Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That our weather had turned into the heart of Fall. In like 4 days. We had rain almost all weekend with highs only in the low 60's. Fall is here.

What I'm reading: I need to carve out a time for reading, just for me, during the day. Just 15 minutes, only me, for good reading. Right now most of my reading is done while in the bathroom.

What I'm listening to: Humming in the kitchen, Sunny Honey chirping like crazy (he must be trying to get the attention of a bird outside), and a girly-girl laughing upstairs.

What we're learning:  St Patrick, Atilla the Hun and the fall of the Western Roman Empire in history, Catechism question #23, and the Greek words phobos (fear) and syn (together) in our English roots book.

What I'm watching: Over the weekend we watched the old Robin Hood with Errol Flynn. And I have one question: did those men in the Middle Ages really wear tights?

What's cooking: Being that it is cloudy and cold outside today, the clam chowder on the menu for dinner tonight sounds really yummy.

What I'm buying: Not anything that I can think of right now...that is why I plan out my shopping lists, so I can avoid mid-week trips to the store.

What I'm thankful for: My voice. For no reason at all I lost my voice this last weekend. So I am thankful that this is temporary and that I can (most of the time) talk, sing and laugh.

What I'm creating: This week I am putting together an assignment for a photography course I am taking as a reviewer for this magazine. You can check out my other blog to see the photos.

What I'm praying: For our country. At times it is hard to look at what our future might hold, but we know who holds that future.

What I'm planning: Co-op planning! This week I really need to get my back end in gear and work on my lesson plans. I've got the skeleton done; now it is time to fill in the holes.

What we did this last weekend: We visited my friend's farm again on Saturday, and then had a lovely first fire of the season in the fireplace. Yesterday we went to church and then went to a friends house on the spur of the moment for pizza lunch and fellowship.

What I'm looking forward to: A nice, quiet week. We don't have anything planned except school, co-op and normal things around the house.

A picture to share:

~ 'Tis the season.....

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Freezer Tomato Sauce

These last few months our family has been trying to eat less processed foods. We have never been the family that ate frozen lasagna or chicken nuggets, but I would use a can of cream of chicken soup, or taco seasoning mix, tomato sauce and canned beans to make dinner preparation easier. But it always bugged me. So the last couple months I decided we were cutting out all cans and seasoning mixes. Beans, tomatoes, chili, spaghetti and taco seasonings were now going to be homemade. This transition has been easier than I expected....making my own beans has been so much more economical and healthy, and I have found some great recipes for homemade seasoning mixes and cream sauces. Canned tomato sauce was going to be more tricky, though. I have never canned before and when I started doing research online, it really intimidated me. (I know some of you can things all the time, but when you don't have any of the equipment and have never done it before, it can seem scary.) So since we had a freezer in the garage that was half empty, I decided to make freezer tomato sauce.

First thing you need is garlic. I peeled about 6 cloves and coarsely chopped them.




Then the tomatoes. I found a farm near us that was selling ripe tomatoes for 50 cents a pound; I started out with 10 pounds. These were Pink Girl tomatoes.





Cut the core out on the top and then get a pot of boiling water going on the stove with a bowl of cold water next to it.





Put each tomato into the boiling water for about a minute, and then into the cold water bath.





When the tomato is cool enough, peel using your fingers.





Keep peeling the tomatoes in batches until they are all peeled.



Beautiful.

Next coarsely chop. I decided to use the seeds and all.




In a large pot over medium heat, put 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and after it has warmed, the garlic.



 Let me tell you, this is one of the best smells on earth.


After they have sauteed for a couple minutes, add the chopped tomatoes.


Every pot of good tomato sauce needs some good wine in it, and they say never to use wine in cooking that you won't drink, so of course I needed to test it....


Pour in a half a cup of some good wine. This was a Merlot.




 Add salt and pepper to taste.




Bring it slowly to a simmer, then turn down and let cook for 30-40 minutes.

This really brings out the juiciness.


At this point I removed it from the heat and let it sit on the back burner with the lid on. I think it was a couple hours until I got back to it.....you know, homeschooling, housework, owies.....those kind of wonderful and fulfilling distractions. I actually think that having it sit for a while let the flavors really marry well.

The next step was to blend it in batches in my blender. I'm not sure why, but I didn't get any blender action shots.

