Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's Salsa Wonderful

Who doesn’t love a jar of homemade salsa made from fresh picked tomatoes?  Another favorite hobby of mine is canning.  Living on 9 acres provides plenty of room for a garden and about 6 years ago I decided to give preserving a try.
Of course, being somewhat OCD, I became hooked.  Suddenly I was canning pretty much anything I could get my hands on.  It's like an art form!
I love making something to feed my family that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals and preservatives.  Plus, I can control the amount of sodium or spices.  Since we like a lot of flavor in our food, I pre-make yummy spaghetti sauces and soups for those days when I can’t think of what to cook.  Throw together some pasta sauce, ground turkey and a box of whole wheat pasta (a friend got me hooked on Dreamfields pasta, it's great and low carb) and voila, a quick delicious healthy meal.
Want to give home canning a try?  Here is the perfect starter book:
Preserved goodies are terrific last minute gifts.  Grab a cute basket, put in a jar of canned salsa, an interesting pottery bowl and a nice card with the recipe.  You'll have a memorable housewarming present they will use often! 

Or bake some frozen croissants and take them to a sick neighbor with a jar of your homemade strawberry preserves.  Trust me, they'll appreciate it more than flowers.
Here’s a favorite salsa of mine that is usually on several of my friend’s wish list for Christmas.  It's easy to make and doesn't take a lot of ingredients.  

Take a jar to work with a bag of tortilla chips and shredded cheese for quick nachos in the microwave.  It has a wonderful flavor.  I canned about 70 jars this past weekend:

Devil’s Delight Salsa:
8 Quarts of cored, peeled & diced tomatoes (you can drain them but don't have to) quick note: I have made this salsa smooth (no chunks), by running a hand blender in the pot while it's cooking, but I usually leave it chunky.  It's really a matter of preference, it tastes the same.
2 Large green peppers (seeded)
3 Chili Releno peppers (leave the seeds in if you want to crank up the heat)
6 Cups of chopped onion (I prefer the red, but use any you have on hand)
8 Jalapenos (leave the seeds if you want it hotter)
10 cloves garlic, peeled & finely diced
12 - 6oz. cans of tomato paste (yes, it really is 12 cans-it makes the sauce rich)
4 CUPS lemon juice (in caps because it's not a typo- it's one of the unusual ingredients that brings out the flavor of the peppers)
3 Tbs cumin
4 Tsp brown Sugar
14-16 crushed cracked peppercorns
4 Tsp salt (It's important to use Canning/Preserving Salt).

Add all the ingredients into a large pot, bring to a simmer.  Simmer 30 minutes and then put into sterilized pint jars.  Yields about 25 pints.
Leave 1/2 inch of head space (from the top edge of the jar) and process in a Boiling Water Bath for 15 minutes.
Since I make so much of this salsa I put mine in quart jars and process for 25 minutes.
If you try it, please let me know how you like it, I'd love to hear.

Do you have a great canned salsa recipe?  Be sure to share!

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Sew Empty Birthday House

Ok, I’m saying it.  I miss my diva girl…um, I mean grown daughter.  I know she’s an adult now and married in fact.  I know this because I was there.
We even threw a party.  A GREAT party.  But oi vey, I didn’t expect that I would miss her 22nd Birthday. 
That she’d move so very far away (2,046 miles to be exact).  The same year I’d used up all my vacation for a “Bucket List” trip to Europe.  Yup, didn’t plan for that.
It seems I blinked and she grew up. 
I’m not saying that I miss her drama or her tantrums, (whew, she had some doozies).   I definitely don’t miss her running up my credit card bill. 
Or explaining to me why she absolutely needed some this or that from Anthropologie “in her life”, or a new cell phone that was going to run me $100 bucks and another two years on my contract, just so she could tweet with her buds. 

