Friday, August 31, 2012

A place to study

This past week was KUH-RAZE-EEEE!!

Monday I returned to college as a full time student (which I had talked about here)

I had hoped to have my office/ study area in the spare bedroom ready but the hubbs needs to update the electrical outlets to 3 prong receptacles for my computer and printer.

Bless his heart he did such a thoughtful thing. He did a little dumpster diving and was so proud to bring this GINORMOUS and MODERN desk home. Sooo is very cool but doesn't fit both size wise and decoratively speaking. And not to mention I have a laptop not a desktop computer. oh well--Industrial modern desk anyone?

This is more what I had in mind. This empire style desk belonged to my grandma. It has made the rounds in the family before ending up back home with me. It is a little rough around the edges, but nothing a good sanding and some stain (or paint IF I have to)  can't take care of. It is the perfect size (small for my teeny little room), has a little bit of storage (my laptop just fits inside the middle drawer; the side drawers can hold the stapler, scissors and what not; and the cabinet compartment can hold folders and a couple of binders)

For now I am making due with  my ever versatile dining room table. I moved the buffet/island in front of the window and tucked the table against the wall and dividing book case. It actually looks really good!

And here is the room overall. I wasn't kidding when I said I had diminutive sized rooms! IF and WHEN we have company or decide to eat dinner at the table instead of the TV (yeah--we're THAT couple) I can easily clear the table off , move it around and bring in additional chairs if needed.

As far college classes are going....HELP ME! arggg! It is so much harder than the first time around. I am more organized but my brain just doesn't process as fast. And for those of you wondering here is the list of classes I am taking...

Anatomy and Physiology
Medical Terminology
Computer Concepts and Applications
Environmental Ethics
Interpersonal Communications

I hope I find my groove (and memory) soon!

Monday, August 27, 2012

A new chapter in life

Oh My Goodness! Life has been so crazy of late. I have been dealing with many family issues (a terminally ill father, my ill mother, my daughter who broke her foot), try to finish harvesting my garden, canning and preserving my harvest and finally--getting ready to go back to college.

EHRMEHGAWD!! In less than 8 hrs I will officially be a full time college student....again.  I am a bundle of nerves. 

I wonder how long it will be before this happens
teacher - Middle aged college Student? Tells all your classmates you are older than their parents!
(I totally made this meme, haha)

I know this will  be me by the end of the week (me as pensive and surrounded by books. Not young and pretty--if  only!)

So wish me luck as I begin a new chapter of my life!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

So much for a bargain

Last weekend I found an AWESOME chair on clearance at the grocery store. Yes the grocery store. It is Kroger Marketplace. You can buy everything you need for your house, well from furniture to groceries. It is a tad  modern for me and my house but I liked the neutral color (browns) to match my brown couch. The design isn't too foo-foo which is funny because I love girly florals. Anyhoo I purchased the chair for 70% off for  a reasonable $75.00. The chair is the perfect scale in my miniscule living room.

But then I realized the pattern on the new chair didn't work with the quilt I usually have tossed on the couch. Ok no problem, I will just take the quilt off. HA! Big problem. I have 2 dogs and 1 cat. And they kept getting fur and stuff all over the suede of the couch. I was stressing and of course they were acting like I was beating them or something when I told them to GET OFF THE COUCH!

Obviously we know who rules my house. My animals... because I gave up trying to keep them off the furniture. I was tired of vacuuming it 5 times a day. I do have several slip covers but they don't match the chair. I priced compatible slipcovers and even some plain coverlets--Um NO! I can't afford that! I finally settled on a king sized fitted chocolate brown sheet for $11.00. ...Ahh much better!

It isn't pefect by any means but it is protecting my couch and saving my sanity. And stopping my dogs from acting like they're abused....sheesh.  I can take it off when company comes over (which is usually never), and it is definitely way easier to clean than the suede. Seriously what was I thinking when I got this couch? I was thinking it was cheap!

And because the room has lots of brown in it I felt like it needed a little something to break up the chocolate fest going on...mmmm chocolate, so I added some new pillows from Garden Ridge ($9.99 each). They added the much needed pop of color and even pull corresponding shades from the chair.

Except now I am thinking I may need to update the curtains. And the lamps.  And you know I need to paint or stain the chest I am using for a coffee table. So much for a bargain right?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

3rd time is a charm_Versatile Blogger Award

Waaaaayyy back in May BJ from Joy to Journey awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award. And I TOTALLY dropped the ball and never published my thank you. 


