Monday, July 16, 2007

Canning and Preserving

I bought a pressure canner. I am so excited to use it. I don't have any kids this week, so I don't know if I am gonna have time to use it or not. I will have plenty of time on my hands, but I am gonna spend time with my honey. I had the option of going away to Pigeon Forge or do things in the area. I chose the latter of the two. I am more comfortable in my own home, I don't have to pack and I can sleep in my own bed. Plus I don't want to have to worry about someone taking care of the cat.
Anyway, I went out Saturday and I got the last of the pressure canners at Ace. I was so excited that I couldn't wait to get home and open it. I didn't have time to play with it Saturday, but I took some time on Sunday to look into this thing!
It is huge, 22 qt pot that holds 7 qt jars, 14 pint jars and 21 half pint jars. WHOO HOO! I have a new toy!
So, I get it out of the box and start looking for the instructions. I had them in my hand, and then poof, they are gone! Go figure in my house. I looked everywhere, bedroom, bathroom, pool table, nope, can't find it anywhere. I found it, under PJ's butt, the one place that I didn't think to look.
Ok, let's get started. I am scared to death of this thing. First of all, the sucker is HUGE and very heavy. I open the book and follow the directions to the T. Put the eye on high and wait until that little thing on the top jiggles. I don't leave that things side. I stay right there with it. It starts to jiggle and I turn it down to the that it just has a slow rock to it. And turn it off. Take it off the eye and go on your merry way, but wait for it to cool down before opening it up.
I didn't have time yesterday to can some corn, but I will. I will also be doing white chili, soups and stews. I am so excited. I can't wait to have all this stuff in my cabinet. That way all I have to do it take out a jar, heat it up along with the rest of the dinner and have a meal made in about 15 minutes. All natural, all good stuff.
I want my kids to eat well. They deserve to have a life that is full of good eats! But they deserve to have a good dinner every meal. I don't want them to grow up eating junk.
Am I overprotective of them? You betcha I am. But with them eating a good meal, I know that they will grow up appreciating the work that they and I put into all of them.
Do I pick apart my meals when we go out? I sure do. I always think that I can make them better. And most of the time I do.
I am happy that I have this chance in my life to do this for all of us. And for those of you that are close enough to me, don't be surprised if you get jars that I may make too much of. Oh well, enjoy life to the fullest, and that is what I plan on doing!

Eric's trip to the cannery

Eric fought me in going to the cannery with my dad. "I am not going, I don't want to go. Please I would rather stay home." I made him go anyway. My dad uses a cane and he wouldn't be able to handle the boxes to put them all in the trunk.

We started out Thursday morning with a bushel of green beans to be strung and snapped. I bought them at the Farmer's Market at 7:15, had them home at 7:24, still had time to get ready for work. I left 2 huge bags of beans in the kitchen, hoping that Eric would do something.

I got home at lunch and started showing him how to string and snap the beans. So, we did some while I was home and then I left him on his own. After a while he was begging me to stop! He got a bag done and I started on the other bag when I got home. I noticed the trash can was terribly heavy and I started going through it..... I found about 3 lbs of beans that he said wasn't any good. Nope, we don't throw stuff like that away.

Ok, rinse those off and get the others started. I had quite a bit done when Chuck got home. He sat down and started to help while Eric snapped them. We made pretty good time. I had blisters on my fingers from the knife, but we got them done by 8:15. All ready for the morning.

I had all the jars washed and boxed up and outside so that way my dad could put them right in the car. Turns out he had a 5 gallon bucket of tomato sauce that he was gonna can too. Of course he needed the jars that I just bought! So, I told him that he owes me 2 cases of pint jars.

He called me and told me that he was heading over to get Eric and go to the cannery. This cannery in town is about a mile away from my house and it is the only public cannery in the state of Tennessee. It is pretty cool what they have over there...more on that in a minute.

