Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gout Weed...You are a Disease

Gout Weed a.k.a Snow on the Mountain a.k.a. My Worst Gardening Nightmare
Ever heard of it?
Ever experienced it?
If you have it, I pity you. Truly, I do. This terrible gardening disease has given me nightmares all summer. It overtook my flowerbeds, crept into our lawn, and has caused me more grief than any other weed known to mankind. And I hear it's nearly impossible to get rid of. great.

Oh terrible gout weed, I tried pouring boiling water on you and smiled with delight when your leaves wilted in front of my very eyes. But how my heart fell when I saw your green leaves sprout up again out of the ashes. Then, I tried spraying you with potent chemical, but you just laughed in my face as my beautiful lawn died instead. BUT I WILL NOT GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT. I WILL GET RID OF YOU! I WILL, I TELL YOU! I WILL!

Umm...nevermind. I got carried away.

Really, though, has anyone else had experience with this stuff? I have fought it all summer long, and I think I'm finally starting to win the fight. I really wish I would have taken a picture of my flowerbeds before I started getting it under control. It was unbelievable. Really, it was.

The most success I have had with getting rid of it is the following:

1) Pour boiling water on the leaves. (Learn from my mistake - make sure you don't splash your toes in the process. LOL)

2) Let the leaves wilt (I leave them for about a week or until I have time to tackle the next step)

3)Pull the leaves out and throw them away. (FAR AWAY..or better yet...BURN THEM!)

4) Give yourself a pep talk before you start the next step (I WILL WIN!)

5) Get out your spade and start digging up your flower beds, section by section.

6) Sift though the dirt before moving onto the next section, and throw out as many of the roots as possible. The root system for this thing is incredible. This is a very tedious job, but I think this will be my best chance of getting rid of it for good.

7) Dig deeper. And when you think you're done, dig some more, and find some more of those rotten roots to throw out.

8) Ask your husband for a back massage and then fall into bed exhausted.

9) Repeat as necessary. :-)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bit of a Blogging Break

As the summer months draw to a close (tear, tear), I have several things I want to get done before the snow flies. (And where I live, that could possibly be only weeks away! I sure hope not, though!) This is such a busy time of the year for us. From harvesting our garden produce (freezing and canning) to finishing painting our fence to getting rid of that terrible gout weed in my flower bed to celebrating some pretty big birthdays around here (Little Bittles turns 1 soon!!), these next few weeks are going to be especially busy. So, I've decided to take a bit of a blogging break for the next few weeks. I have a couple pre-scheduled posts that will go up, but other than that, I'm "unplugging" for a little while to get some things done around here. You may see an odd post or two, depending on how things go, but they will probably be far and few between for the next couple weeks or so. I want to make sure I soak in as much of that warm sunshine as possible before it soon disappears. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jam, Jam, Jam!

I think it's fair to say that I've become a bit obsessive about canning this summer. If you read my blog at all, you've probably figured out that I'm a bit of an obsessive person. LOL. By this I mean that I get on these sprees or "kicks" (as I call them) where I'll have, for example, a huge organizing kick where all I do for a week straight is organize. Then, I'll get on a baking kick where all I do for a whole week is bake until I can bake no more. After that I'll get on a harmonica kick where all I want to do is play the harmonica day and night. (Okay, so I haven't actually ever gone on a harmonica kick, but ya never know; it could happen...'s my first summer trying my hand at canning, and I really love it. I think it's the "high" I get when I hear the thhhhwwwwip sound of those beauties sealing themselves up. I'm a dork, I know :-). So far this summer I've experimented with apricot jam, blueberry jam, strawberry-rhubarb jam, and salsa. I am hoping that once my tomatoes start producing, I will be able to make a lot more salsa, some tomato/pasta sauce, and maybe some tomato soup. I also planted some beets at my parents' house, and I might try pickling some beets (although I hear it's a messy job).