Sorry BJ--this is my very, VERY belated thank you. Can I blame it on summer-time or hormonal issues rather than my being forgetful and rude?  

Here are the Rules for the Versatile Blogger Award.

 1. Add the award to your blog. 

 2. Thank the person who presented it to you.

 3. Mention seven random things about yourself.

4. List the rules.

 5. Pass the award to 7 bloggers.

6. Inform each blogger that they received the award by leaving a comment on their blog.

My 7 things
1. I own more pajamas than regular outfits
2.  Since I'm not working I wear pj's all  day (unless I HAVE to go somewhere and be seen in public)
3.  I always change into "normal" clothes before my hubbs comes home from work. It may be 5 minutes before he pulls in the driveway but I will be dressed for goodness sakes!
4. Thank goodness none of my neighbors are around to see me because I garden in my pj's, haha
5. I love gardening except when it is hot.
6. And boy was it ever hot in Ohio this summer. (We had several weeks of >100°F weather!!)
7. Did I mention I  don't like hot weather?

My 7 nominees
1. Dolly at Hisbiscus House A welcome to country living. 
2. Nancy at a Rural Journal Stunning rural photography
3. Morgan at Ms Morgans Reality Check A journal of self expression
4. Susie at Little Susie Homemaker An upbeat blog about crafting, cooking, sewing and so much more!
5. Michelle at Mystic Mud Documenting their life on top of a mountain
6. Susan at As Long as You Have a Garden Books, gardening and self reflection--what is not to love?
7. Sarah from Budget Friendly Decorating An avid HGTV'er (me too!) and providing budget friendly tips (evident from the blog name). I am sure if we lived closer we could be BFF's

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mater-Palooza (part 2)

Remember how I talked about all the tomatoes I have been harvesting from my garden here?

Well I decided to can mine own SLOPPY JOE sauce--NO MEAT!!. And I also decided to prep the sauce using my food processor, an 8 inch mesh colander and a rubber spatula. And I realize not everyone may have all of this equipment. You can sub a regular colander lined with cheesecloth and hand chop if you don't have a food processor.

I began by weighing out 2 lbs of tomatoes at a time to blanch. 

Make an X on the blossom end

Add to salted boiling water for about 30 seconds. You will see the skin start to pull away slightly.

Remove the tomatoes and quench in an ice water bath.

Waiting to be peeled and processed.

Next began the assembly line process of pulling the skins off, coring the tomatoes and adding them to the food processor. Because I am making a sauce I process for a good 30-45 seconds. This mixture is then transferred to the colander to drain into the measuring cup. I just moved the seed/puree mixture around on the colander with the spatula until it stopped draining.
Sorry I don't have a picture showing the puree but my hands were all gunky and I couldn't work the camera!
All the liquid and seed-free puree was added to a large non reactive stockpot. I took the seeded pulp added it to a small sauces pan added just enough water to boil, stirring occasionally, let it cook for 15 minutes, transferred it to the food processor, puled for a few seconds and drain through the colander to get the last bit of the juice.  The juice was added to the large stockpot.

16 cups of tomato juice/ puree
14 ounces of good tomato paste (commercial or home canned)
3/4 cup white vinegar
12 ounces of pureed pepper onion mix (I used frozen because I was out of fresh. I just ran under water to soften, drained and pureed)
Cook and reduce by 1/3 volume. Stirring frequently, scraping sides and bottom

Now for some flavor!
1 cup Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. mustard powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
2 tsp tobasco sauce
1/2 tsp powder nutmeg
1/4 tsp powder allspice
1 tbs onion powder
1 tbs garlic powder
1/8 c sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/8 c good quality bbq sauce

Cook for 30 minutes or until thick.

Follow all safety guidelines and recommendations for food preservation as per USDA. Prep your jars and hot pack leaving a 1/2 inch head-space. I ended up with 8 pints (And because I wasn't quite sure I did a cross between a salsa, chili sauce and tomato sauce) I processed this for 15 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure. It is better to over-process than under process. THIS IS FOR NO ADDED MEAT--JUST SAUCE! I personally don't feel confident canning meat and therefore would not feel comfortable providing instructions.

IF you want to can sloppy joe sauce with meat--
Please consult the USDA website on canning meat sauces! Follow your pressure canner manufacturer recommendations! 

