Thursday, June 25, 2015

Day 194 Summer Canning Adventures!

I do have to say that half the fun I am having with canning is researching new recipes.  Since I really started doing this more just last year, I don't have an arsenal of tried and true recipes (at least until pear season!  I DO have a plan for when they come in)  Somehow the challenge that comes with receiving more than I can eat of a given vegetable... turns on my creativity and sends me hunting for something that sounds interesting.

Again I will share my notes and links and I admit freely that while I am exact in my liquid measurements for safe canning... I have a free hand with my spices.  I use fresh when possible and store bought when it's at hand.... I also use a little more rather than less because for the most part I like things a little more flavorful than most.

First focus this week... carrots.   I like carrots... raw.  Sometimes cooked WITH something else.  Not a real fan of a main dish of carrots... though I may have to start looking in that direction soon with the abundance I have.

But for this week...Pickled Dilly Carrots.    I have NO dill product left from last summer and I made at least a case each of Dilly Beans and Giardiniera {mixed vegetable pickle).  So my plan (LOOSE PLAN :-) is to make at least 6 jars each of dill whatever this summer.  Just to try.

One batch got me 3 jars so I needed to make more!

Also because you really can't buy many dill vegetables in the store - like Dilly Beans or, in this case, Pickled Dilly Carrots.  Eleven big fat carrots got me 7 half pint jars of dilled carrot sticks.. and some ends and bits and pieces to toss in with some roasted veggies this week.  [8 more carrots came in my box this week.. so more hunting is on my agenda!]

BLUEBERRIES!  Okay I picked TWO GALLONS last week when I picked them so I really need to keep jamming!  Or something!  I packed 2 ziptop bags and tossed them in the freezer because I AM getting tired of making jam for now.  BUT I have MORE!  I found this recipe:  Blueberry Mojito Jam    And, since I have limes and a good crop of mint in my backyard, it seemed like a good pick.  And it IS yummy.... but only made 3 half-pints and a quarter-pint jar.  Plenty enough for me - but not enough for my Christmas gift closet.  I will make another batch somewhere in the week ahead on a day I am home.

So I made  Pickled Beets with Dill and Mustard   with the LAST baby beets (described in a previous post from 6/23).... until this past Saturday.  Turns out there's more beets..... so off I go to hunt down another recipe.

Most of my canning takes place early in the morning... first thing with that first cup of coffee.  And I am usually finished by 8am so I can start my day.  It's been a full week of running for me and I need a day at home to catch up!

That's it til next week!  Happy canning!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day 193 Wednesday Works In Progress!

This has been a piecemeal kind of week.

I have been working on smaller projects this year in the hopes of completing some wall hangings.  Last week I showed you a Valentine quilt top that was written as a wall hanging.  I finished the top and put it in the closet with other pieces that need to be sandwiched (basted together with the back and batting in the middle).  While I was originally cutting it out however, I recognized that it was not at all what I envisioned on my wall.  It is too big!  It will be a great lap quilt or draped over the back of a chair but not for my wall.  So I made an extra pieced heart to work with in creating something smaller.  I've been working on that this week

Still a long way from completion, this is more the size I want for a seasonal wall hanging.

I started the actual quilting on the sandcastle top I completed last year.

The initial quilting stitches around the 5 printed panels went quickly!  I havent decided how to quilt the wave-looking blocks yet - or the inside of the printed panels - but will probably do that by hand.  Maybe.  Haven't decided, can you tell?  For now though, I need to finish the machine quilting and put on a binding so you will probably see it again on a WIP Wednesday

A special request for a rice neck pillow thing (?) came in from my pregnant daughter so I looked it up and made one.  Okay two - but the filling of rice is more challenging than I anticipated (and the cleaning up afterwards was entertaining!)

Once she okays it - or tells what she would like different, I will probably be back here making more.  Supposedly you heat it up in a microwave and use it as a heating/cooling pad.  When I get it right, I can see me making more for gifts!

Speaking of my girl and her upcoming baby - I started planning the back of the baby quilt.  We got autographed squares at her baby shower and I am working with how to place them.  I am still waiting on one square and will be able to put the back - and the quilt together!

Have I shown you the FRONT?  If not, let me know and I'll include it in next week's WIP post :-)

And.... working on an ancient project.... squares unearthed from '08... I put the top together earlier this year.... and added the blue borders this week.  I don't think I'm quite happy with it yet though.... I am thinking up more borders to make it a little bigger.

A narrow black border next and then I need to add one more color border depending on what I find in the quilt shop when I pop in tomorrow!  I don't have what I need in my stash... poor me....

