Friday, November 18, 2016

Nora came

Frontier Airlines had a killer deal on flights if you travel on Tuesday or Wednesday you can fly between CO and UT for under $40. I thought of my childhood best friend Nora. I thought she needed a little TLC and time away from her girls. I invited her to come out for a quick girls trip and she agreed! It was hard for her to arrange sitters but it came together and she was able to come out for literally 24 hours.

We ate lunch at the renowned Crown Burgers downtown.

With Colin, my sidekick. 
It's got this awesome gaudy interior, for a burger joint. Love it.  
Then we went to Gourmandise (do you see a pattern? I need to take the people I love to my favorite bakery).

We ate our treats at a beautiful park below the capital. It's this little hidden gem where the actually city creek flows from.

Then we dropped Colin off for his nap and Samuel came home from school. I went to the chiropractor and convinced Nora she should start going to one too. Then we quickly found a salon up the street to get pedicures.  I know....two pedicures a month apart. I don't generally indulge that frequently but guess what? Nora had never had a professional pedicure!?! That needed to be changed.

The one taking the selfie always gets the worse angle, lol. I was laughing because Nora kept making these funny faces trying to look good. lol. 
After she met up with her nephew for dinner while I set up for YW in Excellence that night. Fed my kids hot dogs and leftovers. Then headed back to the church for the activity. Fortunately, Nora was kind enough to stay home and watch my three littles. With Samuel in YM now it's tricky when Tyler has choir on Tuesday nights, in addition to the regular Thursday nights. I have to take them with me, find a friend to watch them or sometimes just turn on a movie and let Jocelyn be in charge.

Then Nora and I stayed up way too late talking and reminiscing. I dug out my old journals and we read from them and laughed at our silliness. And marveled at how sloppy my handwriting was.

The next morning we ate all-you-can-eat french toast at Kneaders and then back to the airport.

It was a great quick trip. A nice pick-me-up. We have soooooo many memories together. We've known each other since we were about 3 years old. Here are just a few of the photos we have together.

EFY 1996. All but two gals and John Bytheway are from Arvada plus Micaela. I had forgotten that so many of us went together that year. Julianne Johnson, Elissa Malone, Ashley Hawkes, Nora Pollard, Amber & Heather France (and their cousin) and I don't remember the blond gal in front of me. Good times. 

December 23, 1993

No idea when this was taken. Love our hair. Sometime in the 1980s. 

Nora visited me at BYU my Freshman year. 

Sometime in High School.

Ward Christmas party 1997

Church Halloween party, 1993. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sisters + Mom Weekend

Each year my sisters and mom get together for a weekend getaway. We switch off between Utah and Colorado so that half of us have to travel only every other year. This year it landed in late October which was lovely. And it was even more lovely because we didn't have any nursing babies coming along. Not that we don't love babies it's because we can get more fun in without them :)

We started by getting some breakfast then shopping at Saver's thrift store before meeting up with Rose. We then went to lunch at Wasatch Pub & Grill.

We did some window shopping.

Hotel shenanigans. No, we didn't pack that heavy! My mom brought some huge bags of hand me downs for us to sort through. It's like shopping for free. And she has better taste than I do. Thanks Mom!

We celebrated Rose's birthday that Friday.

We ate at her traditional sushi restaurant, Ichiban. It was yummy! It's inside this renovated church so it has cool ambiance with vaulted beamed ceilings and stained glass. And I had a migraine coming on all day so I indulged in some Dr Pepper which helped get rid of it. Stupid migraines....I am working on getting rid of those. After dinner, Jonny, who came for her birthday dinner, joined us at Gourmandise. Then back to the hotel for late night laughing and our "favorite things" gift exchange.

With the lack of children we were able to go to the temple. Marci had never been to a session at SLC temple. And we had family names which made it more special.

Annual pedicures.

Then we toured the brand new Eccles performing arts theater in SLC that will house performances such as touring Broadway shows, comedians, etc. Next door is Eva's bakery so we had some more French desserts! That night we ate at Bombay House because Jennie had never been. She's the resident Indian food expert and helped us order some new tasty dishes.

On Sunday we had everyone over for dinner. Tyler smoked some chicken (not this one) for dinner and then we watched West Side Story. Jennie wanted to see it again and Tyler and Jonny had never seen it. So we ate some chocolate cookies and watched Rome & Juliet in a modern musical film. Even the kids stay up until half way then we made them go to bed. And we watched the rest for FHE the next night.

