Saturday, July 31, 2010

number cards

The poor neighborhood kids get put to work when they come to play!

I saw these number cards somewhere (I thought it was here, but I can't seem to find it) and made up a set right away. Lou has been having fun with them. He had a little buddy over to play one day this week and he ended up doing some math with us too.

One side has just the numeral, the other side has the numeral and however many dots. Lou and friend used Diego chess pieces this time, but you could use jelly beans, little toy animals, cars, goldfish crackers, whatever.

I paid to laminate my set and plan to use them at preschool. I am looking to buy my own home-office laminater soon. I tested out my neighbors no heat one and do like it. I have done only the tiniest bit of research online, but there are so many. Any recommendations? I sure can't keep paying to get my lamination done!

Friday, July 30, 2010

canning sweet relish

I had the sweetest student one year named Mary. It was the year I taught 6th grade. The one and only year I taught 6th grade. 6th graders are interesting. Some are so grown up and others are so still in elementary school. It was a long year. Anyway, Mary was such a good student. If I had a class full of her, I would have stayed forever. I probably wouldn't have cried so much at night either. She lived with her dad who was also super nice. It was the year I was pregnant with Bee. She used to bring me in her dad's canned salsa and sweet relish. Both were so good. When I got into canning this year, I knew both the salsa and relish were on my list. I got in contact with her through facebook and she is going to work on getting me the recipes. She's on vacation right now and I couldn't wait. I found a recipe I thought looked similar on It was super super good. Silly good. I am planning on another batch or two or three.

Sweet pickle relish

4 c. chopped cucumbers (4 med.)
2 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped bell pepper
1 c. chopped red bell pepper
1/4 c. salt
3 1/2 c. sugar
2 c. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. celery seed
1 tbsp. mustard seed

Chop and combine cucumbers, onion, green and red bell pepper in a large bowl. (It's a lot of chopping!)

Sprinkle with salt

and cover with cold water. Let stand 2 hours. (Mom- on my Christmas list is a new large mixing bowl, stainless steal please)

Drain thoroughly. Press out excess liquid. Combine sugar, vinegar and spices. Heat to boiling. (ignore the strong odor!) Add drained vegetables and simmer 10 minutes.

Pack hot into hot half pint or pint jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Adjust caps. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath. Yield: 3 pints.

I had a reader ask a few questions about what all the canning jargon means... head-space, caps, process, etc. I will plan to do a basic canning post next week some time. Look at that... all of a sudden I'm an expert. Ha. No, I just like to talk about things that interest me.

So, I plainly remember sitting and eating the relish right from the jar when Mary gave it to me. At the time I blamed it on Bee and all the pregnancy hormones. Nope. Apparently, good relish is meant to be eaten right from the jar. Make this and you will need to come up with your own excuse- you'll want to eat right from the jar too.

I linked this up several places. Here's the list here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

canning homemade ketchup

I seem to have been getting on little kicks this summer; garden stuff, school work, now canning. My spell checker still can't seem to figure out if is caning or canning. I'm using them interchangeably. I'm ok with it. I suspect caning involves canes. EDITED TO ADD: apparently it is canning and canner. Two n's. I stand corrected. I have fixed all old errors concerning this. I think.

When friends know that you will look after their produce responsibly, they seem to give freely. Lucky ducky me. With what I'm picking from my garden and some gifted tomatoes, look at today's stash. This might be my favorite time of year.

4 quarts chopped, peeled, cored tomatoes (about 18-20 large)
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
½ cup chopped sweet red pepper (about ½ medium)
1 ½ teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 ½ cups vinegar

Peel and core the tomatoes. It's easy peasy. Cut a little X in the top.

Place the tomato in boiling water for 30 second to 1 minute.

Transfer to a boil of ice water for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Use your canning tong guys for this.

Remove from ice water. Watch the skin fall off. You may have to give it a little help. Cut out the core and any ugly spots. I use a tomato knife. It's just a serrated knife really. (note the lovely compost bowl in the back!)

Prepare spice bag. Use a few layers of cheese cloth and add the allspice, celery seed and mustard seed.

Tie it up. He's so cute.

Combine tomatoes, onion, and pepper in a large pot. (note the coffee and filters sitting out... hubby and I go round and round about the coffee supplies being out... I vote no)

Cook until tomatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Purée using a food processor or food mill. My immersion blender is about 11 years old now and I'll cry when it no longer works. My kitchen has one outlet so I have to move my pot to the sink area to blend up.

Cook purée rapidly until thick and reduced by one-half. Add spice bag, sugar, salt and paprika to tomato mixture. Simmer 25 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

Add vinegar cook until thick (gonna take some time here). Remove spice bag. Ladle hot ketchup into hot prepared jars, leaving ¼-inch head-space. Adjust lids and rings. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner. This whole process will take about 3 hours. Yield: 3 pints. Only 3 pints. 3 yummy pints.

Fair waring: Do not start this project after the kids are in bed. You will be up all night. It takes at least 3 hours. I learned the hard way. Here is my first try of the ketchup with the relish I made the day before (coming soon). Oh yum. Hubby and I were all over this ketchup. It's different from bottled stuff. Different is good.

Next time, I am going to try to make this ketchup in the crock pot like I make apple butter. It's essentially a butter... something cook WAY down to a paste. Immediately after making this, I though, oh no way... nothing can be worth all that work... but then I tasted it chilled the next day and I decided that it was worth it. I just won't be sharing any of this stuff... gotta make it last.

I linked this up several places. Check out the list here:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

bag is done... time for school

I am so excited to give my sister her birthday present. It's not until September, but she's getting it early. I got it done this evening. I called her right away and asked if I could go ahead and put pictures here. She's like me and didn't want to wait for a surprise.