I love most of the homemaking "arts" but anything to do with cooking/baking/canning is probably my favourite homemaking thing to do. My husband's aunt was kind enough to pass off a lot of her jars to me, so I have lots to fill up! I am pretty sure that by the time I'm finished with my jam-making kick, I will have made more jam than my husband and I can eat in a year, so I thought I might give some away as gifts - maybe with a freshly baked loaf of bread? I know it would be so simple to slap a label on my jars and put them back in the pantry (which is what I'll do with the majority of them), but I thought that I might jazz up a few of them to give away to family and friends. Soooo....I did a little "googling" on canning labels and came across these really cute (and free!) downloadable labels that I'm pretty sure I'm going to try out. If any of my family is reading this, please just ooh and ahh when you get your jazzed-up jar of jam and pretend like I'm ultra creative and crafty even though I am sooo not creative nor crafty but in fact get all of my seemingly crafty and creative ideas off of the internet from those who genuinely are both creative and crafty. (How was that for a long sentence!)

Half Hour Jam

This recipe is very easy and economical to put together (especially if you have a bounty of rhubarb in your garden like I do!). I got this recipe out of one of my church cookbooks. It is one of my favourite homemade jam recipes. Enjoy!

Half Hour Jam

6 cups diced rhubarb
4 cups sugar
1 cup crushed pineapple (with juice)
170 grams of strawberry Jello powder (2 small packages or 1 large package)

Combine rhubarb and sugar in a large pot. Bring to a boil slowly over medium low heat. Boil for 15 minutes. Add crushed pineapple and Jello powder. Bring back to a boil and then pour into clean, hot jars. Process 15 minutes in hot water bath. Also freezes well. (The bright red jar of jam in the front of the picture is the half hour jam.)

This post is linked to Raising Homemakers weekly homemaking link-up.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Menu Plan Monday (August 23, 2010)

Last week I was m.i.a. due to case of the stomach flu hitting our house hard. Thus, I didn't have a menu plan last week, and we survived off of toast and gatorade. We did run out for some ham & swiss sandwiches as we began to feel increasingly better. Our menu choices last week were rather limited by our appetite (or lack, thereof!). I'm happy to report we are all better now and back to eating "normal" food.
On a side I am typing this up, my little girl is sitting in her high chair and currently dropping cheerios one by one onto the floor. She's very systematic. First, she looks at me, picks up a cheerio, and then tosses it over the edge. Then, she peers down at the growing pile of cheerios on the floor and then looks back at me with a look that says, "Aren't you going to pick those up, Mama?" Then, she picks up another cheerio and repeats it all over again. Ha!

Here's the plan for this week. Sorry for lack of recipe links. I just haven't gotten around to posting the recipes yet.

Sunday, August 22
Lunch: ate out
Supper: We had Chicken Stroganoff over Egg Noodles (recipe to come), Salad

Monday, August 23
BLT Sandwiches, Baked French Fries

Tuesday, August 24
Homemade Creamy Macaroni & Cheese (I'm going to look at a few different recipes and come up with my own version I'll share later) , Salad

Wednesday, August 25
Crockpot Super Short Ribs, Rice, Veggies (probably green beans. HA!)

Thursday, August 26
BBQing Hamburgers, Coleslaw, maybe potato or pasta salad

Friday, August 27
Homemade Pizza, Salad

Saturday, August 28
Leftover Pizza for lunch, Tacos for supper

Baking/Desserts/Other This Week
Rhubarb Crisp
Freezing MORE Beans
Canning More Strawberry/Rhubarb Jam
Birthday Cake

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pillowcase Dresses and Button Down Dress Shirt Dress

Pillowcase dress - Minnie Mouse

Pretty sure I`m not skilled enough to make these, but I might just have to try. I came across "the pillowcase dress", which looks fairly simple to make. For it, you use either a pillowcase or some leftover material to create a cute little dress. You can find a tutorial (the one I plan on using) here. I also like the tutorial for it that I found here. The other idea I came across is using an old button-down dress shirt to make a little girl`s dress. This one looks a little more challenging for a novice like me, but I think I might have to try it sometime, too. I find that fabric is pretty expensive these days compared to buying clothes, but these projects transform one item into another. So, if you pick up the items at second hand stores or garage sales for a dollar or two, it`s very inexpensive to do these projects. I hope to get around to trying these projects in the fall. I am finding that summer is really busy with gardening, yard work, and canning. Part of the reason for me blogging this is simply so I have access to these tutorials whenever I do get around to trying them. I often come across an idea over the internet that I really like, and I think I`ll remember where I saw it, but I never do. Plus, I`m not a fan of bookmarking pages. By linking the ideas to my blog, I will actually be able to find the websites when I do get around to the projects.
*I should clarify, I am not the skilled seamstress who make the pillowcase dress in the picture, but I sure would like to try making one sometime!*

