Thursday, December 31, 2009

And Happy New Year!

Okay, lately it seems that I am on a 'major holiday--time to post' kick lately. However, as previously mentioned I may be getting every so slightly more energetic and I do plan to pick it up again! I always noticed that posting would get down for a while on some of my favorite blogs (Like Merchant Ships, Tammy's Recipes) and then a while later here came the announcement that there is a little one on the way. I understood then and I understand even better now!

I just wanted to post a Happy New Year to everyone out there. I hope it is a night of reflection, fun and safety! I'm such a mom, but I can't help worrying. Especially when the love of my life is going to be on the road. He's a musician and tonight is a night that you want to be booked. Due to some strange circumstances he isn't playing his normal NYE gig, but he is out there and I am looking forward to having him back home with me. My partying consists of putting the little one to bed, checking blogs, making a few cheese sticks and heading to bed early. Wow, I'm pretty boring! Actually, it is more like I worked today, I work a LONG day tomorrow and then I open on Saturday. I'll be a tired girl come Saturday afternoon! But, what a change from the partying nights of just a few years ago. And I wouldn't change it for the world.

What a wonderful, blessed year we've had in 2009. Our little one has grown like crazy, he is working on talking and mimicking, he's happy, he's healthy and he's the light of our lives. My husband took a leap, gave up his biggest client and is now pursuing his real passion full time. He did so in a not so great economy and is making it work! I'm so proud of what he has accomplished and will have to do a full post (or more) on what he has all done in 2009....TV in 7 states, radio in about the same number, played libraries all over the place! I've been able to do what I do best (being a wife and Mama) not quite full time, but way more than if I still had my 'big girl' career. I'm working, but doing so only enought to provide benefits that protect my family. When I am working I know our little one is having fun with his Dada at home. I've got a huge blessing growing and moving inside of me. We are warm, fed, and love each other. I really couldn't ask for more.

I look forward to seeing what 2010 has to offer our family!

Happy New Year to you,
Heather

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I'm up early on Christmas morning...why? I have no idea. Seriously, this is one of a handful of Christmas mornings that I could sleep in. In a no time we'll have a little guy that will be up early each year in order to see what Santa brought him and I'll have to be up with him. This year? This year he really has no idea who that Santa guy is and I could have slept for at least a few more hours and here I am awake!

One reason for my early wakefulness is that it has been raining like crazy all night long. Every so often we get some water in our basement if it really rains hard. Therefore my brain has been trying to figure out if things are moved enough that they wouldn't get wet if water came in. Finally I decided I'd go check it out since there was no shutting that switch off. Seriously, why was I stressing at 4:15 am? We'd deal with it either way.

We had beautiful snow when we woke up yesterday morning, but this morning I fear that the ground will be all brown and there will be puddles. The white Christmas may be gone already. Granted, we'll get plenty more white stuff throughout the winter, but I love pretty snow on Christmas. It just feels right!

I really feel like I should apologize to my poor little neglected blog and any of you that may still be reading! I do plan to get back to posting more regularly as it encourages me, gets me taking more pictures of our lives and is a great outlet. However, I've been slow for a good (actually, great) reason so I don't feel too bad. I've had to focus on doing what I can with the energy I've got and that focus has been my little guy, my husband, cooking, working and other fun things like laundry and doing dishes. When I have no energy it really is all I can do to keep meals on the table and the house somewhat livable. Thank goodness for a very understanding husband who picks up the slack!

Have you figured it out yet? We'll be adding another little one to our family in early June of 2010. I'm so excited and am grateful that I seem to be past the worst of the nausea and might even be getting back some energy. I really get drained when pregnant and this time around I can't just sleep the days away when I get home from work. The little guy keeps us hopping and he doesn't seem concerned about his tired Mommy's need for sleep! We will grateful get through this time though, in appreciation for the gift to come. I can't wait to be the Mommy of two!

Any ideas that you have to prepare our little guy for the next one would be much appreciated. He'll be about 22 months when this baby arrives. He now says/signs 'baby' and we've given him a baby doll of his own. He is getting very interested in pictures of babies and calls most kids (some years older than him) babies right now. I tell him about the baby in my belly, but none of it makes sense as far as I can tell. I'd love any tips that you may have!

Have a wonderful Christmas! It really is a blessed holiday and one that I am glad to be spending with my little family.

Heather

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

We're Back!

We got back from our long road trip on Sunday night and have been catching up and working ever since! Are we crazy for taking a now 16 month old on a 13 hour (each way) car trip without any electronic entertainment? And we even own a portable DVD player that we were given a few years ago. Everyone I've talked to thinks we are nuts for not using it.

But even so, our movie deprived child and his sleep deprived parents arrived home in one piece. We were thankful to be with family and now we are thankful to be back in our little home sweet home! Even if we did bring a nasty cold back from Arkansas with us. I guess there are only so many days that you can put 10 people who are not used to each other's germs in a house and not get sick. According to our calculations the number of days would 5. The end of the 5th day at least 3 people will come down with something pretty much all at once. We were like our own little science experiment!

I've got the day off tomorrow and am excited to get another load of vaccation laundry done, bake some bread, and jot down some of what has been happening around here.

Hope your holiday was wonderful and that your leftovers are eaten or frozen by now! Food poisoning is not fun for anyone :) And no, we didn't have any of that on our trip, just beautiful weather for biking and picture taking, great food, fun with cousins and wonderful hospitality by a great sister and her patient husband.

Heather

Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

So, I've mostly been missing, haven't I? Just wanted to pop in quick tonight and wish anyone who is still hanging in there with me an early Happy Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving. I love the turkey, the mashed potatoes, all the sides, all the desserts. I love being with people I love...even when things get crazy. And let's be real, we all know they will at some point! I have always thought of Thanksgiving as MY holiday. Seem selfish? Well, I think I am entitled as I was born on Thanksgiving day. I was actually born at 11:47 AM on Thanksgiving day in order to be present for the turkey dinner. And I haven't missed one since. Except for the one year that we had lasagna since we'd had the tradition turkey dinner the weekend before with extended family. And honestly, I still haven't forgiven my mom for that. I think I was about 10 when that happened. It haunts me.

This year we will be traveling to be with my sister, brother-in-law, the munchkins, my mom and my dad. It will be a LONG trip with the little guy, but I cannot wait to see him with their cousins! And after all the eating on Thursday we'll have to sneak in a little birthday cake on Friday. :)

Wishing you all a wonderful time of family, food, and fellowship. I promise an update about our crazy lives when we get back. It should explain my lack of attentiveness to this poor little blog.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Heather

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two Down, Forty Eight Or So To Go!




Today Mike and I celebrate two years of marriage. It is hard to believe that it has already been two years and at the same time it is almost impossible to believe that it has only been two years. At this point I really cannot imagine my life without him in it. We've been together just over 4 years total (1 year of dating, 1 of engagement and now two of marriage) and in that time our lives have changed so dramatically.


When we met I was working in school fundraising, living in my little starter house, I had a dog and a cat and I enjoyed the occasional cosmo or other fun martini. Mike was living at home, he had never taken a drink, and he worked for a state organization. Now we live together in a different home, have mine as a rental, have 2 dogs and a cat, I work at Starbucks part time and Mike does polka music full time (with a few website clients on the side), he only likes my family's vodka slush recipe, but otherwise still doesn't drink, I can't remember the last time I had a martini of any type and we are parents!






