Monday, August 17, 2015

Canning and more canning!!

We have been SO blessed this year with the amount of produce I've been able to buy/been given. I love knowing that this winter we will have plenty of blueberries, strawberries, peaches, peach jam, diced tomatoes and salsa in our freezer and in our basement. 
I went blueberry picking twice and got 4 gallons. The blueberries are all organic and pesticide free and are currently sitting in my freezer just waiting to be used in smoothies, oatmeal, muffins-yu name it! Isaiah eats them frozen like they are candy :)
I was able to buy 50 pounds of peaches that were seconds quality and I made most of them into peach jam and peach syrup. The syrup is to die for and is incredibly delicious over pancakes!!
Before the process began!
Hot water to be able to get the skins off.
Cold water to make it even easier.
These are the two huge bowls that contained the peach purée for the jam.
The stove was quite busy :) tomato sauce simmering, peaches cooking down for the jam and then peach syrup heating up.
For the syrup, I used my blender to make it. It was done in approximately 10 seconds. This blender is a beast.
After a long day, I was finally finished. Definitely worth all of the work!!
Two days later I set to work on a ton of tomatoes my mother in laws neighbor gave us!
Her garden is simply amazing and she uses it to bless others by giving away TONS of the produce!
This is only a fraction of the garden.
Mhmmm! She gave us all of these tomatoes, some bell peppers, and some delicious red potatoes!!! We were and are so grateful.
The tomatoes took a very long time to prep-but thanks to a little boy sleeping in until 10 am, I got everything ready to can.
(While isaiah watched Frozen :) )
The tomatoes were a particularly messy process-and I honk my floor is still somewhat sticky because of them :)
Tomatoes were everywhere :)
I was able to get 24 quarts of diced tomatoes and I have a bag or two of tomato sauce in the freezer. 
I was just given a few more tomatoes and I plan to can some salsa this evening with them.
See? Just a few ;)
Maybe one day I'll have a garden to where we can grow our own winter supply of food. And summer dinners. That would be awesome. For now, I'll just dream about it :)

Friday, July 17, 2015

The tale of homemade coffee creamer

Okay. Confession. I am a coffee creamer addict. 
It has to be creamy. And sweet. Can't forget the sweetness. Oh, and it has to have flavor.  Caramel is my favorite.
Recently we, as a family, have been become vegetarian. Mainly because it's cheaper but also because we are striving to make healthier habits for ourselves. That being said, I've been working on  cutting out most forms of sugar and processed foods and it's amazing how much we don't miss any of that. We have been able to see a difference in the way we feel and even look by adding more veggies and green smoothies into our diet and less sweets and it's been great! We love it.
(Im not saying that because we are vegetarian {while at home} we are super healthy. Because you can still be vegetarian and unhealthy. We just try to do what's best for us and take little steps at a time)
But I wasn't going to give up my coffee creamer. The stuff that was delicious and creamy and full of all sorts of chemicals to make it that way and that i ingested

Time went on and as I slowly started evaluating other things we ate, (we still don't eat perfectly!) I knew I wouldn't be able to keep drinking my coffee every day with this creamer added to it and the thought of drinking it black was not even a thought in my mind.
I didn't want to give up my creamer.
So I resorted to Pinterest and I looked up home made coffee creamers.
The result was pages and pages of beautiful looking creamers in glass jars and recycled coffee creamer containers perfectly photographed. And flavor choices upon flavor choices! I was so excited to stumble into this land of diy coffee creamer. I knew I wouldn't have any trouble finding a recipe that suited my tastes.

I pulled up several recipes that looked promising. I had everything on hand-coconut milk, dates, vanilla, cocoa powder, maple syrup, cream....and I went to work ( over the period of several days).

Every single recipe I tried out failed.
It was bitter.
Not sweet.
Not creamy.
Lacked flavor.
It was disappointing and I was not pleased. Especially after spending money on pure maple syrup pure vanilla extrac and dates amongst other things.
I figured I was doomed to give up coffee because I really didn't want to continue drinking the creamer I had been(such a turn around from where I started!).
Then. Someone told me about a more natural line of creamer that Coffeemate actually produces. It's called Natural Bliss.
It has four ingredients. 
Milk. Cream. Sugar. Natural flavor.

