Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gratituesday-The Munchkins

These three little people were my very favorite little people ever, until my own son came along. Now they are 3 of my 4 favorite little people ever! They are (l-r) Lucie, Emma and Oscar and are my sister's kiddos.

My sister had Oscar almost 6 1/2 years ago. He made my parents grandparents and changed their lives. He and Sarah lived with them during part of her pregnancy the first few weeks of his life because my brother-in-law serves in the Air Force and was gone for training. His arrival was an amazingly exciting time for all of us and he moved me to tears the first time I met him. He is a fun little boy and I've called him (and later his sisters) munchkin since he was tiny. He loves planes, trains, cars, his accordion, and his baby cousin. He fell in love with Mike as soon as he met him and even has a little accordion just like his uncle. He even played on stage when they were visiting with Mike twice. He almost backed out the first time, but after he knew he could have his own microphone he was all for it. Then the second time he worked his mic talking to the crowd and thanking people when they clapped. Turns out he can be a real ham! I've so loved watching him with our little one. He has talked to him on the phone (actually more than he talks to me now) and just loves on him when we get to see them. He is eager to hold him and is so gentle and loving towards him. I've always loved this little guy and it makes my heart swell when he loves my favorite two men too!

The twins came along just 15 months later. Twins do not run in our family and it was a real blessing when we found out they were coming! There is a story behind it, but that is for another day...

Lucie is the older of the twins. She is not just the 2 minutes older that it shows on her birth certificate. She was actually concieved about a week earlier if I remember correctly. An unusual, but wonderful thing. She was born with black hair, but now is the blonder of the two. At times she is so much like me that Mike asks if I gave birth to her. She is talkative, bubbly, has a great sense of humor, is a natural motherer, can be bossy, is starting to act like a mini-teenager, can throw a temper tantrum that would blow your mind and is still so sweet that she can make my teeth hurt! When she was a baby my sister would call so I could listen to her belly laugh. When we visited them last Christmas she was always patting my 7 week pregnant belly and talking to the baby. She crawled in bed with us Christmas morning and said "Merry Christmas, Baby!" to my tummy. Talk about melting my hormonal heart! That trip she was so anxious to see me that when we would call to check in (they live about 13 hours away from us) she would sadly say, "My Heather is on the road." It never seemed like we would get to them! That night when we pulled up she was to the door so fast that my sister didn't even know we were there. She was jumping up and down yelling, "My Heather, My Heather!" She is My Lucie, My Lucie.

Emma is the youngest of the crew, but not by much :) She has always been a blond little beauty. She is getting so tall and has become quite a little model when given the chance to pose for a camera. Emma is a special little soul. She has been diagnosed on the spectrum of autism, but most would never guess it. She is so loving! A funny story about Emma happened as we prepared for our wedding. The girls were to be our flower girls. We knew Lucie would love the dresses, but Emma was hating anything that was dress like. My sister thought we might be able to get her in it if we put pants underneath, but when we saw them a few months before the wedding she wouldn't try it on at all. There were tears and it was not a battle worth fighting. We figured that we would find her another outfit if she wouldn't wear the dress at the wedding. About 2 weeks before the wedding the kids all watched the movie Cinderella. From that moment on (to this point) she has been a princess whenever possible! She couldn't wait to get in her princess dress, she wears dresses as much as possible and the bigger, puffier the dress, the better. The only hard part was getting her to not wear the dress the three days before the wedding! She loves her little cousin like mad as well. When we sent his birth announcement she carried it around for days. No one else could touch it because she wanted him all to herself.

I am lucky enough to be Godmother to Emma and Lucie and am so grateful to have that role. These three munchkins are such a blessing to me and to our entire family. I wish we lived close enough to see each other more, but am just thankful to have them in my life. I couldn't have picked better cousins for my little guy if I tried. A big thank you to my sister and brother-in-law for having such great kids!

For more things everyone is grateful for head over to Heavenly Homemakers. It is Gratituesday!

Heather

Monday, June 29, 2009

She Liked It, She Really Liked It!


I wrote a little post a while back about selective squeamishness. It is something that I've been figuring out and just wanted to share my thoughts and perspective. Turns out it was something that other's wanted to think about too!
Gayle from The Grocery Cart Challenge put out a request for people to submit frugal ideas. I sent her a link to my post (and to my rummage sale post too) and she liked it! She puts up links every weekend and this time my little post was one of them. She even had this to say, "She has a really well written article that will make you look twice at what you might have. I love things that challenge my preconceived ideas. "
I am so tickled! If you have found me via GCC please leave a comment and let me know who you are so I can stop by and say hello. If not, please stop by Gayle and tell her hi too!
More frugalness to come, but for today I'm just enjoying the compliment!
Heather

Friday, June 26, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Canning Colanders


Canning colanders...that's right I found two of them this week! It just proves that if you put it out there and ask enough they will show up in your life!




The first one came about because of an e-mail that I sent to a craigslist posting about a rummage sale that had canning items. She originally didn't have it out with her rummage items, but after I e-mailed her she remembered that her grandmother's was still around somewhere. She found it and e-mailed me to let me know to come to the sale or to call her. I touched base with her Sunday morning and she agreed to hold it for me till I could get there Sunday night. We also agreed on $5 for the colander. I hadn't seen it, but she assured me it was in great shape, although it had been well used.




I was thrilled to see that it was indeed in great shape when I got there. It is different than the one I grew up with in many ways, but is the same basic item. This one is pointier at the end, has a stand that comes apart for easy storage, and the wooden mallet rolls a bit easier. I did end up buying 12 pint jars in their original box with their rings for $1 as well and they threw a few bath toys in for little guy. I felt GREAT about the $6 I had spent and proceeded to fill the jars with pineapple the very next day!


Today I was rummaging on my way home from work and stopped by an estate sale. I often do not have much luck at estate sales as they are often priced much higher and are rarely filled with things that we need at this point in our life. This one seemed fairly typical with lots of beautiful crystal bowls marked for $10 and $20. However there were clothes for $1 and tons and tons of really great shoes. If only my feet were a size 6! I'd be the proud owner of pink crocs and white sandals right now, but alas, I am not as mine are more like an 8.






In the basement there were shelves of odds and ends, mostly kitchen things and decorations and crafting items. There, on the top shelf sat a canning colander. A brand new, very old canning colander. It still has the label, now sitting inside of it as the glue has long since stopped sticking. For $3 I couldn't leave it there. It is exactly like the one I grew up with and that my grandma has. I figured I could try them both out and keep the one I like best. Or keep them both and have one to have for a helper at some point. Or sell one to pay for both of them. I decided to rationalize it anyway I could and bring it home to meet the other one!







I'm excited to give them a whirl this summer. I know I'll use it for tomato juice and applesauce. The label also mentioned using it to 'rice' potatoes, which I had never thought of. We may have to make mashed potatoes, just so I can give that a whirl! I even read that you can use it for pumpkin. It keeps the seeds and fibers behind so it would make mashing pumpkin go a bit quicker, potentially.