But I miss her.  The sarcastic sense of humor and her hysterical belly shaking, falling down laughs that would make me start cracking up at nothing, most times, I didn’t even hear what the heck was so funny!
I miss her picking at her dad,”ZIPPING” the side of his face with her palm, appropriate pay back for all the years he tortured that child.
I miss watching all the “younger shows” like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars with her.  When we’d just turn to each other in synchronized fashion screaming “SCANDALOUS !” over some shocking scene.
I miss her catty remarks too: 
“Are you REALLY going to leave the house in that outfit?, The fashion police will arrest you!”
“The 70’s Disco called and the want their shirt back”
“Is that dinner?  It smells like death”.
“Thanks for putting doo in my pasta momma, (she hates green peppers), I’ll just eat bread”

Everyone says I’ve done shockingly well.  I’ve not had any crying jags, or sat in her old room and felt sorry for myself.  Or felt lost really, in any way.  I haven’t felt like half of me is missing, either. 
When I’ve gone into her old room, (it’s our relaxation/sewing overflow room now), I walk out smiling with thoughts of her.  She’s been a great joy to us both.
Oh the fun we’d have on her Birthdays! The things I made her do! LOL.  
Like dragging her and a girlfriend on her 16th to Carowinds, making her ride every single roller coaster with me.  I convinced her we had to commerorate the special day.
She hates roller coasters. 
I love them. 
She screamed her lungs out until she was hoarse. 
I laughed until my sides hurt. 
Yeah, we’ve had some great times.

Her dad will sass a lot and act like he’s thrilled she’s up and out of the house.  The same tough guy who wrote her the sweetest letter on her first day of school and teared up when he had to leave her in her classroom.  He always says he’s raised three kids and he’s ready to be alone. 
But I’ve just raised the one.  My only one.
So on this very unusual birthday, I say to you, my darling, most precious Girlie Girl:
Have the most amazing day!  Try something new!  Surprise yourself!  You are capable of so many great things, never allow a tiny shred of doubt in who you are and who you want to be.
And I’ll be thinking of you, sending you lots of smiles and hugs….from only a few  thousand miles away.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's Time For The Family Reunion!!

Over the past 23 years of our marriage I've attended the Wilson Reunion as often as I could.  It's a  wonderful time and 2 years ago, my husband, his sister and cousin were asked to take the baton and organize the annual event.

What we did to refresh the event:

It's All About the Location - Air Conditioning in June?  THANK YOU!!  It wasn't easy, but we found a place that would hold all of us, a clubhouse in Frankfort.  It was much more expensive than the previous shelter at the park, but worth the investment.  Being able to be out of the heat and in comfortable chairs was great.  It made the day more enjoyable and we didn't have to fight flies off our food.  It also had a good  outdoor, but secure area for the kids to play.

Silent Auction - this was a huge hit!!  We needed to be able to raise money for the better location and the idea came from Mary.  We had about 40 items, all donated and we made enough to rent the building for next year.  Some of the things donated: handmade aprons, homemade wine, family mementos (I bid HUGE on my mother in law's old canning jar), gift baskets, etc.

Traveling Awards - Farthest traveled, youngest attendee, senior attendee, etc.  I purchased some inexpensive plaques from a local trophy shop for about $7 a piece.

Gift - Custom printed magnets and buttons with the year.  I found these inexpensive ones on eBay.

Family Tree Share - As the keeper of the family tree, I preprinted some really cool diagrams and held  a 40 minute mini-class with tips on how to search for geneological information.

We got such great feedback and had a fantastic time, so we're planning to outdo ourselves again.  Strap in clan, it's going to be a blast.

Here's a tiny peek:

The Photobooth is coming! - My daughter and I had my husband build this for her Ever-After Party and it was the hit of the day!  We're packing this massive thing up with all the props to take it 600 miles.  These pictures are just so much fun and my niece, a budding photographer, has agreed to work the camera. 

Face Painting - For the youngest attendees, always popular, I'll be asking my tween granddaughter to help and perhaps her amazing brother could show some of the younger boys how to make origami.

