Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014


  1. What is the highlight of your Thanksgiving weekend? Family, for me. I love that both of our moms work it to get the dinners on Thursday. so we work it so that we can do both & see everyone in one day. a peek at 2009
  2.  Do you get the whole 4 days off or do you have to work through it? A few years ago, I started taking Friday off instead of detoxing everyone for one day just to do it again on Monday. Plus, by this time, I am in need of a good long relaxing weekend.  Last year, we upped the ante so to speak & started getting away for the long weekend. We rented a cabin about an hour away & loved being away from the chaos of the 'big shopping weekend'. (part 1 & 2)
  3. Do you have any long standing traditions? I love to listen to & watch the parade on tv while I am getting ready to go to dinner.  This year, I may have to take over the tv after or during brunch to continue this tradition. 
  4. Do you have any favorite dishes that with out them, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving? I don't. I just love it all. Turkey, ham balls, ham, scalloped corn, (the top layer of) stuffing, PIE, coffee, rolls, mashed or scalloped potatoes, veggie tray, fluffy salad, I am good with it all.  This year we are having a Thanksgiving day brunch at Tim's Mom's & I am so curious to see what everyone brings & how they work traditional dishes into a brunch.  I am taking a creamy fruit salad.
  5. Do you shop or avoid the crowds?  I tried black Friday shopping ONCE. Never again. it was so incredibly not worth it! Cyber Saturday, shop small Saturday, those are way more my speed! Although, this year, I think almost everyone is getting Iowa Food Coop & Farmer's Market products. 2008
  6. Do you do your Christmas decorating? I used to only to my Christmas decorating on this weekend, it usually took me all weekend but my Monday morning start of business, the totes were back in the cubby. Now, I have gotten so super relaxed about decorating, we haven't even done the big tree in the past few years... when I did do it, I sparingly hung ornaments dreading the work of un-decorating it in a short few weeks.  So, to answer my own question, decorating will be done next week. 
  7. What do you do with the leftovers? Can you tell I am excited about the food this year? ;) Do you do anything special with the leftovers? We usually only bring home what we took plus single servings of specific dishes then just have them as meals later in the weekend.  Some people go to great lengths to make the leftovers into new exciting dishes, not us. 
  8. What do you change from year to year?   This weekend has also been the time I took to address & stuff Christmas cards, start baking, & deep clean before decorating.  This year, since we will be away, I plan to do none of those. I will be assembling my December Daily book and other scrapping pages, I also plan to re-read Love Always, Kate as well as possibly start a new Debbie Macomber book a friend picked up for me. Yes, lots of good rejuvenating things for my soul but very little for the home. 
I wish all of you a joy-filled Thanksgiving weekend however you celebrate.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Freezing Produce #3: Zucchini & Stewed Tomatoes

While I am doing childcare and on the USDA food program (monthly 'reimbursement' check for feeding balanced meals by their guidelines & turning in completed paperwork) I have to freeze to preserve anything I plan to feed the children later.  No Home Canned items --boo! as I have more cupboard space than freezer space but I do what I can. 

This year, I have frozen produce such as; pumpkin, green beans, zucchini, stewed tomatoes, bananas, pear butter, & applesauce.

Stewed Tomatoes: I have seriously simplified my tomato processing steps. I used to blanch, peel, de-seed, simmer, make sauce, then can.  Now, I simply chop & simmer, pour into jars & chill overnight then freeze for childcare.  I chop into small enough pieces that when the skins come off either in the simmering, freezing or thawing process, they aren't big enough to be choking hazards & after all the processing, the seeds are barely recognizable for those who don't like them.  Often I will put a frozen jar out to thaw overnight in the fridge then put it on to simmer mid morning & add italian seasoning to it & maybe some garlic & finely diced onion if I am feeling generous (really, the kids don't care either way) if I want to serve something w/a sauce-usually a baked pasta dish to use up some leftover ground meat & pasta.The tomatoes & seasonings will simmer for a while, maybe an hour or more depending on how watery it came out after thawing, then pour over the rest & pop it in the oven. Yummmmy. 