I came home for lunch, and I noticed that my dad and Eric aren't home yet. So, I head over to the cannery. Yep, there they are. My dad was sitting there with Eric right next to him. I asked if they were almost done, the beans were in the canner cooling off. Ok, not bad.

Eric started to tell me how he did everything. Eric did EVERYTHING. He cooked the beans for the right amount of time, canned them and put them in the canner. I was really shocked, I didn't expect Eric to tell me how everything worked and how he worked on everything. I didn't expect that.

Don't they look so delicious!

Now, since I found all of those extra green beans in the trash, I really thought that it would have been a push to get 21 quarts out of the bushel. I had to ask him how much we got... "Oh Mommy, I got 24 quarts of green beans." What???? I didn't expect that much. I don't think we will use that much, so if I see that we are getting to the years point, I will start sharing.

Dinner tonight was pork loin roast, dirty mashed potatoes and of course green beans. I started the green bean jar that wasn't completely full around 2. I went out to wash the car, came in and low and behold my beans were burning. BADLY! I mean when I dumped them out, there was black crap coming off the bottom of the pot. Oh well! I had to ditch the mess and start again.

I had to put the bacon in and salt, salt, salt. I forgot that Eric didn't salt the beans when he canned them. So, salt, salt, salt. I finally got them right. And they came out wonderful.

I went out today and I bought myself a pressure canner. I am so excited that I even got a new cookbook!! Canning and Preserving for Dummies. I also went out to get a dozen ears of corn. I am making cream corn tomorrow. I am so excited about this.

I love the new experiences for both Eric and myself. I love the chance for Eric and me to have some more wonderful memories. And I finally have something to talk to my dad about. We call each other to compare prices of jars, where the sales are, where to get the veggies from, to make stuff together. I know that I ramble on about it sometimes, but this is something nice that I can actually do with my boys and with my dad.

Refrigerator Pickles

I missed last week's recipe. Sorry... But here is something good for summer and the ones who have gardens

8 cups cucumbers, ends cut, thinly sliced. Do not peel
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
1/2 cup thinly sliced green pepper

2 cups white vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp salt ( I do use a very coarse kosher salt for this)
1 tbsp celery seed
1 1/2 tsp mustard seed

In large bowl, place cucumber, onion and pepper.

Place vinegar, sugar, salt, celery seed and mustard seed in pot. Heat to a boil, stirring often. Boil for three minutes.

Pour over the cucumber mixture. Cool. Put in clean jars, refrigerate and let sit for 3 to 4 days. This will keep in the refrigerator for 2 months.

Mine don't last that long in the house!

Try it, they are good, something different. I won't waste a good cucumber!


Friday, July 6, 2007

What is the next step?

Chuck came to me the other day and told me that this pissing contest that Bonnie, my dad's wife, and I have had over the last 5 months has gone on long enough.

Ok, so now what? I am willing to make peace, maybe. But I am willing to give it a shot. But what goes through my head? Everytime I think about the way that she talked to me, the way she called me names, the way that she treated me, the way she treated the boys, it just makes me very leary of her and her ways.

I have blogged about this before, so y'all know the hell that she has given to me. Not only about the big things, but over an 1" piece of fudge that I gave my dad (how dare I) or the borrowing of a crockpot. Those are the things that go through my head.

So, I talked to my dad today. I told him about me wanting to talk to her. Of course it is good for him, because the 2 women in his life are gonna be "friends" again. Oh, I wouldn't go that far. But in his world, he will view it like that.

I told him that if she ever talks to me that way EVER again, I am through with her, with him and with everyone that is involved with her. See, the stress level in my house since February has been nill to none. We don't argue about my dad anymore or about his bitchy wife.

He informed me that I have ignored her while talking to him. I don't think so, because I am not that type of person. I am very friendly and I enjoy being around people. Even if I don't care for you, I will not make it evident that I don't like you!

