Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Super Easy Apple Butter

When Mr. Kerr gives you apples (10+ pounds!), you make apple butter.

Our church has a wonderful ministry that helps provide food for those in need. Now headed up mostly by a gentleman named Mr. Kerr, Gleaners donates MILLIONS of pounds of food every year to local shelters, pantries, etc.

During the summer months, they have an abundance of farm fresh veggies. There is usually such a surplus that the rest of the veggies are brought by church & we get a mass email basically stating to come and help ourselves to as much produce as we would like.

It. is. wonderful.

In past years, we have brought home bushels of fresh sweet corn that I have put up for the winter. Same goes for green beans, zucchini, squash. Once, a very nice organic grocery store had ordered way too many Purple Cherokee heirloom tomatoes. No one wanted the odd looking dark tomatoes so I loaded up boxes of them. Some of them were made into tomato paste and many of them I oven dried for recipes that called for sun dried tomatoes. They were delicious.

When apples are in season, I usually make applesauce & apple butter if we take home a giant bag. Mr. Kerr had a huge sack of organic Fuji apples and organic bananas that no one wanted and he kindly asked if I would like them. Yes, please!! He gave me a box of about 25 lemons last week. On Sunday, I mashes all the bananas and froze some of the "mash". The rest went into two big batches of banana bread. I froze one batch for lunches and we have been enjoying the other one. We drove over to Mr. Kerr's home with a hot pan of bread, too.

Today, Charlie & I peeled and chopped about 20 of the apples. Well, I did the peeling & chopping, C did the dumping apple pieces into crock pot. We added a bit of water (maybe 1/2 cup) and set it on medium and left it to cook. About 7 hours later, I took off the lid and used a whisk to break up any lumps. Left the lid off and turned on high to let the liquid reduce, creating a jammier texture.

It's done & I just ladled it piping hot into freezer jars. Although it is delicious to eat, I actually make mine as a butter substitute for pumpkin gingerbread or other low fat baked goods. There are many apple butter recipes out there that call for a tremendous amount of sugar, but I think it tastes much better with zero added sugar. It is really, really sweet and rich. Sometimes I add cinnamon & cloves. Let me tell you, Yankee Candle cannot compete with the fresh apple smell in my house right now.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Garage Sale

Today was Day 1 of our "Radical" garage sale.
Our Tuesday morning Bible study has been reading Crazy Love & Radical this spring. Intense and challenging in so many ways.
Among the many radical things my friend Amy has done, this past spring she really lived out the command to care for the orphans. She adopted her second little boy from Africa, this little man being from the DRC.
Words cannot describe how cute this little guy is....really, really adorable (like his big brother). So we wanted to think of ways our little band of stay at home moms could support Amy and help raise funds. Being that we are all on a budget, we decided to have a garage sale. It is very liberating to get rid of the excess "stuff" and then know that the money is going toward this amazing family.
All of us are pretty tired tonight. Our hostess, Julie, graciously provided her home & driveway. It is such a good tired. And doesn't even begin to compare to the crazy long flights, sweltering month and "rustic" conditions Amy & her husband endured to bring this boy home.
Tomorrow is Day 2.
If you're a local & want to come out, we still have great stuff left! ANd you know that I am always ready to barter or just shoot the breeze. I met so many cool people today & will even see two of them in church Sunday.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

VERY Talented Etsy Seller

Every so often I run across a crafter on etsy that has created something so well it blows my mind. Here is the latest that I need to share (especially with all the sweets fanatics):


Lisa, sorry you had to see this with your gestational diabetes....it looks so real!!

The whole store is full of amazing barrettes. Maybe I will need to do some shopping there for my niece's Christmas gifts...