Zucchini: We are not fans of baked or fried zucchini, so I don't cook any of it fresh, I only get it to freeze for muffins & bread later in the winter. Of course, I don't peel my zucchini, so I wash them off before cutting the ends off, then I cut into big spears.  Then I cut off the pointy side with the seeds on it & run the rest through an electric shredder.  I loved my salad shooter I had for years, man, I used that thing for shredding every.thing. from zucchini, carrots, cheese, radishes, & I am sure I am forgetting some things. Then when my second one broke, I used a hand me down food processor that had a shredding blade, it never worked as efficiently as the shooter, but it was faster & easier than shredding by hand so I would fight with it to get it all done.  Once the Zucchini is shredded, I put it into containers by 2 cup measurements (again, that's what my recipe calls for) to put in the fridge overnight then freezer the next morning. I have heard of people using baggies & freezing it flat then standing them upright for more efficient storage & that's a great idea, if you like to use baggies.  A couple of times this year, I would shred up to 11 cups of zucchini for the freezer from those donated by childcare families.  It was a great year for zucchini around these parts.  

2 more items for your freezer, only 2 left to talk about unless you want me to talk about other things I prep for the freezer.  I have done beef stock but can talk about chicken & homemade refried beans (I don't think I have done that one yet).  :) 


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Done & Documented: September & October

So, in my last report, I had finished 2009 totally & completely, an absolutely amazing feat for myself.  So proud yet, it brought to the forefront of my mind a couple of issues with that current style of memory keeping.  First, 8 4" thick 12x12 albums for each & every year of our lives? HUH?! who has room for that??? Definitely not us in a time when we are getting serious about downsizing our house and 'things'. Second, without children of our own to hand things down to automatically, where will these monstrosities go when I am gone? Truthfully, this one bothers me, so much less than the first as I am truly doing 99% of them for me in the moment. I use scrapping as therapy, as my creative outlet, as my me-time, girl-time, bonding time with my mom, Grandma & aunts. Occasionally, I use it to work through some issues, some feelings, and document that not everything is truly as it looks. On that other 1% I use them to send messages to people in my life unsure if they will ever see them or know how I feel, but I feel better getting it all down on paper & put in the stack to someday get put in a book. :)

So when I pulled fresh photos out to scrap, I had an all together different thought process. I knew I needed to cut the pages down in each chapter: 6 pages=3 layouts is going to be my cap for the majority of chapters from here on out. Many are falling in at 2 or 4 pages even.  This is freeing up A LOT of printed photos to hand off to friends & family for their books or trash, whatever they deem necessary.  The best part, I am doing it all guilt free. I am working hard to get the important stories told in those few pages & oddly, not even struggling most of the time.  Come to find out, I am much more of a photographer than a story teller, but I am learning to combine the two. Many less 'here we are at the lake again', '4th of July parade 2013', or 'kids at Christmas' pages more 'this summer at the lake we..... ' & 'a change in the parade this year was.....' and 'this year for Christmas the kids got/did/wanted.....'  all of them with a valid story to tell rather than just fun photos. I am also using Picasa to create collages then printing them in 8x10 or 5x7 to be able to include many more photos when they are needed but still wanting to keep the scrapped page tally down.

Since instituting these changes, I have been on a roll!! I have scrapped so many pages, I have lost track of a count & even quit photographing them all.  In fact, looking back, I haven't photographed any since the beginning of October, but here are some favorites from September & October:





 these are from 2 of the 3 birthday parties I scrapped from January & February 2013.  I have since moved over to 2010 and have scrapped a WiiFest gathering at our house, a family 4th of July dinner, Easter, a road trip to visit an aunt, 2 kids' birthdays & a brother's surprise birthday party. SERIOUSLY this rocks my scrapping world!  I have 2 Christmas celebrations, Christmas program, Father's Day gathering, graduation reception(which may already be scrapped), the January snow (there was a lot of it), adding Sammy to our family as a puppy, and some lake pictures to scrap. That will complete the year! That's amazing to me. My current goal is to finish the 4 pages of Father's Day I have on my desk-less about the holiday & more stories about the pictures. then I will probably take a break from 12x12s & 2010 to work up & do the December Daily I blogged about last week. I might just be sure to have the right photos in the 2010 basket instead of the basket that holds all of the photos that need scrapped, so that in January when I am ready to get back to big pages, I can transition easily.