So, price breakdown. I spent $8 for 2 perfect condition colanders. On e-bay they are somewhat limited and seem to be around $20 or more. None have shown up on our craigslist in Milwaukee. Amazon has a similar one listed for $28. All in all I am so happy with what I got and I can't wait to wash them up and put them to work!



Any Frugal Finds in your life this week? I'd love to hear your great find stories!

Heather

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summerfest



Today Summerfest begins. If you live anywhere around Milwaukee you know about The World's Biggest Music Festival. Summerfest runs from today until July 6th and it is jam packed with the biggest, craziest, loudest music you can imagine. There are performers from every genre (okay, most every) and the music goes all day long from noon until the cows come home. There are many, many stages of music, the big Marcus Amphitheater and all the food and beer you can consume as well. It really is a big deal here and people come from all over the place to have a great time down by the lake. And for one ticket you can see a huge range of acts and have a really full day of music. Not a bad deal all in all.

Here is everything you could ever hope to want to know about Summerfest.

This year the big acts are:

Bon Jovi

Keith Urban/Counting Crows

Chicago/Earth, Wind and Fire

No Doubt

George Straight

The Fray

KISS

Stevie Wonder/John Legend

Kid Rock/Lynryd Skynrd

Kenny Chesney

Bob Dylan/Willie Nelson

These shows require an additional ticket. It kind of gives you an idea of the range and quality of acts that they bring in to Milwaukee in just 11 days! If you are heading down to the lake enjoy yourself. The weather is perfect for Summerfest! Just don't forget the sunscreen and some water :)

Heather

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This Weeks Produce




I went to pick up more produce from our freecycle produce people this week. Unfortunately I missed last week when there were tons of great blueberries. BUMMER! However, I am so grateful for what we get that I can't be too upset!




This week I picked out about a dozen pineapples that were in need of processing ASAP, a few random red and green and orange peppers, an apple, a banana, 2 cukes and 5 bunches of asparagus. It wasn't as big of a load to bring home as usual, but the pineapples and asparagus are not something we usually buy so they are a treat. And everything was pretty usable, so not nearly so much ended up in the compost pile.




I took care of the peppers right away by chopping and flash freezing them and putting them into two freezer bags. I use these on pizzas, in soups, in any dish that I am going to saute onions and peppers and garlic and such. When cooked they are not much different from fresh.





The asparagus I took care of Monday evening after work. I cleaned them up good and got rid of the bad spots as some of the tips were a little slimy. Then I snapped them. Did you know that to find the woody end all you have to do is hold asparagus by the two ends and snap? The stalk will break where the tender ends and woody part begins. This way there is no waste of the tender asparagus and there is no tough asparagus in your dishes. So simple and so wonderful! The tough ends went in a bag in the freezer to be cooked down for soups. The tender parts got made into two casseroles of Asparagus and Poppy Seed Chicken from Tammysrecipes.com and one recipe of Ham, Cheese and Asparagus Pasta that is take off of a lasagna recipe I found. One chicken and the ham dishes went into the freezer for quick meals in the future. The other was lunch yesterday and today. The last of the asparagus is waiting to be grilled tomorrow. It is so hot that I think we need to use the grill as much as possible!




The apple and banana were eaten at work. Bad spots were tossed and the rest was enjoyed! The cucumbers are waiting patiently for me to slice them up for dinner.







The pineapple was the biggest undertaking, but it didn't take too long. The biggest challenge is that it is so hot here and I knew I wanted to can it...ugh! My first step was to peel or de-skin or just plain cut up the pineapple. I wasn't sure how to do it easily, so I found a little tutorial on The Pioneer Woman. It went really quickly and was pretty darn easy! As I did each pineapple I tossed the top, bottom, core, skin and bad spots into a big bowl to compost. If the flesh was really firm it went into another bowl and if it was softer then it went into a third bowl. This way I just boogied through the fruit and I do the next part without having to re-sort the fruit. I took all the 'good' pieces and chunked them like you'd get in a can at the store. I put a full bowl of it into the fridge to eat fresh. The rest I put in my big 8 cup measuring cup to can in pint jars.



The soft stuff was what I wasn't sure about. I considered making pineapple jam or just canning crushed pineapple. Can you believe that I couldn't find directions for canning crushed pineapple? And I don't have a food processor, so I wasn't sure how to crush the pineapple either. However, we have a bunch of jam already and I'd like to have the option to use it in other things so I decided to give it a go.


I used my KitchenAid stand mixer with the fine shredder attachment. It worked, but it wasn't exactly clean and it didn't do as good of a job as I'd have like. I'm thinking I should have used the course shred attachment or that maybe the pineapple is just too soft for that. There was sure a ton of juice!


Next step was to boil the pineapple for 10 minutes. I took some of the juice out of the crushed pineapple and put it in the chunk pot. Both pots got put on the stove and started heating up. At the same time I started the canning pot to get the water boiling. I used my 8 cup measuring cup to heat some of the water in the microwave. I figured the less time spent with the burners going, the better. Three pots boiling and the heat index is almost 100...craziness! The kitchen was hot enough and I hated the fact that the air was on and I was heating the house up too. Once the water was boiling and the pineapple was done cooking for 10 minutes I started putting it into pint jars.





I put 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in each pint jar to help with the color, but added no other sugar or water or anything. This is pineapple in its own element! I ended up with 5 pints of chunks and 7 pints of crushed pineapple. They processed for 15 minutes in the water bath.


So exciting to me that I am able to really utilize this produce and that it will be so helpful for our family. I am hoping to be able to find other ways to get produce this summer and fall as well. I know there are people who will have vegetables and fruit that will go to waste and I will be happy to help them glean their gardens!


On a side note I am SOOOOO excited to say that I found a canning colander! I e-mailed a bunch of people on craigslist who had canning items listed with their garage sale. One e-mailed back and had one for me. She wasn't putting it in the sale, but when I asked she remembered that she had her grandmothers. It is different from the one I grew up with, but is perfect! It is going to be loved and used by at least one more canner. I hope her grandmother is somewhere enjoying the fact that her stuff will be enjoyed!

Heather

Grateful for the Flowers!





It is hot, hot, hot today in Wisconsin. We seem to have gone from early spring weather to hard core summer weather in just a week. It is hard to believe that we were all complaining about the cold and rain and now we are all complaining about how hot and humid it is...hard to please, aren't we? :)


Today, I thought I'd show some pictures of flowers from summers past. We've already enjoyed the tulips, hyacinth, daffodils, peonies, iris and such this spring, but there are lots of others still to come. I love the beauty that is showcased by all the different flowers. I'm not a true green thumb but did have lots of beautiful flowers at my single girl house. Lots of them are still there, but slowly I'm working on bringing some flowers to our home. These are all photos I took from flowers in my yard! I'm so proud since I planted all of these too. The previous owner had no flowers at all. I was lucky there was one hosta plant in the back corner of the garage. The rest of the bed came from hard work, plant sharing, Stein's and some seeds. What a feast for the eyes it is when the flowers all show their colors!