I have no relationship with this seller, just in awe.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Suggestions Welcome

Ok, help a girl out here....
I am the "Craft Lady" at VBS this year and am looking for one more craft to do, probably on Day 1 of VBS.
Here is the tentative rundown so far:
Day 2: Pony bead bracelets on black cord with cross & "fear not" beads
Day 3: Wooden/Paper fan that each kid can decorate (China/ Panda is this year's theme)
Day 4: Canvas hackey sack to decorate/paint with fabric markers
Day 5: Takeout box or box to decorate/personalize for toting home week's crafts

I have followed some of the suggestions on the curriculum, but the projects and materials to purchase were so flimsy for the $$$ spent. Looking for something that appeals to 1st-5th graders alike, is not super expensive (200+ kids) and not something that will be trashed when they go home.

Any ideas??

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Much of my weekend was spent flat on my back with a tens machine attached to my lower back.

Yes, I have inherited the back of my mother and father. There is nothing quite like "throwing your back out".

Advil & Tylenol were my friends.

I read Amish love stories. In every story, the heroine "accidentally" loses her kapp and her gorgeous, curling hair comes tumbling down her shoulders. 'Tis forbidden, ya?

Aren't those blueberry dishes cute?!? Perfect for a mini berry pie for your husband.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Playing in the Garden

It just so happens that Charlie is following in the footsteps of his namesake, my Uncle Charlie, in his love of gardening.

Here is my little helper, face and feet covered in mud. Charlie insisted on wearing an old cowboy hat because I was wearing my straw hat.

We finished planting the tomatoes today and think we have almost 20 plants total. They are mostly different varieties so we can look forward to eating some gorgeous salads. While at Ace, Charlie picked up a sweet red pepper plant and said, "This is my favorite". So we planted that next to all our pepper varieties. Cucumbers are finished, too!

Instead of keeping the huge herb planters on the porch, I moved them inside the confines of the garden. They will get more sun and be protected by the little picket fence that surrounds. Summer means lots and lots of basil....and lots and lots of homemade pesto.

Tonight we sat around a bonfire and enjoyed the late spring night.

I was thinking about planting zucchini tomorrow but thinking that Kelly Mc may trade some for tomatoes or habeneros???

This week I enabled ads on my blog. Whenever a reader clicks on one, I get a small payout. Small. Every little bit helps!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Etsy Bonanza for Skinny Minnies

If only I were a size 2 again.....

And yes, I once was. My husband cringes when he sees old photos. I like them;)

Lately, I have found gorgeous pieces, some vintage, some high-end.

Here is a sampling.

Monday, May 16, 2011


OK, I am mostly posting this for my friend, Kelly, because her husband loves salsa & I sent Enrique to their men's Bible study tonight with a jar for him. If he likes it, then you can pull the recipe off here, Kelly.

The salsa is similar to my mother-in-laws, although her salsa is far superior to anything I can duplicate. She makes a cooked salsa that is out of this world & brought some over last weekend. Even though I followed her detailed instructions, mine wasn't even close to being as good as hers. So, I used her base recipe and added a bit to balance.

This will be soooo good when our many tomatoes come in. So far I have planted 12 (?) varieties.

The Collaboration Salsa

5 medium tomatoes, quartered

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

1 chipotle in adobo sauce (freeze the rest in a ziploc)

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Juice of 1 lime


Heat olive oil in Dutch oven or heavy pan. Saute onion until soft and throw in tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes. They will start getting soft and fall apart. Toss in your chipotle, garlic and jalepeno and cook about 5 minutes longer. I use my immersion blender to gently break it up and smooth it all out, leaving some chunks. You could put it in your blender, too.

Now taste & add your cilantro, lime and salt. I added some Adobo seasoning and a bit of sugar tonight, too (just a teensy sprinkle).

That's it.

Speaking of my mother in law, she is amazing. Such a gentle, generous resourceful woman. I am lucky my husband inherited her mellow personality and kind heart. Her children are wonderful and examples of her beautiful heart.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ladybug Ball

And the ladybug cookies are drying! They are super shiny here because I just finished icing and it is still wet. They will be even brighter red & matte in the morning. They taste really good-vanilla from Costa Rica reigns supreme!

