Friday, September 28, 2012

Return to Normalcy...Almost

It feels like ages since I last posted, even though its been just over a week. But in that week, I've had an opportunity to explore & learn our history, strengthen relationships, and discover friendships that are long lasting & those, on the other hand, that need to be let go. Each of these have caused me to step back and learn something about myself; who I am and how I want to live & follow Christ.

Cam & I found ourselves in Las Vegas to visit a friend who is getting married later this fall. Unfortunately we cannot attend his wedding so we felt like a visit was in order, so we went.

Not only did we have a chance to visit our friend, we also took advantage of the time away we had been given. We visited the Hoover Dam via tour bus (we had the BEST bus driver!!), explored the 'strip' and downtown, saw cirque de sole, watched our alma matter go from being an under-dog to becoming ranked 18 (go Oregon State!), had heart-felt conversations with family & friends, and got some much needed rest.

It was a blast! However those little life lessons even followed us there and hovered over us like a little cloud. We took that little cloud and pushed it aside though, and enjoyed ourselves immensely!

We left our garden during peak tomato time too! It was hard to know we had to pick as many as we could before we left to try to preserve them until we returned and little time to get it all done, but we proceeded. We were successful in our efforts & I have, so far, 50+ quarts of salsa! It's extremely delicious!!

Hopefully now I will have time to write. It feels good to get back even if it seems like we were just thrown back in!! I'm thankful no matter what!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Preserving Summer

It is this time of year when everything seems to ripen all at once! We are bombarded by large quantities of corn, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and anything else you've grown this year. Initially the euphoria is great; we are rejoicing in our blessings and the rewards of our hard work. But as this continues, it's easy to become overwhelmed by produce. Everything begins to pile up, seemingly, no matter how much you eat, and all of the sudden, you begin to fret over becoming wasteful.

Aside from sharing with family, friends, neighbors, & co-workers, there are many ways to prolong our enjoyment of this our summer bounty! These are a few of my favorites!

Canning: This has become my "go-to" for most of my fruit preservation. I've canned jam, chutneys, butters, and simple fruits, fruit in syrup, and even pie fillings. This year I'm canning salsa (and a LOT of it) and have done pasta sauce, tomatoes, & pickled green tomatoes! It's a lot of work, reluctantly, but when you are finished and step back and gaze at your handy work, it's hard not to look at it with some admiration!
My favorite book for canning has been the "Ball Blue-Book of Canning and Preserving". It has a bunch if recipes and step-by-step instructions on safe and proper canning technique! So far, the recipes don't disappoint either!! :-)

Freezing: This is perhaps the easiest and least time consuming of the three projects. When it comes to corn, I cut it from the cob, flash freeze it on a cookie tray, then pack it into a foodsaver bag and freeze. Should I crave confetti corn or chili with corn in the winter months, I will have some to enjoy!
Tomatoes are easy for me. I really enjoy a dish where you simply roast the tomatoes before adding feta cheese, garlic, lemon juice, and a protein. Since roasting enhances the tomato flavor, a simple freezing is sufficient. It works equally well for those recipes calling for tomatoes (I.e. soup, stew, chili, casseroles, grain salads, pastas...) as long as they are not consumed raw. I simply pack the whole tomatoes into freezer bags an freeze until needed! They also make great pasta sauce when you have time to babysit it!!
Green beans, I blanch in boiling water three minutes, drain, cool, and freeze in foodsaver bags.
Most things can be frozen for preservation for future use as long as they are not going to be consumed raw. Freezing tends to alter the texture of fruits & vegetables, so the winter months are phenomenal times to use and experiment with the flavors of your frozen goods.
The same also applies to fresh fruits! They are amazing in pies, cobblers, crisps, cakes, cookies, oatmeal, grilled or baked suppers, or simply eaten frozen (berries, bananas, cherries, & my favorite, grapes!). Freezing produce at the peak of ripeness allows us to enjoy them all year & experiment with their flavors and textures.

Drying: this is the newest of my favorite preservation methods. I don't have a food dehydrator so I have tried using my oven. For most, things need to dry at 95-135 degrees for 8-10 hrs. Unfortunately, my oven's lowest setting is 150 degrees F. so timing is becomes a guessing game. Using my oven, I've made dried peaches, plums, and gooseberries., successfully, but apples, bananas, pears, berries...would all be equally delicious!
To be honest, I am going to try my hand at using a food smoker/dehydrator for my tomatoes first thing in the morning. I'm a little nervous because the last time I attempted to make dried tomatoes, they were no good:-(. I believe I went past dried and simply burned them. The smoker/dehydrator is actually one belonging to my parents that they've had when the were first married...35 yrs. ago! She used it a lot and I'm excited to be able to continue on the tradition!! Since we have used it for smoked meats, I think tomatoes will be safe. Any residual smoke will add to the flavor of my dried heirloom tomatoes!!

This list is not extensive nor is it exclusive. Food preservation has been around since ancient times and has allowed the human race to survive in times of food scarcity & famine. There are many more sub-categories to the food preservation 'name' but the three mentioned above are those I use and believe in.

