Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Planning For Next Year

There was a time when just about everyone had a garden and big or small, harvest was a time when everyone helped to ensure that nothing went to waste and all that hard work meant plenty of food on the table throughout the winter months. During World War II, people were encouraged by the government to grow their own vegetables both because of rationing, and because commercially canned goods were sent to the soldiers, so it was a patriotic thing to grow your own garden and help support the war effort.
After the war was over and things returned to normal, convenience was on everyone's minds. Grocery stores had produce shipped in, making it more and more available to customers year round. Soon, folks began to realize that buying was much easier than growing it, making home gardening less and less of a necessity.
Well, we don't have rationing or victory gardens today but we can still have a garden and provide our families with good-tasting, pesticide-free produce. There's a certain pride that comes when you put food on the table that YOU planted, tended, and harvested and honestly it's a really good feeling! Not only that, but homegrown produce just TASTES better. I've always tried to have a garden no matter where we've lived, but there were a few years when I didn't have a garden because we were going to be moving in mid summer and I wasn't about to put a lot of work into a garden I was just going to leave behind before I got a chance to harvest it. But now that we're somewhere that we may be staying for a while, I've already started planning next year's garden and the ideas are flowing!
In today's busy, busy world we need to take time to get back to the basics and enjoy the simple things life has to offer and remember that gardening is a joy, not a job. To be outside in the fresh air and sunshine, listening to the birds singing and getting your hands in the dirt is fulfilling and I believe, makes the quality of life just that much better.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thinking Of Autumn

As we'll soon be heading into autumn and cooler weather, my thoughts turn to warm and hearty foods. Soups and stews are wonderful because there's nothing better to warm you up and I just love the way the house smells when there's a big pot of something simmering away on the stove.
This recipe is one I put together a while back and everyone in my family just loves it. The ingredients are easy to find, it's simple to throw together, inexpensive and just down right good! This also freezes well, so any leftovers can easily go into a container and saved for another meal.

Hearty Vegetarian Chili
1 large can of pureed or crushed tomatoes
2 cans dark red kidney beans, don't drain
2 cans black beans, don't drain
3 bell peppers---1 green, 1 red, 1 orange or yellow
1 tablespoon garlic powder, or fresh minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
1-2 tablespoons chili powder

Put the beans and tomatoes in a crock pot; cover, and turn on high.
While that's warming up, cut the bell peppers into bite-sized pieces and saute in a pan with a tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil. Season with a little salt; add the garlic, chili powder, and cayenne powder. Stir in well.
Once the peppers get some good color on them, remove from heat and add them to the crock pot. Stir.
Let this cook on high for about an hour, then turn down to low and cook for another 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Remember to taste as this cooks and the flavors are coming together, because you might want to add a little more seasoning, or leave as is.
Just a side note---if you want to add meat to this chili, brown it beforehand as you did with the bell peppers, then add to the crock pot. We've made this with and without meat and it's good either way.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Celebrating A Birthday

"There is a fountain of youth---it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you will learn to tap this source, you will have truly defeated age."
  Sophia Loren

Well, here we are, another year has come and gone and it's my birthday. I don't have anything special planned and I really don't mind because I'm just as happy staying here at home, having a relaxing day with my husband and kids. I think that's special any day!
The photo above is me and I believe, just shy of my first birthday in 1961. It's always been one of my favorites and was taken at my grandparents' house. So many memories there and I miss them both dearly, but that's what our lives are. Memories. Ones that we can laugh about, ones that make us smile or shed a tear or two, but that's what makes them special to share.
Thanks for letting me share my day with you, and I hope the rest of your day is blessed.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bread & Butter Pickles

One of my husband's favorite things is bread and butter pickles and I have to admit, this has to be the best recipe. I made just a small batch of these, as I always do with new recipes, and I will definitely be making these again and again. The pickles stay crunchy, the flavor is amazing and even if you don't care for onions, I think you will after this because they end up being mild and sweet so give this a try!

