Wednesday, July 15, 2015
My cucumbers have been doing fantastic—that’s about the only thing doing extremely well in my garden this year. We’ve had so much rain in our part of the world, it’s giving everyone fits with their gardens.
I’ve had an abundance of cucumbers. An “abundance” for me, maybe not for anyone else. Actually, I don’t even get enough at one time for a full batch of pickles, but I didn’t let that stop me from making some pickles. My sweet Jacob loves bread and butter pickles, but they must be homemade—none of that store-bought stuff for him. I was able to make two separate half batches from our garden and thought I’d share the recipe. Thankfully, batches of pickles (unlike jellies and jams) can be halved, doubled, or tripled and still have great results.
We have always used Southern Living's recipe. Bread and butters almost always turn out crunchy and they are super easy to make. Dill pickles can be so finicky and you don’t always get consistent results. I think the moon has to be just right and the proper stars aligned for dill pickles. (No, I’m not bitter at all.) Not so with bread and butters! The recipe on the SL website is for a smaller batch than the recipe in the cookbooks my mom and I have. Below is the recipe I used. I took pictures of most of the process, but with a two year old and a crawling 5.5 month old helping me, I missed a few steps.
My kitchen smells like HEAVEN while the pickles are getting mixed up and while they chill. The smell almost runs my husband out of the house but it smells divine to me, which is funny because I don’t care for bread and butter pickles at all.
Also, I’m assuming you know the basics of canning. If not, please visit here before starting.
Bread & Butter Pickles (Half Batch makes 5-6 pints)
3 lbs cucumbers, washed and sliced
2-3 medium onions, sliced
1 large bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/6 c. salt (original recipe calls for pickling salt, but we have always used regular salt and had great results)
Ice—crushed is best, but I’m still old school and have ice trays.
2 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. white vinegar
1 T. yellow mustard seeds
3/4 t. turmeric
3/4 t. celery seeds
~Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large dutch oven or pot. (I use my 11 quart soup pot. I’ve also just used a large Tupperware container, it just needs to be able to fit in your fridge.) Stir well, then add the salt and stir again.
Add ice and stir well to make sure the ice is distributed evenly throughout the pickle mixture.
Let chill in the fridge for 3 hours and drain. It’s ok if there is a little ice left, just so long as you get all of the water out. Set dutch oven on stove.
Mix together in a bowl remaining ingredients.
Pour over cucumber mixture and mix to coat.
Heat mixture til just boiling. Don’t let it boil for very long at all or you may end up with mushy pickles. Everything will turn a lovely mustard yellow color.
Immediately pack into hot jars (be sure and check the rims for nicks and make sure the rims are clean), put lids on and tighten rings finger tight. Place in a hot water bath canner, cover jars with water 2-3 inches above lids and process 10 minutes (let the jars boil for 10 minutes –set a timer) then remove with a jar lifter. Let jars set for at least 12 hours before moving them. Enjoying the happy popping sounds of the jars sealing!
A word about hot water baths: it’s a commitment. The recipe makes it sound so quick and simple. But it’s not. It takes FOREVER and a day for that massive pot of water to come to a boil. I think it took around an hour. And I started with warm water. Just warning you.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
I thought I’d share a few peeks at our garden we planted last week. I have high hopes for it this year—last year shortly after we planted the garden we learned I was expecting Princess #2 and morning sickness set in, and well, you know the rest of the story!
I love to garden. Gardening is part of the good life. Getting out and working in the dirt, the smell of the plants, the warm sunshine, the eventual harvest—there is nothing like it. My garden is significantly smaller than the ones we had while I was growing up. There are several things that I don’t think I could grow well in my little city garden. Peas, corn, and potatoes are some of those. But those plants are also a lot of work and commitment, which isn’t the best thing for me right now with my two littles.
So this year we have planted fairly low-maintenance plants that don’t need a lot of space: tomatoes, bell and jalapeno peppers, eggplants, squash, and cucumbers. I can get peas and corn from relatives and friends in the country, so we won’t miss out on them even though we weren’t able to grow them.
