November 11, 2008
I purchased about 17 pounds of mixed variety apples from the grocery store for .99/lb. This was the same price it was at the local orchard for pick your own apples when you picked greater than 20 pounds. I opted to skip the actual picking this year...maybe next year I will do it with the kids just for the experience. A few years ago, I took Sara (then about 15 months) and picked about 60 pounds of apples. Did I mention that it was only me and Sara...and 60(!) pounds of apples? Not the brightest idea I've ever had, and probably the main reason I skipped it altogether this year.
In addition to the store-bought apples, I bought 2 big boxes (24 pounds each) of apple seconds from the Catoctin Orchard in Emmitsburg. They were $6 a box for a total of $12. I was not exactly sure what I was going to be getting with "seconds" but I was pleasantly surprised! The apples were not the prettiest things. There were lots that were misshapen, too big, too small, or with a small defect on the peel. But they were all most certainly edible and you can't beat .25/lb! Also, I was able to have the orchard make up my boxes of seconds with the kind of apples I wanted...I only specified red vs. yellow/green, but I think next year I will ask if they can avoid adding certain varieties of apples. (I will have to figure out the type, but there was one kind that was a very soft fleshed apple that totally fell apart when cooking.) For next year, I will definitely go with all apple seconds and no store bought. I think
After I got all the apples home, I cut them into about 6 pieces each and tossed them into this big tub that Sara so (un)willingly let me borrow from her toy room. It didn't occur to me to take a picture till we were well underway, but at the beginning the bin was very full!
In the midst of chopping, I began cooking the apples. They needed to cook for about 15 minutes, so I had a sort of rotating schedule of starting each pot about 7 minutes apart.
When one pot of apples was done cooking, I processed them down to sauce using my Kitchenaid mixer and some amazing attachments (the food grinder and the fruit & veggie strainer)! Sara was a big help with this step mixing and pushing the apples down the chute to be processed. She also dubbed the waste coming out the end of the strainer the apple poop. She thought that was hilarious!
The next step in the process was to cook the applesauce with sugar and cinnamon and then to process the jars. For the applesauce I added about 1/2 c sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon per quart. This was not scientific at all. It looked more like 2 c sugar and a heaping hand full of cinnamon added to the pot on the right in the picture below. As for the jars, some people run them through the dishwasher to get them sterile/hot, but I decided to boil them empty in the canning pot for about 10 minutes before filling them with the hot applesauce. After the jars were filled I processed them in the canner for about 20 minutes. It worked out well once I got my system going. 20 minutes of processing time plus 10 minutes to prepare the next set of jars was just the time I needed to cook up another pot of applesauce. Rinse, lather, repeat...and repeat, and repeat, and repeat...
So here's the final tally...I canned 15 quarts and 13 pints of applesauce and 11 pints of apple butter. Why both quarts and pints of applesauce?? I really have no idea. I wish I had a good explanation...I had enough quart jars to do it all in quarts. At first I thought I would only do the cinnamon applesauce in the smaller jars, then do plain in the quarts but I liked the cinnamon so much I did it for all of the jars. I am wondering if it will work out OK throughout the year to have some smaller jars to use when we don't want to refrigerate leftovers. I will have to see how it goes and plan better for next year.
A note about the apple butter--pick a recipe that starts with cooking the apples in cider vinegar. Don't add too much (if any) of the cooking liquid back into the processed apples...it makes it take forever to cook down again. Spices to be added include ground cloves, cinnamon and allspice. The more the better in my opinion!
So now let's talk about cost effectiveness. I will preface this by the fact that I already had the quart-sized jars and I bought the pint jars for $3 a dozen at a local thrift store. Because they are reusable, I am not going to count them in the cost. Also, the rings are reusable so I won't be counting them either. It wasn't a huge money-saver, but it was alot of fun!
lids $2/dz (x4)
Extra ingredients for apple butter $10
This compares to a retail value for similar products of:
Applesauce qts: $2 (x15)
Applesauce pts: $1 (x13)
Apple butter pts: $2.50 (x11)
I am adding this post to the Works for Me Wednesday series over at Rocks In My Dryer...go over and check out some other great ideas!
November 10, 2008
When I had my first baby (pictured above) I was a basket of raw emotion, and admittedly, not all of them were good. I felt very useless sitting around all the time just holding my baby in my arms. (So naive I was! That's probably the most important thing I could have been doing at that very moment!) It is shocking really how such a tiny baby can make your arms/shoulders/back ache after all that holding.