This is what I poured out of the blender:




The next step was to pour into freezer bags. I put the Ziploc bag into a measuring cup to hold it steady.




I put about 2 1/2 cups into each bag...out of this batch I got 6 bags.



After this batch, I wanted to test the sauce to see if it met our expectations. I used a homemade spaghetti sauce recipe and my freezer sauce and it turned out really good. The flavor of the tomatoes was so much better than the one from the can! I also put some of the tomato sauce into a saucepan, added basil, oregano and thyme and used it as pizza sauce for our weekly Friday night pizza. So the next time I went to the farm I picked up another 20 pounds and processed them over a couple days.

This time I froze a batch in ice cube trays.....that way I can use them in my Spanish Rice recipe or toss a few into a pot of soup if it needs a little tomato flavor.




I love the convenience of having them on hand this way....


I could have omitted the blender step and had frozen chopped tomatoes, or even drained the juice from the simmered pot to make more of a tomato paste....I did find that my sauce was not as thick as the commercial tomato sauce, but that can be easily fixed with a little recipe tweaking. Enjoy!



Freezer Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

10 pounds tomatoes
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Core tops of tomatoes. Immerse into boiling water for 1 minute; then immediately into an ice water bath.  When cool, peel off skin with fingers. Repeat until all tomatoes are peeled. Chop tomatoes. Heat oil in large pan over medium heat. Add garlic; sauteing 2 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and wine if desired. Bring to a simmer and then lower heat, keeping tomatoes at a low simmer. Let cook for 30-40 minutes. When mixture has cooled, place 3 cups at a time into blender and blend. For a chunkier sauce, blend at low speed and only for a few seconds; for a smoother sauce blend at medium speed for 10-15 seconds. Divide sauce into freezer bags or ice cube trays and store in the freezer.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That I love tea. A couple weeks ago a friend and I went to this store at a local mall and had such a good time smelling the different teas. (It was like wine tasting!) It is a pricey place, but a nice treat once in a while. So this morning I am enjoying a cup of some stuff I bought there; Aztec Fire.

What I'm reading: I am reading through parts of His California Story, in preparation of my month of co-op teaching. I am also using an old book I used when I was homeschooled called A Child's History of California by Enola Flower, copyrighted in 1955.

What I'm listening to: The kids playing with a dog. No we did not buy one....I am not a doggy person....but our neighbor was gone all day today and asked us to watch their little wiener dog. The kids are loving it.

What we're learning: About St. Augustine of Hippo and Jerome and the Vulgate in history, carnivorous mammals in science, then a couple of presentations in co-op: Mr. Lego is doing one about anchors and Bookworm is going to make and talk about hard tack.

What I'm watching: A big change in the weather. Two days ago I was wearing summer clothes and it was 85 degrees; this morning it is foggy/cloudy/drizzly and 53 degrees. What happened to Fall?

What's cooking: Tomorrow I am making Mexican Lasagna from PW's site. Yum.

What I'm buying: Over the weekend I bought 8 pounds of very ripe tomatoes for $4. I am planning a blog post with what I am doing with those tomatoes later this week.

What I'm thankful for: My husband. He is such a faithful provider, is my best friend and gives great back rubs. I love you, Sweetie.

What I'm creating: Apple treats. I still have lots of apples from my dad's tree that I need to use up....any ideas for things I can make that I can freeze?


What I'm praying: For my children's future mates. No, I am not into matchmaking and I have no idea who these 4 people might be, but I am praying that God would lead them close to Him and extent to them His grace and mercy.

What I'm planning: To have a houseful this week as we have the cousins coming for a visit.  We'll do all our normal stuff with two more kiddos in the mix.

What we did this last weekend: We went to a nearby farm and rode the ponies that my friend had there, heard a great sermon yesterday morning, then over to a friends house for some great fellowship.

What I'm looking forward to: We have two 4-H meetings this week, and then we are also planning to attend a debate; our friend Marcel Weiland is running for state senate and is debating his opponent later this week at Sac State, so if you live in the area check it out and come if you can.

A picture to share:




 ~Dasher and a friend at a party we went to last week.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Joy In The Morning

Joy
in the
Morning

 So because of the computer virus thing and all, I am going to write not only about my last week of this challenge, but also my observations about the whole thing and where I go from here.

