Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Christmas Gifts 2022, Gift 5: Hot Buttered Rum Mix

This is a gift that I made for my husband, mainly as a means to make him something special that he wouldn't be expecting.  When he gets sick, under the weather or just is looking for something comforting hot to drink on a cold winter's night, he has liked making himself a hot buttered rum in the past.  I tried, a while ago, to make a mix for him, but it was made with ice cream and came out too rich and just kind of not great.  So, this time around, I searched for a more traditional version of the mix for him.

I found this recipe that worked perfect for me as it called for butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, some spices and vanilla extract.  All of which were things I had on hand.  It was a stupid simple process to put together and it came together really fast, which was a double bonus for me as I need fast things to make right now if I can find them.

This has to be stored in the fridge or freezer, just to warn you.  I put mine in wide mouth mason jars and stuck them in the wayyyyyy back of the fridge, unmarked, so that I can hopefully pull them out and surprise my husband with them on Christmas.  I'll them mark them and move them to the freezer for long term storage (although they'll last indefinitely in the fridge, I still prefer to go the route of the freezer for the sake of security).  

So, if you have all the ingredients on hand and are looking for something fun, with a lot less fake ingredients than the stuff you buy at the store, go and make this for someone.  I doubt they'll expect it :).  

Monday, December 19, 2022

Christmas Gifts 2022, Gift 4: Lavender Sachets

This is a gift to a friend of my daughter's...well really her friend's mom.  Her friend's mom loves heavily scented things, so I thought I'd use the lavender that I had gotten in my CSA box this summer (which I was honestly trying to figure out what to use it for) to make a couple of lavender sachets for her for Christmas and I'd put it in the gift along with some cookies for her friend.  

These things can't be easier to make.  If you have any nice scented things like herbs, rose petals or the like, all you really have to do is make some squares, sew them up until you have just a large enough opening to fit the things in that you want to add that smell nice (like I just left a big enough opening for a funnel so I could pour the lavender buds into the sachets), sew up your opening and bam!  Done!  I didn't fill the sachets super full so that they could be fit into a drawer with some clothes or something without getting in the way of things, but made the sachets big enough and out of bright enough material that they could (hopefully) be easily seen in a drawer if someone needed to move them or something. 

I used the same Christmas fabric I used to make the cup cozies out of and used some other left over bias tape I had around the house to make a bow for them.  Not a super hard gift to make, but hopefully one that they will like none-the-less.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Christmas Gifts 2022, Gift 3: Handkerchiefs

This is one of the those gifts that is totally unexciting, but really practical and useful and, most importantly, desperately needed.  I haven't made handkerchiefs for my husband in a few years and it was definitely showing with how torn, worn and grody looking his handkerchiefs were getting.  So, I decided to make him some more handkerchiefs this year. 

I just used one of his old handkerchiefs to make a pattern from and just made sure to give myself a 1/2 inch seam allowance per side (I just eyeballed it, honestly).  I did find this tutorial that breaks down different dimensions, how to cut the fabric, how to sew the handkerchiefs by hand or by machine if you are interested in making them for someone for Christmas.  Old sheets or pillowcases are great to make handkerchiefs with if you can find fabric on them that looks nice.

I ended up digging out what I had left of my white muslin fabric in my stores to just make as many handkerchiefs as I could.  It ended up making fourteen handkerchiefs in all, which will hopefully last my husband a while before I have to buy more fabric.  

I used some bias tape I had leftover from another project to wrap the handkerchiefs with a pretty bow (still can't find any ribbon).  

So, yay, two family gifts down.  At least I'm making progress!

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Christmas Gifts 2022, Gift 2: A Quilted Throw

When it came on what to make for my son this year, it was kind of rough figuring it out.  He's grown TONS this year and is now over six feet.  He LOVES blankets and always has, so I thought that would be a good idea.  I did have to think hard about what I could make a blanket out of as my fabric stores have slowly gotten smaller and smaller over the years (or have gotten buried in my bedroom closet somewhere *sigh*).  I had some fleece, but nothing long enough to make a throw work.  I had some fake lamb's wool fabric that I thought would make a good backing for a blanket, but once again, not enough to make a throw out of.  

I finally looked at the flannel shirt fabric you see above.  If you are someone who has been reading this blog a looonnnnggg time you'll notice that this is the same fabric I bought back in 2015 that I've been slowly using tiny bits of over the years for this or that, but this was the first really big project I used the fabric on.  I pulled out some batting I had bought with Christmas gift cards from family last year to make a quilt out of and sacrificed it to make him a quilted, extra long, quilted throw to wrap up in when he feels the need.  I used some nice thick cotton batting for the throw as well, so it weighs a bit, which he will like as well.  The material on the bolt was decently wide on it's own, so I decided to be lazy and just went with the width of the bolt for the width of the throw and then just made sure the thing was a bit longer than a twin sized quilt.  Cutting it out in small spaces was the hardest part of the entire project.  With the built in lines on the fabric, quilting it wasn't that bad as I could just follow a straight line on the fabric to sew it (yay for easy).  It was kind of challenging to quilt something so big.  My sewing machine has been moved all over the house over the years due to lack of room and now with the wood stove being put in, it is currently stuck in a space against my living room railing with barely enough room for it to fold down and get plugged in.  So, shuffling the throw around to quilt it was kind of a pain, but it got done!

I just folded it up after washing and drying it and used what little bit of ribbon I could find to wrap a bow around it (I have NO idea where I put my ribbon...I've torn the house apart, but no luck.  I know I'll run across it after the holidays when I don't need it anymore, as is the way of things in the universe).  He's been lying on the folded up throw, so I'm thinking he might like it.  Here's hoping :).