I made her the teacher bag I've mentioned recently. I got my inspiration here. There's a tutorial there but I didn't use it. I made a sketch and just jumped in. I used some of the pocket tricks I learned while making this for my other sister. So, she's student teaching this fall and was in need of a teacher tote.

Zippers on both sides allow it to open up.

Everything is all in there and all organized. Neat and tidy.

Two pockets on the front. One big blue one and a smaller yellow one.

It unzips and opens up. There are all your things.

It opens flat with all of the necessary supplies right there. I'm thinking this would be great for grading. All of the grading supplies could be right there, grading scale card, calculator, markers, pens, etc.

One side has a large pocket in the back, a row of pencil pockets and then a row of three pockets with clear fronts.

On one side there is a zipper pouch, three pockets and then another big pocket. I wanted there to be lots of places for full sized papers and file folders.

I really wanted to make sure that it could hold file folders sitting the right way too. It's so not cool when all your papers fall out when you go to pull out the folder.

I made an extra front pocket, just in case. She is a Miss now, but who knows someday. No pressure.

I just want to carry it around. It's a fun bag. The only other thing I could think to get her were socks. It's a long story.

I've linked up all kinds of places. Here's the list.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

blueberry picking- or not- and then some jam

This was supposed to go before the post about the green beans. So, I have used the pressure cooker now. Not as scared anymore.

Recently, I inherited this:

It's scary and kinda makes me want to hide in my bedroom. When my mom used her's she instilled some fear in me. I suppose it was a healthy respect for the fact that at any moment it might explode and kill me. I might have hidden in my bedroom then too. This particular one was purchased as a gift for my mother-in-law from her dad. Although it was used a lot, it was in the original box with the manual and purchase receipt. This and a watermelon cost $39.00 in 1979.

Also received, were these guys. Here are 3 boxes worth. There are 10 more boxes in my in-laws garage! There are some really fun ones in there. I tried to take close up pictures, but they were not nice. I spent a little time researching canning jars and discovered that most of these are from the 70 and early 80s but there are a bunch that are from the 50's. There are even some dating back to the late 20's and 30's. These are the collection of hubby's parents and his grandparents.

Although this project didn't use any of those, the kids and I drove of to find a place to pick blueberries. This was our little bushes first year and we got only a few berries a day. The place we drove to was closed. Both kids fell asleep in the car so it was just as well. There was a stand for already picked berries so I settled for that. It was like a little row of refrigerator shelves with an honor system money box. I drove an hour each way to buy a peck of blueberries (5 pounds) which I did not get a picture of. I ate a bunch on the way home! They were good.

There's where we were trying to go... maybe next year.

That evening, renewed by naps, my crew and I and started some jam. I followed the recipe on the box of pectin. I'm pretty sure you get botulism and die if you don't. It's a healthy fear I have.

This jam was really good. I think I like the strawberry jam best though.

Monday, July 26, 2010

green beans- another feat conquered

I had a list. I've been checking it off one at a time. Projects I needed to conquer. Projects that left me fearful. All projects that I've learned I had no reason to be fearful of.

Quilting. Check.
Sewing a zipper. Check.
Making jam. Check. Check.
Canning. Check. Check.
Pressure Cooker. Check
Cake decorating. You're up soon.

I attacked the green beans this weekend. I had no other choice. I had bushel of green beans just waiting for me. Yeah, that's 30+ pounds of green beans. I talked with one of the vendors at the farmers market and we worked out a deal on 2 bushels. I bought one and my neighbor Carole got the second. She's up to her elbows in green beans too. I'm a bad influence.

They were easy to can. Time consuming, but not difficult or tricky. Here's my bushel. 30 pounds.

First the beans are cleaned and the ends are broken off. Most of the beans were snapped also, into smaller pieces. I did do two pints of beans as whole beans (minus the very ends). I snapped all of these during movie night. It took 1 1/2 hours to do all of them. Here's just one batch.

The jars are sterilized in a large pot of water. They are removed and placed on a towel. My canner holds 7 jars, apparently the 7th is off screen.

1 t of salt is added to each jar.

The jars are stuffed full of the raw beans. 1 inch of head room is left at the top. Carole blanched hers. You can hot pack them by cooking them a few minutes first. I cold packed meaning I added them to the jars raw.

Boiling water is added to the jars to fill them up to the bottom of the neck.

The tops of the jars and the bottoms of the lids are wiped down. The lids are placed on top and the rings are added.

Green beans get processed in the pressure canner for 25 minutes for quarts.

Yes, I said pressure canner. You must be brave. Don't let your mama's threats of it exploding scare you.

You can do it. 10 pounds for 25 minutes. The time starts when the doo-dad jiggles.

Pressure canners are different. My pressure canner has me put the jars in, add water until it's 2 inches high, add the lid and lock to seal. The gauge guy is added to the top at the correct weight. Then, my directions say to turn the heat to high until it starts to jiggle. The time starts here. I am then to turn the heat to medium allowing the jiggle guy to jiggle at least 4 times a minute. When the timer goes off, I am to turn off the heat and scoot the canner over to a cool burner (not that's it's cool, it's just off). About 25 minutes later when the jiggle guy is done steaming, he gets taken off. When the lid is removed the jars are still way hot. They get placed on a towel for about the next 12 hours. The rings can be removed when the seals have popped and they are cooled.

I ended up with a funny half jar so we had those for dinner tonight. oh yum. They had the texture of a grocery store can of beans, but the taste of a fresh bean. It's going to be a tasty winter!