So I am totally copying Nettacow and posting some things about us and our wedding in honor of our anniversary!















1. Where/How did you meet? We met through e-harmony. Yes, we are like all those couples you see on TV, only none of them feature accordion players. I never would have guessed I'd meet my husband on-line, but it has worked out pretty good! Our first in person meeting was at the Olive Garden.



2. How long have you known each other? Our first date was on November 6th, so that is almost exactly 4 years. We had been e-mailing and chatting for a few months before that.



3. How long after you met did you start dating? We were obviously actively looking for a mate, so it was always pretty serious.



4. How long did you date before you were engaged? Just under 14 months. We had booked the hall already, but he didn't pop the question officially until Jan 1st of 2007.



5. How long was your engagement? Almost exactly 10 months. Jan 1st-Nov 3rd



6. How long have you been married? 2 years







7. What is your anniversary? TODAY! November 3rd.







8. How many people came to your wedding reception? I know I gave the hall the exact number (which they had never had happen before). I believe it was about 187 adults and then some kiddos for our Saturday evening reception. We also had a Sunday afternoon polka reception and I have no idea how many people came. Probably another couple of hundred.







9. What kind of cake did you serve? We had a tiny little cake for cutting that was decorated with a wedding couple that stood on my parent's wedding cake, my Grandparent's 50th anniversary cake and my Great Grandparent's 50th anniversary cake. The 'real' cake was an amazing creation of yellow cake with a cream cheese and fresh strawberry filling. The whole thing was frosted with the whipped cream type frosting. This cake is the specialty of the hall we used and is a big reason we had it there. It is unbelievably yummy. It was just going to be a layer cake and not even seen, but the owner/baker decided to make it special when he saw that we had wedding photos of our parents and grandparents on the cake table. He put a huge tree on it and used their wedding dates...like a family tree of weddings. This cake is still talked about by family members in other states. As in, can you bring that cake with you when you visit?









10. Where was your wedding? At St. Sebastian's church. Very beautiful church with not very great people. We quickly moved parishes after the wedding.







11. What did you serve for your meal? We had a buffet line. There were huge turkeys, roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans with almonds, corn, an awesome pasta salad, veggie tray, bread, and fixings. And the cake.







12. How many people were in your wedding party? We each had 4 attendants, 3 ushers, 2 flower girls and 1 little accordion carrying ring bearer.







13. Are you still friends with them all? YES! We don't see a few of them often enough, but they are great people.







14. Did your spouse cry during the ceremony? Not really. I choked up a bit a few times and boohooed my way down the aisle.







15. Most special moment of your wedding day? How could there be just one? We had such an amazing weekend!







16. Any funny moments? The flower girls (our twin nieces who were 3) kept running up and down the aisle with each couple. They looked like little fairies and brought lots of laughs while the procession was happening. The speech my sister gave turned into a bit of a threat (jokingly) and one of the larger groom's men stood up and said he'd take on my brother-in-law. Got quiet the laughs! There was lots of laughing!







17. Any big disasters? The rehearsal lasted for over 2 hours (seriously, not the best people at this church). The recording we were making of the mass didn't happen and we were SO disappointed! The musician played the wrong instrument during the procession, the only song we were specific about. But really, overall they were not disasters just disappointments.







18. Where did you go on your honeymoon? To the best cabin in the world. It resides in Cherryville, Missouri and everyone should go there. It is beautiful, romantic, and in our case led to our little guy!







19. How long were you gone? A week. Could have stayed forever.







20. If you were to do your wedding over, what would you change? Would have changed churches and begged to still be married on that day. Probably would have considered a professional videographer.







21. What side of the bed do you sleep on? I'm on his left.







22. What size is your bed? Queen







23. Who pays the bills? I do the budget, he pays some of the bills on-line, he earns most the money.







24. What is your song?/25. What did you dance your first dance to? "Can I have this Dance?" Ann Murray...we did a real waltz to it.







26. Describe your wedding dress: Read about it here.







27. What kind of flowers did you have at your wedding? How about a picture? These were mine.













And what my girls carried.







The mom's carried little bouquets of fall colored roses and the boutonnieres were roses like mine and other flowers. I made all the flowers the for the girls the day before and the boutonnieres the morning of the wedding. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I loved doing it and they turned out great!







28. How old were you when you got married? I was just shy of 32 and Mike was 28.













This is so much fun! I'm going to share more stories in the coming days, but more than anything I just want my sweet husband to know how much I love him! He is such a wonderful guy and I am grateful that we found each other. They say the first year of marriage is the hardest and I slept through the first 9 months of it (being pregnant wears me out). We sailed through that one pretty easily! They number two has been filled with parenting our little guy, focusing on Pint Size Polkas and just being a family. All in all it has been pretty smooth sailing too! We always joked that we were in this for 50 years and then we'd reevaluate. (Who knows, I'll be 82 then...maybe I'll be ready for an even younger man?) So, we've got 2 down and 48 to go and I'm looking forward to them! Thanks for choosing me.















Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Better than Jewels






For some women this would be laughable, but when I finally got tomatoes this summer I remember thinking they were prettier than jewels! They were so shiny and red and yummy and I was so grateful to have them. Tonight I was grateful all over again.





I didn't realize how late the evening had gotten when I looked up and it was almost 5 pm already. We typically eat at about 5 since that give us time to eat and clean up and spend some time with the little guy before he heads to bed around 7 or earlier depending on the day! Today we'd eaten a late lunch due to my work schedule. Then we headed out to enjoy an actual sunny day. We've had so few this fall that they are a real treat!





This weekend we were able to find an older single child Burley for a really good price. Okay, it was $20 if you must know. Seriously, is that a good deal or what? :) It is dusty, but in good condition. We figured today was a good day to take it for a spin and see if little guy liked it or not. What fun to actually get on my bike again! We used to bike a lot, but last summer I was very, very pregnant and then the little guy was too small for a trailer (and I was healing from his birth and had no desire to get on a bike and check how the healing was going and all). So basically it has been 2 years since I've ridden my bike. That ended today. And with any luck we'll get a few more rides in before the snow flies. The little one really enjoyed the trailer right away. He kept waving at me (Daddy pulls him) and smiling and laughing. We'll be enjoying biking as a family a lot in the future, I have no doubt!

So we got home from riding and then gave our dogs baths while the little one avoided his afternoon nap. Then I checked my e-mail and bam! it was 5 o'clock. YIKES!

I decided to use one of my spaghetti squashes that I bought at the farmer's market on Thursday. Last year we enjoyed some for the first time and I remembered I had done a spicy sausage tomato sauce with it. I cooked up some sausage, dumped in some onion and green pepper, opened 2 cans of tomato sauce I had gotten off of freecycle (a woman gave me 3 cases of 12 cans each and had more for others) and thought that would be it. I decided we needed more chunkiness to the sauce and ran downstairs again.

These tomatoes waited for me in their pint and quart jars. I added a pint of diced tomatoes and some seasonings and we were ready to eat in no time. I love my shelves and crates of canned goods. Seeing them makes me happy and eating them makes me even happier!