So, family member one off of my list and I was somehow able to get it done in a day.  And now onto the husband and daughter and others on the list!

Friday, December 16, 2022

Christmas Gifts 2022, Gift One: Cup Cozies

So, for our first gifts of this year, I wanted to make something kind of special for my daughter's boyfriend's family.  The daughter and her boyfriend have been friends since they were really little, so we've gotten to know his family rather well and they are super sweet people who give us some fun things every year.  Last year they even gave us some honey from their bees!  So, I wanted to return the favor and wanted to do a bit more than just making them cookies like we did last year.

When I was going through my material I found the beautiful snowflake material you see above and knew this was the year I wanted to make something with it.  I then looked over at a pair of jeans that had torn out at the zipper but the denim was still in really good shape in the legs that I could use for fabric as well and thought, "Bingo"!  I went online and found this free pattern for cup cozies and it had a really easy tutorial to follow.  So, I printed off the pattern and decided to use the pattern for the hair elastic and button version, but instead of hair elastics I had some really thin elastic you'd lose in clothing that I got from my step-mom a while back as I didn't really have the money to go out and buy hair elastics special to use for the project (yup, broke we be :).  I used buttons that I had in my button jar and I used some scrap fabric to use for the batting.  The results were some actually really nice cup cozies that are decently thick and will protect your hands well from heat.  You can even make the cozies wrap around a mug if you fish the elastic through the hole for the handle...it's a stretch but I tried it out to make sure.  

Some quick ways to make these cheap.  One, if you use some thick denim from some old jeans (my torn pair weren't the thickest denim) you could skip the batting piece, which would cut down on time too.  For the top material you could use an old pillow case, old sheet or other materials you have around your house, so long as it looked nice.  So, use your imagination on that one!

So, hopefully they will find the cozies useful.  I made four more than seen above to give to others as well (and have a few more to go).  It is a decently quick project that you can complete in between this and that.  Cutting the pieces of fabric was actually the most time consuming part of the process, but they came together decently quick.  So, I have to say it was nice getting at least one gift down already.  Now onto others!

Thursday, December 15, 2022

December Happenings and Christmas Gifts 2022

This is one of those years where I am counting down the days until it is over.

What a year.

The latest that happened this month was a doozy.  My daughter woke up one morning with her eye swelled up.  This has happened randomly in the past.  We never could really pin down what would cause it to happen, but you would give her a Zyrtec and it would be fine.  

Not this time.

The allergic reaction went out of control.  Despite me pumping as many antihistamines as I could safely give her, it just got worse.  She went to bed that night with me a bit worried because she still had a swollen spot under her eye, but it wasn't getting worse, so I prayed that with the medications in her and some sleep she'd feel better.   It didn't work that way.  She woke up with her eyes nearly swollen shut, her face one big raised welt and hives and welts breaking out over her whole body.  We ended up in Urgent care and then the ER that day.  An IV of Benadryl and some steroids and then a prescription for Zyrtec and steroids was the result that day.  Fast forward a week later, after the first round of steroids was done and the reaction came back, although it never went away to begin with.  Finally we ended up at the Urgent Care last Sunday to try and avoid the wait at the ER (if the Urgent Care saw her first and would send her onto the ER the wait was a LOT less we found) and they ended up giving her a shot of steroids and an albuterol treatment because she had a rasp to her breathing they did not like.  

I, during the entire thing, worked on getting ahold of an allergist to get testing and things done so we can figure out what caused this and get it out of my daughter's environment, but no one was returning my calls.  Our pediatrician, true rock star that she is, got us a script for an epi-pen for Armina and sent in referrals with a request to bump her up the wait list due to the way things have gone the last few weeks.  Hopefully I hear from the allergist soon.  The Urgent Care put Armina on a really strong dose of prednisone this last go round, which finally got her face to go down and got rid of the majority of the welting on her body, but the script made her sick to her stomach so she's been working to keep things down this week.  The poor thing has been so miserable.  I'm praying we are over the worst of it for now and that it'll be okay until we can get into an allergist.  Please, pray for her on this.  We need all the help we can get!

Combine that with a record breaking snowfall and then the wind picking up while it snowed again and drifted snow in HUGE amounts.  It's been rough around here.  This was the view outside of my deck door when we got up in the morning...

It was bad.  My husband ended up spending the entire day shoveling 5 to 7 foot drifts of snow off of the deck and roof, after he tunneled across the yard, up the deck stairs one at a time and things first, of course.  He had a really crappy day of snow removal and he still has to shovel off a few more vehicles and things. 

Oh and my washing machine died.  Luckily, we had our old one that my husband was able to figure out the going off balance issue and we reinstalled it in the laundry room for the time being until he can find a bigger machine for me that works (the other one blew it's motor from what my husband was able to diagnose).   

I'm just praying that Christmas vacation for my husband goes well this next week.  We could all use just a relaxing, no stress, break from everything around here right now.  Here's praying.

On the practical side of things, I just out and out told my family that I couldn't afford to send them gifts this year, which was the honest 100% truth.  My mom actually appreciated it as she lost her job a few months ago and her budget on Social Security is pretty tight now a days.  I feel guilty not sending gifts as my brother and younger sister are actually really nice and generous at the holidays, but I knew that if I sent them gifts that I'd have a hard time affording it and now with medical bills coming down the pike (plus hopefully the allergists bills on top of it), it is going to be really tight around here.  I just hope my daughter feels better as this whole situation is just terrifying for her and the rest of us.

