September 28, 2011

Apples

It's that time of year again!

Apple Pickin' Time!

Last year, our apple tree had a bumper crop. We picked laundry baskets full of apples. I don't really know how many bushels a laundry basket translates into, but we had a bunch. I was peeling, coring, slicing, cooking and canning apples like crazy. I made so much applesauce that I was sure we would never eat it all.

I was wrong.

We ate every bit of that applesauce. And, pretty efficiently too. I don't even think we hardly made it into Spring before our applesauce stores had been depleted.

So, this year, I was again hoping for a bumper apple crop.
Our tree did okay, but it didn't have quite as many apples on as last year. However, our next door neighbors, the ones with the apple tree that I was eyeballing last year, asked us to come and please pick their apples. I said, "Absolutely!", not really thinking about what time of year apples are in harvest. Remember, I'm due to have a baby in less than a week now....

And, then, because our children are entrepreneurs, they decided to scour the neighborhood for apple trees.
Our neighborhood is apparently full of fruit trees.

The older four children decided to ride their bikes around a few blocks close to our house and see what they could find. After finding an apple tree laden with fruit, they decided to see if the people would let them pick the tree. Not being shy at all, Joanna politely rang the doorbell and asked the nice couple if her and her siblings could please pick their apples. They said, "YES!", because I don't think many people these days like to bother with picking those apple trees. Only us.
So, yesterday, Adrian and the five older kids went on over to this house. They picked apples non-stop. They came home with buckets and buckets full. I'm guessing they maybe picked 5 bushel of apples.



They really are beautiful looking apples. And they taste pretty fantastic as well. Adrian and the kids worked really hard to bring these all back to the house.


But, while they were busy picking apples, another neighbor came over and said, "You need to try my apples." So, Adrian and the children went over to this other house and had a bite of his apples. Then, he proceeded to ask if they could please pick his tree as well!
So, on Monday, Adrian and the children will be headed over to this other house to pick their apples. Then, we still have to pick the apples off our tree and the neighbor's tree directly behind us. I'm guessing that, in the end, we will have well over 12 bushels of apples at our house.
And, remember, I'm due to deliver this baby any day.

I hope the Grandma's are reading this. Because, they will most likely be the ones helping me to make this into applesauce!!!

So, if you are interested in any good apple recipes, keep watching for posts. Because I have a feeling that my next week or so will be full of apple-ish things.

Unless, of course, I have this baby....

September 27, 2011

Under Construction

For my past three pregnancies, every time that I've reached about 38 weeks, my husband decides to do a remodeling project in the house. I think it's his way of nesting.

With Maggie, it was the addition of our front porch. I was excited to have it being done, but the construction and chaos that came with it was a little much. Thankfully, the project was going on outside of the house, so the mess stayed pretty much in the outdoors and garage.

With Annie, it was the total destruction of the kids bathroom and complete makeover. Again, I was excited to have it done... especially since our kitchen ceiling was leaking and falling in due to water damage from the old bathroom floor. However, since this project was inside the house, it was chaos. And messy. Drywall dust everywhere, grout cement being tracked up and down the stairs, drills and hammers and other odds and ends pieces of tools laying all over the place. It took weeks to clean up after the job was done, which also took a few weeks longer to complete than what we had originally thought. All in all, I vowed never again to undertake a remodeling project during my last weeks of pregnancy.

But, here we are again. In the midst of fixing something in our house. And, this time, I think I might have started it.
We have the boys bedroom comletely torn apart. Bunk beds taken down and gone for good. Carpet ripped out and the walls given a fresh coat of paint. But, it hasn't been so bad this time. Probably because we haven't really started the "construction" part yet. Wood flooring will go in (anyone with kids will tell you that carpet in a kids bedroom is just an accident waiting to happen, especially during flu season) and bunk beds will be eventually built-in. The boys are excited. I'm excited. This is something we knew would have to be addressed eventually, especially since our bedroom space keeps getting squeezed a little tighter every other year.

So, I'm not going to complain this time about remodeling. I'm going to embrace the mess and try to just simply look forward to the finished product.
And, in the meantime, do my "nesting" around the chaos that is going on upstairs.
The children are having a great time with the mattresses being strewn all over the place. They've been working on their gymnastics. It's great fun.

September 14, 2011

Pickin'

On Monday, my friend Jan and I headed off to a vegetable farm (where you pick your own, to your heart's delight) with our eldest girls.
We really just brought the girls along as extra slave labor. They were there to WORK!