Bread & Butter Pickles

5 medium cucumbers cut into 5 mm slices
350g onions, sliced very thinly
green capsicum and red chili are optional
50g salt
350 ml cider or white wine vinegar
350g sugar 
2 level tablespoons mustard seed
2 level tablespoons celery seed
½ level teaspoon turmeric
¼ level teaspoon cayenne pepper

Slice the cucumbers, onions, capsicums and chili and place in a bowl, and salt and let stand for 3 hours. Drain, rinse under the cold tap and drain thoroughly. Bring the remaining ingredients to the boil in a stainless steel saucepan and then add the vegetables. Reduce the heat, bring just to the simmer and cook 2 minutes. Pour hot into sterilized jars, making sure the liquid covers the cucumbers and seal.
Recipe courtesy of Rhonda Hetzel  from her blog, Down To Earth 

Here's my first batch of bread and butter pickles! It was so hard to NOT want to eat all of them after the first taste test, but the jars did make it into the refrigerator and I did promise my husband I'd be making more.
I had never made pickles before this, but this was so easy and so my next project will be a batch of spicy, dill pickles and I'm really looking forward to that.
Thanks, Rhonda for sharing such a great recipe. These are just yummy! 

  This post is part of the "On My Mind" feature over at Down To Earth

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Making Laundry Soap Powder

I'm testing a laundry soap powder I put together yesterday and I'm rather excited about it! Yes, I can get excited about doing the laundry....guess I'm kind of funny that way.   :)
I was inspired by all the recipes I checked out on the internet, and this is what I came up with.......

1 bar Fels-Naptha laundry bar soap, grated
1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not the same as baking soda)
1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
1 cup Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
1 cup Oxy Clean

All of the ingredients I found were at Walmart and are cheaper there than the grocery store, but if you don't have a Walmart nearby, you can still find everything at most grocery stores. You just might pay a bit more for them.
Once I grated the Fels-Naptha (which has a nice citrus-like scent), I put it and all the other ingredients together in a plastic container, mixed well with a spoon and that was it. It's ready to go!
I'll sit down later and compare the cost per usage to the name-brand laundry soap I've been using and I'll also let you know how this particular recipe worked on our clothes, but will save that for a later post.
I would really like to hear from those of you who make your own laundry soap as well, because I'd love to hear how it's worked for you and, if you have any advice you'd like to pass on, please feel free to share it!
Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you're all having a great weekend!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Mother's Passion

For me, being outside and having my hands in the dirt is great therapy. It's a wonderful feeling to take a piece of bare ground and turn it into a lush vegetable garden or maybe planting a new flower bed in front of the house, and no matter where we've lived I've always tried to plant something.
This year I didn't get to do much gardening because I injured my knee somehow, but I'm already planning what I want to do come next spring. I have a small front yard I want to plant flowers in, and there's a perfect spot in the back yard for a nice little vegetable garden so I definitely have a lot to look forward to!
I owe my love of gardening to my Mother. I can't ever remember a time in my life when we didn't have veggies growing and flowers everywhere, and over the years she's given me a lot of wonderful advice and ideas for my own gardens and I love her for passing on her passion to me.

This post is part of the "On My Mind" feature over at Down To Earth .

Monday, August 8, 2011

Too Hot!

This was definitely one of those, too-hot-to-do-anything weekends, and I pretty much did.........nothing.
Like much of the country this summer it's just been so blasted hot, and with the humidity so high here in the south, the heat index has been anywhere from 100 to 115 degrees. I call this "ugly weather", because that's the best way to describe it, and I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to the cooler days of autumn!
I did manage to get a few pictures of one of the many hummingbirds we have buzzing around this summer.
It looks like I took this at night but it was actually around 7am and even with the flash it still came out dark. But, this is one of our little female Ruby-Throated hummingbirds. I couldn't tell you how many we have but I can say it's a bunch! They all race around the back yard, through the trees and around the patio, chattering at one another and it always makes me laugh.

I've tried having more than one feeder out for them because they're always chasing each other away from it, but it didn't make any difference so I've just kept the one out for them. It's definitely busy around the feeder all day and so much fun having them around.
Well, time to get caught up on what I didn't do this weekend and then head off to the grocery store. Hope you're all having a good start to your week and keeping cool in all this heat!