I decided to make the husband and kids gifts this year for the sake of the budget, because I actually do enjoy doing it and the family seems to like it too.  It was so crazy around here it is a miracle that I've actually figured some stuff out in that area as we haven't even hung up all of the Christmas decorations yet.  While looking through material and things, I did find some Christmas material that I hadn't used for anything yet and some other remnants and decided to make some gifts for some friends and family that are in the immediate area.  I've found things like making gifts right now is actually kind of calming me down and distracting me, which I'm grateful for at this point.  I'm also hoping to bake a few things for gifts this year as well (aiming for simple there too).  Hopefully things will be calm enough for me to do that.  I'm aiming for things that are easy to sew and bake and projects that are quick as well as that is what I can do in this stage in my life.  I'll share what I do and link to patterns and things as well in case you want to try them yourself (trust me, I'm aiming for free patterns this year, so it'll be affordable for you to do as well) and share some money saving tips on how to make things special, but cheap if I can.

So, yeah, that is the update for today.  I'm hoping to start the Christmas Gifts for this year tomorrow if I can so you have time make some of them if you want.  Barring anything else happening *knock on wood* I'll see you then.  And Happy Holidays.  I hope, even though most people are keeping it simple this year (us as well) that you can find the holiday spirit and wrestle some fun from this season.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

An Emotional Hobbit Hole: Where I've Been

Please enjoy the shot of last winter as I totally didn't have a good image to put at the top of this post.  Sorry.

The road of a special needs parent is not an easy one.   It is kind of hard to explain what happens over time.  You get into this weird headspace over time as you watch your child not hit benchmarks that other children are hitting.  You kind of go through the grieving process over and over and over again as the years progress.  When something really not great happens, you just deal with it.  You really want to lean on someone, to share what is going on in your life, but at the same time you have this extreme sense of subconscious guilt.  There is always someone who is worse off than you are.   There is always a parent you see in the store or in passing where you realize just by looking at their situation that you have 100% nothing to complain about because your situation could be so much worse.  Then you feel worse for feeling bad that this or that happened and you just kind of clam up and just try to keep stoic and strong inside.  You watch people with kids who can do more than your child can and you want to cry some days, but there is always that voice saying, "It could be worse" and you just keep taking one day at a time, working with the limitations your child has been given and you do the best damn job you can by that child and loving them.  You celebrate THEIR successes, ignore what others do, work repeatedly to help them get past as many limitations as you can and you pray every night that maybe, by trying something new that God will help you find that you can get your child to a point they can live a somewhat independent life.  

It is the parent's way.  

Sometimes, though, things happen that just pull the rug out from under you and you feel like you are trying to keep your feet in quick sand and it just takes all of your emotional and physical energy to cope.  That's where I had to go this last month.

The new medication changes with Alvah were a mistake.  A bad one.  Alvah seemed like he was doing pretty well on lower doses of the new meds, so the doc and I talked about it and we decided to up his meds just a little bit to get him into a good spot and hopefully get his sleep patterns normalized.  What ended up happening was my son going completely off the rails when we upped his med, and I mean completely.  It is the worst he's EVER been and that was a bar I hoped to never have to surpass.  He punched holes in the walls of his room when you had to do something like drink a few sips of water or go to the bathroom and he started to eat the drywall after he had punched the hole.  His self harm went through the roof as well as him hitting other people.  I, in all honesty, was scared to death that I was losing him to his autism and I didn't know what I could do to help him.  I, as quickly as I could safely do, got his medication back down to really low levels, but it did not help.  I finally didn't give him any medication for 12 hours and then started him back on the Risperidone and Clonodine like he's been on for years.  That stopped the severe violence.  Thank God.  My husband, myself and my daughter felt worn torn after that long weekend...I can imagine how poor Alvah felt.  I still can't believe it was just a few days.  It was more than enough, though.  Since then, it has been a long month of getting his Risperidone where it needs to be, trying to get him sleeping okay (for him) and trying to come off of one heck of a adrenaline high from his erratic behaviors.  

He's getting better.  Thank God.  It is slow, though, as we need to get his bio chemistry leveled off and back on an even keel.  I started giving him a topical melatonin supplement that I just rub into his skin the morning and that has seemed to be helping, along with his roll on magnesium supplement I found.  I've been working with his swim teacher, a family friend, who has taken a bunch of different nutrition courses and things and has worked with special needs kids and adults for years and she's really been helping me to figure out more creative ways to try and get him some nutritional needs to help him as much as we can through non-medication means and help to level his mood off that way.

My husband spent a good week running around town trying to find enough wood paneling to hang in Alvah's room so we don't have to worry about him going through a bad pica phase and eating more of his walls, which was fun with the supply chain issues going on.  We finally have enough to get it done, so my husband is hoping to work on that starting this coming weekend.  

But, yeah, it hasn't been a good time.  

I'll report more on day to day things around here in the next post.  Honestly, just writing all of this out kind of exhausted me.  I'll get back to blogging here soon.  I just need to start getting caught up on everything around here so I have something to report.  So, stay tuned.  Hopefully the next post I'll have better news to report. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

What's For Dinner: What We've Been Eating of Late


So, instead of posting up Menu Plans like I used to do, I thought it might be more fun for me to post up some interesting thing we’ve eaten/tried out lately instead.  So, let’s kick off the first “What’s For Dinner?” segment!