My handwork hexies... I am still having fun with them!  I really need to put them down and work on other handwork projects!

I finished ONE!  This is how they all will go until one day (in the far distant future) I will have a quilt top!

It sure is fun choosing that second round for each flower.  I am making sandwich bags for the flowers in the different stages... one bag for the center +6 petals... and then bags for the small flower + 12 of the second round color and then 12 each cream and green scraps for the last round.  Add the thread, needle and small scissors and the bags are portable craft projects- just exactly the kind I need!

I worked on the lap robe for the Vets while I worked at the library the other day.  (It's a project for the needlework club at the library so that's fair, don't you think?)

Coming along slowly but surely.  I haven't been doing much crocheting lately.

And then..... because I couldn't help myself..... this new fabric came into the shop and I needed to work with it!

I looked up the company online and am using their suggested pattern to make a quilt top.  I bought the fabrics that the shop had and improvised on the ones they didn't.  I don't want everything to match anyway... what else is new?

Can't wait to add this to my next week's lineup!  What are YOU up to?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Passion for Life

Someone mentioned to me the other day that I exhaust them with all I do.  I mean... the canning, the traveling, the reading, the quilting, the whatever that they see me write about here on on Facebook.

I will take that as a compliment!

I don't can produce because I have to.

I can because I WANT to!  I learned a new skill last summer and am having fun playing with it.  For me, the joy is the presentation of produce... the hunt for a recipe... the pretty jars and that oh-so-satisfying POP when they seal.  And it is a perfect fit when I can give it away for Christmas.

It hasn't gotten old yet.  When it does... I'll move on... or take a break... or whatever pleases me.

While I do things I have to do.. they really are in the realm of brushing my teeth or keeping the house reasonably sanitary or exercising my body so it stays in a condition to give me joy.

When I want to do something, I dream about it.. wish for it... sometimes get it!  I LOVE the dreaming and planning!

I still haven't managed a kayak lesson - but they just started a week ago on the weekend and it hasn't been feasible..... but it is definitely on my radar! 

I am also cognizant of how the days roll one into the other.  Life is short - I heard once that the days are LONG but the years are short - and more and more, I feel the truth in that.

I want to make sure I ENJOY my days.  I don't want them to escape me without my noticing.  I don't want my days focused on negative things.  I CHOOSE how I live my life.

I DO things I want to do... and those I don't really want to do (like perhaps sometimes yardwork)... I make sure I pay attention!

I recognize the GOOD feeling of my muscles doing what needs to be done.

Even when I'm overheated, I try to FEEL the blessing of sun warmth by remembering the COLD we experienced just a few months ago.

I PLAN a time at the end of my endurance for a cold bottle of water and a seat in my shady swing.  And I take that time.

And I do curse the durned bugs.  But I have to say I do it with PASSION!

If I am too much for you, then take a break - I won't take it personally.  I get it.  But I also choose it.

I do not WANT a mediocre halfway life.

Those last Beets......

Baby Dill Beets & Refrigerator Red Beet Eggs

The  last beets in my CSA Box were all tiny that there will be no cutting or slicing!
So while I will use a recipe I found.. Pickled Beets with Dill and Mustard      I changed things up a little so they will be MY Baby Dill Beets.

In case you are interested... preparing beets for canning is simple.... a little messy but absolutely simple.

First I topped them (tho if you read my CSA post, you will already know I received them topped because the insects were getting to the greens..).  Scrub them up to get rid of residual soil or whatever.. Then cut off the root and top where the greens were attached... and any debatable spots on the beet.  (What does Debatable mean?  well.. do you want to eat that spot or not?)

Put the beets in a pan and just cover with water.  I don't use much... (you know me.. I don't like waste and nutrients are leaching into this water!)  Bring the water to a boil.... covering with a lid makes it happen quicker.   Boil until they are fork tender.... add water as needed to keep them covered.

When you are satisfied as to their tenderness, drain and save the liquid (I use it in place of water for the canning recipe)    Cool... and then the peels slip right off!  Your hands get a little red but it washes right up.

I then followed the brine recipe with the one substitution I just mentioned.

I cleaned up and prepared the jars and placed the baby beets WHOLE into the jars - along with the fresh dill and mustard seed.

Pour brine into the jars, seal and can.

I saved the brine (like I saved it the other day) and the extra beet water.   For a second life.... I took the above beet concoction.... and tossed in a few hard-boiled eggs and the roasted beets I made the other night (not a fave)....

 and this created a refrigerator pickled red beet & egg that is to die for!    And, of course, like most pickles.. the longer it stands, the better the flavor!

