Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pretty As a Peach

In case you have been hanging on the edge of your seat, wondering if I baked that pie or not...

Now if Keith would just get home so we can dig into it.

And, can I just say, it was quite a revelation to have an oven light? I texted my mom out of pure giddiness.

Oh, and Bert lucked out because I sprinkled the leftover pie crust with cinnamon sugar and baked it for his morning snack. Because that's what moms do.

Love that new oven.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Just Peachy

For the past couple of years, we have made a point of canning fruit to have over the winter. Since Bert is such a fruit lover, it was especially imperative to do it this year. So Saturday morning, we went to the farmers' market and bought a bushel of peaches. We couldn't remember how many we bought other years and thought a bushel didn't look like too many. We decided we would wait until Sunday to can, as we had some other stuff going on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday morning we got a little bit later start than anticipated but no matter, we had no plans for the day. I washed jars while Keith started peeling peaches. Bert was happily playing by himself, and it didn't seem like too long before we were pulling processed jars out of the canner. We were getting there.

Then, on our fourth batch in the canner, I was about to lift the lid when I thought I smelled something burning. Just as I opened my mouth to ask Keith if he smelled it, there were a few loud pops and a bit of smoke as the stove shorted out. And that, my friends, was the end of our stove. Our old, double-oven-ed Frigidaire, which fit our kitchen. Which also baked completely unevenly and had wonky knobs, but no matter; it looked right in our kitchen.

As it popped, I ducked, leaving Keith to reach over the canner and turn the burners off. Then he ran downstairs and turned it off completely from the breaker box while I wondered what to do with a canner full of peaches. Luckily, my neighbor was home and wasn't using her stove so I waddled over with my loaded canner and put them on her stove.

Bert was upstairs napping by this point, and Keith and I were contemplating what to do with the rest of the peaches, and what to do about the stove. Without too much deliberation, we set the peaches aside and Keith headed off to Lowe's to pick out a new range. Within 2 hours, he was home with a new GE model, it was in place and we were back to canning. It happened so fast That I couldn't even get a photo without the canner on it.

The new range looks a little silly because the old one filled up that whole space, all the way to the refrigerator, and the new one is just a standard-sized one. We loved the old one, but knew it would get expensive to get anything new similar to it. So someday when the kitchen gets remodeled (that would be in the ten-year plan), maybe this stove will look normal. In the meantime, I might be able to talk Keith into building me a little cabinet with a wee bit of counter space on top to slid in that opening. Because my only disappointment with the new range is that I don't have a spot for my utensil crock.

This is the first major appliance we have ever purchased, and although I didn't need it to happen in the middle of canning, at least I didn't have time to hem and haw and fret over what we should get. Keith called me from Lowe's with a couple of questions and then picked one out and brought it home. Case closed.

So that's the story of how we canned 45 pints of peaches and got a new stove. I have seven lovely fresh peaches left and I just might try my new oven out on a peach pie.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

As Local as It Gets

Can I just say I am really excited about, and a little proud of, this meal? This one, right here.

It wasn't anything difficult, and there weren't any exotic ingredients. What made me so excited is that it was all home-grown or local food going into it. We grew the potatoes, carrots, and rosemary; our friends gave us the zucchini they grew, and the chicken was locally-raised bought at the farmers' market. I guess the olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper weren't so local, but I think that can be excused. We also had some of our sweet corn with dinner.

The recipe was touted as a make-and-freeze meal to be cooked later, but why would I freeze it when we could enjoy it fresh? Although if I were overrun with vegetables, it would be handy to mix up a batch and freeze it to enjoy later. Here's the recipe as it was printed.

Rosemary Chicken with Zucchini
Real Simple from a couple years ago

Buy It
1 pound new potatoes
2 carrots
2 small zucchini (I used one large)
Olive oil
Whole-grain mustard (we had spicy brown in the fridge so that's what I used)
1 bunch rosemary
Kosher salt and pepper
4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 1-quart resealable plastic freezer bags

Freeze It
Quarter the potatoes. Peel the carrots. Cut the carrots and zucchini into 2-inch stick. Mix them in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons mustard, 1 tablespoon rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Divide everything among the 4 bags. Freeze, until ready to cook, for up to 3 months.

