Rose Petal Jelly

One of the things I enjoy experimenting with in the summer is various types of jams and jellies. My favorite experiment was Wild Violet Jelly, which I posted about over 4 years ago! I’ve also made Dandelion Jelly, Apricot Pineapple Jam, Wineberry Jelly, and a whole host of others. Later today I plan to make Blackberry Jelly. My latest and greatest is this…..

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Rose Petal Jelly. Pretty cool, eh?

It sounds rather sophisticated, but is really pretty easy to make, and not very time consuming. I’m not a sophisticated gal, so it suited me just fine. The recipe I will share made about 7 jars of jelly.

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These are the ingredients I used:

@6 cups rose petals

4 cups water

1 TB lemon juice

1 box powdered pectin

5 1/2 cups sugar

Here is the process I followed:

Pick approximately 6 cups of rose petals. Lightly  rinse and place in a pot with a quart of water. Bring to a low boil and allow to bubble for maybe two minutes, then turn off the heat. Allow some time (maybe 20 minutes) for the rose petals to infuse the water. Strain off the rose petals and use the remaining rose water for the jelly.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, whisk the rose water with a box of powdered pectin. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice. (In a separate bowl, measure out 5 1/2 cups of sugar.) Bring your pot to a rolling boil, then dump in the sugar, stirring well as you add it. Make sure sugar is completely mixed in! Allow to boil for one minute, then remove from heat.

Have a separate pot of warm water ready for processing the jars. Ladle jelly mixture into jelly jars, leaving maybe 1/4″ of head space, then place new lids on with a band. Place into the pot with water. Bring to a low boil and allow to process for 5 minutes. Using a jar lifter, pull out of the water and allow to sit for 24 hours. Enjoy your beautiful jelly!

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40 Bags in 40 Days: Week 1 Update

Today I am updating you all on how my “40 Bags in 40 Days” challenge is going.

Seven days have passed since I first posted about this.

So, how’d I do? Did I keep it up or did I  fall off of the decluttering wagon?

Well….so far I have rounded up 6 big trash bags full of stuff to pitch and 3 big boxes of items to donate. It feels great.

I’m glad that I did give myself grace as far as one area a day, because there were two days where I just didn’t have the time to tackle it. However, I was able to make up several areas in one day where I did have the time & energy to purge things.

One mistake I’ve made is trying to do this one day when the kids were here to see what was being taken out….not good. Especially when I hit their game shelving area. Suddenly a penguin game that I thought they were done with was the best thing ever and literally made one kid cry. I caved and let it come back in the house where they played with it for the next hour. Everything else left the house.

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Areas I have purged so far:

Kids art/craft cabinet

Cookbooks

China cabinet

Tupperware

Pantry

Downstairs bathroom

Medicine closet/toiletries

Coat closet/Pegs

Game shelf

Pots/Pans/Bakeware

Kitchen countertops

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Laundry Closet

Game plan for this coming week:

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Master bedroom closet

Under the bed

Living room bookshelves

Fabric/sewing area

Our dressers

Upstairs hall closet

I’ll check back in another week to let you know how it has progressed.

So far so good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

40 Bags in 40 Days

Okay friends. I’ve never officially really done anything for Lent in the past.

I primarily grew up in a Mennonite church and Lent was never something that was mentioned much or really observed. Sure, we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection and all ON Easter, but never had a big focus on the days leading up to Easter. Though this is not a super spiritual post today, I began a challenge that does coincide with the Lenten season.

40 bags in 40 days. I’m sure you’ve read of others who have done this in past years. Basically it’s a challenge to intentionally declutter your home in a set time period.

The basic premise is this–spend a little bit of time each day decluttering one area of your home. The goal is to rid your home of at least one bag of stuff a day. Do this for forty days. This may be stuff that you choose to trash, donate, or whatever. Just get it out of your house!

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I did start already this week when I had some time at home with no kids around. I tackled a couple of little areas in one day, then made myself a list of other areas to check off on the other days. I had a giant trash bag that I was able to dispose of and a box of items to donate. Since the kitchen is such a big central part of our home, that’s where I started first. A couple of days in and there is already a visible difference!

