Thursday, August 23, 2012

Art Display

I'm a firm believer that kids should do hands on art projects starting at an early age.  There is a sense of wonder and excitement when toddlers and preschoolers are given the freedom to experiment with colors or textures.  Paint, crayons, markers, scissors, glue, glitter, stickers, ribbons.  The possibilities are limitless.  So is the mess.  But there is learning going on with all that experimenting, and overall a sense of joy and happiness that far out shadows the mess in my book.  My little Miss H has always loved art time. Given the opportunity to choose an art project her favorite has always been painting, and while she know how to use the brush she will still happily ditch it to get her fingers in on the action and feel the colors slip and slide along her paper and she mixes the colors and comes up with a new masterpiece.  She has so much pride in her creations and loves sharing it with others.  Isn't that what art is really all about? Loving what you do and the joy of sharing it with others? 

Well, a few months ago my husband moved offices at work and ended up being able to enjoy the large black and white picture of a wave in the new office that had served as the art piece over our kitchen table.  Finding ourselves in need of new art, I turned to our little Picasso in training.  I also wanted to capture the process of the painting, snapping pictures of the little artist at work.

I bought the frames from IKEA, $10 each for the two side ones and $15 each for the ones with the paintings in them.  So for $50 and a lot of fun for my little one I have a bright and cheery display.  Of coarse, you can always use frames you already have around the house, or cheap ones at garage sales. You can even exchange new paintings and masterpieces in the frames to coordinate with seasons, holidays, etc.

Monday, August 20, 2012


If you've never made jam before let me state that it's a long and messy process!

Thanks to a donation to our church, I was blessed with 4 boxes of fresh fruit, pears and nectarines.  We gave away one box to friends, family, and neighbors. I dehydrated close to one box worth of fruit, and went to town making pear sauce and raspberry nectarine jam with the other two. (The tomatoes in the picture were donated too and turned into awesome chili.)

 There are a lot of sites with detailed descriptions of how to make jam and fruit sauces's how I learned about 5 years ago!  I'll just give you an overview of the process.  I love the pick your own site to find farms near you to pick all kinds of fruit to turn into home-made goodness.  They even recipes and how to's.  I used them as a reference guide when creating my recipes too. 

Step One:   Wash all jars, lids, and rings.  Place in pots of boiling water to sterilize (10 minutes or longer.  I usually sterilize the jars early, then return the water to a boil right before filling when I have to peel and prepare fruit like this jam recipe.)  I use half pint sized jars for jam.

 Step Two:  Wash and peel fruit.

(Trick to peeling pitted fruits is to boil them for about 2 minutes then quickly cool them in an ice bath.  The peels will slide off much easier but you want to make sure not to cook the fruit too much or it will turn mushy.)

Step Three:  Dice and slightly mash the fruit. (Tip:  It takes about twice the amount of cups of raw, unprepared, whole fruit to make the desired amount of pealed and mashed fruit for jam.)

Step Four:  Dissolve pectin in water, then add it and lemon juice to mashed fruit in a large pot.  Bring fruit mixture up to a full boil for about a minute on high heat.   ( I try to use no-sugar pectin but this time i couldn't find enough so I used one box of no-sugar and a half box of regular pectin. If you use only regular pectin you will need to increase the sugar in this recipe to 8 cups instead of six.  Also, this picture shows the fruit before reaching a boil.)

Step Five:  Mix in sugar and return to a full boil for about 2-3 minutes.  (Since I use the no-sugar pectin I mix half sugar and half splenda to cut down on the amount of sugar in the jam.  The insert in the no-sugar pectin will tell you lots of options to sweeten your jam if you need less sugar.)

Step Six:  Take jars out of boiling water using tongs, fill jars full of jam leaving about 1/4 inch space on top, and cap with a sterilized lid and ring. 

Step Seven:  Process jars of jam by boiling it in a water bath for 10 minutes (Longer if you're not at sea level.  The pectin insert will tell you how long depending on your altitude.)

