It was a Good Season.

Wow.  What a busy and great holiday season.

Christmas tree

We took the whole month of December off and had so much fun.

No stressing about schedules.


my elf of the couch

No worry about fitting in all the homework and schoolwork.

legos for Christmas

We made crafty things…

crafty girlelsa princess hat

crochet owl hatpaper crafting

play-dohrenee of harvest moon


We did all our Christmas family traditions like the Elf on the Shelf…

elf on the shelf storytime

and watching all our favorite Christmas movies.


a christmas carol


We saw beautiful Christmas lights.


lady of the snow


We spent the holidays with our families.

friends and familyher mama's Christmas ornaments

a girl and her papa

playing Candyland with papa








Christmas morning

ready to open up all the presents!













baby sister meets her sister

And we ate delicious food.

prime rib roast for Christmasau jus for my Christmas prime rib









taco johns one reason I love going home

Even though I wrapped up 2014 with a cold, I’m thankful for every second.

May 2015 hold a great many things for us all.

Happy New Year.


Canning tomatoes, the old fashioned way…

canning tomatoes

I got to spend a few days in Kentucky with my mom and dad last week and we canned some tomatoes…  five bushels to be exact.  It was a lot of work, but great fun.  I’m ready to do it again. 

I decided to document the event so you could see the process we used in canning.  I will tell you right off the bat – this method is not a method recognized as safe or correct by the “professionals”  (whoever that is), but I can promise you millions of American families have been canning tomatoes this way for generations.  My family has canned tomatoes this way for as long as anyone can remember.  So far… we’ve not killed anyone.  Well, not from canning tomatoes anyway.   *ahem* Anyway… on to the tomatoes!

The tomatoes

We didn’t grow any tomatoes this year.  Not me.  Not my parents.  That even feels weird just typing it but for various inexcusable reasons, we just didn’t.  Next year though…

My dad did manage to snag our five bushels from a kindly Mexican farmer with three boys for $20 a bushel.  I know, right?  $20 isn’t bad!  We’ve been waiting all summer for tomatoes and last week the call finally came.  They are ready now.  They’ve got to be picked tomorrow.  We can’t wait for the weekend.   And boom! just like that, we were in the Yukon with our yummy bento snacks on our way to Kentucky. 

You should have seen the sight we walked in to… 

canning tomatoes

Five bushels is a lot of tomatoes. 

We didn’t do any canning the day we arrived.  We decided we would start in the morning.  I was thinking we would get two or three bushels done the first day of canning then do the last two the next.   Yeah, no.  We did them all in one day. 


The Setup

We used basic equipment for this process.  Most everything can be found easily at a local store, I’m sure. 

  • large bowls, several for washing and cooling tomatoes
  • a large heave stock pot
  • a wide pot for sterilizing jars
  • a smaller pot for sterilizing lids and bands
  • cookie sheets for work surfaces
  • towels to protect the table tops
  • ice cream buckets for holding tomatoes waiting to be cooked
  • a sharp knife
  • a 5 gallon bucket for dumping skins and cores
  • jars with spotless rims
  • new lids
  • new or used but clean bands
  • a jar lifter
  • a canning funnel
  • a magnetic lid lifter
  • a teaspoon (for quarts)
  • a 1/2 teaspoon (for pints)
  • canning salt
  • slotted spoon

canning tomatoes setupThe counter near the sink, we cleared for bowls of tomatoes ready to be blanched.  The stove was prepped with a  pot of boiling water for blanching and a large stock pot for boiling quartered tomatoes.  At the table we placed cookie sheets on top of towels to catch the mess of juice, skins, and cores.  We placed bowls of cold water at the center of the table for the cooling tomatoes and an ice cream bucket at the side of each work station for catching all the quartered tomatoes. 

Near the table on the floor stood a 5 gallon bucket for dumping the scraps. 


The process

Like I said earlier, this is not the “proper” way to can tomatoes, though I would argue it’s one of the more traditional ways.  

*Can at your own risk* 

If you choose to use the same method I use as described here in this blog, you assume all responsibility for the outcome.   This is NOT an instructional post.  For precise instructions on canning tomatoes, try this book.

