Friday, August 31, 2012


Just a short while ago I took a picture of the tomatoes my husband and I harvested from our garden. Aah, it was a lovely harvest. Tons and tons of tomatoes (along with a few cucumbers and a zucchini) came inside with us and it was decided that they would be perfect for salsa.

I would have preferred making more spaghetti sauce, but the husband was quite eager to make homemade salsa. It's not my favorite pair to chips as I much prefer guacamole. Luckily, our tomato plants still have plenty of tomatoes ripening away. Spaghetti sauce will be next, along with the first experience with the pressure canner.

I awoke early this morning with the dog (apparently he missed the memo about today being a non-work day) and got ready to head to the Fleet Farm and grocery store to gather a few items for salsa making. Okay, and pickle making. We made refrigerator pickles--no water bathing required--and I cannot wait to taste their dilly goodness tomorrow.

We soon realized that our kitchen is much too small for large-scale canning. I could show you a picture of my kitchen at this point, but every picture I took today was taken without a memory card in the camera. Whoops. Anyway, we also noticed that our regular stock pot was not even close to large enough for boiling the salsa. The husband was a gem and offered his 3 gallon brew kettle for the task (I have plans to purchase a new one, a bigger one for him).

Today marked my first day of canning. I have watched my mother-in-law can cranberry jelly, but never had I completed the task from start to finish by myself.

Canning was rather intimidating. The tomatoes were overflowing on the counter. My normally large looking stock pot looked tiny. My kitchen counters were overcrowded in a matter of minutes. My hands quickly became pruned and the tomato juice rendered them itchy (possibly an allergy?). Husband chopped bell peppers, onions, garlic and jalapenos. The tomatoes held all of my attention. Blanching, peeling, blending half of the tomatoes, chopping the other half.

Canning was incredible. In a matter of hours, I will be checking the seal on each jar of salsa and will be able to store each one for up to a year. There are currently 10 pints of salsa on the counter. I'll consider the tomatoes free, since we bought a packet of seeds for a buck and that was in February (and we used about 30 tomatoes). The peppers, onion and garlic cost us just $7. Now, that is some cheap salsa! I'm not in awe of the savings alone. I'm in awe of the fact that my husband and I grew tomatoes from seeds and we will now be able to enjoy them for the months to come. Maybe I'll make some fresh tortilla chips and have a wonderful homemade snack some day.

This has provided me with motivation to can and preserve more. More pickles, spaghetti sauce (I never want to buy spaghetti sauce again because of this recipe), fruit, salsa, just tomatoes in general. I already am planning next year's garden. What should we grow? What should we preserve? What else can I provide for my family (so far it's just me and the hubs, but it's a family nonetheless)? And even though the kitchen is small, I won't shy away from canning.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


There's an old saying that everyone knows. It's about a book and its cover.  You know the one. Judging and all that stuff. Susan Boyle is an example of why that statement is true. You really can't judge a book by its cover. When she walked onto the stage at Britain's Got Talent a few years back, nobody expected her to sing so beautifully. The majority of the audience members, both live and via the television, had judged Ms. Boyle by her looks and expected very little from her. But she sang her heart out and gave me goosebumps.

I recently had a similar experience, reminding me of why it isn't okay to judge a book by its cover. I have heard many folks judge, without getting to know, a certain person. I was able to sit down and chat with this person a few days ago, and my eyes were opened. They were opened wide. I won't get into the news that was shared with me; it isn't my story to tell.

I was reminded, though, that it is not fair that people (myself included) so quickly come to inaccurate conclusions. But they (and I) did. Honestly...sadly...I think it is human nature to judge and people need to be made aware of this. In talking with my new friend, I have again been reminded that you can never really, truly know someone's story by looking at them or by judging them from afar. It doesn't work, and it isn't fair to the person being judged.

People need to stop judging books (people) by their covers (appearances).

Watch this video, though. I cry every time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer's End

Yesterday marked the end of the summer, and I have found myself quite anxious. My students will be visiting my classroom this week, for our open house. My room is slowly coming together, which is good, but needs to be ready to go in time for the open house.

It's time to head back to work and I am quite anxious, and I'm not the only one. I have 20-some students getting ready for their first experience in elementary school. I know their concerns, for the same ones troubled me as a child.

Will I make friends in my class?

Who will I sit by at lunch?

Who will I play with at recess?

Will my teacher like me?

A few weeks into the school year, though, nerves will subside. The kids and I will be in a comfortable routine  and learning a ton.

All I will be dealing with is getting used to the early wake-up call.

Screen-shot of my phone upon leaving the house:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

3.1 and Done!

Hello my friends! It's a lovely, albeit cloudy, Sunday in Minnesota and I finished my 5K.

It's the second one I've done, but the first one I actually enjoyed. The first was nearly a year ago, on a trail in a Minnesota state park. My friend won that race with flying colors, and informed us all that it was actually 3.3 miles, instead of the actual 5K length of 3.1. What!? They made me run farther? Ugh, we weren't so pleased...