That said, I never want to be caught up. I never want to be with out something to scrap. I simply want to be less years behind :) maybe some day being able to scrap the current year would be fun.

you can see my January, FebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJuly, & August  reports here.
________________________________________________________________________________________
Done and documented is series of monthly posts that highlights Jess's progress completing unfinished travel 
albums from years past. I will be following along by doing my December Daily 2013-CHECK, then plan to finish 2009 (2 chapters)-CHECK & start a new year. Feel free to play along.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Freezing Produce #2: Pear Butter

While I am doing childcare and on the USDA food program (monthly 'reimbursement' check for feeding balanced meals by their guidelines & turning in completed paperwork) I have to freeze to preserve anything I plan to feed the children later.  No Home Canned items --boo! as I have more cupboard space than freezer space but I do what I can. 

This year, I have frozen produce such as; pumpkin, green beans, zucchini, stewed tomatoes, bananas, pear butter, & applesauce.

I love fresh pears just about any way I can get them; plain, dipped in vanilla yogurt, or with some hot fudge sauce on the side (ahem), and pear butter was something I loved to buy at our local Farmer's Market last year.  I like it so much I could eat it out of the jar with a spoon, oh yes, I could & maybe I have.

So, when  a childcare family asked if I'd like some pears from their tree this summer, I gratefully accepted, thinking there would be enough to serve for a lunch, breakfast & maybe a snack, we would take the opportunity to talk about the tree being at so-and-so's house, that they brought them to share with us, how they grow, when to know when to pick them, & what their family does with them, etc. but they blessed me with 2 grocery sack fulls of fresh pears!  So we ate them, talked about them AND I got to make pear butter TOO! win-win.  I was really nervous when I went recipe hunting, as usually things like this take all day, need a bushel of produce or must be canned for preservation. I had no idea it was so easy & they love it on everything from a biscuit, to dinner roll, toast, waffle or pancake (I don't serve syrup anymore) and I even like it on a peanut butter sandwich during nap time :)

I am not going to recreate the wheel on this one & share all of the details because I followed this pin almost exactly, minus the lemon juice (I was out & since I was freezing it anyway, it didn't matter but if you are going to can yours, don't forget it) & I am on the lazy side & didn't peel the pears.  I don't peel any.thing. potatoes, tomatoes, apples, carrots, pears, bananas-ha, okay, yes, I peel bananas & oranges but most everything else with an edible peel I don't.  Mostly, because they say that the majority of the nutrients of the produce are in the skin & I am all about getting the most bang for my buck when it comes to food. Oh yea, that & I am lazy & don't like to peel.  :)   Leaving the peel in did give it a bit of a gritty texture but knowing that its pears, I  already expected a bit of that texture so I  don't mind & none of the littles did either.

This batch, I froze in half pint jars -jelly jars- which is perfect size for the fridge door, squeezing into tight spaces in the freezer and gift giving.  Which I am considering, but not sure if I am feeling that generous yet this season.  ;)

I thought we were out of pear season but I scored some at the local market on Saturday & they are HUGE monsters! ~~~>
So, one after school snack later this week is sure to be pears, vanilla yogurt & homemade granola--build your own parfaits, a group fave!

What do you do with pears? Are you in an area with an abundance in the fall like me?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

December Daily 2014 plans

I am so looking forward to this year's December Daily. Maybe the fact that I finished last year's in a timely manner, helped.  I have approached this project in  many different ways over the years....