We’ve been having lots of rain the last few weeks, which is perfect for little seedlings and plants that are trying to get their start, but not so good for weeding, hence the slightly untidy appearance of the garden.
Happy little cucumbers.
Olivia planted Old Maids/Zinnias this year. She loves “fahbers” and I can’t wait until they start blooming. She is going to be ecstatic!
One of three heirloom tomato plants—we planted two Cherokee Purples, and one German Queen. I’ve never really had experience with heirloom tomatoes, growing up we always planted hybrids, so I am very excited to see how these turn out this year. And we planted one HeatMaster for good measure, because this is Texas after all, and it gets hot!
I had to dash back in the house this morning before I was able to take pictures of the other things we have growing—it started raining again. More photos to come!
Saturday, February 14, 2015
I have survived 18 days of having two children under the age of two. How am I doing? I’m exhausted, that’s how I’m doing. That whole “sleep when the baby sleeps!” thing doesn’t work when you have a toddler running around, pulling things out of cabinets and climbing on the kitchen table. She also has learned how to open screw-top lids and open doors in the last week and a half.
****Note: both of my children are asleep right now—WHAT AM I DOING WRITING A BLOG POST INSTEAD OF NAPPING?! What’s wrong with me?*****
The first 15 days weren’t so bad—I had my mom and then my sister staying with me to help. Three days ago when my mom came to take my sister home, she was highly amused at me clinging to the hem of her skirt begging “Don’t leave me!”
And what is really sad is that yesterday was really my first real day totally alone with the girls. I texted my husband a little after lunch and let him know that all I’d really accomplished that day was changing diapers, nursing the baby, and pumping (I’m trying to keep a breast infection at bay right now). I felt I should give the poor fellow warning before he came home to the disaster area that used to be known as our home. He graciously replied, “It’s ok, sweetheart. Are you doing ok? Do I need to pick anything up from the store for you?” I married a very smart man…
We never know what our nights will hold. Princess Tiny still has her days and nights mixed up for the most part and we are trying to help her with that, but who knows what time she’ll decided to actually go to sleep each night. Swaddle blankets and a box fan for noise are helping, though, and we are trying to establish a routine.
Princess Littles—who is capable of sleeping through the night, but rarely does—is nearly as unpredictable as her baby sister. Bedtimes are pretty easy, when she gets tired she wants her blanket and bed (Hello Linus!) but when she wakes during the night—sometimes two or three times—we never know what kind of mood she’ll be in and how long it will take to get her back down. Part of this is because of all of the change in her little life in the last two weeks and she is in her own room now, but she has shown us that she can sleep all night—when she wants too.
My poor husband, who is not as used to sleep deprivation as I am, has been a real champ through it all. Because he does have to get up and go to work each day, I try to only wake him to help with the girls at night if I absolutely have to. About a week ago in the young marrieds’ class at our church, our pastors’ wife said something to the effect of “And you couples who are wanting to have children in the near future—“ “DON’T DO IT!” my husband weakly called out. Everyone got quite a laugh from it. She said “And that comes from the Daddy of a toddler and a newborn!”
It has been tough the last 18 days (mostly the nights), and it has really tested me and is letting me see what my true limits are and how very, very much I need the Lord and His grace and strength. Is it worth it? Even sitting here needing coffee, exhausted as all get out, my immediate answer is “YES! A thousand times, yes.”
The rough nights and endless messes are (almost!) forgotten when Livie comes and gives me a kiss just because and says “Love you.’' Or when she is so sweet with her baby sister and worries when she cries. There is nothing like sweet baby snuggles and smiles.
It all makes what little sleep we do get all the more precious. This is just a season, and one day I’ll miss the chaos and craziness that is our life right now.
So Happy Valentine’s Day—I’m off to make some more coffee. My kids are waking up.
Monday, February 2, 2015
January 27th, 2015—Tuesday
40 weeks, 4 days
I woke up Tuesday morning around 6:30 and got out of bed to kiss Jacob goodbye for work. When I stood up out of bed I felt a little gush. After he left, I went to the bathroom and there was a fair amount of blood in my panties. I got very excited—this was the most promising sign I'd had so far. I hadn't had any real signs or “exciting” contractions at all.