So pretty in pink! Love the pop of color that annuals can provide.


Those big, beautiful white blooms. The peonies smell so heavenly too!



These beauties are such a perfect peach color with the most lovely violet petals. Every year I am amazed how perfect they are!




Nothing grows as easily or elegantly as day lilies. These bright orange beauties have sent up their stalks and are getting ready to bloom again this year!




Shasta Daisies. They are simple, sweet and look amazing when many other flowers are finished. I love them massed into a simple glass milk bottle. We don't have these at our house yet and I miss my big bank of them along the side of my garage at my single girl house. So cheery, you just can't help but be happy when you see them!


The beauty of the season is what I am grateful for today. See lots of other gratitude flowing by visiting Gratituesday here.





Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all the Daddies out there! Of course, I won't get to see my Dad on Father's Day, but I'll be thinking about him and hopefully we'll get to chat. We will be going to see my in-laws latter in the day, but I thought I'd write about the father I see most often.
Mike is an awesome Daddy to our little guy. He was so involved throughout the entire pregnancy, attending Bradley classes, helping me practice my relaxation techniques and just being there when I needed a back rub! When my water broke and we began the real thing he was with me the entire 44ish hours of labor that it took to get our little one here. No going home to sleep, no wimping out on me...he was in it for the long haul. Heck he even took pictures of the placenta...he was into it!
After the peanut had spent a bunch of time on me and Mike had finally cut the cord the nurses handed him over to Mike. The picture above is that first nose to nose meeting of the most important men in my life. It was a sweet moment, watching Mike really get to meet his son. It chokes me up a bit to look at it even now! Of course, parenthood is never easy and the little guy gave Mike a whopping introduction by passing his entire meconium into Mike's hand. Everything was cozy baby warm so Mike didn't feel it until he handed him back to me and his entire hand was full of black tarry goo! Welcome to being a Daddy.


I had to go back to my part-time job after 12 weeks and Mike got to become the little one's caretaker while I was gone. Before that I had been the main event as we were nursing all the time and I was in full on baby mode. Mike took over duties like nobody's business and the boys have a good time when Mommy is gone to this day. I should mention that Mike has no siblings and had never really held a baby until ours was born, let alone changed a diaper. To say he had experience with babies or children would be a big stretch. I think it makes him an even bigger hero that he has stepped up to the plate in such a big way! He and little guy have a special bond and I'm glad that they have had time to be together without me getting in the way.

Little Guy's First Brewer's Game

I know lots of great Dads, but really wanted to brag on Mike. He is a great Father to our little guy! We both hope there will be more little ones in the future and I have no doubt that he'll be just as amazing with all of them too. Happy Father's Day Honey! Thanks for all you do for little guy and me.

Heather


My Rummage Sale Helpers and Tips



My trusty sidekicks!






I open at work every Saturday morning which means I am there from 4:30-10:30am typically. I do not have the luxury of being able to plot and plan and be an early bird at rummage sales because of this, but considering the benefits it offers my family I'm not going to complain! I've learned to use the time and opportunity that I do have to rummage sale to my advantage. I stop at as many sales as I can on my way home from work. If I work Friday and Saturday I take a different route home each day to maximize the number of sales I'll see.




I LOVE a good bargain and I have a (somewhat self-imposed) small budget so I need to be smart about my purchases, even the ones that are second hand. I do have a good memory and am typically able to know if something I see is a good price and if it is something useful for us, but I realized last year that I needed some help to really maximize my great buys.




My biggest rummage sale goal is to entirely outfit little guy with adorable clothes that I find second hand at a steal of a price. In order to be prepared for what he will need for the next year I've devised a chart. I'm doing my best to avoid having 10 pairs of pants and no shorts for the summer or all short sleeve onsies that fit when winter rolls around. When I did my inventory this spring I realized that I had NO pjs once he got past 12 months and I only had 1 pair of 12 month pjs. I do not know exactly what size he will be during what season so I am probably over buying a bit on things, but I also know that I can recoup the money I'm spending if I sell these items at a garage sale in our neighborhood. My goal is to spend $.25-$.50 per item. I will spend $1 if it is an all in one outfit or a good pair of jeans or khakis or bibs. Pjs I typically spend $.75-$1 on. His heavy fall/winter jacket was $2 (Baby Gap) and the one for this summer was $1 (Polo).






Last summer I bought no newborn size clothes (we got tons as gifts when he was born and they didn't last very long at all!) and focused on getting him things through 12 months. I did pick up things that were bigger when I found them for $.25 or if they were just something I 'had to have'. With gifts and such we have had PLENTY of clothes (I think I counted 40ish sleepers at one point around 3 months). This summer I am focused on 18 month-2T mainly. I am picking up bigger sizes when I find great deals. My main goal is to get through the entire next year until rummage season starts again, so I'm not terribly worried about finding 4T jeans, but if I find them in great shape for a quarter I'm going to buy them. The chart makes sure I don't buy 8 pairs of them.






I've got boxes in the basement that I've got labeled for different sizes. Right now I have a newborn-3 months box, 3-6 months, 9-12 months (lots of these are in his drawers right now), 18 months, 24/2T, and 3T/up. I've also got a box of shoes. I am typically paying about $1 for shoes and most are leather or name brand tennis shoes. We have purposefully not had him in shoes yet, but once he is walking we've got shoes for him to wear. I have 3 pairs of size 4 (what he is getting close to now) and 2 size 5. Then it is hit or miss (6, 6.5, 7, 9, 9). Again, I'm not trying to stock a retail store, I'm just making sure there are things for now and for the next bit and beginning my stockpile for later.




So the chart basically gives me a run down of what I've got and shows me where my holes are. I focus mostly on those and it keeps me from wanting to go crazy when I find 9 month sweaters for $.25. If he's not going to wear it, than I'm not going to buy it! I find that tally marks are good enough for me. I buy pants and bibs that are pretty neutral, so they'll go with most any of the shirts, tops and sweatshirts/jackets. I am trying to make sure I do get at least one dressy outfit in each size so he has something nicer to wear when that is called for. The prices I'm paying may seem low, but it takes patience to find them. Some sales have everything marked for $1 or $2 or even more. Those sales I don't waste much time at and when I find a sale that has the big table of 'everything is $.50' than I settle in and go through it thoroughly! It is possible to find these prices, you just have to go to enough sales and be patient.












