Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our Pantry (and our first Resolution)

Kind of embarrassed to share here, especially since this is the after...cleaned up... version, but this is our pantry (well, one of them).  As I was going thru all the food in the cupboard to see how we could economize this month by using up things we already had (am I the only one who forgets what's in the back of the cupboard?) I was struck by how much canned, commercially produced food items we eat. 

 I have tried for years to eat (and feed our family) less processed foods....cereals with the most fiber, bread made with whole grains, organic chicken broth, lots of fresh local fruits and veggies.  And while these are all good things, we really want to do more. 
 We've been inspired by many of the simple living and sustainability blogs (sidebar) and feel that we need to make even more changes in how we live and eat.  

 Towards that end, we are resolving this year to cook more from scratch, can and freeze more from our garden, and by the end of the year be purchasing as little pre-packaged foods as possible.  The plan right now is to pick one item from our pantry or freezer every month and reproduce it from scratch... .from the garden when possible but at the very least from organic sources...and can/freeze it to use all year. At first it will be difficult to use home grown produce because we are not getting much besides lettuce out of our garden right now, but we'll see what we can come up with.

I canned turkey broth after our Christmas dinner, such a simple thing to do and yet I usually just throw the carcass away.  And after cooking it for 4 hours with onions, carrots, and celery, rather than throw out the meat and veggies after straining out the broth, I made dog food with it.  The only waste was the bones...pretty cool. 

Christmas Day Walk

Couldn't walk Rocky Hill this year because it was raining most of the day....would've been almost dangerously slippery and muddy up we waited till evening and took a stroll around town with the 4 (count 'em 4) dogs.  I'll try to post more pics of our wonderfully quiet Christmas day....but it'll probably be Valentines day before I get caught up.  I also have a few ideas on some 'resolutions' for our new year involving my Bible reading and our food choices....hopefully I can get something down before the weekend.  I have never been one to make New Years resolutions....not sure why...but this year we have some definite objectives for our farm project and I have some (lots of :) areas in my own life that need work.  It feels kind of right to set some goals.   Right now tho, I need to clean the kitchen and check on the progress of the fence Steve is 'moving' in the back yard to accomodate the future chicken coop....yipee yahoo!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas....

...from the Garvers.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


This is a perennial Christmas treat at our house, and hopefully an appreciated gift for our family and friends. The recipe is simple but it does take about a half an hour of stirring....well worth it.

Toffee with nuts

1 lb. butter
2 cups sugar
chocolate chips or other chocolate...melted
finely chopped nuts...walnuts, pecans or almonds

We didn't use organic butter for this recipe, it's rather expensive (and we make a lot of toffee) plus I'm fairly certain this can't be considered a health food either way. Melt butter over medium heat in a large pan....actually one with higher sides than I used is preferred to keep butter from splattering...add sugar.

Stirring pretty much constantly is suggested, tho more important towards the end than at the beginning. The toffee will burn if not kept moving.

Somewhere in the process the butter kind of weirdly separates and stays that way until just before the toffee is finished cooking.

I don't have a candy thermometer but it's pretty obvious when it comes back together and has changed color to a nice golden brown....

...and dropped into a glass of water hardens to a hard/crunchy consistency.

Pour toffee onto a greased cookie sheet (oil spray) and after a few minutes the candy can be scored with a sharp knife so it will break easier after cooling, but this step can be skipped.

Spread with melted chocolate.....

...and add nuts.

All wrapped up and ready to go!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I used to be pretty crafty....honest

Many (many) years ago some friends and I participated in several craft bazaars. I think I might have made a bit of money (more likely I broke even but could make quilts with the left-over material scraps ....and a barn with the wood :)

I like them, but I would trade them in an instant to get back the ruined dough ornaments that my kids made.....sigh.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Decorating the Christmas Tree


I guess since we didn't trim the tree until yesterday (at Sam's request....and when your 20 yr. old son still wants to participate in the family traditions....that's a very good thing) we'll just have to keep it up 'til Valentines for me.

Funny how putting up ornaments brings back such memories. Sadly, a lot of the kid-made ornaments have succumbed to the ravishes of time (most were made from salt dough and the cellar does not exactly provide archival conditions).
Every year we buy (ok, I buy) a new ornament....took us awhile to find one not made in China, but I love it (handmade in Peru). We try to remember where we were when we bought each ornament...several feature Disney scenes from our visits to the park.

One year my Mom bought each of the kids an ornament with their name on it...sort of. Wilson has always been a bit left out of the personalized items craze ...key chains, frames, and now ornaments prove that his parents stuck him with an odd name. So Grandma bought him the closest she could find and we were going to try to change it, but Wils decided he likes it the way it is....he's kind of odd that way himself. This year 'William' the Snowman adorns the top of the tree.

Maybe we should remove the hook?

Another year I was inspired by my brothers girlfriend who had made all these funky, silly, glittery ornaments out of dime-store toys. My favorites were the Rock-and-Roll 50's dolls ....

.... but just as intriguing was the glitter coated T-Rex....what's not to love here?