(Please ignore that I obviously had an issue peeling that egg!)

Do I have you canning yet?  Why not?  It's so easy!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Day 187.. Summer Canning Adventures

It has surprised me how tickled I was to get my canner back out this spring!  I retired it around Christmastime... and am back in the thick of produce overflow and the hunt for new and interesting recipes.

There is something immensely satisfying to me to see those pretty jars all lined up on the shelf.  And I do love the sound of the POP when the jar seals :-)

Phat Beets.... winding up the prepared beets in the fridge ... I HAD to try this recipe!  First off it uses cloves and allspice and cinnamon in the brine so will have a spicy flavor I love that fits in nicely with my Christmas giving.... and then fresh ginger and rosemary in the actual jars for more flavor and just plain pretty.  Of course.... with all that, I just can't get past the NAME :-)  I cannot WAIT to write PHAT BEETS on my label... just because.  I will smile every time I see it :-)

There was a little leftover brine that I put in the fridge hoping for inspiration...I hate waste!

I got more baby beets in my produce box and will share that last recipe and some prep tips in my next week's adventure post.


      And I had so much fun with the first batch of blueberry jam (I had picked 2 quarts) that I went back to the farm and kind of went a little crazy.  I came home with 2 GALLONS of berries.  I just couldn't help myself.. the absolute ZEN of my and myself and the sunshine and the berries... well, it was a great way to spend a couple of hours (and $32 :-)

I thought about the natural pectin in apples and how I have trouble with store-bought products [honestly, I think it might be my stovetop].  Anyway I thought I'd hunt for a recipe that included apples.  And I found it at

Blueberry Apple Jam - my yield 9 half pints    The flavor is absolutely lovely.  Apples and pears seem to add a mildness to other fruits that makes an exquisitely rich jam flavor.  It's a great compliment to the berries..... or the berries are a great compliment to the apples?  Doesn't matter....  it's sublime on an English muffin with a little butter.

I'm afraid my little half-pint jars all look alike in photos....  I like the half-pint size.  First - for gift-giving... though I HAVE found a smaller size that I may use some of this year.   Second.. I am the only one in my house who eats either jams OR pickles... and sparingly at that... so a half-pint lasts me a month or more whatever is in it!  I do have some pint and quart jars that I will use for larger pickles and when I run out of half-pints.... and, yes.... for SALSA!  THAT we eat by the truckload :-)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day 186 WIP Wednesday

I am in a crafting place where I don't have any specific new project going on that is capturing my interest... so am using the time to work on some of those UFOs... unfinished objects.. that are lying around.  And I have a TON of those!

I wanted to work on finishing up some machine quilting.. so this happy garden quilt by Debbie Mumm was first priority.

And... the machine work is complete!  Now this project moves on to the handwork basket for embroidery and embellishment!

Next is piecing something OLD....  a project started around 2008.... before I had any grandchildren.  I had a dream that this would be for my first one.  Ha!  Not so much :-)  Anyway..I did most of the blocks back then and set them aside.  Over the course of this past year - as I have been cleaning out, I located them and finished the blocks.

This past week I cut the sashing and put the top together.  Still a LONG way from finished... at least it can move from the "unassembled blocks" collection... to the "unfinished tops" collection :-)

As I worked on projects, I tend to group them by thread color.  Most of my piecing is done with either white or natural... and I am working in natural this week!  A newer project - started 2015 - is a valentine wall hanging.  Well - the pattern called it a wall hanging but my personal walls need something a good bit smaller!

But I am going to finish it anyway and perhaps drape it over the back of a couch or something.  But for now - the top is completed.  It still needs to be squared up and put in the same pile as the toybox quilt.  This pattern is a log cabin version and from an Eleanor Burns book.  I did make one extra heart so I can still craft a hanging of a size I prefer.  Maybe a thin border and binding from the chocolate if I have enough.  The photo doesn't do it justice.. the neutrals are really subtle and pretty.

Crochet this week is edging for receiving blankets... one of the things my pregnant daughter most enjoys.

I do not enjoy this first part.... putting the base edging on the little thread border of the blanket!  I will share the finished product with you when I finally get these done.

AND.... I ended up with a library shift during the craft club meeting this week so I brought a bag of balls someone gave me and a hook and decided to work on a lap robe for the veterans hospital.   I'd say I'm about halfway through at this point..

More handwork in front of the tv....  I've gotten hooked on hexie flowers!  I always thought they would be so very tedious.... but am finding that I really enjoy them.  And they are small enough I may be able to transport them when I travel.

