Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gotcha!

I'm always a little sensitive this time of year.  I feel a bit... umm... delicate. It seems like Jesse has always been a part of our family, but my heart remembers when he wasn't.  Just over 3 years ago, I was full-swing in the midst of grieving...grieving for the children I thought I'd never have.  And when I think back on those dark days, I can still feel the raw edges of doubt and pain that ruled my life then.  Doubt that I would ever fulfill my purpose.  Doubt that maybe I wasn't supposed to be a Mommy...and the heartbreak that ensued.  I was exhausted, shaken to the very core of my being.  I feel silly even thinking back on those days now because everything changed, shifted when we got the call from DSS that they had a little boy for us to foster.  And ten days later Jesse walked into our living room and into our lives.  And God revealed Himself in a way I never expected.  I am overwhelmed by His goodness!
Our first "family" photo - October 20, 2008
My life will never be the same!  Jesse is one of the most amazing blessings I've ever received.  I don't know why it shocks me how perfectly he fits in our family.  Or how he and Micah look so alike.  God really did know what He was doing!  So, you see, I might feel delicate right now, but I am also eternally grateful!  Grateful for a God who sees the whole picture - both mine and Jesse's.  Grateful that I can see why I had to walk through the valley, and come out the other side a Mommy.  Grateful that He sees it fit to let Jesse call me his Mommy.  And today, we celebrate Jesse's THIRD Gotcha Day!


We love you, Jesse!  So glad we gotcha!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Some exciting news is coming!

No, I'm not pregnant.  But here's a little hint...




Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pumpkin butter!!!

Have I mentioned how much I love pumpkin?!  And pumpkin butter has to be one of the best pumpkin-y things I've ever tasted!  YUM!!!

As of Friday, I was still trying to decide what I wanted to can this weekend, and then Jared brought home a bunch of little pie pumpkins that his work wasn't going to use for an art project.  We started processing the pumpkins after going to to the pumpkin patch on Saturday afternoon.  It was a family affair.

I've never made pumpkin pulp before.  Every time I've baked anything pumpkin, I've used the canned stuff.  So, Jesse helped scoop 1/2 of a pumpkin, and Micah just wanted to hold and sniff a pumpkin half, and take little licks of the inside when he thought we weren't looking.  (I don't think that he was too impressed with the taste. ha ha!)  Jared gutted the rest of the pumpkins.  We cut the pumpkins into chunks and lined them up on 2 large jelly roll pans.

We covered them with foil, then baked them at 375 degrees for just shy of 2 hours, and scooped out the pulp.  We blended the pulp until smooth using a hand blender.  Then, I looked for at a couple of recipes and tweaked one a bit to come up with my own (because I'm a rebel like that!).  16 hours in a crock pot, and a bit of canning, and we've got....

Pumpkin Butter (in a crock pot)
Ingredients:
9 pie pumpkins, cooked, pulp removed, and blended until smooth (see above) ***
Juice from 5 small lemons
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup apple cider
4 cups sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Directions:
Place half of the pumpkin pulp into a large crock pot with all of the other ingredients.  Make sure you have at least 2 inches of room at the top of the crock pot.  Blend with a hand blender until smooth.  Place the lid on top, but do not seal or close tightly.  You want the steam to escape.  Cook the pumpkin on high for 5-6 hours or until the pulp has halved in volume.  You can stir the pulp, but it's not necessary.  I let mine cook overnight.  Add the rest of the pulp, and continue to cook the pumpkin until it's thick and dark brownish-orange - approximately 5 more hours.  Use a hand blender to smooth out the mixture once more.

The USDA says that pumpkin cannot be safely canned because the acidity of pumpkins varies so much...so spoon hot pumpkin butter into jars that have been run through a dishwasher with "heated dry" or boiled in a pot of water for 10 minutes.  You want to have the pumpkin butter about the same temperature as the jars.  Top with lids.  Let jars cool on a towel-lined counter top.  Store pumpkin butter in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.  Makes approximately 12 pints of pumpkin butter.

There's not much that I wouldn't eat this yummy pumpkin-y goodness on.  So far, we've tried it on crackers, pretzels, apples slices, pumpkin pancakes, bagels with cream cheese...but I'm thinking that it would be pretty amazing on a cheesecake, or on muffins, or how about chocolate chip banana bread?  YUMMY!!!!  Happy canning!!!

