Saturday, September 21, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Seven Quick Takes- Autumn's Here

1. Leftovers for Lunch

While going through the process of joining The Catholic Church 2 1/2 years ago, the family decided that we would abstain from meat on Fridays throughout the year. This has been a challenge sometimes, but usually it's pretty simple. For example, for my lunch today, I enjoyed leftover tomato soup to which I added a couple spoonfuls of my homemade chunky tomato sauce from the fridge.

I topped it with homemade croutons found in the freezer along with freshly shredded Romano cheese and some chopped cilantro. Sometimes, being creative with not much in the kitchen has its advantages- I was able to drizzle the whole thing with a bit of white truffle oil. I'm wondering if it might have been too much for a Faithful Friday lunch! 

2. Autumn Sweaters

A month or so ago, I found a couple of lovely cardigans at our local Value Village. I haven't been able to wear them due to the warm weather we've been having. I was really happy to hear the weather report calling for rain and colder weather for the next week or so. Not only will my plants get the water they've been needing, but I'll have an actual reason for pulling out my autumn sweaters and wearing them.

3. "Son-sickness"
David and Joshua at a regency ball in Portland

I know this is the time of life that I should be enjoying the relative quiet in my house. With only Mary and Brian at home, it's really quiet most of the time. That being said, I have been "son-sick" this week (see #4 below for another explanation) and really missing the boys. The first week of school or so, I talked with David a few times, but I haven't actually talked with him for over a week now. I've only talked with Josh for a little while last Saturday. Granted, it is supposed to be this way, and I am super proud of them, but I have found myself missing even dorky comments. This is, I guess, a reminder to hug your kids while they're home, and pray for them even when they're not!

4. P.M.S. Strikes Again

Thinking about the Old Testament and how women who were "unclean" were sent out of camp reminds me of how I should sometimes be "sent out of camp" during a certain week of the month. I've seriously thought of asking Brian to make me a shack in the backyard for those times when I just shouldn't be around anyone else. The good thing is, I am finally realizing when it starts to happen, so I can generally keep my mouth shut. Maybe, by the time I get through menopause, I'll either have that shack built or be able to control myself!

5. Craft Rooms and Other Conundrums 
Another idea...
The only time I've ever had a craft/sewing room that didn't double as a dining room, schoolroom, home office, laundry room, etc. was when Brian and I were first married. We had a two bedroom apt. for about a year where we used the second bedroom for a storage/guest/sewing/craft room. As I didn't do very many crafts or sewing back then, and we didn't have many guests, it was more storage than anything else. Well, now that the boys are gone (don't worry, I'm not crying on my iPad) Mary is helping me turn Joshua's room into a craft/sewing room. The conundrum comes as we try to figure out just what it should look like. As wonderful as Pinterest is, we haven't found just what I want. This is where having virtually no budget but, thankfully, a lot of imagination, comes in to play. I started painting a dresser we will be using as well as the closet doorway trim, and hopefully we will get to do some more this week. Can't wait to use our little craft room under the eaves!

6. It's Off to Work I Go

Baked Goods at
Fordyce Farms
Fencing at SCF
Lately, I've been feeling a bit like the dwarves when heading off to work. As the weather changes, the baking at Fordyce Farms is slowing down a bit. Thankfully, I am still there a couple days a week getting to make some delicious tea breads, scones and tea cakes along with cinnamon rolls and helping with the amazing pies. There's also a hay fort, pumpkin patch and corn maze, so October should be a lot of fun!
Of course, this doesn't mean I am sitting around the rest of the week as my time teaching and coaching at SCF is increasing. With the school year starting, so does the Salem Middle School Fencing League which I get to not only coordinate, but also get to work with these great middle schoolers in practice and meets. I've also got a new bunch of epeeists on Wednesday nights (all tween & teen boys). As my boss said, "Your boys may be gone, but now you've got these." It made me stop and think how blessed I am to have the opportunity to work with all of my students.

7. Getting to Know You

During the cleaning and moving of the boys' rooms, I took the time to clean Josh and David's books before transferring them to the bookshelves in the "new" shared bedroom. One of the joys during this process was getting to look at what books they both own. I had taken time earlier this summer to go through David's with him as he gleaned his things before going to school, so I pretty much knew what he had. I was pleased to see he kept some of the books he loved reading as a youngster, especially the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Going through Joshua's books took a while longer as he has a mini-library~and that's with getting rid of a large number of books over the last few years. I was excited to find some I hadn't before seen. One that caught my eye is called At The Cross With Mary by John Joseph D. Schweska. It is the story of Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin. It is not only his biography, but also has a series of daily devotions. It is a wonderful book, and I would highly recommend it- especially for anyone who is going through a time of life when decisions are having to be made.