Step Eight:  Remove from water bath, place on counter and let rest until cooled (overnight). Verifying that the lids are vacuum sealed by pressing in the center with your finger. If it pops up and down (making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away you can still use it.  Sealed jars last 12 months (or more) stored.  

Step One:   Wash all jars, lids, and rings.  Place in pots of boiling water to sterilize (10 minutes or longer.)  I use pint sized jars for pear sauce.

Step Two:  Wash, core, and chop pears into cubes. Place in pot with orange juice and water (the citric acid in the juice prevents too much browning).  Side note: I leave the skins on because of laziness...I mean added nutrients.  You can always peel them if you prefer a smoother pear sauce but my family is cool with "Homestyle".

Step Three:  Bring to a boil and simmer pears (covered except for picture) for 20-30 minutes until pears are tender.

Step Four:  Puree pears and liquid in batches.  I pulse it a few times until broken up but not liquified.  This step determines your consistency for the final product!

Step Five:  Return to pot, add sugar and spices, and return to simmer.

Step Six:  Take jars out of boiling water using tongs, fill jars full of pear sauce leaving about 1/4 inch space on top, and cap with a sterilized lid and ring. 

Step Seven:  Process jars of pear sauce by boiling it in a water bath for 10 minutes.

 Step Eight:  Remove from water bath, place on counter and let rest until cooled (overnight).  Or you can ladle some into a bowl, cool slightly and enjoy it while still warm and no need to process it.  Again, verifying that all the jars are vacuum sealed by pressing in the center with your finger.  I've never had a problem with jars not sealing because I'm pouring boiling hot jam/sauce into a jar that just came out of boiling hot water.  They can be stored for 12 months (or more). 

You could of coarse replace peaches for the nectarines or apples for the pears, depending on what you have available. All in all I made two batches of jam for a total of 21 jars (8 oz each), and four batches of pear-sauce for 28 jars full (16 oz each).

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Sissy!

Three weeks back was my older sister's birthday.  Our family usually gets together for Family Dinner at my mom's house on Sundays, so for that week's dessert I made sis a very rich and moist Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.  Can you say yum? Here is Little Miss H taking a look at the finished cake: 

 Little Miss H helped me to make the cake.  She started helping me in the kitchen more and more just after her 2nd birthday and has been asking me to make a cake at least twice a week lately.  She helps herself to my baking cupboard and will bring out mixes, canisters of sugar and flour and bags of chocolate chips if I'm not watching her.  One of these days she's going to just go to town "making" something herself, but as of now she'll just hand me random ingredients and ask to bake.  She's very good at pouring in ingredients, stirring and ever eager to help crack the eggs.  I love that she is learning to enjoy one of my passions. 

So for this cake we started with a box of white cake mix (since it's what we had on hand), added cocoa powder and the secret to moistness- a box of chocolate pudding. We had to add a little extra water since it was so thick.  The frosting recipe I found on Pintrest:  Martha Stewart's Chocolate Frosting.

Everyone agreed that the cake was delicious, but I'm not so sure about having cream cheese in the chocolate frosting. I'd give the cake 5 stars, but the frosting was more like 4 stars.  Little Miss H and her cousin E look like they enjoyed it though, don't you think?

Welcome to my Blog!

So I've finally bitten the bullet and started a blog.  After many suggestions that I should get on Pintrest and start a blog to highlight my many doings, I finally broke down and joined Pintrest a few weeks ago.  Instantly addicted.  I was determined not to let it just be another way to waste time online so I've already put it to use and tried numerous things.  My favorite so far would have to be any of the 5 yummy desserts I've made (think- chocolate).

Once I upload the pics off my camera I might even show you a few of my creations.  I'll also be featuring recipes (both Pintrest inspired and other goodies I know), picture show and tells on crafts I've made, and how to's on other things. I know my favorite thing on blogs are the pictures, so I'll try to use lots of pictures  in future posts.  So welcome and thank you for joining the journey with me :)