

And why would anyone really care to hear about my crafting plans you ask? Truthfully, I'm sure no one cares but myself, but I've found that if I publish on my blog that I am going to do something, it kinda helps me stay focused. I am a notorious "super-starter, bad-finisher". I need all of the help that I can get!

Monday, September 19, 2005

What We Are Used To

First of all, let me just say thank you for all of your kind words!

You all make me feel like some kind of domestic goddess, instead of a frumpy lady grousing over her tomatoes! Who knew that preserving was such an art form.

Very often, I get comments from wonderful people who make me remember that this blog is read by more that just a few of my local friends. I've had this discussion with other bloggers before, and it's very easy to forget that this is a worldwide forum. My blog has opened up friendships for me all over the globe, and has allowed me to get a glimpse into the everyday lives of real people that I would have otherwise never met. It's kinda like having the world as your neighbor.

Canning your food is very commonly known here. Even if most of the under 50 set don't do it, they have watched their Grandmothers at it and recognize the process and the lingo. The fact that someone had never heard of apple butter would seem ludicrous. That just goes to show you how much I tend to live in my own little world.

We live our lives, day in and day out, with own worries and struggles, working to surmount the huge mountains of our fears and hardships. The funny thing is, our mountains, very often, look like molehills to someone else. The things that we agonize over would seem trivial to someone else. Without that "other" perspective, it's very easy to think that I am the center of the whole universe. Thanks to all of you for giving me that perspective!

And that wraps up the introspective portion of tonight's post!

Exactly how did a discussion of apple butter lead to this?
Ahh, my addled brain!

Gadgets

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The techno-geek gods have smiled down on our household.

I got my mp3 player!

You know what's even better?

It was free!

Audio books, here I come!

Mmmmm! Potato Soup!

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Two Quarts in the Freezer!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Harvest Time

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Yesterday was Spaghetti Sauce day here. The house still smells of onions!
I feel like I'm all canned out. I can not imagine doing this on a wood fired stove.

So many kind people have given us produce this year. After the news of our groundhog trouble (they have eaten everything in the garden! Even the garlic.) got around, people started showing up with bushels of stuff. I have put up more produce this year than I have ever done before. And it keeps coming. Even though I have put up 20 quarts of red and yellow tomatoes, my MIL dropped off another bushel and a half of Roma tomatoes yesterday morning. Hence the spaghetti sauce.

The thing with fresh picked produce is that it must be dealt with immediately, and when someone shows up with a surprise bounty, you have to drop everything and preserve it right now, or lose it, which can sometimes be a burden. My mother just tells me to toss it, as the gifters would be none-the-wiser, but I can not throw away so much good food. I just can't do it! So, I find myself standing over pots of boiling water at 2AM, finishing up yet another bountiful gift. I'm tired but happy, and the sparkling jars of food look so pretty! (Is it a sign of sleep-deprivation that I find spaghetti sauce pretty?)

I must also come clean on the new bushel and a half of tomatoes. I myself gifted most of them out to my Grandma. I kept enough for five quarts of sauce, and that was all that I could face, lol! Funny thing is, Grandma was so happy to have them. She and my aunt spent the day puttering around the kitchen, canning them up. In fact, they both wished for more to do up at the end of the day, because they had so much fun canning. Do I smell a surplus produce outlet?

I really do love the feeling that I get at the end of the harvest season, when all of my shining jars are lined up in neat rows on the shelves. And actually, I love to can, just like my Grandma. The only downside is that I usually do it alone, and it is the kind of work that is much more fun and goes a lot faster with two or three other mouths and pairs of hands along. Maybe I should start a local canning group!

**********************************

Also, I wanted to include my* Crock Pot Apple Butter recipe. My lovely friend, thicketdweller requested it, so I thought I would just share it with you all!

Crock Pot Apple Butter

A note about the applesauce. If you are lucky enough to have your own apples, by all means use them. They will make for a nice thick apple butter. But I will tell you that I get just as good results with store bought, unsweetened applesauce from a jar. It is a real time saver, especially if you are giving it away as gifts!

7 cups applesauce, natural
2 cups apple cider
1 1/2 cups honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves,
1/2 tsp allspice

Put everything in a large crock pot and cook for 14 to 15 hours, stirring occasionally, until it is dark and thick. Put in hot, sterilized pint jars, seal and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool for 24 hours.

yields 4 pints

One more thing, and some people will probably drop dead of botulism fear when they hear this, but I usually don't process this recipe in a water bath. I find that if I wash my jars and put them to heat in a 225 degree oven, pulling out one jar at a time as I fill it, they seal just fine. Frankly, this stuff has been cooking for more than half a day, and as long as you have hot, clean, sterilized jars, there really isn't any danger. In fact, I use this method for my tomatoes also. But just to be safe, especially if you are new to the whole canning process, check you specs when it comes to individual foods and their processing times. A great resource is "The Ball Blue Book" or you local county extension office (and yes, they even have these in cities!). I really don't want anyone to suffer a horrible death just because I'm flippant about the rules of canning, lol!