I'd had a fairly uneventful night, with maybe one contraction throughout the night. I hoped that this was a sign that I'd be in real labor by that evening and maybe holding our baby by Wednesday morning. My labor with Olivia was around 7 1/2-8 hours long, with intense, active labor being around 3 hours long.
I went back to bed and had a very good contraction at 7am. About 7-8 minutes later, I had another one. They didn't stop, but grew stronger and I couldn't fall back asleep or ignore them. I decided to time them—with Livie I would have good strong contractions for an hour, then they would stop. I did that all weekend the weekend that Livie was born. I was expecting more of the same. I put a shower curtain under the bottom sheet to protect my mattresss, just in case my water broke.
I'd sent Jacob several texts and he hadn't responded. When he had left for work, I didn't know what was about to the transpire. I waited a little while and timed some more contractions, then decided to call him and let him know what was going on. He was going to finish up a few things and then stop by the store for a few things I needed. Livie woke up in the midst of all of this, around 7:45.
I called my mom to give her a heads up that today might be the big day. The contractions were getting stronger, and she could tell over the phone. She asked me if I'd called Alice yet, and I said no, I was waiting a little longer just to be sure. I was afraid it was a false alarm. She said that no, I needed to call her immediately and let her know.
I called Miranda (Alice's daughter and other midwife in the practice) and told her all that had happened and what was going on, and she had me time the next four contractions and send her the information. She also wanted to know how quickly Jacob could get home and/or how quickly I could have someone with me to take care of Livie. I told her ten minutes at the most—my MIL hadn't left for work yet, and Jacob works 6 minutes away from the house.
After I'd timed the next four contractions she called me back and said for Jacob to come home immediately and that I needed to have a protein shake so I wouldn't be laboring on an empty stomach.
I called Jacob and told him he needed to come home right now and to ask his mom to go to the store for us before she came and picked up Livie.
By this point I was already having to start breathing through each contraction, they were growing noticeably stronger, and I couldn't get up out of the recliner.
When he got home he fixed me a protein shake (which I was only able to drink a few sips of) and I asked him to run some warm bath water for me. I was still in my pj's and hadn't had a chance to change into the gown I wanted to wear for the birth and hadn't had a chance to fix my hair.
Miranda texted me and let me know that Alice was getting ready to leave.
He helped me move to the bed and started getting things ready to set up the pool I'd bought to labor in. After I got in bed, I seemed to lose all sense of time, so I'm not sure exactly time-wise when things began to happen.
My mom got to our house first and began to help Jacob get things in order. Shortly after, my mother-in-law arrived and started getting Livie (who was still in her pj's too) ready to leave.
Jacob asked me several times if I wanted him to get the pool ready. By this point, I didn't think I could move and didn't think that we had time to fill the pool before I had the baby.
Alice called Jacob several times to verify directions to our house and let us know where she was.
About 15 minutes before Alice got to our house, I felt Kate's head move down. This freaked me out, to be honest. With Livie's birth, once I felt that, I was pushing with the next contraction. I was afraid that Alice wouldn't make it in time. I told Jacob and he assured me that she would be here in time.
My water still hadn't broken at this point. With Livie, it broke almost three hours before she was born. I started wondering if the contractions really weren't as bad as I thought and I was just being a wimp. I was afraid that Alice would check me and I would still have quite a bit left to dilate. Truthfully I didn't think I was in enough pain yet.
She finally came walking into my bedroom right around 10am. She checked me and I was at an 8! I was so excited. She said we would have a baby within the hour. In between contractions, I told Jacob to call my friend Casey who was going to be at the birth and tell her if she was going to make it in time, she'd better hurry. She later told me she made it to our house in 4 minutes.
Shortly after Casey arrived, Alice told me that if I wanted to push with the next contraction, she could help me finish dilating and speed things up. The next contraction I said “Ok” and pushed.