This list is something I started doing last year when I had a big case of pregnancy brain! I knew there were specific things I wanted to find, but I was nervous that I would forget them as I often felt like I couldn't remember my phone number. I keep a list all year of things we could use, things we need, and things we want. Typically I have an idea of what the big stuff sells for on craigslist and new and keep in mind what I'd be willing to pay at a garage sale. As I find something specific I cross it off the list. Last summer I crossed almost every item off my list before I was finished! So far I've crossed off the backpack carrier, the outdoor baby swing, and the compost bin (we made one). I've got lots of things on there yet, but the season is still early. I've also got listed somethings that a co-worker is looking for and clothes my sister is wanting for my nieces for school next year. One the right I've got a list of babies from our birth class who are all turning 1 shortly. This is a visual clue to keep my eyes open for specific toys or books that fit their personalities and that I know their parents would appreciate.





I do not buy a ton of my gifts at rummage sales, my focus is on our family's needs. However, I will pick up something for someone if it is what I know they want or need. Most my friends and family know I am frugal and I don't think many of them would be shocked if I got them a second hand gift as long as it was appropriate. The great majority of gifts we give are new, but there are a few exceptions.






So my tips:


1. Focus on the time you do have, not the time you don't have. Try to drive different routes on your way home from work on Friday and Saturday to ensure possible exposure to rummage sales. Do not be afraid to stop and buzz through many sales on your way home from work.





2. Make a list of what your family needs/wants. Know your prices. Ask if you don't see what you need. I'm asking for a canning colander at every sale I stop at this year. Someone will have one!





3. If you want to outfit a child/children make an inventory sheet and keep it up to date. When you come home from rummaging add tally marks for the 'new' purchases as you take off tags, before they are even washed. Think ahead for the whole year. Do not forget things like hats, mittens, snow pants, swim trunks, pjs, socks. They can be bought for pennies at a rummage sale, but are pricey if you need them last minute. Do not be afraid to buy a few years ahead if it is a great deal.





4. Carry cash at all times. You never know when you'll pass a sale on a Thursday that has the perfect $10 leather chair that you've been wanting your whole life. Carry as much cash as you would want to spend on the biggest ticket item you are looking for. I'm looking for a bike trailer, so I'm carrying as much as we would want to spend on that.





5. Be open minded. Last year I bought a bag of baby spoons/forks for $.25. There were about 8 spoons and 3 forks. 2 of the spoons had names on them. My son is not named either of these names and he really doesn't care! The two pairs of capris I bought for $1 fit me just as well as the one pair I bought for $30 a few years ago. Why not keep it out of a land fill and save yourself some money at the same time?





6. Don't be afraid to walk away. There are hundreds of sales every year. Someone will have what you want at a price you want. If you can't live without it, buy it, but really if you didn't have it yesterday chances are you will survive another day without it! If the price seems crazy high don't fight about it, just walk away.





7. Have FUN! The rush of finding a good deal is awesome. The things you'll see are funny. The people you meet are sometimes crazy. Rummaging should be like a scavenger hunt...only with a great purpose. If it is stressing you out or you are beat, go home. There will be more sales another time.





8. Be patient and persistent. You will not find everything you need/want in one weekend. Do not even try. The season is long and the finds are going to be there. Just keep stopping at sales and you'll be amazed at what you find.





9. Delight in the unexpected. Last year I found a Pampered Chef bar server for $.25. Didn't really need it, but always wanted one. I snapped it up and use it and love it. Every purchase doesn't have to be on my list. The list keeps me on track, but I delight in the little finds that make our life prettier, easier or just more fun!





10. Check out some other great bloggers ideas about rummage sales.





Heather

Friday, June 19, 2009

Frugal Find Friday-My Wedding Dress

Mike and I by Lake Michigan
Wedding...such a time of love and excitement and stress and debt for so many! Mike and I knew we wanted our wedding to be a fun weekend for us and our guests. We wanted people to have a great time, to eat well, to dance the night away to great live music, and we wanted to do so without breaking the bank. I come from a large extended family and we ended up having two receptions due to the number of polka fans that would want to celebrate with Mike and I as well. So, how did we do that without spending the $30-50,000 they say is the 'norm' now?
We did spend a lot compared to many frugal people, but what we did best was to spend money on what was important to us and not on what wasn't. We had a live 11 piece swing band at our Saturday reception, we had a strolling polka trio during the dinner hour, we had an unbelievably yummy wedding cake and other food. We had the groomsmen all wear their own black suits and bought Mike's off the rack, we had the bridesmaids buy off the rack dresses from Macy's ($60-$90, no alterations and they've actually worn them again!), I did all the flowers, and I bought my wedding dress from the SALVATION ARMY!
Yes, I wore a used wedding dress and lived to tell about it. Originally, I decided to order a dress direct from Hong Kong. This is an interesting and frugal option if you want the big, beautiful dress and do not want to spend tons of money. I did find one I really liked and had placed my order. Then I stopped in at the Salvation Army one day and there was this dress. It was a bigger size than I wear, but after a day of trying on dresses at boutiques I quickly had learned that they aren't sized like clothes. It was a bit dirty on the bottom of the dress and there was just a tiny sweep train. I did want a dress with a big train, but knew that I could add one somehow if I put my mind and a seamstress on it. So, I figured, what the heck, I should try this on. Turns out this store had no dressing room.
Now picture me by myself pulling on a strapless wedding dress over my t-shirt and jean skirt in the middle of two rows of clothes that are bulging full. It was not an easy task. It is never easy to get into a wedding dress and it is not made simpler when you are already dressed and have no assistance. So, I put it on and it fits. It fits pretty well. It's too long, but if it is hemmed than the dirty bottom wouldn't matter. I look at the tag and decide it is coming home with me. Oh, I actually started calling all my bridesmaids and my sister and with some encouragement/support from them I decide it is coming home with me.
Here's the thought process...if I get the dress from overseas and I don't like it, I'll have this one. If I get the dress from overseas and it doesn't fit and can't be fixed without spending a fortune I have this one. If I get the dress from overseas and I love it I can still wear this one for our Sunday reception where I'll be polka dancing like crazy and having no train would be a benefit. Anyway you cut it spend the $40 and buy the darn dress. I'm the frugalest one in my wedding party and they were giving it to me for even questioning myself.
Oh, did I forget to mention that this dress, this very in style and in great condition dress was marked $40? Yup. I paid $40 for my wedding dress.
I ended up cancelling the overseas dress and just refunding their paypal fees of $20. I did have a woman hem the dress, make me a train that I could take off for the two receptions, and make me straps in case I decided I didn't want strapless. She charged me $20, but I gave her $40 and she ended up providing all the gourds and pumpkins we used on the tables and around the hall for decorating too. So if you include all of the costs associated with the dress I still only paid a total of $100.
The dress worked hard that weekend and is now hanging in my closet. One thing I really loved about my non-traditional route was that it didn't bother me if my dress wasn't perfect at the end of the night. I didn't pay $800-$2000 like most people I know and if someone spilled or the bottom was gross I wasn't stressing over it. After everything was over on Sunday I knew I'd gotten my money's worth out of that dress...I wore it for about 19 hours that weekend. So total it cost about $5/hour for me to have my dress. Of course, it wasn't exactly what I would have designed for myself, but it was right along the lines. I liked the pearls and sparkles on top that trailed down the front. I liked the wrap part that attached on the side and the way it fell down to the floor. I liked the little sweep train and how it had a baby bustle on the bottom for me to dance like crazy and not trip over my dress.
One of my bridesmaids had said that I needed to have a good story and I think I accomplished that! It wouldn't have been fitting for me to buy a wedding dress at a regular boutique. My little gem was out there, just among all the other fun finds at my local Salvation Army!
Have any great finds to share? Let us know!
Heather

