Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil Winner!

Hello all!  I just wanted to announce the winner for the Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil.  That would be entry #12 Gregg.  Gregg if you could please e-mail me at with your full name and address as well as your e-mail address, I can then forward it on to Tropical Traditions.  Thank you to everyone who entered!

I have another great giveaway going on for a sample box of artisan treats from Petit Amuse.  So head on over and enter!

100 pounds of tomatoes is a lot

For the past few years, I have been lucky enough to buy tomatoes for canning from a local fish monger whose dad grows a lot of fresh veggies for their store.  This year was no exception.  So, for $.50/lb I load them up and bring them home (well, Matt actually does that part) for a long weekend of processing.  This year I also had a lot of my own tomatoes to use as well.  Maybe a total of about 130 lbs of tomatoes...that is a lot of processing.

I started out on Saturday morning with my salsa.  I had plenty of green peppers and jalapenos from my garden, so for a couple batches I only needed to use onions from the farmers market, everything else was my own.  Wow, that was satisfying!  By the end of Saturday I was wiped and my hands were officially burning (they are still a bit tingly - next year I will wear gloves when cutting the jalapenos).  I was able to can 18 pints of salsa though, and that made me happy.  I think this is the most salsa I have canned in one year, typically I start to lose steam around the 10-12 pint mark.  Pre-cutting all the veggies for the 4 batches and putting them in containers so I could just dump it in the pot with the tomatoes helped my cause.

Then yesterday I spent the day doing crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Let me tell you, I always run out of crushed tomatoes.  Every year it is the same, I never have enough.  Well, now I know why I don't have enough.  It takes a lot of tomatoes to make 7 quarts of crushed tomatoes...I guess I didn't realize that going in.  Not that I don't still have plenty of tomatoes, but the crushed tomatoes seem to be more time consuming. By the time I cut up enough tomatoes to fill my stock pot, I am about to pass out and ready to move to something different!

All in all I was able to can 18 pints of salsa, 7 quarts of crushed tomatoes, and 7 pints of tomato sauce.  I am adding that to my 13 half pints of peach salsa and 8 half pints of peach BBQ sauce.  It doesn't seem like much when you list it out, but it will provide quite a few meals for my family this winter.  I have enough tomatoes to make another 10 pints or so of tomato sauce I think, and then I will call tomato canning season over.

This year is by far the most I have done canning wise, and I am so happy about it.  It gives me such a sense of accomplishment to see the jars lining up on my table and on the shelves.  I am already starting to plan for apple season which will be upon us in no time.

What are you canning or preserving these days?

I am linking up to the Barn Hop and Rural Thursday.

Petit Amuse Review and Giveaway

Have you heard of Petit Amuse?  They are a small company that searches out artisan producers of food, and then allows us the opportunity to try out some awesome samples through their sample box service.  From their site:

Petit-Amusenoun\pə-ˈtētˈ ä-ˌmüz\

Also known as amuse-bouche. A French term that literally means "mouth amusement."These are tiny bites of food served before a meal to whet the palate and invigorate the appetite. They're more whimsical than hors d'oeuvres, and smaller than appetizers.

I was sent a sample box to try out and review here, and it definitely did not disappoint!  In my box I received

Ice Wine Jelly from Caramoomel
Garukabar from Garukabars
Cha-chas from Lark Fine Foods
Salted Rosemary Shortbread from Lark Fine Foods
Movie Lover's Popcorn from Oogies Gourmet Popcorn

I will be honest, these samples did not last long with my family.  It seemed as soon as I opened the box, everything was claimed.  I think that my favorite was definitely the salted rosemary shortbread.  It wasn't something that I was expecting, and it was delicious!  Emma loved the garukabar.

In the box also came a little card that lists what each item is and where it came from.  The best part of this was that on the back there was a list of all the ingredients for each sample.

Their sample box service is $10/month and each month you get a box of tasty samples.  This isn't the only way to order these unique treats though.  They also have a marketplace which you can look at everything they offer and order it for a flat shipping rate - seriously awesome!

