Monday, September 30, 2013

Autumn Preserves for the Pantry

The end of the summer doesn't necessarily mean the end of canning season. Autumn offers several opportunities to bring your canner back out--and as a result make a mess in your kitchen again!

For me, I decided just to make a few things that we could freeze easily without having to bust out the canner. Perhaps next summer and fall I will be more motivated to preserve more but being hugely pregnant has a way of zapping your energy :)

Fall is traditionally the harvest season and, thus, there are still several fruits and vegetables that can be grown and preserved during this time. Winter squash and pumpkin especially are great examples. Here are just a few:

-pickled beets
-apple and pumpkin butter
-green beans
-snap peas
-fall radish relish
-dried beans and dried southern peas
-pumpkin puree

beans for pickling, preserving, drying, or eating fresh!

Later in the summer we went to a local orchard and bought a large bag of delicious peaches and a variety of apples. I decided to freeze most of the peaches and apples in plastic baggies for making pies, dessert toppings, in yogurt, or as a fresh winter treat warmed up anytime.

Here's how I froze the peaches:

Step 1- wash peaches and working in batches, blanch for 30 seconds to 1 minute in boiling water

Step 2- transfer to ice water bath and when cool, peel skins off peaches.

Step 3- cut up or slice peaches, remove pits, and put in large bowl

Step 4- Cover all peaches with water and put equal parts of a teaspoon of lemon juice to cups of water to prevent browning. Some people like to add sugar to the peaches and/or water, but I left that out.

Step 5- after soaking a bit, transfer peaches to plastic freezer bags (I used quart sized), label with date, and place in freezer on flat surface. I'm going to try and use my peaches up within the next 4-5 months to hopefully avoid them getting freezer burn.

For apples, you can basically use the same process but you may want to layer the peeled apples onto cookie sheets first, freeze for an hour or two, and then put into plastic freezer bags so that they don't all stick together in one clump. We also used the apples to make a couple of jars of yummy apple butter in the crock pot that we put straight into the fridge for eating.

Crock Pot Apple Butter

Cinnamon Peach Jam

I reserved some of the peaches, especially the ones that were overripe or going bad, for making jam. I combined several recipes into one and decided on a small batch of cinnamon peach freezer jam without pectin. I used about a tablespoon of lemon juice instead with about 1 cup of sugar and a couple sprinkles of cinnamon to taste. You may also want to add a little bit of coarse salt.

Step 1- peel peaches (or blanch and peel) and place into food processor or blender to process until peaches are cut up into small bits. Place blended peaches in pot on stove.

Step 2- Add sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon and bring to boil, cooking for about 15 to 25 minutes or until jam will set up. You can test this by sticking a spoonful of the jam into the freezer for a few minutes and when taken out if it does not slide off of spoon too easily or fall off in drips it is done cooking.

Step 3- Ladle peach jam into clean jars, leaving about 1/4 to 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims and apply lids. Label tops of jars after cooling. Place into freezer or refrigerator if planning to use immediately. Peach jam can be refrigerated for up to 2 months!

What have you put up lately to have on hand for the winter? 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Twins' Nursery

We have finally finished our sweet little nursery for the twins!!

It's a good thing too, because two weeks ago I had a scary episode of preterm labor. I am currently resting at home and trying to "cook" these precious little ones for a while longer. I'm 31 weeks currently, and praying I can make it to 34 weeks or longer. Thanks to my mom and hubby for helping me finish up the nursery in case the babies make their entrance early!

I just love to go into this room and quietly sit, relax with a book, look around and imagine what it will be like with the babies here (a lot messier I'm sure, haha!).

In addition to being gender neutral, I wanted it to have a very calming feel. We went with a lot of neutrals more of a vintage/cottage theme more than anything else, with some playful touches. I think it fits in well with the rest of the house. I stole the curtains that were in the living room for the nursery because I had planned to make new living room curtains anyway, and I think they look so sweet in this room.

One of our decorating projects we included was a gallery wall of black and white family photos. All of the photos are of relatives or ancestors, some of themselves as children or babies, and we included myself and BJ in the mix too. I'm hoping that having this will help the babies to become familiar with the faces of their family, those already gone before us and still living.