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Canning Kick Continues--Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam

The finished product! 4 pints and 4 half-pints. There were also 8 baby food jars worth, but those went to co-workers.
So another canning adventure is finished. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to do so many little projects now while the weather is still pretty cool and the volume is small. My memories of canning were always very, very hot days and hundreds of quarts! I'm guessing I should go back and start at the beginning of this jam...

VERY long rhubarb!
A co-worker of mine brought in 6 stalks of very long rhubarb. It wasn't terribly thick, but the length was impressive! I cut it into smallish dice and put it into my enameled cast iron pot. To the rhubarb I added about 1 cup of sugar for each cup of rhubarb and just a touch of water. I cooked it over med heat and boiled it for about 15 minutes. It should have cooked down into a thickish sauce, but there was a lot of water in this rhubarb. I kept going with the recipe like I had done in the past, but I ended up having to do a fix later. Here's what it looked like at the beginning of the boil.


When it all got cooked down and soft I added Strawberry gelatin. I call this Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam because there isn't any strawberry in it and there is lots and lots of rhubarb! The mixture boils about 3 minutes (stirring the entire time) until it becomes a jam like consistency. Then you can freeze it or you can can it. Funny, can can!

Mine was rather watery after the boiling so I tasted it. WAY too much Jello. We decided to proceed and see what it was like after a night in the fridge. The next morning it had set up like jam, but still tasted like Jello! I should say it set up like Jello and tasted like it too :) Not really edible as jam in my opinion, although Mike would have eaten it. He loves his sugar!

The dilemma was that I had used all the rhubarb up and needed to fix all this jam. Luckily I found two gallon bags of rhubarb in my freezer! I defrosted them, took most of the water out, cooked it down till it was sauce like, added a bit of sugar and all the jam. When they were well combined it tasted much, much better and was the right consistency! Thank goodness I didn't have to waste so much fruit, sugar and gelatin.

I packaged a bunch of little jars to take to work and share and canned the rest in a water bath for 5 minutes. These little hodge podge jars are fitting for my hodge podge jam! They all sealed and we have more jam in our house than we've ever had and its only the middle of June.

Rough guess on my quantities:
26 cups or so of rhubarb (10 fresh and 16 frozen)
10 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of water
4 packs of strawberry gelatin


Anyone have any different kinds of jam recipes to share?

Heather

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gratituesday--Church Family

Fr. Ken and My Little Guy
When Mike and I were dating we lived on opposite sides of the city. We are both Catholic, so it was easy for us to know what faith we wanted to be married in and raise our children to believe in. He had grown up going to the same church his Dad and Grandpa had grown up going to. The priest that was at that church for many of his formative years had a big impact on him and he wanted us to have him preside at our wedding. However, Fr. Don had gone on to be the rector of St. Francis Seminary and no longer had a church that we could belong to. I had grown up in the country and had not really found a church to belong to in the city. Together we were able to look for a church to be our own.
There was one really beautiful church with wonderful music that I hoped we could become a part of. We attended together for a while and even joined so that we could be married there. The longer we were a part of that church, the less at home we felt. The politics of that particular church did not match up with our views, the people were often less than welcoming and overall we just felt a bit of snobbery happening all around us. The straw that broke the camel's back had to be the new member welcome potluck. There were about 8 families, the priest didn't stop in to say anything, the food was horrible...I knew then we couldn't stay...bad potluck=bad church in my book. Real believers can cook. Okay, some probably can't, but really a church should be able to host a meal and be welcoming. And there were other issues, but really this is a post of gratefulness. Just wanted you to enjoy the journey that makes us so grateful now!
We went to many different churches, but found out that Fr. Don had started helping out some weekends at a church near our home (at that point it was Mike's house, now we all live here). It was close enough that we even were able to bike there in good weather. The church itself is not pretty. Really, everyone talks about how not pretty it is. The carpet is orange and there is a lot of it. The people are wonderful and are the real beauty in this church. They have Life Teen masses and the music is amazing. We went to a reception after church one Sunday...and the food was good! Even better, people talked to us and introduced us to other people. And then they actually were excited about what we had to offer the parish. And they were nice and down to earth and the church was focused on the local community and reaching out to those in need. Service was talked about, faith was focused on and people were at the heart of everything. The priest not only like accordions, but played as well. Fr. Ken provided much food for thought every weekend and humor at all times. And the food was good! Seriously, we were hooked, we joined, little guy was baptized there and all has been wonderful. It is great to have a faith community to call home.
And now we have to say good bye to the priest that did so much to foster that environment and to make us feel at home. Fr. Ken is going to be heading to another church and we are going to be getting a new priest, Fr. Tom. On Saturday there was a special mass and reception as a farewell to Fr. Ken. There were lots and lots and lots of tears shed throughout the service. He has been at this church for 12 years (we've been there 2) and his impact has been far reaching. Everyone is sad to see him go and we will all miss him terribly. I know he will be loved at his new church and I'm sure we will all come to enjoy having Fr. Tom with us. Fr. Ken's greatest blessing to our church has been how he cultivates service and community. His impact will go on even as he has a new home now. Mike and I are so grateful that he made us feel so welcome and so encouraged and so appreciated in this rather large church. We are grateful that we have a faith family that is so important to us and that we can be an active part of!






Mike enjoying playing at the farewell reception!

The cake pictured below is a nod to Mike as well. At a fundraising dinner Fr. Ken agreed to play his accordion for the first time in front of the parish. He was very nervous and emotional as he said he wouldn't play until it was time for him to leave the parish...and now that time had come. Mike agreed to back him up and do a little playing as well. Fr. Ken got in position in the middle of the stage and they planted Mike behind the curtain with a microphone. Mike began playing The Clarinet Polka and Fr. Ken mimed it with his accordion. Everyone went nuts and was cheering...then Fr. lifted up his hands and the music kept on going! The crowd laughed like crazy. The gag went over really, really well and took a few of the nerves out! Fr. Ken then played a song and Mike helped him out. Mike continued to do a few more while Fr. Ken danced with some of the attendees and the night was a success. This cake is from his reception...made for a great photo. Look, no hands!

We will miss you Fr. Ken! Thank you for everything.

