Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hardware Baby turns Sweet 16

Our sweet lil' baby Kate, Hardware Baby, Bouchy,  Katie Magoo, Princess Kate turned Sweet 16 this September.  So proud of our girl.  She gives us so many things to be thankful for and blesses us daily with her gentleness and kindness.

While we couldn't arrange for everything that she desired for her birthday (friends from BC are hard to arrange),  she did get to ride her horse and we surprised her with a great birthday cake if I do say so myself!

 Now the above photo can use some explanation ~ Kate had no idea why she had 30 envelopes to open.  I have asked a few family and friends to write a little note or advice "To my 16 year self" for Kate.  She had wonderful responses.
 There were some hilarious ones from our BC neighbors, advice to travel and explore the world.  Advice to stop saving up for those sensible shoes and buy that Poodle skirt instead.  Advice to save some of her favorite clothes from this age for 20 years from now.
Advice on picking a life partner, advice to relax and to trust her parents and those who loved her.
Finally her own cuddly house coat ~ now Mei can have her's back!
 She has her cards and letters posted all over her wall in her room ~ thank you to everyone who sent a little note.
Always a horse lover, another horse blanket

 I had originally planned to order a cake from a dear friend who has a great cake decorating business in Oak Lake MB ( "Candace's Creations" on Facebook).  Sadly, her father in law died suddenly and we decided that I would just make a cake and Kate was happy with that.  Little did she know that in the last minute, Candace pulled off this GLUTEN FREE, Dairy Free Hobbit House cake in no time flat!  What a wonderful surprise for Kate and all the little cousins that got to OHHH and AHHHH over it!

 We didn't want to cut into it, it was so adorable... but... well....little mouths didn't mind digging in and eating the pathway and butterflies, etc.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ginger Jam Jams AKA Ginger Bread Cookies

I will upload a photo when I can, but here is the recipe I use for Ginger Bread Men.  It is really a Ginger Jam Jams recipe, but the flavor is so nice, we like them better than most really crunchy ones.

Ginger Jam Jams AKA Ginger Bread Men Recipe

1 cup Butter
1 cup White Sugar
1/2 cup Molasses
1/2 cup Syrup
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup Hot Water
1 tsp Ginger  ( I usually add cinnamon as well, but this is the original recipe)
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Vanilla
6 cups (approx) Flour

Cream butter and sugar.
Add molasses and syrup.
Dissolve baking soda in water and add.
Mix dry ingredients together in separate bowl and slowly add to dough.  Add enough flour to make a rollable dough.
Make into your favorite shapes.  Small cookies take less time to bake.
BAKE 350 for 10-12 minutes.

You can also let cool, then spread with raspberry or strawberry jam and make them into a sandwich cookie.

This is a LARGE BATCH.  Feel free to half it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Great Garden Experiment 2013

The Great Garden Experiment 2013
QUESTION ~ Will a garden save me money on my grocery bill?
METHOD ~ Keep track of all gardening expenses.  Minus all the produce grown at a reasonable market price.  Subtract and get the difference.
See THIS LINK to an older post about how I started a completely new garden plot in 2013.
What will be the Rhubarb , Raspberry, Strawberry and Currant Garden
OBSERVATIONS ~The garden needs more sunshine, a small row of trees must be cut down.  Garden also has areas that turn hard packed (clay and shale) very easily.  More compost material will help this.
Also observed that I need a whole lot of garden hose to reach to the garden....ha ha.
Also observed that hubby is most helpful with things like garden hoses, and the occasional tiling job.  
Also observed that children haven't changed just I was a kid ~ weeding is not much fun without a reward.  Picking the odd veggie is fun at meal time... picking long rows of beans every other day...not so much.  (I tell them this is educational and character building)
Fruit Garden plot showing too much shade and not enough compost/organic material yet.
 This was part of the Year 2 plan anyhow.
I am a practical gal.  I like to stretch the family income.  I enjoy being a good steward of what God has blessed us with, and this is a learning process.  I want to know that what is going into my family's body is high in nutrition and will be good for us.
Is gardening really worth the effort?
FACTORS TO CONSIDER~  I enjoy time out doors when it is "productive", so I enjoy gardening.  Haven't figured out a way to read a book and garden at the same time.

Do gardens grow other things that we don't harvest for consumption?  YES. ( Some call them Weeds)
Kate insists that we should eat more of these weeds and she wants a weed garden. (You can actually eat a lot of them and they do taste good in salads)
Do a few good "weedings" early on in the growing season reduce these dramatically?  YES.
Facing North, notice the shade during some of the day.  Some veggies like this, others not so much!