I have no pictures to show from this event, other than the few that Jan snapped with her camera phone that shows the plentiful bounty we came home with.
I think I might be glad about that.
There were certain points, out pickin' in the fields (I think I distinctly remember a moment in the patch of cabbages) when Jan laughed and declared, "Now I need to take a picture of that!"
Trying to bend over a huge cabbage plant trying to rip a cabbage off the stalk that was bigger than a basketball.
Trying to scramble after potatoes as the farmer was digging them up with his machine. Believe me, it was a scramble. There were some other people there who were also anxious about getting the best potatoes... they were in their 70's and I almost thought about knocking them over. It was do or die out there in the fields.
Trying to pull huge leeks out of the ground.
Running through irrigation drips just to get to the very best corn.
Digging in dirt like mad men, a race against time to get as many onions as humanly possible.
Or, just me. Bending over. That was hard work.

We came home with a vehicle full of produce. So much so, that the girls found themselves buried under piles of produce. Next time, we need to go with a semi-trailer.
We were also filthy. And sweaty. And downright exhausted.

It's taken me two days to recover from that morning, but I'm finally starting to make some headway in storing all that stuff. It's just been a tad bit overwhelming. Mostly because of this....

I scored about 3 dozen ears of sweet corn, 50 walla walla onions, 5 celery plants, 1 bag of beets, 2 garbage bags full of carrots, 30 lbs. russet potatoes, 6 leeks, 5 cabbages bigger than big, 25 lbs. tomatoes, 20 lbs. green beans, 3 lbs. white onions, and a bunch of Indian corn that the girls had to have.
Now double that (because Jan took half the produce) and you have a good idea of what the car looked like as we were driving home.

Jan and I are wanting to send our husbands back again. Because, if I go, there is a good chance this baby is going to be born in dusty field in Platteville, Colorado.
My body just can't take any more bending over these days....
But, it was so much fun, and so rewarding to have all of this wonderful, fresh produce sitting around just begging to be put up for the winter months, that I think we'll definitely be doing this again next year!

Now, back to the kitchen... where the next few days are going to be spent chopping, blanching, canning, freezing, eating.

September 9, 2011

Bourbonish "Whiskey" Peach Jam

Okay, I'll be the first to admit it.
This jam had me at "Bourbon". ( And, initially it did! That is, until I used the whiskey bottle instead of the Bourbon bottle.... What's the difference anyway? They both burn my throat.)

I am, typically, a very boring jam maker.
"Hello. My name is Linda, and I sometimes lack creativity in my cooking."

I follow the instructions listed on the Certo package and never look much farther than that. Perhaps, once in a while, I will sneak a peek at my Ball Blue Canning Book for something different. Sad, sad, sad....

I think it's mostly due to the fact that I don't sit down and take the time to look any farther. That, and also the fact that when I am making jam, it's usually due to overripe fruit and the infestation of fruit flies in my house. I hate fruit flies.

I guess I've been doing more sitting these days. Perhaps the moon and the stars were aligned correctly for me to step out of the box a bit... Or, maybe I just actually took the time to type in "Peach Jam" on the google bar. Whatever the cause, the effect was wonderful.

And, since Colorado Palisade Peaches are all over the place right now, you still have time to make this jam for yourself too!

The ingredient list is pretty simple. Peaches, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, bourbon whiskey and a package of liquid pectin.
Of course, I took a picture of the two most important ingredients together.


Seriously?!? How could I even take a picture of this bottle, then post it on here, never once realizing that this was whiskey instead of bourbon? I don't know....



The recipe only calls for a little bit of Bourbon whiskey, so if you don't have a big ole' bottle of it sitting around your house, I bet you could just go to the liquor store and get one of those cute little bottles. You know, the kind that you could totally smuggle into the Husker football games.... not that I ever did that or anything.

Moving along....

Follow the instructions and you'll be the proud owner of lots of little (or big) jars of Bourbon Whiskey Peach Jam. You might have to give this jam a few days to "stiffen up" a bit. (I put mine in the fridge after it had cooled, and it set up wonderfully). I am sure you could add more pectin if you really wanted to, but that's always tricky. One time I did that and ended up with jam that had the consistency of a bouncy ball.



This is what my jam looked like when I was done. Peachy, bourbony whiskey sweetness filled with chunky pieces of peach fruit and little pieces of cinnamon floating around.
I can't wait to open up our first jar and spread it on some freshly toasted rye bread.


Bourbon Whiskey Peach Jam
3.5 lbs peaches (about 8 or 9 peaches)
7 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tsp. almond extract
1 cinnamon stick

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in your peaches, carefully, and cook for 1 minute. Quickly dump them into your sink and give them a nice, cold water bath. Slip your peaches out of their skins and dice them up.
Next, take those naked peaches and put them in a large, non-reactive, pot. Throw in the sugar, lime juice and vanilla, bourbon and almond. Then, with a potato masher in hand, you need to mash it all together... just until you get the consistency you want.
Over medium-high heat, bring the peach mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute, then add the pectin. Bring the jam to a rolling boil one more time and cook for exactly 1 minute. Don't overcook, because you don't want to have bouncy ball jam.
Ladle your hot jam into your hot, sterilized jam jars, following canning rules. Process in your canner for 15 minutes.
When the jam is done processing and has cooled down, check to make sure you lids have sealed. If not, you'll have to keep them in the refrigerator.