This post is also at Heavenly Homemakers Gratituesday. See more things we are grateful for here.

Heather

Friday, June 12, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--my Cuisinart

Welcome to Frugal Find Fridays!
Another great rummage sale find to share--my Cuisinart Mini-Mate Plus Chopper/Grinder. This little beauty is from a sale that was part of a neighborhood sale last year. I went over to this large neighborhood sale because I knew there were lots of families with kids there and I was expecting my first one! There is no bigger way to save money on babies than by buying things for them second hand. Goodness knows they don't wear out anything they use as they grow and change too fast for that to happen.
Where was I? This isn't a post about babies! So I am walking (waddling at 8 months pregnant)up and down streets and around blocks and finding lots of deals on things for the little guy. This sale didn't look very promising as there were only a couple of tables of things and a few boxes on the driveway. The morning had been long and I was getting close to packing it all in, but I figured I'd give a look since I'd made it up the driveway. I poked around quickly and found a DVD set that I was excited about and was going to head over and give the woman my $2.
However, on my way I stopped to check out the two boxes that were labeled $.25 each item just to see if anything in there needed to come live at my house. One box had a lot of odds and ends and just 'junk' that I didn't need and the second seemed to be the same. Then I spotted a box of breast milk storage bags. It was an unopened bag of 25 that had been in a box of 50. $.25 is a steal for those. Then underneath those I found the pretty little princess pictured above. She is small...the base holds maybe a cup at most. When I picked it up I saw it was Cuisinart. I honestly thought someone had moved it to the box and that it probably had a sticker with a different price.
I flipped it over and couldn't find one. So I waddled over and plunked down my DVDs, my storage bags and asked if this was also a quarter. "Yup" was the response. Okay, then it must not work was my next thought. I asked and was told that it did work and that she just didn't need it anymore. Seriously, $.25 for a Cuisinart? I couldn't resist. Turns out it has been awfully handy!
I have made all of the little one's food including his rice cereal, his oatmeal cereal and his purees. I do use my stick blender for purees as I can do a big batch quickly. For the cereals this has been amazing at grinding down the oatmeal or rice or barley before I cook it into cereal that he can eat. The barley was a challenge for it, but we got through. I've used it to chop up a few heads of garlic all at once when I was making the tomato sauce to can. I even use it to chop fresh herbs if I'm making a big batch of salsa. It doesn't take much room in the cupboard and it has definitely earned its keep. For a quarter I think I got a great deal!
So, now are you curious about what they cost new? I know I sure was when I got home! When I looked it up then I found them for around $35, but now on Amazon they are going for around $20. Sears still has them for $35. Seriously is this a Frugal Find or what?
Let me know if you have any Frugal Finds to share!
Heather

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Legacy of Peonies


The pink peonies you see here are a bit of an heirloom in my family. I've been lucky enough to have a huge bank of them at my home growing up, a couple of them at my house when I was single and now they are at our home. When we get to move to the country they will be packing up their roots and coming with us. I also see them at my parents home (they moved to KY when I was in HS) and my grandparents home in SD. I'm sure you would find them at all my aunts homes as well. These peonies were the table centerpieces when my sister got married in Kentucky 9 years ago and they over flowed the huge vases we had on all 20 or so tables.

My sisters and I had many, many pictures taken along the bank of the blooms growing up. I even had a prom dress that was the color of the center of the peonies. That spring my mom took pictures of me in that dress with the flowers. I feel like these peonies are a part of my heritage and every spring I anxiously await seeing and smelling them. Those pink ladies smell just heavenly! There is no perfume that compares to the smell of our family's peonies.

We've been having a very cool spring here in Wisconsin and this week we finally (FINALLY) got to smell the wonderful peonies. Of course, I couldn't resist joining in the tradition!



and


The white ones are gorgeous and are a gift from a friend. They are also wonderful to look at and smell. I have a red plant as well, but it is still at my single girl house (now a rental for us) and I need to move it over here in the fall. My favorite will always, always be the pink ones.
They are only here for a short time and I make an effort to stop and smell them as many times as I can. It has been fun letting little guy smell them too...I think he's hooked!
Heather

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Selective Squemishness



Selective Squeamishness. I've been thinking about this a lot the last two weeks as I've dug through and processed and eaten through some fruit that many others would turn away from. I love this term and believe I originally found it in The Tightwad Gazette. (Seriously a great resource that anyone trying to live below their means should own!)

I grew up on a horse farm and there we grew a large percentage of our family food. We canned and froze almost all the vegetables and most of the fruit our family would eat throughout the year. We even raised our own beef. I think that as a child I wasn't squeamish about food because I knew the cycle of food. I helped my mom plant the gardens, weed, water, fight off potato bugs and other critters and then harvest and store. If a cauliflower had some bad areas we just cut them off, we didn't toss the whole thing. If some tomatoes had a few bad spots they got cut out and the rest still was used for canning tomato juice. We saw the bugs on the plants and knew the work it took to grow them. You didn't just throw it away, you did what you could to save what you could. There was very, very little waste.

Then I was a waitress and learned about tossing food because it was 'old' at the end of the day. I went to college and didn't have to work for the food I ate. I lived on my own and could pick what I wanted at the grocery store. Why would you buy less than 'perfect' food when you are paying hard earned money for it?

Now I am the grateful beneficiary of produce that is past its prime. Some is down right yucky. Some is almost perfect. Most is somewhere in between. I am learning to be selectively squeamish all over again! I am choosing to not let bad spots cause me to toss out something, but to think about what the good parts could still be used for. I'm getting creative and helping our family's grocery budget at the same time.

I do think we are all on a scale of squeamishness. I heard a story this week about someone who wouldn't eat apples off their tree because they had spots and holes and weren't big enough. They would go to the grocery store and get apples that had been shipped in and sprayed like crazy to kill everything that thought about treating it as food. Obviously this person was very high on the squeamish scale. They there are people who will eat anything...very low on the scale. I'm on the low side, but am somewhere in the middle.

I wish this produce was from my own garden so that I knew how it was grown. For now I take whatever steps I can to make it better for us and assume that none of it is organic (although some might be). I will balance this produce with organic choices in order to minimize our exposure to harmful chemicals through our food. I am doing what I can with the resources I have and am pretty proud of my accomplishments so far.

If I had been squeamish we would not have 7 pints of strawberry jam, 5 quarts of homemade garlic, red pepper and vidalia onion spaghetti sauce, 2 quarts of peaches, pears yet to be canned, and many, many other things we've eaten already. It is a great thing to cultivate selective squeamishness! This entry is posted at Tammy's Recipes Kitchen Tip Tuesday.

*Edited 6/28*

A big Thank You to Gayle over at The Grocery Cart Challenge for featuring this post at her Weekend Link Luv. If you are visitng from there, please look around and leave me a comment so I can come visit you! I've been reading blogs for about 4 years and finally have joined the conversation. Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you again!

