Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hump Day

Finances. What an interesting word. It makes everyone react - like it or not. With a bad choice or an emergency, it seems even though you feel you are prepared, things can change in just a day or two. With this in mind, a savings of some type is a necessity and not a luxury.

We have cut back in many places, and we have been diligent and haven't spent money on anything but necessities. With the holiday coming, we decided to start shopping a little early, and since we've been very good, we thought we'd go a little extravagant and buy a Nintendo Wii as an early present for the family. (this has been something we've been considering for a long time). I swear as soon as we pulled it out, things started going downhill in the finance dept. Talk about buyer's remorse! It was such an unusual purchase for us, that even the credit card called to make sure that we really purchased it. LOL

We will probably have to dip into our savings this time. It's amazing how even a carefully planned purchase when you know you can afford it can turn into a mistake. I know a Wii isn't that expensive, but the $500 we laid out for it would have helped greatly in the situation we now are facing. In one week, we've ended up with a few surprises that were unanticipated and costly.

No, I'm not complaining, but mentioning it so that it might be a lesson to someone else. This time of the year causes impulse buying and everyone I know spends more than they intended to, because it's Christmas time. I know I had always been taught it's better to give than receive, but I honestly believe that giving is meant to be of oneself more than material things. Holiday anticipations for me were more focused on my family getting together more than the presents. I was always so excited to see my cousins that lived out of state. We'd have a fantastic time playing and running around. Sure, the presents were great, but when I think back to my best memories of the holidays, it focuses around all the wonderful times we had together. There aren't many presents that I remember, no matter how much they cost - they just don't stand out in my mind. My family and friends, on the other hand, did.

Excess - Be Gone!

I've been going through books and things that we no longer need since the kids have gotten older. I remember saving things for the someday - and now that someday has past, and the kids don't have an interest or have outgrown those things. Many of the books were posted on PaperbackSwap and to my surprise, quite a few were on other's wish lists, so I sent a lot out these past couple of weeks. Yay! They are gone and now my credits sit and wait to be used for new goodies. I have requested a couple of nice additions to my cooking library - one a Mr. Food cookbook called "Pizza 1-2-3", and the other was a Taste Of Home book called "Mom's Best Recipes". I am also getting the last 2 books from the Left Behind series. It's been so long since I read the other books in the series, that I'll probably have to start all over again. That's ok - I love snuggling under the covers in the winter time and reading before bed.

I also sent books and magazines to Freecycle and the thrift shop. Everything that I posted on Freecycle went FAST. We also cleaned out the closet and donated all the outgrown coats. I'm working from room to room, and weeding the unnecessaries out. I'm finding that too much"stuff" makes me unappreciative and downright grumpy. I get irritated with clutter. The older I get, the more I don't like it.

On the Needles

I'm currently knitting a pair of socks for DS for hunting. They are nice and heavy wool socks that he loves. He claims they keep his feet so much warmer than anything we've purchased at the store. One sock is finished and I need to cast on the other. I must get moving on them, as it will be hunting season in just a little over a week.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Having Fun!

We had a great week with putting up food and getting things ready for winter. The garlic is in, the garden is ready, and most of the food has been put away. I still have a bit of squash and sweet potatoes to do.

I canned 6 quarts of pumpkin to try. I've read opinions on canning it, and some people swear by it and others don't like it and prefer to freeze it. The Ball Blue Book does not recommend it, but the guide from the Cooperative Extension has it listed. So, I tried a batch to see for myself.

I'm also planning on putting up some canned kidney beans using Garden Gnome's method. When I used the directions from the guide I got from the Cooperative Extension, the beans became thick and exploded and not in any type of juice like you'd buy in the store.

Taste Of Home Cooking Schools

We went to one of the Taste of Home Cooking Schools last week. We had a blast. Hubby and our son went along with us this year. This is the third year my daughter, my brother's girlfriend and I attended, and a first for the guys. My son met a historian/author that was promoting her book at the vendor show, and he got one of them signed by her. She also invited him to a some meetings that her society has, and an archeological dig to boot! He was flying on cloud #9 all night. He's been corresponding with her since the show. Cool, eh?

