28 September 2010

Canning Apples

A sweet friend of mine (who is expecting twins!) gave me two bags full of apples from another friend's tree. Understandably, she didn't have the time or energy to do anything with them so I gladly accepted!

These apples obviously aren't shiny and polished from the grocery store, but they smelled and tasted delicious (a little tart). They did have some bad spots that had to be cut out - no big deal.

I used my trusty peeler-corer-slicer that my grandmother gave to me. This thing is a lifesaver when working with apples!

Apple slices waiting in a big bowl...

I've only canned applesauce in the past and I don't add sugar. The reason I can get away with that is because I use a variety of apples - some tart and some sweet. This gives it a great taste with no need for added sugars. Well, this batch was tart and I only had these apples, so I had to think of something different to do. I looked at my Ball Blue Book of Preserving and decided to try my hand at Apple Butter and just canned apples in a light syrup (can be used later for baking or pureed into applesauce if I find some other apples to mix in).

It tastes great, but I'm not sure I got the consistency right (I'd never actually eaten Apple Butter before).  I was afraid of pureeing the apples too much because the recipe warned against liquefying the apples. I have no idea if the apple butter turned out like it was supposed to. Nevertheless, I'll take taste over texture any day!

We're having a family adventure to go apple picking at a local orchard in October. I'm so excited and can't wait to can lots more!

27 September 2010

30th Birthday Weekend Getaway

My hubby turns 30 TODAY! To celebrate, we went on a weekend getaway alone to the mountains. Thankfully we have some friends who have a mountain house and let us stay free - thank God for generous friends! We toured Biltmore, relaxed, watched football, read, and ate tons! It was a great weekend, a welcomed break. 

To celebrate his big milestone birthday, I gave him 30 presents over the weekend - a present for each year of his life. Most were small and just his favorite things (Coke in a glass bottle, favorite candies & snack foods for the weekend), some were experiences (day at the Biltmore, picnic lunch, Date Coupons to use in the coming months), some were useful with funny notes attached (undershirts and underwear), some were gift cards to his favorite places, and his big gift was a much needed watch that he'll pick out soon (all those big manly watches look the same to me!).

This weekend also allowed me to accomplish several of my 101 Goals, so hop on over and check it out!

Meal Plan Monday

We have tons of food in our pantry and freezer, so I'm hoping to do a little "Pantry/Freezer Challenge" to myself over the next month or so. I hope to buy fresh produce and dairy when needed and not much else. This week I wouldn't have to buy anything if my child didn't love fruit so much!

Here's what we're eating...
Monday: BBQ Pork Sandwiches & Fries
Tuesday: Chili
Wednesday: Blue Cheese Chicken, Potatoes, & Green Beans
Thursday: Calzones & Salad

No meal planning/cooking for me this weekend...yay football & family time!

Check out lots of other Meal Plans at OrgJunkie.

08 September 2010

Damson Plum Jam

Have you ever heard of a Damson Plum? I hadn't until this past year when a sweet friend told me about them. Her parents grow them and she often makes preserves out of them. She was so generous to give me a bag full. I had no clue what I was going to do with them, but I knew I'd make something!

I checked out the Ball Blue Book of Preserving (my go-to book for anything preserving related) and found a recipe for Damson Plum Jam. It looked pretty easy (3 ingredients: fruit, sugar, water), so I decided to give it a whirl. I was quite nervous because this was the first time I'd ever made jam the old fashioned way - without pectin. However, the patience to get it to the "gelling point" paid off because it is delicious!!

The recipe made 6 half-pints. This was so good that I'm not sure I'll be giving them away as Christmas gifts...I might be greedy & keep them just for us!

07 September 2010

101 Goals in 1001 Days

Over the last few months, I've seen these "101 Goals in 1001 Days" blogs popping up. If you don't know what I'm talking about, the basic premise is you set 101 goals to be completed in 1001 days. They must be attainable and probably stretch you to have some new or uncommon experiences. This sounded exactly like something that would fit into my life perfectly right now!

I've set up a separate blog to keep up with my progress and hope you'll follow along. Feedback or suggestions related to my list are welcome!  I'm sure some postings may overlap between this and my personal family blog, so if you happen to read all three you can just skim through and check out the pictures!

I love goal-setting, so I was really excited to get started on this and created my goals in about an hour. I'm hoping my hubby will get on board and start one too (I might have already helped him get started, but it's totally up to him to finish his list and follow through). I think he, like many other men, needs to focus on something outside of work & home responsibilities. Don't get me wrong, these two things are vitally important and necessary, but they aren't the only things in life. Sometimes the monotony of our daily lives can overshadow finding daily joy. I think this will help him, me, or anyone else who wants to join along to remember to focus on a well-rounded life. Remember, life is meant to be enjoyed!!

06 September 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Happy Labor Day! We've had a wonderfully restful weekend with cooler temps. Don't you just love fall?!?! Those cooler temps are gone for a while, but they give us a glimmer of hope that the incessant summer heat will eventually come to a close.

I'm itching to make a pot of chili and some pumpkin bread, but with temps close to 90 all week I'm thinking it will be a while. So, here's what we're eating this week instead.

Monday: Peppers & Pasta (so excited to find the sausage on sale last week!)
Tuesday: Chicken on the grill, potatoes, squash patties (yay for late squash!)
Wednesday: Lasagna & Salad
Thursday: French Dip Sandwiches & Fries
Friday: Pizza Night! (which may be replaced by Chinese because it's been way too long since we patronized the Lee Family)

So thankful we're still eating away at all that freezer cooking I did. Definitely worth the time investment!

Check out lots of other meal plans at OrgJunkie.

04 September 2010

House Arrest

I feel like we've been under house arrest this week. My little man had a contagious virus, but felt just fine (which I was SO thankful for...nothing worst than being stuck at home all week with a cranky kid!). To avoid infecting others, we stuck close to home this week with just an occasional trip to visit my in-laws and the donkey.

So, what did I do at home all week?

Caught up & kept up with the laundry

Organized like a crazy woman

My two "junk" drawers aren't so junky anymore!

Threw away a TON of stuff and made Goodwill my new BFF

Hung up fall & winter clothes to sell at upcoming consignment sales

Emailed with lots of ladies about our upcoming MOPS Consignment Sale.

Hung a few frames to make a new collage wall
Weird angle because that's a pretty narrow hallway. That big EMPTY frame in the middle won't be like that for long. 

Cleaned the house (but somehow managed to skip the bathrooms...oops!)

Cleaned my silver 
Most of which I inherited from my paternal grandmother...while I cleaned I remembered about our times together and thought about all the meals she ate using that silver over her lifetime. Good memories make cleaning silver much more enjoyable.

Received a bag of Damson Plums from a friend. Looks like I have some jam or preserves to make :)

Made a fall version of the Dollar Store Hurricane Vases that have popped up all over the blogosphere

Decorated inside for fall

I'm LOVING the smells in my house provided by the Mulled Cider and Pumpkin Spice candles

Spent too much time blog-hopping and getting inspired with thrifty decorating ideas. My poor hubby is not real thrilled my new "project" list.

And since I didn't win a Silhouette AGAIN, I took advantage of the promotion they were running through September 1st. Happy (early) Birthday & Merry (early) Christmas to me! I see MANY personalized gifts this year...I'll be a vinyl queen & glass etching pro soon.

Thankfully we were able to get out on Thursday when we had a delicious meal with my husband's parents, brother, and his girlfriend. Friday I even managed an afternoon alone while Little Man napped at his Nana's and I got my hair cut. Ahhh...a little pampering! :)