Ok, so let me get this straight. I make breakfast for 5 people every Sunday morning. A breakfast that consists on nearly a pound of bacon, 9 eggs, toast or biscuits, coffee for me, postum for my dad (he is not allowed to have coffee), milk and juice for the boys, tea for Bonnie. Ok, everyone's eggs are made differently, I am a short order cook! Slice the loaf of bread that my dad walks in the house with, get the table ready (the boys do help), ketchup for the home fries potatoes, spoons, silverware and napkins. Yes, this is what Sunday mornings were like for me. So, if I ignored you, I am freaking SORRY! Because I am freaking worn out sister! I never saw her lift a finger to help, nope, not to boil the water for the postum or tea, not to help with the clean up. Not with anything, and she is gonna bitch that I ignored her. I don't think so, 'cause I really don't care.

So, I am willing to make the move to talk to her. I told my dad this, and he told me that she was gonna call me last week, but he told her not to. Gee thanks, that makes me feel as if I am the bad guy here. I was the one told to grow up, I was the one told that I was a liar, I was the one told that I was nothing but a worthless spoiled rotten brat.

I put this aside and wipe the slate clean, I hope I can. But I know me. People who know me, know that this will be hard to do. Because in less than 3 years I have known her, I have been put down more than complimented.

I don't know what to do, I don't know what to say, I don't know how to handle her anymore. The relationship that my dad and I have is no longer there. I think I am only doing this for the boys. They need to know that they have a grandfather. They need that relationship. But do I? I don't know any longer. I don't know if I have the patience to deal with that anymore. It is a tough situation and I am really stumped right now.

Do I open that door to let her back in? If I do, is it all the way? Do I forgive her for all her comments, doings, words to hurt me and the boys? Do I let that stress back in my life?

Chuck said that he doesn't care if never sees her again. He doesn't care if she ever comes over again. So, why, tell me, am I to forgive her? Make no sense to me.

They already have plans for Thanksgiving, they are going to Jimmy Swaggart's in Baton Rouge. They already have plans for Christmas, they are going to her son's in Alabama. So, she already moved on in her life. But do I need to be the bigger person here? I guess so. And now my dad said that since I brought it up, I need to make the phone call. I don't know about all that, I am not ready for that. I am willing to meet half way. But not any further.

I am confused. I have to watch out for my family, but if I don't do this my dad has to walk on egg shells for the rest of his days. I don't know what to do! I am so happy without her, the boys are so happy knowing she isn't coming around. Chuck has no stress because he doesn't have to worry about her causing any problems in my life or in the boys' lives.

I am confused, it is 6 in one hand, half dozen in the other.

Any advice is welcomed!

I am getting more and more domestic in my old age!

I feel as if I have been on hiatus! I haven't blogged in over a week, I have been really unmotivated this past week. I guess catching up on camp from Eric, planning on what to do for the holiday that fell in the middle of the week. And trying to find all kinds of sales for school clothes, I just haven't felt like doing all that much talking. But I believe I am back! Yipee! More stuff to fill your in boxes. More stuff to let y'all know that you have a new blog or blogs to read from me.

We have decided to purchase an upright freezer, haven't gotten it yet, but we have looked at Lowe's (I can smell the wood as I type ;) ). Anyway what brought us to this decision is that it is cheaper in the long run to buy and freeze a half of cow, to freeze fruits and veggies too. So, then that lead me to this, I think I am gonna try my hand at canning. I can't believe I said that, but yes, I think I would like to can my veggies, stews, fruit, jams, pickles etc... Sure why not? It would be better for my kids and for the family.

I made my first batch of refrigerator pickles this past Saturday. I used 4 jars, and gave 3 away, kept the 1 for us. Only because I was a little leary about something that I have never made before. So, I pop open the can on Tuesday, taste one.....mmmmmm! It was GOOD! Real good actually!

It was funny, Chuck doesn't care for pickles, not at all. He eats them when he has them on something, but would be ok in life without them. Well, he finally got his burger on the 4th and there weren't any pickles left. He picked them over so much that he missed out on putting them on his burger!