2013 is here,  here, with a peek at the mess here, more progress here, and completed here. it took me until March to complete it since I waited until January to order the photos so they were good quality as no matter how great a printer boasts it is at printing photos, I am never happy unless they come from a developer.

2012 is complete. This year it took me through February to complete partially since I had finished/fixed/added to the 2010 album.

2011-I skipped this year as it was the month we lost a family member.

2010 is here.  Since I had skipped 2011, I guess in 2012, I figured I had skipped 2010 as well, so I started a new album, and I forgot I had started the album pages until I got about half way through completing an entirely new one, then discovered the beginnings of the other album, so I worked them together.

2009 is the last year that I worked on it IN December (as the days pass, as its intended) here, here, after I had prepped the pages ahead here, & here,  I loved the idea of prepping pages ahead, however, I struggled to have the pictures to coordinate on the right pages, so I decided that even if it takes a little longer to get the album finished, I will do the pages to go with the photos.

2008 is here, complete.  looks like this was my first year & I am sure I followed the direction given & created the pages ahead then used my home printer to keep the photos + pages caught up daily. 


I made the albums for 08 &10, used Creative Memories albums for 09, 12 & 13, this year I am using this Crush Book & kit, a consultants designed & got through Close to my Heart.  I saw hers this weekend & its ADORABLE! It has a super fun mix of pocket pages, tabbed, vellum & card stock pages. as well as the little goodies to put on them, and room to add more pages if I need to! of course I cannot use JUST the kit it comes with, I had to get some UBER cute wood veneer pieces from evalicious, as well as having the bag & pizza box full of leftovers from years past at my fingertips, throughout the process.  I plan to put it all together over our Thanksgiving weekend away & have it ready to share here the following week. Then I plan to work the pages as the month goes on, while leaving space for the photos as I will order them from Shutterfly to be sure I  am happy with the quality & plan to finish it at or before the January crop.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Freezing Produce #1: pumpkin & green beans

While I am doing childcare and on the USDA food program (monthly 'reimbursement' check for feeding balanced meals by their guidelines & turning in completed paperwork) I have to freeze to preserve anything I plan to feed the children later.  No Home Canned items --boo! as I have more cupboard space than freezer space but I do what I can.

This year, I have frozen produce such as; pumpkin, green beans, zucchini, stewed tomatoes, bananas, pear butter, & applesauce.

The pumpkins, I bought at the farmer's market & Iowa Food Coop. The bigger ones from the market, I cut in half, put on a baking sheet with sides & about a cup of water & baked at 300 for a few hours, until the rind was fork tender. The smaller ones I baked whole at the same temp for about an hour until they were fork tender.  Then I pull it out & let it cool until I can safely handle it.  Then, I use a spoon & scrap the seeds & strings out to put in the compost bin or trash, then I scrape the 'meat' of the potato from the rind & freeze it in 2 cup portions. 2 cups because that's how I use it in recipes.  Currently, I am freezing those portions in jars because, even though jars take up much more freezer space, a)that's what I always have on hand and b)there is no waste. With a baggie, which is much more space friendly, I not only toss the baggie, but inevitably some pumpkin sticks to it as well.  After I have marked them with the measurement, ingredient & date on a piece of scotch tape right on the side of the jar, I then prefer to chill them in their jars in the fridge overnight to help ward off any freezer crystals that tend to form when things are put in the freezer too warm.  I will pull these portions out periodically for muffins, bars or combine with chocolate chips for a yummy bread. Oh, I have pureed it before freezing & after, it didn't seem to matter on texture so this year, I plan puree it as I use it. FYI: Pumpkin puree is great for pups with constipation or other bowel blockage.

