Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekend Review - Times 2!

My weekends are ending short again, since I'm back on the academic schedule and working 12 hour Sundays. So we squeeze as much as we can into Friday afternoons and Saturdays.

Friday we went apple picking at a sweet little orchard (Deer Run, if you're local) about a mile from our new house.

We picked 2 bushels of apples, and I'm guessing next week I'll go get one more. It was SO different from the orchards near our old home - you really had to scavenge the trees for the good ones there - here the branches were just loaded with perfect apples.

As usual, I hit the market Saturday morning. I think I need to start bringing my cart with me - I seem to be filling up with more heavy things now!

Colin's soccer season is winding down - he has three games left. He's still on the team from our old district - next year we'll move him to this district.

The kids left with my father after the game to go to a fall festival near his house and spend some time with grandma and grandpa. I love that they're so close to all their grandparents.

The afternoon was spent at our house - Kevins parents came over. I am so, so blessed to have such amazing in laws.

My mother in law and I spent the afternoon inside, drinking wine, chatting, canning applesauce and making chicken and dumplings for dinner.

The guys spent the afternoon outside with tools and wood building our new compost area.

It was a lovely afternoon - each of the older parents passing down their knowledge to us, I wish I could have captured the feel of the afternoon in a single hallmark snapshot! :)

After they left I decided I had time for a little more canning - so filled up 6 quart jars with apple pie filling. I apparently filled them too high because 4 of the bottoms broke off in the canner. Another one was bursting at the seal when it came out - so that was poured out and became apple crisp. I was slightly upset - but this is my learning and experimenting year with canning. I have more jars. I have lots more apples. And now I know better.

It was in the 80's last week - but the last couple of days have brought the autumn winds in with them. I'm loving it. Cider. Using the woodstove. Sweaters. Yay!

I'm trying my hand at knitting yet again. I think maybe next week I'll get some crochet tools and see if I have any luck with that. One of these days I'll get it!

And if you're interested:

I just love the vintage/war era canning ads!


32 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon or nutmeg (I use cinnamon)

Place apples and water in pot and bring to a boil - simmer about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The apples will mush together as you stir - I mash them just a little bit with the spoon leaving a slightly chunky sauce. Stir in sugar and cinnamon until it dissolves.

Process in a water-bath canner for 20 minutes. I got 4 quart jars and 2 pint jars.

Apple Pie Filling

6-7 quarts apples - peeled and sliced (place in water and lemon juice to prevent browning while sauce cooks)
10 cups water
1 cup corn starch

3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt

*In place of the above seasonings I used an apple pie spice I got from our farmers market*

Blend all dry ingredients and mix well.

Add water and bring to a boil (you can add a couple teaspoons of lemon juice at this point too - I didn't) The sauce will thicken nicely in a couple of minutes.

Pack apples into quart jars and cover with the hot sauce. LEAVE ONE INCH HEADSPACE! This is where I went -oh-so-wrong. I left about a half inch.

Process in hot-water bath for 20 minutes.

To make pie: Bake in double 9'' pie crust - 25 minutes covered with foil and then about 20 more with no foil to brown.

You can also make apple crisp from the filling:

Apple Crisp using Apple Pie Filling

Use prepared apple pie filling

Pour into 9 inch square pan

In a bowl mix:

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oat
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
*again, I just used apple pie spice in place of cinnamon and nutmeg*
1/3 cup softened butter

When mixed and crumbly - spread over pie filling - bake at 375 for 35 minutes.

Bonus! a couple of scenes from 2 weekends ago:

Sunset from our porch

The fire pit

We spent 2 weekends ago clearing an area of the woods with some dead trees and a falling down tree fort - the boys cut and sawed and pulled stuff out of the woods and I drank wine and cooked ribs :)

The recipe was wonderful and I hope to post it later this week. That area of woods is going to be an ongoing project - but eventually we'll get the kids a play set and fort. There's tons of old farm equipment, an old stone foundation and some other neat treasures - like this stove that I'm going to pull up and out and fill with flowers

Coming later this week:

Details on what this becomes

And - what's inside this box?!

Happy Autumn!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Breathe it all in slow

Autumn is my favorite time of year (if only winter weren't lurking around the corner!) We've been busy, busy wrapping up the end of summer and birthday season, but I think we're just starting to fall into a routine - thanks in part to the upcoming cozy season, I think!

I have a couple things I want to share this week, but for now - in honor of the Autumn equinox - some fall inspirations.

"A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air."
- Eric Sloane

"Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity;
but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. What man can stand with autumn
on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling
hills that reach to the far horizon?
- Hal Borland

"Come said the wind to
the leaves one day,
Come o're the meadows
and we will play.
Put on your dresses
scarlet and gold,
For summer is gone
and the days grow cold."
- A Children's Song of the 1880's

"Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn."
- Elizabeth Lawrence

"As earth's treasures have all been blessed
And gnarled roots compel us to our quest
Gather, well, the harvest.
May autumn's bounty fill and nurture you!"

How are you planning on celebrating the equinox? Are you planning on celebrating?