Now for the exciting part!  Petit Amuse has offered up one of their sample boxes for one of my readers!  Please just enter the rafflecopter below.  This is open only to US residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was sent this sample box for free in exchange for my review.  The opinions are my own.

Linking up at Giveaway Day

Homestead Happenings

I had a very productive week last week, and also have some sad news on one of hens, so let's get to it!

Last week I received the box of peaches I had ordered from the co-op downtown.  I was so excited to find a good source of local(ish) peaches!  A girl can dream of having all the tropical fruits in the world, but when one lives in Maine, one gets very good at accepting berries and apples as the fruit of choice.  And don't get me wrong, I love berries and apples...a lot!  But, there are times when I wish I could also have a banana tree in my back yard :-)

With all those peaches I was able to make 13 jars of peach salsa and 8 jars of (very spicy) peach BBQ sauce.  I still have enough peaches to make another batch of peach salsa or another batch of slightly less spicy BBQ sauce, but we might just eat them.  They are absolutely delicious, and perfectly sweet.

I was able to use all of my own green peppers and jalapeno peppers for the recipes, which made me extremely happy.  I did not grow onions, so those came from the farmers' market.  I still have PLENTY of jalapeno peppers left to work with for regular salsa as well.  In fact, I think I have enough jalapenos to do next years supply of salsa as well!

this isn't all of them - i have a gallon freezer bag full and already frozen :-)

We dug up our small planting of purple carrots this week as well.  I didn't get a ton, but from what Emma planted, I think we did amazingly well.  These will most likely be eaten raw, because Emma doesn't eat cook carrots - not sure why, she just doesn't.

In other news, we also had to say good bye to one of our easter egger hens.  On Friday morning I went out to give them some kitchen scraps, and noticed that she was straining a lot, and looked to be pushing out a very red egg.  She is several weeks younger than the white chickens, and I knew it was way too early for her to actually be laying eggs.

A lot of googling took place, and I finally found something that made sense.  A prolapsed oviduct.  Her insides were falling out of her.  And I felt horrible.

There were only two options really.  One was to take her to the vet, but typically when a hen has a prolapsed oviduct, even if it is repaired, it will most likely happen again.  The other option was what we chose, to kill her so that she wouldn't get an infection and be in pain.

Even though I strive to be vegan leaning, it has never been because of not wanting to kill an animal for meat, so I was surprised at how difficult this was.  I think that it was made even more difficult by Emma, who had an amazingly rough time of it, and was only calmed when I distracted her with news of us visiting her Aunt and Uncle for their baby shower.

I knew that we might have some issues with health, but I still wasn't prepared, and I am not sure how you could be prepared for that either.  I wanted to write this post so that hopefully it can help someone else when they are searching for "hen that is trying to lay red egg."

Have any of you ever had issues with this before?

Also, don't forget to enter the giveaway for Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil, it is a great giveaway!

I am linking up at the Barn Hop.

what i am eating #5

I love cooking and eating, and I especially love looking at pictures of food!  If you love food as much as I do, please add your food pictures/recipes/food related posts to the linky below.  All you have to do is link back to this blog post from your blog.  I look forward to seeing what everyone else is eating this week!

This week I have been eating a lot of this:

Scrambled eggs with veggies in a tortilla wrap (with hot sauce - yes).  Absolutely delicious.  Doubly delicious if the eggs are from your very own chickens!  Plus, it is an easy way to get my kids to eat veggies.  They love eggs, seriously, and will eat most things combined with eggs.  So easy meals all around then :-)

I am also turning a lot of this:

into this:

This is my "summer fresh tomato sauce."  And typically gets eaten plain by me, but on pasta for everyone else.  Super simple, just saute garlic, onions, peppers, zucchini and summer squash, then add chopped tomatoes and let cook down a bit.  Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes are my main seasonings.  There was a time that I would put parmasan cheese or mozzarella on it, not as much anymore unfortunately :-)  It tastes so fresh, and with all those veggies, is very filling.