1. So, first up, I had extra cabbage to use up even after canning sauerkraut up the ying yang (I know, hard to believe, but true).  So, I was watching “Tasting History with MaxMiller” and he made this dish called Bierocks, and I was more than a little intrigued, so I decided to make them for dinner one night, seeing as how I had ground beef, cabbage and sauerkraut in the house.  Instead of his bread recipe, though, I used my Easy Sandwich Bread recipe instead and just added a few things to make the recipe closer to the Bierock recipe.  And I have to say that it turned out REALLY well, with the exception of my inability to wrap the bread around the filling well for the first couple of buns.  I ended up having to freeze about ½ of them as the recipe made a lot and I packed them into my husband’s lunch a few times as I took them out and defrosted them in the fridge, but yeah…I am definitely bookmarking the recipe to make again in the future as it was really good!

2.  I processed the two pumpkins I had to process and put the puree in the freezer in 1 cup increments, but I had 2/3 of a cup of pumpkin left over, so I decided to make Celebrating Appalachia’spumpkin roll recipe.  It was (written recipe can be found here on her blog) super easy, didn’t take a ton of ingredients and was really, REALLY tasty!  I was really happy that it was so light and fluffy compared to the pumpkin rolls I grew up with in PA as those were so rich I had a hard time getting through an entire piece without my stomach telling me “no” *laugh*.

3. I found one lowly jar of raspberries in syrup that I had stored in the freezer last year.  I had already finished canning, so I tried to think of what I could use the raspberries for.  I decided, on a spur of the moment type of thing, to make them into sweet rolls.  I took the raspberries, thawed them, drained them (saved the juice and the daughter and I drank it with lemonade…so good!), mashed them, cooked them down with some brown sugar, cinnamon and a few spices and then rolled them up into giant sweet rolls.  I ended up putting cream cheese frosting on 2/3 and put buttercream on 1/3 (the daughter isn’t a huge fan of cream cheese anything, although surprisingly she did like the pumpkin roll).  They turned out well, but are filling, so I ended up freezing some of them to defrost for breakfasts in the coming months. 

4.  I tweak my quick sandwich bread recipe to make into rolls or sweet rolls (depending on how much sugar and things I add) and I really wanted cinnamon rolls one day.  So, I made 1/2 of the recipe into cinnamon rolls and 1/2 into dinner rolls to eat with chicken one night.  I will not say how many of the cinnamon rolls I ate, but I may have eaten roughly my body’s weight in them *laugh*.  I put cream cheese frosting on the cinnamon rolls, so that helps ;).  The regular rolls were good and we not only ate them with dinner one night, but the husband took them in his lunch a few times and the daughter carefully broke a few into very small pieces to chew for breakfast the last week.  Nothing had to be frozen or went to waste on that little venture :).

5.  We had left over beef roast that I had to do something with in the fridge, so I took it and ran it through our meat slicer (it was not the most tender cut of beef straight from the oven, unfortunately) to thin slice it.  I then made a batch of sandwich rolls (the son ended up eating half of them since one recipe makes 8 *laugh*) and we had French Dips later in the week to use up the roast beef (no pic of the sandwiches, as I forgot to take them, but enjoy the picture of the rolls instead :).

Those are probably the most creative things I’ve done the last little bit.  I know most of them were sweets this time, but I will share these posts when I have enough things to share *laugh*.  How about you?  Eaten anything interesting lately?

Monday, October 3, 2022

Summer and Fall Canning List, Part 2 (With Links When Available)


This year, I really do think I’ve canned (jarred/bottled) more food than I ever have before.  I’ve definitely put up more food volumes in the past (like putting up tons of pints of applesauce or something), but this year I did a lot of small batch canning, which might run out quicker, but will allow us to have more of a variety in our diets.  I have to say I was impressed.  I went through every single jar I had in the house and still had to go and purchase some more this year.  It’s been a long time since I did that.  So, anyway, let’s get to round two of the things I canned this year.  I’m going to start out with the repeat from the last list and the simple stuff and then get onto the more out of the ordinary canning I did.

Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.  Amazon will shoot me a small commission if you order through these links.  It will not cost you anything extra to order through these links.  If you do not wish to order through the affiliate links, I understand.  If you do order through these links, thank you for supporting the blog!

1.   Sauerkraut (Rounds Two and Three): 

It amazed me how much sauerkraut I put up this year.  I am happy too as I was able to space out my ferments so I didn’t have to can up like 30 pints of sauerkraut at one time or anything this year. 

With round 2, I ended up with two pints that failed to seal.  I tried different lids and reprocessing the jars, but it didn’t work.  I’ve had more than a few Ball lids fail this year, so it may have been that, but I think part of the blame has to rest with the “Yes I Can” jars I ended up having to purchase as my local stores were out of Ball jars.  I was not impressed with how rough the seam on the jars was and am convinced that helped the seals to fail.  So, those jars got put up to hold craft supplies or dried goods, but I don’t think I’m going to attempt to can with those particular batch of jars again.

I ended up using the two failed jars to make pork and sauerkraut for dinner the next night (when it became apparent to me that the jars weren’t going to seal I just threw them into the fridge and used them for dinner the next day). 

So, yeah, simplest recipe in the world here.  Just be aware it will stink up your house (and it does stink *laugh*).  Take pork chops or pork roast, throw it into a crock pot, cover with jars of sauerkraut (don’t drain, or if you do drain and rinse be sure to throw in more liquid) and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.  The pork will be delicious, but your house will smell.  Your welcome *laugh*.