We finished and found chairs for our outdoor table - if the rain stops (!) We'll eat out there - with a mostly seasonal local dinner, and perhaps some homemade wine for the adults.

We don't pray but here's a lovely (pagan) prayer I found:

Mabon Balance Prayer

Equal hours of light and darkness
we celebrate the balance of Mabon
and ask the gods to bless us.
For all that is bad, there is good.
For that which is despair, there is hope.
For the moments of pain, there are moments of love.
For all that falls, there is the chance to rise again.
May we find balance in our lives
as we find it in our hearts.

I don't follow any religion or craft - but I find myself often interested in wiccan and pagan lore - for the close affinity to nature.

What is Mabon?

Mabon, (pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn) is the Autumn Equinox. The Autumn Equinox divides the day and night equally, and we all take a moment to pay our respects to the impending dark. We also give thanks to the waning sunlight, as we store our harvest of this year's crops. The Druids call this celebration, Mea'n Fo'mhair, and honor the The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are appropriate at this time. Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone, and her consort the God as he prepares for death and re-birth.

Information found here

And some recipes - should you decide to celebrate

Spiced Apple Cider

1 gallon naturally sweet apple cider
1 cup brown sugar
4 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 Tablespoon whole cloves
1 Tablespoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon mace (optional)

Tie cinnamon, cloves, allspice and mace together in cheesecloth or use a coffee filter tied with string. Combine cider and brown sugar in a large pot. Add spices. Bring mixture to a slow boil. Then turn heat down and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove spice bag from pot. Serve hot cider in mugs. Spiced Apple Cider may be kept warm in a crock-pot (slow cooker) on low setting. Yield 18 servings

Dark Mother Bread - Mabon Honey Wheat Bread

Serve warm with herbed oils for dipping, or with a big scoop of apple butter

Make this either in your bread machine, or by kneading it by hand.

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 30 minutes


  • 2 C. warm water
  • 1 Tbs. active dry yeast
  • 1/3 C. honey
  • 3 C. whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 C. vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 4 C. all purpose baking flour


Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add honey and mix well.

Stir in the whole wheat flour, salt, vegetable oil, and butter and mix until a stiff dough has formed. Gradually work the all-purpose flour into the mix, one cup at a time.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured countertop, and knead for about fifteen minutes. When it reaches the point where it's sort of elastic, shape it into a ball and place it into an oiled bowl. Cover with a warm, damp cloth, and allow to sit and rise until it's doubled in size -- usually about 45 minutes.

Punch the dough down and cut in half, so you can make two loaves of bread. Place each half in a greased loaf pan, and allow to rise. Once the dough has risen an inch or two above the top of the loaf pan, pop them in the oven. Bake at 375 for half an hour, or until golden brown at the top.

When you remove the loaves from the oven, allow to cool for about fifteen minutes before removing from the pan. If you like, brush some melted butter over the top of the hot loaves, to add a pretty golden glaze to them.

Note - If you're doing this in a bread machine, remember, the recipes makes two loaves. Halve everything if you're allowing the machine to do the mixing. If you hand mix it, you can still drop the single-loaf balls of dough into the machine to bake.

no images belong to me, they were all found on the inspiration boards on tumblr.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'll tumble for you

So - I collect things. Not just in real life, but online too. I have bookmarks at work. Bookmarks at home. E-mails full of links, images saved.

All for future use or inspiration - but because I'm not organized (kind of like real life!) most of those links are never seen again, and certainly aren't used for inspiration.

Then I found tumblr (cue angelic music)

I wish I knew about it when I was wedding planning!

You can check out my tumblr here - then make your own and share with me!

A Ribbon At A Time

Sunday, September 13, 2009

We're not in Kansas anymore

Or maybe we're somewhere more like Kansas. Actually we're just not in suburbia anymore. And that's becoming more and more clear! This next year or two will sure be interesting as we learn to adjust to a semi-rural kind of life! I hope you join us on the journey.

So far we have learned:

We were blissfully ignorant about our water usage. We also took for granted that it didn't smell. Now we collect rainwater and are learning to live with water that smells like sulfur though we're assured it's (just) iron. It's getting easier everyday, but it was a bit of a shock!

We know where all of our poop goes. I have to say - I never gave a whole lot of thought to that before.

We don't agree on outdoor projects. I want quick, easy, cheap and don't mind a homemade rustic look. He wants to DIY it too, but on a much grander scale.

Chopping down trees is fun.

Having a giant bonfire in your yard is pretty fantastic.

Watching the sun set over the hills is easily the best part of everyday (especially when you add a glass of wine in with it)

Sometimes old woods have interesting old things. Like well pumps and old stone foundations.

We don't know yet what is creepy and what is normal (but still pretty creepy): Like a stranger coming up to your door at 2:30 in the morning because he's running out of gas. My vote is for really creepy, but I'm being assured by several people that live in rural areas that while the timing is certainly odd, that strangers looking for gas is in fact, very normal.

I think I'm ready to get that dog we were talking about now. : /

And, I also realized today, that our new town has about 5000 people in it. In the whole town. My high school from the town we just moved from has 8000 students in it. That's right, there were more people in my high school than in my entire town now.