A handful of them have a little white flower on their antennae. These cookies are actually quite big, about 4 inches long.

Another pic coming when they are wrapped, tied with yellow ribbon & boxed in the morning. Off to church now to finish setting up for Sunday school!

Crazy Week Recap

Tuesday-Transmission acting up on van. Estimate from AAMCO-around $3K, maybe more!
Wednesday-Sold Odyssey to dealer for very fair price, bad trans and all
Thursday-Purchased Town & Country at dealer for EXCELLENT price

Along with some other "stuff" that happened, it was a comfort to know that none of this took God by surprise. Psalm 94:18-19!

Today I am starting on a cookie order for a beautiful little girl turning one-she is darling. They are ladybug cookies & I will post when I am done.

Sold a few items on etsy and went to a fabulous estate sale. Took C. Dill with me and we had a great time. Some amazing finds...takes work to research, photograph and list so a few are on etsy now, the rest later.

We walked to ACS to drop Trevor off for school and realized how lovely it is to take a walk in the early part of the day. The allergies were off the charts, but it was still wonderful.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Excited About the Lady

The lady to whom I am referring is actually not a lady (or "waydee" as Charlie says)but my new dress form!

After many frustrating attempts at finding a dress form on craigslist, I discovered that it was less expensive to purchase a new one from a mannequin manufacturer. When the UPS man stopped at the house with a big box, my heart jumped for joy.

Several beautiful vintage outfits have been waiting in my armoire. It was great fun dressing up the lady tonight (she needs a name!-how about Gigi?) in preparation for my etsy sale. Alas, much ironing needs to be done and I am the worst when it comes to ironing. My husband is a perfectionist in this area and he agreed to help out. Big, big brownie points; I am sooo grateful for his willingness to help.

Fortunately, the above dress is a polyester darling from the 50s or 60s and required no ironing. I dressed it up with a pink velvet belt of my own as well as some of my favorite aqua pearls.

Tomorrow I hope to put a pink seersucker blazer up as well as a stunning evening dress from the 50s...black, beaded, pristine.

Below is a picture of the wrapped copper mold I sold tonight. It is really cute, in the shape of baby blocks. The "wrapping" is a vintage curtain, pink tulle and a peony I made from recycled satin gowns (see tutorial).

It has been a crazy week. The transmission on the Odyssey went out and the repair is about $3,000. We prayed about it & decided that the wisest decision was to sell the Honda and pull cash out to purchase a different vehicle. E & I are so thankful for my dad's guidance and all the help my mom was today, ferrying me around and helping get the tomato plants in the garden.

With all the car chaos, I found myself fretting and stressing about money, frustrated that we have to dip into savings now when we were hoping to wait until next year. Then God gently reminded me that I was blessed to be able to purchase a car, that even 1 car is a luxury in most of the world. Then my husband drove up with T in the car from soccer and I realized how much worse it would be to have a cancer diagnosis or death of a loved one. It really is JUST a blown transmission. Thankful that my parents taught me how to manage money & live within my means.

Hebrews 13:5 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you'".

Monday, May 9, 2011

Strawberry Freezer Jam & Flowers From My Boys

Beautiful Roses in a hobnail milk glass vase.

Carnations from Tman, bought with his hard-earned money.

Our first batch of freezer jam for 2011.

Charlie= l'inspecteur de confiture

Sunday was a beautiful day with mostly sunshine. T & E went to the store at the crack of dawn to pick up flowers for me. T used his own money to buy me pink carnations and E & C gave me a big bouquet of pastel roses. The roses were really fragrant; they smell amazing!

Strawberries were on sale at Westbrook this week for $1.28/pound. They will likely be cheaper than that, but with rising grocery costs, I cannot be sure. I bought 4 pounds and only needed to toss 2 berries from the whole lot. They were surprisingly juicy & delicious.