It’s such a great feeling to get rid of stuff, isn’t it? Whenever I’ve purged in the past, I can honestly say I’ve never missed an item that I’ve gotten rid of. Not even once. I’ve challenged myself for forty days, but am giving myself a little grace for days where there isn’t much time. Perhaps I’ll tackle several areas in one day to make up for it, but the goal is to hit each area and rid our home of at least 40 bags worth of stuff. I don’t think it will be hard.

Stay tuned–I plan to do several updates as I go! I may have a lot of trash every week and will have some trips to the thrift store drop-off. Wish me luck in my 40 bag challenge!

Here’s what I’ve done so far and plan to tackle this week:

Pantry-done!

Kids art/craft cabinet-done!

Kitchen Counter top clutter-done!

Tupperware cabinet

Other kitchen cabinets

Pots/Pans/Bakeware

China cupboard & cookbooks

Fridge

Laundry Closet

Toiletries/Medicine closet

 

 

 

What I’m Into: March 2015

Hey y’all.

I am starting a new kind of series here. Every month I plan to share a “What I’m Into” post.

It can be books, TV series, food, or whatever I’m “into” that particular month.

I enjoy these on other people’s blogs, so hey, why not give it a try here? I may also include things that my family overall is into as well.

For March of 2015, this is what I’m into:

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Grantchester. This is a new British series recently put on PBS. It always includes a mystery solved by a detective with an unlikely partner–a country vicar. Good script, good story line, and good characters. James Norton (pictured above) is the lead character and quite the handsome fellow. Need I say more? Nope, didn’t think so;)

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Cornelia Funke books. I read Inkheart a couple years ago, but now I am reading Inkspell. Yes, they are chapter books for probably later elementary to middle schoolers, but I enjoy them.

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Soups and stews. I could eat soup pretty much every day no matter what the season, but have been making lots of them these last months. My go-to dinner option is to make a soup or stew with either bread, biscuits, or some of my skillet cornbread.

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As a family, we are currently obsessed with the series “How the States Got Their Shapes.” We discovered it on Netflix last month and love it! This is a great show for learning all kinds of US history and geography, but it is also just plain interesting.

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Yarn. This winter I have done a lot of knitting and crochet projects. Currently I am finishing up a crochet tank top that I *think* (fingers crossed) will be cute for summer. I’ll have to let you know how it turns out.

Breathe by Priscilla Shirer. I have just begun leading this new Bible study series with my ladies from church. It addresses the issue of creating margin in one’s life, the Sabbath, and not being a slave to busyness. A blog post just addressing this may be impending, but I’ll see what all I learn from the study first. I believe this is quite a timely issue for today’s culture, don’t you think?

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Lastly, our family has been poring over the latest Burpee catalog for the last couple of months. It is extremely dog-eared from being looked at and pages marked with possible things to plant this year.

We are SO ready for spring!!!

Peasant Bread

Can bread be beautiful?

Yes, it absolutely can!

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This is a gorgeous loaf that we made yesterday. Hearty and rustic with just the right amount of crust. So, so good…

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My typical “go to” bread recipe is a honey wheat that I make about once a week.

This particular recipe, however, is one I found in an international cookbook.

It is entitled “Slavic Farmer’s Bread.”

Here’s the recipe we used, with a little extra somethin’ somethin’ added in for texture:

*2 Packs active dry yeast

*2 C warm water

*1 tsp salt

*Approximately  5 1/2-6 C bread flour

*1/3 C butter, cut into little pieces

*1/4-1/2 C wheat bran (Shhh…our secret ingredient!)

Dissolve yeast in a bowl with warm water.

In a separate large bowl, mix salt with 4 C of the bread flour and the wheat bran. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until it is a crumbly mixture. Add yeast mixture in and stir by hand or in a stand mixer until flour is nice and moist. Work in 1 more cup of flour to form a stiff dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Add a little more flour to prevent sticking as you go.

Place in a greased bowl and flip to grease the top as well. Cover and allow to rise in a warm location for about an hour to an hour and a half.

