Monday, August 29, 2011

i'm hooked.

This weekend, we crossed one more off our summer-lovin' list.  Fishing!
I'm a pioneer woman at heart: foraging, sewing, canning...
But this was a first for me - to take the fish from the river to the frying pan.
And, I'm hooked!
Don't misunderstand - I still like my hot showers, soft pillows, and reverse-osmosis water.
But part of me is intrigued at the idea of giving all that up to live off the land, atleast for a few hours :)

Miles reeled in a 20 inch northern pike (with the help of Mr. Jordan).  I wish I could have gotten a pic of him holding the fish, but you can see from the above their hesitation.  So, we got one of them petting him :)
Large fish #2 - Our boys were learning from the pro!  I love that this pic looks like it could have been taken in Africa.  (Again, note Jack petting the fish...sigh.)

Northern pike filleted - thanks to Joel!
 Bounty of blue gill
 Seriously, what a guy!
There are lots of good batter mixes out there.  But you'll pay an arm and a leg for a gluten-free one.  So, I improvised.  And everyone approved. 
Gluten-Free Fish Fry
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup chickpea flour ("besan" - I get it from the Indian grocery store)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons garlic salt (I used "arisco" - a brazilian seasoning salt)
some dashes of chili powder
Mix and add gluten-free beer, club soda, or water to the mix until it's battery.
Dip cleaned, washed and patted dry fish into the batter.  Fry.  
(Preferably with an anthropologie apron on, for even more irony :)

Now there is something already delicious about eating fresh fish caught the night before.  But add on the experience and the process, and this is a meal that was thoroughly anticipated and savored (along with some oven fries, salad, and iced tea).

School may have started, but summer-fun is still to be had.
Soak in these days, friends!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

lost art of canning

We're bringing back canning today!  
So if you have littles at home, stop reading right now, go cuddle and savor your babes, 'cuz it goes too fast!  Too soon they will be in school and you will have to come up with something better to do with your time than wishing back those days, like writing about canning...
After they are in school, you may proceed :)

I don't know that I fully appreciated the legacy my mom passed down to us kids, the "fruit" of her labor...until now.  I can still see her over a pot of boiling water, peeling the skins off tomatoes to can, snapping beans or peas to freeze, shucking corn (which has to be one of the funnest phrases to say, especially if you add a twist to it, like "shukka kahn!"), or sitting down with a pairing knife, a large bowl of peaches and some simple syrup.  

I realize not all have been able to shadow their moms on this one, and I'm not saying all moms should do this.  This is the beauty of God gifting us in all different ways, and using those gifts in all different seasons. 

If you are in a season where you would like to throw some jars into a canner, but have no idea where to begin, here ya go.  
the basics.
1.  find the time.
If you have half-pints running around your house, calling you mama, save canning for another year.  I started when the older boys were 3 and 4.  We don't have tv, so I would put them to bed at 7 and spend a few nights over the canner.  Now that they are older, I do what I can while they are in school.
2.  prioritize.  
We love preserving fresh produce, but I can't do it all.  I would be spending this whole month in the kitchen if I tried to.  So, we picked out a few favorites:  freezing berries and applesauce, canning salsa and peaches.  
3.  price.
In order to not consider this a waste of time or resources, I have to make sure we're saving money.  I ask around for the best prices, checking local produce stands, talking with local farmers, looking into produce auctions.  I have gotten 2nds before on peaches, because they can be half the price of 1sts.  This year I got a bushel of local peaches for $31.  I canned 21 quarts, and we probably ate or gave away another 5 quarts.  It came to a little more than $1 per jar, which will be cherished in baked oatmeal on a cold winter's day.
4. process.
Let's say your counter looks like this.  Remember my motto:
A few twinges of regret equals a whole year of gratitude.
Take a deep breath.  
To easy-peasy peel them, place in boiling water, then quickly remove and plunge into ice-cold water.
This is the set-up I find easiest for halving peaches and removing the skins:  1 pot of ice-cold watered peaches (left), 1 bowl for skins and pits (middle), 1 pot of cold water (right) for halved/skinned peaches to go into until they are ready to be placed into jars.

When it's time to put them in jars:
.: lower the halved peaches with a fork stuck in the middle of the peach.   
.: stack them around in a circle.
.: pour in the simple syrup, leaving 1/2 inch at the top. [1 cup sugar to 3 cups water]
.: sprinkle citric acid or fruit fresh on the top peach. [1/2 teaspoon per jar]
.: tighten the lid with a ring.  [rings can be re-used, but use new lids!]
.: place sealed jars in a canner.
.: pour in enough water to come up 2 inches on the sides of the jars.  
.: put the lid on the canner, turn on the burner, and wait for the water to boil.  
When the water has boiled 16 minutes, remove the jars from the canner, tighten the lids, and turn the jars upside down to cool.
After they are cool, remove the rings, label and store.  