This race, though, was great! I made a goal for myself to run at least the first whole mile, then could walk as needed. I ended up only walking during mile 2, which was a great accomplishment. It felt so good, and I feel as though I may have changed as a runner (er, jogger). While running in the past, I would set small goals for myself: I'm going to run for a half mile, walk for a quarter, then run another half for example. During the run, though, I'd get bored after a quarter mile and walk for a mile. I wasn't holding myself accountable.

Today, though? Today, I did it. I set goals and I accomplished them. I used landmarks, instead of distances. If I run through mile 1, I can walk whenever I please (check). If I make it to that lamppost/bridge/retaining wall, I can walk (check). Run the last 1.1 miles (check). Maybe, just maybe, I turned over a new leaf as a jogger.

It feels good to be done, and I am excited for the next race in September.

Here's a shot of my post-race nap with the puppy-boy (we had to be in the parking ramp by 6am...that's early for a teacher during the summer!):

Sunday, August 19, 2012

{recetas} Cucumber Dip

The garden is producing cucumbers like mad.

And I love it.

The husband and I had a party to head to tonight and were in charge of an appetizer. I figured my mother-in-law's cucumber dip would do the trick, especially since I needed to use up those cucumbers. Por supuesto, I changed a thing or two. In reality, I didn't have a recipe, only a recalled conversation on how to make cucumber dip.

Yes. It is that easy.

Honestly, though, summer would not be summer without it.

What you need:
  • Cucumbers (4 large, but you kind of have to judge by taste/consistency)
  • 2 packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
  • quarter cup water
What you do:
  • Wash, peel and chop your cucumbers. I used cucumbers from the garden, and sent my husband (he's such a gem) to the store halfway through making the dip because the dip needed a few more.
  • Put all of the chopped cucumbers in your stand mixer or in a bowl. Toss in the two packages of room-temperature cream cheese and mix. My dip was stiff. Maybe too chunky? So I added a quarter cup of water and turned the mixer on again (doesn't that thing make life easy?).
  • Add the teaspoon of salt, garlic powder and pepper. I also added a few twists from the garlic pepper grinder because it's fun. This part, of course, is all to taste. My mother-in-law doesn't like pepper, so she doesn't add that. I think it tastes better that way. I also add more garlic that she does. Everyone has different taste buds, right?

 Serve with tortilla or pita chips and enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I finally finally had some free time to check up on the raised garden beds. Normally, my husband gets out there at the perfect time and does all the picking (love) since he has been the one at home lately. Every once in awhile, though, I like to get out there and do some picking too. We made an okay haul, but we'll have vegetables coming out of our ears in a week or so (and I'm super excited!).

And, doesn't the hood of my car (The Rust Bucket) make a wonderful backdrop, even if the picture is a little dark?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Motivate Me!

Does anyone remember the band Good Charlotte? I believe I went to a concert of theirs in college, and probably had a really good time (live music is awesome, by the by). I digress.

Good Charlotte has a song named "The Motivation Proclamation" and I thought it would be a fabulous song to talk about in regards to my new motivation to work out. I had a quick listen, though, and realized that it wasn't necessarily the happiest song. I didn't write the song, so I do not know for sure what the writers were thinking, but it sounds like someone is depressed.

I'm not. At all. I love life, but I was looking for a connection to my new found motivation. Finalmente, I have found motivation to get out there and run. I don't know what it was, I don't know what did it, but I am ready to run.

My 5K is coming up (August 26th) and I am actually excited to continue training. Tuesday is weekly girls' night with a great group of girls I knew in high school, which is why I tried to finagle my training schedule to have my day of rest on Tuesdays. It has worked out thus far, but as I sat at my friend's house I thought about running (er, jogging).

Instead of looking forward to a day of rest (as I normally would have), I was itching to get out and run! Tomorrow's goal: run 1.25 miles, walk 1.75 miles.

Monday, August 13, 2012

{recetas} Homegrown Tomato Sauce

As mentioned before, my husband and I were up north for a week. Before we left, we looked at our tomato plants and realized that most of the tomatoes would be ready to go while we were away. My parents came to the rescue, once again.

We had them stop by our house to check on/pick the tomatoes on our 15 tomato plants. Needless to say, we came home to a bowl full of tomatoes.

It has been rainy today, and for some reason, rainy days mean spaghetti to me. Okay, it was probably the bowl of tomatoes that were screaming "spaghetti sauce!" I performed the infamous Google search (do I say that in every post?) to find a recipe for fresh tomatoes.

As usual, I found exactly what I was looking for over at Smitten Kitchen ... easily one of my favorite cooking blogs! She had the most perfect, most customizable recipe I could find. So I went with it.

This recipe was adapted from the Smitten Kitchen.

