Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Happiness

Joy is...

watching Two Little Girls carve their pumpkins.

Ooey, gooey fun.

Sloppy, messy, slimy giggles.

Wishing everyone a Happy Halloween! Have fun, and be safe!

Monday, October 24, 2011


I'm loving that it's getting dark so early these days. There's no time for gardening after dinner any more. Instead, there's an hour of dark before bed, time spent in the living room with my girls. Last night they ate popcorn and colored, while I read a story out loud and knitted. An evening like that affords its own sense of peace.

I keep seeing dinosaur hats on Ravelry and in friends' blogs, and decided it was time to go ahead and make one.

Chloe is modeling it, but I made it for a friend of Cora's for his fourth birthday. No pattern used, one wasn't really needed. More details on my Ravelry if you want to make one.

After Chloe saw it she asked, "Do you think there might have been pink and purple dinosaurs, too?" Add a pink and purple dino hat to my list of things to make. :-)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Coring Pears the Easy Way

Every once in awhile, I come across some utterly fabulous tip for making kitchen work easier. My friend Katie passed this one on to me, and I'm forever grateful!

If you've ever tried coring pears, you'll know that it's tedious work. Of course, it's not bad if you're only coring a pear or two, but if you happen to need to remove the cores from forty pounds of pears, it can be slow going.

Unless you've got a melon baller.

Just cut the pear in half and use the melon baller to scoop out the core. It makes for the prettiest pear halves you've ever seen, and it's about a million times faster than trying to use a knife.

Do feel free to share any other ingenious kitchen shortcuts here - I'm all ears! :-)

The End of the Canning Season

Happily, canning season is coming to an end. Aside from possibly one more box of apples, I've finished all I plan to do for the year. And oh man, is it satisfying to be able to say that!

I haven't written much about canning this year, mostly because it's all the same stuff I wrote last year, and the year before that. Nothing's changed much except that I can kick out jars of canned goodness much more quickly with each passing year.

Here's the list of what's in the "pantry" (read: shelves in the basement. Because I have no real pantry.)

Peaches: 16 quarts
Nectarines: 5 quarts
Apricots: 7 quarts
Pears: 10 quarts
Tomatoes: 15 quarts

Strawberry jam: 16 pints
Apricot jam: 3 half-pints
Apple jelly: 5 pints
Peach jam: 8 pints
Cherry preserves: 3 half-pints
Applesauce: 8 pints

Pear chutney: 13 half-pints
Salsa: 19 pints

Bread & butter pickles: 7 pints
Zucchini pickles: 3 pints
Dill pickles: 3 pints

Apple pie filling: 7 quarts
Apple cider: 4 quarts

I just added it up: 152 jars of food. Wow.

Since peach season in August, I've spent about four hours canning each week, usually a couple of hours on free afternoons, after school is finished and the girls are enjoying some free time (or hang-out-in-the-kitchen-with-Mom time.) It's tiring, but not overwhelming.

And I'm done! We'll have enough fruits, sauces, jams, jellies and pickles to last well into summer next year. Feasibly, all I'll have to buy is bananas. We can snack on canned fruits, have them for breakfasts and desserts all through the winter. I've got about 15 pints of dried fruits as well, which make for lovely snacks.

I'm in the mood for a bit of math. Let's see how much all this food costs to put by. Because math is cool, right?

Peaches - 4 boxes @ $10
Nectarines - 1 box @ $5
Tomatoes - 4 boxes @ 5.50
Pears - 2 boxes @ $8
Apples - 2 boxes @8
Strawberries - 8 pints @ $2
Cherries - 2 lbs @ 1.50
Apricots - free from a neighbor's tree

So about $118 in fruit. All the vegetables I grew in the garden. The costs of the other ingredients I'll estimate at about $50, which seems high except that I use organic raw cane sugar for all the fruit and jellies. That also includes the boxes of pectin, and extra vegetables, spices and such for the salsa and chutney. Figure another $30 for lids for all the jars. So about $200, rounded up, for 152 jars of mostly organic food, or approximately $1.30 per jar.

A jar of organic jam costs $4. Half-pints of chutney sell at farmer's market for $6. A quart of organic canned fruit is almost $5.

I have no desire to do *that much math. But clearly, I'm saving money. A lot of it.

And this food is local! Well, most of it is, anyway. I've talked to the farmers, I know many of them by name. I can ask them whether they spray their crops, or use chemical fertilizers. There's the proof that eating organic and local really is possible, and doesn't have to be that expensive. Is it a lot of work? Well, yes... but it's enjoyable work. It's work that allows for time spent chatting and singing with my daughters or friends in the kitchen, and enjoying the feeling of accomplishment that comes from knowing I'm feeding my family well. And it rarely actually feels like work.

More and more moms my age are canning every year it seems, and I love hearing about it! Wal-Mart sold out of their canning supplies this year, along with most other stores here in town. I think this whole canning/preserving thing is really taking off (for the second time around.)