Preserving food

When you first started preserving food for winter, what did you choose to put up? How do you know what you will eat come winter? I have been asking myself this a lot lately. Sometimes it is difficult to get in the mindset of what we eat in winter around here. But, I tend to go back to previous meal plans and hope for the best.

Right now it is tomato season. We are getting several pounds of tomatoes in our CSA share each week, and the tomatoes in the garden are ripening quite well. Not an overwhelming amount, but just enough. I am straddling the fine line between gorging myself on fresh tomatoes (probably my most favorite food on the planet) and taking those fresh tomatoes and turning them into something for the dead of winter. We eat salsa pretty much every week, so obviously I am trying to can as much salsa as possible, but I also like to have crushed tomatoes on hand for soup, pasta sauce, and chili. Now the question is, should I put up anything else that has tomatoes as a base?

I don't eat ketchup, but my husband does, so should I make a batch of ketchup? I only use BBQ sauce in the summer, should I make homemade BBQ sauce? Looking through the canning book, there are so many amazing recipes! Chutneys, and relishes, and jams, the possibilities are endless. I fully expect that come March I would eat just about anything that I canned, even if it is ketchup straight from the jar, but I really want to put up what we will eat, and most importantly, what we will miss when it runs out. Do you have a go to tomato product? I am considering making pasta sauce because we use that quite a bit as well, but I don't know if I want to be bothered with the whole process of making the pasta sauce and letting it simmer all day to thicken up etc. etc. You may have noticed that I am not a patient person :-) Surprising considering all the extra hoops I go through to eat whole foods...

Apple season will be here soon enough, and I am looking forward to putting up apple jelly and apple butter (which is a regular condiment for the muffins I seem to make most of the winter). And canning isn't the only option, I am trying my hand at drying (in the oven) and also freezing veggies, which I always try to do anyways. It is hard though, to get all of those fresh veggies from the garden, CSA, or Farmers' Market and then can the majority of them for winter...when all I want is to eat them raw and fresh. Fine line, fine line :-)

Back to School

It seems like all the blogs I read are talking about kids going back to school. I figured that I would jump on the bandwagon! I will let you in on kids are not going back to school...they are too little :-) Technically, Emma could enroll in pre-school this year, but that definitely is not going to happen. I almost had a heart attack sending her to VBS at church for a week, not sure I could handle sending her to an actual school...for an entire year.

If you have read my blog at all, or know me, you probably know that I *plan* to homeschool. I like the idea of having my babes home with me, and for us getting to learn together. I also like the opportunity that homeschooling allows as far as what we are studying and that I can help her excel in areas that she loves, and let her work through areas she may not love at a slower pace.

One thing I do know for certain, is that we will be schooling all year round, which is why I thought about writing this back to school post. I don't really foresee us taking a break from learning. Of course we will have little breaks throughout the year, but I hope to consistently keep going through the year so we don't forget what we are learning and are able to have a more relaxed schedule. Will my kids hate me for it? Perhaps. But, I think that in the long run it will be good. It will give us more opportunity to study something for longer if we love it, and it will allow them to really flesh out their interests. At least that is my hope!

Is there anyone else out there that does do the schooling year round bit? Or am I setting myself up for a disaster once my kids are older? And parents of kids in school, do you continue to work with your kids throughout the summer months to try and help them not forget what they have learned over the previous year? I'm always interested to hear other's thoughts on the education front :-)

I am definitely in for it...

Some may be saying, "why did you run and get the camera when your child is clearly on the arm of a couch?!" is moments like these that I have to remember when I can't figure out why my house isn't clean :-) I have no idea how he got up there, last thing I knew he wasn't able to climb up on the couches...and although Emma is in the picture, she most definitely wasn't in there when he climbed up. Oh, and please ignore the dust on my side tables :-)

My week in pictures

I had a couple others, but for some reason am not able to transfer them from my sd card onto my computer. It was definitely a good week of food!

child proofing

Have you done it? I bet even if you have, you haven't really gotten every. single. thing. put away or blocked. I thought I had done it. I already have one child who has been scooting/walking/getting into things for a couple of years now. Then I had my son.

It seems everyday he is able to find some new thing that I have not blocked off. Or the things that I thought I had child proofed, like the outlets, are literally child's play to him. I bought these when Emma was a baby, and they worked out nicely. I was even able to take them out of the outlet when I needed to use the outlet...unlike these ones where you have to pry your fingernail under and hope you don't get electrocuted. Not with Jack though. Nope, I have to put the outlet protector in, and then block it off with a chair, or a box so he doesn't try to remove them.

