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A quiet weekend.

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This weekend, Jon is busy with New Leaders Council, a leadership program that I completed in 2009 (highly recommended), so I’ve been able to have a really nice quiet weekend just to do whatever I want to do. It’s especially nice after the last two weekends had us out of town.

I got in a run around the Lake, made orange/clementine marmalade, finally got around to printing & transferring some photos onto extra flour sack towels I’ve had since the holidays, filed away everything in the embarrassingly-full “To Be Filed” box, planned a dinner party for next week, and gotten our apartment nice and clean.

While making the marmalade, I decided that since I had the weekend free, I’d also try to make the leftover rind into candied citrus rind, a process that takes about 3 days (mostly hands-off waiting time). It’s currently drying in the oven – we’ll see how it turns out tomorrow. Below is the rind boiling in the simple syrup.

I’ve also gotten caught up on the last few episodes of Smash, the only show that I can really get away with watching without Jon (he’s not that into it). The rest of today will be either starting to re-read Hunger Games (I want to jog my memory before the midnight showing next Thursday!), researching a DSLR camera, planning/booking my alone vacation, or reading through a packet about preparing for emergencies and taking some of those next steps. Or none of that, or some combination of that. It’s the freakin’ weekend – I’ll do whatever feels good at the moment, right?

I definitely broke the chain of writing down what I eat, so I’ve got to get that going again. I decided that the next two weeks are the ones I’m going to try to leave work by 5 PM two weeks straight (as per my 30 by 30 list). I normally have at least one evening commitment each week, but the next two weeks are clear so it’s as good a time as any to try it out. I’m used to working until quite a bit later than that, though, so I’m interested to see what I’ll learn about myself/my work during these few weeks.

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A busy few months – lovin’ life.

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If you looked at my to-do list, you’d see in the “Personal” category that I’ve been meaning to blog about no less than 9 different adventures and topics for the past few months. But, as you might have noticed, life has just gotten in the way of all that and it hasn’t happened.

So instead of pretending that there’s a likely chance of me writing individual posts about all that we’ve been up to, I decided to spend time putting lots of pictures up for you to see and write a shorter post that includes more of a list of what we’ve been up to. Maybe I’m just not meant to be a traditional blogger. 🙂

So – check out lots of pictures here of our adventures, and here’s some quick descriptions of the fun:

  • We went Bioluminescent kayaking on the recommendation of Jeni Frudden, and it was really cool! Basically, there are organisms in the water at Tomales Bay that light up when disturbed, so if you are on the water at night you can literally make the water glow by moving your hand or paddle through it. Definitely one of those “you should do this once in your life” type of experiences.
  • In the “Putting Food in Jars” category, the following things have been made recently: apple butter and apple sauce while we were in Tahoe with Casey and Galen, apple pie filling made to give away as holiday gifts (with apples that we picked ourselves), three-citrus marmalade with Lynn and Marc, and roasted red pepper spread.
  • I’ve also gotten interested in making more homemade holiday gifts this year (I blame Pinterest), so I’ve so far made some lemon sugar hand scrub and started painting some kitchen towels.
  • We took a truly amazing trip to Big Sur to camp for the weekend with Steve and Sierra – a little hiking, a little cooking, a little waterfall viewing, a little reading, a little hanging out in a bar when it got rainy – it was perfect. The best part, I think we’d all agree, was when we went at midnight to the Esalen Institute to enjoy their natural hot spring pools that are right on the cliff overlooking the Pacific coast. The stars were gorgeous, and it was a very cool experience.
  • We went up for a final visit to Eatwell Farm for the chili party – made two different types of chili to bring home and freeze.
  • We’ve been planning for and saving for “Location TBD” international vacation to celebrate Jon’s grad school graduation in May 2012 (we’re also aware that we’re nearing the time in our lives when babies will be a reality, so we’re trying to enjoy big trips like this now before we take a few years to focus on little ones), and we’ve finalized our spot! We’re going to South Africa. We haven’t planned a single detail beyond that, but we will find some time during upcoming holiday days off to get crackin’ on some of that planning.
  • I’ve been twice to events hosted by Wine and Canvas – once with Melissa and once with Sierra – and had a really good time both times. I’m far from being a decent artist, so it’s nice that their staff make it easy to come up with something that looks OK.
  • Jon and I took our annual Auburn trip for the AU vs. Florida game (we won!) and had a really fantastic time. We rented a house in Opelika to stay at and tailgate from, and that turned out to be a great decision I think. It was a fun trip to get to see our friends and meet baby Patrick!
  • After several months of remodeling and construction, our apartment building finally has a really nice courtyard that we can use to host friends at so we celebrated it being completed by having an October BBQ that was really fun.
  • We spent a weekend in Tahoe with Casey and Galen where we did a little hanging out on the beach, made apple butter and apple sauce, grilled a really fantastic dinner, broke and then fixed the garbage disposal, and picked apples in Placierville on the way home.
  • The half-marathon training is going well so far – I’m actually heading out after this post is finished to run 7 miles (crossing my fingers that I avoid the rain). My biggest challenge continues to be boredom, which is compounded by my being the slowest runner in the world.
  • Our car sadly has neared the end of its life and has a bad transmission that we’re not interested in fixing again (it’s been rebuilt twice), so it’s time to say goodbye to the 96 Honda Accord. We spent a few weekends researching and buying a new one! We settled on a used 201o Kia Optima that we LOVE. It’s been one of my proudest moments – we’ve been saving for this car for a few years now and we were able to pay for it in cash and have no car payments. Cars just drive better when they’re paid off, don’t they?

