Saturday, April 23, 2016

Jam Canning Workshop

Have you ever wanted to can your own jam or save the beautiful produce you've grown or purchased from the farmer's market? Have you felt that it was too challenging or just needed some direction on where to start?

Let's start with the basics - strawberry jam.  This May, I will be offering a workshop in my home teaching you how to can a batch of homemade strawberry jam.  We will be using freshly picked, locally grown strawberries and turn them into beautiful bright red jam.  The process is simple and straightforward, and a perfect place for a beginner to canning to start.  I myself am fairly new to canning, although I have been around it my whole life.  My grandma always had jars and jars of home canned items at her house.  She also has always had a garden, and it's from her that I got my desire to garden, bake, and preserve foods.  Now, I'm wanting to pass this on to you.  My idea for the workshop came from one of my lovely Instagram friends, who lives my dream life on a farm, and offers weekend canning workshops at her farm.  I'm also planning on offering a second workshop later in the summer on canning tomatoes (with hopes that my own garden successfully yields enough to provide the tomatoes we need).

Below you will find all the information for the jam canning workshop!

Date:  Saturday, May 21st  9 am

Spots available: 5

Cost:  $100  ---Payment must be made by May 14th to secure your spot and to purchase supplies

What you receive:
  • Step by step instruction on water bath canning of jam
  • Hands on experience prepping and canning of jam
  • The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
  • Lunch
  • Jar of strawberry jam to take home
  • Grab bag of goodies

Lunch Menu:
  • Garden Quiche
  • Strawberry Poppyseed Salad
  • Garlic Cheddar & Chive Scones

Workshop Registration

Fill out my online form.
Read More »

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Foster Care Funnies

In honor of two of my favorite funny shows starting back up this week (The Mindy Project and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), I thought it only fitting that I share my list of funny things that B has said since he's been with us.  The kid is hilarious when he's not trying to be, mostly due to him either misunderstanding words or just coming up with his own witty responses.  The notes section on my phone is slowly filling with snippets of conversations that I had to hurriedly document in the midst of laughing so hard I was both snorting and crying.

Here we go:

-Why do the keep the boy cows away from the girl cows?
<<awkward silence>>
Maybe they're afraid they would get milked.

-I got this idea that comes from deep, deep, deeeeeep down in my stomach.  And it pops up into my head.

-Kids can do anything that parents can do.  Wait, no they can't.  Parents are able to not fart when they have to.

-She mentioned something in her mind, which I can read, that she wanted to take me there.

-I know what you're thinking, because I can read your mind.  You're thinking, 'How did he hear that?'  Sometimes I have ears and sometimes I don't.  I'm just natural.

-Every woman in the world thinks I'm handsome.

-We're all workin' on the money bridge!  It's a saying.

-So who was that in the picture?  (B): It was me, from the future.

-Did anyone hear that?  Good.  I think the gas tank is firing.  (He was a bit gassy haha)

-I think when I yelled I farted accidentally.  It just squeezed out like a squeaky toy.

And my all time favorite was at Taekwondo......he got to lead the beginning of class, where they recite their tenets, and one of the words he had to say was in Korean.  The word sounds like you're saying chariot, but somehow he heard "cheerios", which is what he said loudly to the whole class.

You know when you're somewhere that you are supposed to be quiet, but something funny happens, and then you absolutely cannot control yourself?  That was this moment.  I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life!

Read More »

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pop Up Brunch

In my many efforts to try and figure out my life, I've literally come up with nothing.  I think my ultimate dream is to have a farm, with a beautiful old farmhouse, lush garden, an assortment of mini animals, and a guest cottage to use for a bed and breakfast.

Right now we live in the middle of a neighborhood in the city limits, and I'm trying to convince my husband that we can totally sneak chickens into the backyard.

So, until we can find this dream property, I've come up with a solution:  pop up brunch!

A few Saturdays a month, I'm going to plan a brunch that will be open to anyone we're friends with.  If you're following us on Instagram, we pass you at church, you're a work friend or just an acquaintance, you're invited.

