Thursday, August 22, 2013

First Day of Kindergarten

Oh yes, she's getting big!

Sat on our bench to pose for a picture before walking to the bus stop.

She didn't even think to say good bye, but she sure was saying hello.

After hollering to get her attention, she barely waved, then ran to her seat.

Her first day went relatively well.  The only things she remembered well enough to talk to me about was lunch and recess.  Go figure.  I did get that call that every parent dreads, Quinn had wet her pants at recess.  I had done so well keeping my tears in check all day, but this call sent me into full blown alligator tears.  I felt like I failed her. 
Lets hope day two goes as well or better than day one!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to NOT Can Tomatoes

I had planned to write a highly motivational piece on how easy it is to can tomatoes.  That didn't happen.  While visiting my grandparents over the weekend I got bushels and bushels of tomatoes. Enough to cover a large portion of my counter 2 or 3 deep:

I used the same method for skinning and dicing/crushing the tomatoes as in my post, here, about freezing tomatoes.  I was very slow at first, but managed to get pretty good at it by the end.

Then I followed the directions that every blog on canning will tell you:
~Start a canning pot boiling
~Sanitize your jars, lids, etc.
~Heat your tomatoes and liquid (juice or plain water)
~Pack tomatoes into jars, pushing down with handle of wooden spoon
~Add acidity (I used lemon juice)
~Add liquid and use spoon again to release air bubbles
~Wipe jar and apply seal and ring
~Put in boiling canning pot..... This is where things went awry

The very first jar I put in broke immediately.  It must have taken me too long to fill the jars and this one cooled because it cracked the second I put it in the boiling water.  So I put the rest in, with no breaking, but the kept tipping over... Probably because my electric burner is a bit smaller than the canning pot so it sort of leaned a bit.  Once I got them all in though, they seemed to stand okay without knocking into each other.  Although I think that two of them did knock at some point, because when I checked on them later there were tomatoes floating around the entire pot and a clearly broken jar just floating around... Yay.

The others seemed to work okay, and sealed quite well.  Of course now I'm extremely worried that I did something horribly wrong and they'll all spoil before we get to use them.  What a terrible waste that would be.

And I'm sorry to disappoint if you were hoping for the horribly photographic evidence; I was far too distraught to think about anything other than all the hard work I'd put into peeling and dicing the tomatoes just to throw them down the drain *sigh*

Have you had a bad experience with canning?  Do you know what I did wrong?  Do you just want to laugh at me?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Please, Meijer, tell me it isn't so!

Dear Meijer,
 If you know me, then you know I'm a pretty big coupon clipper.  I'm no extremist like you see on tv, but I do love a good coupon, especially a doubled one!  That's why I loved Meijer.  They doubled coupons up to $1 which was always so helpful in keeping grocery costs down.  I just learned the other day that Starting on 8/25/13 they are going to stop doubling any and all coupons.  BUMMER!  They say they're going to be working on their mPerks program (which if you don't have, you should get) but that hardly makes up for a good doubled coupon in my opinion.  We'll see how much they improve it.

I do have to admit though, that this month hasn't been too bad as far as mPerks go.  So far, I've got a free gallon of milk, free peanut butter, a dozen free eggs, and $5 off any $25 purchase.  I don't know if they can keep it up like this, but it's the only way I can see myself continuing to frequent their stores.  Sorry, Meijer.

Your once-upon-a-time very loyal customer,

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Freezer "Crushed" Tomatoes

These were extremely easy.  Seriously.  And freezing them means that I don't have to mess with canning, because honestly, it kind of scares me.  The plus side is that (as I have done here) you can do this in small batches as you gather a few extra tomatoes from your garden, or in my case, your grandparent's garden ;) 

Though it's very easy, getting the skin off is the most time consuming part.  Here's the trick though.
Start by making a small "X" or simply poking a knife in the bottom of your tomatoes.
Dunk them into a large pot of boiling water, just a few at a time.  Within a minute the skin should split from where you broke the skin. 

When skin breaks, remove them from boiling water immediately and submerge them in ice water to draw the skin back even farther.
Gently peel back the skins, cut out the stems, and squeeze or scoop our seeds and juice.  As you can imagine, this is an extremely messy task.  That's why I recommend doing this part over a colander in the sink to catch anything that slips out of your hands.

Use your hands or a knife to crush or cut the tomato flesh into small pieces in the colander.  This helps to eliminate some excess juice.

Then scoop your tomatoes into a baggie and label and date them.  Easy as pie.  Another trick is to lie them out flat like this in your freezer.  They'll stack better and thaw quicker.

(**Update: Check out my related post on How NOT to Can Tomatoes**)

Enjoy the flavor of sun ripened tomatoes all year round.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tonto and The Lone Ranger

I've finally decided on (some) of the costumes for the family.  Hooray.  I'm going to be Tonto, and Ronan will be The Lone Ranger!  I'm going to follow Johnny Depp's 2013 version relatively closely, albeit a female version.  I threw together a 5 minute sketch to visualize what I'm thinking:
Since Depp played Tonto bare-chested, I needed some coverage.  I have a brown overbust corset that has beautiful stripes I think would suit this costume well.  I'll need to make or find some sort of beaded chest piece like Depp wore in the movie to help a bit with the coverage also.  I'm not sure if I'll try to wear some sort of shirt or not, I suppose it will depend on the weather; last year was so miserably cold I almost wish I hadn't gone out at all!  Keep your fingers crossed for some warmer weather.

Oops, got off topic.  Back to it:  I'll need some feathers and beads and such for my hair, bandanna, bracelets, and belts.  I'm not sure if I want to stick with the pants (like Depp's character wore) or go with a skirt?  I think some nice flouncy fringed pants would look great with a pair of knee high, fringed, red moccasins. 

My cousin, Amanda, of Amazing Moments, does unbelievably amazing face and body painting, so I'm relying on her to give me a hand with the face paint, and some of the tattooing/war paint.  Right Amanda? ............Right?

Oh... and I need to find a dead bird.  wtf.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Halloween? Already? Yes.

Call me crazy, but I'm getting started on Halloween costumes already!  Since I always make our costumes, and generally get most of my supplies through thrift stores or garage sales, I have to start early.  It doesn't help that I have at least 4 costumes to put together!  I have always liked to do group costumes, but the kids are getting old enough now that they are starting to ask to be certain things/characters. 

Last year we didn't do anything that matched, but I got to have some fun with Ronan:
Yea, I'm pretty messed up.  ;)

We also made this great spider egg sac that's been so popular on pinterest:

It's easy enough the kids can do it.  You just stuff an old sock or something inside a pair of old white tights, then hot glue some spiders inside and out.  Done.

Last year wasn't my most creative year, so I'm going to throw in some older pictures, just because I can.
Here I am in 2009 with Quinn and my sister

And here's the old man, and the family tree.
And here we are in 2010
The really funny thing about this one to me is that my sister and I had planned to be the Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts, with Quinn as Alice.  Then we realized we had no out fit for her (then) new boyfriend, Ty, so we figured he'd just be the Knave of Hearts.  We didn't realize that a nave was basically a slave or servant.  oops.

That year all our costumes were completely from scratch, I even made Quinn's dress (without a pattern, ouch), and my awesomely over-sized top hat.

Do you have any awesome ideas for group costumes?