Grease a baking sheet. Punch down dough and knead a little longer. Shape into a round or oval loaf and place on the baking sheet. Cover and allow to rise for about another 45 minutes. Loaf should about double in size during this time! Preheat oven to 400 F.

Cut a 1/2″ deep cross into the top of the loaf. Brush loaf with warm water. Bake for 25 minutes at 400, then reduce to 350 F and bake about 15 more minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.

The nice crusty underside of the loaf.
The nice crusty underside of the loaf.

Slice and enjoy!

Note: This makes one giant loaf of bread. When I make it again I am going to try dividing it into 2 smaller round loaves and figure out the baking times. Also, what we didn’t eat I stored in a paper bag overnight and it was just as wonderfully crusty this morning.

Peanut Butter Monster Cookies

We go through tons of peanut butter in our house. I am seriously considering buying those giant gallon-sized containers of it because it disappears so quickly. My main PB consumer is Daniel, our oldest son who just turned 13. He eats peanut butter on EVERYTHING, even really weird stuff that kind of grosses me out**. So, for his birthday I made these cookies in lieu of cake this year.

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Imagine your basic Monster cookies (which I love just a little too much) with Reeses Pieces instead of M & M’s.

Peanut butter cookie dough with chocolate and peanut butter pieces added in.

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Yup, it’s good stuff.

These got gobbled up pretty fast, so I guess they were well liked.  I may have had one actual baked cookie out of the batch, but I can testify that the cookie dough was awfully tasty.

Here’s the recipe for these guys:

2 cups flour

2 1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup softened butter

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup peanut butter chips

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup Reese’s Pieces

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Chill dough for at least 1/2 hour. Bake at 350 F for 12-15 minutes.

**Moms–Do not, I repeat Do NOT watch a 12 to 13 year old boy eat pretty much anything. You will quite possibly be disgusted and nauseated. Yes, make your kids great food and love them to bits, but be ready to turn away when they are ready to actually eat/inhale it. Consider yourself warned.

Once a Month Grocery Shopping: An Update

Do you hear that giant sucking sound? Perhaps your house makes a strange noise like mine does. It comes from the vicinity of the fridge and pantry area. It is especially loud first thing in the morning and in the evening. It is the sound of food being consumed at a rather alarming rate by children whose appetites are growing exponentially. Groceries are disappearing at that same rate and a cupboard that is overflowing one day can be wiped out with only a trail of crumbs to tell the tale by the next.

This is one of those articles that I really should have written awhile ago. You see, I did a short, 2-part series almost a year and a half ago on how I do once a month grocery shopping. (You can see my original posts from October 2012 here and also here) Anyone who read them may have wondered if I was able to continue doing it, or if I’ve made any tweaks or changes to how I go about it. Today I hope to answer those questions for you.

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So, have I continued to do Once a Month grocery shopping?

Yes. Sorta. I still try to buy the bulk of what we use in one big trip. Usually I have a hugely overflowing cart and multiple things stuffed in the under portion of the cart as well. By the last aisle it takes a lot of muscle and good steering abilities to get that cart around a corner and down the home stretch. I buy a lot from a local bent and dent store and then some other things on my list on the way home at another store. This trip typically covers a lot of our basic staples that we use in a month. I thought I had a really good idea of what we go through as a family and was doing pretty darn well for a long time. However, I’m not sure what happened this past school year, but now I’m not so great at predicting amounts of things. Some of it I attribute to the fact that my kids are just growing like crazy and I now have several that eat just about like adults. The other thing that has changed is now my littlest guys are in school all day and I have to pack their lunches as well. I do try to cram as much as I can into that one trip and have one (and lately more like two) in-between trips to pick up what is missing or milk and produce. With summer veggies and fruits coming into season hopefully soon, that should remedy this just a tad bit. Of course then my kids will be here all day and the dynamics will be somewhat different for a couple months again.

What have I changed or need to change?

I haven’t changed the basics of how I go about planning for a grocery trip. I still need to get a grip on what we go through now that a year and a half has passed. Soon I will have one teenage boy in the house, 2 tweens, and 2 seven year olds that seem to be going through a growth spurt. Oh yeah, and my husband and myself. The amount I buy has obviously gone up and so have grocery prices! Holy schmoly! That’s one for another day, but we are definitely spending a bit more than we once did. Perhaps I need to do a running tally again of how many staples we consume in a month (check out where I did this before here). I think that would be really practical and helpful.