If you're doing salsa, here's the recipe we like.  I simmer the batch of salsa 30 minutes.  Spoon into jars, using a ladle and funnel.  Process the salsa in 2 inches of boiling water for 30 minutes.  Then, proceed as above with removing the jars.

If you are a seasoned canner, and have anything to add, please do share!
If you're a cold-feet-canner, you can do this!  And, be sure let us know how it goes...
And, if you're a mama just not able to add one more thing to your day, good for you!  Yours is a precious calling!  Enjoy these days, as full and crazy and sleepy as they may be :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

I am taken back by the outpouring of support and care for our family.  To those who have come alongside, lifting us up with prayers and words to strengthen...thank you.  I want you all to know how much your kindness means to us.  Your prayers are being heard!!!  Things are looking better than they did a week ago.  We are so grateful to see His hand giving our boys a calm and confidence, and putting dear souls in their days to look out for them.

We had some others to say THANK YOU to this week.  
To all those who lent a hand (or a tool) in making this nasty house our home:  guys who spent a Saturday in a pile of rubble, wives who let go of their husbands and their own "honey-do lists" for a few hours, people who dropped off a tool to make the job easier, friends who made gluten-free meals for our family in those blurred days of unpacking and no oven, people who loaded and unloaded our stuff, parents and grandparents who have helped in ways I can only hope to do for my kids/grandkids someday, kids who have been just so darn cute (and understanding of all of the above).  

* Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. *
proverbs 11.25
This was our little attempt to "refresh" those who refreshed us, and to say:
Last year we bought our first lavender plant.  After the blossoms were harvested and dried, I wasn't sure what to do.  I stumbled on this youtube clip, a tutorial on making lavender honey.  It was super-easy, a little something special on bread, muffins, scones or in bedtime tea.  It has a pleasant aroma and calming qualities (which who can have enough of? :)  
Lavender is also an antiseptic, natural antibiotic, sedative, detoxifier.  It contains disinfectant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.  It is most commonly used for anxiety, depression, mental exhaustion, insomnia, scrapes and wounds, digestive problems, headaches, skin problems and women's health problems. In addition to this, lavender can be used to treat exhaustion, heat exposure, fevers, aches and pains, over-exertion, jet lag, rashes, sprains, sunburn, sunstroke, bruises and burns.  

After taking on this house, we have needed some lavender honey in our lives ...along with dear friends who keep us laughing :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

back to school

 1st day of school 2011
this little buddy has been my sweet (and funny) li'l sidekick


 gluten-free dulce de leche goodness (you are too good to me, Marina :)
These are delightful days: peaches are here to can, preparing for a thank-you open house, sewing a curtain here and there, getting yet another snack for Jude, someone else popping in for a visit, continuing to unpack, spontaneous bike rides with friends (now neighbors :), making up most meal recipes on the spot based on whatever fresh-picked produce lies on our counter (recipes to come...)  

But tonight, 8 o'clock could not come fast enough.  Not because I was ready for the boys to be in bed, but because the tears needed to flow without trying to blink them away or hide them so they don't know the burden I am carrying for them.  There's only so many prayers like Miles' tonight that I can hear:  "Lord, please help me to have a friend at school because no one wants to play with me."  Or Jack's assessment of moving to a new school and missing his old friends from last year:  "Mom, can we please stay at this school for atleast 2 years?"  

The struggle of starting from scratch.  The embarrassment of not fitting in.  The desperate cries to God in the times He is all we have.  These lessons are so hard to watch your kids learn.  So much of motherhood to this point has been about protecting them from pain, removing them from harm, being there to hug a hurt.  How does one let that go?  
And, how can I drop them off to an unknown day again?
And yet, what would it teach them about perseverance and growth if we just run from every hurt, dodge every disappointment?  
So many questions...
We search for answers.
We open the Bible before bed, and tonight's story happens to be about Rachel and Leah (from Genesis 29-30).  I love the way the Jesus Storybook Bible tells it:  "Rachel was the kind of girl who always gets invited to parties and chosen for the team.  Everyone loved her.  And poor Leah?  No one hardly even noticed her...But God didn't think she was ugly.  God chose her - to love her specially, to one day, rescue the whole world through Leah's family. Now when Leah knew that God loved her, in her heart, suddenly it didn't matter anymore whether her husband loved her the best, or if she was the prettiest.  Someone had chosen her, someone did love her - with a never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love."  (Goes on to tell how she would become a princess when Jesus would be one of her descendants, the very Prince of Heaven: "This Prince would love God's people.  They wouldn't need to be beautiful for Him to love them.  He would love them with all of His heart.  And they would be beautiful because He loved them.")