 The basic process for canning tomatoes we use goes like this:

  • wash tomatoes
  • blanch tomatoes
  • remove skins, cores, and bad spots
  • quarter tomatoes
  • boil tomatoes
  • sterilize jars, lids, bands
  • fill jars
  • add salt
  • clean rim
  • apply lid and band
  • let sit for 24 hours and listen for the “pops”

washed tomatoesWashing tomatoes

The very first thing we did was get the tomatoes clean.  We filled a sink with water, added a bunch of tomatoes, and got all the dirt off.  A quick rinse and transfer to a clean bowl, the first batch is ready for blanching. 






blanching tomatoes


Blanching the tomatoes

Blanching the tomatoes makes it much easier to remove the peels.  We set a good sized pan of water to boil and add a few tomatoes at a time.  In just a few seconds the peels loosen from the fruit and they are ready to be removed.  Using a slotted spoon we transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of cold water and let them cool down a bit.





Removing the skins, cores, and bad spots


peeling tomatoes


After the tomatoes cool a little, it’s time to remove the skins.  I like to cut a small slice in the bottom of the tomato and peel them towards the core.  At this point, I cut any bad spots off that are on the tomato.  My family laughed at me all day because I tend to smell any tomato that I’m unsure about.  It I feel an extra soft area or after I cut out a bad spot, I will almost always smell the fruit to make sure all the bad is gone.  After smelling a ton of tomatoes, you catch on to what’s normal and what’s not.  Next, I cut the core out, removing all the tough, white areas. 

Quarter the tomato and add it to the pot. 


Cooking the tomatoes

After a bushel of tomatoes have been prepared, we cooked them in a large heavy pot.  You want them to boil up for twenty minutes or so.  The tomatoes will break down as they cook and make lots of juice.  The tomatoes will scorch and stick to the bottom if left to boil, so we kept them stirred every few minutes.  While the tomatoes cooked, we prepared the jars for filling.


Preparing the jars, lids, and bands

It’s very important to have clean, sterilized jars.  One technique I like to use is keeping the jars in the oven at 215 degrees after they’ve been washed.  This time we just boiled the jars, lids, and bands a few at a time as we filled them.  Another very important item – being certain all the jars have clean, solid rims with NO chips.  In order to get a tight seal, a perfect rim is a must.  We checked all our jars before we started the process.   We put two pans of boiling water on the stove – one for the jars, one for the bands and lids. 



Filling the jars


filling jars

This step is made a little easier by a few small tools. 

#1 – a canning funnel

#2 – a jar lifter

#3 – a magnetic lid lifter

#4 – a large Tupperware 8-cup measuring cup

We take a jar out of the water, place the funnel in the mouth of the jar, and fill it with tomatoes using the large measuring cup.  It’s good to leave some room in the top of the jar to give it room to seal.  We remove the funnel, pour in a teaspoon of salt, and wipe the rim.


  canned tomatoes

After the rim is cleaned off, we used the magnetic lid lifter to grab a lid and place it on the jar.  Then we grabbed a band with the magnet and screwed it on the jar tight enough to hold the seal in place, but not too tightly.  Finally, we set the jars on a towel-covered table to sit for 24 hours.  Usually, within a matter of 10, 15 minutes the popping starts.  As the jars cool down, the pressure decreases inside causing the center of the lid to become concave with a “pop”.  This creates a tight seal and if the jars do not “pop” or the lid does not sink in the center, it most likely did not seal properly.  If this happens, it doesn’t mean the tomatoes are bad, just that they need to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten soon.  All of our jars sealed well.   


Take a look at all those tomatoes put up for the winter!

93 quarts

We got a decent yield out of this batch.  We had one large bowl full of tomatoes that we didn’t can.  Generally, you get about 18 – 20 quarts per bushel so I think we did fairly well. 

I could eat canned tomatoes each and every day so we’ll see how long my 40+ jars last.  I’m not positive I’ll make it through the winter!


How about you?  Do you put up any veggies for the winter months?  If so, leave me a comment below and tell me what you put up and the methods you use. 