So, the kids and I took out our glue and glitter and plastic zoo animals and made ornaments as gifts. I thought they turned out great....not sure how the recipients of blue-sparkly rhinos felt....but at least we were fairly original.

This one was hand-made by Annie....last year. I'm so glad she has friends whose moms are wonderful about doing the crafty things I don't seem to do anymore....sigh.

And the tree wouldn't be complete without the stuffed gorilla ornament.

Ta Da!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

True Meaning of Christmas

My yearly myself :)

...And along the same vein....check out this

Saturday, December 20, 2008


We got our first freeze of the winter the night before last....always know it's going to be a cold one when we go to sleep by the sound of the wind machines in the orange orchards.
I don't protect my garden with plastic row covers, tho I am considering it. I know we could make them pretty inexpensively with PVC pipe and clear plastic sheeting, but so far we have had very little loss to cold weather. Everything looks droopy in the morning but happy and recovered by the sunny afternoon.

I can only remember one year, when the valley lost half it's citrus (97?), that we had anything actually die on us. But I wonder if we protected the plants we would get a bit bigger harvest. I'd like to try it next year with a few beds just to see. With brocolli, I have always worried more about the heat....they go to seed pretty quickly in the spring.

Since it started getting cold a few weeks ago the garden seems to have hardly grown at all, especially the lettuce. They look healthy and are able to breeze right thru the frosty nights, but seem to be in a state of suspended animation....waiting for a bit of prolonged sunshine.

These are my Christmas gifts or I probably wouldn't be worried at all. I guess more people will be getting homemade toffee instead of greens and dressing in their gift bags....darn.

omg...I just had a flashback to those people who gave apples on Halloween!

Friday, December 19, 2008

To Do List

Totally stealing this from my blog-buddie Julie....5 things to do before Thursday in honor of the 5 days till Christmas.....eek!

1. Decorate the tree...kind of pathetic that this is still on the 'to do' list but we've been trying to wait for everyone to be home so we can bond while we put on the ornaments. Two athletes and a working kid in college....not happenin' I just want it done!!!

2. Wrap gifts. Considering how few we bought this year, that won't take long :)

3. Make salad dressing, bread, and toffee for homemade gift bags....and pick lettuce out of garden to go with dressing.

4. Buy stocking stuffers...this year that'll be mostly candy and other little goodies.

5. Finish working on pics of Coach B's birthday....something I should have gotten done a month ago...sorry Daniela.

For my brother Mike

Maybe, if you're not sure how to spell should just go with Semper Fi.

Semper Fidelis....Always Faithful...USMC

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Too Funny....again!

Jose Cuervo Christmas Cookies

1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup or brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup nuts
2 cups of dried fruit
1 bottle Jose Cuervo Tequila

Sample the Cuervo to check quality. Take a large bowl,
check the Cuervo again, to be sure it is of the highest quality,
pour one level cup and drink.

Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter
in a large fluffy bowl.

Add one peastoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point
it's best to make sure the Cuervo is still ok, try another
cup just in case.

Turn off the mixerer thingy.

Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup
of dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit off the floor.

Mix on the turner.

If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaters just pry
it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift two cups of salt, or something. Who geeves
a sheet. Check the Jose Cuervo. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table.

Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can

Greash the oven.

Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall

Don't forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the
Cose Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the wishdasher.
Cherry Mistmas !

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Look who's still here...or rather, look who's here again! Our, 'We have since found a home for puppy' didn't work out and he's back....and I'm keeping there!

ps. he's almost doubled in size...yikes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Where's my Bailout?

I'm plagiarizing TWO bloggers today.....Susan Isaacs (again) and my hubby....but I couldn't not share this with the 3 people who read my blog :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Be's Christmas!

First day of shopping for Christmas gifts and I'm ready to be done with it....and actually this was just a little side trip that Mom and I made before her doctors appointment, not even a real shopping expedition. I was almost to the checkout counter at Bed, Bath and Beyond when I discovered that the jewelry stand I had picked up for my dear daughter was indeed Made in China....back on the shelf it went. Perusing the selection of crock-pots for son away at college (hey, it was on his list) and I decided to get him the wine glasses he asked for instead (made in of all places...the USA :) Kind of cheated there tho, cause grandma ended up buying him the Made in China crock-pot at Target (and in case you're wondering, he doesn't read my blog).

With our finances in the sad state they are, Christmas shopping should be a fairly easy task....not much money to spend, not much stuff we can buy. The situation has kind of forced us to think about what Christmas is truly all about and Steve and I are more than OK with that....hopefully the kids will be too. I'm getting out the puzzles and the games and we are going to make toffee and watch movies and have fun, dammit!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fun and Games at Grandmas...

...on Thanksgiving

One of our favorites....simple but still fun....and in case you're wondering, Nate won :)

Everyone loved the puppy.....

....even Scooby! Despite the fact that it appears he is being coerced in the photo, Scooby was very affectionate with the little guy; he was thrilled to have someone to play with :)

All this love is exhausting....

Football of course....

...and what family gathering would be complete without Big-Time wrestling?

Love to All! (tomorrow we'll talk food)