When I finally got my wits about me after about 10 weeks of moping, I started doing some research on baby carriers. I found several very helpful sites with information that really spoke to what my heart already knew about the importance of holding your baby as much as possible...for the baby's sense of security, for the mother's ability to sense when she needs something. One of my favorite sites was Mamatoto. I especially liked the pictures explaining how to use each of the different styles of carriers.
Ultimately, with my first I decided on a ring sling. When I looked for one to buy, I found their prices to be outlandish for the simplicity of them. I decided I could definitely make my own and got the pattern and the weight-tested rings (this was very important to me) from SlingRings. I learned that for the best result, you should choose a fabric that doesn't have a "wrong side". I love brightly colored batiks and they worked perfectly! Sara, in the picture above is wearing her doll baby in my first sling that I carried her in from about 10 weeks until about 2 1/2 pretty much every day.
When Rachael was born, I couldn't wait to bring out the sling! It was such a lifesaver with Sara and an absolute necessity with more than one child in the house. My beloved sling did have a drawback though. While I did have use of both hands, since it only goes over one shoulder, I couldn't use both arms equally. This proved to be a major challenge while chasing a toddler! I picked up a BabyBjorn for cheap at a thrift store but felt that it wasn't quite right for me. I didn't use it for longer than a month or so. After the recommendation of a friend and an opportunity to try her carrier out in person, I *invested* in a BabyHawk carrier. I do not use the word invested lightly--it was very pricey in my opinion. However, with two small children, what little time I thought I had was officially gone for good (or for at least 18 years) so I resigned myself to buying instead of making. Now that Rachael is walking, I find that I most use it when we are out and it's only practical to have the 1-kid stroller. (I think I have a collection of strollers to rival my collection of baby carriers!)
All in all, I love all of my carriers for different reasons...I can't wait for the opportunity to use them again!
November 5, 2008
Now that we have our second beautiful baby, we are really feeling the space crunch...more kids, more toys, right? But here's the truth--the girls really prefer to interact (read poke, sit on, hug, carry, wrestle, etc. all with the grace & gentleness of a 3 & 1 year old) with each other than with most toys that are so widely available...hmm, littering...our home. I have come to realize the more kids you have, the less toys you actually need.
What's the toy that my kids enjoy the most? It's each other!
Preschoolers are naturally observant and mine in particular has really been receptive to my directing her attention to the things that make fall…well, fall. This past weekend, while my husband was home caring for our sick baby, I was able to spend some one on one time with Sara. We took a “nature walk” around our little suburban block and talked all about the trees and the leaves. We found deer footprints and collected pinecones to make birdfeeders. When we ran errands in the afternoon, we bought about twenty pounds of apples that I am hoping she will help me can as apple butter later this week. We have been reading several fall-themed books as bedtime stories over the past several weeks.
While I have not personally tried any of these yet, I have been thinking about a few more ideas to infuse a fall theme into our ordinary routine.
--Make leaf rubbings with leaves found in our own yard
--Have Sara participate in fall chores like raking the leaves and cleaning out the garden
--Roast one of our Halloween pumpkins and eat it for dinner
I would love to hear what your family is doing to celebrate fall!
October 10, 2008
Yesterday I picked up my race packet...it reminded me of my experience at the one and only bridal show I could stomach. You think for a minute that you are about to do something that makes you unique, then you enter this twilight zone where everyone is doing the exact same thing you are, and for that matter probably about to do it even better than you ever could. I find it humbling to say the least.
To get myself in the spirit today I am wearing my race shirt to work...good thing it's Friday! I have my "13.1" sticker posted on my computer monitor and the map of the course posted right above my phone. I am looking forward to a day full of eating so I can have lots of energy...who doesn't love that?!
October 1, 2008
September 29, 2008
September 16, 2008
September 15, 2008
I am so thankful for the opportunity to be home with my children for the extra time that my part-time schedule allowed. As I return to my full time schedule in October, I see this as an opportunity to continue to thank God. I thank God for my husband who is the primary caregiver during the week. He gives me the security I need to leave home and go to work without spending all day stressing over the wellfare of my kids. He is a loving, devoted, protective father. I thank God for my mother-in-law who will be caring for the girls one day a week. She adores Sara and Rachael and it is such a gift for them to spend so much time with their grandparents. I thank God for the extra income that will come with full time status. Although not needed to meet our regular expenses, I am praying we will find a purpose for it that seeks to advance the needs of others over ourselves.
Please pray that as October approaches I will adapt well to this change and become content in the fact that I am doing work that is pleasing to God.