With Livie, I pushed a few times in the bathtub, then moved to the bed and pushed a few times on my back, then she had me move to the floor and squat. I expected to do the same with this birth, but Alice never had me move.
After several good pushes, I suddenly felt very nauseous. I vomited a few times with my first birth, so we were prepared for it, and had a bowl beside the bed. I knew I was about to throw up and I asked for the bowl, but my voice was so weak and quiet from pushing no one heard me until it was too late. I was flat on my back and vomit went everywhere thankfully it was mostly only liquid since I hadn't really eaten anything in the last several hours. It got all in my hair and all over my pillows. Alice exclaimed “Oh no! Not in her hair!” (My hair is to my knees and it is a major ordeal to wash it—not something you want to have to do immediately after giving birth.)
One or two contractions/pushes later, my water broke at 10:47am. Thirteen minutes later, Katelynn was born into my husband's hands—mad and screaming at the top of her lungs. She was not pleased with being forced outside.
From the very first contraction until she was born was only four hours. No warning or “early” labor—I woke up in active labor. It was very surprising to me and nothing at all like I'd expected. Because my water didn't break until right before Kate was born, the contractions were much more manageable and not as painful as with my first birth. Also, with Kate's birth I never really felt the urge to push like I did with Olivia. And I didn't feel like a screaming banshee this time either ;)
I had no tearing, which has made my recovery so much better and easier this time around and I felt so wonderful so fast afterwards I couldn't believe it.
Katelynn Avery weighed 8 lbs, 4 oz, and was 21 ½ inches long. Her head was 13 ½ inches around—just like her big sister's.
She was born on my great-grandmother's birthday—which was exactly what I had hoped and prayed for. The weather was beautiful and perfect and warm—another answered prayer. She was born during the day, making it easier on her big sister—no overnight stay away from us—she just went to play at Grammy's house and came home to a new baby. This was another answered prayer.
All in all, except for the vomit, I couldn't have asked for a better or more perfect birth. The second was much easier than the first! We are so thankful!
Friday, October 31, 2014
Here we are, on the eve of the most thankful month of the year. I try to maintain a grateful heart year-round, but the month of November usually finds me more reflective than the rest of the year.
A few things I’m thankful for (in no particular order) in my little world:
~My Savior, Who forgives me and carries the shame and guilt away.
~My sweet husband, whose love for me amazes me every day.
~Our girls ;)
Miss Livie, who at 16 months old already has an opinion about her clothes and bats her eyelashes at her Daddy when she gets in trouble.
And tiny Miss Katelynn, who even though she isn’t due to make her appearance yet, has already stolen our hearts. Early in the pregnancy we had a few little scares and I wondered if I would ever get to meet her. Now we are only about 12 weeks away from her arrival. God is good to us!
~My Keurig coffee machine and all of the wonderful cups of coffee and tea it provides me throughout the day ;)
~Our cozy (albeit somewhat messy) home. Thanks to our toddler, there are lots of happy messes popping up everywhere.
~My new Swiffer WetJet, which makes mopping so much easier on this pregnant gal, and Murphy’s Oil Soap, which makes cleaning all of my antique knotty pine cabinets a breeze.
These are just a few things that immediately spring to mind, I’m sure there will be more in the coming days.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
One of the lovely (or not-so-lovely) things about our online “life” is that we can portray only the best and only the prettiest parts of our real life. Our houses are always clean, the children are always dressed and happy, and all of the meals for the week are planned. It is easy to get caught up in maintaining that rosy, perfect picture, afraid to admit that we truly are human and don’t really have it all together.
Earlier this week on a Facebook group I’m a member of, a thread “Worst Housekeeping/Housecleaning Confessions” was started. It was such a blessing to me to read through it and see that I wasn’t the only one(!) who didn’t have a spotless house. I’m not the only one who struggles to stay on top of things, yet has laundry piled high waiting to be washed and a fridge that needs to be cleaned out.
So when you feel overwhelmed, remember you aren’t the only one who has sat down and cried your eyes out because of the state of your home and because you feel like a failure as a homemaker. The real world and real life are messier and more disorganized than blogs and Pinterest would lead us to believe.
