Monday, August 22, 2016

1st Day of School!!!

Is there anything more exciting than a first day of school?  It's Violette's first day of Pre-school!!  

Sam is in Montana with his Grandparents so his first day of 1st Grade will be next week.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Facebook Brag

Have you ever written a post in your head while doing something you deem as extraordinary?  Well, if you haven't, I'm sure you've seen others who do.  Facebook has given us a platform to list out our accomplishments, growth, and milestones. 

I think it would be hilarious to put up a super braggy post that says, "Rachel takes the gold in summer kitchen Olympics by baking X# loaves, X# canned pints along with all dishes done while the girls played in complete and utter harmony.  #blessed".  

But alas, some humor does not translate well, particularly if someone is having an especially hard, unproductive day.  So I'll keep my silly post here.

On Saturday, I found myself writing a post in my head as I tallied all the things I hoped to accomplish.  I worked furiously from 7:30 - 8:30 to wash all the dishes, bake 2 loaves of sweet potato bread, drain soaked black beans and set up for 3-4 cook time, and get prepped tomatoes out of fridge and set up for their final salsa ingredients and 3-4 hours cook time - all while NOT eating breakfast or drinking coffee.  What a horrible idea, to do all that work on an empty stomach.  Sometimes my Will overcomes my Sanity.  

After breakfast, I took the girls to grandmas house to see about getting a squirrel trap (see last post) and afterwards we stopped by our house, the one we bought 8 months ago and have yet to get a contractor to commit to fixing the roof.  I was shocked to see our yard had turned into a massive jungle.  I shouldn't be too surprised given our 3 week vacation and subsequent 2 weeks of truck trouble but I guess I didn't expect to see one foot tall grass.  How embarrassing, we'd become "those neighbors".  

As we headed home it occurred to me that we could remove the back row of seats in our van to make room for the lawnmower and equipment.  Not sure why this hadn't occurred to me sooner, I guess we kept thinking we'd get the truck back.  Husband promptly agreed to the plan and left for the rest of the day.

I got lunch on the table for the girls and ate while canning the salsa from earlier.  After lunch I put on "Beauty and the Beast" for the girls and spent the next hour making another batch of salsa and two loaves of banana bread.  Just as I was finishing up, Evie came to me asking for a nap and I realized she had a fever.  At this point my day literally stopped, right around 2pm and I didn't put her down until 7pm when I parked her in the highchair for dinner while quickly draining the black beans and putting them into 3 quart bags.  Yes, my beans sat there since lunch!  This is what happens when you have small ones,  She reclaimed my lap right after dinner, of which she ate nothing and I finally put her in bed at 9.

I think she's teething because I couldn't find anything else wrong with her.

Finally, here's my brag photo:

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Our Squirrels Are On Notice!

While we were on our three week vacation, squirrels got into our truck and chewed through wires in the electric panel. It caused $280 in damage as we had to replace the entire instrument cluster.  On Friday, we went to pick up our truck and found the engine light was coming on so we promptly returned the truck and it was then they found the chewed wires.  Not sure how much this next round will cost.

These squirrels have had free reign of our property with no predators so we're planning to put out traps and re-home them.  I'm sure more will move in, but I just want to get the ones who chewed our wires off the property so they don't do it again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Blog Refresh 2016

It's time to say goodbye to a header that I love so much.

I love seeing my kids at the top but I'm not good at keeping the photos updated and when considering a refresh I realized it's probably best to go with something that requires less maintenance.  Life with four kids, a full time job with travel, and life outside a computer keeps me on my toes.  I love my blog and would never consider ending it but there comes a time when less is more.  My kids will still be highlighted in the blog, just not on top.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Buzz Away Extreme - A Natural Insect Repellent

My oldest daughter is a magnet for mosquito's and we've used OFF! family care spray products until now.  I recently had a chance to try Buzz Away Extreme, which is a natural insect repellent spray, and the results were great.

The reason I dislike OFF! is because it's usually sold as an aerosol can and I worry that the over spray gets into places that a spray just doesn't need to go like breathing it in.  I also don't feel comfortable using the chemical Deet.  I have small children, two of which still suck their thumbs and it's hard enough keeping their hands clean.

This summer I was contacted by Buzz Away who asked if I'd like to try out their natural product in exchange for a blog post.  Well sure, I call that fortuitous timing!