Enjoy!


* I use the term "my" very loosely. I did not make up this recipe, it is just the one that I use. I, in fact, can not remember where I got it. So, this will have to be my disclaimer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Fair Day!

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It's County Fair time again! We spent the day yesterday, petting all of the farm animals and eating food that is sooo good but soooo bad, lol! Peanut was enchanted with the sheep and the chickens, but the goats made her laugh her bum off. Every time she heard a "maaaaa" she had a giggling fit. We walked around in the hot sun (doesn't Mother Nature know it's Autumn?) and looked at dozens of tractors (my husband dreams in John Deere Green). We went through the Home Economics building and I snapped a few pictures of shawls that I might like to interpret and try knitting. We came home sweaty, sticky, and with a wagon load of cotton candy and local doughnuts, but very happy!

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mmmmmm!

Apple Butter day here today. Thanks to a cheater recipe that just plops the whole lot of ingredients in a crock pot and simmers it for 15 or 16 hours, my whole house smells delicious. I personally hate Apple Butter, but everyone else around me adores it, so I make it. I certainly do love the wonderful aroma though, lol!

The downside is, due to a lack of planning, I must set my alarm and get up in three hours (4:00 AM) to can it all up. Nothing like standing over a huge cauldron of boiling water in the middle of the night to make you feel in the Hallowe'en mood! (insert evil witch cackle here)

Double, Double, toil and trouble,
Apples are messy when they bubble.
Good thing there's a lid on the old crock pot,
Because better things than cleaning, to do, I've got!



Please excuse me for sounding a little like Yoda. It is after 1:00 AM here, lol!

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Old Favorites

Peanut and I were perusing the children's section at the library today, when I came across an old favorite of mine on audio book, Susan Cooper's "The Dark Is Rising". Ms. Cooper's is the first fantasy series that I ever read and listening to it in the car on the way home reminded me why it is only second to Harry Potter in my heart's library hall of fame.

I can still remember the first time that I discovered "TDIR". I was eleven, and digging through the school library, where I worked during my free periods and generally could be found whenever I had a free moment. Our middle school library was pretty small and having read most of the fiction section, I was trying to find something new. I pulled out this book, looked at the cover with it's foreboding dark man on a rearing horse, black crows, and a small boy cowering on the ground, and thought it might be worth the time. I took it home and read it that night. I was in love, and when I discovered that it was the middle book in a series of five, I couldn't get my hands on the others fast enough. We didn't have them at the middle school, so I borrowed two from the high school and bugged the local librarian to find the other two for me (no small feat in the days before widespread computer use and easy interlibrary loans!). Luckily, I was one of those bookish but not annoying kids that adults don't seem to mind, lol!

I can remember wishing that I was like Will Stanton. Hoping that I would just wake up one day and find out that I was someone completely different than I thought I was and that I had this important destiny to fulfill. A common childhood wish I'm sure, but none the less strong. The series was one of my favorite escapes, long after I had outgrown the wish.

I came home and found a used set of the series on eBay. Soon, I'll be running through the lanes of my childhood escape! I can't wait!

Do any of you have a favorite book or books from childhood that you still visit now and again, even though you are grown up?

Monday, September 5, 2005

Taking Stock

We have returned from the last camping trip of the season. Now, all of the gear will be cleaned and packed away until next year. The leaves have already started to fall from the tree in our front yard. Tomorrow, we will drain the pool and prepare it for winter storage. By the end of the week, I plan to have a sort through Peanut's massive wardrobe to weed out the too-smalls and the too-worns.

Yes, the year is winding down.

I'm sitting here, nursing a glass of rootbeer, thinking of everything that I want to accomplish before year's end. My Peanut will be two in just two months and two weeks. I haven't decided how we will celebrate this year. I don't want the huge, 60+ guests party that we had last year, but because of family logistics, people feel snubbed if they are not included in the celebration. We had planned on going to see "The Wiggles" live (four men whom Peanut thinks hung the moon!), but the closest they are coming is a two hour drive away. I really struggle with the whole problem of making things special but not doing too much. With Peanut being an only child, I tend to go overboard on birthdays and holidays, even though I start out with the best of intentions. I not very good at finding a happy medium where my baby is concerned!

I've been looking over my yearly to-do-before-the-snow-flies list, and I have sadly noted how many items, that were listed last fall, still aren't finished. We have some projects on there that have been half-completed for five years! I hope to do better this year, (although, most of the unfinished stuff is my hubby's) and cross everything off of the list.

I am toying with idea of trying something new for Thanksgiving. We have so much family that, every year, we have to turn down two dinner invitations and pick a third to visit. When we were first married, we tried to make everyone happy and ended up eating three huge meals only four hours apart! I'm considering having a Thanks giving dinner here at our house and inviting someone (non-family) to share it with us. I know it won't go over well with the families, but I feel the need for a less stressful holiday this year.

And speaking of less stressful, how awful would I be if I ran away to Europe for Christmas, with my lovely hubby and darling baby in tow?!