We plan to paint each baby's name or initials on the little blue plaques on the wall above the cribs

We moved the vintage doorknob shelf (a DIY project detailed in this post) into the nursery and I think it works perfectly!

the baby shoes on top of the shelf were my mom's as a baby, and the ones hanging on the knob were mine :)

We ended up pushing the two cribs up against the wall opposite the main door to the hallway, since this is just about the only position they fit without taking up too much wall space.

An antique chest of drawers used for a changing table occupies one wall next to a large window. We simply put the changing pad on top and hung baskets on the walls above for holding diapers and supplies within easy reach. The top drawer of the dresser holds additional diapers, wipes, burp cloths, and supplies. A wire basket with burlap liner on the floor beside the dresser will serve as a hamper for dirty clothes or blankets. We will likely eventually move the diaper pail over here too.

The opposite wall of the changing chest is separated into two sections by a door into our master bedroom. One side is bumped out with the addition of a closet. The other side of the wall we have placed a vintage children's armoire, lamp, and basket of soft toys. The diaper bag hangs on a hook nearby for easy access.

Even though my husband has been using the closet in this room as his, we plan to store several things in it that we have no other place for, like the baby stroller, booster seat high chairs, toddler feeding supplies, and any other odds and ends. Some things like an activity gym mat and a bouncy seat we were actually able to store underneath the crib until we need them!

The children's armoire was originally my mom's as a baby, then mine, and used by my cousins for their kids. I repainted it using Annie Sloane Chalk Paint in Duck Egg Blue, then distressed the already painted original knobs. To read more about the makeover of this armoire, visit this post. It is wonderful for providing storage and space for hangup clothes (without taking extra room in the closet).

An upholstered armchair (also a glider) with ottoman sits in the corner along the wall adjacent to the hallway. We left the filing cabinet here as it had been when the room was an office simply because we have no where else to put it. Baskets on top of the filing cabinet hold play mats, blankets and supplies. We chose a soft chocolate brown toille for the armchair fabric before placing the order and a brass floor lamp ($12 Craigslist find!) provides targeted light for reading or late night feedings.

A bookshelf with baby books, basket of toys, a breastfeeding "station" basket, and other special mementos sits along this wall next to the chair. We placed a vintage mirror and a few more framed photos above the bookshelf. I decided to paint some of the bargain thrift store frames with the Annie Sloane Duck Egg Blue paint as well for old photographs.

And just a few more shots....

The two white crocheted blankets are very special- one was mine when I was a baby and the other was hand made by my Aunt Judy who has since passed away. It's nice to have something from her that I treasure and can pass down. 

A snapshot of the Bible verse I painted for some "wall art" above the closet door

I hope you enjoyed our little nursery tour! This post gives an overview of the nursery and in my next post I will expand upon all the details for you, including a list of sources where we purchased any items that were new. We are thrilled with how the nursery turned out, and hope it will be a place of comfort and joy for our little ones.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Day Trip of the Month: Beaufort, NC

I guess you could call it our "babymoon" my hubby and I enjoyed a long weekend over Labor Day in Beaufort near the NC coast. It was a great mini vacation for just the two of us--with great restaurants, shopping, beach time, and sightseeing.

Up here in North Carolina (as opposed to the tidewater town in the state south of us with the same name) Beaufort is pronounced "BOW-FURT" rather than "BE-U-FORT."

The Beaufort Historic Site

If you have not ever heard or been to Beaufort, NC-- you are in for a treat! It is the cutest little coastal historic town down east, really close to the Outer Banks. It's home to the North Carolina Maritime Museum featuring the Queen Anne's Revenge, Carrot Island, Fort Macon State Park, wonderful local restaurants, and a fabulous early historic district!

It has a very long history, founded in 1709, as North Carolina's 3rd oldest town! For more on Beaufort history:  click here

Here are some highlights of our trip:

downtown Front Street

This is a good example of what some call the "Beaufort House" type. It's essentially a two-and-a-half-story, frame house with an engaged two-tier porch. This house type was common in the nineteenth century in Beaufort, from the early 1800s to the last quarter of the nineteenth century when Victorian styles start to appear with more frequency. 

Here are some photos of the old Beaufort town cemetery, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The grave markers were extremely old for a North Carolina town.

a wooden marker

more wooden markers- headstone and footstone

one of my favorite houses we passed- a frame "story-and-a-jump" house with dormers, a wood shingle roof, and impressive brick end chimney. 

We had a wonderful time just the two of us on a relaxing weekend trip before babies :)