Whatever you choose to do with your plentiful crops, know that saving them for future use is such an achievable and feasible option. If you grew it or purchased it fresh, don't waste it! Research recipes and uses for your produce...the recipe combinations are limitless!

If you need inspiration, ask! I, and we, can add a few suggestions! If you have any ideas, techniques, or recipes, share them with us!!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Love, Lies, and Deception

As we travel through our journey in life, we sometimes hit potholes - those little moments when those around us and close to us try to deceive us, fool us, or just try to put us down. Unfortunately, it is so very easy to give in; believe what they say to us and accept it for reality. But by accepting what others are willing to 'give us', are we really living out the life God has intended for us?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A New & Unique Outdoor Activity

Just recently, Cam heard about something called 'geocaching'; an outdoor activity where you use GPS coordinates in order to find a hidden object. These are most commonly a container of some sort that houses enough room for visitors to deposit trinkets and sign a visitors log. He did the research on this, I only had limited second-hand information, but we were both so intrigued, we printed off a few geocache coordinates, borrowed a GPS, and set out on a new adventure.

It's pretty much a more adult version of a treasure hunt! There is no significant recognition given to those who find the cache, but it's the hunt and the find which is rewarding! We found several before we became so addicted to the 'thrill of the hunt' (for lack of a better phrase) that we got our own registered geocache name and GPS. Ever since, we've had so much fun exploring the areas around us, wherever we may be or visit!!

There is so much information out there on the subject, it's more popular than I originally thought, and it spans the globe. How awesome is that?!?! If you are ever fortunate to be able to visit another country, you can even find caches there!

To get started, go to and you will find all the information you need to get involved.

There are two levels of participation: you can either sign up for a free membership (the number of caches are limited), or you can become a premium member for about $35/ 2 yr. membership (which gives you access to all caches available).

To be quite honest, if you just want to try it out, the free membership is perfect. You actually have access to so many caches and for the novice, it's a perfect option. However, as you become more attracted and addicted to this treasure hunt (so-to-speak), as we have, you can sign up for a membership and gain access to ALL the hidden caches and can track all of your finds!

Both provide you with the option of user/group name and maps, coordinates, finder comments, and endless amounts of family (whatever that means for you...which could be only one, or two like Cam & I, or more...) fun!!!

In all reality, Cam and I are still considered to be newbies to the geocaching realm. We have found about 35-40 caches, which is just a drop of what is out there, and are so ready to experience more. However, life & financial limitations have prevented us, thus far, from pursuing more of them. But as we save, mature, and grow, hopefully we will have the opportunity to experience more of the world...especially the corners that are little known and off the beaten track!

We were fortunate enough to go camping again this weekend, not too far from home, and still be able to experience new things! We love any opportunity to explore and have come to agree that there is sooo much out there we haven't had the privilege to experience in out lifetime and now is the perfect time to take it in, no matter what!

On Saturday, in a very short hour, we found three caches just a mile or two from our very campsite. We took the dogs out and let them run while we hunted for the caches. When we found them, it was a very personal/couple experience to try to find a hidden 'gem'. We may not have gotten the most expensive tour of the area in which we went camping (remembering we are trying to be frugal) but we had a blast exploring new areas...and seeing a lot of beauty that would have gone otherwise unnoticed. So far we have been phenomenally over-come by what we've experienced through geocaching!

If geocaching sounds like it is up your alley, treasure hunting, you should most definitely give it a go! It is truly a lot of fun and a great time to bond with those you love!

Enjoy and share all you have never know what might impact those who read it...especially me! Can't wait to hear what you think and what what you've learned!!!

Are you already a member? If so, be on the look out for DamDwellers...we're searching far and wide for new caches! :-)


Friday, September 14, 2012

Garden Blessings

I have been so blessed with a productive garden season thus far...and so much goodness is still to come! I was extremely leery about the health of my ripening tomatoes when our nights began reaching 28 degrees, coating everything with a very thin layer of frost. I was not yet ready to begin covering my crops with blankets, so I began to keep a close watch on the ever falling temperatures and my garden plants.

Thankfully, the temperature has risen slightly, enough to get us out of the danger of frost. My cucumbers were the hardest hit by that light freeze. The leaves have curled and wilted, and the remainder of the blossoms it had put out have since fallen off. Everything else has come out of it without any lingering effects. So, this is some of what I was blessed with:

Picked a box & basket full of large beautiful heirloom tomatoes;

A large bundle of fresh corn;

Two large & very full baskets of my green grapes!

This bounty is such a blessing for my precious little family. We have enough to save up and nourish us for months to come! However, I wanted to pass some of this to those who need it. I've been passing out tomatoes to our neighbors...and everyone of them are excited to help us enjoy this precious gift. But it is more than food; our garden has brought our neighborhood closer. We talk more, wave more, & see more smiles. Who knew this garden I started this spring would provide so many blessings to so many people!