Happy fall eating,

Heather

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thanks to all of you (and the big Guy upstairs!) we had beautiful weather on Monday. Finally. We decided to take advantage of it and head out to a beautiful park along Lake Michigan. I used to frequent the park with my dog fairly often when I was single and Mike and I had our engagement pictures taken there. It is a bit of a drive from our house now, but totally worth it! Especially this time of year when the leaves are looking so beautiful.





Little guy seems to really be fighting afternoon naps and rarely will fall asleep. (We keep hoping and still give him 'rest time' even if he just plays and talks in his crib the whole time.) Of course, on Monday he slept and slept and slept so we didn't get to the park as early as we planned, but it was still great!

There are lots of woods and trails and beautiful Lannon stonework benches and steps. We took advantage of the picturesque area to take some pictures. Makes sense, huh? Others seemed to have the same idea as we saw no fewer than 6 very large cameras coming out of the park as we were heading in....some family pictures, one engagement set, others just getting photos.

Is it just me or do you have lots of pictures of curious toddlers looking like this?

Or when you finally have them looking they decide they need to point at the picture taker?

It is really challenging taking good pictures of active little ones, isn't it? And I'm trying not to get him frustrated with the whole 'sit still and look at me and smile' thing right now. I'm just trying to get something that looks fairly natural and very like him. Extra points if he is smiling. And even more points if it is in focus and somewhat framed. This ones misses on the whole 'in focus' and 'smiling' thing, but it is a pretty great shot of a pretty great kid.

I really love this little guy.

Wishing you sunny days!

Heather

Sunday, October 18, 2009

You Guys are Good!

Seriously, you guys come thorugh!

Today it is SUNNY! And they are saying possible sun tomorrow and maybe even Tuesday. That may be more sun than we've seen all of October. Happy dance here in Milwaukee!

Mike is sanding on the deck as I type and I am headed out to stain as soon as he finishes. We will get this done yet. I have off tomorrow so if the weather can hold I'll be a happy, happy girl. And I work very early Tuesday so maybe we can even get to a park yet.

Thank you for all your help in procurring a few days of decent weather. There is a possibility we may be in the 50s for most of this week. You pulled some great strings and I am thankful!

Hope you have a beautiful Sunday too!
Heather

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Can I Get Some Help Here?

I've been in an odd mood lately. It could have something to do with the fact that we had an unbelievably beautiful September (23 days in a row with sun and gorgeous temps) and then SLAMMED into late fall/early winter. The temps have been in the 40s, it has been dreary and rainy and just all around crummy. I love fall and miss the 'early fall' that is sunny and sweet during the day and cool and crisp at night. This weather makes me just want to hibernate!

I've been taking advantage of this weather to make lots of soups and warm food. There is something wonderful about that, but I wasn't ready to transition so quickly from grilling to stews! I want to be using things from the farmer's market and making salads. I needed the time to transition and we didn't get it.

So we are now trying to get our deck sanded and refinished before there is snow, but we need at least 2 days of sun. We need to get the outside toys picked up and put away. We need to trim a few hedges that grew like crazy after the pruning this summer. We just need a few days of early fall to get those 'wrap up the summer' projects wrapped up. Could someone put in a good word for us here in Milwaukee?

I'm trying to remain hopeful since we got married on November 3rd and it was beautiful. Last year we had 4 days in October get above 80 degrees. In 2007 there were 4 days in October that were above 70 degrees. Is it too much to hope/want/expect at least a day in the 50s or even 60s before the first blizzard?

Can I get some help in requesting just one beautiful weekend? I really want to take the little one to a beautiful park and get some fall pictures with him. I need some sun to do it. Please, I'm begging I need a few days of transition weather!

That concludes my whining about the weather for today,
Heather

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Loss

This weekend my parent's were in Wisconsin again. It was wonderful to see them and the little one had a blast charming his grandparents. However, their visit was not all in fun.

We lost a dear family friend last week and Saturday was her memorial service. She and her husband were like a local aunt and uncle for me and my sister's growing up. Our biological ones were all out of state, but these two were able to fill in. They didn't have children so they spoiled us, treated us like adults and disciplined us like we were their own depending on what we needed at the time. She fought cancer for almost two years after having been told she only had months or maybe weeks to live when she was diagnosed. Her diagnosis came the week of our wedding and now she has passed at only 49.

Three weeks ago my mom came up and we went to see her one last time. She was on heavy medications and we only had a few moments here and there when she was lucid. When she was with us she was so much like herself. She was sharp, funny, and pointed. She talked about things that had happened recently (like her visit to Kentucky in July) and things from my childhood. She was yellow, swollen, and not eating or drinking. For me it was an experience I'll never forget and I'm grateful that we got to spend time with her.

The biggest challenge for me is how to reach out to her husband. He is a outdoorsman who learned how to be an amazing nurse to his wife. He expected to have 30 more years with her and that he would go first (he's 9 years older). He spends his time welding, hunting, and fishing. Suddenly he was having to administer 4 different pain meds, run IVs, and watch his wife as she slipped further and further from him. She died on their couch while he slept a few feet from her. He now has to cope with being alone.

We do not live close and my husband has only met him once. They have almost nothing in common. I've never called this gentleman out of the blue before. However, I can't help but feel a desire to spend time with him now. I want to be there for him if he needs us as my parent's live so far away. He has lots of friends and some family in the area. I know that he has a full life and that many people will be watching over him. I think that my way of coping may be that I want to help him feel cared about. It is something I've been thinking about and will be continuing to figure out. How can I best serve him and be there for him? What will be helpful to him and what would just be for my own benefit?

Loss is so hard. We are grateful for the time she had and that the 'bad' part really only lasted about 3-4 weeks. She was not in pain and didn't suffer. She is now in a place where she can do all those things that she loved again.

I'm grateful that she was in my life and that I got to say goodbye. I'm grateful for the lessons she taught me. Life is short and you never know what the next day, week or month will bring. Stop complaining and just enjoy where you are. Make a difference in other people's lives. Spend time doing things you love with people you love. Collect things you love; collect lots of them if it makes you happy. Speak your mind. Sing like there is no one else in the car. It is okay to be a woman who has a strong opinion and doesn't back down. Not everyone will like you and that is perfectly fine. Sometimes friendships end, but hold onto the friendships that mean something to you. Marry the person who is right for you no matter how different you are. Be yourself until the very end.

Thank you M. for teachin me so much.
Heather


More grateful people over at Heavenly Homemakers.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Bummer!

Today my Frugal Finds were spoiled! I was going to share with you some of the ways I frugally feed our family wonderful in season, local foods by showing the bounty of our local famer's market. However, when I got there yesterday they vendors were either gone or were about to pull out!

I haven't been able to go in almost 2 weeks (it is open T, Th, and Sat) and was so looking forward to a visit. However I had to work from 11-5 and by the time I got to the market it was about 5:30. The weather was cold and rainy and I'm guessing they all headed home a little early because of it. I'm kind of thinking that the crowd gets pretty thin by then, but I do not really know as I am typically there in the early afternoon. I'm especially disappointed because I will not be able to go Saturday or Tuesday and Thursday I have the same schedule. And they close in about a month....YIKES!