Day 1 - Got up at 6am. Did all the things I needed to do...slacked a little bit with the exercise and only spent about 7 minutes on the bike. I was really tired in the afternoon and could have taken a little nappy if I didn't have a couple errands to run.

Day 2 - Had trouble sleeping the night before....I'll leave that child nameless....so I kept hitting the snooze button until 6:40. I did have my Bible time and computer time, got everyone up and started school on time. Another observation: it is now dark at 6am. Yuck.

Day 3 - I had my Sweetie wake me up this morning....he let me sleep in until 6:30. I think he felt bad about waking up his sleeping wife, so he gave me extra time....another reason why I love him so much. I had a busier day so exercise got bumped today.

Day 4 - The kids got up when I did this morning! Some mornings they do this...I realized that I get up faster and more easily when others are up too. Had Bible time, computer time and spent 20 minutes on the bike. I was pretty tired this evening and could have gone to bed at 9pm.

Day 5 - I intentionally set my alarm for 6:30am. I had my Bible time, did some stuff with weights for exercise and got the kiddos up. My challenge is done! Does this mean I get to sleep in now? No....read below. 




 My Observations

When I set out to spend a month waking up at 6am, I was not trying to find new ways to torture myself, but to make the best use of the time God has given me. 

I learned many new things about myself, and how my body functions.  For the most part, I did get up when the alarm blasted in my ear. Of course it would take me about 5 minutes to even figure out in what direction the bathroom was, but at least I was getting up on time. I consistently spent every day in the Word, which I am ashamed to say, has been very hard for me in the past. The one area that I think I could have done much better on was the exercise. Even on the mornings when I would drag myself out to the garage, I felt like I was only putting 50% into it. With my daily schedule the way it is, I really can only work out in the mornings so I will need to work on being more consistent with this. Having my half hour of computer time right in the morning was a great thing; it sure kept me from blog checking later in the day when I should have been correcting a math lesson or preparing dinner. And the kids got up when I wanted them to (for the most part), got themselves ready and most every morning we started school on time.

So now what? I want to continue this, but I am going to make a few tweaks. First, I am changing my wake up time to 6:30. 6am was really, really hard; especially the last couple weeks when it would be dark outside. (I really don't think our bodies were meant to be wakened while it is dark!) When I did wake up at 6:30 during this challenge, I noticed I woke up faster and was not as tired earlier in the evenings. I adjusted my morning schedule and will still have time to get everything in. Another change: have the kids use their alarm clocks. They own them, they sit on their bedside tables (Bookworm puts hers in a new hiding place every night so she has to find it while it is going off), but many times they conveniently forget to set them the night before. (But at least two Saturdays this month, we were all serenaded by a rogue alarm at 7am.) I am really going to reinforce that they use their alarms to get up. Of course I will need to gently remind them at times to get out of bed or else I am coming up with ice water.... That threat works every time.

And finally I want to say thank you to you all, my readers. All four of you. There were many mornings when I wanted to roll over and go back to sleep for a couple of hours. But then I knew I would have to write about it and you all would know that I am a lazy sleepyhead. Really, if I was doing this on my own with no one else knowing about it, I doubt I would have finished the challenge. So thanks for keeping me accountable this month and listening to me ramble on. Onto to profitable, well spent mornings!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My 11 Year Old Girl

We had another birthday last week....I am telling you, I am getting really tired of my kiddos growing up so fast. And as I looked through my picture files to find some of Bookworm from this last year to share with you, I started to feel a little older too. I know that all things have seasons and times....I just don't want my parenting/baby years to end!



Enough whining.....onto more important things.



Bookworm, you are such an exuberant young lady. I love the joy you have and show so vividly on your face.





You love to help others, and do extra things when you see a need. You are my number one helper in the kitchen and love making Miso, brownies and cornbread.





And your other nickname, Sweet Tooth, is so appropriate.  Having sweets at any time of day is just fine with you.




I love the clothes you choose to wear. You love looking feminine and pretty, and are almost always seen in a skirt. You love the country, animals and doing jobs in the kitchen.




 You have a sweet spirit with your friends and love to laugh with them. You make friends easily and try to make sure no one is left out.





Of course you love to read....many times I have to tell you to stop reading and go do something else. You also love knitting and creating crocheted flowers.





