Friday, September 30, 2011

Mystery Date

( I apologize for the way the photo was scanned-I can't figure out how to scan it so it fills the proper space!)

Rick and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary on Sept 27. The day of our wedding was gorgeous. It would've been my Dad's 83rd birthday as well,but he had passed away in 1990,7 years earlier. I knew the blue sky and brilliant sun was his way of sending his approval.He would've loved Rick. Rick and I had both been married before,so we both agreed we just wanted a small ceremony.It was held at my Mom 's house.Actually,the ceremony was in her next door neighbors yard,because we loved the tree.Her daughter,a justice of the peace,married us.

Those of you who have been following this blog know that Rick and I have been through alot since he was wounded in Iraq in 2005. Our marriage  took quite a hit for awhile,but together we worked through it,and it has made us stronger.

My darling hubby decided that he wanted to do something special for this anniversary. He informed me that he was taking me somewhere overnight,but couldn't do so until Sept 30th (today). All I know is that he told me to "pack casual and wear sneakers." Hmmm. He has been teasing me all week-" Are you thinking about where we might go?" "We are going to have so much fun!" Last night,though,he voiced some concern," I hope you are not disappointed."

First of all,I am not expecting an overnight in a penthouse.I do have some thoughts about where he may take me,but I have no set expectations. In all honesty,even if it was tenting somewhere and doing some walking the woods I would be quite happy. The point is that he has done this,all by himself,for me. If this was a few years ago,he would not have been able to do it. His emotional walls were too far up,and I don't think he would've considered doing this.I am not saying he didn't love me,but being in war makes you shut down emotionally,because there is no place in combat for emotion.You see horrible things,you have to take life,and if you stop and absorb it,you could be putting your fellow soldiers and yourself in danger.

He made sure I didn't get the mail until he recieved some form of confirmation from where ever we are going. He hid the envelope from me. If he was on certain websites he would tell me not to come in the room,or to let him know I was coming in the room so he could block the screen. Sneaky little devil!!!

So today, I am going on an overnight mystery date. It could be down to Portsmouth,on the ocean,with a nice tour of Strawberry Banke and some window shopping. Maybe he will take me to lunch at the Rusty Hammer,where we had our first date. It could be up north to the White Mountains for some foliage hiking.Whatever it is,it's going to be wonderful!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How I Saved Over $200

I began making my own laundry soap on Sept 5,2009.Why I remember this is because I have kept track of when I make the soap,and how much I have spent on the ingredients so I could see how much I saved.

When I purchased my items,though,I failed to mark down how much they were. Last week when I was shopping I wrote down the prices to use a guide.

My first initial purchase:
2 bars Fels Naptha soap @ .99 cents apiece= $1.98
One box Arm and Hammer Washing Soda= $2.69
One box of Borax= $3.69
Total spent= $8.36

Until then I had been buying Purex,which costs $4.49 for 2 qt,8 oz (I averaged it to 2 qts to make it easier to figure out).

Each batch I make is 2 gallons,which means I would have to purchase four Purex to equal 2 gallons (remember,I'm rounding down,here).

I have made 12 batches of soap since 9/09,and have only had to purchase two more bars of Fels Naptha since then,making my investment to date at $10.34,which averages to $.86 cents for every two gallon batch.

Now, if I had continued to use the Purex,I would've had to buy 48 jugs to equal 24 gallons,which would cost $215.52
                                                  -    My soap-$10.34
That'a a great savings! It also lessens the amount of plastic jugs hitting the landfill.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homemade Apple Cider

First,thanks to all of you who sent good wishes and warm thoughts for my Mom.Her surgery went great and she should be going home tomorrow. She will have visiting nurses and a physical therapist go to the house. She refused to go to rehab,preferring to be in her own home,in her own surroundings. I think it helps heal faster.

Now that we have 28 lbs of apples,the first thing we said was,"OK,now what do we do with them?" Rick made a couple of wonderful pies with Gluten Free crust. I wanted to try apple cider, but we don't own a press. Could I make it without the press? I wondered. Surely I could find something on the internet.

I sure did!Several variations,in fact.

                                                      Homemade Apple Cider

I used about 25 apples. The norm seems to be 36 large apples for one gallon of cider.Our apples all came out rather small,so I knew I wouldn't get anywhere near that amount. Plus,if it came out horrible, I would have all this cider that no one would want to touch. 25 apples made 1 qt of cider. 

First,you core the apples. I don't have an apple corer,so I just cut out the center of the apples.Don't peel them. Cut them into quarters.

After you cut them,put them in a food processor and puree them. The more the apples are pureed,the more juice you can get out of them. I have a food processor attachment for My Precious ( the Cuisinart),and it's not big,so I could only puree a few cups at a time.