Online Family Searches - I'm working through the details, but we are planning on having a laptop hooked up to allow all the newest additions to the family to be entered on to  Who knows how many new contacts we'll find?

Most importantly, we'll get to reconnect with family we haven't seen in a while and meet all the new babies that have been fortunate enough to be born into this amazing group of people.

I can't wait!! 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's All About The Attitude

Just returned from the most fantastic trip of my life.  Almost 3 weeks of amazing sights in Europe.  Meeting terrific people, making new friends and rekindling old ones, namely my sister in law Mary.  She lives in Frankfort, KY and has a fantastic blog:  http:\\

Mary usually goes along with my crazy ideas & agreed to join me in the South of France for the French General Chateau Getaway.  We decided to take advantage and do a week in Italy beforehand and about 4 days in Paris afterwards.

More to come on the trip, but here's the meat of my post today.  After arriving back in the states on Thursday, to Mary's house to rest before driving me and all my luggage back to NC, I had what I'd call a"Terrible, Horrible, No-Good Very Bad Day".

The next dreary morning, after loading my tiny but lovely Boxster with all the treasures from Europe (We had to remove everything from the suitcases and leave those behind), I kissed my inlaws goodbye and headed out.

The drizzle became heavy rain and I was on the highway exactly 10 minutes when my temperature gauge freaked.  It was running very hot.  I pulled over and called the best mechanic in the entire husband, Doug.  He makes MacGyver look like a chump.

He gave me clear instructions: await  my brother in law with water in hand to fill the empty reservoir.  By the time heros John & Mary showed up, it was really pouring.  We had to wait until we could actually see the reservoir, but after about 30 minutes, I was off again.

Twenty minutes into my second take off, it was back on the side of the road for me.  Still overheating. Time to call AAA.  Unfortunately, I had no idea where I was, and could see no markers anywhere near, so 90 minutes later, the wrecker was still trying to find me in the crazy down pour.  Eventually I did make it back to Mary's.  Me and Bella Boxster weren't going anywhere and Doug was on his way from NC with our trailer.

So what did I do when I walked through Mary's door, cold, soaking wet and still exhausted from our 10 hour flight the day before?  In my strange sense of humor, I busted through the door and yelled, "Luuuuuccccccyyyy....I'm hoooooome!"  Mary and I had had a good chuckle over it.  My whole family was nervous and worried.  Me?  Who was actually having to live through the glitch?  I was cleaning out my purse and texting my daughter in the downpour waiting on the tow.

You see, Mary and I had several good conversations over the past three weeks.  With each other and with our new acquaintances we met on our trip... about attitude.  How it makes or breaks your day, week or even year.  You can have a fantastic day or a terrible day, it's all in how it's perceived by the most absolute decider in this universe: YOUR attititude.

Doug drove straight through without sleep to be there by 8AM on Friday.  He wanted to turn around and head right back.  All in an effort to get me home with enough time to rest, recover from jetlag and hit the ground running for work on Tuesday.

Now the laughter starts.  The car barely fit on the trailer.  Doug had to climb out the window to get free.  Then get something to reach the window up button so that we could close the window, we didn't want rain to get in.  John got a hanger...perfect.  But wait! The key would then remain in the "on" position, which would drain the battery, eliminating the ability for us to get back into the car to get it off the trailer when we got home!

Armed with a yard stick and salad tongs they finally manuevered the key off and just as we were about to yank out the key.."WAIT!"  John yelled,"How will you ever get it back in to the ignition?"  Bless you John for thinking ahead!

Off we finally went, going the long way home because there were wrecks and delays the shorter way. 

About three hours into our trip, we heard this bumping sound.  Flat tire on the trailer.  No problem.  Put on the spare.  Easy enough.  Doug commented that the spare appeared to be a bit dry-rotted. Those would be ominous words. He had the tire changed in under half an hour.  Back on the road again. 