Cook It
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the bags from the freezer (you'll need one bag for each serving). Empty the contents of the bags into a baking dish. Roast for 25 minutes. Toss the vegetables, turn the chicken, and continue roasting until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes more. Divide among individual plates.

Like I said, I didn't freeze it so mine went right from prep to a 9x13" glass baking dish. I just laid the chicken on top of the vegetables and the roasting time ended up being about the same. We all loved the vegetables done this way; even Bert scarfed them down. I might use this process again just to make vegetables for a side. When I go for seconds on veggies, you know the recipe is a keeper.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Maine Event

Maybe you could tell by last week's lackluster posts that we were away. We spent a wonderful week in Maine: hanging out by the lake, eating lobster, checking out flea markets and little shops, and chasing Bert around.

It started off with about 10 hours in the car. Trust me, he wasn't this happy for the whole ride.

And he was in a car seat in the back of our car, not strapped in the front of my dad's truck. My dad, brother, and niece left Friday evening, and Keith, my mom, Bert, and I left early Saturday morning. My mom had the rather large responsibility of entertaining Bert in the car, and she did an excellent job. We only made one unplanned stop for him to get out and run around, and another because of a diaper that reached capacity.

Shortly before three on Saturday afternoon, we arrived at the lake. Ahhhh...

It was a little hotter and muggier than usual, so we didn't waste any time getting in the water. Bert is still on the fence about large bodies of water. 

We did some flea markets on Sunday (no really exciting finds to report), and on Monday, we headed into the closest bigger town for a little shopping, and a photo op.

Lobster baby!

Bert held up until we got back in the car, where he pretty promptly fell asleep. We made the mistake of waking him up, thinking he would nap better when we got home. Wrong. He managed to go the whole day without napping. Needless to say, bedtime was early. Like 6:30 early.

We did let him sleep long enough to take a picture of him with his new lobster from Uncle Travis and Zoe on his head.

Bert didn't do much more swimming, because by midweek the temperatures were only in the mid-70s, but he did like leaning off the dock and splashing in the water.

We also played some enthusiastic peek-a-boo around the tree.

And he not-so-willingly sat not-so-still for one quick picture with me.

Zoe spent most of her week fishing off the dock or waiting patiently to catch little fish in her net.

Here's one of the fish Zoe caught in the net.

Bert was pretty eager to touch it.

We enjoyed lots of beautiful evenings and everybody but Bert got a turn in my mom's new kayak.

Zoe was the s'more chef.

I highly recommend the dark chocolate Reese's s'more.

We did a campfire on several nights, hoping to keep the mosquitoes at bay. If you could stand the smoke, it worked. We also tried every mosquito repellent available, homemade and commercial. The best remedy was a cool, breezy night. That or heading back inside.

Mom and I got our knit on. We kept moving our chairs around to stay in the sun; that's how chilly the mornings were.

Random cuteness in his shark hat.

Mmm, mmm, mmm. Spam for lunch.

Bert being retrieved from the neighbor's yard. Look at him hamming it up.

Keith and I took a morning to go into Augusta and check things out, only to find there wasn't much to check out. But it was still a nice morning and we found a great place for lunch on the way back.

And we stopped at bought some infamous wild Maine blueberries at a stand along the road.

Which Bert devoured. Imagine my surprise when I changed his diaper and it was a, shall we say, unusual color.

Zoe checked out all the lures in the tackle box.

We got a kick out of this one, called the "Hula Popper."

Travis and Zoe squeezed in the kayak to do a little fishing. (It's a one-person kayak.)

And look what she caught! This was the biggest fish of the week, at about 9". A bass, I think.

We were on the catch-and-release program.

Bert found a hollowed out stump to play in. And I was playing with my camera and forgot to put my settings back so no, he did not turn blue from too many blueberries.

Bert decided to try his hand at fishing off the new bulkhead.

And he decided to climb up the neighbors' dock that was pulled out of the lake.

Quite the daredevil.

So that was our week. It was nice to have so many people to keep an eye on Bert since all he wanted to do was run around. We were just glad to survive the week without him tumbling off the dock into the lake. He slept and napped pretty well, so we did have some downtime for just hanging out. And we went for ice cream almost every night, taking turns with who stayed back with Bert since it was usually his bedtime.