You are quite adventuresome! If there is a tree, you'll climb as high as you can go. That's why you always wear leggings under your skirts; you never know when you will come across a tree that needs to be conquered.




I love you so much, my sweet girl! May God continue to draw you nearer to Him in the coming year and may you continue to grow in His grace.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That I have missed 2 Monday Musings and that I depend on my computer too much. Two weeks ago we were with the grandparents for a couple days and then last week my computer was down with a virus. (It's flu season.) Not having access to my computer last week was not fun...I didn't miss Facebook or blog reading that much, but all my school docs on Word. My co-op notes, writing worksheets and our e-science notebooks are all on there. And completely unaccessible when the computer is down.

What I'm reading: The last book I read was Trial and Triumph: Stories From Church History by Richard M Hannula. I am previewing it for school and seeing what parts I will have the older children read.

What I'm listening to: The kids decided to put on the soundtrack from Hello Dolly! this morning so I am listening to "Take the someone whose arms you're in, hold onto her tight and spin....."

What we're learning: Diocletian and Constantine I in history, Shorter Catechism question #21, and Spanish explorers in our co-op.

What I'm watching: My two little girls making themselves beds on the living room sofas. Very cozy-looking ones with pillows, blankets and stuffed animals.

What's cooking: Tonight it is Chicken Broccoli Fettuccine with a loaf of french bread.

What I'm buying: Monthly shopping is this week so I am checking out what things we are low on and what I need to put on the shopping list.

What I'm thankful for: That the virus on our computer was fairly easy to get rid of. And that we didn't loose any documents or photos!

What I'm creating: I have photos from this last weekend to edit, and others I need to post on Facebook later today from our beach/camping trip.

What I'm praying: For my friend who has lung cancer and is going through aggressive treatment. That she would have strength to get through the hard days, for the doctors to have wisdom, and that the Lord would give her precious children and husband peace through this time.


What I'm planning: I need to get on the ball and start planning my month of teaching in co-op. I am still in denial and think it is not October yet, so I really need to get moving with it.

What we did this last weekend: Saturday, our co-op went to a living history day at the California gold discovery site. There was so much for them to learn and do there! Yesterday we went to church and Sunday school, then after that we went with a few families to a park for a picnic lunch and to hang out. We played volleyball until it was too dark to see the ball....

What I'm looking forward to: Our family is going to a dear friend's birthday party later this week, which is going to be an evening of fun and frolic, according to her invitation. Our 4-H club meeting is this week and we also have a trip to an historic site as part of the Citizenship Project they are in. Looks like a fun filled, busy week!

A picture to share:


 ~Taken a couple weeks ago on our beach trip as the fog was rolling in....

Friday, October 1, 2010

Joy In The Morning

Joy 
in the
Morning


Well this week was interesting. We were gone on our camping trip and to visit the grandparents for the first half of it. So my Joy In The Morning challenge did not even start until Wednesday.

Wednesday: The first day back in my own bed. And I completely failed my challenge. Out of the previous 5 mornings, on three of them I woke up on a deflated air mattress with a rock in my back and one of my daughter's feet in my face. So can you blame me when I accidentally set my alarm clock for 6pm instead of 6am? I did get my Bible time in and had the kids up and starting school at the right time.

Thursday: Up at 6am! I had my Bible time but no exercise today. Somehow on our trip I had pulled a muscle in my calf area, and since my three modes of exercise (aerobics, stationary bike and a brisk walk) all use my leg, I opted out of exercise today. And hey, we went to the beach for 4 days in a row and I jumped in the waves, ran around cliffs rescuing little kiddos from the incoming tide, played football with my husband (what was I thinking?!?) and walked countless times to the camp bathrooms at the top of the hill. So whether you agree with me or not, I am counting all that for my weekly exercise....

Friday: Late last night I mumbled to my Sweetie to wake me up at 6am because I wasn't sure where my alarm clock was. Probably under the laundry in my rocking chair. And he did wake me up, just not exactly at 6am. But so far I have done my Bible time, the kids have finished their morning chores and my things are done. 

This is technically the last week of September, but since this last week was not a full week, I am going to do this challenge for one more week before I evaluate and see how this whole experiment has worked. How have your mornings been going?