Friday, August 20, 2010

Losing My Marbles

Some days I really think I'm losing my marbles. I'm certain I'm not the only mother who has ever felt this way. I feel like I've been running off of caffeine for the last few weeks...uhh...actually, make that the last 11 months. Looks like our Little Bittles inherited a few of the "I hate sleeping" genes from both her mommy and daddy (especially her daddy, who still doesn't really like to sleep!) Here are a few of my latest "Losing My Marbles Moments", which I'm blaming on some major sleep deprivation ;).

  • Spending 20 minutes looking for a shirt that I was wearing all along. Funny thing - I kept thinking to myself, "I KNOW I saw that shirt a few minutes ago...WHERE could it have GONE!"
  • Putting a hat on Little Bittles instead of a bib at lunch time.
  • Turning the kettle on without filling it up with water first. This one really wasn't all that funny as my husband only realized my silly mistake several hours after the fact, and when we got home after being away for the evening, that kettle was HOT! Oops.
  • Singing the ABC's and having to actually think about the words/letters when I get to the part "T U V" because my brain suddenly wants to start singing those letters in French instead of English.
  • Starting the coffee maker without putting the filter back in
This edition of "Losing My Marbles Moments" has been brought to you by the life of one sleep deprived mommy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Unloading My Cluttered Thoughts Via To-Do List

My head hurts. I desperately need to create another To-Do List so that I can go about my work without worrying that I might forget one of the projects I have whirling around in in my head. Our house is in complete disarray since the flu bug hit us hard this week. I started catching up on laundry yesterday, and today I'm working hard to get everything clean again. The stomach flu is an ugly one, so I'm trying to get EVERYTHING (meaning bedding, blankets, comforters, towels, personal laundry, etc.) washed. I'm also trying to get everything scrubbed down and disinfected. I've been working hard all morning, so I'm sitting down for a little break while Little Bittles has a nap.

Maybe I'm weird, but I find that writing down all my want to do/need to do ideas is a stress reliever. I keep some paper by my bed for this very reason. That way if I'm lying in bed and thinking of things I want/need to get done, I can write them down and forget about them. I need to unload some of my cluttered thoughts and ideas right now, so I thought I'd just dump them all here. This past week has got things a bit chaotic around here, so it's definitely time for another giant to-do list. Without further ado, I must unload my thoughts now so my head can stop hurting...

  • Plan Little Bittles 1 year birthday party (cake, a few decorations, pick day for party)
  • Organize and label cleaning closet
  • Organize and label linen/medicine closet
  • Make up a first aid kit and an emergency kit
  • Go through pictures on the camera and develop pictures from this summer
  • Develop pictures from sister-in-law's negatives (snorkeling pictures from Hawaii)
  • Order piano sheet music
  • Make more salsa (possibly tomorrow)
  • Try sewing a pillowcase dress for baby
  • Order wall decal for our bedroom
  • Look up ideas for painting/decorating little girl's bedroom
  • Look up ideas for painting/decorating spare room
  • Make some blueberry jam
  • Make half hour rhubarb jam
  • Make strawberry freezer jam
  • Reorganize the spare bedroom downstairs
  • Measure our kitchen and prepare it for getting renovation estimates
  • Look up kitchen ideas for renovations
  • Go through all boxes and use index card organizing system (big winter project)
  • Finish killing the gout weed and dig it out of the flower beds
  • Work on Bittles baby book
  • Finish staining the fence brain feels so much better! :-)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bouncing Back After the Flu