***If making your own pumpkin pulp seems like too much work (it is a bit labor-intensive), you can always substitute a couple of cans of already prepared pumpkin pulp.  Just make sure it's not pumpkin pie filling.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

When we got home....

Camping was a blast, but the best part was coming home to have not one, but two packages for ME on our front porch.  I hardly ever get mail that isn't a bill, and I never get packages aside from my birthday.... and yet, there they were...

Package #1 was from my Mom.  I grew up on a sheep farm, and my very talented Mom has always used the wool from our sheep to spin, dye, and knit.  (We were the only weirdos in town that had a bunch of dead-headed flowers in the yard from from cutting the flowers off to use as dye.)  Later on, my sisters, Mom and I used the wool for needle felting.  But, it's difficult to make a living off of a product that is 100% hand-made.  For the first time ever, Mom decided that the most recent harvest of wool was to be processed and made into yarn.  She still dyes the yarn by hand, but at least she's sparing the flowers this time.  Let me just tell you that it's the most gorgeous yarn you've ever seen, and I am the overjoyed owner of 3 skeins of it - natural white, gray, and hand-dyed blue.  (I am practically giddy!!!!)

Gorgeous, right?!
The second package was from my Mother-in-law, and inside of it was two dozen Weck canning jars!  (Again, giddy!)  I love making jam and "putting up" peaches every year, but the last 2 years I've been a bit busy (on bed rest with Bean, and then chasing after my one-year-old).  I am afraid that I might have missed the best produce of the Summer, but these jars are nothing short of inspiring!  Their vintage/modern shape, all-glass lids, and little rubber gaskets, have me practically chomping at the bit to can SOMETHING!!!  Aren't they pretty?!
Yes.  I am a big dork, and the first thing I did was take them out of the box, line them up, and admire them. 
Like I said, I'm a dork.  
So, this weekend, on top of FINALLY finishing the mountain of post-camping laundry, I am on a quest to find the perfect knitting project for my new yarn, and something to put up.  Any suggestions?!

Oh, and if you want a bit of this awesome yarn for yourself, just contact my Mom via her etsy site.  She should be posting some yarn soon!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Into the woods...

With most summer days here reaching over 90 degrees with 100% humidity, we welcome Fall, and cooler temperatures, with open arms! We can finally venture outside without sweating through our t-shirts, and having to listen to incessant whining about how hot it is from our very heat-intolerant 5-year-old!  (poor thing!)  But...I have to tell you... I am not really what you'd refer to as an "outdoorsy type".  I would much rather stay in a nice hotel, with my own bathroom and a hot shower.  I don't really like getting dirty, and I hate bugs because I always end up getting eaten alive.  And if I'm going "camping" I'd much prefer camping the way my in-laws do it - in a RV.  Ha!  But until we can work an RV into the budget, we will stay in a tent because my Jesse just loves camping.  And this time around, I was really excited to collect my boys under one tented roof, and find some adventure in the woods.  And we definitely found some adventure!  We ventured into the "wild" of Jekyll Island, for one of the more memorable family times with my little ones.  And despite, colder-than-expected temperatures, a really grumpy Jesse, extremely loud quarreling raccoons at 3:00 am, a deflated air mattress, a broken camp stove, forgotten groceries and can opener, and attempting to pack 2 adults, five-year-old, toddler, and 2 dogs onto the only remaining queen-sized air mattress, we had a great time together.

Located smack-dab between Savannah and Jacksonville, Jekyll Island is an awesome place to visit!  It has a little bit of fun for everyone in the family - gorgeous beaches, miles of paved biking trails, gigantic, sprawling hundreds-of-years-old live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, the old plantation home made of tabby, Horton House, and a beautiful historic district, that was once owned by the richest people in the world.  And it was just so nice being able to enjoy all of it with my boys!
Micah eating a pre-breakfast muffin while Daddy went to get replacement eggs for the ones Mommy forgot at home. 


Cooking bacon on our tiny camp stove since the Coleman stove was  busted.
Brothers chilling in the wagon, after Jesse finally got over his case of the grumps.
My boys at the Horton House

Jesse showing us how to jump
Swinging with Bean
The squirrel who ate all of Jared's Chex Mix.  Poor Jared.
This is when he decided he loves camping.
Micah likes chilling at the camp site
Our home camp
Wagon walk with Daddy
Roasting marshmallows 
Micah likes S'mores!

and we all loved camping!!!