Sunday, August 19, 2012

windows...check!


That's it, the very last window to be replaced in our house!


The last of 21...that's right, since moving in last summer, we {well, mostly Dan} have taken out and replaced a total of 21 windows in the little blue house.

It's been quite the process.  We started with the back bedroom closet window {I know, kinda weird to have a window in the closet?!} figuring we could make some mistakes and they wouldn't be as noticeable.  Then we moved on to the kitchen - not only did we replace the windows, but we made them smaller!!  In total we installed 6 windows in the kitchen

{If you'll remember, we also moved the back door, so really, it's more like 22 windows!!}





We then took a nearly 8 month hiatus from window install before Dan tackled the 5 upstairs.   I said "window hiatus" not "remodeling hiatus" - we were working hard on the kitchen remodel during those 8 months!


That's 12.

Then at some point this spring/early summer Dan again tackled 5 windows!  This time he replaced all the windows in the living room one day at a time. {sorry, I was horrible about blogging this summer and have yet to share the living room photos! I WILL get there.  Promise!}  Not long after, we replaced the two in our bedroom and finally one of the spare bedroom windows.

That's 8 more, for a total of 20.


And today, after going to church and Sweetwater's Annual company picnic, he replaced the final window!!!  At this point, Dan's pretty much a pro!  Those first few windows in the kitchen took both of us nearly an entire day {sometimes more}...now, he is able to take out the old window and install the new in 1/2 a day.  All by himself.



How's that for DIY!?!?



Friday, August 17, 2012

storing up for winter // onions

Pick Onions.
Once the stalks of the onions start to dry and fall over they're ready to pick.  After picking, allow to sit outside to dry out for about two weeks.  I've read that you could just leave them on top of the dirt where you picked them, but we opted to put them out on our porch incase of rain {ha}.  If after two weeks the stalks have not completely dried out, those onions need to be used right away rather than stored as they have too much moisture and will start to rot if not used.

Trim onions
Cut the tops of the onions off about 1/2" to 1" above the bulb.  

Hang onions
Using an old stocking/pantyhose, place one onion in the foot of the pantyhose.  Then tie a not.  Continue this method until you've reached the top of the pantyhose or run out of onions. 
  
Hang onions.
While I'd love to display these beauties in my kitchen, it's recommended that they be stored in a cool dry place {preferably 35-40 degrees}.  We decided to hang ours in the basement above our dehumidifier to help keep them dry and cool.



{We used the same process to store our garlic.}  

We ended up with two strands of onions and two strands of garlic.  Now, all we have to do when in need of garlic or onions this winter is cut the bottom most one off {leaving the knot above it} and enjoy!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Meet Maggie.



Our new love.  When we lost Mei Mei a few months ago, another puppy was the last thing we thought we wanted.  But I mean, look at her!  How can you not love her?


She's 5 weeks old, so we have another 3 weeks until she's old enough to take away from her momma.  Looking forward to Labor Day weekend when she gets to come home!


We love that she's already got spunk!






Friday, August 10, 2012

storing up for winter // tips

Summer is filled with loads of fresh produce.  Whether you grow your own, visit a farmers market, or just shop at the grocery, there's something wonderful about the look, smell, and taste of fresh produce in the summertime. In order to savor those smells and flavors and enjoy them all year long, it's important to store them up for winter. 

Over the coming weeks, I'll be sharing a new series "Storing up for winter" which will focus on a different fruit/veggie each week and share the process(s) that I'm using to store up for winter.  

Before we get started, I thought I'd share a few tips that I've learned thus far in the process.
Growing up my parents always kept a large garden {read more about it here}  and I remember spending hours and hours helping mom snap beans, shuck corn, and chop cabbage all in preparation for winter storage.  I remember how long it took, how mom would be up until all hours of the night finishing a batch of canned beans.  The amount of work necessary to prepare and package this produce can seem a little intimidating.  Don't let this stop you...I guarantee it will totally be worth it in the end!!


1. Don't do it all at once.
You don't have to have loads of produce to store for winter.  Instead of 100 ears of corn, try a dozen.  The amount of produce sitting on your counter is usually the first thing to discourage you from pealing, chopping, blanching, bagging, or canning.  Start small and just go for it!  Every little bit is worth it when you go to the freezer in January to find a bag of frozen fresh veggies to add to dinner.



