Saturday, March 18, 2017

Beyond the Pantry Shelves

How often have you given or received a gift in a jar?
There's just something special about it no matter which end you're on.
Here and here are a couple of examples.
As wonderful as that all is, imagine something that's even better.
Here, let me show you.
You see as a home-canner, we seldom think much past the immediate:
wash the jars, heat the water, how long, what pressure, how much produce?
Of course, we know we are nourishing our family, 
securing food for winter, and usually saving money.
We tend to get stuck in those niches without giving it much more thought.
But there's more~
something deeper that we can't see.

Recently, my mother-in-law asked if I wanted some canning supplies.
They aren't doing that any more.
Of course, I said, "Sure."
They live in a small town not too far off, and Mr. LB and I work in two different towns each of the three about an hour's drive from the other. (Crazy I know.)
My M-I-L called one evening and asked 
if Mr. LB could drive the pick up the next day. 
They would be in town and would bring the canning things.
She didn't think it would fit in the car.
I laughed and asked if she was sure - note: never laugh at M-I-L.
She said, "Well, I think there are 16 boxes, 1 tote and a water canner."
I think I was still laughing not thinking she was serious -
note: quit laughing at M-I-L - she's serious!
It gets better. . .
Mr. LB drove the pickup to work and brought home the bounty.
When I saw it all and remarked that I couldn't believe how much was there, not even blinking, he said that they had already give 21 boxes to a grand daughter!
He is the youngest of five.
I can't imagine how much food was prepared for each meal.
His response to my shock was a casual, "Yea, Mom used to can a lot."
It was the weekend before I was ready to tackle the pile of boxes.
Within one of the boxes were these beautiful old blue jars~
the good ones with air bubbles in the glass.
Even some of the clear glass jars were old and had bubbles.
I think it was during the second load in the dish-washer 
that I called to thank her.
That's when she asked, "I think there were some blue jars in one of the boxes."
"Yeeeesss," I answered slowly as I looked at them drying on the counter.
They were the first ones washed.
She continued, "Could I have just one of them back?"
They were actually her grandma's (Mr. LB's great-grandma's.)
She didn't need it, and I would get it back some day, but she would like one.
"Certainly."
(Actually, I think I laughingly said I would think about it just 'cause I'm ornery."
But THAT'S what it is - whatever 'that' is.
That invisible thread that ties generations together
just by being and doing, by feeding the family, 
and by sharing the "pay" of your labor.
There's something so special in that.

Since then, I've rearranged, moved, and reevaluated things in the pantry.
I've decided the blue jars will be for herbs.
The herbs will be protected from the light, and
 it will be a "gentle" use of the jars.
And there is still one sitting on the counter - waiting:)

Below is a recipe for a meal in a jar~
a special gift,   from me . . . to you.
(In this one, I put the pasta in a plastic bag and then in the jar.) 

Chicken Noodle Soup (in a jar)
1/3 c. dried carrots
1/3 c. dried celery
1/4 c. dried onion
1/4 tsp. ground thyme
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. celery seeds
1/8 garlic powder
1 bay leaf
2/3 c. pasta
1 pint jar 
Layer ingredients in jar.  If you lay the bay leaf on the top of the dried items, the pasta will stay on top better - depending on what pasta you use.
Instructions:
In crock pot add jar ingredients to: 
8 c chicken broth or water
 and 3 c. chopped chicken.
Cook all day on low.
PS~ Sometimes I'll add dried peas or peppers or rice instead of pasta.
If you've been around a while, you know I have recipe issues.
If you're new to the site, 
you should know I consider a recipe as a general guideline.