Jennie is going to convince Grant that they need to raise chickens. Ha! No, she's not trying to strangle it. Her hand position is just funny.

It was a great weekend of no kids, food, talking, laughing, counseling, spiritual nourishment, sorta sleeping in and laughing. Good times.


This year's Halloween was a little different.....and I can't seem to NOT write a novel. Brevity is not in my character.

I try to have a theme for Halloween costumes and that didn't work out. We usually hit up a pumpkin patch but we didn't. And Samuel chose not to dress up for school now that he's in middle school. And they don't have a fun parade like elementary school kids do. Decorations were brought up from storage but took weeks for me to put up.

But we still had a lot of fun. Tyler proclaimed that Halloween is one of his least favorite holidays and pointless. Seems like he feels like that more and more with many holidays. Grinch.

The biggest reason we didn't go to a pumpkin patch is because we had our very own. We grew all of these pumpkins in our backyard. It was my goal to have a variety of pumpkins. Mainly to decorate with. Hopefully, I'll cook some of them too. I had fun decorating the porch with them all. I did not anticipate the green, warty ones would get to be so huge! I though they were going to be gourd size. Not so much. But since our actual jack-o-lantern pumpkins didn't pollinate until too late in the season, we only ended up with one large and two small orange ones. So Jocelyn chose a larger green one to carve.

Samuel has been begging for roasted pumpkin seeds since September but I loathe making them because they're so time consuming. It's exactly like making chex mix except you have to get your hands dirty and scrape out a pumpkin first. So, I avoid it. I told him he had to wait until after we carved our pumpkins before I'd make them. Sorry dude. Maybe next year it'll motivate him to do it himself.

We did go to the Rec Center for free ice skating, games and candy. Here is Colin triumphantly playing ladder ball.

We had the Stoehr's over Sunday night for pumpkin carving, chili dinner and donuts.

We did continue our tradition of making donuts. I made spudnuts again this year. They were a great texture and the kids were appalled that I put potatoes in them.  I also attempted another cake donut recipe but I was distracted and didn't measure the correct amount of sugar. So....that batch went in the trash. Then Tyler announced that he told his home teaching families he'd bring them some donuts so I needed more than the spudnut batch. So I quickly made another batch of cake since they don't need to rise. And they turned out pretty good!

We attempted homemade root beer but I didn't buy enough dry ice the day before (that stuff is expensive). And I had to buy it Saturday for our Sunday party so it nearly all evaporated. Oh well, it still tasted okay. To save money, I opted to make the bread bowls for our chili instead of buying them. Jocelyn had been begging to eat one since September (oh, the things we do for our kids stomachs). They turned out pretty well! I would make them again.

Mid-week before Halloween Culver's had a deal to buy $1.99 kids meals with kids in costumes. It motivated me to finish up their costumes. It was a dress rehearsal.

The girls school parties and parade was the Friday before Halloween. As a room parent, I was able to help out in Jocelyn's grade. I will take a mental note not to have kids decorate sugar cookies at the Valentine's party that I am in charge of because that poor teachers classroom was a mess afterwards with frosting and sprinkles smashed into the carpet.

Jocelyn saw a photo of me when I dressed up as Cleopatra and I think that's what gave her the idea to do the same. So we were going to go with a "white" costume theme. So Cecily chose to be an angel (one of the few times I didn't handmake or repurpose a was $8 practically new, can't beat that). Colin was going to be the white bear from a TV show called "The Octonauts". Then he was going to be a lion. Then he became a knight. When we borrowed a knight costume from our neighbors he became enamored. So we found some costumes pieces at the thrift store. He wouldn't stop wearing them. But I bought them to be in the dress up box. Well, on our dress rehearsal, mentioned earlier, he refused to wear the traditional lion costume (every other kid wore at this age) and wanted to wear the "dragon" (took me about 10 minutes to realize he was referring to the dragon on the breastplate, not an actual dragon). Then on Halloween night he refused to wear his black pants. He wanted blue pants (jeans). So, after a 10 minute tantrum I conceded and let him wear the jeans. Oh well, his costume cost $5 plus the white one he never wore ($5). Still a good deal. Samuel wanted to be a clown (due to the news hype about it...he does not have any fondness toward the creepy creatures). Then Jason, the chainsaw murderer or whatever he's called (with the white mask). I told him that was too scary and creepy. So, since the white them had gone away with Colin's costume, he chose to be a zombie. Easy peasy.