Happy Canning!

As a side note here, the jam still tastes wonderful... even though it's not bourbon but is instead whiskey. I guess that means if you don't have bourbon in the house, you can substitute your whiskey. It's kind of like the redneck version of Bourbon Peach Jam. Or.... wait a minute, did I actually come up with something new??? Could it be????
Maybe I should just start calling myself the Redneck Chef.... might be interesting blog fodder.


 

September 8, 2011

Continuing Education Class

Last week was a bit of a blur.

You know how it is when you come home after vacation, right? I always feel like we stay in a bit of "post-vacation" blah for a few days, before the reality of life comes crashing down on us again.

Well, this time we didn't even capture a few days to recover before we had to have the reality check. It came the moment we walked through the door. Bags to be unpacked, laundry put away, mail to be gone through, produce in the garden to be picked, peaches that needed attention... along with children that needed attention.
Somehow, miraculously, we pulled it off in just one weekend. I think the hand of God was mingled in there somewhere.
We had to get these things taken care of, you see, before the next week started because Adrian was taking a Continuing Education course in Castle Rock with Prof. John Kleinig from Australia. It was going to be a busy week.

It turned out to be a wonderful week. I wouldn't have even been able to imagine on Monday how nice of a week it was going to be for our family.
While Adrian spent the days in class, the children and I worked in the garden and the kitchen, getting things canned and tucked away for the winter. We also managed to get the house in some type of order and keep up with laundry. The only thing I wasn't able to finish were lesson plans, of which I am now having to tackle this week. (Yuck!)



This is a picture of what we accomplished in one week's time. Pickles, peaches, tomatoes, salsa, jelly. A pretty good start. We still have plenty left to do, trust me, but I feel much better knowing that at least we have a few things for our pantry.


In the mid-afternoons, we would hang up our aprons and head down to Castle Rock to enjoy the evening socials hosted by Pastor Macina's family and Pastor Ziegler and his wife, Carolyn. We had a wonderful time visiting not only with these Pastor's, but also with other Pastor's who were taking the class and their families. And, of course, Prof. Kleinig and his lovely wife, Claire.
Our children had a great time playing with the other children. It made me realize, again, that I need to be better about getting together with some of these other Pastor's families. We tend to get so busy with our own schedules, and busy with school, and busy with church activities, that I entirely forget about anyone else. The only problem is, we all live in this direction and that direction.... it takes planning and then the fortitude to spend your day driving across Denver.
Adrian and I even made time during this past week to have a date. At an actual restaurant. All by ourselves. It was marvelous and strange. It was so quiet. And what did we talk about in that quiet time that we had together? The children, of course!

Adrian thoroughly enjoyed the class. I heard every evening about what he had learned, about what new piece of scripture had stirred his heart. It was encouraging for him, and for me as well. I know that, in the midst of daily church life, he gets very little time to actually just sit and study for a good period of time without interruptions. Pastor's need pastoral care and advice sometimes as well. I think these Continuing Education classes are vital to these men for not only learning, but also for the chance to listen and grow spiritually themselves.


Perhaps the nicest part of the week for me, however, was getting the chance to visit with the Kleinig's. They are a lovely couple. I love them. The children loved them.
They were both very kind to our family, even when Peter shot Prof. Kleinig with a Nerf dart bullet, smack in the middle of his forehead! He fell over and played dead... it was mortifying for Adrian and I, but I think they found it funny. That's a classic Peter moment, by the way.


So, we have new pen pals in Australia, and perhaps even a new place to vacation to, if we ever get the chance. I hope the Kleinig's knew what they were getting themselves into when the invitation was extended to us....

Last week was a beautiful week for our family to spend together. We all left with a joyful countenance, one that I hope continues to grow and mature this year.

September 7, 2011

Susanna

Susie's birthday was the day after we arrived home. But, since we were still with family that week, she was fortunate enough to not just celebrate once... but three times!

The first celebration was with the Sherrill clan. Aunt Andrea made this sincerely cute cake, that looked like a package all wrapped up and decorated with M&M's. Sadly enough, I didn't get a picture! How did that happen? I must have either been pouting about having to leave or busy eating the cake and ice cream... Regardless, I need Tina or Ann to send me those pictures!
The cake and ice cream were delicious, by the way.

