Saturday, July 30, 2011

So this is how we can

My friend Heather husband's family owns a tomato farm in Kingsburg. They sell their crop at the various farmers markets up and down the state. This particular week there was a glitch-and 25 flats went unsold. We decided it would be fun to can-not knowing how to can tomatoes.

We finally figured out what we were doing-half way into the first day of canning. It was a messy, sometimes sticky job, but it was fun trying to figure out something new.

We heated water, boiled the tomatoes, and the peels came right off.

Rebecca had her first taste of whipped cream-a Starbucks mini break fueled us :)

Lots of tomatoes that had been boiled, and are ready to get peeled.

Girl talk kept us sane.

Another batch of tomatoes goes in the pot.

Rebecca sucked on the tomato peels while we were at work. Gross-but she was a happy camper.

Canning approximately 16 flats of tomatoes (the rest were either spoiled beyond use, or given to others who wanted to can them) took the three of us two days to complete. Children were underfoot-and not necessarily in the way, but were around while it took place. Maybe it wouldn't have taken as long without them-but the kids helped, they played, it was a summertime activity to do together. My share, once we were finished, was two large containers of tomato juice, ready to can, and 12 quart sized jars of tomato sauce. Triple that, and that's how much we made. It was a lot of fun, but I think we're all done with tomatoes for awhile.

Last Monday we went back to Heather's home and canned peaches. This time we had six women, and five flats of peaches. The whole process went incredibly fast-it took us four hours to jar 39 quarts and 24 pints of spiced peaches. My take home from that venture was another 10 jars of peaches.

I'm already running low on jars-we've used a few containers of jam-but they have been reused somewhere else-more fruit, more jam, more sauce. I have a flat of cherry tomatoes I'm in the process of freezing for use this winter-not sure if I'll can them/make salsa/use them whole in recipes, but at least freezing them keeps them from being unusable.

A friend posted a picture of freezer jam she made, and referred to being like Martha (Stewart). I had to reply: Jennifer Goldberg Allen ‎♥ it! I have never felt more like Martha than this summer, its an awesome feeling :)

It really is incredible. If someone had told me years ago I would be canning, I would have called them crazy. Now, I'm doing it, and loving it :)

Christmas in July

My friend Heather and I were doing a happy dance as we skipped, yes, skipped out of Target because-our holiday shopping for our kids is done. Yes, done. I am loving every minute of summer, and not rushing through it-but the opportunity came to go into Target during their 75% off toy clearance-and I found some amazing bargains. I found three family board games, a knex set for the boys to share, two card games for when we're out and about, a power ball, and a memory game to give as a donation/gift. Before gift cards which I obtained from the sunscreen deal a couple of months back, the cost would have been $28. I spent $13 out of pocket. Full retail of the items: $107. See why I did a happy dance?
Earlier in the week, we also took advantage of the Pier One $10 off of $10 coupon. I walked away with these items for gifts too.
(free after $10 coupon)
($2.95 after $10 coupon)
($0.50 after $10 coupon)

We're well on our way to having a frugal and fun holiday season-and not getting sucked into buying stuff last minute, and at outrageous prices. I know not everyone likes shopping ahead, has the time, the storage, different rationale for waiting to shop. For me, shopping ahead helps me stretch our family dollars.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mom moments

Heather and I took the kids for a car ride yesterday, to break up the day, and the quote of the day-''Taste my armpit.'' Was that really my kid? Yes-yes it was. That and a smelly foot contest kept them entertained. Boys are gross.

I brought over two diaper cases full of clothes to Miss K for her baby boy. I had quite a bit saved, not knowing if Rebecca was going to be a girl or boy. It was great giving it to her, glad someone else will get use from them.

I also gave a wipes case full of baby girl clothes to our neighbor for her baby grand daughter who's arriving in September. She was overjoyed- this is her first grandchild and can't wait to see the new little one.

I have been looking at reusable bags/containers on Etsy for our family, and finally decided what to get. While I love the soft snack/sandwich bags, its not practical for our family at this stage in our lives. I will go through the hard cases we already own, and replenish those. We'll use the totes we have for lunch sacks-since they can hold the Sigg-style water bottles.

A summer day is upon us, I wonder what adventures await. I think a picnic and bike ride are on the agenda for the morning. We shall see where the day takes us.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer continued....