Do I value my time?   YES.
Do I use my time to earn cash that I can buy these same vegetables from a local market?  NO. ( I am a Stay at Home Mom who occasionally sells sewing or baking)

Just some of the pails of tomatoes we harvested from 18 tomato plants.
 Do I enjoy sweating in the sunshine as I pull a few weeds for the chickens to eat?  YES.
Do I enjoy a little Vit D sun therapy as I grab some fresh salad greens and radishes for lunch?  YES.
Beets and swiss chard behind the pail
 Do I enjoy swatting and dancing around like a mad woman when the mosquitoes come out and I need to go to the garden?  Not Really!
Kohlrabi (great to eat raw)
 Do I like to preserve veggies and fruits when they are in abundance?  YES.
Do I like trying new recipes?  YES
The sod pile from scraping the garden in spring.  It grew 6 big pumpkins for us!
 Can you plant seeds and walk away and come and harvest beautiful veggies 2 months later?  NO.
Is my time valuable?  YES.
Put some tomato plants in "Kozy Koats" to help insulate them from colder weather.
 Didn't really notice a difference as the weather wasn't too extreme after I put the plants out.
 Do I like being over run with cucumbers and tomatoes all at once?  Not Really.
Sneaky pumpkins, snaking through the grass along the garden edge

Long English Cucumbers.  These plants just didn't quit this year.  Way too many!
 Do I have access to land and water and composting materials?  YES.
Brussell Sprouts.  Yum... but need more sunshine!
 Do I enjoy sharing the bounty with others who can't have a garden?  Yes.
2013 Garden Experiment in September
 I also sustained a back injury early August in a small roll over vehicle accident.  Was it easy to bend over and harvest or weed or tend to a garden? Oh my NO!  Did it still feel good to make it "all the way out to the garden" and spend a few minutes in nature?  Oh my YES!
Kate's Bean Experiments.  She grew lots and harvested them as dry beans
 Was it a good year for gardening in Manitoba in 2013?  Well, I think we did okay.  Life throws some curve balls at us, but I still managed "something", which in my books, is "Better than nothing".
The North side that gets more sun, but also has more clay and shale from an old shed foundation.
Do I get tremendous satisfaction in seeing jars of good organic, nutrient rich food on my shelves to feed my family throughout the winter ~ Oh, my YES YES YES.

 CONCLUSION ~ Total actual costs from earlier preparation was $450 Cdn.
                                Produce calculated at market value                 $1000 Cdn.
                                Difference                                               + $550 Profit

How did I come to that conclusion?  I kept a running tally of produce items that I brought to our table from the garden.  Started with a radish, green onions, lettuce.  Then moved to keeping track of swiss chard, snap peas, etc.  If I made a salad I calculated $4 for a store bought salad and added to my tally.  When I picked a large cucumber, I counted $1.  When I canned something, I counted an appropriate amount to purchase it from a store, usually a lower amount of $3/jar.  When I gave away a box of tomatoes, I counted $25 to purchase a case in the store, etc etc.  You get the idea.
I also counted in gleaning produce....picking apples, plums, etc. from a neighbor.  If you live in a small community, it doesn't take much to get the word out that you appreciate gleaning and will go pick others 'unwanted' fruit.

Honestly, I was a little disappointed that I didn't preserve more, but this year I had to let some of it go and realize that "some is better than none" and "there is always next year"

You know what really makes me smile?
Our animals benefit from fresh organic food too!
When we can eat a whole meal that was all from our local farmers and our own garden.
Beef from a cousin, Chickens we raised, Veggies frozen from our garden, Potatoes, and then canned fruit or frozen fruit.  YUM!

Below is my running tally on some of the canning I managed to get done this year with my girls help.  I have no idea how much we eat in a year, and I would like to know!
Also, some years are "good peach years", so I can more of them that year.  Last year was a "good cherry" year for me.  This year I went to a U Pick for Strawberries, but never found any Saskatoons...
So, we eat what we have.  I am also learning to not "hoard" this food and to actually eat it!  It does us no good just sitting on the shelf.