That's it. Nothing added to it to make it creamy-it was just those four simple ingredients. I could live with those :) and though it's not healthy per-se, it's something I feel much better about putting into my body on a daily basis.

The creamer only comes in small bottles and is more pricey than the other creamer I had been buying, therefore making me limit myself to only one cup a day(occasionally two on a weekend ;) ) to save myself money and at the same time not make myself fatter. It's a win win. And my coffee creamer search was over.

I might eventually try my hand at making a creamer again-but I'm going to give it some time. I wish I knew where I had messed up after trying several recipes!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review #6

I received this book from Blogging for Books for free to write a review on it.

When I was looking for a book to review, this one caught my eye instantly. I've been on a healthy kick recently and really have been curious as to what is in foods that we eat every day.
I recently gave up drinking my favorite flavored coffee creamer because it had so many ingredients in it that I couldn't pronounce! If it had words that I couldn't understand or pronounce, why was I putting that into my body EVERY. SINLGLE. DAY? And sometimes multiple times a day? Therefore my quest for coffee creamer began. Pinterest became my friend and I book marked tons of recipes on DIY coffee creamer.
None of them worked for me.
So I went to google and to online forums to find a premade, all natural coffee creamer. (Thinking there was no such thing.) Much to my surprise, Coffee Mate makes a brand called "Natural Bliss" and there are three flavors that I can find locally. (apparently there are MORE than three!! Including caramel...I need that in my life. Like right now.)

 They come in the small bottles and are more expensive...but the ingredients. They had me sold. :)
Those are the type of ingredients I can handle with a clear conscience :)
Anyway, back to this book.
It was an interesting read on every day things you eat and drink and use including coffee, deodorant, laundry detergent, cool whip etc.
Each subject has a list of ingredients along with what that actual ingredient is! This book definitely helps enlighten you on what you put in/on/around your body.
While I may not read the backs of every single thing I use or eat, I am making little changes in my daily life slowly.
Definitely check this book out to learn more. :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Whirlwind Road Trip

The last weekend in April, Brandon was able to ask off for two days so we could join his family and extended family down in Florida for the celebration of his grandpas 80th birthday.
Thankfully, we decided to split up the trip down there and drove half way to Charleston, SC on Friday and the rest of the way on Saturday.
With two small kiddos it was a good idea to split the trip in half. The 6 hour drive took us about 8 hours total. It was so nice to take our time and stop when we wanted/needed.
Isaiah kept talking about going to "Charlies house"! It was so cute to see how excited he was to go on a road trip. 
He would ask us when we would go on a road trip and we would have to keep telling him we were *on* the road trip right now! The most common phrase we heard was "I don't want to go home!!"-and we had to assure him that we were not headed home for several days :)
Saturday morning isaiah slept til 7:30 which is an hour and a half more than what he normally sleeps to on any given morning so that was a nice little surprise. :) once we ate breakfast at the hotel we got on the road again.
We were blessed with very safe travel mercies and escaped heavy rains and tornado watches and warnings.
We arrived at Brandon's aunts house where we were graciously housed and fed for the next two nights!
We had a great time catching up with family and just being out of the car!
Sunday we went to church and then the party followed immediately after. It was held in a screened in pavilion which made for a beautiful breezy afternoon protected  from the downpour that ensued half way through.
It was a wonderful time celebrating Howard's 80 years of life. So glad we were able to be there for it.
It was also nice to be in summer type weather for a day :)
The day went by quickly and once the festivities were over we headed back to our abodes and just relaxed for the rest of the evening.
We headed back home early on Monday morning around 6:15 and spent about  17 hours on the road. It was a long day and the kiddos did so well. When we had about four hours left they started to just be over the whole road trip thing. Who can blame them??
One of our stopping points was the beach-isaiah was so thrilled and it was the perfect place for him to stretch his legs for a little bit :)
This was James' first experience of the ocean :)
It was a nice little stop and I'm glad we did that.
We found a great little coffee shop for our next real stop which was more than worth it. The kids needed more attention and time to stretch since we were doing so much in one day!
The kiddos did so well considering we spent about 16 hours on the road coming home-we had about an hour or so near the end that was just screaming and whinning, but man, they really did well :)
Needless to say, we were all so very glad to be home!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Book Review #5