2.  Apple slices in syrup (Source:  National Center For Home Food Preservation)

Apples were on sale a bit ago.  Cheap.  .99 a pound cheap.  I was enthusiastic to say the least as I immediately thought of canning some apple pie filling.  But, once I got the bags of apples on the counter I thought on it for a minute and decided that I would just can some apple slices in syrup to use in various baking things later in the winter.  I followed the recipe in the Ball book word for word for canning apples in slices, used the proper headspace, did the hot pack canning method…the whole shebang.  All of the jars sealed, but it worries me that the apples seemed to swell up yet more in the jars as they were water bath canning and there isn’t much left in the way of headspace in a few of the jars.  They did seal, though, but yeah…that was weird.  I haven’t had that happen with anything but beans before and those were pressure canned.  Just some of the weird things that happen when canning sometimes.

3.  Potatoes (Source:  National Center For Home Food Preservation)

I got a bunch of potatoes from the CSA this year.  They came coated with mud, straight out of the ground, and hadn’t been cured at all (cured is just a fancy way of saying “dried out” as drying them with good ventilation toughens the skin and helps them store longer).  I tried to dry them out as well as I could in my tiny kitchen, but it just wasn’t working.  When I realized they were going to go bad on me, I said to heck with it and canned them all.  Some, I canned in French fry shapes to drain, dry and deep fry later on, mainly as an experiment to see if they come out better this way so my son might start eating homemade French fries versus stuff that comes in paper cartons or plastic bags.  I had a bit of siphoning with the French fry cut potatoes because I opened my pressure canner a bit too soon (before the jars were cooled down enough), but not too terrible. 

I then ended up canning up the rest just cut into chunks.  I ended up with a lot more than I thought when it was all said and done (10 pints), but they will come in handy, I’m sure.  Those came out perfect.  No siphoning, no cloudiness from excess starch…I was really impressed how well they came out.

4. Green Tomato Relish (1/2 recipe.  Source:  Bernardin online.  You can also find the recipe in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving).

I harvested my green tomatoes from my tomato plant earlier in the summer and decided to can them up into a green tomato relish.  I've made this in the past and it is a really tasty relish, so I decided to split the recipe in half and make it again this year.  I did end up with 4 jars instead of 3, but hey, I was happy with the results overall :).

5.  Heavenly Fig Jam (Also can be found in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving).  Source:  Bernardin online.

I buy dried figs when I can find them and then keep them in my food storage.  This is one of the main ways I use those dried figs as I've found that the jam is excellent.  I especially love it to make my Pantry Friendly Fig Sauce, which goes excellent with pork.  It also always looks so pretty in the jars with how the fig seeds disperse so well throughout the mixture :).  

Just a note:  In the canning book I have the orange liqueur is optional, so I always omit it.

5.  Victorian Barbeque Sauce (Rhubarb BBQ Sauce)  Source:  SB Canning.com, posting up recipe from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

I really love to pull this recipe out when I have enough rhubarb in the freezer that I need to use up before it goes freezer burned and dried out (which I've found to be a thing that happens with rhubarb).  So, this year was one of those years.  I had JUST enough rhubarb from my plant (it wasn't a good year for it with how the weather went hot so early) and from the CSA to make a batch of Victorian BBQ sauce.  

I do add about a tablespoon of liquid smoke to my BBQ sauce to give it a smoky flavor.  I've seen others add liquid aminos, or soy sauce or Worcestershire Sauce to the sauce instead, so I might try that next time I make it to see what kind of flavor it gives it.  I find that it just kind of cuts down the super fruity flavor the BBQ sauce has and gives it more depth to add the liquid smoke (which I asked my local extension service about adding it and they said it was find as that was considered a seasoning and would not effect the safety of the final product).

6.  Raspberry Juice (Source:  Bernardin Online)

My mother-in-law asked me to go over and pick raspberries one day as she was worried some of them were going to rot on the bushes if they weren't picked.  She has two different types of raspberries...a bigger domesticated variety and more of our wild raspberry variety at her place.  The wild variety are smaller and much, MUCH more powerful tasting than the domesticated ones and those were the ones this day that she wanted me to concentrate on picking, which I gratefully did.  We ended up with a big Ziploc bag of berries, but they were a mixed bag, literally, of both varieties of raspberries and I didn't think they would make very good jam.  So, instead of making jam, I decided to can raspberry juice for the first time this year.  I have found that it goes great in lemonade (I used some leftovers that didn't fit into a pint jar to try it) and if I find I'm not using it I figure I'll just use it to make jelly with later in the winter or something.

7.  Mixed Berry Jam  (Source:  ballmasonjars.com)

I had a mixed berry frozen fruit combo that I had a really good personalized price on at Carrs.  I decided to stock up on it (I had the personalized price on it all month back in like June) and I just picked up one bag a week.  When I had enough I decided to make jam from what I had gotten, which I did.  And I have to tell you folks, this jam is AWESOME!  It was this one if you have a Safeway affiliate anywhere near you (no affiliate link on that one, just sharing the product image).  The daughter really likes this stuff and has already eaten through one jar of it *laugh*.

8.  Pumpkin Butter (not canned, but in jars so I'm counting it anyway *laugh*)

I found a bag of pumpkin puree in the bottom of my block freezer that I had shoved into my beef freezer for...reasons I guess.  But, I needed to use it urgently as I was about to put more pumpkin puree back into my freezer from the pumpkin I got from the CSA and the pumpkin the daughter decorated at the fall festival as they were both showing signs that they were going to go bad on me.  So, I decided to cook down the puree from the freezer and make pumpkin butter out of it.  I threw it into the crock pot with some sugar and spices (I combined like four online recipes into one to make it with flavors we liked) and just let it cook and cook and cook down.  It came out really tasty.  I waited until it cooled and then I put it in 1/2 pint mason jars and put them in the freezer for storage.  I'm looking forward to eating it on biscuits this winter for sure.