The second celebration was with the Nemitz clan. Aunt Sue made Susie a Ho-Ho cake. I had never had one of these before, but have always heard my family talk about it. (Since we live far away, we miss out on all of the wonderful cakes that Aunt Sue makes... except not this time!)

It was a chocolate cake, with Twinkies frosting on the inside and outside.... and it was good. So good that I'm pretty sure I ate way too much of it. It was decorated with little flip-flops, which is totally Susie. She is a flip-flop girl.

Thanks Aunt Sue for the beautiful and delicious birthday cake!

The third, and final, celebration was at our house. Susie wanted ravioli. And, since we had already eaten lots of cake in the previous days, we decided on just having ice cream.

Happy 8th Birthday to Susie Q, Susie Sweet-Tooth, Susie with the big dimple. We love you!!!!


The Long Trek Home

Remember how I said that I didn't want to leave Michigan? Well, I wasn't lying. I really, really didn't want to leave.
And, even more than that, I really, really didn't want to get back into that van again for a long 12 hour drive to Iowa. But, since I also didn't want to be stranded and since I felt the need to stay with my family, I got back into that van.
But, only because I love them.

Thankfully, Adrian knew how unpleasant the van drive was for me, and mercifully stopped for a break every few hours.
We stopped to get some peaches and apples from a Farmer's Market off the highway in Michigan. I love Farmer's Markets. If we had more space in the van, I might've loaded it up with produce. Adrian would tell you that, in reality, we did load the van up... because we ended up hauling a bushel of peaches back to Colorado with us! Red Haven Michigan peaches. Almost as good as the ones from Palisade.

Our next stop was in Chicago. We had to stop there, because we didn't get a chance to have a Chicago Dog when we were in town the week before. So, we stopped at a little joint called, "Portillo's". Best dogs in town, if you ask me.


The lady behind the counter would yell out your order number, something like this, "Forty-nine, Right on time!" or "Eighty-eight, No more wait!".


A Chicago dog, a chili dog and some other type of dog with grilled onions (which were oh so good) on it. I've never eaten a hot dog this good before. I don't even typically like hot dogs, but this place made me change my mind.


And, if you really love the dogs, you can have them shipped to you. I think that might be a little crazy to do, but I did bring the order form home with me!



This is pretty much what the rest of our trip home looked like. The children were exhausted, and I think so were Adrian and I... but it was totally worth it!
I >heart< vacations!!!! Viva Vacations!!!!

September 2, 2011

Michigan

After the wedding festivities were over, it was time to move past Chicago and onto Michigan, where Adrian's family lives.
Michigan is a beautiful place, especially Western Michigan. Glittering lakes, white sand beaches, lush vegetation, all the trees you could ever imagine, produce growing everywhere... We had a fantastic time there.

There were, of course, many games of kickball throughout the week with our cousins. Did I mention that ALL of the cousins were there? Yep. Sixteen children under the age of 12.


We had some wonderful meals together and plenty of ice cream. You can't go wrong with Root Beer Floats!


With that many children around the house, there was definitely some story hour time going on. Aunt Ann knew just what the little ones like!


There was also quite a bit of Detroit Tiger baseball watching going on as well. I think Adrian was in heaven.


It was so nice being all together. We were able to have a few Vesper services together in the living room before we headed to bed in the evenings.


We went to the beach as much as we could. Annie loved playing in the sand. There is just something so wonderful about having warm sand squish inbetween your toes. I think we brought a good portion of that sand home with us in the van.


Of course, you can't go to the beach without burying someone in the sand, and this time it was Peter's turn.


Here are all of the cousins together, minus baby Joel who was asleep in Grandma's arms. Aren't they quite the crew?!? The children had such a fun time together that whole week that it was really hard for them to say goodbye.


A friend of the family took us sailing on Lake Michigan one day. Well, I didn't go sailing because I was afraid I might capsize the boat, but everyone else got a chance to go out. It was a beautiful day to be on the lake.


We tried to stay at Lake Michigan for as long as we could on the days we were there. The sun was just beginning to set as we headed home from one of our beach days. I hung my pregnant self out the window of the van as we were driving home to get this shot.




We even had the chance to catch up with some old friends while we were in Michigan. Adrian's friends, Stephanie and Patty, invited us over for a BBQ one night. Our kids had a great time playing with their kids and we had a nice time visiting together. (Now it's Steph and Patty's turn to come see us! I mean it... we would love to have you!). And our old friends, Sherm and Carla, came up from Ft. Wayne to visit. It was wonderful to see them again as well!




It was really hard, not only for the children to say goodbye to their cousins, but also for Adrian and I to leave. I really, really did not want to get back into that van and drive home.
We had a great time and, most of all, it was relaxing. We were able to spend quite a bit of time with family and even had a chance to visit with old friends. I think we all are looking forward to coming back to Michigan soon!