                                                                                                         

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

$ I Failed $

Back before Christmas, 
I shared this post and told how I was planning to basically 
go on a spending fast.
I made it through January and was doing well in February
until that last week.
I'd bought no magazines nor coffees.
I have taken my lunch to work everyday this year.
No new clothes or diamond jewelry - just seeing if you were paying attention.
So what was my demise?
It was a bowl.
Yep, a bowl.
Sounds too simple doesn't it?
Not just any bowl, but a terra-cotta bowl.
I have a bit of an affinity for terra-cotta cookware.
It can go in the fridge/freezer or the oven safely.
When using the roasters, food stays moist and cooks evenly.
If you must know, my actual thought when I saw it was~
"Yes! I can set it in the oven to heat, and it can keep mashed potatoes warm."
Evidently with me, it's all about the spuds.
I did struggle even in the shop where I found it, knowing that purchasing it would mean breaking my promise to myself.
This being the first terra-cotta bowl I've ever see in a thrift shop, I got it.
So how much did it cost?
It was $3.00.
Now, you might be laughing at me and thinking,
"All of this over a three dollar bowl?  You're nuts!"
You can think I'm nuts if you like, 
but I will explain what this $3 bowl really cost in my mind.
You see, Mr. LB and I have some financial "goals," (as well as other goals)
 a magic number to hit at which point we feel we can retire and be okay.
By retire, I don't mean quit working, but quit the 8-5 with an hour drive on each end of the day, five days per week.
We are working towards that goal.
There is a sorta financial cliche that says,
"$10 in an interest baring account in 10 years will be $1000."
Yes, I am completely aware of all the variables and conditions that can make this statement false.
But it is a really easy thing to stick in my little ol' brain as a guideline.
With that, I felt like I was robbing my future self of $300 
by purchasing this bowl.
Does it make a little more sense why I was struggling now?
I am cognizant that this is how all those little things add up over time
and impact us in the long run.
I've made peace with my decision though.
How on earth did I do that after what I just said?
Well, just after I got the bowl washed, hadn't even used it yet,
I set it on the table rather than in the cupboard with the other bowls.
I am careful with it.
I look at it and appreciate it as a $300 bowl.
In my eyes it's beautiful (will be more so full of spuds!)
Maybe that sounds like a lame excuse to some folks,
but there are so many people who struggle with debt and trying to save.
Perhaps if they thought of it in the 10 year way, they too would struggle with small purchases, be it a cup of coffee and a muffin or a news-stand magazine.
Do they really appreciate those things?
No denying, I am still a little disappointed in myself.
I'm on another decluttering run (more on that later,) and this was something
coming into the house rather than going out.
So now I'm back to no spending.
I'll see if I can make it through March and go from there.
In the mean time, we'll continue to inch towards our goal and continue trying
because that's how we learn ~ right? ~ by practicing.
Does anybody get it right 100% of the time?
I suppose it's a mark of my humanism, humaninatiy, humanness???
I'll just try to behave.
I just wanted you to know since reading declarations online such as~
"I'M SPENDING NO MONEY!"
then you hear nothing as far as follow up, can make you wonder.
I suppose I can look at it like I failed, but guess what.
We have saved money over the past couple months.
If we look at it in perspective, even with that one failure,
the success is great and far out-weighs the failure portion.
So I'm choosing to focus on that.
If you are trying to save, maybe focus on what you've done right 
rather than what you've failed to do.
By honing in on what we are doing right,
we can do it more and more often,
in return become more and more successful.

So far, one week into March, we're doing it. 
I guess you could say practice is going well. 



                                                         

Monday, February 20, 2017

Reeeally Delayed Gratification ~ Kitchen Renovation

So long 11-12 year old "temporary" kitchen.
About 11-12 years ago, I was going through a pretty rough patch of life.
Without going into great detail,
I will just say that a functioning kitchen wasn't all that high on the priority list.
(Closest thing to a before pix - we were excited to get moving on it.)