I put a big bowl in the sink,and put a strainer in the bowl. I lined the strainer with cheesecloth,and put the pureed apple goop in the cheesecloth.I twisted the cheesecloth and squeezed it as much as I could. I then realized that by keeping the strainer in the bowl,all I was doing was making the apple goop absorb the juice I had already strained,so I put the strainer across the sink,with the bowl underneath. I would chop apples,and while they were pureeing,I would work on getting the juice out of the previous pureed batch.

Once I had purred all the apples I wanted,I then pasteurized the cider by heating it to 160 degrees. The cider was sour (remember,the apples were quite small) so after it reached 160 degrees,I took it off the heat,and added sugar,stirring until dissolved. I used about an 1/8 of a cup of sugar.

I wound up with one quart of apple cider. By pasteurizing the cider,one can keep it refrigerated for three weeks. If you don't wish to pasteurize it,it will only last about four days.

Rick and Brother B pronounced it delicious!!!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Quiet Time

This morning, I am here with the dogs and the cats,all of whom are sound asleep.

Moxie taking a snooze curled up with Little O
It rained all night,and just stopped around 8:30. I dropped Rick and Zach off up in Tamworth last evening at the Webelo Fall Overnight.Our Boy Scout Troop helps run the various stations for the Webelos each year. Brother B has gone somewhere with Brother Dale,so I have the whole house to myself,which is a rarity. Well, me and three cats and two dogs!

I slept in this AM,til 8:15. I am enjoying the silence and my cup of coffee. This past week has been busier than usual. Last Thursday,my Mom, who is 85,needed to get something out of her cabinet. She didn't want to go to the closet to get the step stool,so she grabbed one of the kitchen chairs to stand on.

You might be able to see where this is going.

She had stocking feet,and the chair had no cushion. She got on the chair,opened the cabinet,went to grab whatever she was after,and...slipped,falling onto the floor,in which she landed on her shoulder. After laying on the floor in pain for half an hour because she couldn't get up,she finally made it to the phone where she called my sister and the ambulance.

My sister called from the emergency room. We were at Zach's open house at school,so by the time we got home and received the message,my Mom had been released. She broke her shoulder in four places,and the arm bone was snapped out of her shoulder.

Friday I went down and spent the day and night with her. The pain meds made her sick (even though they gave her some anti nausea pills),but I also think it was the shock to her system. Her neck was sore,and her back. She broke her right shoulder,which really annoyed her,because she is right handed. My Mom is a very independent woman (my Dad passed from complications due to Alzheimer's in 1990) and she doesn't like asking for help.I went back home on Saturday afternoon. She was feeling much better by then,and started being able to wash dishes,etc,with her left hand.The nausea had finally gone away,so she was able to at least be somewhat back to normal,as best as she could.

Monday night we went to park cars at the Rochester Fair as a fundraiser for the Troop. Tuesday  after I went grocery shopping I went back to Mom's and brought her to the orthopedic surgeon. He felt that the best course of action was a reverse shoulder replacement.This way,the arm would not have to rely on the rotator cuff if it didn't heal properly.Plus,given my Mom's age and bone density,(or lack thereof)it would be the best bet.

Wednesday night we parked cars,and Thursday I brought Rick to the VA in Manchester to see his TBI Dr. Rick wanted to be put on Ritalin three times a day like before,instead of once a day time release. For some reason,the once a day did nothing for his motivation. Three times a day had him motivated,he kept lists,he knew what had to be done and did it. The Dr was surprised that the once a day dose didn't work out,so he put Rick back on three times a day. Thursday night we parked cars again.

Yesterday,Mom had blood work and an EKG as a pre-op procedure. We sat with the anesthesiologist,and the nurse who was in charge of going over pre -op paperwork,etc. The folks were very nice,which I think gave Mom some comfort. She needs to be at the hospital on Monday for 8:50 AM for prep,then the surgery will commence. After our appt,we went to the store so she could pick up a few groceries,then she bought us some take out lunch which we ate at her house.There was a knock on the door,and a gentleman we had never seen before was there. Come to find out,he works with my brother Valmore in Wisconsin. His wife came up to the door as well. They were on their way to Unity,ME for an antique snowmobile show.In his spare time,he buys old snowmobile parts and sells them,as well as redoing old machines. He thought since he was in our neck of the woods that he would stop by and say hi to Mom,which I thought was very nice. They chatted with us for about an hour,then headed off to ME. After they left, I went home,then drove Rick and Zach up to Tamworth (about 45 minutes north of us,give or take) then came back home. I think the whole week caught up with me. I sat down,totally wiped out. I am not used to being on the go quite that much.

Now I am sitting in silence and just being. It's good to just be every once in awhile,isn't it?