Putting them in bed, I'm asked another hard question: "Mom, is tomorrow going to be better?"  My eyes fill with tears.  Looking away, I search for words...{Thinking: "Why do some deal with such heartache?  How can I let him face it?  Am I doing the right thing?"}...And it comes to me: "Tomorrow will be full of wonderful things.  Just like today was full of wonderful things.  {We list them.}  We just have to look for them."  
That's what we've been doing.  Together.  Not knowing what tomorrow holds, but confident that His grace is sufficient, because He *loves* us!  So we say, like Leah, "This time, I will praise the Lord!" (Genesis 29.35)  

541. recess and lunch - jack
542. making crafts - miles
546. gym class was awesomer than the other gym class - miles
547. eating dilly bars at the fountain after school - jack
551. found my lunchbox - miles
553. we have a nice house to live in - miles
556. for parent pick-up - jack
557. for the many evidences of His care.

Monday, August 15, 2011


First day of school...oh my, this is the longest day ever!!!  3:40 cannot come soon enough!  And, that may be all I can say right now about school, until I pick up my boys, go out for ice cream {as promised - we're easing our way off of vacation-mode}, and see how it went.  Then, I can share more.
For now, I'm trying to distract from this quiet house and share with you one of my favorite recipes for this time of year.  

homemade salsa for canning
16 c. tomatoes, peeled
2 c. green peppers
3 c. onions
8 yellow peppers (the small, banana kind)
3 T. salt
1 c. cider vinegar
4 buds garlic (buds, not cloves)
3 T. sugar
hot peppers (I like a mixture, like 3 jalapeno, 3 serrano, 1 poblano)
bunch of cilantro (add at the very end - the more, the better... I think)

Before you proceed any further, make sure you have tortilla chips on hand...

Peel the tomatoes by placing them in boiling water, then plunging them in cold water - the skins come right off. Chop veggies, or let the food processor do the chopping. Place in a large pan. Simmer for 1 hr. (If you can this, I simmer less, like 30 min.) Break out your best zumba moves. Taste and tweak to your liking (you can add chili powder, more salt, more peppers, etc...) Don't forget to add the cilantro! Can or freeze.
To peel the tomatoes, place them in a pan of boiling water, stir until the skins begin to crack, then plunge them in ice cold water.  The skins peel right off.
 After all these years, my motto for canning is: 
"A few twinges of regret (coupled with some "why do I do these things???") equals a whole year of gratitude."

1 batch down.  3 to go... 
Oh, and I'm the kind of person that has to do the math on to see if it's worth it, so I added up what we spent at the farmer's market:
Bucket of organic tomatoes: $5
Onions: 50 cents
Green pepper: 50 cents (it was huge, so 1 was enough)
Hot peppers: $1
Yellow peppers: $1
This made 15 pints of salsa (plus close to a pint we ate making it :)
$8 for 16 pints of salsa.
That's 50 cents a jar!

It's worth it, people!
Have fun salsa-ing :)

{Because, if it weren't for the little things like canning salsa, I may have been happy to just pause our life a week ago and never get on with the year...but today has come.  So, we see THIS is the day the Lord has made, to rejoice and be glad in it.}

Friday, August 12, 2011

stay-cation 2011

This is not very Roy of us at all.  We're adventure, travel, road-trip-type people to the core.  But life has been hectic, and my love will be boarding a plane to Mexico we opted to vacation at home, to look for beauty right outside our front door, with 50 bucks in our pocket.
Our first {of many} bike rides, I was remarking how special it is to have this time together, to ride down a hill and spot the lake, to get coffee and a cookie at the local bakery.  They were taking it in, and Jack exclaims "I can't believe we live here!"
We do live in a pretty phenomenal town, but the itch to explore nags me: large cities, third-world countries, Paris, beach, name it, I'll go!  But what I value more than trying out a new cafe or riding a moto down a dusty road is a new perspective.  I love seeing the world in a new light.  Getting away does that.  So, part of my prayer for this week was that God would renew my mind, even here.  And would you know, He has!  He whispers to me to "take the gentle path." Shows me how meaningful putting together a Star Wars puzzle can be.  And what a refreshment a drive studying the clouds is.  And the faith of a child to climb up a 100 ft. fire tower with their dad, no hesitation.  Or, to go down their first waterslide in the lap of their mom.  And what a gem of a husband I have.  And how completely rewarding are spontaneous hugs.  And pure, lasting joy is not found in what we have or don't have, where we are or where we aren't.  Our God hears!  And He answers prayer.  And there is so much beauty that awaits, right beyond our front door.

Stay-cation 2011

Silver Beach. Parking: $5
Pike Lake. Bike Ride, Coffee and Cookies: $8
Ouabasche State Park.  Entry to Park: $5, Pool/Waterslide: $10, 5 Frosties: $5
Fort Wayne. Art Museum: Free (on Thursdays), Picnic Downtown, Starbucks: $4.50 (doubleshot on ice for mom and dad)
Our “backyard”. River-stomp, Bike Ride to Dairy Queen: $10
Family of 5 + 1 week + 1 tank of gas + $50 = a priceless amount of enjoyment