Although I grew up watching my mom and aunt make loads of cooked jelly & preserves, I have really developed a preference for freezer jam. In my opinion, it tastes brighter and fresher. (And it it MUCH easier to make). Maybe you have an idea that jam is terribly time consuming and difficult. Surprise yourself and make some freezer jam. Your family will be blessed by your handiwork and it is a wonderful treat for friends, too.

Here is the recipe that I used, changed up (of course!) from Sure-Jell. Jam is not a recipe that requires precise measuring or you will end up with strawberry sauce-great for ice cream, but not the anticipated finish.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

(I double this, but just make as is if it's your first time)

1 pound strawberries

4 cups sugar

1 package Sure-Jell

1 package strawberry jello (you will only use half of this)

Hull and slice strawberries, place in bowl. With potato masher or pastry blender, mash berries. Don't go too crazy here; you don't want a puree, just a soft mash with little strawberry pieces. The end result should be about 2 cups mashed berries.

Add all sugar to your 2 cups mashed berries and stir. Let it sit for about 10-15 minutes while sugar dissolves. Add about half the package of jello. This brightens the color and boosts the flavor a bit.

In a small pan on stove, heat 3/4 cup water and 1 packet Sure-Jell. Bring to boil and let boil 1 minutes. I stir with a whisk most of the time. Immediately take from stove & pour into berry mixture. Stir until all combined. Ladle into clean jars and place cap on top. Freeze after it sets up or keep in fridge for about 2 months (?).

The jars I use are Ball jars, specifically for freezer use. They come in three sizes, stack and store well and can go in dishwasher. They are fantastic for salsa, too.

Make some jam & let me know how it turns out!!

I had a bit of jam left in the bowl, so I used my sourdough starter to make an impromptu coffe cake with jam swirled through. It was so good that I brushed and flossed as soon as I finished a piece (this always stops me from eating for the night). Embarrassing but true.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Vintage Memo Board

I had purchased a couple vintage metal trays a month ago because I had an idea about a memo board for recipes, pictures, phone numbers, etc.

I chose the pink tray (love the salmon-y, thistle-y color!) and glued a dark ribbon to the back. Simply hung from the wall and added a large vintage button over the nail head. (It looks like a huge licorice gumdrop). An etsy.com store (daysmadesweet) sells very powerful glass magnets in cute patterns. Mine are black with white polka dots.

Looking at this photos, I realized it is hanging a bit crooked. Off to fix it now. Maybe this will inspire someone out there.

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Friends & Best. Dessert. Ever.

Charlie has two favorite friends,T & G. They are the reason he looks forward to Sunday & Tuesday mornings. Per permission of G's mom, here is a picture of the two of them on a playdate last week.

OK, so I needed to add the recipe for the chocolate silk pie I made for E's birthday tonight. Had a carton of heavy whipping cream left and it inspired me to change up, lighten up one of our favorites. Yes, lighten up. The original recipe is worse (calorie-wise).

French Silk Pie by Susan

1 1/2 sticks softened salted butter (3/4 cup)

1 cup sugar (baking sugar is best, but regular white granulated is fine)

About 6 oz. semisweet chocolate (I used 1/2 bag chips)

Splash vanilla

3 eggs

Graham crust

Heavy whipping cream

Melt chocolate and let cool a bit. (I microwaved & stirred until all chips were melted; careful not to burn)

Fit mixer with whisk attachment. Cream butter & sugar until light & fluffy.

With mixer running, add melted chocolate and vanilla. Mix until blended.

Keep mixer running and add one egg at a time, beating about 4-5 minutes after EACH egg (12-15 total). The result will be a super decadent mousse.

Pour mousse into prepared graham crust, smooth and place in fridge. It will firm up a lot.

Beat heavy cream into stiff peaks. Add a bit of confectioner's sugar if you like a little sweetness, but not too much as the pie is REALLY rich.

Spoon whipped cream in graceful peaks onto pie and place in fridge. Tastes best about 3-4 after it has chilled.

Soooooooooo yummmy. I cannot say enough good things about this.