Hope all is wonderful where ever on this lovely planet you are!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Apple Harvest

This time of year is for harvesting apples. The last few years,we have gone to Butternut Farm over in Farmington to pick apples. The have a fabulous variety. I don't know if we will do that this year,though,because.......

We have our own harvest this year! We had approx.60 apples on our Jonathon apple tree. We planted it before Rick left for Iraq in May,2005. We finally saw the first apple three years ago. Each year, we would see maybe one or two more apples. Last year we had 8. My,how times have changed!

We promised Zach that we wouldn't pick the apples until he got home from school. He enjoys picking apples as much as we do. So as soon as he got off the bus and put his backpack on the kitchen table we went to the side yard to do some serious picking.Most of the apples had some small brown blemishes on them,but they did not hurt the apples. They still tasted great!
We had a couple of apples that were high up,so Rick with his 6 ft.stature (more like 6'1" with his knee replacements!) picked those for us. We did not prune our tree last year,so that is on the agenda for this Fall.It's way too tall and the branches are too low to the ground.

All told,we picked 28.42 lbs of apples. Not too shabby for a first big harvest. Gluten free apple pies will be on the agenda. Not sure about cider or jelly.I'll have to check into how much and what it takes to make those!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Fall is nipping at our heels, and I for one am glad. Fall is my favorite time of the year.I have far more motivation in the Fall.I am not sure what it is...maybe the cooler air? The gorgeous foliage? The feeling that winter is coming and I need to get things done? Perhaps it's a combination.

Fall also brings hunting season,which is a focal point of the menfolk. They have been out almost every morning,scouting areas,putting out their tree stands,and checking the photos daily from their game cameras to see where the animals are.Today is opening season of bow hunting for deer and turkey,I believe,and they have spent the last two weeks perfecting their aim. One thing that they have been hunting recent weeks is squirrel. I have tried squirrel,and if I had nothing else to eat,I could live with having it as a source of nutrition (it's actually not that bad). Brother B was quite pleased with himself a couple days ago-he made himself squirrel soup. Squirrel,carrots,potatoes,and onion,with some beef bouillon thrown in,plus some seasoning. The veggies were from our garden,and the squirrel from our neighbors back 40. He kept saying as he ate it,"You can't get much fresher than this!"

Monday I cleaned out some of my garden beds.Next year I will have to make new trellises. I pulled the sad looking cuke vines out (which I deposited into the compost pile),cut off some tired tomato branches,and did some weeding(the chickens loved it!) I picked some carrots,tomatoes,and pumpkins. My green beans are going through another growth period- I have some white blossoms and new beans on the bushes.My corn never recovered from Irene,but the stalks will be great for decoration.There is no great loss without some small gain,as Ma Ingalls used to say.

There are some things that we wanted to get accomplished this year that will wait until Spring. The deck and the screen porch will have to look sad one more year,I'm afraid. Rick has had a problem with motivation,which I think stems from his new prescription of Ritalin.He was on it 3x a day,and now he is on a once day extended release. It doesn't give him the drive like before.He is going to talk to his TBI Dr about it when we see him next week.Rick hopes he can go back on the 3x a day prescription. Of course, we have had a bit of rain recently,so that doesn't help,and when it's really humid or hot out he can only stand to be outside so long.So we are going to concentrate on the kitchen and the bathroom,both of which are sorely in need of remodel. I am going to slap a coat of paint on our front door and steps,though.Both are looking quite worn out.

The other day we were driving home from the store,and we saw a few folks in the middle of splitting wood for the winter. Rick commented how lucky we were not to have to worry about that this winter. We have 4-5 cord of wood from the tree length that we got last year and finally got cut up this spring. We shouldn't have to get more wood for a couple of years,and even then it wouldn't be because we were running out,it would be just to season it for when we needed it.That is a great feeling,to know we are a few years ahead of the game.

I am hearing thunder outside,so I should probably sign off. I hope your day is wonderful!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years Have Come And Gone