The West Allis Farmer's market is made up of all local vendors. They must grow what they sell. I love the variety of items offered and find that I can often get some amazing deals. They open at noon and I'm guessing they close between 5-6 depending on the crowd. I really think that finding a local farmer's market is one of the most frugal ways to feed a family (at least during the summer) if you do not have a garden. To give you an idea of some of the best deals I've gotten this summer...

Cabbages (rather huge ones, both red and green) $1
Cantaloupe $1
Smaller Watermelons $1 and 2/$1
Green Beans $1/lb (typically they are about $2/lb there)
Zucchini (a bin of about 8 bigger ones) $1
Beets (a huge basket) $2
Eggplant 3/$1

And the list goes on and on. I do walk the entire market and really do try to find some of the best deals. However, the prices are all very good and the food is even better! There are some all organic vendors, some that sell meat and eggs, a few apple orchards, lots of sweet corn, flowers, herbs and all kinds of other great vegetables and fruits.

I'm already dreading the end of the growing season. And really it is already here as we are expecting flurries on Saturday afternoon and highs in the low 40s on Monday. Looks like winter showed up a bit early this year!

Have a great day,
Heather

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rock the Vote!

This post is a shameless promotion of my sister and her photographic talents. And an appeal for your vote. I'm Heather and I approved this message.



My sister is into photography. Not your average portrait photography or even the typical digital photography. She has become interested in all kinds of unique photography that I do not even begin to understand. She uses old, unusual cameras. She develops her prints. She plays around with papers and exposures and all kinds of things to make her prints even more unique. She takes 'photos' using only the sun and flowers. Again, I do not fully understand it, but I appreciate that it is really amazing art when she is finished with it.

She is currently involved in a photography contest. Actually it is an alternative photography calendar contest. There are like 85 different submissions and she is one of them. If she is one of the final winners she'll be featured. I'd be really grateful if you'd check out the entries here. Her photo is most of the way down the listing. Her name is Sarah Speakes and the photo is of a not fully opened lilly. It was 'taken' using only the photo paper, the flower and the sun. From what she's told me this is called a Lumen picture. The photo is called Elegance and it is!


And when you are finished and realize how amazing her photo is you can vote for her here. And if that one is full you can vote here. Again, you'll go to Sarah Speakes and check her name. Then submit your vote. They are taking votes until they get to a certain number so time is of the essence.

Thanks so much for your support of my sister! Seriously, shameless I know, but she's my sister and I want her to do well.

She's a mom of 3 kids (my nephew is 6 and neices are 5) and her husband is in the Air Force. He deploys every 5 months or so and is gone for that long. It is hard for them to be apart, and I can't imagine how challenging it is for her to be home alone with the kids. And not near any of her other family because of where they must live for his job. At one point she had two new babies and a little toddler and had to handle it all on her own. Can you imagine grocery shopping with two car seats, an early walker and just two hands? I cannot. My brother-in-law is away for training right now and I'd love for her to win this contest as a great pick me up. So please vote for Sarah Speakes and Elegance! We'd both be really grateful :)

Thanks so much,
Heather

Monday, October 5, 2009

Happy October!

I cannot believe it is October already! Although Mike's schedule is crazy right now which means it is Oktoberfest season. This weekend he had 7 jobs in less than 3 days. Needless to say we didn't see him much. But he loves what he does and we are grateful for the work.

Little guy has started walking. Amazingly he just started taking a few steps here and there and now seems to pretty much have the hang of it. He doesn't walk everywhere yet, but we know it is just a matter of a little more time. He is getting bigger and more active every day! He never did the stand and balance move that most little ones do. The one where they just stand in place and then squat down and play or pick up something and then stand back up, never moving their feet the entire time. He still doesn't really do that, but has figured out how to balance enough that he can walk from here to there when he feels like it!

He is also signing more and more words. We started with milk forever ago and within the last month or so he seemed to be really into signing milk, more and food (the only ones we'd taught him). So I started doing a few more and now he also does water, mommy, daddy, drink, and even please sometimes! I need to do more research to keep expanding his signing vocabulary. It is so cute to see him do it and I'm glad he is communicating with us even though he doesn't say many words yet. His signing also leads to funny situations. Every morning the first thing I do when he gets up is change his diaper. After that we head to the kitchen and he has breakfast. Well he must be hungry first thing because now he is often in his crib signing 'food' and 'more' as soon as he wakes up. And he keeps signing it the whole time I change him. Breakfast must be his favorite meal!

I've only got 1 quart jar and 1 1/2 pint jar left in my kitchen. I've still got a box and a half of apples. I also have a really, really full freezer. My parents are coming up for a quick trip this weekend and my mom is bringing me more jars. Here's hoping the apples stay good until she gets here! I love looking at all the jars I've canned. It will be great to do more and more things as the years go by. There is nothing like knowing you've got provisisons. And that there is no BPA in them. Fall is really a great time of year and I can't wait to pick up some things at the farmer's market. Spaghetti squash, here I come!

Have a great day,
Heather

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to Remove Burnt Tomato Sauce

So, I've been doing a lot of canning. And when I can I'm a bit messy at times. Seriously, I think it is impossible to avoid it! When I had a big overflow of tomato juice and sauce I knew that I would be left with a big mess to clean up. There was a huge amount of burned on gunk left on my stovetop when I was able to take the kettle off the burner. Not very fun. I wish I had taken a picture of how bad it was, but I think you'll get the idea.

Thank goodness I remembered that it can be easier to remove than just scrubbing till my arms want to fall off. All it takes is some baking soda and some patience.






First I VERY liberally sprinkled baking soda over the entire mess. I dumped quite a bit over the area since it was a pretty thick mess. I sprinkled a little bit of water on it and just let it sit for a while. I think I did some dishes and kind of forgot about it for at least 10-20 minutes.



The next step was wiping it off. In the picture you can see that part of it has wiped off fairly well. I kept washing out my dish cloth and rewiping it, but not really scrubbing too hard. Some parts just wiped right off, some parts were still a big, black, yucky mess.

I just dumped a bunch more baking soda over the parts that didn't clean up, sprinkled a bit more water and continued on my way with the rest of the dishes.
When I was done with my other clean up I just came back and wiped it down again. Most of it came right off by then. There was a chunk that seemed determined to stay on there, but with a little elbow grease it finally gave up. I didn't worry too much about total perfection (I rarely do) because I knew I'd be canning the next day and probably have a similar mess to deal with!

Luckily, it wasn't so bad the next day. If it had been I would have just reached for the baking soda again! Such an easy way to make quick work of canning messes. For more great Kitchen Tips visit Tammy's Recipes.
Heather

Monday, September 28, 2009

Zucchini Relish



Which could also be called "The best pickle relish you've ever had that has no cucumbers in it whatsoever!" or "An easy way to use up a lot of big zucchini fast." or "Gift back those zucchini your neighbors hid on your porch without them knowing they are getting zucchini!"
I do not even remember where I first heard mention of making zucchini relish, but it was on a website somewhere this year. "Huh, that's a great idea, if it works" was my first reaction. As everyone who lives in Wisconsin (or most other states) knows zucchini is something that grows really well and really abundantly here. Many people find themselves doing everything they can to just give away the extras. Cucumbers so too, but not with the same prolific zeal that zucchini does. My garden did not feel it right to supply me with EITHER of these items this year, but gratefully the farmer's market does!