We are really lucky to have such a great place to stay. My great-grandparents bought the place in the early 60s (I think it might have been 1960, if I am remembering right), and my grandparents have taken such good care of it over the years. There is room for all of us to sleep and it is nice to have a kitchen so we don't have the expense of eating out all week long. Waking up to a crisp morning and drinking coffee while sitting on the dock has to be one of my favorite parts of our Maine vacations. We are certainly looking forward to many, many more weeks by the lake and can't wait to see Bert swimming, fishing, kayaking, and roasting marshmallows as he gets older.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bonus for Buying

I think we are all pretty used to pulling out our store loyalty cards by now. The grocery store, hardware store, Babies R Us, garden center, and CVS cards are all dangling off my keychain. While it irks me sometimes that you can only get sale prices if you have your card, I do appreciate getting money off at the gas pump for my grocery store purchases and $5 coupons from the hardware store when we reach a certain point level, plus extra coupons because by being on the mailing lists of all these places.

I've also found a few products that we buy regularly have their own rewards programs. One is the cat litter we buy for Mocha. Each box of Fresh Step has a code that you can enter on their website for points. There are different items you can cash in your points for, but we just get the coupon for the free box of litter. It works out to be a free box with every 10 or 11 we buy. Not a bad deal, even if it takes a little bit of time to enter the code online.

The other product is yogurt. We regularly buy a quart of Stonyfield yogurt to eat with our granola, and while Bert was eating baby food, I would often purchase baby yogurt. Any of their packages have a code on them that you enter on their website, just like the cat litter program. Again, they have a wide variety of items to choose from but we stick to things we can actually use, not gimmicky stuff that will get shoved in a drawer. We've exchanged our points for coupons for free packages of earth-friendly disposable diapers to have on hand when we travel.

While it is a bit of a hassle to log into these sites and enter the codes, it makes our money go just a little farther. Since we are pretty committed to these brands because we are consistently happy with the products, it makes sense to get a little back when we can.

PS: Nobody is paying us to say nice things about these companies. We just like their products and are happy to take advantage of scoring some free stuff when we can!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Clip It, Clip It Good

Remember awhile back when I mentioned using coupons, and how many places you can use them? Just to show you I'm serious, I thought I'd give you a little run down of where we've whipped 'em out over the last couple of months.

Babies R Us: was able to combine a 20% off one item and a $5 off $25 purchase, saving me almost $15 on some baby gear
Garden center: used $10 off $39 purchase coupons twice to fill our hanging baskets, get a few more vegetable plants, and spruce up the front of our house
A.C. Moore: 40% off one item to pick up some yarn for a project
Crayola: used a coupon from a cereal box my grammy saved for me for marker and paper set for Bert at Target
Farmers' market: $1.50 off $10 purchase at a produce stand and $2 off $20 at the poultry and egg stand
Grocery store: I use coupons clipped from the Sunday paper almost every time I go grocery shopping
Ace Hardware: $10 off $50 purchase and a $5 reward coupon when we bought spray paint for the wicker furniture and sand for Bert's sandbox, plus some seeds for the garden, plus we had a coupon for a free quart of their new line of paint (we used it on our stairwell)
Staples: saved $30 on an external hard drive for our computer; all these pictures of Bert are eating up our memory!
Snapfish: used a coupon code to get 150 photos and free shipping for $15 (now I really need to finish Bert's baby book...)
Macy's: I found a discount code on retailmenot.com for free shipping when ordering a bridal shower gift a few months ago

Like I said before, I don't want to be like one of those extreme couponers. I simply take a little time cutting coupons from the Sunday paper and flipping through local discount flyers that come in the mail. I sort my grocery store coupons in a little accordion file I can take with me, and all the other store coupons go on a clip on the fridge that I check before heading out the door to do any shopping. Before ordering anything online, I check my email for any of the latest discounts from places I've ordered from before (like Snapfish) or I search retailmenot.com for codes. Using coupons certainly doesn't make money, but it allows us to keep project costs more reasonable and helps to keep a little more of it in our pockets. Actually, as I'm looking at the list above, I'm pretty impressed by how much we've saved with coupons and inspired to keep doing what we do!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sprinkler Action

We are all done with the weekly photos, so what now? You want random shots of Bert? Ok, we can do that. Today it is all about the sprinkler he got for his birthday. He would only go in to where he was just getting hit with the water and then just stood there. When Keith tried to pull him in closer, he cried and ran away. I bet by next summer, he'll be begging to play in it!

Gotta love that pudgy belly!
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