9.  Mock Pineapple Chunks (Source:  The 1870's Homestead on YouTube) and Black Currants in Syrup (Source:  H is for Harbinger).

I got a ginormous zucchini one week from the CSA and I knew I wasn't going to be able to use it all for baking recipes and things.  I could have shredded it and frozen it, but I have a hard time using it when I do that (kind of out of sight, out of mind somehow), so I grated a few cups to make zucchini bread with later on and the rest I seeded, peeled and chunked up and decided to try a mock pineapple canning recipe from that 1870's Homestead on YouTube.  I felt very comfortable water bath canning this recipe as you are pickling the zucchini in pineapple juice and lemon juice (both nice, high-acid liquids).  I have to say I tried a piece of it before putting the rest in the jars to can and it really and seriously DOES taste like pineapple. I'm going to enjoy using it in sweet and sour pork and pineapple upside down cake (chunks, slices, I don't care so long as it tastes yummy *laugh*) this winter! 

I also got a container of black currants that week and looking at them I KNEW they weren't going to last more than like a day.  So, on top of the zucchini that was not going to fit in my fridge since it was too huge and those, I decided to can them both together.  I cleaned the black currants (not a fun task I have to say as you have to remove the little beard thing from the currant which is harder to do than you might think) and put them all into a 12 oz jar.  I only had like 2/3 of the jar full, but I just shrugged and added syrup to the jar till it was the right headspace and processed the currants like that.  I'm figuring this is going to make more like black currant juice than anything, but I'll dump the jar into a pan, let it boil down and thicken up and we'll have black currant syrup on our waffles at some point this winter.  It works for me.

10.  Caramelized Onion, Maple, Balsamic Jam (Source:  The 1870's Homestead on YouTube)

This was one of those recipes that I was nervous about, but intrigued about as I wasn't sure if caramelizing the onions and then making jam out of them was safe.  Well, not only does Pamona's Pectin have a recipe for caramelized onion jam (Google it if you are curious), but the newer Ball Book of Home Preserving does too, so I found that this jam existed.  I ended up with four and half jars, so we just used the 1/2 of a jar for bacon sandwiches (so, so good!!!).  

I made the recipe at the daughter's request as she LOVES onions, so I bit the bullet and made her some.  I'm not sure all of what I'm going to use the jam in, but stay tuned as I'll share what I make with it as I make it.  So far I know it's great on bacon sandwiches anyway *laugh*.  It is definitely a luxury canning item for sure, but hopefully the daughter likes what we make with it (so far she likes it, anyway).

And there you go folks.  The rest of what I've been up to this summer and fall till now on the home preservation front.  Hope projects are going well for you where you are!

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Thrifty Thursday: Thrift Store Finds

It's been a long time since I posted up a thrift store haul.  Honestly, it's because I just plain haven't found much at the used stores in a long time.  We don't go that often anymore is part of the reason.  We don't really NEED much is another reason and the last reason is because there just hasn't been much there the last few years.  I honestly think a lot more people have caught on to the idea of hanging on to their stuff in case they need it again or they have caught onto the idea that thrift store shopping is a great way to the save money.  Probably both if I want to be honest.  So, yeah, there just hasn't been much at the used stores the last few years, so there hasn't been much to post up.

I did however pop into the used store earlier this summer and found a few things I'd been looking for.  They've been on my list for quite a while, so I was thrilled to find them.  So, let's show off those finds :).

1.  A Tupperware potato keeper.

I have been looking for one of these suckers for a lonnnnnngggg time.  I even contemplated buying one new a few times, but I didn't want to go through all the trouble to find a Tupperware dealer person and all of that jazz.  And, of course, there was the cost to consider as well.  So, I just kept it on my list of things I was looking for and just kept my eyes open.  My husband actually came out of the used store (the son was cranky so we went in in shifts to look for things on our lists) and told me there was a bunch of Tupperware in there that day.  I went into the store excitedly as I was really looking for a Tupperware container to store my iced tea bags in (the box they came in was falling apart).  I went to where my husband said the Tupperware was and immediately saw the potato keeper sitting there.  I grabbed it without hesitation.  

Why do I want a potato keeper you might ask?  Well, my daughter has decided that she loves onions and while I was storing onions in the hanging baskets in my kitchen the baskets were starting to really deteriorate with age and I was scared of them breaking with any type of weight in them.  So, I thought a Tupperware potato keeper would hold the amount of onions I end up keeping around for my onion loving offspring now a days *laugh*.  

I then looked over and found a container for my iced tea bags too!  It was a good day!

2.  Blue lidded Tupperware container

This was JUST the perfect size to hold my iced tea bags and still fits into my lazy Susan cabinet in my kitchen well.  So, I'm super happy about it.

All totaled I spent less than 10.00 for both items and they are working out perfectly in my kitchen.  The onion/potato keeper sits on my counter now and gives me easy access to onions when I need them and my iced tea bags are well protected.  So, I think it was a really productive used store haul!

How about you?  Found anything good at the used stores/thrift stores/charity shops of late?  