We do not typically eat a lot of pickle relish, but after getting a few big zucchini from assorted people and then being able to buy about 6 bigger ones for only $1 at the farmer's market I figured I'd see if I could make some relish myself. (We already had lots of diced and shredded zucchini frozen for winter use.) Since cucumbers are like $2-$3 a pound it made sense to give the zucchini recipe a shot. And the recipe says its delicious and I'll never buy pickle relish in the store again, so it must be worth a shot!


I found the recipe that sounded the simplest with the fewest ingredients here. I liked the fact that I had gotten a bunch of red peppers from our freecycle connection, there were onions in the drawer and cheap zucchini to use. My biggest expense was getting spices (turmeric, celery seed, and dry mustard) but those weren't too bad and really it was just the turmeric that I wouldn't have normally had in my cupboard. The sugar, vinegar, corn starch and black pepper are pantry staples for us as well.








Basically you just grate up the zucchini, onions and red peppers. I used my Kitchen Aid attachment to do the zucchini (seeds, skins and all) and onions. It really wasn't too great with the onions, but I figured it didn't matter how smooshed they were as relish is more about flavor than anything else. I ended up using my little Cuisinart to do the red peppers as they were already in a large dice and I just needed to get them finer. These all get salted and put in the fridge overnight. Or for 2 days as was the case with my first batch!


The vegetable mix gets rinsed, drained, and put in a pot to combine with the other ingredients. This is where the spices, vinegar and sugar all get added.

Mix well and bring to a boil. This cooks for 30 minutes and does get a bit thicker thanks to the cornstarch. When stirring make sure you use a utensil that you do not mind getting stained. I used a wooden one (as I am doing more and more these days) and it is the prettiest yellow color up to the point that the mixture reached! I do not mind at all, but even my enameled cast iron took on a yellow hue for a while. The turmeric is strong stuff so be aware of any drips or where you put your spoon down. You could end up with stains on your counter tops as well.

Doesn't this look like it could be cucumber relish? Smells strong, but good while cooking!

The finished product after boiling and canning. I'm trying to remember, but I think I waterbathed the pints for about 20 minutes. I followed the suggestion that was on another recipe and figured that since this is so similar in texture I should be okay. The linked recipe does not specifically give a time for canning.

I've tried some of this on a sandwich and it was wonderful! I typically only use relish in chicken, egg or potato salad or occasionally on a hot dog. I have a feeling that the 12 pints I've put up will be used up though. The color is great, the flavor is awesome! I actually have a bit of store bought relish in the fridge and when comparing them I found the store bought one to be too uniform in size of chunks, too all one color as it is just pickles with a tiny bit of red something in it, and just too sweet smelling and tasting. This one is just more fun all the way around! And I think it would make a really nice looking gift as the colors and texture make the jar look very festive.

Next year I hope to get lots and lots and lots of zucchini and red pepper to be able to put up a bunch more of this! I originally just did the 6 pints, but when I got a few more zucchinis last week I knew what I'd be doing with those too :) I pulled red pepper out of the freezer and whipped up another batch right away.

Happy Canning!

Heather

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How Funny Is This?



I just thought this eggplant was too cute. Doesn't it look like it is waving? Or like it is a hook to hang a purse on? I didn't see this part until I got home as it was in a basket of 3 eggplants (for $1) and they just dumped the basket into my bag. Too funny!





Anyone have any great eggplant recipes? I didn't grow up eating it, but have made a few things with them the last few summers. We've made Pasta Norma and I've put it into veggie lasagna and even oven roasted it with beets and garlic. Mike isn't a huge fan and I think it is mostly the texture. I know my grandma fries it, but I haven't tried that yet. I'd love any suggestions you might have!

Heather

What Tuesday and Wednesday Looked Like



Yup, it was crazy trying to can with a very active toddler!


Tuesday Mike was gone all day playing for libraries and schools which left little guy and I on our own. Typically I love days like that, but when you are trying to deal with produce that can't wait and do some canning it makes it a bit tricky. The above picture was taken at about 7:30 am and shows most of the contents of one cabinet now spread out on the floor. It actually got worse than this at times! Thank goodness for nap times :)



So this is what got prepared and canned on Tuesday.







There are 5 batches of strawberry jam in those jars. I've run out of 1/2 pint jars so we will be eating jam by the pint. I don't think my husband will mind having to eat up a bunch at a time! Strawberry jam is his favorite. We have more jam in this house than we could possibly eat in a year, but I'm sure that some will make for great gifts as well this holiday season. It is wonderful treat that I've never really bought, but we like having now that I have access to fruit that is best used for things like jam.



There are also 6 pints of zucchini relish, 2 pints of pear-apple sauce, 4 pints of pineapple, 4 quarts of tomato juice, 3 quarts of diced tomatoes and 4 pints of diced tomatoes. It is amazing how small 39 jars of food can look in a picture! Especially when it took me an entire day to get that all put up. I know I'll get better/faster at this the more years I do it. And I also think that it would be faster to focus on one thing at a time. I got such a variety of things that I had to multi-task in the type of things I was making. And goodness knows that it takes some serious time to make jam when you do it without pectin!

This is Wednesday's work.

Wednesday I started by washing up lots more jars! I think there are 25 more jars of things pictures. There are 6 more quarts of diced tomatoes and tomato juice, 5 pints of diced peaches, 3 pints of peach sauce, 4 pints of pear sauce and 7 pints of apple sauce. The pears I got were really 'organic.' The apples were also picked from trees that are totally ignored, but I've little worry about bad spots or worm holes. The pears have been much harder to deal with though. And after a while I started getting fed up with them. I've got a few more to do (they weren't fully ripe yet) and I'm kind of dreading them. Some of the remaining ones are bigger and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to get some diced pears out of them. We'll be eating an awful lot of sauces this winter!

I've still got lots of apples to deal with and many of those will be come sauce as well. I will be freezing some and may try and do some apple pie filling. My biggest worry is running out jars as it appears that I will be soon.

I realized I never took a picture of Thursday, but it was an all applesauce day. I only canned what I had cooked down or at least cut up the day before. My family needed me to be more focused on them and the apples are more forgiving than the other produce. I believe I did about 14 more jars that day. 4 quarts and 10 pints if I remember correctly, all applesauce!

Hope your food preservation is going well!

Heather

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Not For the Faint of Heart

Canning is going well, but is exhausting work! And I'm not even really doing that much stuff compared to many people out there. I seriously think they should consider canning for the next summer Olympics or something. What other sport makes you stay in a kitchen with boiling pots of water and other assorted things for 10-12 hour stretches at a time? And then stay on your feet while coring, peeling, chopping, measuring, washing, filling and oh, so many other things? I think that the Olympic committee would be impressed by the stamina and endurance of many serious canners.

I'm too tired to get my camera and load pictures, but I've got lots to show. I've done so many different things in the last 2 days and had to call it really early this evening. My husband and son needed my attention and food, so canning got put away until tomorrow.