A trick that I’ve learned to help me when I have the housecleaning blues is to do one thing in each room that is noticeable. That gets the ball rolling and there is a difference (even if it’s small!) in each space. For example: in my bedroom, I’ll make the bed. In the living room I’ll make sure the couch and coffee table are straight. Little things like that will help me see where I want to go and give me motivation to get there.
I am a huge list maker. I make lists for everything. And I make lists when I clean. Checking things off of a list gives me an adrenaline rush (I know, I need to get out more) and sometimes my lists are ridiculous, depending on how airheaded I am that day.
I have also started using a timer extensively, thanks to the FlyLady. It is amazing to me how much I can get accomplished in 15 minutes of focused cleaning. I highly recommend doing this. In her book Sink Reflections, she gives the following “formula” for cleaning with a timer:
Set a timer for 15 minutes and work as fast as you can in one area until the timer sounds. Don’t get distracted and move until time is up. Set the timer for another 15 minutes and move to another area, even if the first isn’t finished—you can come to it later. Continue in this manner until you have cleaned for 3 sets of 15 minute intervals (a total of 45 minutes.) Set your timer for 15 minutes again and take a break.
This method has really worked well for me, even if I have to go back to an area a few times to finish it. I’ve found, however, that 15 minutes of focused cleaning is usually almost all that I need for most areas.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Lately the creative juices have been running dry about what to cook for supper. I’m pregnant, so my tastebuds have a mind of their own, my energy levels aren’t what I wish they were, and living in the city means restaurants are close by.
At this stage in my life, recipes that are quick and easy to prepare, don’t require many dishes (have I mentioned my cute little antique 50’s house doesn’t have a dishwasher?) or crockpot recipes are very, very appealing to me right now.
So, having said all that, I tried a new recipe this week for Sunday dinner. A friend had just made it and raved about it so I decided to give it a go. I bravely tried a new recipe and invited my in-laws over for dinner—breaking one of the oldest rules in the book: Never try a new recipe out on company!
The recipe was one that I had seen floating around on Pinterest and Facebook for a little while. You bake chicken breast with green beans and potatoes and it looked pretty fast and easy. I was a little skeptical, but when my friend went on and on about it, I thought I’d give it a try.
It turned out amazing!!!! The chicken was so moist, the green beans were the best I’d ever had (which floored me because there was no bacon in it), and the potatoes were perfect. I made some cream cheese chili corn to go with it and Overnight Sourdough Rolls (recipe forthcoming) and my husband pronounced the meal “The BOMB!” My in-laws loved it and my mother-in-love said she was going to add it to their menu.
It turned out so yummy that I ended up making it again for supper the next night, but with center cut pork chops instead of chicken. I wasn’t disappointed. The results were just as delicious. I will have to be careful and not make it too often, lest I burn the husband out on it.
It took only about 15 minutes (maybe!) to put together and it baked for an hour and a half. My kitchen didn’t get destroyed, it didn’t mess up every dish in the cupboard and I had time to get things done whilst it baked. Win, win, win, all the way around.
The only thing that would have made it better would have been if I’d remembered to take pictures. I will next time! You’ll just have to take my word for how yummy it looks.
Here’s the recipe:
Oven Baked Chicken, Green Beans & Potatoes
4 chicken breasts (I used boneless, skinless, and the next night I used center cut pork chops!)
2-3 cans of green beans, drained OR fresh green beans
1 1/2 lbs-2 lbs small red potatoes, quartered
1 package dry Italian dressing mix (I used Good Seasons)
1 stick (or 1/2 cup) of butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350*F.
Place chicken down the center of a large baking dish (I used an 11X14 Pyrex). Place the green beans on one side, the potatoes on the other. Sprinkle the package of Italian dressing mix over everything and drizzle with the melted butter. Cover in foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours or until chicken is done and potatoes are tender.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
We’ve been given a glimmer of hope the last few mornings—the weather has been lovely and cool. The summer heat can’t last forever, we’ve had a promise and a taste of cooler weather and I CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!