The Barefoot Queen

I had no idea what this book would be like when I got it and quite frankly it was not my favorite.
This is a story from the view of a freed Cuban slave and her best friend who is a gypsy set in the 1700's and the book was slow going. I had a hard time connecting with the characters and the goings on.
I can see how this story would appeal to some, but for my taste it was a bit too dark with it containing many scenes of abuse towards the women in this book. The way the abuse and violence was written was in a very casual manner and that just ruined the book for me.
The Barefoot Queen is definitely written very well-just suited to a mature audience and one who doesn't mind reading graphic portrayals of that type of scene.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Okay. Deep down inside (and it shows outwardly as well), I am a pack rat.
There's a problem that comes with that, unfortunately. Clutter.
I hate clutter.
If you asked my mom 5 years ago she would say "what?! You hate clutter? Never. Look at your room!"
Well, a lot has changed in 5 years and having a house of my own has more than likely changed my perspective on clutter.

Brandon and I go thru phases where everything is nice and clean, everything has a place and then...boom. Things are not in their place and I get stressed just looking at our room or our living room. So we get into cleaning mode and tear the room apart and put it back together-then we can breathe.
It's wonderful!

One of the recent snow days we had resulted in a more organized and clean kitchen! I finally got to the point where I couldn't stand looking at our kitchen. Ours is small and we don't have a pantry and we have very limited cabinet space.
So Brandon and I worked on tackling the top of the fridge first and then the pots and pans and the tuppaware.

Often times when we do this type of thing I can be irrational and just want to get rid of EVERYTHING! And start over.
But that just isn't practical. Which is why I am thankful to have a very level headed husband beside me when we do these types of projects :) he reins me back in when I have the impulse to trash everything we own and gives me alternatives and brain storms with me on how we can make it better. How we can use our space wisely.

We downsized our plastic storage containers and got rid of some pots and pans and other containers that we either don't use or really just don't need. It was so freeing.
All of the things we got rid of went into a big pile on the kitchen floor.

It was then bagged up and put in the basement until our $.50 yard sale my sister and I are having at the end of this month! 
Everything is now so much more accessible and orderly looking. It makes living with a tiny kitchen in a rental a little bit more bearable :)
Our next project is our "pantry". I am hoping to be able to use some of our household budget soon to buy organizing containers to help contain the mess and make it look less of an eye sore :)
It's pretty unsightly.
I am thankful for our cash system (more on that later) and our budget because I KNOW that we will have the money soon to be able to slowly decorate/make over our house! It's quite exciting :) It might be a slow process but it's definitely worth it.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snowy days

Recently we have had our fair share of snow and sick days, which means we have been stuck in the house for a couple of weeks! The first snow we got was almost 10" inches of fluffy white stuff and I thought isaiah would be excited to go out and play in it.
So, I spent about 25 minutes bundling both of the kids up and putting james in the ergo baby carrier and making sure we didn't have any skin showing. By the time we were headed out the door I had worked up a sweat.
Isaiah thought the snow was cool. Until he stepped into it. It came above his knees and he couldn't walk by himself. I probably heard the phrase "hold you mommy!!" (Aka- "hold ME, mommy!") twenty times in the short time we were outside.
I found our beach boogie board in the basement and put isaiah on the boogie board and pulled him around on that for approximately  1.5 minutes at which point I just let him sit on it and  eat freshly fallen snow.

He thought that was the best thing ever and was content staying there eating snow for a while, which was great because I was determined to stay out there longer than the amount of time it took us to get ready to play in the snow . ;)

After that one adventure out into the snow, isaiah had no desire to go out again. Therefore I resorted to Pinterest for indoor activities for toddlers.
Let me tell you-I think we could do several activities a day and never exhaust the endless ideas out there!
We did all sorts of things. Since we had so much snow we piainted snow.
He transferred water from one container to another with a water dropper.
We also used a teaspoon.
We made cloud dough. (2 parts cornstarch one part hair conditioner)
We washed out trucks and cars in bubbles.
We dropped colored vinegar onto a bed of baking soda. It fizzes and is really cool!

We have lots of other ideas too and I'll bedefinitely incorporating these into every day life. They keep him entertained so well!
Pinterest is the place to go to figure out WHAT to do with your kids when stuck inside for days on end :)