How it works:  I'll be planning a menu, and will post it on social media.  We have room at our table for 4 other people, so married or single, you are welcome.  If what's being served sounds good to you, simply let us know that you would like to join us and the seat is yours!  Menu selections will include yummy items such as french toast, bacon, quiche, or a themed meal - such as a French, traditional southern or full English breakfast.

This new venture will also force me to be more social, make small talk, and get to know people better.  It will definitely be a struggle, as I would much rather hide behind a screen where I can carefully compose what I want to say rather than stumbling over my words in person.

The other positive is that planning a meal for a small group, cooking, setting a table, and having people enjoy what I've created is what I love to do the most.  It's my art, my creative process, and I want others to enjoy it.  Keep your eye out for our first pop up brunch, and hopefully we will share a meal together soon!
Read More »

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Family Command Center

We began our first full week of school at the beginning of January, and by mid week,  B had reached meltdown level.  I think a combination of a stressful first week, studying for tests and unstructured afternoons led to a breakdown right before bed.  We spoke to his counselor and she gave some insight on how homework had always gone in the past, and to stick with it.  B didn't like that we were pushing him to study and that we didn't give up when he got grumpy.  If he wants a battle of stubbornness, he's battling the wrong person.

I tried explaining to him that he was going to have homework for the rest of his school career, but when this kid gets something in his head. he can't let it go.  Or hear anything you are saying.  I did everything short of saying "Suck it up, buttercup!" and made him finish studying.  By bedtime that night, we are all stressed out.

 The next day I got to work researching chore charts, reward systems, and planning a schedule.  We have a small table in our main room that I had been using to display my ironstone collection, but I found a new home for it and began assembling a family command center.  I found a blog that had a reward system I liked, called the Jewel Method, which I changed to the Marble Method so it would be boy friendly.  This also ties in to a chore chart; he earns marbles for doing his daily tasks (brushing teeth, making his bed, feeding the dogs, etc.), then he has weekly chores (putting away laundry, wiping out his bathroom sink, etc.) and money chores.  He has the opportunity to make $5 a week, plus being able to cash in his marbles for different rewards. Marbles can be taken back if he gets in trouble for something.

I also created a daily schedule, so that the entire day is planned, including free play times and tablet time.  I did this to help eliminate the meltdowns during homework when he hadn't gotten to play his tablet much that day, as well as getting him to play with his other toys.  I also planned two family nights a week: Craft/Game Night and Movie Night.  Once he saw all that I had planned, he was actually excited about it.  He was ready to begin earning his marbles and marking tasks off his list.

The charts and lists and plans also keep my anxiety in check as well.  I get overwhelmed very easily, and typically have three notebooks with me so I can keep up with all the lists I make throughout the day.  By planning meals, snacks, and now a schedule, I feel far less anxious.

So far, the charts have been a tremendous help.  Although there is still whining during homework time, it has improved considerably.  Our newest homework issue is working on his confidence and trying to keep him from turning into a dark raincloud every time a challenge arises.

I still have a few items to add surrounding the schedule, plus finishing up his money responsibility system, but we're excited to finally have it up and running!

Click --> here for the chore chart and reward system that I used.
Read More »

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Babka and a Tart

I recently had some time to test out a few recipes that had been hanging out in my Pinterest board.  I actually wanted to make both croissants and French bread over the holiday break, but time got away from me.

Soon, French pastries.  Soon.

Instead, I made a Coconut Cream Tart and Chocolate Orange Babka.

Let's start with the babka.  The recipe from start to finish took around six hours.  Most of this time was spent waiting on the dough to finish one of its multiple rise times.  The dough was made from a Challah bread recipe, and was infused with orange zest.  Once the dough has gone through the first rise, it's rolled out and spread with a delicious chocolate mixture.  Then you roll the dough up similar to cinnamon roll dough.  Here is where the process differs: you slice your rolled dough in half, turn the cut sides up, and then wrap the pieces into a twist.  The twisted dough goes into the loaf pan, rises yet again, then spends a little time in the oven before it is drenched in a fresh orange syrup.