2. Do it all at once.
Okay, so I know I just said not to, but if you're going to make a mess, make it worth it.  I usually have a variety of produce from our CSA or the garden to put up at once so I set it all out on the table and designate the kitchen off limits to hubs for the evening and I just go to town.  It's a lot easier to make one big mess, one night a week, than to make a little mess each night and feel like I'm always cleaning up.


3. Save that water.
When freezing vegetables it's recommended that you blanch them before freezing.  So I fill up a large stockpot and boil my corn.  When it's done I use tongs to pull it out and throw in my tomatoes, when they're done, my peppers, zucchini, squash, etc.  Blanching is a very quick process {usually less than 5 minutes}, if I were to dump that water and start with fresh each time I blanched a new vegetable I'd be stuck in the kitchen all night.  

Take it one step further and use that water to make some rice or pasta, can/freeze it as vegetable stock, or throw it on your compost when cool.

5. Mix and match, or don't.
I freeze zucchini and squash together, one because they have similar flavors and are interchangeable in most recipes, and two it saves time in the process.  We freeze a mix of peppers and onions because we like them together and almost always use them together in recipes.  I also choose to can/freeze tomatoes by themselves because we like to use tomatoes in a variety of recipes and like to make our own fresh tomato sauce.  There is so much versatility in canning and freezing, but it's important to check with a reliable source for a recipe before canning as there are a number of foods that are not recommended for canning due to acidity.  One resource I use often is Ball canning recipes, they're a top selling canning jar brand and have tested and approved recipes.

4. Only save what you will eat.
If you're not going to eat it fresh, what makes you think you'll eat it in the winter?  Canning/Freezing is only recommended for storage for a year, so don't go overboard and can/freeze more than you can eat in the coming year.  This can take a couple of years to figure out.  For example, last summer when my parents gave us 100 ears of corn to freeze I thought they were crazy, there was no way we were going to be able to eat all of that over the coming year.  But we did, we finished the last bag the same week this year's fresh corn was ready.  

So try it, save what you can and keep track of what you eat more of and how fast you eat it, then next year adjust.



5. Get creative.
Because we are members of a CSA, we have little say in what we get in our share each week.  Some weeks we have an abundance of vegetables like zucchini and squash that we just can't seem to use up before the next week.  While making tomato sauce the other day I decided to throw some summer squash into the mix.  We're not big fans of summer squash, but we had it, and to be honest you can't even taste in over the tomatoes - but we get the added nutritional value.  Also, while prepping some freezer meals {see below}, we decided to mix some shredded zucchini into our bean and cheese burritos, again, you can't even taste it.


6. Know what you have, and use it!
Before you start to store up for winter, take inventory of what you have left over from the previous year.  If you have a ton of saurkraut from last year, you probably don't want to waste your time with making another batch this year.  Also, you should find a way to use up what was stored the previous year - meal planning anyone?

Start some sort of list or organizational system to keep track of what you have and add to/cross off as necessary.  We recently invested in a deep freeze to help with our winter storage and when loading it realized just how easy it would be to lose items in the freezer and forget about them completely.  We decided to start a list to keep on our refrigerator for easy reference.  We list items by category for easy reading and add/cross off as necessary.  This would make a great reference for those meal planners out there!



7. Make some meals.
One of the biggest excuses for not eating right is that it takes too much time.  Often after a long day of work, it seems easier to just grab take out on the way home rather than have to think about cooking dinner.  The reality is that though this make seem like the quicker option, having pre-made freezer meals or using your crockpot {best kitchen appliance investment to date} is actually just as quick and tastes a million times better {not to mention is better for you!}.  There are a million resources out there for recipes and ideas, but if you're looking for somewhere to start Once A Month Mom is a fantastic place.

Up next : storing onions


Thursday, August 9, 2012

living locally // CSA

Seriously, joining our local CSA, Graber Farms, was the best decision of the summer!


I mean look at this...


That's just one weeks worth!  And the best part, it was only $20!

That's...

3 ears of corn
3 cucumbers
3 zucchini
3 summer squash
6 bell peppers
2 onions
2 eggplants
1 watermelon
8 tomatoes
1 pint of green beans
a handful of cherry tomatoes



And the best part, it's all organic.  Oh did I mention, it was only $20!