Imagine. . . me. . . a kitchen not on the priority list!
That should give you some inkling as to the severity of it.
Well, of course, time and God tend to take care of things accordingly.
Life is !Much! better now:)
However, for the past 11-12 years, I have lived with a kitchen
that was made up of the very cheapest chain building store counter top
cut to "kinda" suffice for two sections of cabinets.
This cheapo counter top was warped and not even fastened down
so it rocked if you were trying to cut at one end of the counter.
The sink was an old one full of chips, scratches, stains, and even a little rust.
But that didn't matter, because it was "just temporary."
Bahahaha! Oh the beauty of it all.
(In progress - sorry it's blurry, 
but we finished around the bottom of the cupboards as well.)
Over the past two(?) weeks, we have been in the process of getting the old, partial, warped counter top and sink out which was rather easy under the circumstances described above, and finishing the kitchen properly.
This is also why there hasn't been a post for the past week or so.
We both work full time so we've been doing this in the evenings - after work.
Right in the middle of it we also had an out of town memorial to attend
so that just made it take a little longer.
(A little closer)
Here's the other side of the kitchen.  Believe it or not this is actually better than it was at one point.  And yep, that dog just slept right through it all.
(Almost there.)
I can't tell you how appreciative I am of a real kitchen.
 The actual countertop.
Even with dishes drying in the sink and the kettle on the stove :)

We have made-do a long time.
I think the pictures say it sufficiently.
I am aware that different folks like different styles, and maybe our tastes
aren't trendy by today's standards, but we are loving it!
I am loving the clean factor.
I can wipe up the counters and sink and they actually look clean.
Wow!

PS~ I'm a cast iron sorta gal.
Also, if you've never used them, I love flour sack dish towels.
I mention it, because during the holidays, I was visiting with my cousin
and she asked if I had ever used them.
Of course I have, had, and do.
She had only recently discovered them which surprised me 
as she spends a little time in the kitchen.
I'm a little spoiled (eh hem, I mean loved:) My mom likes to embroider on them and crochet around the edges so I usually receive them as gifts.
They do work just as well without the embroidery and crochet though.

                                                        

Monday, January 30, 2017

Keep Chickens From Eating Your Garden

Well, you could keep them in the house of course.
We can't leave the door open in summer, or the girls will try to come visit me.
But if you don't want to keep them in the house,
there is another way.
We will soon be getting our spring chicks as I know many others will also.
Each year I read about how people can't keep their chickens out of the garden.
I actually let the chickens in the garden.
They are great at finding those awful little slugs and bugs. 

My mom had told me this before, and I wondered if it was one of those
"silly Mom" things or if it worked.
I listened to my mother, and she was right! 
(It's okay.  I already told her she was right:)
I don't feed the chickens any kitchen scraps.
I haven't fed them any sort of scraps from day one.
So in essence haven't trained them to eat/like those items.
They start out under the heat lamp eating an organic chick starter.
(I prefer non-medicated; why medicate healthy chicks?)
Once they out grow their brooder box, they get to go to the coop.
They have feathers by now and just get the heat lamp at night.
We are in the mountains and can get snow and/or freezing temps until June.
After a few days, maybe a week in the coop, once they have "settled in" and know where home is, they get to be free during the days.
They still have the option of their feed which after the first bag of starter crumble gets switched to layer pellets (still organic, non-med.)
They don't waste pellets like they do crumble.
However, as spring emerges, they eat less and less feed.
They begin finding those juicy yummy bugs and slugs.
Chickens actually prefer meat to veggies if given the choice.
Chickens are not vegetarians.
The only time I really have to watch them is when I am still planting.
They like to scratch in the freshly turned soil.
By the time they are to this stage, most of the garden is in anyways
so it's a very short-lived problem.
The only sort of kitchen waste we share with them is when we butcher.
The dog usually has his fill, and the chickens tend to take over
the cleaning of the bones.
They will do an amazing job of getting any remaining meat off of the bones.
In times past, many folks kept a butcher pig.
In addition to whey, this is where the kitchen scraps went.
We aren't set up for pigs, but have certainly considered it.
It might be something we do in a year or so, just not this year.
This year, we will again add our kitchen scraps to the compost bin.
They are still valuable, but being used in a different way. 
The only caveat to this is if you have adult hens that like to feast in your garden, they will teach the chicks/pullets where your garden is and
which are the tastiest treats.
So this really only works if you are starting from scratch with new birds.

Now if we can figure out how to keep the chickens out of the house?

          

Just as a little side note: 
This year I may wait until the beginning of March to get chicks.  
As you can see by the past two posts, we've had an exceptional winter and still have a good deal of snow on the ground.
I know in other areas, it's been mild so am sharing this before most folks are getting their chicks (hopefully.)