Be sure to head over to Conversion Diary to check out a bunch of other terrific quick takes!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Getting Canned

When the kids were little, I used to do quite a bit of canning and freezing. Not only did I enjoy the finished products, the process itself was always so much fun. To be able to take fresh ingredients normally only eaten during the summer months and create something that would be able to be enjoyed by the family when the cold and dark winter would come upon us made me happy.
As the kids got older and life got busier, I didn't can or freeze as much. This was pretty much due to not having time, and to be honest, just no desire. We've made due with things in jars and plastic bags from the store even though it was usually a bit more expensive.
This year, however, I've had the joy of working out at Fordyce Farms where fresh produce has abounded- berries of numerous types, apples, pears, peaches, plums, plus all kinds of veggies! I made it a goal to be able to preserve a bunch of stuff, and I am pleased to say I've done just that. I was going to scour my cookbooks for recipes, but then I remembered Pinterest (as if I had forgotten) and found a bunch of new ones to try. Here's the list of what's in the cupboard/freezer so far along with where I found the recipes.

-Canned Peaches (made with dear friend Annette on a really fun afternoon!)
-Bread and Butter pickles (from 52 Ways to Cook)
-Sweet Relish (from Common Sense Homesteading)
-Tomato Jam recipe #1(Grandmom Gatskill's recipe from With a Grateful Prayer and Thankful Heart)
-Tomato Jam recipe #2 (from Lauren at Climbing Grier Mountain)
-Spiced Cashews (from Comfy Belly)
-Salsa Verde
-Fig Vinegar (from Joanna's Food)
Tomato Jam #1 and #2

My newest favorite granola!

-Roasted Italian-style Tomatoes (at Eating from the Ground Up)
-Strawberry Jam (Mrs. Wages Pectin recipe in the box)
-Triple Berry Jam ( also Mrs. Wages Pectin recipe in the box)
-Plum Jam (to be honest, I don't remember where I found the recipe, but try this one from Gezellig-Girl)
-Frozen Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
-Granola (from Like Mother, Like Daughter with a few Mangia Mamma additions)
-Sweet Corn (from West Street Story)
-Dried Apples (I usually just put them in the cupboard, but on Pinterest someone pinned that they stay "fresher" longer in the freezer, so I am trying it)

Roasted Chicken with yummy decorations!
Whew! For me that's quite a list. I can't wait to do a few more things before the local growing season ends. I'd still like to do a bit more, like the delish-sounding Peach Vanilla Bean Jam at Annie's Eats and the Cinnamon Pear Jam at   On the Outskirts of Town. I've also been having a good time this month cooking for only three instead of eight-yes, I know, there were only five of us this summer, not counting Cari, but the boys eat for at least two people each! I found a bunch of new recipes while perusing Pinterest, and we've been eating meals such as the gorgeous chicken with tomatoes, garlic and Kalamata olives. It was based off a recipe from My Little Expat Kitchen, and it was amazingly good! I made the latest recipe find last night for a Greek Salad Dressing to go with our Greek salad and pita dinner. Brian and I liked it a lot while Mary said it tasted like ranch dressing with feta. Since she's not a big fan of creamy dressings, I took her opinion with a grain of salt- fleur de sel, kosher, sel gris, Hawaiian, take your pick. 
The point of this being, get out there and try canning or freezing. There are a bunch of blogs, not to mention Pinterest, that have a lot of small batch jam, jellies, relishes, pickles, etc. recipes, many that don't even require a water canner. Heck, a few of them are made in the microwave, so you don't even have to own a stove! Take a little time this week and preserve some fruity or veggie goodness for the cold & rainy days to come. Then when you're spreading a shiny luscious glob of jam on your morning toast, you can be grateful for the abundance we have been given, no matter what time of year.

Where have all the little birdies gone?

Have you ever thought what a mama bird must feel seeing her babies fly for the first time? A bird that is common to our yard is the American Robin. I've enjoyed watching these orange breasted birds with a cheerful song as they look for bits and pieces with which to make their nests. I've been feeling quite like one of my feathered friends lately as my nest has gotten a bit emptier the last few weeks. With Cari enjoying the single girl life in her adorable apartment, and both of the boys away at school, our nest only has one little birdie left. 
Mary is still at home, but she is working part time as well as getting ready to start community college in a few weeks. She's been wanting to get car insurance, so she could drive, and that actually happened. Having your kids start to leave home is definitely as hard as anyone has ever said. I've always told my kids that my job as they were growing up was to help them become responsible adults. This is still what I believe, however, no matter how great of choices your kids are making, it's still a bit lonelier in the nest when they start to fly away.
I happened to come across this beautiful prayer a few weeks ago on a blog called The Littlest Way that I wanted to share. It's a mother's prayer to her children's guardian angels. I really believe it's something we moms should all be praying for our kids- no matter where the little birdies are on their life journeys. Take a moment out of your busy schedules today, and pray this for your kids!

I humbly salute ye, O you faithful, heavenly Friends of my children! I give you heartfelt thanks for all the love and goodness you show them. At some future day I shall, with thanks more worthy than I can now give, repay your care for them, and before the whole heavenly court acknowledge their indebtedness to your guidance and protection. Continue to watch over them. Provide for all their needs of body and soul. Pray, likewise, for me and my husband, and my whole family, that we may all one day rejoice in your blessed society.