The green beans were either donated from childcare families or purchased at market this year. In years past, I have been able to put up my own garden beans & I do them all the same way.  After snapping the ends & rinsing, I blanch them for just a few seconds until they turn a darker green.  (To me, blanching=dipped in boiling water, after reading this article, I see I am missing a crucial step & will be sure to add it next year.) When I removed from boiling water I would let them cool & air dry on a towel on the counter, package into jars or freezer containers (I like to cook the green beans from frozen as I think they get mushy when I let them thaw overnight in the fridge so putting them in a freezer container that they can pop out of as a frozen clump works well for me), mark with tape & sharpie, then chill in the fridge overnight before I put them in the freezer.  This one I am able to involve the kids on because anyone can snap the ends off the beans, and we often do this one in the yard during morning playtime. Then I can blanch them during lunch, cool & dry them during quiet time & pack to chill during their snack time, moving them to the freezer the next morning. To use them, I just pull from freezer, run under hot water to thaw them away from the container then dump them into a warming cast iron skillet with some roasted garlic olive oil (from Iowa Food Coop), extra virgin olive oil, butter (from IFC) or some leftover bacon grease-oh yes, I did just go there.  :)

How is that for starters? I wish I had captured these processes with the camera to be more enjoyable to learn about. Stay tuned for the next installment :)


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Currently: November

Getting: the freezers cleaned out & organized for the fresh beef scheduled to arrive Saturday or Monday.
Realizing: I freeze a lot of stuff; shredded zucchini, baked pumpkin, homemade applesauce, pear butter, beef & chicken stocks, the oatmeal I cook in a big batch then freeze in meal size portions, store bought french bread (makes the best french toast), veggie ends for stock making, berries that are plentiful in the spring or summer but I have no interest or time to make into syrup right then, Some of this I will be able to pressure can when I am out of childcare, as of right now, USDA prohibits me from feeding home canned items to childcare children on the food program.


Spending: .too much money this week. My only 'excuse' is that it doesn't happen very often.
Starting:  to think about what to send for Christmas cards this year. Last year, we had the pups' photo taken with Santa & used that, the year before was our 15th year anniversary, so we had a photo shoot & used a collage from that, I prefer a photo card but starting to wonder, who wants a photo of us old married folk anymore LOL but I don't like sending impersonal store bought cards... dilemma...
Finishing: getting my clothes swapped for the seasons. bagging up the race shirts for a friend to make into a throw blanket, bagging up those that aren't flattering anymore,
Creating: a plan for justifying time I will take off, unpaid, over Christmas & New Year's this year.


Becoming: a much healthier & happier me & loving it all. 
Waiting: 
Watching: lots of dvr'd shows from the past month while I was busy doing Scrap Pink prep. Last night: 4 weeks of NCIS: New Orleans & a week of Grey's Anatomy.
Sipping: iced coffee made with my new coffee sock. then switching to water.
Eating: Tim's leftover cheeseburger soup he made 4 quart crockpot full of it on Saturday. YUMMMM

Reading:  a novella on my phone for a writer friend. Having the privilege to beta read for her is truly a treat. 
Reorganizing: .some cupboards, its a fall thing for me. Since summer is so crazy busy w/the kids & their day time activities and our love of outside time on the evenings & weekends, I tend to let things go & get chaotic, but now that fall is really here we are cooking and baking daily, we need to be able to find things easily.
Loving:  the runner's high I am still having in spurts after Sunday's Fairgrounds 5k.  its the first time I have run that far consistently (without walk breaks) & it felt amazing. Finishing 16th in my age group helped too!
Staying: home on Wednesday evenings is such a relief w/busy evenings Monday, Tuesday, & Thursday every other week. 
Using: the dryer & the oven daily to keep the childcare toasty. not sure how we will feel when it gets Really cold for Iowa.
Taking:   time to watch tv after a month of busy evenings feels like an odd combo of being lazy & being pampered. I am slowly getting that dvr cleaned up though. 
Working: my way through 2010 photos & getting them on scrapbook pages at record speed for me.
Anticipating: Thanksgiving weekend. Tim has a get away planned & I cannot wait to find out where we are going.