Just as we came across the NC border and dusk was setting we heard another big bump!  What?!!!  This could NOT be happening agan!  But it was.  Spare fell apart.  Now the situation struck us:  No more spares, no exits nearby and it was going to be dark soon.  We quickly analyzed the situation, I would call AAA, Doug would get the trailer lifted on the jack to have it ready. 

News Flash: AAA doesn't cover trailers and the three numbers they gave me were either out of service or didn't carry tires.  I checked our GPS for a Walmart, and we found one about 10 minutes away.  Ok, sounds simple: disconnect the trailer, take the truck and get a new tire.  Now the negotiations began.  Doug insisted I go, I insisted he go because I just knew Walmart wouldn't have the right size, width, hole, whatever and then we'd be right back to square one.  He would know what to do and I wouldn't. 

He got sassy.  I got sassy back.  He demanded we both go.  Leave my Porsche on the side of the road?  No way, no how.  He tried cajoling, intimidations & scare tactics (don't I know anyone could happen by??....), but in the end a Hillbilly is just no match for a determined Portuguese Pigmy (as he so often calls me).  Time was awasting. 

See, it wasn't just that I really like my car, but it had all my beautiful European treasures in it!  Hats and ribbons dug out of a 100 year old hat factory, my new Prada bag...Oh no, I couldn't leave it behind.  I'd sat in it during a terrible thunderstorm for more than 2 hours the day before and I'd be damned if I'd leave her now.

Faced with my refusal to be bullied, he stormed off in the truck.  I know he was worried about me, but I felt completely confident that I would be fine.  Naive?  Maybe so.  I had a blanket, my cellphone, some french candy, my camera and my kindle.  I could last a couple of hours for sure!

Not certain how long it was, it felt like no time at all, he was back.  Tire?  Didn't have the right size...I KNEW IT!!!  Doug had to rig some other kind of tire that was a different size and not for trailers but he'd make it work.  On the road again, just about 5 minutes later, we pulled into a closed weigh station to check the tires and double check the lug nuts.  The new tire was burning hot.  Not a good sign.

Doug had been awake at this point for almost 35 hours.  It was time to call it quits for the night.  Even though we were only 2 hours from home, it would be dangerous to continue.  We agreed to find a hotel, get showers and rest.  We would get up in the morning and reconsider our situation in the light of day after some sleep.

So we did.  We were refreshed, rested and reasoning better the next morning after breakfast and coffee.  When Doug checked the back trailer tire, he discovered it was 20 pounds too low.  What a difference air makes! ;) LOL.  A few hours later we were pulling down our driveway calling an end to our exciting adventure.

The moral of this long story which struck me afterwards was that never during the 12 hours of our "spirited" trip did we lose our perspective.  We didn't blame anyone, we didn't curse each other, the day, my decision to drive the Boxster in the first place, or God, or even think, "Why is this happening to us?", as so many others would. 

We told ourselves we would laugh about this afterwards and it would be something we'd look on fondly.  Doug commented that using the tire irons were giving him exercise and I commented that AAA hasn't made any money on us this year.

That's when it really hit me.  It's why he and I usually relate to one another so well.  We don't panic or get overly excited when things happen.  We usually have ever present optimism.  I'm not saying that we haven't faced hardships, or grief.  I'm saying that if we keep our perspective and know down deep that there will be sunny days ahead, it makes the dreary ones seem less dark and serious.  We are confident that failure is never an option and we'll forge ahead.

So how did I look at the situation?  I was on my way home with my honey and best friend, from a lovely 3 week trip abroad, with my cute Porsche undamaged, we were safe, physically unharmed and had a fun story to add to our memories.  It could always be so much worse.  Wow, it really is all about the attitude!

Do you believe it?  Would you be doing the same?  I would love to hear your "bump in the road" stories and what you've done to keep perspective and what it's done to your attitude!