We do have a tradition of selling Halloween candy to a dentist. One, to help soldiers and other children out. And two, to get rid of candy fast. I found one last year that buys it for $2/pound. They then donate it to Primary Children's Hospital. (other dentists donate it to military overseas). Jocelyn was set on buying a beanie boo and donated 4 pounds, giving her $8 to spend! She was able to buy 2 with her own money. And....most of her candy is gone! Wahoo. She was determined this year to get a lot. Samuel too. They did not slow down. We trick-or-treated from about 6:45 until 9! Cecily and Colin didn't stay out that long. Samuel and Joc got about half a pillow case full. Samuel decided to keep most of his this year. He's old enough and has enough self control that I think he'll have it for several months. Unlike Cecily and Colin whom I have to limit their daily allotment.

All that stage makeup training comes in handy! lol. Samuel makes a pretty good actor too.

Trick-or-Treating buddies. Not pictured is my dad who came up again this year to go with the kids!

Samuel and his bff Ben.

And I'll end with some cute pictures of Colin painting and his "bubble" blankie.

Monday, November 7, 2016

C is for.....

Carrots. What the.....??  These two, entwined with love. Then butchered for chicken noodle soup.

Cubs. As a general rule, I don't watch sports. I don't understand much of the rules for football, or any sport, really. But baseball has always been enjoyable enough to watch. I was actually excited to watch this World Series only because the Chicago Cubs haven't won a series, or even been to one, since 1908 when they were cursed. It was tied series and this was the last game to determine the champion. It was exciting. They made it to 10 innings before closing it with breaking the curse. Samuel stayed up until nearly 10:30 watching it with us because he wanted to see who won. We were also excited as Tyler has been to this ballpark and watched the Cub's play with his dad and grandfather, both huge Cubs fans. The last time I watched a game this exciting was 12 years ago when the Boston Red Sox broke their curse. The reason I remember is because Samuel was just weeks old. Good times.

Cecily. She lost her first tooth! She wouldn't let us pull it on Sunday but kept pushing and wiggling it. 5 days later she was ready. She couldn't even feel it come out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Canning, Preserving and Harvesting

From left to right--TOP row: blueberry lemon jelly, applesauce, grape juice, salsa verde, strawberry jelly, raspberry jelly, grape jelly. Bottom row: apricot jam, pickles, peaches, salsa, pears, diced tomatoes. 

Sorry for the LONG post. Because this is essentially my only journal I write a lot of details. Skip over  the text to the fun pictures if you'd like. 

This is the first year that I really became addicted to canning. Canning has always been a little intimidating and daunting to me. I remember my mother canning a few times growing up in Colorado. And then again for a student service project while at BYU. I was determined to learn how once I lived somewhere that produced something that I could practice on. So when we moved into the Hart home in Provo that had grapevines, I had some neighbors who encouraged me. I started canning in 2009 with grape jelly. I had some success and not so successful times setting the jelly. And I was doing it alone, mainly without help of a mentor or Pinterest. But I figured it out. 

Then, when we moved to Grandma Knell's I knew we could start our own garden. A friend, Dara Jakins introduced us to her salsa and I decided to try it out. We grew the peppers, tomatoes and jalapenos ourselves. This was 2010 and we've been using the same recipe ever since. Each year making it thicker and adding more spicy peppers. We have it dialed in, I think. 

Between 2010 and now I canned a few other things like freezer strawberry jam and peaches Remember this?

Fast forward to 2016. We haven't had a garden since 2010. Though I've made salsa each year, I haven't been able to use our own harvest. So, it was really exciting this year to be able to have a completely organic batch of salsa made of almost everything from our own garden. This year I was also able to teach Steph, Emily and Rose how to can too! I think it's more fun to do it with someone else and you can typically get more done with a group. Plus, I've learned so much from this process! I only recently (like two weeks ago) learned that you no longer have to boil/heat lids before sealing. I just read on the Ball/Kerr website that in 2015 they disproved that you need to do this. They did studies and discovered that the seal will still take if the lids are at room temp. I love less step, time saving too. So yeah, still learning things. 