The show was nice but we ended up with terrible seats. We went early (like usual) to get the good seats, and instead of filling the middle first, they went across the rows from side then middle than side. Where we were, the audio was terrible and we couldn't really see the instructor, but instead the screen. DH and DS were on the inside end, so it wasn't so bad for them. In fact, DH won a nice prize of a bottle of oil, a bag of spices and baguette wrapped in a Christmas print towel. It was a nice surprise! DH thought it was cool :)

Our gift totes were nice and filled with items from the vendors as well as a few things from Reiman Publications. The one thing that confused me though, was they gave the recent issue of Taste of Home magazine. Well, almost everyone subscribes, so that seemed a waste. I wish they would have given another of their cooking magazines instead. But all in all, it was worth every penny we spent to go. (like every year!)

Even though I've cooked for a long time, I always find some great hints and come home with a little more knowledge than when I went. My best lesson was that chefs and profession cooks burn things, too - but they call it carmelizing! LOL

My brother's girlfriend gave me a wonderful surprise when we got back. She bought me the Taste of Home Winning Recipes recipe book, and it's fantastic! That is going to be one well used book in my kitchen library!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Getting Ready for Winter

l.- pickled garlic; middle-broccoli soup; r.-pumpkin pickles

It has been busy here around our little "homestead". We've been getting ready for winter, and putting up some food as well as putting the garden to bed. It's been a long week, but quite productive, although there were some disappointments along the way.

As you know, there is a critter we are trying to catch in out basement. He has been very happy were he is, and won't be caught. I guess I can't blame him - all that yummy food we've put away for winter has made it a warm haven for him. Until we catch him, we've got pumpkins, squash, 'taters, etc. all around the house in places I'm not happy with at all. It's made it difficult, so I'm canning and freezing things to get them out of here. I hope we can catch the invader soon, as I'd rather put things back down in storage than to have to preserve it all. It just tastes better fresh IMHO.

I did up some broccoli soup - 16 pints total. I opened a new box of lids, and it appears they weren't good, as the same amount of lids I got out of the new box was the same amount that didn't seal. We are only putting away 9 pints now. I know that I can reprocess them, but I don't know how it will change the flavor. Instead, we just had soup for dinner for the next two days. In my 20+ years of canning, this has never happened. Guess I was due for some humble pie :)

A good friend of ours sent up some extra garlic he won't be using, so we now have a nice 7" square priority mail boxes FULL of cloves that have been removed from the garlic head. These were ones that didn't pass his inspection to replant. With all that extra garlic (on top of what I have from my garden), I have a lot to experiment with. We've been eating garlic in everything these days, and now we've even tried pickling the cloves. I only did a test batch of 2 half pints, as I have no idea what to expect from the flavor. (from Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving pg. 160)

I also tried a test batch of Pumpkin Pickles. (from Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving pg. 163) Everyone is anxious to try these, as the syrup the are packed in tastes yummy. The book said that it made 5 pints, but I ended up with 6 pints and a little extra syrup. We have very little waste from pumpkins, as we roast and eat the seeds as well.

The garden is now getting ready to be put to bed. We have part of it done, but still need to get out and finish it. We've covered the garlic with horse manure, straw and a nice big pile of Maple leaves. They will be nice and cozy over the winter. We put in 120 Bogytar, 108 Siberian, and 36 Bavarian Purple - all hardneck garlic. I'm hoping they do well. They went in a little later than I would have liked.

We also prepped our onion and pea beds for spring. They have been turned, and layered with horse manure, straw and some leaves as well. When spring comes, the manure should be pulled down into the soil by the worms over winter (in theory) and the straw will mark the rows. The leaves are piled on deep to hopefully prevent the soil from freezing solid, and will allow it to be workable in the spring. We'll pull both the leaves and straw off to allow the soil to warm a few days before planting. We'll be putting in 2 types of peas - a sweet pea and Carlin peas. The Carlin are a dry pea and is traditionally used for Pea Porridge. (Remember the ditty "Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold?")

The tomato cages are cleaned up and put away, and we've pulled all the stakes up that held the cages. Our cages aren't the flimsy ones you buy at the store, but are made from a roll of 4" x 4" fencing that is 4' high. We also picked more rock that decided to pop up during the season. Those things produce better than my veggies do!

We still have to finish off the garden, but all the time we put in now will save time in the spring, when we are anxious to get all those little seedlings in their new home. We also won't have to worry about getting the beds turned to get the earliest veggies in, as they will be ready to go. So many times we've run into problems and have missed putting in the earliest crops. We are trying to prevent that next year.