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Autumn in Alaska and What I've Been Up To

So, once again blogging got delayed (obviously).  A quick recap of events that have prevented me from doing much other than getting through life the last month:

1.  The daughter's teeth started to bug her.  Got her to the dentist, but he didn't find anything on X-ray (cavities or what not), so he thought it was because maybe that her wisdom teeth were showing up on the X-rays.  Made an appointment for a more in depth X-ray.  Wisdom teeth didn't wait and poked through the gums.  So, it was in to get the daughter's wisdom teeth removed earlier than most teenagers.  She's recovering well, but yeah that was an unexpected turn of events there.

2.  The son's medications stopped working again.  So, we are trying to come up with some other plan to help him regulate his moods and help him to sleep at night.  It's been hard, but hopefully we'll get there here soon where he's doing better.  Fingers crossed.

There was good things in the month too though.

1.  We finally, after working hard the past year, got our medical bills paid off, this time with some help from the PFD.  Between those bills (which unfortunately were on credit card), it ate the entire PFD we got this year, but at least it paid off the rest of the medical bills, so I'm not complaining at all.  Course, now I have a wisdom teeth bill to pay off, but it is a major load off of my mind to have some pretty substantial bills due to my back paid off and the wisdom teeth are on Care Credit so I have a year to pay them off before interest pops up to haunt me.

2.  We went to the local fall festival again this year.  And this year it wasn't snowing and horribly cold.  Instead we actually had sunlight that day and the temperatures were chilly, but not bad, which was great.  Unfortunately, the amount of things they had to do was severely reduced this year compared to previous years (partly due to, I'm sure, labor shortages and all), so the son went on a few tractor rides, walked around a while and was ready to go home.  The daughter did manage to decorate a pumpkin at one of the events there (seen above) and so we got a free pie pumpkin out of the day, which was cool.  It was kind of short, but the kids seemed to have a good time anyway, so that was good.

We did stop off at a local produce stand that we like (Bushes Bunches) and I was able to score a FEW turnips (it's been hard to find them this year), a nice big onion and some local potatoes.  I would have bought some veggies from the farm where the fall festival was, but their prices were crazy high (2.50 per onion as an example) compared to my budget, so I passed on buying vegetables there.

3.  We celebrated my son's birthday at home.  My mother-in-law came over to help us celebrate and it was a lot of fun.  We had home made pizza and breadsticks and it was a nice and enjoyable evening.

4.  I got my pantry and freezers organized, managed to get produce processed before it went bad (with the CSA, that wasn't as easy as you might think as the quality just was not there this year) and put up as well.  I feel pretty darned good about those accomplishments, honestly, as with the son's medications not working great, it's been hard to get things done some days.

5.  Fall has been hanging on this year, which has been wonderful for a person like me who loves autumn above all seasons :).

I was asked by a reader what fall was like in Alaska, so I thought I'd give a quick tour of what fall is like up here.

Well depending on the year we may or may not have fall at all, really.  Last year we went directly into winter pretty much from mid-September or so.  This year is much nicer.  Normally, though, we do have snow at any time after October rolls around and most years the kids are running around in snow gear when they go trick or treating and trying to not slip and slide on the ice as they go from door to door in the subdivisions.

The leaves are hanging on the trees instead of immediately dying and blowing off this year and if you look around you'll quickly see more shades of gold than you thought you'd see with the trees seeming to all change color to different shades of yellow and brown.  It is surprising the trees are holding on so well with all of the rain we've gotten, but they are and I'm super happy about it.  

The temperatures are cold at night and in the morning (shot above from a few days ago),  but by afternoon I've been able to open the windows pretty much every day to air out the house still and let in that crisp autumn air.  It's pretty warm for this time of year, another thing I'm grateful for.  

We do have the furnace on and it kicks on at night and in the mornings, but it isn't kicking on constantly yet, which is a wonderful turn of events when I think of what the heat and electric are going to cost us this winter.  

When I first moved up here I greatly missed the colors that the trees would erupt into during the fall, especially missing the foliage changes from my youth in New England, but as I've gotten older and spent a good portion of my life now in Alaska, I really do love the change to golden hues that happen up here.  If you find someplace with lots of cranberry bushes growing they will change a beautiful shade of red toward the ground as well (I couldn't find a good spot in my yard to take a picture of some to show you).  

So, Alaska has its own color palette to appreciate this time of year.

So, there you go, a quick shot of Alaska in the fall (well, my yard in the fall anyway *laugh*).  Hope you enjoyed a tour of the fall shades we are experiencing up here at the moment.  I love them and wish I had some chairs on my deck so I could sit out there and really enjoy it.

I do, in fact, have some blog posts in the wings for October, so hopefully I get to post them!  I hope you are all having a great fall (my prayers are with those impacted by the hurricane and other events, for sure) and I will hopefully see you soon!  

Thursday, September 8, 2022

A Day in My Life: Come Bake With Me

 To kick off September, I thought I'd do something a bit different and take you all along on what I did September 1st, which turned out was a baking day for me (I KNOW it's late, but hey, better late than never *laugh*).  So, let's get to it!

September 1st, 2022

After waking up (I know, stater of the obvious there *laugh*), getting dressed and heading upstairs, I take care of getting the kids breakfast and getting the daughter started on schoolwork.  The son woke up, ate a little bit and immediately went back to bed.  He hasn't been sleeping well with his allergies all flared up, so I just let him and get started on my list of things I needed to do.  I pull out the mixer and necessary materials and work on making bread to last for the next few days.  I get the first load of dishes on to wash after I get the bread into the pans to rise before baking them.  It is only then I go and get my first cup of coffee for the day.