In May we decided to sign up for the whole summer, 20 weeks.  From June to October we pick up a lovely box filled to the brim with produce just like this at the farmers' market.  Not only have we loved the fresh produce, but it's actually helped us store up a lot of great food for winter and save loads of cash at the grocery.


There is no way we could buy this amount of produce for just $20 each week!  And our grocery bill has gone way down as we only purchase staples like bread and milk.  This along with what produce we get in our little garden each week is more than enough for the two of us!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

DIY envelope pillow covers


When I found this fabric on sale at JoAnn's earlier this summer, I knew it was just the splash of color the living room needed.  The plan was to recover our existing Ikea Poang chair.  I decided to use it as inspiration for the whole room.  We took it along while searching for furniture and deciding on the stain for the bookcase.  However when I found these curtains, and they looked so good with the new couch and love seat, the fabric no longer looked right taking center stage.


Still in love with this fabric, I decided throw pillows would be the best way to add it to the room without going overboard.


I thought I'd give envelope pillow covers a try, and seriously, these are the easiest things to make.  Just three hems and they're good to go!  Definitely my go-to style of pillow from now on.

While at Ikea last, we picked up these throw pillows.


The tags said they were 20x20" and 24x16"...but I'd suggest measuring them as well just to be sure.  I also opted to make my covers a little smaller than the pillows so that the pillows "stuffed" into them.


After reading this tutorial, I decided on a large overlap.  I used the width of the fabric and cut the length to match the pillows.  


Then I hemed the ends 1/4".


Once the ends were hemmed, I folded the ends over to create the envelope and slid them around until the front of the pillow measured 20" (the length of the first pillow).  Then I pinned and hemmed.


Last step, stuff.   Because I made my pillow cover a little smaller than the pillows, this was a little difficult.


Once I finally got the pillow stuffed inside the cover, I had to fluff it.


And there you have it!!


So there's a sneak peak into the living room, which I promise to share soon!!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Family Photo Shoot // the Heironimi

It's always fun to hang out with the heironimi.  It's hard to believe it's been a year since I took their last family photos.  So much fun to see how little Avery has changed -  a little more challenging to shoot a 2 year old! 


Check out more of their photos here, on my new photography blog.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

living locally // farmers' market



This summer, I have really grown to love my local farmers' market.  My friend Heather and I would frequent this market last summer and I knew it'd become part of my routine this summer.  I'm there as soon as it opens each Wednesday at 5pm like clockwork.


Each week I head out to the farm {the fact that it's located at Salomon Farm Park makes it feel that much more authentic} to pick up our CSA share and browse the vendors.  This particular venue has limited space indoors, but over the past year has grown tremendously and now has a number of vendors set up along the sidewalk.  You can buy everything from syrup and honey, to bread and pies, there's even a gentleman from a local tea shop who sells loose-leaf teas.  There are loads of samples, and the people are so friendly - they're happy to answer any questions you might have.


My first stop each week is to pick up my CSA share from Rob {on the right} with Graber Farms.  Rob is great, he's friendly and informative - if he doesn't know the answer to a question, he knows who to call to get you the answer.  One week I asked for suggestions for how to cook summer squash and he called someone who talked to me for 15 minutes giving me oodles of ideas for a variety of produce that was in the box that week.  He gets to know his customers and even tosses in a little extra of those veggies you say you love so much - I often leave with an overflowing box!  {Because we opted for the full share this summer, I don't usually purchase other produce while at the market.  More on that next week.}

I love the community built around farmers' markets and the attitude of those who work and attend them.  Here in Fort Wayne we're blessed to have a market somewhere in the city nearly every day of the week.  

Sunday : East State Farm Market 12-4pm
Wednesday : Salomon Farms Park 5-8pm
Thursday : Georgetown Farmers' Market 4-7pm
Friday : Historic West Main St. 3-8pm

If you're from Fort Wayne and looking for more ways to "live locally" check out Live Local Fort Wayne.

Not from Fort Wayne, but looking for a farmers' market near you?  Check here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Senior Photo Shoot // Amanda

Amanda is another cousin of mine who will be a senior this coming year at Northrop High School.  I was honored to take her Senior photos last week.  We tried to beat the heat by taking these in the evening, and I think we lucked out with a lovely breeze, cooler temperatures, and beautiful light.   


Check out more of their photos here, on my new photography blog.