Monday, September 29, 2008

The reason for my absence

Maybe no one has even noticed my absence since my blogging is sporadic at best, but there are actually a few reasons I've been MIA.

1. The canning took a long time - After all was said and done, I think I can say it was a successful attempt. I've lost count of all that I canned, but I have peaches, pears, peach jam, pear jam, apple butter, applesauce, elderberry jam, and blackberry jam. One of the ladies that Paul works with heard him talking about the canning I'd been doing and asked me to make her 20 jars of pear jam, and then another lady, 6 jars. And I'm embarrassed to admit how much they offered to pay me. Let's just say that I offered to not only make the jam, but to decorate the jars too - it was the least I could do!

2. I should be busy getting ready for a boutique that I have coming up in November. I guess I have been doing a little to prepare for it, but no where near as much as I should be.

The real reason is:

3. I've discovered the Twilight series! My sister has been recommending these books for years and I always intended to read them, but it took a friend of mine giving me Twilight to get me started. I'm TOTALLY addicted and borderline neglecting my family! In the last week and a half I've read Twilight, New Moon and I just started Eclipse.

My sister asked me if I'm an Edward or a Jacob fan. Well, I would like to go on record as being a die hard (pardon the pun) Edward fan. I seriously think I'm going through a mid-life crisis! There's just something very magical about the excitement of new love, and Stephanie Meyer does an incredible job of telling the love story between Bella and Edward. That said, I can honestly say that I relate to part of their attraction because I have always loved how Paul smells. Mmm-mmmm.

If you have not read these books, I highly recommend them. But I also recommend reading them when you have no other pressing responsibilities! I can't wait for the movie to come out in November!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Canning is not as fun anymore...

A friend of mine was kind enough to give me not only the Foley Food Mill that I needed, but also a bunch of peaches. So here's the tally:

4 pints of blackberry jam
9 pints of applesauce
14 half pints of apple butter
5 half pints of peach jam
13 quarts of peaches

Everything has gone so smoothly...

until yesterday, when I had the day from @$&% canning peaches. So there are 2 methods for canning peaches - hot pack or cold pack. I thought I would try cold pack because it seemed easier to me to just put the peaches in the jar and pour the boiling syrup over them. Wrong! I read that peaches have a lot of oxygen in them, and what happens when you pour boiling syrup over them? The oxygen comes OUT and they FLOAT! Bubbles + canning = BAD! I did everything I was supposed to - I put a knife down into the jar and tried to release trapped air bubbles, but there's only so much you can do when more bubbles keep forming. So I let those 3 jars that I "cold packed" sit and froth while I dumped the rest of the peaches into the syrup to cook for a few minutes after which they were "hot packed". I processed them all, and they all sealed properly, but it was obvious which 3 were cold packed - they are now sitting in my fridge waiting to be eaten while the other 10 are nicely labeled and shelved.

Oh, and the peach jam that I made didn't set the first time. I had to open all the bottles and let the jam just boil and reduce and then reprocess. It was not a good day.

I wish I could say I was done, but I still have a box of pears that are ripening, and 1 1/2 boxes of apples. The pears will be made into jam, and the fruit "hot packed". I am seriously considering making apple pie filling, because then I don't have to worry about the fruit floating!

I'm learning and I refuse to give up! I consider this a necessary skill. I just hope that in the process I don't poison my family! Stay tuned to this oh-so-riveting tale.

Monday, September 8, 2008

My first attempt at canning

I consider myself a pretty do-it-myself kind of person. I like to cook from scratch, I make a lot of my own cleaning supplies, I've even made my own soap. Canning is something that I have resisted for a long time. I helped my mom do a lot of canning as a child, so I was painfully aware of the work involved. I also think that it isn't really worth canning until I have a garden of my own, not to mention canning equipment of my own. Well I still don't have my own garden, but I have lots of friends who do and I am literally surrounded by orchards of apples, pears and peaches. So on Saturday I broke down and bought myself a steam canner, and used the blackberries that a friend gave me to make blackberry jam!

Aren't they beautiful? I am just so proud! Not only does the jam taste good, but the canning process actually worked - all of the jars sealed perfectly.

The sad thing is the very next day we attended a family gathering and brought fresh rolls and, you guessed it, jam. I almost shed a tear when I opened my hard work!

I've been bitten by the bug now though. I have a half bushel of gala apples that will be turned into applesauce and apple butter, and a half bushel of pears that will (hopefully) can and make into jam.

Here are some great canning links that I have found:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Top 10 do's and don'ts for saving money on your household expenses

Many of the women at church expressed an interest in a group that would meet and discuss ways to save money on household expenses. We decided to call it Tightwads Anonymous! Here is something that I prepared for our first meeting:
Top 10 do's:
· Buy food storage basics (wheat, oats, sugar, oil, beans etc.) and learn how to use them.
o Cook beans ahead of time and freeze them for easy integration into your diet

o Make your own granola – easy and cheap to make, yummy to eat, expensive to buy

· Grow a garden
· Cook from scratch
· Reduce the amount of meat you eat
o When you do eat meat buy whole chickens when on sale for $.59/lb, roast and use for multiple meals. Don’t be afraid to buy roasts at less than $2.00/lb – cut them up into stew meat yourself, or roast and use leftovers for soup
· Pack a lunch – use leftovers
· Shop with a plan – list, menu etc
o Have a budget and stick to it, bring a calculator if you have to
· Shop around, shop sales
· Use coupons & rebates
· Buy generic
· Watch the register – and speak up if something rings up at the wrong price
Top 10 don’ts:
· Don’t buy baking mixes: Bisquick, pancake mix, brownie mix, cake mix – make your own
· Don’t buy plain yogurt or sour cream – easy to make your own yogurt, and plain yogurt can be used in the place of sour cream in many recipes

· Don’t buy soda – it's expensive and bad for you
· Don’t buy bread – easy to make
· Don’t buy bottled water

· Don’t buy junk food/convenience frozen foods

· Don’t assume that buying in bulk is cheaper – warehouse clubs are not always cheaper, and if buying large quantities means that some will be wasted, it’s not worth it
· Don’t buy school lunch – SO bad for the kids and it’s cheaper to send them with lunch
· Don’t make special trips to the store for just one or two items. It wastes gas and time
· Don’t spend a lot of money on cleaning supplies – most things in your home can be cleaned with vinegar & baking soda
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