We received a 2oz travel size pump spray bottle in June and we used it until leaving for our family vacation in July (forgot to pack it) then used again when we got home in August.  Upon our return, we found the mosquito's had gotten really bad in our backyard.  We live in Maryland where August weather is hot and humid, perfect conditions for mosquitoes.  First day back my oldest ran outside without any protection and promptly got bit all over.  I then found the Buzz Away spray and made sure she was covered every day since and I'm happy to say she's reported no bug bites!

The spray ingredients are listed in this order:
Active ingredients:
Castor Oil (8%), Geranium Oil (6%), Soybean Oil (3%), Cedarwood Oil (1.5%), Citronella Oil (1%), Peppermint Oil (0.5%), Lemongrass Oil (0.25%).

Inert Ingredients:
(79.75% total):  Purified Water, Coconut Oil, Glycerin, Lecithin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Citric Acid, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Wintergreen Oil, (Patented base HOMS(r) formula).

I find the spray smell to be a bit strong but not unpleasant.

This product can be found in a 4oz size on Amazon for $8.91, sold direct from Quantum, or you can order through Amazon Prime for $10.99 and get free shipping with a Prime account.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Wild about Canning and Reducing our Footprint

This year our tomato plants have gone crazy with growth.  Next year husband plans to build scaffolding because these plants have outgrown Lowe's tallest tomato cages.

August is going to be a busy month for canning tomatoes!

The only question is what should we do with them?  As of last week I still had 20 quarts of tomatoes from last summer and about 10lbs in the freezer!  Our kids stopped liking Spaghetti and Chili so I guess we slowly stopped making these parental faves over the past year.  No more!  When I was a kid my mom had staple meals on the menu that never changed - Spaghetti every Friday night and Hamburgers every Saturday night.  This left only 5 days to plan meals and I'm going to do the same.

After making a giant pot of Spaghetti last Saturday, I now have 16 quarts of canned tomatoes (I use 4 quarts in my recipe).  I figure if I make this once a month then I'll have 4 months left.  I will therefore need 32 quarts to get through next August on Spaghetti alone.

Other things we can work into the canning schedule are Salsa and Stewed Tomatoes - which just adds bell peppers and onions to plain tomatoes.  We've got red peppers in the garden but very few onions so I'll need to get those from the store this week.

This week we did our first batch of Salsa (4 pints), more on that separately so I can post our recipe and we canned Pinto Beans (12 pints).  The Pinto's are to replace store bought cans of Pinto beans.  Here is the savings:
10lb bag bought for $10.00 in Odessa, TX at Albertsons.  We soaked 3lbs of beans which made 1 batch of refried beans and 12 pints of canned pinto beans.  My math shows we can make 36 pints of pintos and 3 batches of refried beans (which is equivalent to 6 cans) out of 9 pounds of beans.  We find a pint is about equal to a 15oz can so this replaces 36 cans of pintos and 6 cans of refried beans.  These cans cost roughly $0.69 at Aldi so with 42 cans the cost is $28.98.  Let's just round off and say the savings is $20.   
The BIGGER savings is 42 metal cans that would need to be recycled.  I'm big into recycling but I believe the more important thing is to REDUCE our intake and with this process we are only throwing away one plastic bag and reusing our jars over and over. This makes me feel better than saving $20.  

To bring this back to our garden, we did manage to grow about 1lb of pinto's but we supplemented with the 10lb bag because Tex Mex is on our menu once a week and these are a staple in our diet.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Strawberry Cream Pie - Recipe

My mom used to make an amazing strawberry cream pie when I was young.  She'd make it mid-winter with frozen strawberries and in the summer she'd make fresh strawberry pie.  I like both but for some reason the strawberry cream stands out as a fonder memory - it's a Mac and Cheese kinda comfort food.

This pie could not be easier to make.  I start by thawing frozen strawberries over a strainer to get the ice water out of the berries, overnight seems best to get the bulk of the juice drained or you could start in the morning and then make the pie in the afternoon.  It's super important to drain correctly because here is a photo of a time when I got too anxious to make the pie.  When the strawberries have too much water the pie will not set up properly.

This is how the pie should look.

1 pie crust
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1lb 6.5oz frozen strawberries thawed (should be 5 cups when finished thawing)
1/4 cup flour

Blend all ingredients in blender.
Place pie crust into pie pan and then pour ingredients into the crust.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.