That's a thought to get used to!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Adventures in Canning - Peach Jam (and more!)

So I picked up a box of peaches from the farmers market this week, I'll probably grab more next Saturday since I've already used almost all 15 lbs on peach jam and peach cobbler (which I haven't tasted yet - but doesn't look picture pretty)

Peach Jam
Recipe found at

5 lbs peaches (wash, peel, pit and chop - about 10 cups worth)
3 teaspoons lemon juice
5 cups sugar

Place all ingredients in a large glass bowl and let stand for 1 hour.

Transfer to a large stainless or enamel pot. (make sure all the sugar gets scooped out the bottom - I missed some and added it in partway through boiling)

Bring to a full boil - stir often and then constantly as it gets closer to gel point about 25-30 minutes.

Remove and skim off foam (I didn't. I forgot. Oops)

Ladle into clean hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.

Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Evan said it was ok. Colin spit it out. I love it. Of course these are the same kids that didn't like the blueberry jam, but came home raving about it on their sandwiches on the 1st day of school!

and from peach jam came Peach/Mango Iced Tea

I boiled the peaches for about a minute each to get the skins off - which left me with a peach (slightly flavored) water. So I boiled that back up and poured it over a few Mango-Peach Tea bags I had - added a dash of sugar, put it in the fridge and ended up with some tasty Iced Tea!

Since we've moved onto well water, I've become more aware of our water usage and re-use as much as I can. I used rainwater for the hot water bath for canning, and then when it cooled used it to water the plants.

But - back to speaking of Blueberry Jam - I owe some recipes!

Blueberry Jam
From Home Made in the Kitchen

2 pints blueberries
4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Combine blueberries and sugar in non reactive dutch oven (I used a big ol' pot on the burner) Mash about 2/3 of the berries to release their juices, leaving the remaining fruit whole. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar completely. Reduce heat to maintain a constant low boil and cook for 15 minutes, gently scrape the sides and bottom of the pot every 5 minutes or so with a wooden spoon so incorporate any sugar crystals into the mixture. At the last moment, stir in lemon juice and zest.

Sterilize 4 1/2 pint jars. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

The recipe says it yields 4 1/2 pint jars. I got almost 3. I sealed 2 and put the almost full one in the fridge.

I'll make this one again, my kids loved it - and they're increasingly picky.

Cherry Vodka
From Home Made in the Kitchen

I wish I had discovered how much I love sour cherries before the very end of the season! At least I know for next year!

About 21/3 - 23/4 cup pitted sour cherries
1 cup sugar
2 cups vodka

Put the cherries into a one quart mason jar and cover with the sugar. Seal the jar and shake several times until cherries are well coated with sugar.
Add vodka, reseal and shake a few more times to mix. Set aside in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks (I stored ours in the fridge, because it was sooooo hot and humid here).
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a 4 cup glass measuring cup. If desired transfer to a decanter.
Ready to drink immediately and good for 2-3 months.

I'm drinking the sour cherry vodka with some Sprite as I type this. It's been just about 4 weeks since I made it and this is my first taste. It's really good and I'm thinking it should work with things like blueberries and raspberries too, yeah? It's good - this one's a keeper for sure. mmmmmm.

This weekend: Ribs and clearing out some woods behind the house

Next week: Fall slowcooking begins!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fall Cooking

So, the summer is coming to an end. Every year I vow to make the most of it, enjoy it more - and every year I'm left wondering where it went and how it went so fast!

But. Fall is my absolute favorite season. I don't know why. The smell of new school supplies? (I'm actually not kidding there. There's something about brand new supplies that just makes me happy!) The leaves? The scent of fall in the air? The opportunity for change? So many people leave resolutions for the New Year. I'm sure it's because of the school calender - but every fall (even 10 years out of school) still feels like a new beginning to me. A fresh start.

And then there's fall cooking. I'm not quite ready to end our summer favorites yet, but soon it's on to soups and chowders and crock pot cooking. mmmm.

And of course, we've just started school lunches - oh boy! The joys(ha!) of packing two lunches every morning.

I'm a meal planner. I've been slacking - but I'm usually very organized. I keep a notebook with my grocery list for each week. I spend time finding recipes for meals and checking sale ads.

It's time for me to get re-organized. I'm on my academic work schedule again - the kids and Kev are in school. We need to fall back into our routines and I need to streamline cooking and grocery shopping again.

So, to re-inspire and re-organize me I think for the next couple of weeks my focus here will be on cooking and recipes for fall and school. I'll share some of my favorite websites, tried and true recipes and some new ones along the way.

And share with me your favorite fall comforts!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Today we all woke up at 6 am to start our day. We moved about 2 weeks ago and today the kids start at their new school. At our old district they got picked up at about 9am. Here, it's 7:15. That's going to take some getting used to!

They were pretty excited - they're ready. Mama? Not so much. I mean, excited for them? Yes. But it's still hard letting your babies walk onto a bus full of strangers. I still have butterflies in my stomach and I'm anxious to see how their day went.

First grade and Sixth grade already. The years just speed right on by, don't they?