Chocolate-orange heaven!

I was very proud of how this bread turned out.  Usually I'm super harsh with anything I've created, but I actually didn't find fault with this bread.  I would like to get a slimmer pan to get the loaf taller, but other than that it was delicious bread perfection.

Now onto the tart.

I had been craving a coconut cream tart for some time now.  All I could think about was the cool, coconut custard and how perfectly delicious it must be.  Which is strange, because I neither like coconut nor have I ever had a coconut cream pie.  But I just knew it would be amazing.

The tart shell began as any other pie crust, except you add an egg yolk.  This may be the norm for your pastry dough, but I usually do not put this in.  Once the crust is combined, you press it into the tart pan, then weight it and blind bake it until it's golden.  While this is baking and cooling, you make your coconut custard.  The general process goes like this: heat your sugar and coconut milk, then temper your eggs and put everything back into the pot to finish cooking. My mistake was not choosing the right bowl to do the tempering.  I have a bowl that has a silicone bottom, which keeps it from moving while you are mixing.  If you have one of these, use it.  Don't question it, don't consider another bowl.  Use it.

I did not.  This resulted in me not being able to whisk while adding in the hot mixture (because one hand was pouring and one was holding the bowl), which resulted in tiny bits of cooked egg throughout my custard.

Not cool.

Luckily, I had a strainer handy, so I pressed the custard through this to keep out the gross little egg pieces.  Technically, I probably should have started over, but I was out of ingredients.  Such is life.

Once the custard has chilled, you gently fold in fresh whipped cream, fill the tart shell, then top with more whipped cream and toasted coconut.  Your next step is to stuff your face with creamy coconut

If you would like to bake either of these yummy desserts, the recipes can be found here:

Read More »

Friday, January 8, 2016

Christmas and a New Year

2015 brought lots of changes to our lives, including celebrating Christmas and ending the year as a family of three.  We definitely enjoyed our first Christmas playing Santa, and B enjoyed the mountains of gifts he received.  He was out for winter break, so we jumped into the parenting thing full force when he moved in.

We may or may not have been counting down the days until school starts back! :)

The week of Christmas was spent playing board games, watching movies, and building gingerbread houses!

On Christmas Eve, we baked cookies for Santa and made sure to put out carrots for each of the reindeer.  B went to sleep and then Santa got to work,  putting out a bike and a few other toys.  We tried to only do a few things from Santa and more from us, because I feel like Santa shouldn't be the one to give big gifts.  

On Christmas morning, we opened presents, then our families began swinging by for breakfast and to see what all B got (plus open more presents).  We chose to stay home most of Christmas day, because we wanted B to get to have time to play with his new toys (and to keep his hyperactivity in check).  Based on what we know about his past, this was probably the most elaborate Christmas he's ever experienced, and we wanted him to enjoy it.  We also had several meals with family, one of which he made an announcement at - about how happy he was to be there and thanking everyone for being so nice to him.  He's definitely been blessed with tons of new family that have welcomed him in and shown him what it's like to have people that care about him.

The next week we spent playing with toys, riding bikes, playing a two day game of Monopoly, and watching movies. 

 B decided that he was going to be able to stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve, so got some sparkly 2016 glasses and sparkling white grape juice (which we had to remind him over and over that it was ONLY grape juice! haha).  Somehow he stayed awake, even though we were struggling, and after a dozen games of Uno, we rang in 2016....then promptly went to bed.  On New Year's Day, B slept until 10, which gave me and Graham a couple hours alone to silently drink our coffee and play Uno, complete with ruthless "Draw 4's" and whispered cursing.  

On New Year's Day, I made us a meal full of luck: Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin, Black Eye Peas, Greens, and Cornbread.  B is still talking about how delicious the pork was.  Thank youuuuu Pinterest!

A joyous time was had by all.

Read More »