Has it been a good garden year for you as well? Share it, I'd love to hear!!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I have been very sidetracked these last several days with, well, life. Things that happen without warning or cause; they're thrust into outlives whether we're ready or not. They are painful moments, often heart & gut wrenching, and can make life feel unbearable.

But through all of this lately, I have found strength and comfort with and in Christ. When I feel like I can't, nor would I wish to accept the current circumstance and move on, I cling to the hope I still have in Jesus. He never promised a life of ease or perfection. No, matter-of-factly, he said our way WILL be rough. He knows it. He has prepared us somewhat for what we are to face.

Each experience is different and each situation requires a unique approach. So that's where I'm at. I feel low and burdened; finding sunshine, comforting, and positivity can be a chore. But I am holding on to this truth...everything will work out, & I will make it through, by the grace of God!

"For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to laugh..."
~Ecclesiastes 3:1-4~

Friday, September 7, 2012

All In A Glorious Days Work!

What a beautiful morning we had today! I couldn't help myself - the sun was out but the air was cool, no wind, but extremely pleasant - I wanted to get out & enjoy it! So today was my 'garden tending' day!

I pinched back all of my tomatoes sin my garden. Any of the new green branches that were just haphazardly growing outside their cages were cut back to help the plants focus on ripening what they have already produced. Cold weather is inching ever toward us & I want my tomatoes! I also spent a few moments picking two messes of green beans (green & burgundy beans), about seven cucumbers, the last of my kohlrabi, and a very large basket of tomatoes.

It felt so good to see all I had awaiting me when I stepped into my garden this morning. It is really the highlight of my days; nothing is much better for me than a morning spent in my garden!

May we all be able to take a moment each day, step back, & truly appreciate the simple things in our lives!


Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Sight For Sore Eyes!

Seeing how it is nearing the end of summer and the evenings are dipping back down to the low forties, I must's beginning to feel a lot like fall here in the high desert! The air smells cool and moist again and when the sun begins to fall behind the distant mountains, it cools down quickly. It saddens me to say but I feel none-the-less to be true.

A few weeks ago I took a moment to gaze upon my garden and see what I had yet to far as harvesting goes. I'm still waiting on corn and more tomatoes, the green beans, kohlrabi, zucchini, and winter squash are still producing. But as I try to see the winter ahead, I'm not so sure I will have enough to store up for the long, cold, and sometimes dreary frigid months ahead.

I know there are many farmers and families who religiously plant seasonal gardens; spring, summer, and fall gardens...I suppose winter gardens, when properly cared for, are also feasible. For me, however, I think I can only manage a fall garden (I get too cold in the winter ;-) So I decided to plant one this year. About two weeks ago, I planted another crop of peas, carrots, beets, spinach, Swiss chard, broccoli, and cabbage.

We have been having daytime highs in the upper 80's to low 90's and the nights have been dipping, unfortunately, down into the low 40's. What I planted for my 'fall' crop is beginning to show tiny signs of life. Their perfect green little cotyledons have emerged from the soft soil and are trying to establish themselves. Now, I am praying the weather remains good enough to give these tiny vegetable starts a fighting chance. Fall and winter, for that matter, will be upon us before I know it; I've got to make the most of what I have now! I just hope I'm not too late!

My greatest joy two weeks ago, however, came when I began to dig up the soil in my back garden. For three years I have nurtured, composted, fertilized, and cared for the back soil to make it 'garden worthy'. So when I put that shovel in the dry earth and turned it under, I was so excited to see all of the worms alive and flourishing there! The soil is becoming healthier and will hopefully be able to support my fall garden. :)

Have you had a fall or winter garden of your own? What things have you learned from it? Any advice or pointers would be so greatly appreciated! If you haven't yet, and want to give it a try, perhaps try growing a few carrots, spinach, or lettuces. Those crops for me, as long as they are past the really tender stage, are usually very hardy in the colder temperatures!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012


For Christmas last year my husband bought me the Old Farmer's Almanac. I've never actually sat down and read through it but I like to just randomly flip open one of the pages and just see what it has to say. Today, I came across this....

"If you find your cat snoring, you can expect foul weather!"
I just had to share this! True or not, it's part of our folklore and history. Keep your ears open, who might just be true!


For me, I am in desperate need of courage and comfort. As I searched, this is what I was led to...

God Is With Me

Monday, September 3, 2012

Simple "Gourmet" Dinner

When I first began dating my husband, he loved to impress me with his culinary skills. He was always introducing me to new foods, flavors, and countries cuisines. Just one of the many reasons I was enamored with him...I guess it holds true for women too; a way to a woman's heart is through her stomach! Hahah! In my case, it's true!

One of the very first date-night meals was this. I remember, he bought a new cookbook that day at the campus bookstore and invited me over because he found a recipe he couldn't wait to try. I jumped at the opportunity to have a meal prepared for me - or with my help - so I came over and we prepared this recipe together. It was so delicious and simple, we've been making every-so-often ever since! It takes me back to that date-night...not only good food but a new experience in my passionate cooking journey!

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did, and still do!