So, come link up to what you are eating this week!  I love to see what is on everyone else's plates!

Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil Review and Giveaway

Coconut oil has really made a big comeback in the past few years.  It can be used for so many different things.  I have been trying to use organic virgin coconut oil recently for cooking and baking.  I was so excited to have the opportunity to try Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil from Tropical Traditions.

I have to say that this coconut oil was some of the best that I have ever tried.  It had an almost sweetness to it, which was a huge hit with the muffins that I make for the kids.  I used it drizzled on my roasted veggies, I used it in salad dressing, I even used it to make my homemade deodorant.  It was a wonderful addition to all of these things.  I think that by far my favorite way to use the coconut oil, though, was to make my popcorn on the stove top - seriously delicious!  I will definitely be getting this in the future, and absolutely recommend it to you as well!

As an added bonus, I have the opportunity to gift one of you, my faithful readers, with some awesome coconut oil!

Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil - 32 oz.

Win 1 quart of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil!

Tropical Traditions is America’s source for coconut oil. Their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is hand crafted in small batches by family producers, and it is the highest quality coconut oil they offer. You can read more about how virgin coconut oil is different from other coconut oils on their website: What is Virgin Coconut Oil?

Tropical Traditions also carries other varieties of affordable high quality coconut oil. Visit their website to check on current sales, to learn about the many uses of coconut oil, and to read about all the advantages of buying coconut oil online. Since the FDA does not want us to discuss the health benefits of coconut oil on a page where it is being sold or given away, here is the best website to read about the health benefits of coconut oil.

All you need to do is enter in the rafflecopter below!  This giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer:  Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

Linking up at Giveaway Day.

knitting and reading

I love getting mail.  Have I mentioned that before?  Typically the only mail that I get these days are of the "please mail payment" variety, and I would imagine that is because I am not sending out the cards and letters that I had hoped to send out around the turn of the new year.  But, almost better than mail from friends and family, is the arrival of a package.  And my favorite kind of package?  One that includes books.  In fact, if you have some books you would like to send me, please let me know.

Last week I received such a package.  I had won a giveaway from the lovely Amy of A Faithful Journey, for a book called Gone to Ground.  It is a great murder mystery/suspense book, and I am enjoying every bit of it.  I was needing something a bit different than the romance I have been reading, or the reference books that I seem to always turn to.  And researching homeschooling was starting to get me a little too anxious.  This is definitely a breath of fresh air!

As far as the knitting goes, well, I am still knitting both the scarf for my awesome mother's helper, and also Emma's hat (that I may have knit large enough to accommodate my head as well...).  They are both relatively easy patterns that I can pick up when I want to.  I haven't wanted to do too much knitting, unfortunately, it has been entirely too sticky.  But, I do realize that we are now in the middle of August, and I have a lot of knitting that I need to get to before Christmas...I know how awful it is to mention Christmas before Thanksgiving, but it is always in the back of my mind.  And since I am probably the slowest knitter imaginable...well...I will let you make your own assumptions :-)

I am linking up with the very awesome yarn along today.  Looking forward to new book and knitting ideas.  All of the ladies are so talented!

unclogging your sink naturally

One thing that I really despise is a clogged sink.  And, it seems like it has been happening a lot more since we switched to bar soap.  Although, I wouldn't be surprised if the amount of hair I seem to shed has contributed to that problem.

Finding a way to fix it naturally has been on my to-do list for quite some time.  But, no matter how many times I combined baking soda and vinegar, it just did not want to unclog my sink.  So, I would inevitably have to resort to getting some type of drano, and hope and pray that the toxic fumes wouldn't make me or the kids sick.

Finally, I decided to try something new.  Instead of only using the baking soda and vinegar (which will work sometimes), I first put salt in the drain.  I have heard of people using salt as an abrasive for cleaning, but have not tried it as much as I probably should.  It worked, and I finally found a way to unclog my sink without fear of the fumes, and making sure all the windows are open in the bathroom.