Or the side tables next to my living room furniture. Emma never tried to pull them over...but Jack...Jack thinks they should be laying down. Totally fine if he wants to pull them over, they aren't fancy, just side tables. But, when 3 full Klean Kanteens are sitting on said side table...and he pulls the table isn't such a pretty sight!

My final problem? The stairs. When Emma was a baby we hadn't moved into the upstairs of our house. It was still blocked off as a duplex. We did eventually move up there, but we only used one bedroom, and it wasn't suitable for her to be upstairs. I always blocked off the hallway where the two parts of our house were split. Unfortunately, this doorway needs to be replaced, and in the mean time it is an exposed door frame. Emma just ignored it. Jack tries to rip it to shreds with his bare hands. Now we block off the entire room connected to the doorway, our dining room/library. The only problem? Sometimes I have to run upstairs to get something, and forget to shut the gate. Man...for a little guy that doesn't walk yet, he sure moves fast. In fact, I am looking forward to him walking, because at least it will slow him down a little bit :-)

So if you ever visit me, just ignore the many baby gates, boxes of random books crazy outlet covers and strategically placed furniture. It is all for the safety of my second child...any tips? My mom says she just stuck me in the pack and play, whether or not I liked it...I was safer there :-)

Amazing Vacation!

We had the most amazing vacation ever! We haven't been on a real vacation since we took Emma to Disney when she was one (highly recommend that by the way!) We had the opportunity to rent a friend's camp on Madawaska Lake in Stockholm Maine...yes...that far up in Maine. I had actually expected to be completely cut off from the rest of the world. Surprisingly, that wasn't the case. The city of Caribou was just a short 15 minute drive south, and then the much larger city of Presque Isle was an additional 15 minutes from Caribou. Caribou had a Tim Horton's with free wi-fi, which I utilized on a couple of occasions...just to make sure the sky wasn't falling with all the debt ceiling stuff you know!

So here is our week in pictures!

Getting ready to go...we packed little yaris as much as humanly possible :-)

The camp!

Where we spent most of our time - the porch...

and the lake...

Our view at sunset:

Scenery while driving around New Sweden:

One of the favorite places to sit and watch the lake:

First s'mores got messy...

Emma decided to feed the ducks one day...they decided to come at the exact. same. time. every day following...

My little dare devil would scoot right out up to his neck in the lake if we turned our head for one second...perhaps life jackets would have been appropriate at this point...

Can I also include escape artist? We didn't have enough room for baby gates, so we took all the chairs and tried to block things wasn't as successful as I had hoped...

Overall, it was an amazing, relaxing week and we can't wait to go back!

Canning tomatoes

Is it strange that I am looking forward to canning this year? Last year I was able to buy 100lbs of tomatoes for pretty cheap...and I actually got closer to 130lbs. I made quite a bit of salsa and canned the rest as crushed tomatoes. I didn't have nearly enough. If anything, I hoarded the stuff that I canned, and instead bought replacement salsa and did without canned tomatoes.

A couple years ago I became aware of the dangers of BPA. I'm assuming that it was right around the time that everyone became aware of the problems with BPA in canned goods. I vowed to not buy canned tomatoes anymore. That was a definite challenge. We go through a lot of tomato products in a year. In the winter I can easily use two quarts of salsa a week. And crushed tomatoes? Well I seem to go through a lot of those as well...soups and chili...those are my winter staples.

This year I had planned to grow as many tomatoes as possible so that I could produce all of our canned tomato needs this year. I was also planning on trying my hand at ketchup and BBQ sauce, two things I don't use a lot of, but both are hard to find without the dreaded high fructose corn syrup. Unfortunately, I don't know if I will ever produce enough tomatoes to satisfy my desire for tomato products. So I am hoping that my local farmers' market, and also the local fish monger (who sells a large amount of produce his father farms), will be able to supply me.

Am I alone in my desire for copious amounts of tomato products? It seems like I have a need for them above most others. I have a very good friend who doesn't like tomato products outside of ketchup. Maybe it is my need for spice. Perhaps instead of tomatoes, I should really be concentrating on hot peppers, and then pickling them for winter use...that's a thought.


This week we received cabbage and green onions in our CSA basket. I love cabbage. I had thought about trying to make sauerkraut, but instead was inspired by a recipe I had seen on Barefoot by the Sea for a spicy cole slaw. It was absolutely delicious! I love anything with spice, and this was an easy dish that hit the spot. Of course you are supposed to serve it with pulled pork or some yumminess like that, however, this ended up being our main dish on a warm summer eve.

Maybe it doesn't look as good as it tastes, but the recipe is definitely worth repeating. And just an FYI, I definitely used more than one chipotle in adobo. I can't get enough spice...even when it is hot outside :-)