The only picture we took--canning applesauce. I was so impressed with these women. They drove up here and stuck it out for hours, while pregnant and nursing a baby and handling a toddler! Way to go! We also canned salsa (with just Emily) and peaches together. 

Emily preparing to be a mom by multi-tasking. Pregnant, holding a baby and canning at the same time, and in a dress (she was headed to a wedding that night)!
From July through now I have canned pretty much non-stop, it feels like. Particularly in September and October. I didn't Instagram many of these things because I didn't want to seem boastful. But I am going to here for documentation. Overall, I canned 13 different things. Froze countless green beans, marinara sauce, and zucchini from our garden! I also ground up a bunch of red chili's into powder. I've made fruit leather, dehydrated fruit, jellies, jams, sauces and many desserts and meals from our harvest or our neighbors bounty! 

Overall, after counting I learned that I canned 213 jars of stuff! 107 quarts, 60 pints and 46 smaller jars. This doesn't include the preserved foods. Or the other quarts of stuff helping others. Phew, no wonder I'm burned out. Last week was my last week to can, I told myself. Even though I was offered more free apples, grapes and have more tomatoes, I am DONE for the season! But it feels good to know that our food storage has a healthy supply of food and it's so pretty to look. That's my excuse for letting it sit on the counters for weeks.

Starting in July I canned jellies. Three of which I had never canned before including strawberry, raspberry and blueberry lemon jelly. The texture is a little goopy, so I feel I need to practice more with that. Our fruit trees are just babies still and we grew one apricot successfully. So when my friend Jessica Slade offered to let anyone pick apricots from her trees I drove up there and took a ton. I made two batches of apricot jam (one with Joc and my favorite, lavender). Then, this fall I made raspberry freezer jelly made with secret ingredients (green tomatoes and raspberry jello). 

grape jelly
I've taken notes on quantities, prices, yield, etc etc so that next year I know how much I will need for each batch. Plus, I like to keep track of cost. How much supplies, including the product, if necessary. Not only is canned food more healthy but can be more economical (though much more time consuming than running to the store). I've also learned to make things with pectin, without, or with low sugar. I've taken advice from older, experienced neighbors and friends. I get ideas from Pinterest too. But I mostly stick to the Ball guidebook. It's been tested and proven to be true. It's my main go-to source for recipes and instructions.

Below are a bunch of photos of the process!

First fruits

Pears for days from the Swenson's three trees next door. They just kept on coming. 

French pear tart with almond franginpane. Courtesy of neighbors pears. 
First time canning pears. It was difficult cutting around all the worms, bruises, etc. But again, canned pears are better than store bought canned pears! 

I am so sick of looking at cucumbers. I will change my mind when I have to buy them in the winter. 
First time canning pickles. Of course, I cut myself on the mandolin. I had to can these suckers three separate times because they just kept coming. That's the problem of planting 6 plants! 

Peaches. We had to buy these but they were tasty. Still ended up being $2/quart. Store bought is that price, on sale, and not nearly as tasty.

Grapes from Jessica's home garden. Wahoo! Filled a whole cooler full. And I only took about 25% of what she grew. 

Apples from Jessica's yard too. I canned about 4 of these boxes, half were from her yard. The other half from Carol Peterson's in my neighborhood. 

Colin, my helper, and his buddy George. 

Failed fruit leather. A little overcooked. Grape with some pears and banana added. Great flavors. And grateful that I scored a basic dehydrator at a garage sale in Colorado.  

For some reason we thought cutting off ends of beans was quicker than breaking them off. I think we were wrong. We were able to blanche and freezer, with our food saver, tons and tons of beans for the winter. We prefer frozen to canned.  

Overall, I feel so blessed for this abundance. For wonderful neighbors who are so willing to give of their time and services. I borrowed two juicers, a Victorio Strainer (a life save for making the applesauce), and an extra canner. Plus, an older lady from my ward, who is no longer canning, gave me four boxes of quart sized and pint sized jars. That saved me about $40 right there.

I hope I will be able to keep up this trend for many years to come. Especially as our fruit is ready to can. It just ended up being a habit. "What would I can this week?" It was exhausting at times and I ended up ordering take-out or pizza to feed the children for dinner as I was still canning or cleaning up from that day's project. And the kitchen, particularly the floors, sink and stove, were a constant mess. But it has been immensely fulfilling harvest this year! I look forward to eating our goods all year long!