Jolene's 2013 Canning List as at Oct. 31/13
Dilled Carrots 15 quarts
Apple Pie Filling 26 qts
Pickled Beets 5 pints, 1 qt
Tomato Soup 12 pints, 7 pints, 1 quart Gluten Free
Plum juice
Apple Juice
Peaches 12 qts
Tomato Sauce 3 qts
Pears 10 qts
Salsa   13 pints with corn, 11 pints regular, 12 pints later tomatoes, a bit mushy
Jam ~ Strawberry Rhubarb
Jelly ~ Grape
Stewed Tomatoes 25  quarts
Pear Butter  13  pints
Bread and Butter Pickles 10 pints
176 jars, without actually counting some of them yet.  176 x 3 = $528 worth.
 We cannot live solely on this, but it sure helps with those long stretches between grocery shops.
This does not count the frozen or dehydrated foods either.
Corn in our 13 ft x 20 ft (?) plot at the community garden.

FINAL CONCLUSION ~  Yes, a garden saved me money on my grocery bill.  I hardly bought any groceries this summer...and sure not any veggies!
If any of the above reasoning applies to you, then you may find this interesting.  IF not, you probably didn't read this far anyhow! Do I make money on my garden?  Well, no.  Do I SAVE the money we do have?  Yes.  Did I lose money on my garden? NO!!!
I have daughters to teach these practical skills too....also a responsibility to feed them good nutritional food for their growing bodies.
Was it worth it to have a garden even if we did it only 1 year?  My conclusion...yes.
~~ Please share some of your gardening tips or recipes for fresh veggies in the comment section below ~ I would appreciate that!  Share and share alike!

Friday, November 01, 2013

Great Christmas Story Book ~ A porcupine in a Pine Tree and The Christmas Baby

I am striving to do some little reviews on books our children have enjoyed and am going through some older blog posts to find any that I have already shared with you.
We usually purchase 1 Christmas story book each year to add to our growing library.  My husband recalls with fondness when his own Mom would bring out the box of Christmas books... everything from Mary and Joseph to the Berenstain Bears.  They would gather around the red couch and Mom would read!  I was privileged as well to be able to join in with this tradition for many years.
The following 2 books were new to us in 2011 and are favorites.

 ~ "The Christmas Baby" by Marion Bane Bauer and Richard Cowdrey ~ such wonderful happy pictures and such delight over ALL babies born at this time of year.  I thought this book appropriate because in our large family, there is always a new babe to celebrate or one that we are anxiously awaiting.  A Big Thumbs Up!

 "A porcupine in a Pine Tree" the Canadian 12 days of Christmas by Helaine Becker and Werner Zimmermann.  Things like 8 Mounties Munching, Five Stanley Cups, Two Caribou... a delightful twist and such fun pictures!  A definite THUMBS UP to this book!

We actually did our own little spin on this book for a Christmas dinner play.  Very easy to adapt and make into a little skit!!!  Now how is that for ideas?
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Friday, October 18, 2013

Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men, Jo's Boys

Classic novels by Louisa May Alcott

I am the type of Mom that reads out loud to my girls at meal times. I also read out loud while we are driving, as I am the only one who can do so without suffering the queasy consequences. I'm not exactly sure when that habit formed, but it has.  Most often it's those meals when Daddy is not at home and to be honest, when I am finished eating and my mind is turning to things other than what is sitting before me.  So, I started to read books of their choice out loud.

The latest book is "Good Wives" by Louisa May Alcott.  We had read "Little Women" and then watched the movie version with Winona actually covers the Good Wives book as well.  We were a little confused and had thought they made up a different ending.  So now we are reading the rest of the books and always have fun comparing the movie to the book.  These are books that my older girls could easily read on their own, but we do enjoy reading together.  This way, when more classic terminology comes up, it can be easily explained.

Most often we don't watch the movie version until we've had the pleasure of reading the book and forming our own mental pictures beforehand.  We love the freedom to imagine each character as we like.

As always, if you click to Amazon through the above links, we receive a small percentage which we pass along to adopting families in Manitoba.  Thank you!

Birthday Party Games and Fun

Mei's 10th Birthday Party theme was "Crazy Weirdo Dress Up" and "Fancy Dress Up Dinner"

Pin the Fin on the Beluga

 Some participants were lead astray in the games ~ all for the amusement of the rest
 The great apple on a spoon race

 This friend won the prize for the wackiest outfit!

The Sparkler Surprise!

 After their Fancy Dress Up Pizza dinner, they decided to run around the garden park for a bit

The last photo makes me think of how quickly the years fly past us...all my children have entered the "double digits" now.  How sweet that first phase of parenthood was and how sweet is this promise of the next ones to come!