Unclogging Your Sink Naturally

1/4 cup salt (I used table salt)
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup white vinegar
tea kettle full of boiling water

First I took the salt and poured it carefully down the drain, then the baking soda, and then I added the white vinegar.  Watching the fizzing action always makes me feel like I am really getting something accomplished with cleaning!  I then let that sit for about 15 minutes.  Followed by a tea kettle full of boiling water down the drain.  At first I wasn't sure if it would work, but it did.  And I am extremely happy about it!  Granted, this method will not work for standing water clogs.  I haven't come up with something for that yet, but when I do, I will let you know.

Do you find that your sinks clog a lot due to bar soaps?  How do you unclog your drains?

I am linking up at the Barn Hop Rural Thursday and Your Green Resource

what i am eating #4

I love cooking and eating, and I especially love looking at pictures of food!  If you love food as much as I do, please add your food pictures/recipes/food related posts to the linky below.  All you have to do is link back to this blog post from your blog.  I look forward to seeing what everyone else is eating this week!

I think this meal is quickly becoming my favorite:

Peppers, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers.  All from the farmers' market (except for my peppers!).  A little salt and a splash of balsamic vinegar, yum!  

I also made a spicy coleslaw.  I was originally inspired by this recipe, but the recipe wasn't in front of me, so I improvised.

1 head of green cabbage (from farmers' market)
2 green peppers (from my garden)
1/2 onion (farmers market)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 chipotle in adobo, minced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

It was delicious, even better the next day!  I love spicy stuff, so this is right up my alley.  I think carrots would have been good in here as well.  Actually most veggies would probably have worked well.  I think next time I might throw some tomatoes in for more color.

And finally, last night I decided to do make your own pizzas.  The kids always love to do that.  Plus with the abundance of veggies we have available to us right now, why not.  Typically when fresh tomatoes are available we skip the pizza sauce, and just pile on the tomatoes with a little olive oil and salt.

Jack's pizza

Emma's pizza
Emma still doesn't like cheese, which is fine for me since I am trying to stay away from it too.  Jack and Matt love the cheese though :-)

So what are you eating this week?  Please link up below!

oh happy day!

Have you ever had a day when you just don't want to turn on the computer?  Well, yesterday was like that for me!  Sorry about not posting, but I had to get outside and enjoy the sun before it started raining (which it is currently doing here).

In other news, last night Matt happened to find these in our chicken coop.

We haven't been checking because, well, we didn't think that they would have started laying yet.  These are obviously very small eggs, so I think they are the first eggs that our ladies are laying.  The unfortunate thing?  We had to get rid of them.  The eggs could have been there for a while, and we were not sure.  More than likely they were fine, but I did not want to make anyone sick just to have them.  But, now we know that we need to start checking every day!

I wanted to crack them open to see if they had yolks, I wasn't entirely sure because the eggs were so small, and I have heard that sometimes they can have no yolk.  But, they had yolks...these little tiny yolks were about the size of a nickel.  It was very cute :-)

How is your day going?

I am linking up to Rural Thursday

garden update

I have written so many bad posts about my garden this year, I figured it was time for a positive post.  I am actually quite happy with parts of my garden.  I know that I have talked a bit about how well my peppers are doing, but I don't think I have ever had a better year with peppers than I have had this year.

My sweet peppers are getting huge this year.  I guess I typically pick them before they get the size of normal peppers, but this year, I can't pick them fast enough.  I have been mainly using them in salads or stir fries...or eating them raw from the plant as a snack.  The fact that I have so many this year, it is actually quite amazing to me.  It isn't something that I have ever spent time trying to grow, even though I like to have them for my salsa.  Which brings me to the next plant that is doing really well.