Summertime is cruising by, faster than I thought it would. The kids and I have been going full steam most the time-but have had our share of laid back days too. Lately we've been getting in the groove of canning-first blueberries, then tomato sauce, and yesterday we canned peaches. Its always more fun with friends, and the kids have grown accustomed to traveling back and forth between our friends homes. I wish there was a pause button somewhere-its been so much fun, and doing activities that are so simple. We've been blessed with so much-and I'm learning everyday the value of friendship and teamwork.

It hit me yesterday-I could actually verbalize that I was happy with my life-and that I've worked really hard to get where I'm at-and where my family is at. Parenthood and life is far from perfect-but my friend Heather tells me-nothing ever is-and anyone that says otherwise is just lying to themselves. There's always a sense of imbalance-or seesawing-that takes place-right now-its just the matter of the ebb and flow, the current, the amount of upheaval- it makes the difference between rolling with the punches and soaking up the journey, and getting caught in a storm. Nine out of ten times I would think everything is great-but to be able to say it aloud (and that's normally not my style) is huge. There are the down times-but its how I face them that I want to remember-they give me perspective, gain wisdom, provide teachable moments.

I want the kids to hear me say I'm proud of them-of us-not just think I am. I want to laugh-not just giggle-but full on laugh-and that's happened a lot this summer. I'd like to think my kids have something to do with that. The event that happened last was Elijah got ahold of a marker, and drew all over himself-he thought that was hilarious. I did too. It was quite funny, especially when he drew in a mustache and beard.

Life is beautiful and messy, chaotic and busy. We have our moments/hours/days of slow time, but this season of our life is busy-and spending time together, is so very nice.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Inspiration-you never know when its going to hit

Today was a long day. A long, tiring, exhausting day. At the same time, it was so much fun. And truthfully (and with only a little apprehension) I'm doing it again tomorrow. My friend Heather and I, along with her friend Diane are canning tomatoes-about 25 flats of them. Yes, 25. I have a picture of them:

I left my camera at Heather's home with my pictures of us starting out, but here's a picture of some of the at least 12 jars of tomato sauce we made with just 5 of the flats:
Between the three of us there are seven kids underfoot-four of which are mine, who also happen to be the youngest too. Makes for some interesting moments (Elijah falling asleep sitting up) and me taking breaks to nurse and diaper change Rebecca. I wouldn't change a thing-its fun, frugal, and tasty too. Hoping that some of the batches we make tomorrow include salsa, and perhaps chutney if we're bold.

My friend Andrea gave me a flat of peaches today-and I gave her blueberry-nectarine jam, peach jam, and spiced nectarines as a thank you/thinking of you gesture for being her earlier this week. I'm excited to make a Peach and Blackberry (subbing blueberries) muddle. Who needs to go out when you can make this at home?

And if I need more inspiration after we go peach picking next week, I found 25 things to make with peaches, and more peach recipes here, and this recipe for brandied peaches, and another recipe for brandied peaches.

I am loving the bounty of the season, the fresh fruit, vegetables, I love this time of year. The heat is not bothering us-the attic fan has run daily, saving us our fair share of dollars. We're loading up on veggies every night, salad, veggie burritos, breakfast scrambles with vegetables. Its delicious! I can't wait to see what else I can/bake/produce this year. Its exciting to learn a new skill, and then share it with my family.

I have a set of friends who are crafty-and those who post their ideas online. I fell in love with this idea for picture frames thanks to someone posting it. Storage is at a premium in a house of six people, so I love this idea for Pottery Barn Knockoff.

Life is amazing-I get inspiration, just when I need it. Faith, love, they are powerful.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thoughts while drinking coffee

Gabriel has a tan-reminds me of the Coppertone Baby-he's been in the pool a lot this summer.

Matthew is an awesome helper (when the mood strikes-and we're working on that). Yesterday I needed help getting the bike trailer out for our ride, and he helped me-made for a nicer ride.

Elijah-fishy kisses. I don't know how this got started, but it cracks me up.
Rebecca-went bonkers when she saw my sauteed spinach and tomatoes last night, and didn't settle down until she had some.

Robert-Love is dealing with a broken washer for three days in a row, each day figuring out something else is wrong thanks to youtube and google. Figuring out what it was, going underneath/inside the machine's body to use duct tape to hold the tiny clasp together just long enough so we can get to Fresno to purchase the replacement part. It did save us $50+ figuring it out ourselves.