Dinner and a Drive…

We have a family tradition that started sometime during the past year.  It wasn’t intentional but just sort of happened over time.  Every Sunday evening we take a drive through the countryside.  For about 2 and a half hours, as the sun sets, we take in the glory of God’s beautiful creation.  Our Sunday drives have become another event we look forward to every week.  It’s a perfect end to the weekend and a great start to a new week.  As we drive along the winding country roads, I tend to reflect on the events of the week past.  A stretch of pasture and crops have a way of putting things, good or bad, into perspective.  Seeing the earth, fresh and green, reminds me of the new opportunities that will fill the coming week.  The breeze and leaves wisping away as they fall from the trees gives me a renewed energy and sense of adventure for facing the coming challenges.  I highly recommend ending your week and starting the next with a drive. 

On Sundays, I will usually make a lunch that we can eat on throughout the entire day.  We usually leave for our drive around 5 pm, just about dinner time for us.  We almost always swing by a drive thru for hot chocolate chip cookies and coffee.  If we haven’t had dinner, we may also grab some dinner out.  I hate that.  Not only is it terribly unhealthy but it eats up the grocery budget.  Not.  Cool. 

This week I decided I was tired of all the eating out.  We’re not doing it.  Our 50 cent slushees are fine, but we’re not eating drive thru junk for dinner.  It wasn’t until my husband said, “why don’t we pack something we can eat in the car” that it hit me.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.  For whatever reason, it just never crossed my mind.

The bentos


Bentos!  Hello!?!?!?! Why didn’t I think of that???  They are the perfect solution for our Sunday drive dilemma. 

So this afternoon I made up lunches for us all to take with us and, let me tell you, they were a big hit with the fam.  The kids always love having bentos. 

Can we just admit that they really are a lot of fun?

They’re bite sized, often cut into cute shapes, and filled with surprises.  Who doesn’t like a good surprise? 

Even the hubs enjoyed his bento dinner. 



What’s inside?

We kept things pretty simple and it took me about an hour to get it all made and packed up to go.  Not too bad.  I would’ve spent that much time preparing a big dinner.  Here’s a peek inside some of the boxes. 



The top layer of the kids’ boxes contained black grapes, a granola bar, and some little Biscoff cookies I made using mini vanilla wafers.  We adore Biscoff cookies and the spread.  However, it’s definitely one of those treats that you reserve for occasions and in small quantities.  The little mini wafers were the perfect size for a small dab of Biscoff. 





The bottom layer held some small pieces of string cheese, a napkin, and sandwich rolls.  I made some with mustard and some with mayo, depending on each person’s preferences. 



These are super easy to make and perfect for when you’re in a hurry.  Smear a large tortilla with mustard.  Layer three slices of each ham, chicken, and turkey lunch meat down the center.  Top with some lettuce (and maybe pickle or whatever else you’d like!) and roll it up.  I take a knife and cut the roll into 8 even pieces.  Then I stab them onto little mini skewers and everything  is good to go. 




Here’s a shot of daddles’ roll.  It’s a bit bigger… ‘cause he’s the daddles.  =)

bento dad

I had a yummy chopped salad with a red wine vinaigrette dressing.  It was delish. 



So from now on, Sunday is bento dinner night.  I love these predictable bits of life.  They make planning so much easier.  Now I just need more ideas for bentos.  If you have a great source for bento lunch ideas, leave me a comment.  I’d love to know your favorites!


The search for the perfect smoothie…

I’m on the lookout for the perfect smoothie.  If you find it, let me know, please. 

I don’t know a lot about smoothies but I do know this – the perfect smoothie does not have ice.  (I hate those little flecks of ice in a smoothie.)  It also doesn’t taste like protein powder or peanut butter even if it contains them. 

So far, this is the best I can get.


I really like the flavor of this one.  Most smoothies are tolerable, but not necessarily enjoyable for me.  This one, however… mmmmmm. 

So, give me your most delicious, non-ice, non-protein or peanut butter-tasting smoothies, please!


Herb Fairies Club is OPEN & a free book!

Just a quick note today to let you know about a great FREEBIE from Herb Fairies.

Registration for the Herb Fairies Book Club is now OPEN and you can also get the first book in the series FREE today! 


Herb Fairies closes Saturday, April 19th, at midnight so don’t wait too long and miss it!


Have a wonderful Easter weekend, friends!