So far I've done:
5 batches of strawberry jam
diced tomatoes and tomato juice
pinapple
diced peaches and peach sauce
pear sauce
apple sauce
zucchini relish
and canned some pear-apple sauce that I had made on Saturday

Mostly I'm working on apples from this point on. A few pears will be diced up once they ripen. I'm going to be out of jars tomorrow which makes me really sad! I'm also almost out of lids, so I need to stock up on those or be done canning and freeze things from this point onward.

Can't wait to show you pictures!
Heather

Monday, September 21, 2009

When It Rains, It POURS!

I am living in a state of overextended gratefulness. Somehow I've become a recipient of a HUGE amount of differing types of produce, all in about 36 hours. And most of it needs to be processed IMMEDIATELY, if not sooner. And I worked today and have to go back in tonight. It has been crazy and I can't wait to share all about it.

Yes, I finally got some tomatoes! :) So, so happy!

(and strawberries, pineapples, pears, watermelons, grapes, apples, potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, a few assorted other vegetables.)

Lots of canning in my future and I am very, very, VERY grateful that I have off the next 3 days. I'll be working hard!
Heather

Friday, September 18, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Cube Shelves






My mom never takes the time to garage sale when she is at home, but we went when we visted her in Kentucky in July. If you read about it you may remember that she was hard to get home...just one more stop, I never get to do this, etc, etc, etc. Little guy and I were worn out!





Well, they came to visit a few weeks ago and while we were at a wedding my mom discovered a rumamge sale about a block from our house. She picked up some things for herself and drooled over a few she didn't buy as well. That night she informed me that we needed to go back on Sunday. I was not really excited about it as it was a really busy weekend and I had a lot of corn to process as well.

While my dad, Mike and my father-in-law were golfing my mom and I started working on the corn, but she mentioned the rummage sale again. I pointed out that the little one was sleeping and I couldn't leave the house. She kept checking to see if they were still out there...it was actually pretty funny how badly she wanted to go back to the yard sale!

Once he woke up we were out the door. She ended up finding a few other things and I found two items to bring home. Both were great deals, so I wasn't upset that we went! :) the first were these. They are two cube shelves that I'll hang in our living room for pictures or little things to go in. They were never opened and still had the plastic around the box. They were marked $2, but I asked and she took $1 for them. Normally, I do not haggle, but I didn't need these, but like them and figured I'd see if she'd take $1. Why does $1 feel so much easier to spend than $2?


I didn't get a photo of the other item, but you've all seen them. It is a pizza stone. I've got one and we love it. We have homemade pizza every Monday night and the stone has become very dark with use. As our little one eats more and more I realized that we will soon be needing to make 2 pizzas and I didn't have another stone. I didn't have it on the list yet, but knew it would need to be added soon. They only wanted $1 for that as well and I didn't ask them to go any lower! I think my mom was bummed that I saw it first as she has a quite impressive selection of stoneware, but no actually pizza stone. I don't feel too bad about it though as they do not eat pizza weekly like we do. And her homemade pizza recipe goes into her set of rectangle pans prefectly. All in all it was a good little side trip thanks to my mom's persistance.

Any deals in your neck of the woods? Share away!

Heather

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Seriously Great Soap!

I plan to write up my cloth diaper routine at some point. Today I found a giveaway that includes one of my must have items to cloth diaper. It is Charlie's Soap!

We switched to Charlie's Soap about a month before the little guy came along. We wash all our clothes, his clothes and his cloth diapers in the stuff. It is awesome! Cleans really well, has NO scent, causes no skin reactions and does not build up on our cloth diapers. It is seriously great soap!

I'm so excited about the chance to win some more as well as a chance to try their other cleaning products. Wish me luck in the drawing over at Life in a Shoe. And if you want to win too, I don't blame you :)

Oh, and it isn't too bad for price. The little 80 load bags go a LONG way in our HE machine. Two bags lasted us a full year and that includes doing lots and lots of diapers!

Hope things are great where you are! I've been canning again...
Heather

Monday, September 14, 2009

And The Fun Never Stops



Or at least it hasn't yet! :)




A few more canning adventures to share today. I mentioned the dill that I got from my parents that was picked out of my grandparent's garden in South Dakota...did you get all of that? I put it to good use in the traditional way by canning dill pickles and also canning dilly beans. We used to do big whole pickles when I was growing up as well as bread and butter pickles. I threw caution to the wind and canned dill pickle spears! And I've never had pickled dill beans, but it seems to be a very popular thing and I love dill so I figured I'd give it a try. So, Nettacow you were right that pickles were in the picture! But beans, who would have thought? Tons of canners all over the place, that's who. Now for enough time to pass so I can crack open a pint and give them a taste!




First things first, here is the recipe I used for Canned Dill Pickles. Here is my big bowl of cucumbers all cut up and ready to become pickles.







This gave me enough for 7 pints of pickles and a few left for eating as they were. I really tried my best to squish them in the jar as tight as possible which is why they wouldn't win any blue ribbons at the fair. But even so, aren't the jars cute all ready for their brine?




The beans and pickles required a bit of garlic so I got to work smooshing and then peeling some cloves. Hopefully it doesn't affect the flavor too much, but I find that it is SO much easier to peel garlic when you've smashed it with the knife first.





Then I washed the beans and got them ready for a quick 3 min steam. I did this with the frist pints I canned, but when I came back a few days later to do some more beans I picked up at the farmer's market I skipped this step. I figure they are going in a boiling water bath, so they are getting as cooked as they need to be. Any one have any thoughts on this? Will my other jars be terrible?

The key to good steaming is to stop the cooking process ASAP. So after the 3 minutes was up they headed into an ice water bath.

I bought these at the farmer's market as well. I cleaned out this vendors green beans ($1/lb) and to equal 2 pounds I needed a few yellow ones as well. I did a couple of jars all green and a couple mixed.

A hill of beans!

Okay, so the disappointing thing. I haven't gotten a picture of them afte they came out of the water bath. It was late, the lighting was bad, I was hot and tired. Need more excuses? :) I will get one though. And then I'll show you that a girl can learn and how much prettier my next set of dilly beans were. There is a trick to packing green beans into a jar!

Have a great day,

Heather

Friday, September 11, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Canning Edition



Since we are in full on canning mode in most parts of the country, I thought it only right to feature a recent frugal find that has to do with food preservation.





As you may have read yesterday I have recently been blessed with produce from relatives in South Dakota and Wisconsin. I've also been able to find produce through some friendly freecycle folks. (I'm doing another pickup later in September!) I've even been busy supporting our local famer's market. All this wonderful bounty has been being enjoyed and also preserved to make sure we can enjoy it for many months to come.

When canning often the 'other' ingredients and tools are often the most expensive part of the recipe. I was lucky to get some quart jars and two dozen or so pint and 1/2 pint jars from my mom's huge stash. I found another dozen pint jars at a rummage sale for $1. They were still in their original box and had perfect rings on them and they were at least 30 years old! The other great find was completely accidental. My manager at work was getting ready to move from a good sized house to a smaller town home. She had three boxes of jars---was I interested? They were headed to the dump if I didn't take them and as they were originally her grandmother's she'd like to find them a good home. I was VERY interested! I was excited to see that the boxes were almost completely filled with pint jars.

I grew up canning with my mom and 98% of what we canned went into quart jars. I'm finding that I like using pints at this point. We are a smaller family and they just seem less overwhelming than the quarts. Now, if I EVER find tomatos and get to can those they are going in quarts. Hopefully lots and lots and lots of quart jars. For the things I've done so far I really like using the pint jars the best. And nothing is more frugal than dozens and dozens of free pint jars!