Heather-how many friends would you let see your unmentionables? Seriously, she brought 3 loads of laundry to her home, and not only washed them, but dried them too. Love my friend, and what she adds to my life.

There are people I don't write about-people that remain a mystery to me, even today. I don't understand why things are the way they are-maybe that's the point. Maybe I just need to go with the flow once again-usually I'm good with that. Its been a struggle the past week-I wonder if my hormones are trying to get re-balanced now that Rebecca is eating more food/less nursing. I'm not burned out-yet trying to soak everything up to the point that I wonder if I just need to press stop. pause. go again. or reboot.

Yesterday going on a bike ride was the highlight-that and making spinach and tomatoes from Heather's husband's farm, and all the kids devoured it-I was floored. I thought for sure they'd make a face-how many kids do you know willingly eat spinach? No bribery here either-the bike ride was before dinner-so maybe that made them hungrier?

The weather has been beautiful here-making it easy to stay local. Robert made my day getting a bike trailer so I can go around town with all the kids on their bikes. Oh, and I have a bike now too. Both are second hand-but new to me-and that's just fine. Its been about 8 years since I stepped on a bike-and it was a cinch getting back on it. The most challenging part is getting the two younger ones situated-but with practice that will get easier. We went exploring the other day-and have made many bike rides to Heather's home so the kids could play and the adults could chill. I have seen some homes that stir up a drive for me to be creative-and others that seem like they are just.too.much (ticky tacky houses anyone?)

Another summer day here. Kids. Pool. Summer camp.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cooking with kids

Its Plank Pullin time! The one day a week that we strongly resolve to ignore the multitude of specks and sawdust around us and pull one bona fide plank from our own eye. Matthew 7:3-5, style.

One of the memories I hold dear to me is the smell of spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, brownies, and dump cake coming from my mom's kitchen. She was a stay at home mom whose pride was in her children, and her cooking a close second. I don't remember how it was with us being at home-I remember doing some cooking-but I remember too-being asked to stay out of the kitchen. With four kids underfoot of my own now, I can relate to that. I do it too. I don't mean to do it-I like having the kids learn-the science, the math, seeing how everything melds together. I think too that's part of why my kids are good, adventurous eaters- because they see how meals are made, and help make them.

Yet, I struggle with it. Some days are better than others-some creations hold their appeal more. Making cookies and brownies, the kids are sure to want to help. Meats, sauces, vegetables-sometimes. Soups and stews, um, yeah, not happening. Making the food is the fun part for the kids and myself. The prep and cleanup-definitely tied for being the hardest. I'm aware of my struggle-I want to foster a love of cooking with my children-I want them to be able to share it with friends and family as they get older. I want them to see how we can take whole, unprocessed ingredients and make a flavorful, healthy meal. Yet I struggle.

I feel like I'm muddling my way through-maybe this is what personal growth is about. I'm working to let go of my desire to be Rachel Ray, Julia Child, etc. I'm no Next Food Network Star.

My kitchen leaves a lot to be desired today. Yet my boys made egg salad for lunch, and pumpkin muffins for snack/breakfast tomorrow. There was a lot of mess, a few tears when a tray of filled crackers were upended. Yet they had fun. There was laughter, smiles, and good food eaten with family.

These are the memories I want to make.

So, here’s the part where you make me feel better by sharing your planks, also. And if you're feeling really inspired, write your own post and link up below! (Don't forget to type the name of your post in the "name" box)

Want to share the list on your post? Click on the link to copy the code.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happy Sunday

You know you're a die hard couponer when you get the itch to go to the store the night before when the deals for the next day are already posted. was a rough night (ha-we spent it at the concert and fair, so definitely not rough!) but this morning I went out with Rebecca and went down to CVS. I'm just going to post what I shared on Penny Pinchin Mom since I'm so darned proud of myself (and for getting the hang of rolling the deals!) For the skeptics who say-do you really need this, or that, or why bother buying something if you don't need it-because I donate it-and groups appreciate donations, especially when certain items are hard to come by, or are otherwise expensive for those who are already strapped. I already had ECBs (extra money) from last week, so reapplied them and kept my out of pocket expense down. As far as wondering what my total OOP expense is every month-it goes along w/ our food/grocery budget, so when that money is gone, its gone. The key is I'm getting more for our doller, per dollar that I spend, than the average consumer. I'm no extreme couponer, just someone who has fun saving money and blessing others.