I will take better pictures later... but here is one of the flowers that I am beginning for what looks to be another years long project!

And, as a finale for this week's crafting, new kitchen curtains!

As a part of the new kitchen reno.. I decided to make new curtains...  I still like the old ones, but they are faded and it is time for a new look!  I found some butterflies that made me smile and have been putting off the project for a month or so...

I only know how to make one kind of curtain... I need to expand my repertoire!  BUT.. be that as it may....  I did get them done this week and they are hanging in my kitchen!

 The old ones, as I said are faded but the fabric is still good.  I am fairly confident that they will end up in my scrap fabric collection and into a project and no one will ever know!  [except you,of course and you won't tell, will you?]

What are you creating this week?

Monday, June 15, 2015

My CSA Produce Box

Some of my friends keep asking me what on earth this is...

New to my rural area, a local farmer decided to furnish this service.  I knew what it was and JUMPED at the opportunity..

In a nutshell.... you pay a certain fee and you get random produce weekly.  It's local.... fresher... somewhat organic.... in season...   BETTER!    In more urban areas, you can purchase by the week and sometimes even have it delivered to your door.  In my case, I paid for several months up front and the farmer is just down the road.  If we can get more people on board, maybe we can do it differently - but I am THRILLED.

For me, it works out to $24/week and includes eggs....  I am never quite sure what will be in my box but it definitely is forcing me to learn to prepare and to eat a lot more produce!

Before I share this week's box, I want to note that for the last month I have gotten bags and bags of lettuce!  3-4 bags per week and salads have been the mainstay of our diet!

This is my box for this week:
I do have to say - straight off that this is the first week it hasn't been overflowing - but that is due to the huge quantities of lettuce, beets and radishes we've been getting!

First I pulled out the LAST of the lettuce for the season.... 2 large ziplock bags... trimmed and a first wash.  It is getting too hot for lettuce to be really good now - but I still have 3 heads in the fridge downstairs so I imagine we still have salads for another week or so....
     AND the FIRST of the cucumbers.... and those are already of a number I will have to preserve!  We will probably be able to eat half of those this week.. but I am thinking I need to find some of my cucumber pickle recipes from last year...

Carrots!  I got a few last week so now I have about 20... again, some for eating and a new recipe for dill pickled carrots to try.  We like them raw - or, when cooked, as an addition to the dish, not as the main item.  Cooked carrots by themselves don't have much appeal here.. though we do enjoy them tossed in with other veggies.. roasted or sauteed.. or raw.

The last of the beets... babies... trimmed of greens because the bugs are busy with them now.  I did discover this year that cooked beets are not a fave.  I do have some roasted in the fridge and they are okay - but not something I crave.....  BUT I do enjoy them pickled.. and have put up 2 types already and have a dill beets recipe waiting for these guys.

AND... Kimchi....  this is my third jar of it.  I am working with jar # 1 trying to figure out how I will use it.  The hubs is not particularly adventurous with his food so I am on my own with it for now.  I love the spice of it but am not 100% how to use it.  Cold - well, it's spicy wet cabbage - perhaps an acquired taste?

AND... the last photo :-)

Beautiful scallions..... I use these a lot chopped in eggs and stir-fries and salads...  They also freeze well for later use.

Pretty little eggplants that I have no clue what to do with... well, that is not exactly true.. but I have had it exactly 3 times.... once as eggplant parmegiana [which I hated].... once in ratatouille [which I loathed].. and once thinly sliced and deep fried [which I liked but I am afraid I am definitely a devotee of deep fried crunchy coatings - so I think it had little to do with the eggplant itself].   I have been advised to try a stir fry...

Fresh local eggs..... yay!!   And a bag of fresh dill for my canning adventures [beets and carrots] suggested above.

DEF more than the $24 cost to me.

The only real concerns for me at the moment are the Kimchi and eggplant.  I will probably hunt for a local person to barter with because I am not fairly sure I will end up wasting those... and that is not something I want to do!

But there you have it... my produce box....

  the DOWNside:
           1.  Pay up front
           2.  You never know what you will get
           3.  You have to figure out how to use it
           4.  Sometimes you get something you don't like.

  the UPside:
           1.  Paying up front means it is free now :-)
           2.  It is local - FRESH from the field... we are eating better food!
           3.  You never know what you will get... SURPRISE every week! (but since I typically shop sales, I face the same thing at the grocery store)
           4.  You have to figure out how to use it.... I do love learning and trying new things!
           5.  I can work with my supplier to voice my opinion on what I don't care for... OR I can canvas my neighbors for a barter....  I bet somebody will share other garden produce for my canning adventures... or chocolate for my husband.. or .. who knows?  