Our whole household has been out of commission these past few days. I came down with the stomach flu (or the likes, thereof) on Monday morning. Our daughter was also throwing up on Monday. The dizziness was actually the worst part of it for me because it made it very difficult to care for our baby. Thankfully, she had 2 very long naps during the day, so I was able to get a bit of rest. Then when she was awake in the afternoon, I put her in the exersaucer, turned on her Baby Einstein baby sign language dvd and crashed on the couch. That kept her occupied for quite some time. Now that she is running around, it would have been next to impossible for me to chase her around yesterday when I could barely stand up. I was literally counting down the minutes until my husband came home from work. Once he got home, he took very good care of me! :-). The next morning I felt significantly better, which was very good timing because during the night, my husband had come down with the same thing! So, yesterday it was my turn to take care of my poor husband who was really sick all day. Today, I am feeling about 80 percent; I am still a little weak and my stomach is gurgling a bit still, but my appetite is coming back. I am trying to slowly catch up on housework (namely, laundry) today. I am certainly glad that my husband and I had the worst of it at different times so that we could take care of each other and the baby. In other news...our baby girl has changed so much in the last week! She just learned how to clap her hands and to point to her ears. It is so cute!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Célébration Chopin 1810 Marie-Andrée Ostiguy

Piano Passion

I don't know what is with me lately, but I have just become incredibly interested in music again. I've given some serious thought to even taking some violin lessons - I have always wanted to learn to play the violin! I have also thought about possibly studying piano a little more seriously again. Oh how I wish I would have been a more dedicated piano student when I actually had the time :-) I have my Grade 8 Royal Conservatory, but I would love to get my Grade 10 someday. Just the other day I brought out a few of my old piano books and started playing a few classical pieces again. Then today, I rediscovered one of my favourite Canadian composers, Marie Andree Ostiguy. I LOVE her music! I chose 2 of her songs, Summer Sunday and Enchanted Forest, to be played at our wedding. One was for the candle lighters, and the other was for when the bridesmaids walked down the aisle. I am definitely going to be ordering some of her sheet music! I can't wait to get it and start practicing again. I just can't seem to get enough of classical music lately, and I am just itching to go to the symphony. I have only ever been to hear the symphony once, but I would love to go again. Anyway, as I type this I'm listening to one of Marie's performances on You Tube. I'm going to post it for you all to enjoy, too!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Blanching and Freezing Beans

We planted our first garden this year, and it has produced a bounty of beans! (Much to my husband's dismay - let's just say beans wouldn't be his first choice for veggies ;) ) I know next-to-nothing about canning and freezing foods, but I am determined to learn more about it and try my hand at it. I consider preserving food to be an important homemaking skill to have. It may not be "worth all the work" for some people (Because, yes it's a LOT of work), but I think it's important to at least have the know-how to do it if one so chooses. I know I feel good knowing that my garden-grown beans are free from pesticides and chemicals.
Here's a little picture tutorial of how to blanch and freeze beans:

1) Start out with freshly picked beans. Try to pick the beans before they get too large and bumpy. If you don't have time to blanch your beans right away, just stick them in the fridge for a few days until you have time to tend to them.

2) Rinse your beans off to get all the dirt off.

3) Trim the ends of your beans using a sharp knife or a pair of scissors. Then, cut your beans into 1 inch pieces or whatever size you prefer.

4) Bring a huge pot of water to a rolling boiling. Dump your beans (as many as can reasonably fit, depending on the size of pot used) into the pot. Cover and let it come back to boil. This shouldn't take much more than a minute. If it does, you are probably putting too many beans in at once. Once it's boiling again, start your timer for 3 minutes. This is the recommended blanching time for beans. Make sure the water continues to boil for the full 3 minutes.
5) After 3 minutes are up, remove the beans either with a large slotted spoon or strainer and immediately place them into a large bowl full of ice cold water. This will "shock" the beans and stop the cooking process. Let the beans cool off for about 3 minutes. Continue to add ice cubes and more cold water as needed to keep the water cold.

6) Pat the beans dry on a tea towel.

7) Spread the beans onto cookie sheets and stick them in the freezer to flash freeze them for a couple hours. This will prevent the beans from sticking together later on.
8) After a few hours in the freezer, remove the beans from the cookie sheets and transfer them into freezer bags. Label the bags and stick them back into the freezer until you want to cook them!

After all your hard work, sit down and enjoy a homemade Carmel Frappuccino. That's what I did, anyway! :-)

This post is linked back to Raising Homemakers.