Heather

Yipppeee---more free produce!

Today I am so grateful for more free produce. Last week I was busy working with strawberries, more strawberries and such that I got for free from some people I met through freecycle. I was very excited with what we had gotten as last year there were only a few times I considered it worth my time and effort to drive and scrounge. However, this year seems to be a different story!

The couple typically sends an e-mail out Sunday evening with a rough idea of what they've gotten from the fruit stand. It is first come, first take home and everything is out in their pick up and on pallets on the ground. Keep in mind that much of this produce is very ripe or even past that point. The challenge for me is guessing if enough of the produce will be in good enough shape to make the trip worth while. I consider the couple that does this to be a real blessing, but sometimes they have a bit more openmindedness (is that a word?) about what is really acceptable to eat or can or freeze.

I often take my trip on Monday morning if I am able, but this week I was working most of the day on Monday so if I was going to get any produce it would have to be Sunday evening. Right as Mike headed upstairs to put little guy to bed I got the e-mail saying there were LOTS of cases of tomatoes and other assorted things. I asked Mike what he though and he said to go and go right away. We eat a lot of tomato products at this house and so far our little tomato plants are struggling to grow in our very cool weather. I ended up getting a wooden crate of pears, a very large box of tomatoes (most with spots and some totally bad), a mixture of peaches, tangerines, garlic, a bunch of grapes, a bunch of 'bread' bananas and assorted other things. I've gotten a few things cleaned up, but my real focus tomorrow is going to be canning tomato sauce and pears. Wish me luck as I start another new canning adventure!

For only being June I feel like I'm doing well getting food put up for the year. Hopefully this will continue all summer long! I can't help but be grateful for a Tuesday spent canning! More grateful posts at Heavenly Homemakers Gratituesday.

Heather

Monday, June 8, 2009

Our Four Legged Members of the Family

This is Laredo.
Is she sweet or what? Laredo is a long time member of my family, before I met Mike, before little guy came along, before I even knew she'd be mine she belonged to my family. My parents found her running through one of the busiest intersections in Lexington, KY. She was ducking in and out of traffic and was going to either get hit or cause an accident if someone did not catch her quickly. My parents along with a few other folks got her caught and when no one knew what to do with her my parents took her home. They tried to find her owners, but based on the lack of a collar or tags, the fact that no one responded to the fliers or called the shelters looking for her, the fact that there were lots of apartments around where she was found pretty much left us knowing she had been abandoned when someone moved.
She was a young dog at that time, probably about 1-2 years at most. She was already house trained and has never been a barker. In fact, if she barks it kind of freaks me out as I know something really strange is going on. She is nervous around feet and will never let herself get caught 'underfoot.' My guess is that someone thought she was for kicking when she was a puppy. She is really a perfect dog and it is my gain that someone else thought she was worthless.

Laredo playing on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Laredo lived in Kentucky with my parents for a few years. When I bought my first house they tried to talk me into taking her as a companion. I already had a cat and didn't know if I wanted two animals in the house. However, they pointed out how small she is and that she is so sweet and why don't I just try her for a few weeks? How do you argue with that?

Since then she has been a resident of Wisconsin. Laredo is one of those dogs that attracts attention wherever she goes, but she doesn't really care for it. People want to know what type of dog she is and where they can get one like her. My answer is always that we have no idea and they should rescue a dog! She is a good traveler, keeps her distance from kids since she isn't a big fan of them and gives the cat a wide berth. She was my comfort as I drove to my parent's home after my sister died and has been my encouragement to go for more walks than I would have without her.

When Mike joined our lives she fell in love with him faster than I did. I figure its a good sign when your dog loves a guy! She has taken to our new lives and new family members really well and has done her part to drive away the bunny population in this neighborhood. Laredo LOVES to chase bunnies and has killed a few, along with a ground hog that wasn't much smaller than she. For all her froo-froo looking she is actually a mighty huntress under all that hair.

Laredo at Seven Bridges Park.

Laredo is such a sweetie and a joy of a dog. It is hard to think of life without her and hopefully we will not have to for a long time! Laredo is such a good dog that it is hard for me to deal with dogs who have bad manners. We have another dog, Pugsley and he is a great dog in his own right, but he has issues that I've never had with her. I am so grateful that someone else didn't realize what a gem they had. She has lived the life a princes (a bunny hunting, swimming in the lake princess) and has brought more joy to people than she knows.

Heather

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cheap Family Fun


Friday was a beautiful day here in Wisconsin. Finally, some glimpses of the summer to come! Yesterday and today are not so beautiful so it makes me grateful that we took the time to get out and enjoy it Friday afternoon.


We took the little one to the park again. It was his second trip to the baby swings and he loved it just as much as the first time! It is a bit of a hike to get to the park, but the dogs and both of us could use the exercise. One of the benefits of our not so typical life is that we were both home Friday afternoon and could walk down, spend some time, walk back and still have dinner as a family before the little guy had to head to bed.


When we put him in the swing he just looked at us and as soon as it started going he started grinning. We were treated to the delicious sounds of baby giggles over and over and over. He really likes the sensation of the swing coming down/forward. So every push back (we stand in front of him) he smiles and every swing forward he giggles. It is awesome to hear and so fun to watch. Even another little girl started watching him swing! Of course then she started swinging too and our guy was so interested in watching her go higher and higher and higher that he couldn't focus on his own swinging. No worries, we didn't get any really good pictures, but I have an idea that we'll be spending more and more time down at the park this summer. This is one great way to spend time as a family and not spend any money. I've even scouted out another park with great play equipment that will probably be even less busy during the summer and is about the same distance from our house.


Now if we could just find a swing for our backyard! Of course, that would mean fewer long walks to the park which wouldn't be as good for me. And it is hard to beat the price of the park!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Frugal Find Friday-Strawberry Shortcake

Welcome to Frugal Find Friday!
This is a bit different than most of the Frugal Finds I expect to post, but thought it was a good example of how we live so frugally and yet live so well. I wrote about canning strawberry jam from fruit that I got for free here. Within the containers of strawberries there were some perfect berries that I decided to use for a little treat. I also got the whipping cream for free because it was on its sell by date and we were going to dump it down the drain at work. I find it hard to toss completely usable items and took it home instead. We couldn't use it all up when I first got it, so about 1 1/2 cups were frozen for use at a later date...turned out to be this week!

I stemmed, washed, diced and very lightly mashed about 1 1/2 cups of strawberries with a little sugar. These I let sit while we ate dinner so they could release their juices and be perfect for strawberry short cake. The whipped cream was sweet as well, but with only about a Tbsp of sugar and a tsp of vanilla extract. The shortcakes were a very simple recipe that I found in the Encyclopedia of American Cooking. They cooked while dinner was in the over so no extra energy was even used when making the shortcakes. I sliced two berries and put one on top of each of our desserts to make the presentation just a little cuter.