Side note, but the above picture is how I make my coffee everyday.  Notice the cone above the mug?  That is called "the pour over coffee method" and it seriously makes the best cup of coffee I've ever had.  Been making coffee this way for years and I love it, although I have expanded to having two cones; The above one and another ceramic one...the ceramic one I actually prefer the taste of the coffee out of, but it was in the dishwasher this morning.  I love this system partially because it stops me from having to have a coffee maker on my countertop taking up room and I can just store the drip cone in the cupboard with my regular dishes and the other reason is because, of course, it makes an awesome cup of coffee :).

After I got a cup of coffee to sip on, I put the bread in the oven and I move onto my next project and that's getting dinner started in the slow cooker.  I use my electric pressure cooker for this (I bought a nice instant pot glass lid for my six quarter pressure cooker because it was WAY better quality than the one that came with my pot, in case you are wondering) because the chicken won't fit in my tiny crock pot.  I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of the slow cooker function on the electric pressure cookers.  I mean it gets the job done, but it cycles the heat on and off hard to get the items cooked and it just doesn't seem to work as well as a real crock pot.  My opinion anyway.  

Right, back to the matter at hand.  I take the half defrosted rotisserie chicken out the fridge (we bought one at Three Bears, so it's just a Costco rotisserie chicken with a substantial mark up on it) and put it on to slow cook so I could cook the meat off the bones for chicken noodle soup for dinner.  This will also give me a good opportunity to use up some carrots with bad spots and some celery that immediately went limp and sad from the CSA box the last few weeks as well as one of the sweet onions we got in our CSA a few days prior (the onions are delicious, but have no shelf life to them to speak of, so you have to freeze them or use them quickly).

After that, I pull out a block of cream cheese from the fridge and cut it in half.  I then put the cream cheese into a bowl to come to room temperature so I can make cheese Danishes for breakfast over the weekend.  I take a break to get the son a snack and work on schoolwork (the daughter has been working on hers the entire time I'm working on other things with me occasionally helping with a problem here and there).  

I take a intermission from schoolwork to get the bread out of the oven and unload the dish washer.  I reload it quickly so I can get the bread making tools ready to go again in a little bit.

Now that the bread is out of the oven, I reset the temperature for my next project, which is dessert.  My entire family loves the Krusteaz Lemon Pound Cake mix and I have a few left from the last bulk order I made that need to be used up.  So, I get that mixed up and put it in to bake.  I then pull the son back to school work and get the rest of his schoolwork done for the day right when the timer goes off.  

I take it from the oven and place it on it's serving dish to cool completely. 

I then put the temperature on the oven back to 375 degrees, put the dishes from the last load away and make sure my metal mixing bowl is cool enough and then start on making hard rolls for my son to snack on.  He now eats these instead of the store bought hotdog and hamburger buns and I could not be happier about that.  

Once the rolls are in the oven, I take the inner pot out of my pressure cooker and strain the chicken from the broth.  I put the broth back in the pressure cooker, add some seasonings, some bouillon (to up the chicken flavor a bit as the broth was a tiny bit bland) and cut up the vegetables I want in the soup and put the slow cooker back on to cook.  I'll add the chicken back in when it is cool enough to separate from the bones.

I pull the rolls from the oven and it is less than five minutes before the son grabs one and runs off with it, which makes me laugh.  I help the daughter on some math problems and we break for lunch.  I ended up pulling a salad we had made from our CSA vegetables from the fridge and eating that for lunch.  The son actually helped to cut up the vegetables as part of his home economics course I designed for the year, so I was more than a little proud to eat the salad he helped to make.  I boil a pound of pasta to have it ready to go for a quick and easy lunch.  The kids have spaghetti (the daughter) and pasta with olive oil and Parmesan cheese (one of the son's favorite meals in the universe).  After lunch I then check the chicken and find it to be cool enough to handle.  

As I pull the chicken from the bone and pull it apart into bite sized pieces, I find that the rotisserie chicken had a LOT more meat on it than I thought it would (Carrs chickens never have more than a meal's worth of meat on it, so it blew me away), so I took half the chicken and added it back to the soup and then took the other half and decided in an instant to try and make chicken salad out of it.  I find a few recipes online and then decide to just wing it.  I add some tarragon (goes well with chicken), some parsley, a bit of old bay seasoning (what?  I like Old Bay!), some salt and pepper and enough mayo to make it nice and moist, some almonds that I pull from the freezer and chop up a handful of, and then, since I don't have any fresh grapes or anything to add, I throw in some dried cherries and some raisins into the mix.  I finish up by adding some onion and some celery to the salad.  I have to say as a first real attempt to make chicken salad, this turned out really good!!!  We ended up eating the entire thing of salad, which is an accomplishment since it made way more than I was planning on!

By this point dinner is fast approaching and I'm very tired.  But, I am determined to stay the course and get the rest of my list done for the day.  

I get the easy cheese Danishes ready to go and put into the oven to bake and get the home made noodles rolled out, cut into noodles and added to the soup to cook for the last 1/2 to an hour before my husband is set to be home.  I put the glaze on the lemon pound cake, put the soup on "keep warm" after I make sure all of the noodles are done and that the seasoning on the soup is right.  Honestly, after all of that, I sat down with a glass of water and watched some of my favorite gardening and cooking YouTube channels and just appreciated the fact that I was sitting down *laugh*.

So, there you go folks.  Hope you enjoyed coming along on my baking adventures for the day and hope it wasn't too boring for you :).