September 5, 2008
Between each of my children, I have made it a point to accomplish a life goal. Think "bucket list" but without the morbid connotation. After I had Sara, in typical Stanley style, a whole group of us took a motorcycle course. BIL Pat, SIL Kate, SIL Julie and I made up half of the class! I am proud, if not a little scared, to tell you that I got my motorcycle license while having only actually driven a motorcycle for less than 20 miles. Around a parking lot. Never exceeding 20 mph. Are you worried yet?! I can say with relative confidence that I do not have any intention of ever riding a motorcycle again. (You can start breathing now...)
The experience of completing the class was the end goal for me. I did something that scared me to death and I didn't quit. It is a few and far between opportunity to do something like that in one's adult life. Without anyone there to force you into a challenging situation except for yourself it's all too easy to wimp out. But as a parent, in the coming years I will be encouraging my children to do just that...grow and learn and try new things. Taking the motorcycle class was a great way to remind myself of the feelings that go along with that...fear, uncertainty, doubt, worry. May I strive every day to encourage my children with a compassion for these emotions as they are meeting life's challenges.
July 2, 2008
I love our local sno-cone stand...it is owned by the wife of one of the members of our local fire department. Since Scott's an officer there, we know the family pretty well. In fact, the stand sits in the parking lot of a shopping plaza in town that is owned and managed by another member of the department. I do love small town living! I only hope that in the not so distant future I too will be able to contribute to my community in a meaningful way.
Ah but enough musing...on to my favorite flavor... it's called Fire & Ice and it's a mix of cinnamon and spearamint...yum yum! I love the marshmallow topping too! I never knew this, but adding the marshmallow topping might be a regional thing...I had some friends in college that were totally grossed out by the idea...I can't imagine! The more marshmallow the better, if you ask me! The trick is to pace yourself so there's enough marshmallow for the last bite.
June 23, 2008
Here's how my garden looks now...please don't mind the decking materials, etc, in the background...that may be a topic for another post. Remember that my garden is only 4ft by 8ft and that I loosely plant according to the Square Foot Gardening method. According to this method, I really could have fit a lot more plants into my garden...I just ran out of ideas and the stores' supply dwindled as I decided I really could fit some more.
Here's an inventory of what I planted this year...
1 yellow squash
1 bush cucumber
2 bush beans
2 yellow bell pepper
2 red pepper
4 green pepper
3 cherry tomato
6 regular tomato
5 okra (1 of one kind and 4 of another)
Oh, and GREAT news! My sister-in-law has caught the gardening bug too! I am looking forward to her success!
June 20, 2008
Here's another thing I just love...I can just as easily carry my 2 1/2 year old as my 8 month old. Either child does equally well on the front or on the back.
So if you are a new Mom or a Mom to many little ones, give yourself a treat and check out the Babyhawk baby carrier!
June 19, 2008
A great question from a Mom to another Mom. I admit it...I sometimes feel desperate for time alone. Sometimes I feel exhausted, emotionally spent, and behind on almost everything in my house. (The being behind part is more than a feeling...it's REALITY!) But even as I daydream about how nice it would be to have Scott send me out of the house with instructions not to return till after nap times, I am struck with a sense of loneliness. I simply adore the company of my children. They are sweet and energetic, funny and inquisitive. They make sure my full attention is on them...exactly where it should be.
But lets face it, there are things that are easier done sans 2 year old and 8 month old. Should the opportunity ever arise for a several hour period without children and I enter a bumbling state of deliriousness in my driveway at the endless possibilities, I have made myself a list of possible ways to spend my time...
take a quilting class (I actually checked into this one but it will have to wait till fall)
browse the library (My current strategy is to request books online and pick them up right as we are breezing through to check out the last unchewed cardboard book in the county!)
try on clothes (Though I have to admit...watching Sara try on my-sized bathing suits with me the last time I attempted clothes shopping with kids was awfully cute!)
clean my house with no one else there (Would this even make a difference? I'm willing to think it might!)
grocery shop (No more super duper school bus cart for me...it's the four wheeled cart or BUST!)
How do you spend your time away from your children?
June 16, 2008
Around the beginning of this year, we had decided that the fact that we were still paying on school loans given our income was kind of silly and we really just need to get rid of them. To that end, we have been making substantial additional payments each month. I am proud to announce that we paid off Scott's loan as of last month! WOOHOO, does that ever feel good! We still have two of mine to go and I was all ready to put the additional monthly payment toward the next loan...but...
we had a car scare on the way home from a trip to NC two weeks ago...think 105 degree heat, I-95, no AC, a car that won't go above 30, a toddler, and a baby. You get the idea...not pretty. The car that we were planning to replace in about a year became the car that now must be replaced in a month.