The hubbs decided he really, REALLY wanted to try it, so we had sloppy joes for dinner!
Use 1 pint with 1 1/2 lbs of ground beef or ground turkey. Not sure for use with TVP.

Not only did it look and smell  like the Sloppy Joe/ Manwich(c) sauce that you would buy from the store--

it tasted even better!!

The hubbs LOVED it.  I have made sloppy joe sauce before using canned tomato sauce and spices but this is the first time I actually made it completely from scratch AND canned it! I am glad I did!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mater-palooza (part 1)

It has been Mater-palooza around here. I have been harvesting  anywhere from 10-20 lbs of tomatoes EVERY 2 days. When life gives you tomatoes you gotta make sauce.

I had 10 lbs in just Roma's!
So I set up my food mill because I like a very fine puree (no seeds and definitely no peel!) I know some people use the whole tomato but I think using the peel causes the sauce to have a funky texture and bitterness.

You can't get any more basic then this. All I did was wash and de-stem the tomatoes. Cut off any bad spots, quarter feed them through the hopper. A little manual arm cranking to run the tomatoes through the extruder. Just use the guide and gently snush the maters into the mill opening. Don't smush the 'mater to hard or juice will go squirting everywhere. Ask me how I know! And you can probably see 'mater splashes everywhere in the background...oops!

The juice and puree comes through the screen and runs down the funnel into my bowl.

The peel and seeds get sent out the side and are collected in another bowl.

When I am done running all the tomatoes through the mill I will take the seedy pulp and run it though one more time to get the last bit of the juice and puree.. Then the seeds can washed and saved if heirlooms or if hybrids it goes in the compost pile.

Add the juice/ puree to a mondo sized non-reactive stockpot. It will be a bit frothy at first and that is ok.

I had a total of 35 cups of juice/puree (1st batch).

Let this cook down by at least 1/3 before adding anything. Be certain to stir, scraping sides and bottoms to avoid any of the sauce burning.

Once the liquid had concentrated I added...
 24 ounces of a really good commercial or home-canned tomato paste (natural thickener and flavor enhancer)
1 c. of lemon juice (to acidify)
1/8 c. sugar (to offset any bitterness)
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
4 tablespoons garlic powder
4 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons nutmeg
(I don't add basil or thyme because I have family members with allergies)
Let this cook for a minimum of 30 minutes.

The reason I wait until the last 30 minutes to add the herbs and spices is they can become bitter when exposed to prolonged heat. Also if using fresh herbs cut the amounts in half as to what is listed (or what suits your taste).

I like to use a variety of tomatoes  but when making sauce I use a 1:1 ratio of roma's to other tomatoes. Roma's are really meaty, not much juice but the complexity of flavor comes from all the varieties combined.

 Follow all safety guidelines and recommendations for food preservation as per USDA. Prep your jars and hot pack. Process in a water bath for 45 minutes or pressure can for 15 minutes at 11 lbs. pressure (for quarts). This made 7 quarts. Actually slightly more and I just froze the extra amount.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Canning like a boss!

Why I am canning like a boss? 

Because the fertility goddess decided to bless my garden. My tomatoes specifically.

This was my Monday harvest.

I realize it may not look like much but the blue pail is over 5 gallons. That is a single layer of peppers on top. The rest are tomatoes. And all tomatoes in the basket as well. And I will have damn near the same amount by today. (I am afraid to go look in the garden)

Time to roll up my sleeves (if I had sleeves to roll up) and do some canning!

Yesterday I went for a triple batch of salsa  which requires 15 lbs of tomatoes! I picked through the tomatoes, washed and scored them. I set up my own little assembly line. I blanched in 5 lb increments.

***BARGAIN BUSTER TIP*** See that mondo can of tomato paste? I use tomato paste in my salsa to thicken without using starches or gums (go ahead read the label on your jar of salsa-I'll wait-pretty gross right?) Anyway a normal 12 oz can of tomato paste is $1.19 for generic store brand. I bought this brand name #10 can (6 lbs) at Gordon Food Services for $3.89. The rest of it was portioned in to freezer bags and frozen for later use. Waaaayyyyy cheaper!

So like I was sayin'--only yummy natural goodness in my salsa. No artificial anything. 15 lbs of tomatoes, 3 lbs of onions, 9 cloves garlic, jalepenos, habeneros, green peppers, red peppers and spices. Gooood stuufff!

