Saturday, September 29, 2012

Apple Picking, 2012 Edition

The amazing weather we experienced in March plus the subsequent frost and subsequent drought had a dear price.  Much of the apple crop in southern Illinois and Michigan was lost this year.  Today we headed out to enjoy what was left.  The U-Pick pickings around here are very slim.  Kuiper's Orchard was able to save a large portion of their apple harvest through some serious apple-saving efforts.  We're so glad they did.

We were able to pick a 1/4 peck each in the orchard and to pick up a full peck in the store.  Add to that absolutely perfect weather and you have a recipe for success.

We even had fun getting to the orchard.

And just hanging out.

Did you know that Ellis' life goal is to be a farmer?  He's doing pretty well so far.

After the apples, we headed over to the pumpkin patch.  Although we didn't U-Pick pumpkins (the child was pretty much melting down entirely by this point), they had a great selection in the store.

I've always wanted one of these:

I finally treated myself.  After I use it for decor, I will cook it up and eat it, even though I really don't like eating pumpkin.

That's right.  I'm living the dream.

Now, of course, it's time to can those apples!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Canning Obsession

I can quit anytime I want.  Really I can.  Just one more box.

My name is Jen and I'm a canning addict.

42 quarts of tomatoes.  Does not not include quarts already consumed.

Mild salsa in progress.  This is the Zesty Salsa from the Ball Book, but with 1/2 poblano peppers instead of jalepenos.

So festive.

 The final product.

I'm intending to mix this with the Hot Salsa we made.  It's so hot I can barely eat it.  But it is beautiful.  Can you see the heat emanating from it.

Tomato season is winding down and I was starting to get a bit panicky.  What will I do with my time?

Luckily, beets are available by the box now.  Hello, new obsession.  Yesterday, I hung out with Anne and we canned 19 quarts of Pickled Beets.  We also put up Bruschetta in a Jar, because tomatoes may be ending but they aren't done yet.  Tomorrow more friends and I are doing more Tomato Sauce and trying out a Green Ketchup recipe.  I also have some eggplant I'd love to turn into Caponata.

I know.  I'm obsessed.  And also, I'm out of jars.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mama Re-Vamp

True confession time.  I skipped a dear friend's birthday celebration at my favorite bar last week because I felt too ugly and didn't have anything to wear.  I have really not been taking care of myself lately. And by lately I mean, for the last year or so, emphasis on "or so".

I haven't had a hair cut in over a year.  I've trimmed the ends myself here and there, but I am not a proficient stylist.  My "do" had become a weird frizzy triangle.  Sexy, kinda.

Also, none of my Fall clothes fit.  Truth be told, I've gained some weight lately.  I'm 39 years old and 6 months ago, I quit nursing my son after nearly 4 years.  Obviously, my body is going to change.  Still, I was unable to let go of the size I've always been and embrace the size I actually am. Honestly, I'm hoping to move back to the old size in a healthy manner, but in the meantime, I need to, you know, be dressed.

My inability to go to the party was a sort of wake-up call.  This is no way to live.  I took a few days to wallow and sulk and feel generally ugly, and then here's what I did.  I arranged a baby-sitter for the day and had a day of beauty.  I painted my toenails.  I bought new make-up, bras, and underwear.  It's possible that these things alone could power my life for years.  I thrifted new clothes in my actual size.  And I got an awesome haircut (from Nicholas at Barbara & Barbara.  You should go there, too.)  I literally feel like a new woman.

I still need to get new glasses (mine are broken and I can't see all that well these days.  Frankly, I can barely thread a needle.) I hit the dentist (boo).  But I'm happy to say, I definitely feel like myself again.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Salsa Time

Tomato season is winding down here in Illinois.  How can this be?  I feel like it just began.  Still, that Autumn chill is in the air and the days are shortening.  It's time to put up what needs putting up, tomato-wise.

I'm not even going to mention how angry I am about the one ripe tomato we've gotten from this heirloom plant.  Not like there weren't 9 zillion Sungolds for this animal (I suspect rat) to choose from.  But no, he/she had to go for the Holy Grail of tomatoes.  And then didn't even finish it.  How rude.

Today was for salsa.  The thing about salsa is that it requires a lot of chopping, which is best done with friends.  Anne, Anne's mom Mary, Kathleen and I gathered with our kids to salsify.  Suzy came, too, to help kid-wrangle.  Kim came later on to watch and offer helpful tips.

We chose the Jalepeno Salsa from the Ball Book, on recommendation from our resident canning expert Venessa.  It did not disappoint.

We multiplied the recipe by 9.  We needed many canners.

We made many pints.

They were very pretty, a fact very much enhanced by the awesomeness of Anne's kitchen.

The salsa is delicious but it is also very, very hot.  Probably too hot for me, but Sarah will like it.  We also think it'll be amazing added to other recipes.  I, personally, will be adding it to milder salsa, because I am a wuss like that.

Tonight, Sarah and I will be making tomato soup with the leftover tomato parts from the salsa tomatoes and whole tomatoes with the other 25 pound we got at the market yesterday.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Canning Band Wind Chime

If you are like me, by which I mean an obsessive canner, then you end up with lots of used and extra lids and bands.  If you are also like me in your inability to throw these things away, then your kitchen is full of them.

What to do, what to do?  You'd better make use of them.

We decided to make a wind chime using sticks, jar bands, and yarn.

In addition to using materials we had on hand, this project also spotlighted fine motor skills for Ellis.  He practiced cutting.

And tying.

I love it when he gets so intense and focused.

We also got to practice balance.  I was pleased to find out that he understood how to fix it when it was out of balance.

Uh-oh.  I spy a gazillion more bands waiting in the background.  Watch for more canning lid and band crafts coming right up.

How we made ours:

2 longish, straightish sticks
Yarn in colors that please you
Canning jar bands
optional: other things to hang

Cross the sticks at their centers and wrap yarn around the cross to attach them.  Cut various lengths of yarn.  Tie lids to the yarn and tie the other end to the sticks.  It's useful to either hang the sticks up first or balance it somewhere so you can tie the lids on without everything getting all tangled.  We placed ours on two chair backs.  Test your wind chime to make sure it's balanced.  Make adjustments as needed.  Hang somewhere with a breeze.