The reason this is my Frugal Find for the week is because of how very, very little it cost to make. The strawberries were free, the whipping cream was free and my only cost was a bit of sugar, flour, butter and such for the shortcakes and to sweeten. The whipped cream was a bit grainy because the cream had been frozen before, but really it wasn't bad at all. My husband was so excited to see this for dessert and I was excited because it was frugal and it was real food. It didn't take long at all for these to disappear!

If you have any Frugal Finds to share let me know and I'll add them to the post. Have a great weekend!
Heather

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Canning--Strawberry Jam Success!




What a fun afternoon I had the other day! Last summer there was a posting on freecycle for free produce that was in desperate need of being taken that day. It turns out that there is a couple that picks up damaged and past prime produce from a vendor at a local flea market every single week during the summer. Much of the fruit is in really rough shape, but some of it is just in need of quick eating or preserving. I was very fortunate to get a lot of fruit to make into baby food for the little guy this way last summer. I froze cubes of it and it lasted about 4 months. Talk about frugal groceries for a baby!

The fair has started up again for the summer and they have started their weekly pick up. On Monday I headed down to see what I could find that could be useful to our family. I was able to get about 10 tomatoes that I turned into salsa, 1 orange pepper that we used in a pasta dish, a dozen or so mangoes that turned into 6 more servings of baby food, 2 heads of lettuce that we are eating up quickly and a flat of strawberries. Keep in mind this is not like going to the grocery store. There were totally rotten strawberries in most of the containers, there were spots in almost all the tomatoes, a few mangoes were totally bad when I cut into them and some were partially bad. It isn't the prettiest of work, but I am grateful for what it provides for our family. And our compost bin appreciates the rest!


I had gotten a small canning pot at a garage sale years ago and got a few other supplies, including jelly jars from my mom. I bought new lids and rings a few weeks ago in preparation for doing some canning this fall. Lucky for me I got to do a test run with strawberry jam this week. I jumped online and found a few different versions of jam recipes with and without pectin. I do not have any pectin and was glad to see I could do this without it. The recipe could not have been easier.


There was a bit of a time commitment and the juggling of sterilizing everything. There was a lot of stirring and lots of hot water boiling. There were lots of strawberries to wash and pick through and mash and compost. There were sticky spatulas, pans, and counter tops. But, it was so much fun! And in the end there were 7 half-pints of strawberry jam! We are so excited about it and I can't wait until I try canning something else. If you've never tried canning do not be afraid! If I can do it, so can you. We'll learn together this year...one type of produce at a time.




Strawberry Jam

4 cups mashed strawberries

4 cups sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

Stir all together in a large pot cooking over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and stir constantly until it reaches 220 degrees. This will probably take at least 10 minutes of hard boiling. You can use a candy thermometer or use the freezer plate* method to know if you are ready to can it. Once it reaches the jelling point fill hot sterilized jars leaving 1/4" head space (space between the top of the jelly and the top of the jar. Put into the hot water bath and bring to a boil. Once boiling process (with lid on) for 6 minutes. Remove from water bath and let cool. Listen to the pops that tell you that you have successfully canned strawberry jam!

*The freezer plate method is very cool, especially for those of us without candy thermometer. You put a few small plates in the freezer and when you think the jam has boiled enough you put a small puddle on the cold plate. Let it cool a moment and run your finger through it. If it stays separate and doesn't run back together it is ready to use or can. If it is too runny it needs more time. Keep stirring and boiling and try again!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday--Mom, I'm Bored!



Today is the "Mom, I'm bored!" edition of Works for Me Wednesday. Obviously my little guy is not yet old enough to say any of those words, however he still makes it obvious that he is bored from time to time. Like from 2:30-2:31. Why is it that my toddler has an attention span of less than 2 minutes? Although sometimes, when I am really lucky, he finds the CD player interesting enough to play with it for a whole 5 minutes!

In all honesty I find his way of discovering things to be so interesting to watch. I love seeing him 'get' a new way of doing something or a joke. I made teased him the other day by mimicing his pouting in his high chair and he got it. He looked at me crossing my arms and pouting, then looked at his own arms and back at me and giggled. Nothing is better than a baby giggle.

So back to my tip. I find that my little guy likes our stuff more than his toys most days. My tip is to let him play with your stuff! Now some things he isn't allowed to touch and somethings I don't want him to mess with. However, most other stuff he is allowed to at least check out. He crawls over to the pile of books I have pulled out to add to the rummage sale pile and I let him pick them up and knock the stack over and drool on them a little. He is curious and it is how he is learning, little damage is done and it keeps me from becoming a total control freak!

My other idea is to rotate his toys. Already I can tell he gets bored with the same toys everyday. So some rotate out of play for a week or so and then when they appear it is a big deal. He wants to chew on them and drool on them and bang them against things again. In other words he is excited to see them! The way I rotate them is to have some in the van, some in the kitchen, some by his crib and some in the diaper bag. These little toys get shifted every so often and it makes them new again. When we are in the van I just grab a few and throw them in the diaper bag. The ones in the bag get tossed on the blanket in the kitchen. A few from the kitchen get hauled up when it is nap time and a few from there get put by his coat to be added to the van. This keeps our total number of toys down saving us money and clutter. It keeps him from being bored with the same couple of toys all the time. A win-win.

Works for me! I'm taking notes from all the other Moms. It won't be long until he is older and I hear the "I'm BORED!" See all the ideas here.

Heather

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Joining in the Gratitude


Today is Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers and I thought I'd join in the fun. Check out all the neat things others are grateful for here.


There are many things I am grateful for, but today I thought I start with the basics. I am grateful for my husband and my son. I'm grateful that we have a roof over our head, food to eat and are all healthy. I'm grateful that we have our animals to love and the ability to work. I'm grateful that we have a church we love and families that love us.


All in all our lives are pretty amazing and we are so fortunate to be where we are. When the craziness of daily life steps in it is wonderful to remember all the reasons there are to be grateful. It is almost scary how many things there are to list. Life is good. I am grateful.


Heather

Monday, June 1, 2009

Blogs I Love

I'm thinking about starting to showcase some of my favorite blogs and favorite posts on those blogs. I started reading blogs a few years ago and find that over time some have remained favorites and some have come and gone from life. There are more and more new ones that I am introduced to or find and fall in love with too. Sometimes it would be great to take a day and just read blogs! Of course, there is a baby, a husband, work, meals to prepare, laundry and a few hundred other things that make up my life. So, I think for now I must keep my favorites within limits :)

Anyone have a favorite that I may not have heard of? Anyone else have a 'problem' where you must go back and read every post written by a particular blogger when you find a blog that is awesome? (Seriously, I've read every post on Pioneer Woman. It is a problem.) Anyone want to tout their own blog?

I'll do my best to give a comprehensive overview of those I love. Maybe you'll find a new one to love!

Heather