Caramel Frappuccino

This is my favourite afternoon pick-me-up in the summertime. Why spend a few bucks on one of these when you can whip one up at home for a few pennies!? And with low fat milk and low fat real whipped cream, I can have one nearly every day - guilt-free!

Caramel Frappuccino

3/4 cup cold, strong coffee (make sure it's very strong)
1/4 cup milk (or a little more, depending on your personal preference)
1 cup of ice (I use one full mini ice cube tray per recipe)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp caramel sauce

Blend together in a blender until smooth (I use my magic bullet - love it!). Garnish with whipped cream and more caramel sauce. Sit down, relax, and enjoy!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Menu Plan Monday (August 9, 2010)

I cannot believe another week just flew by. I know I seem to be saying this every week now, but I am so busy these days that I do not have much time for blogging. Oh well. I should just enjoy the nice weather while I can :-). The snow will be coming soon enough, and then I'll have plenty of time to be stuck inside! This is gearing up to be another busy week. I have TONS of green and yellow beans that are waiting for me to blanch them. (Just had a morbid thought...good things vegetables don't feel pain...Blanching would not be a fun experience...I digress.)

Here's the plan for this week:

Sunday, August 8
Lunch: We ate out for lunch. We had a very busy week and very short nights. We were both exhausted, so we picked up some burgers after church

Supper: Tuscan Pizza (didn't get made last week, so I made it today to use up our spinach)

Monday, August 9
Tuna Macaroni Casserole (recipe to come), Salad

Tuesday, August 10

Wednesday, August 11
Wild Rice Hot Dish (NEW - adapted from here), Salad

Thursday, August 12

Friday, August 13
Chicken Enchiladas, Corn, Salad

Saturday, August 14
Leftovers or BBQing hamburgers


Blanching and Freezing Beans
Layered Lemon Dessert (recipe to come)

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Easy Curry Chicken

Here's a very easy curry chicken recipe that only take minutes to prepare! I once tried a fancier version of curry chicken, but my husband actually prefers this recipe, which is much simpler and very quick to put together.

Easy Curry Chicken

4 chicken breasts (I use boneless, skinless)
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup honey (liquid works best, but I've used creamed)
4 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp curry powder

Place chicken in a single layer in a casserole dish. Combine remaining ingredients and pour the sauce over the chicken. Bake at 350 F for about 1 hour or until the chicken is done. Serve over rice.

*Note: Just check this every so often to make sure the sauce doesn't burn. The last time I made this, I accidentally let the sauce burn on the sides a bit. Oops!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Menu Plan Monday (August 2)

Wow, is it really August already? Time seems to just be flying by, and it seems there is still so much to do before the snow flies. It's 10:30 p.m. and this is the first real break I've had all day. We have been very busy today working outside in the garden and painting our fence. We also had a very busy (but fun) weekend that I hope to briefly share about soon (no promises of blogging much with the way things are going this week, though!) This week is shaping up to be very busy for us. I have a lot of garden work to catch up on, and I'm desperately trying to get rid of this awful plant so deceptively called "snow on the mountain." It's also known as gout weed, which is a much more fitting name, I think! That stuff is TERRIBLE and is taking over my LIFE! Well, maybe not my life...but definitely my flower beds and beyond. I also want to finish painting the fence sometime soon, and we are getting ready for a garage sale in the near future. Sorry for the lack of recipes again this week, but I have had more important things to do :-).

Sunday, August 1
Visiting family

Monday, August 2
Lunch: Leftovers
Supper: Tortellini with Pasta Sauce, Tossed Salad from the garden

Tuesday, August 3
BLT Sandwiches, Oven Baked Fries, Veggies & Dip

Wednesday, August 4
Curry Chicken & Rice (didn't get made last week), Salad

Thursday, August 5
Spinach and Tomato Topped Salmon, Rice, Salad

Friday, August 6
Probably going out to eat or ordering in

Saturday, August 7
Tuscan Pizza, Caesar Salad

Sunday, August 8

Baking/Desserts: (Not much planned this week as I'll be busy with other things)
Lemon Dessert or Crumb Cake (recipes to come if I get around to making them)
Working on freezing produce from garden

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

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