So, Wednesday, before the family came over for the cookout, I made another batch. My mother-in-law liked them so much that she took a jar home with her. And then I shared another jar with one of the teachers at school. I still have 2 left, but now my dad wants one. So, needless to say, I am keeping all the jars I can, so that way when the cucumbers come in, we have more pickles.

I realized how easy it was to make them. That took no time because of the food processor slicing everything for me. In the long run, it is cheaper for me to make them since we do have the garden, instead of me buying them.

So, I then realized that it would be so much cheaper and easier, in the long run, to make a lot of the stuff myself. So, I am gonna try my hand at things like apple butter, tomato sauce, and green beans. I am actually looking forward to making homemade strawberry jam, and peach butter. I know the work involved, but this is something you can't find at the store, not like that anyway!

And my neighbor informed me that the lady at the cannery is open everyday, but the best days are Tuesday and Thursday because the farmers are there. This lady has everything to can, we just bring the food and the jars. She helps with everything else. It is an all day project, but it is worth going because she helps everyone that needs help. Ok, well, I won't have to buy the pressure canner, and I won't need the rack and I can do all of the major work there. This is so cool. I really thought that canning was a dead thing, but once my interest got perked, I am finding more and more about it.

So, now I am officially domestic. I cook, sew, quilt, bake, clean, iron, cross stitch, embroidery, paint the rooms, and whatever else you can think of. But now I am gonna add something else to my list.... canning and freezing.

My groceries will be cheaper, I will only have to go to the store for the packaged foods, chips, butter, milk, cereal, cheese, rice, noodles, and whatever else that I just can't do at home. Ok, so basically, if I don't have to leave my little commune, I won't.

I have some tomatoes to do something with, so that is my first step. I don't need a pressure cooker for that, so I am gonna try the tomatoes, and then I am gonna buy STRAWBERRIES ! I can't wait! I am always willing to try something new, if I don't like it, I won't go back. I do believe I am gonna try it first at the cannery and then purchase what I need if I really like it. I have a feeling I will really enjoy this.

This is a new experience in the boys' lives too. They get to help me out, they get to learn something, they get to try something new too. I know that doing this isn't only for me and Chuck, but it will also be memories for the boys with the time that we will spend together.

Also, I know that a homemade jam, salsa or something makes a nice gift. Or when I get home and I don't have anything to eat, well, pop open a jar of gumbo or stew, make rice and have a nice dinner. I don't prefer to eat out any longer, only because I pick apart what I am eating and I know how much it would cost me to make it at home. I am so picky!

Well, this one I am diving in head first. If you don't hear from me, you know the food poisening got me! New experience, new memories, yep, this will be good for all of us!

This is cute and so true!

Job description for parents


JOB DESCRIPTION: Long term team players needed for challenging permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organisational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24-hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in faraway cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.

RESPONSIBILITIES: Must provide on-the-site training in basic life skills, such as nose blowing. Must have strong skills in negotiating, conflict resolution and crisis management. Ability to suture flesh wounds a plus. Must be able to think out of the box but not lose track of the box, because you most likely will need it for a school project. Must reconcile petty cash disbursements and be proficient in managing budgets and resources fairly, unless you want to hear, "He got more than me!" for the rest of your life. Also, must be able to drive motor vehicles safely under loud and adverse conditions while simultaneously practising above-mentioned skills in conflict resolution. Must be able to choose your battles and stick to your guns. Must be able to withstand criticism, such as "You don't know anything." Must be willing to be hated at least temporarily, until someone needs $5 to go skating. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and co-ordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organise social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next. Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys and battery operated devices. Also, must have a highly energetic entrepreneurial spirit, because fund-raiser will be your middle name. Must have a diverse knowledge base, so as to answer questions such as "What makes the wind move?" or "Why can't they just go in and shoot Sadam Hussein?" on the fly. Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product. Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.

POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT AND PROMOTION: Virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: None required, unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

WAGES AND COMPENSATION: You pay them, offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.

BENEFITS: While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered, job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life if you play your cards right.