Fall is my very most favorite time of year. Hands down. The cooler, less humid weather makes me want to clean and organize everything, sew and craft like crazy, and redecorate every room in the house. Some of that might just be a bit of early nesting starting up. The challenge for me is not getting a dozen projects strung out and unfinished before exhaustion sets in…I’m still working on keeping things balanced and knowing my limits.
I love to open all of the windows in the house and air out all of the stuffiness that has built up during the summer months. I feel like I can clean the best when the windows are open.
Ok, so fall makes me feel like Wonderwoman. I may not be her, but it makes me feel like her ;)
Another reason I love fall is that is the only time of the year I can get my favorite candle—Candied Caramel Pecan by Better Homes and Gardens. HEAVEN in a jar. It makes the house smell amazing. The only downside to it is that it gets my husband’s hopes up and he thinks I’ve been baking.
Also in the latest breaking news for our little family:
It’s a little sister!!!!! We are being blessed with another princess and we can’t wait to meet our Katelynn Avery. I’m thrilled that the girls will be so close in age, they will always have a best friend and tea party buddy.
Well, I have to get back to the real world and laundry. I can’t prolong my break any more, lest Mt. Washmore grows any larger. I am convinced that the laundry multiplies whilst my back is turned.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
You know those days (or weeks, or months) when time seems to speed by and you forget about or are too busy for non-essential activities (like writing blog posts)? I’ve been in one of those seasons it feels for quite a while. My life has been full of lots of excitement and surprises over the last few months. But I’m back, at least for right now.
Our Livie is 14 months old now. I can’t believe our baby is becoming so grown up. She can walk, but is very choosy about when she does. She has an ever growing vocabulary and is constantly keeping us on our toes and entertained. Livie is handling being weaned much better than I thought she would and hopefully she will be completely weaned by the end of the month. It has been a very sweet time for us nursing, but it’s time move on.
Yep, our little family is growing again! Peanut is expected at the end of January. At the end of this month we should find out if we are getting another Princess or if Daddy is getting his Hunting Buddy. This baby was *quite* a surprise, but we are so excited about it. I never thought I’d have two under the age of two!
Morning sickness with a tiny toddler was a challenge I wasn’t looking forward to, but I survived. In the midst of it we dealt with a nightmarish stomach virus (Jacob and I) and Livie has been battling terrible sinus drainage. Thankfully we had help and made it through. It is times like these that make me realize just how much I need the Lord’s help, and make me call out to Him even more.
Now I’m trying to get back into a routine. I didn’t cook much at all during those crazy weeks of morning sickness and everything else so I’ve been trying to cook and eat at home more. I’ve really had trouble getting back on my feet this time. Our little Tornado makes housekeeping a challenge, to say the least. Some days I’m just thankful that my husband has clean clothes for work the next day.
I’m getting there, and with the Lord’s help, things will even out soon ;)
Thursday, February 20, 2014
This is a repost from a post I wrote yesterday on my sewing blog. Enjoy!
Smocking is one of my very most favorite things to do—I’ll admit I’m addicted to it. My husband jokes that if I haven’t smocked something in a few days I become hard to be live with. I don’t know if I’m that bad, but smocking is very relaxing for me.
My latest smocked bishop was a first birthday dress. The birthday girl’s mother saw a smocked bishop that was perfect for the theme of the party. However, the design was discontinued and a dress in the size they needed couldn’t be found anywhere. Like most of my projects, when they can’t find what they want, they call me.
She sent some photos of the original dress and asked if I could make one like it. I said that I could, but as with all garments made with only a photo for reference, it wouldn’t be identical, but I would get it as close to the original as I could.
The dress is made from pastel green batiste, with a three inch deep hem. It turned out so precious! There is a bright cupcake in the center with balloon bouquets on either side, with ribbon bows.There is a tiny pink hearts border around the top, and a light purple scalloped border around the bottom. It almost made me forget my dislike of picture smocking when it was finished, it turned out so sweet.
I also made a pair of Vivianna Bloomers from the batiste to match.
I’ve been promised pictures of the birthday girl in her dress and when I receive them I’ll share.