I've been fortunate to really stock up on sugar when it was $.99/ 4 lb bag and I found some vinegar for $1.50 a gallon. I've gotten dill from my grandparent's garden. I did have to spend a little money on pickling salt ($2) and pickling spices ($2.12). The lids I've bought at Wally World and they are $1.50 for 12 lids. I have two pots--the big one was a second hand gift from my mom and the little one I bought years ago and just held onto it. I am still looking for a metal ladle, but the jar lifter, rack and funnel were in with the big pot my mom gave me. My canning colanders were wonderful rummage sale finds! I spent $8 for two of them and haven't yet decided if I'm going to sell one or keep them both.

Canning can be as expensive or as frugal as you make it and I am happy to report that ours is staying pretty frugal! Put the word out that you are canning and it is amazing what will come into your life. And don't forget the internet when it comes to finding easy, wonderful recipes to can!

Any frugal finds in your life? Have a great Friday!
Heather

Thursday, September 10, 2009

More South Dakota Goodies!



There weren't just chokecherries in my freezer when I got home from work. My parents had brought lots of harvest goodness from my relatives in South Dakota!


My Aunt Mary had also sent along A TON of sweet corn. They planted about 2 1/2 pounds of seed this year and it did really, really well. From what my parents shared it sounds like they have sweet corn coming out of their ears! :) Bad, bad pun, I know. When the family got together to see my parents they brought an entire car load to share with the sisters. Then when my parents went to their home they filled their car up again to share with me. My mom and I processed a ton of corn while she was here and she took 3 vacuum bags with her as well as a bag to eat fresh. Mike and I ate a bag fresh as well and I ended up with 20 more bags in the freezer. We will have lots of corn chowder, salsa chicken with corn and black beans and sides of corn this winter! If anyone has a good corn recipe to share I think I'll be up for trying them t his year. I think we ended up freezing and eating somewhere around 180 ears of corn in the end.
They also have bees and she sent a gallon of honey for my sister, my mom and me to share. I am THRILLED about that. We love using honey and this is from their farm which makes it even better! This was an awesome surprise and we can't wait to dip into our big beautiful jar.

Not pictured, but also sent along were a big bag of dill from my Dad's parents. Two years ago I was suppossed to take dill from them, but I forgot. This time my parent's remembered! You'll see what I've used it for soon. I've got a few heads left and they may just be left to dry and used later. I just love the smell of dill! It should be sold as aromatherapy in my opinion. I also was happy to get 4 large zucchini, but I do not know whose garden they came out of. They have been chopped, shredded and stuffed. I frozen a bunch and we ate a lot. So good!
In the picture, but not from South Dakota are some really wonderful tomatos. While my parents were here we went to see my only relatives here in Wisconsin. My Dad's sister and her husband live about an hour away so went for a visit. They sent us home with a few big tomatos and lots of great cherry sized tomatos. The bigger red ones were SO sweet and the yellow ones were the cutest! They look like pretty little pears or light bulbs. We loved munching on these as we've only gotten 3 tomatos from our garden as of this morning.
I'm so grateful for family that is willing to share from their harvest. If only we lived closer we could help them with their extras more often! :) I look forward to being able to return the favor when I finally have a big garden that produces. For now, I will be sharing my Starbucks coffee bean when we return to South Dakota!
Have a great day,
Heather

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Chokecherries!






My parents recently visited us on their way home from a trip to South Dakota. They were both raised there and both sets of my grandparents as well as many aunts, uncles and cousins live there now. A few relatives sent along things for me! I am a truly lucky girl.


I had never tasted or even seen a chokecherry until I came home to find about 4 gallons of them in my freezer. Thank goodness for the internet! I looked up a recipe for chokecherry jam and one for chokecherry syrup. I figured we might as well give them both a chance as we had no idea what to expect.

I would say that chokecherrys are a bit winey tasting. The juice, jam and syrup have the dry mouth feel that the tannins in a good red wine will leave with you. The cherries have a large pit relative to their size and are a bit messy to work with. Luckily the juice wiped up easily and the jam jelled pretty easily. The juice is a beauiful purply-magenta color and my pictures do not do it justice!

I put my canning collander to good use! The larger pits made getting all the juice and pulp out a bit tricky, but I got enough to make me feel like it was worth my time.

My stations...from the boiling kettle (with the cherries and a bit of water) to the collander to the pan (for the pits and skins) and the big measuring cup (for the juice and pulp). I ended up doing all of this part on day one and then coming back to make the jam and syrup and do the canning on day two. Too much mess, too little time to do it all at once!

This is the juice and a TON of sugar boiling away to make jam. The first batch of jam got really good and sticky, the second stayed a bit looser. I may have just not let it boil long enough as it was a large pot of juice. The syrup is the right consistency for pancakes and we look forward to trying a batch really soon!

I am excited by how frugal this project was. There was a lot of sugar involved, but recently our store ran a promotion for $.99 bags of sugar (4 lb size). I figured I used about a full bag of sugar to make all the syrup and jam. So even with lids and such I spent about $2 total. Of course, I also used some energy, but in the end it was a lot cheaper than buying syrup or jam! And no added colors or chemicals. I told Mike that the syrup looks like the bright colored stuff at IHOP, but it is the real deal!

Wait until you see whatelse my wonderful Aunt Mary sent for us!

Heather

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Can You Identify This?







This is what has kept me from posting. Do you know what it is? It looks harmless enough...cute little purplish berry type thing.





Then you start cooking it down and it turns into this.




















And now you know why I haven't been around much lately. My kitchen floor has not yet been scrubbed and for that I'm very sorry. Many canning adventures to report. And I'm not working tomorrow, so stay tuned for an update!

I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day. I spent a big part of mine laboring...uh, working. After about 45 hours of childbirth I should know better to refer to anything except that as laboring. The weather here was wonderful and I did get to enjoy some of the afternoon.

Have a great day!
Heather

Friday, September 4, 2009

Where does the time go?

So, its Friday and I do not have a post written! Has it really been a whole week? Somehow I accidentally took a week off of posting. Between the family in town, working too many hours, and life I have not had time to think! I promise to take some time this weekend to get some thought on paper...on-line! I've been doing some canning and some freezing and can't wait to get some pictures and thoughts up.

Harvest time is upon us and there is nothing more frugal than putting up and freezing some of summer's bounty to be enjoyed all year long. I've been canning chokecherry jam and syrup, freezing corn, freezing zucchini, and canning dilly beans and cucumbers. Good times!

Have a great day and I'll be back soon,
Heather

Friday, August 28, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Entertainment Edition




This is a quick post for Frugal Find Friday! My family is coming to visit, I have to work and life is going to be hectic for the next 36 hours or so. But I thought these were worth mentioning.



Mike and I have become very good at finding frugal ways to enjoy ourselves. It is great to get out and do fun things without breaking the budget. Or even breaking into the budget! In the last two weeks we've had the chance to do a few things that cost us next to nothing.