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Would I still recommend the once a month shopping?

Absolutely. I really believe that overall it really does save time and money. If you haven’t tried it yet, read my past articles on it and get a game plan in place. There is a learning curve involved and as I can testify to, family needs change with the years. Maybe try out a twice a month plan and go with that for starters.

Thanks for tuning in and if you try this, let me know how it works for you!

Wild Violet Jelly

This is a little gem from my archives, posted over two years ago!

For some reason this is probably one of my favorites. I’m not sure why, it just is.

I was reminded of it a couple weeks ago when my kids were reminiscing about how I made them pick all of those little purple flowers out of our yard. Then they asked if we could make it again sometime.

Why not? We have a gazillion of these in our yard and pretty much any other grassy area right now. (I’m actually doing a similar experiment with dandelions at the moment. Can’t wait to see the results, I’ll let you know if it turns out.)

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Is this not a beautiful sight?

Seriously, this may be the prettiest jelly I’ve ever made.

What gives it that gorgeous color? Wild violets, straight out of my backyard.

As my little guys have now named it, “flower jelly.”

I stumbled across the recipe for it on another blog and had to at least try it once.

Luckily I had lots of helpers to pick the violets for me.

This is Andrew, my 3rd grader. He was by far the most diligent of my little pickers and also helped to separate all the blooms and stems. The kids were all pretty into helping though. So, if you have any crazy little projects like this, I would be glad to hire them out! Just kidding. Sorta. (They’re also great corn huskers and pea/lima bean shellers.)

Anyway, after they had bunches of violets picked, this is the recipe I used to make the jelly:

2-3 Cups Violets

Juice of 1 Lemon

2 1/2 C Boiling Water

3 1/2 C Sugar

1 Package Sure Jell

Pick flowers and separate the blooms from the stems. In a jar, place the blooms and pour the 2 1/2 C boiling water over them. This will help to make an infuson. Allow to infuse until the water color is a dark blue/purple. (I even pushed the blooms around to help with this.)

Once you are satisfied with the color (it doesn’t take very long), strain and add the lemon juice to the liquid. I wish I had taken a picture of this step, for this is when it changes into such a brilliant color! Pour all liquid into a heavy pan and turn on high heat. Add the package of Sure Jell. Bring to a rolling boil and add in the sugar. Bring to a boil again, allow to boil for @1 minute, them remove from heat. Pour into jelly jars and process for 5 minutes. Allow to set for 24 hours. Enjoy!

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the taste. If you are not too weirded out by eating “flower jelly,” it really does taste fine. I have to admit that I was a little nervous–was it going to actually taste good? Or gross? (Almost all of my jelly-making experience has been with berry-based ones.) Well, we tried some with our Easter breakfast and the closest thing I can compare it to is a light grape-y flavor. Nothing strong, just a light, pleasant flavor.

Wouldn’t this make a pretty little gift as well?

Hmmm….I may have to send my little workers out with their baskets to pick me another batch.

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

Finger-licking good and healthy to boot.

That’s exactly the type of snack these little bars are.

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They are honey-sweetened and feature peanut butter, dark chocolate, and coconut.

Oh yeah, and oatmeal too.

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See? Healthy and good. And maybe a little bit addictive.

Perfect for a little snack to accompany your coffee or a sweet treat to put in a lunchbox.

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In addition to being healthy, this is a no-bake snack, so it’s easy to make a full pan of these without even turning on your oven.

I don’t make these THAT often, but when I do they’re usually gone by the second day.

Trust me, it’s good stuff.

Here’s the recipe if you’re interested in whipping some up for your family:

1 C peanut butter
1/2 C honey
1/2 C coconut oil
2 C rolled oats
1 C flaked coconut
1/2 C nuts or dried fruit
1 1/2 C dark chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Melt the first three ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan. Add in the rest and stir until chocolate is melted. Press into a 9″x13″ pan and chill for a few hours. Cut into bars.