I gotta tell you though the peppers got to me yesterday. My eyes were watering like crazy. Good thing I use a food processor. Not sure I could have wielded a knife through the tears. I wore gloves when deseeding and depithing (because I will never make that mistake again! You want information from your enemy? Stick some hot pepper under their fingernails. You will get national security secrets in no time) The peppers were monsters. Apparently I grow 'em good!

I ended up with 21 pints of salsa (actually 22 & 1/2  but the rest went in the fridge). And even after I processed 15 lbs of 'maters and picked out all the bad ones for the compost heap--Can you tell me wagon is well "loved"?

After all that THIS is what I am left with

So I am gonna do more canning today. And tomorrow. And the next day.

I hope everyone likes homemade salsa, spaghetti sauce, taco sauce and sloppy joe sauce--'cause that is what they are getting for Xmas!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Carving out a little creative space

Living in an old house is full of challenges. Making modern sized things fit into not modern spaces is no fun! There are all sorts of weird little nooks and crannies. (Dang it! now I am hungry for an English muffin).

Case in point--I would love to have a craft room. But seeing as how we only have a 2 bedroom house, I am not left with many options. Space is at a premium. I guess my girly spare bedroom sorta becomes the craft space by default. And if you click back on that link you will see there is a list of things to do in there. Which I haven't done one stinkin' thing!  Ok--not true. I have done a few things on the list. I just haven't finished them. Don't judge me...

The room needs to function as a bedroom,craft room and study/office. That's a whole lotta function for a little room. The office closet nook I had downstairs was bumped for storage practicality.  Additionally  I am going back to college in a few short weeks and needed a better suited study environment than the living room or dining room.

Well I had a little awkward space behind the door of the bedroom. Originally it was stacked up with totes and what not. Not very pleasant to look at from my guest's perspective and definitely not conducive to creativity.

The area is not big enough to work on crafts but enough space to be creative and inspiring! A nice little nook to stash the my gift wrap and pick out a  special occasion card. Not to shabby for some found space and using stuff I already had lying around. The "table top" is actually 2 shelves from an old pantry cabinet. I used L brackets to connect them. They were a perfect match in to height to the scrap-booking/ craft organizer cabinets. (Which I bought for 50% of Michael's last year). The opening isn't wide enough for a chair but I can stash my tools and craft box there.

Now when you are in the room it definitely feels more serene.

Unless you look in the closet (which I don't recommend) because it is a hot mess.  
Don't say you weren't warned...

Don't judge me! haha
I know- I know--it is bad! However, this is on my list of to do next. No seriously! This is where the office/ desk area / craft supplies storage is going to be situated. That way when I am finished studying, paying bills, crafting, blogging or facebooking I can close the curtains. If I am in the middle of stuff and  someone is staying overnight (which in reality happens maybe 1 or 2x per year) I can just pull the curtains--outta sight outta mind!  So stay tuned!

I have a kitchen gadget habit

Not just electronic kitchen appliances. Gadgets in every shape, size, color and for every function..

Nutmeg grater? Got it!
Citrus juicer? Got it!

Strawberry huller, meatball-er, can strainer, apple wedge/ corer, egg slicer, cup shredder, mortar & pestle, pasta serving portion-er,  turkey lifters, garlic mincer, it, Got It, GOT IT!!

And I have lots of other gadgets...Mixer, blender, food processor, food dehydrator, coffee grinder, and a griddle.
How many ladles (6), graters (4) and vegetable peelers (3) does one person need?  I found stuff  that I don't remember how they ended up there and some not sure what purpose they serve. I think I found what might be a burger press but I am not sure.

Why am I taking inventory of all my gadgetry? Because when planning my kitchen to make use of all the space you should inventory all of your stuff. And I am sure they mean for you to get rid of some of it.

Good intentions right?

Yet I ended up buying these...

And as I continue my organizing it isn't just gadgets. It is any  kitchen related item. Baking sheets (12) stockpots of varying sizes (4), frying pans (6), muffin pans (5), bread pans (3), pie pans (2), bundt pans (2), etc...

And I haven't even gone through my cast iron cookware. Or my dishes. Or my glasses. I can't believe I have so much stuff! When did I stop seeing it? Why am I holding on to it? I dunno. All I do know is I really like cooking. It makes me feel happy and creative. But I am pretty sure I don't need ALL of this stuff. Except the stuff I just bought because I am using it for food preservation, haha.

So the next time I am lamenting the lack of space/ storage in my kitchen you have my permission to tell me shut up!  In the nicest way possible of course.