What you need:
  • about 4 pounds of tomatoes (they don't have to be pretty!)
  • quarter cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • half of a carrot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 hot pepper (couldn't tell you which kind, we found the pepper plant growing the garden while weeding)
  • 1 lb ground beef
What you do:
  • First, you have to peel the tomatoes. This isn't something I have ever done before. I was concerned that it would be really difficult (it wasn't). All you have to do is boil a pot of water, then make a cross in the bottom of the tomato. Put the tomatoes in the boiling water for half a minute, then take them out a rinse with cold water. Peel and discard the skin. Easy-peasy.
  • Depending on the size of your tomatoes, halve or quarter them. Remove and discard the seeds (this took the most time!). Because I don't care for super chunky tomato sauce, I blended them. I placed half of the tomatoes in the blender and blended on low for a minute or so. I removed those and added the rest of the tomatoes.
  • While the olive oil heats in a saucepan over medium heat, mince the carrot. Combine the carrot, garlic and onion in the olive oil and cook for a bit (5ish minutes).
  • Add the tomatoes to the carrots, garlic and onion and simmer on medium/low. 35 minutes is perfect.
  • While the sauce is simmering, brown the ground beef in a skillet. Drain off any excess fat/grease.
  • With about ten minutes left on the timer, add a half teaspoon of salt and a light sprinkling of basil to the sauce. Stir it up and allow to simmer a few more minutes, then add the ground beef.
  • Serve over spaghetti noodles and enjoy!

Please excuse the iPhone pictures...I left my camera at my in-laws' house. Whoops!

While I slaved away in the kitchen, Finn made sure to rest!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Exercise Update

I thought I'd give you all an update on my exercising/5K training.

I have registered for a local 5K and have exactly two weeks left to prepare. Since I was out of town last week, I didn't do any running. I did go on a few walks and took part in quite a few water sports, but no running (jogging).

I woke up early enough this morning to go for a run. Being that I'm new at this game, I decided running on a treadmill at the community center was the best idea. I would be able to track my time and my distance, since I don't have one of those fancy GPS runner's watches (yet?).

While getting reading this morning, I contemplated my goal for the day. I decided that a decent goal would be to complete, by either running or running and walking, 2 miles. I would judge how much of it I was to run after a few minutes of running, so I could gauge how I was feeling.

After all was said and done, I ran 1.25 miles without stopping and walked the rest! I was (and still am) pleased with myself. You see, I've always hated running without a purpose (for example, after a soccer ball), but I know it is the best way for me to get back into shape. So running I will do.

And after today's run? I felt amazing. Tired, yes. A little sore? Not too bad, but yes. Accomplished? Yes. Wonderful? Yes. Like I can do this 5K in two weeks? Yes.

If I can run a 5K without walking, I may have to buy myself a present. Shoes are a fabulous present!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

{recetas} Just Your (above) Average Hamburger

Last night, I made some really tasty hamburgers and I wanted to fill you in on the little secret I have.

Okay, there are 2 secrets.

  1. Lawry's Seasoned Salt. You don't need much, but it adds so much flavor!
  2. Worcestershire Sauce (that is a pain to type!). Again, not a lot. Just enough for extra moisture.

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • a few shakes of the following:
    • minced onion
    • Worcestershire sauce
    • Lawry's seasoned salt
    • garlic powder
The Steps:
  • Plop the ground beef into a bowl.
  • Shake a small amount of each of the other 4 ingredients (about half of your total amount) and mix it all up (I just use my hands).
  • Shake another small amount of each ingredient on the beef and mix it again.
  • Form the ground beef into patties. This is the step that I always mess up. My burgers end up looking a little bit like meatballs...too think, I guess.
  • Stick 'em on the grill until they're done (according to your preference!).
Serve the burgers as you usually do. I prefer to have mine sans-bun, with a pickle and a dash of ranch dressing on top. My husband has his with Cholula sauce, a tomato and some banana pepper.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Big...No, Huge Project

The husband and I have started a new project and I'm afraid that we may have bitten off more than we can chew.

Why you ask?

We're painting our house. The outside. All of it. By ourselves. Yikes!

Not surprisingly, we have come across a few bumps in the road. Well, mostly husband has because I have been nannying while he has done most of the prep work and painting. The girls and I stopped by the other day to make some super yummy Caprese Kabobs (recipe to come shortly!) and the husband was installing a new deadbolt on the side door to the garage. Wait...he was installing a new deadbolt on the *new* side door to the garage.

A new door?

In doing prep work, he took notes on all of the rotten wood that would need to be replaced before painting. There were a few boards along the back of the house, a piece of the frame on our deck door, and a piece of the frame on said garage door. But that piece of frame gave away a bit too easily and the husband realized that the entire door frame was rotten. Falling apart rotten. Luckily, he has become skilled at door replacements. He had that door up in an hour and a half.

He has been working for two weeks on the paint job now, and it is starting to look finished (must be because I was able to help all day yesterday?). Just kidding! It's mostly because he is driven and determined to finish soon.

Owning a home really is the never-ending project.