Fast forward through an entire week of car dealership hell...don't get me started--I don't even want to go there...and we are now the proud new owner of a 2005 Ford Expedition.
Sooo, now the real question comes back to the budget...you remember, that never-to-be-written-down style of financial planning that has sufficed for the first 5 years of our marriage...I think I might have to pick up the pen and paper and do some work. Can we manage the car payment in addition to the additional payment we are sending to school loans? Are we willing to give up anything to continue to afford both? How in the world were we even doing the extra payment before?
I am a truly blessed person to even be faced with this dilemma...as I write down a budget for our family for the first time in my life, I will be in thankful prayer to God, asking for the best way to use the blessings He has provided.
My Dad is...
stronger than a puppy dog.
smarter than a toothbrush.
braver than a lion.
So there you have it...according to Sara, Scott is officially smarter than a toothbrush!
June 9, 2008
The distribution site is a church about 25 minutes from my house. A very nice gentleman always meets me at the door of my car to help me shuttle the girls inside and then helps me carry the food/kids back out to my car. Cheap food and great service...you can't beat that! Well...maybe cheap food, great service, and a more timely post about the whole experience might be better :) I will work on that for next month, as well as I am hoping to begin a series on how I incorporate the food I get through the SHARE program into our menus throughout the month.
a negative or hostile state of mind due to lack of adequate sustenance
Readers beware, I am often prone to foodtudes...so much so, it seems, that this state of being got its own new word in the English language courtesy of my dear husband.
The first step in dealing with something is to give it a name...
June 4, 2008
May 25, 2008
May 23, 2008
Speaking of Rachael, she turned 8 months old this past week, and I really wanted to post about that too. She's now crawling pretty well, and her new favorite thing is to wave. She waves at absolutely everything! She is still as vocal as ever, and I believe she and Bella had their first fight over a toy. All Kate and I could do was laugh at them as they were shrieking and casting the evil eye at each other. In the end, it turned out neither really wanted the toy and they went their separate ways to go drool on something else.
Sara is making progress in the potty training world. We checked out this video called "Potty Power" from the library...what a riot! I highly suggest Mom and Dad preview the video first...you don't want your uncontrolled laughter to in any way distract said 2 year old from the great message of getting Potty Power! But I do have a question...is it really considered being potty trained if said 2 year old is sitting on the potty and yet still manages to pee all over the floor...nearly every time?! Maybe so much bathroom cleaning is the reason I haven't gotten around to posting! Now the new lesson is "Potty Posture" aka how to sit so the pee actually goes into the potty...she keeps correcting me..."No, Mommy...not Potty Posture...me have Potty POWER!" Apparently the lesson is lost on her.
So hopefully over the long holiday weekend I will have a chance to post some pictures and write something insightful as opposed to this general rambling. Keeping fingers crossed, but definitely not holding my breath...
May 16, 2008
WOOHOO!!! My sister-in-law, Kate, is EXPECTING Baby #2!!! YIPPEEE!!!
If you have any creative names you called your precious babies before they are born, stop by her blog and leave her a comment. The ones we have used for our girls were Seahorse and Jellybean.
May 14, 2008
May 12, 2008
May 8, 2008
I am incredibly proud of my nephew and have been so blessed to watch him grow up and mature. Through his one simple phone call to me, he demonstrated so many admirable qualities. He found joy and satisfaction in a job well done, even if the end result wasn't a win. He recognized his contribution to the team as a whole. He showed that he values his family enough to call us to tell us about what is important in his life. I am truly honored that he thought of me as a person he would want to share his successes with. Thank you, Danny!
May 7, 2008
May 6, 2008
May 5, 2008
Sara's favorite part is to "roll roll roll."
Macaroni & Cheese
Leftovers (Lasagna, Potato Leek Soup)
Fruit (Apples, Oranges)
Monday--Spaghetti & Meatballs
Tuesday--Chicken Tenders, Rice, Sweet Potato Patties
Wedenesday--Grilled Brats w/Peppers & Onions, Baked Beans, Potato Salad
Thursday--Salmon, Salad, Baked Potatoes
Friday--Leftovers or Pizza
Saturday--Dinner w/Mom at her house
Sunday--Breaded Fried Pork Chops, Green Beans, Stuffing