   I would be remiss if I did not mention that tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
   It's a day to reflect on those who died at the Twin Towers,Pentagon,and a quiet field in PA. It's also a day to honor the first responders who survived,who died,and who are living with illness as a result of their bravery. Tributes are everywhere this weekend. NY,DC,PA,and many,many smaller events are going on throughout the country.
   I have two different minds about this weekend. My first mind is all for remembrance. Those who died and survived that day deserve a day of reflection.
    My other mind says it's like any other day  since 9/11. You see, I think about it everyday. There is not one day that has gone by since that beautiful  eleventh day in  September of  2001 where I don't think about it. That day shook me to the core. It changed my life and the way I view things. I used to work over 40 hours a week in retail,managing a store. In fact,I was at work when 9/11 happened. All I wanted to do was be home with my family,but I couldn't. I was afraid,angry,and my sense of security was destroyed. I was scared my husband would have to go to war.I was afraid for my little boy-he would not grow up in the same world I did. We were having a new register system installed,so we couldn't close until after they were done,which wasn't until 5:00 PM-and only because the mall manager came around and said the mall would allow us to close early. Why,thank you for allowing that. We actually had customers that day! Really? Our country is under attack and you care about buying underwear? I was completely disgusted and furious. Once again,the almighty dollar trumps everything.
   On the 30 minute drive home,I had the radio on to the news and just cried all the way.It wasn't just the senseless tragedy,it was because I knew life would never be the same. Nor would I. When I got home,Rick informed me that one of the planes flew over our apartment. We lived in Western MA,in Dalton,and we never saw jets. When Rick heard one outside,he brought then three year old Zach to see the plane fly overhead because it was such a rarity. Later on the news, he saw the flight path one of the hijacked planes took....which went right over western MA. That freaked me out. Just the fact that Rick and Zach saw the plane threw me for a loop.I was afraid of bridges, plain white box trucks,and anything unusual for weeks. I would literally be thrown into a state of high anxiety.My stomach would get into knots. My heart would pound.We had many customers from NYC,and we would hear stories from customers about their friends who died,or who were missing. One story that stuck was relayed to me from an older woman,whose son was walking near the Twin Towers after they were attacked.He was hit in the head with a woman's high heeled shoe when it got blown out of one of the towers.
   9/11 is a constant presence in our home. There is no other choice when your spouse is a wounded vet,or if your solider died in the line of duty. Many people just go about their day,and don't think twice. That happens when only 1% of Americans are bearing the burden of war.
     When I see the TV footage of the planes going into the Towers,it still conjures up the same feelings as it did on that day in 2001,so I have tried to avoid  the whole anniversary countdown hype on TV. I saw enough of it for days after it happened.  I also feel sad for Zach. He has not known anything but war. He barely remembers when his Dad was not wounded. For a long time,Rick could not do things that Dads normally do. How sad that Zach's generation will grow up thinking war is a normal thing in life! It shouldn't be.
      Tomorrow I will watch President Obama,Bush,and Clinton make their speeches. I will watch the ceremony at "Ground Zero." Do I want to? Not really. It will make me a mess. But I will do it out of respect for those lost ten years ago.Monday,we will continue living under the shadow of that horrible day. However,we will not let it defeat us.It made us stronger. In that respect,the terrorists failed.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


This year,we have had a good turn out with our  Rutgers Heirloom tomatoes.We have 12 plants,which have given us about 12 lbs or so of tomatoes. According to Ball Blue Book,I need 45 lbs to can sauce,so obviously that wasn't going to happen this year. I didn't want to waste all the tomatoes I had laying on the window sill,or in the bowl,or on my table,so I decided to just can them in water and use them later.This was my first attempt at canning tomatoes,and I had heard that it was a lot of work (though I suspect those folks had far more tomatoes to can than I did!). I found it rather easy.Here is the recipe for raw pack tomatoes in water,whole,halved,or quartered in quart jars:

2 1/2-3 1/2 lbs tomatoes per quart
Bottled lemon juice
Salt (optional)

Make sure your jars are clean. Heat jars and lids in a sauce pot of simmering water ( 180 degrees).Do not boil the lids! Keep jars and lids in hot water until ready to use.Elevate rack in canner,and put the lid on the canner.Heat water to 180 degrees and keep hot.Make sure you have enough water in the canner so that the jars are covered by 1"-2" of water.

Use tomatoes at the peak of their quality,firm,and free of cracks,growths,and spots. Wash and drain. (My tomatoes did have some cracks,etc.,and I think they were a bit on the soft side,but I did it anyway).

Place tomatoes in a wire basket (I used a metal strainer) and lower into a large sauce pot of boiling water;blanch for 30-60 seconds,or until the skins start to crack.Remove from the boiling water and dip into cold water ( I filled one side of my sink with cold water).

Slip off the skins,trim away any green area,and cut out core. Cut tomatoes into quarters,halves,or leave whole. (I found it very easy to remove the skins;some tomatoes were small enough to leave whole,other I cut into halves).

Once the tomatoes are prepared, add 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to quart jars,pack tomatoes into hot jars,leaving 1/2" head space.Ladle hot water into jars,leaving 1/2" head space. Add 1/2 teaspoon  salt to each jar,if desired. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two piece caps. Place jars in canning rack and lower into water. Cover, bring to boil,and process for 45 minutes. When finished,remove lid to canner and let canner sit for 5 minutes. Remove jars and place on towel to cool.

One thing I noticed about the  tomatoes is that they lost volume once they were canned. I stuffed those jars as tight as I could,and they wound up only half full,and mostly water at the end.Perhaps I didn't use enough?  Has anyone who has canned tomatoes come out with the same result?