Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bread & Butter Pickles

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. IMG_0771
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.IMG_0788
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

Hello, Little Garden…

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

Two Under Two—18 Days in and my 200th post

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

Kate’s Birth Day


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!