First, we got the chance to do an evening cruise through Milwaukee and out into Lake Michigan. It was billed as a martini cruise, but really we just looked at it as a way to have some yummy snacks, see the city from the water and spend some time together. We got this opportunity through our financial planner. He has had a few activities from time to time and we try and make an effort to go if possible. He is a great guy and doesn't use these as a way to pressure people to do more investing. He also always lets us know if we can bring friends, but we've never felt like he was doing this to just get to meet more people. In fact, we've never brought anyone with us and we've enjoyed some nice evenings out thanks to him. This cruise would have probably cost us about $30 each if we had to pay for it, but it was free to us through him. I had a drink, Mike had a soda, the food was awesome and the view was spectacular. We left the little one at home (2nd time ever) and had our first real date in over a year. It was great. And it was free, other than $1.30 we paid to park on the street.

Second, we went on the Sprecher Brewery tour for Mike's birthday. Typically the tour costs $4 for an adult. Not too bad considering you get the tour, an 8oz. etched tasting glass, 4 beer samples, and unlimited soda samples. However we were even able to lower the price of that! When we went to state fair they had a wall of Sprecher coupons and one was for a free tour with the purchase of a tour. So we went to Sprecher for just $4 for the two of us. We both got the glasses. I tried a bit of two beers, Mike drank a lot of their yummy soda, I drank some soda too and we took home two glasses on top of it. A pretty great way to enjoy his birthday and not spend much!

Sometimes great frugal finds are things, sometimes they are experiences. Just keep your eyes open and you never know what you'll come across. Happy Hunting!

Heather

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Solly's--Oh How We Love Thee






And how our hearts do not.






Solly's should make you sign a waiver before you order. Seriously, they offer more fat and calories on a bun than any restuarant I think I've ever been to. But, it is seriously great. I mean in the 'this is real food and it tastes AWFULLY good' seriously good way. It isn't in the 'this is junk and my body is crying inside' way.




Mike discovered Solly's long before we met. And he fell in love. And he always order the Super Cheeseburger Special. Which is 1/3 pound of ground sirloin, cheese, mayo, tomato, lettuce and a serious amount of butter. Typically it also comes with grilled onions, but Mike skipped those. Then we met and on his birthday he introduced me to Solly's. And I ordered the regular cheeseburger. This comes with a 1/6 pound of ground sirloin, cheese, grilled onions and a serious amount of butter.


I had been warned that Solly's was the originator of the butter burger. I figured it was like other butter burger places that put it on the buns or put a patty on the burger as it is cooking. I mean really, how much butter can one burger hold? Solly's pushes the limit and then some. When the burger is done the put the cheese on and cover. When the cheese is melted the cook transfers the burger onto the waiting toasted bun. The onions go on top of the cheese and the butter tops it all off. And they do not use patties. They use a spatula. A rather large spatula that dips into a vat of real Wisconsin butter. The portion of butter follows the size of the spatula. It is large. They serve it right up to you and the butter is oozing and melting all over the place. The test is to see if you can eat the burger fast enough that the butter hasn't all dripped to the bottom of the plate soaking into the bottom bun and making holding your burger super difficult. If you can get your burger done before that happens you are a true Solly's diner. This practice also ensures that their stools open up very quickly for the next set of diners.

This picture gives you an idea of the race. The yellow is butter that has melted in the short distance from the grill to our spot at the counter. Did I mention that this is a big wrap around counter that everyone sits at. The waitresses (all 2 of them) work the two sides. You have view of everything on your side and you sit cozied up to complete strangers who are also testing their bodies ability to handle large quantites of butter. This is Mike's burger this year. He did away with the lettuce, tomato and mayo (special part) because who really needs to pretend there is anything healthy about this burger? Not him, that's who.

I couldn't get a great shot of the butter portioning, but this gives you an idea of how the grill works. There were 4 people working while we were there at the heart of dinner rush hour. There are the two waitresses (ours was AWESOME!) and the cook and one guy in the back doing dishes. They were serving people like crazy and we were loving it. While we were there a girl ordered a burger with light butter. Mike said it was a good thing we don't live in NYC as she would have been boo-ed right out of the place. You don't come to Solly's to order 'light butter' or 'no butter' or 'healthy' anything. You come to Solly's to enjoy the craziness that is a true Wisconsin butter burger!

It might not be frugal, it might not be healthy, but we LOVE Solly's. For our arteries we've decided that a visit every two to three years is about right.

Have a great day,

Heather

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Other Baby Turns 30 Today!

Not the best picture, but it shows Mike with two of his loves!

When I met Mike one of my concerns was that he was 3 3/4 years younger than me. I didn't know if I was okay with that---odd thing to care about I realize, but it was on my mind.





I turned 30 about 2 months after we met. He turns 30 TODAY. As in, we have met, dated, been engaged, been married, had a baby, baby turned one and NOW he is finally getting around to turning 30. Wild, huh? Can't wait until this happens at 50. Oh, wait, yes I can.





Could you do me a favor? Would you send an e-mail to my accordion playing, amazing dad, great husband, Pint Size Polka pioneering, root beer drinking, dark chocolate loving husband?





His e-mail address is Mike@mikeschneiderband.com and I'm hoping he gets LOTS of e-mails from people he knows and people he doesn't know. He'll be so tickled!





And he already opened his gift and LOVES it. I went out on a limb and splurged a lot for it. I bought him a GPS unit that he can use as he travels to schools and libraries and gigs. He's traveled to many states this summer performing his Pint Size Polka program and I know that the Garmin would have helped. He lit up like a Christmas tree when he opened it! It is fun to spoil him a little from time to time. And I figured a 30th birthday was a great reason to do it.





Now I'm baking his cake and later we're going to Sprecher to do the Brewery tour. Dinner will be at Solly's restaurant. They have burgers that are amazing (and amazingly bad for you, I'm sure) and we only go every couple of years. I'll get some pictures (hopefully) to show you how crazy they are with the butter. It is actually the birth place of the butter burger and they are NOT shy with the butter.





Have a great Wednesday!


Heather





P.S. Please e-mail my hubby :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Worth every penny!

Recently I spotted a group of utensils at a rummage sale. There were about 5 things in the group and 3 of them looked useful to me so I inquired as to price. They told me fifty cents and I was happy to take them home for that. I was especially happy because of this...















I have a scoop type ice cream scoop from Pampered Chef. It is great because it has the liquid in the handle that makes scooping really hard ice cream a little easier. And as my wrists seem to be developing issues I am happy with anything that makes using them a bit easier!









However, I have heard about using an ice cream scoop for measuring out batter when making muffins or cupcakes. I have always struggled with the drips of making muffins. And I never seem to be able to get the same amount of batter in each muffin tin. Now I had a shot at making it a bit easier and a bit less messy.



Let me tell you, it works! I have used it for corn bread muffins, chocolate cupcakes and assorted other batters. It doesn't take a full scoop to get the right amount into the tin, probably more like 3/4 of a scoop. I've made these goodies without having burned on batter around the cups on the tin! I've been able to go back and add a bit more without any issues too. This is something that really works for me!



This little puppy was worth every penny. Now I just want to find a smaller one to use for mini muffins and parceling out cookie dough. Calling all rummage sale hosters....sell me your mini scoops! :)



Heather



This is posted at Tammy's Recipes Kitchen Tips and Works for Me Wednesday.