I'm in!  And loving having this available to me and my family!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Day 180... June Canning adventures

       I have been surprised this year that I am as excited about making jam and pickles as I was when I threw myself into this project last year.  When I heard the strawberries were in at my local picking spot... I was ready to GO!!!

  But it was Mothers Day and my husband kidnapped me for a fun weekend....  and the next weekend we went to the beach for a week for our anniversary.. which got extended by a couple of days to cover Memorial Day... and then we hit the ground running when we got back!
     Not only with the 'catch-up' from our schedules being off for the last few weeks.... but also preparing for a refi appraisal [yeah they called the day after we got home and said... I'll be there at 1pm].... and then I got called to work at the library... and two preschool graduations [when did this get to be a thing?], my cousins came to stay with us after their European adventure [and all my own kids came to visit at different times over the course of a weekend... lots of food and fun!].
    As all this was going on, I did get my canning things out.... and managed a morning picking strawberries... just a gallon this year... one batch of jam and some good eating.  Plain strawberry jam....

And my produce box has had an abundance of BEETS!  Beets which my husband won't eat and I do but not that many!  So I am hunting for recipes

  Life kept moving.... and the following weekend I snuck out again and picked the last of the strawberry crop - got 2 quarts!.. and 2 quarts of blueberries....  The strawberries I put up with a Strawberry Apple Jam recipe to utilize the natural pectin in apples.

So this week I prepared the beets for canning and pulled a couple of recipes from last year and some new to try..  Gingery Pickled Beets from (Food in Jars by Marissa McClellan) are done.... and I have more beets to can that I'll share next time.

This morning, the 2 quarts of blueberries are simmering as I write Blueberry Jam (also from Food in Jars).... and when I have them canned, I am wandering off again to collect another gallon of blueberries to play with.

I will share more recipes as I prepare them....

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

One Sentence Journal May 25- May 31

Mon May 25.....
     A lovely day at home!  A day to kind of catch my breath... to begin Project Hawaii...  and to just enjoy

Tue May 26..
   Lunch out.. what a wonderful visit with an old friend!

Wed May 27
     Quilt store and a million errands looking for baby shower supplies.. thunderstorms & scaredy-dogs tonight...   First day of airconditioning in office.

Thu May 28... Knit Wit group...Mireya preschool graduation

Fri May 29... Virginia preschool graduation... pick up cousins from the airport on their return from Europe

Sat May 30... a couple of the kids coming down for the day to visit with Ann & Marvin

Sun May 31.. most of the rest of the kids and families coming down scattered throughout the day to visit....

Definitely a hectic week!   Each day I put a little time into current quilting projects..  piecing the new grandbaby quilt & the quilt shop test blocks.... quilting ,y yellow brick road quilt.. and some handwork on the grandmother's flower garden.

Also did well - really well at doing my dvds and counting calories.... not fun - but successful!

Weekly Goals... Week 29 May 25-31

Week 9

In case you are wondering - the title of my post says Week 29 - because it is 29 weeks until I turn 60... it is week 9 because I've been trying to focus on health and wellness for 9 weeks :-))

New Goals!
     Project Hawaii begins this week
          daily workouts - Gilad Quick Fit
          log food / count calories
          wear pedo (count steps)
          FOCUS - water.... minimum 4 bottles
                        [total success in behavior modification AND 1.5 pounds lost :-)]
To continue to work on:
        Whole food prep
         Morning mile
         Mini-strength routine  [do TWO times]

Personal:  connect with friends & family - cards, lunches, phone [one lunch and a TON of family over this weekend]

Business: catch up on EOM bills, post more liturgy plans to newer website

FUN: pickle beets from CSA box, get some strawberries and make jam, work on quilt for new grand & work on hexagon stitching project
         [ made the strawberry jam and worked on the sewing projects.. beets still waiting!]

Day 1 of food logging really SUCKED!  The calories were a lot higher than I expected - though the food intake was definitely better.  I have to keep in mind that when I begin to keep track of numbers... the GOAL is simply to keep track and become aware.  Judgments need to stay out!  I kept track of my steps for 3 weeks before I got serious about more exercise.

Day 4.. still rolling!  pretty sore... food better and better.  waking up easier - though sore!  Aches clearly from exercise not just because...  Am I doomed to ache when I wake forever?   <sigh>   Oh well - NOT today's issue!  Today is onward and upward!

All in all I did pretty well