In other news, more important news, I finally uploaded a ton of pictures from the past month-peach picking, zoo, hanging out with family and friends, day trips, our 4th of July celebration, our Cow Appreciation day costumes, and so much more! I will post those later this week-when I get to it. Our children keep me busy and I'm blessed to live this life. It may be crazy sometimes, but I am so grateful to have what is important to me.

For those curious about the deal at CVS, here it is :)

I have a better scenario, if you have ECB’s already.

First transaction

4 lumene eye make up remover @5.98 each (use 4 $4 coupons)
3 John freida full repair item @ 7.79 (use 3 $5 coupons)

starburst candy (used CVS $2 off skittles/starburst bag of candy coupon)

use $4 off $20 ECB that comes this week when you swipe your card (before buying).

pay 4.36 out of pocket included tax, received $15 in ECB

Transaction #2
Balance bar 1.69
Multipurpose solution 7.99

one lollipop .50 (used because of not meeting $10 threshold prior to tax)

use $10 ECB from transaction #1, and pay .82 out of pocket.

I then received the 1.69 and $7.99 EBC for the balance bar and solution.

Grand total 5.18 oop, and $14.68 in ECBs for next week :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Making memories

Today is a mellow vacation day-we've been on the go almost every day, keeping busy seeing friends, making new ones. Adventures are plentiful, and they haven't cost a ton of money-and they've been memorable. I wonder years from now what will stick out in my kids memories, what they will remember doing with me, with Robert, and their siblings. Its a juggling act-finding the right balance of planned, not planned, things with me, things with Robert, and of course now, things without either parent. I have the boys participating in summer camp twice a week-more or less to switch things up and give them time with peers (and allow me to regain my sanity).

I was talking with a friend this morning about the cost, and how I nickel and dime everything just so we can afford day camp and not freak out about everything else. She reminded me-you need your sanity. While my husband is wonderful about giving me time-I need more-to be the best mom I can be-not to mention remember that being a mom is just one facet of myself. That may sound hokey-but for me-I need that. So we nickel and dime, and the kids have camp, and I have relative peace (yes w/ Miss Rebecca, but she's still at that mellow baby age/stage) Let me also add that while I nickel and dime, I follow Dave Ramsey, so bills get paid, savings are added to, and life marches on. We're not broke, we're not poor, we're frugal. My kids go to summer camp. I have my sanity restored/replenished/rejuvenated. That's a great balance for me.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

F is for family

Its been a rush-a fun rush-going places with the boys and baby girl this weekend. There are no dull moments-laughter, giggles, a few tears now and then. We loaded up everyone for a bike ride yesterday and ended up helping a friend with a project. The kids had fun-and Robert and I had fun too.This is what its about. I'm so happy, its contagious. The kids feed off of it, Robert feeds off of it. My heart is full ♥ Today is another day, another day with few plans....wonder where we'll end up.

Friday, July 1, 2011

June- First four weeks of summer

Where did the month go? It feels like summer just started, but we're already a month into it. The boys had swim lessons and vacation bible school-both got us out of the house bright and early. That was the key to us getting the most out of our day. We had playdates, swim time, and lots of free activities. The kids had fun, and I did too. There's never been a dull (and rarely a quiet) moment in this house-and that's a lot of fun. We had arts and crafts, cooking, game time, we did it all. The boys had summer camp, and we met with our playgroups too.

MOMS Club and Moms Time Out are on summer hiatus-but we're still having fun with our friends. I'm excited about the board for next year-and look forward to spending time with all our friends when we go out around town. We've run into friends all over-from the playground, water park, and summer reading programs. I think seeing our friends (and me connecting with other moms) has definitely added to this being a memorable summer. I have taken time for myself too-Robert has been spending time on his own with all four kids and making memories with them. Moms Night Outs and hanging out w/ neigbors post kid bedtime-I'm loving it! am soaking it all up-it won't be long before school and sports are upon us. We have found our groove with a summer routine-and having fun along the way. I defintely feel like we're making memories that will last a lifetime-and aren't breaking the bank doing it.

We have fun adventures ahead-just waiting for the heat to kick in so we can take advantage of them. Going to the coast, the aquarium, even a couple of theme parks. I also want to hit the mountain areas too. The list is long-but it doesn't feel overwhelming. We're enjoying our activities as they come, and not getting frazzled if we have a change of plans. We'll travel as a family-as well as with friends. I'm looking forward to all of it- I ♥ summer!