My jalapenos are doing amazingly well this year.  And I have to say I am so excited about that.  I use about 8-10 jalapenos in each batch of salsa that I make, and I have plenty of jalapenos in the freezer to make enough salsa for the entire year.  And they are still growing!  It is actually a good thing, because I have learned that my chickens really enjoy eating my jalapenos.  Who would have thought that chickens would like a spicy pepper...clearly these chickens were meant to be mine :-)

My roma tomatoes are also doing quite well.  I have two plants that I planted in an earth box, and they are producing enough for several batches of salsa, and that is about all I can ask for at this point!  I realize that I need to make a lot of changes in order to produce the amount of vegetables that I would like for preservation, but I am learning...even if it is an extremely slow process.  I had a couple of brandywine tomato plants in pots that were doing quite well...until my chickens realized that tomatoes make an amazing snack.

Speaking of the chickens, they have decided that the best place to beat the heat is under the chicken coop.  There was about 3 inches of space between the bottom of the hen house and the ground, now there seems to be a bit more.  I had no idea that they would dig holes and burrow under the house, but there it is!  It has been extremely hot the past few days.

Most of my ladies are keeping their wings away from their bodies, and hoping to cool off.  I wish that I could just spray them down like my kids, but apparently they don't work that way ;-)  Instead, I have been refilling their water with ice cold water several times each day, and hoping for the best.  They seem to be doing fine, even though I do feel bad they can't cool down.  However, it can't be any worse than how we feel with no air conditioning, we are all suffering together in this 90 degree weather with 100% humidity!

Last, but certainly not least, today is my precious babe's 2nd birthday.  Jack, Mama loves you very much, and you make every day brighter!  I love you!  Happy Birthday!

I am linking to the Barn Hop!  Looking forward to seeing what is going on everywhere else!

what i am eating #3

I love cooking and eating, and I especially love looking at pictures of food!  If you love food as much as I do, please add your food pictures/recipes/food related posts to the linky below.  All you have to do is link back to this blog post from your blog.  I look forward to seeing what everyone else is eating this week!

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture this week.  My week has actually been slightly boring on the food front. I am eating a lot of salads and fresh tomatoes from the farmers' market, which have been absolutely delicious, but very simple.  Today, I am hoping to make potato salad from potatoes we got at the market and eggs from the farm - and hopefully the next time I make potato salad the eggs will be from our chickens!

So let's hear it, what are you eating this week?

yarn along time!

I have been looking at this beautiful off-white alpaca yarn for two years.  Every time I go to the store, I see it, and it calls to me.  I have wanted to use it to make Emma a hat, but haven't done it.  Last year I even broke down and bought the yarn, and still looked at it lovingly in my basket.  I don't know what was holding me back from knitting an almost white hat for my very active 4 year old (did my sarcasm come through there?), but I finally decided to start it.  She may not wear this hat all the time for outdoor play, but it will be very cute on her, and that is what really matters to me right now!

As far as reading goes, well I am still on my fluffy romance kick.  I don't know what draws me in to these insane love stories.  But, they suck me in every time.  Girl meets boy, boy is damaged in some crazy way, boy softens because of girl, and then they get married.  Every.single.time.  Perhaps I am just looking to these stories as faith in humanity with all the craziness that is going on in the world.  Or maybe I am so burnt out from reading so much non-fiction over the past several years that I cracked.

After the garden disaster this year, I think maybe I need to start looking into gardening books for people with black thumbs.  I have always had good results, but these past two years haven't been so great.  I am sure it is that I am trying to do too much, and getting my hopes up too high.  Maybe next year I will start smaller, or maybe be more organized.  Or perhaps getting chickens at around the same time I was supposed to be doing the garden was a mistake!

I think that I need to get some new yarn and new books though.  I haven't been very motivated for knitting or finding a good book recently.  There is always the library, but after so many countless hours spent at Barnes and Noble, I realize the dewey decimal system is not for me.  I need to see the book covers to be drawn to even pick up the book.  Perhaps I need to make a trip to Barnes and Noble, and then make a list of books to request from the library.  That seems like a good idea :-)  And I am tired of looking at the same scraps of yarn in my stash.  I need to make a little blanket out of the scraps and then finally allow myself a shopping trip!

I am linking up at the yarn along.  Looking forward to finding some inspiration this week!  Bring it on guys!