So it’s been a busy and amazing few months – I’m loving the beginning of the holiday season and Christmas music!

A Week of Canning

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After arriving home from the tomato sauce party last Sunday, Jon and I were exhausted.  Needless to say that we didn’t make very much progress with the 15 or so bell peppers we brought home from the farm, nor the flat of strawberries or two bags of pickling cucumbers we bought at Pedrick’s on our way out of Dixon.

Monday night, our home just felt in disarray.  We weren’t fully unpacked from camping over the weekend, there were dishes on every surface in the kitchen, and we hadn’t been home to do the normal weekend things like laundry.  We made a long list of all the things necessary to get our lives back together and started tackling them together on Monday night.  We made major progress that night and had most of the list finished by Thursday night.  Some of those projects involved putting things in jars, of course.

One of the nights this week (I can’t even remember which), I broiled some tomatoes, the bell peppers and banana peppers brought home from the farm, some garlic, and some onions in the oven and then pureed them into a roasted pepper spread, which is based on this recipe (only changed because I had a bit more than the recipe calls for.)  I saved one jar for the fridge, and it’s really tasty on some crusty bread.

The broiled veggies.

The finished spread in jars.

My husband is such a big fan of the strawberry vanilla jam that we made earlier this summer.  This weekend, our friends spent some time talking about how it’s the only jam they ever want to make again because it’s so good.  I realized that we are down to only one jar, and that another batch before strawberry season was up was a good idea.

Strawberries macerating with vanilla beans – I cut them up on Sunday and made the jam on Tuesday night.

Simmering.

Finished jars.

We ended up eating some of this mixed up with whipped cream on Sunday night (a sort of strawberry fool) – I’m most proud that we didn’t have seconds.  It was good.

Saturday morning we spent at Rouge/Nick’s Crispy Tacos in San Francisco to watch the Auburn game with our Auburn family.  Let’s just say I’ll take the W any way I can get it.  When we got home, I intended to make pickles but instead ending up taking a 4-hour nap.  Must have been a busy work week.

Sunday morning I finally got my act in gear to make sandwich pickles.  I used the recipe from this book.

The spices waiting for their cucumbers and brine.

Cucumbers, just before brine is added.

Finished pickled.  Well, as finished as they get on the day you make them. 🙂  I’m excited to taste them in a few days!

Even More Tomatoes…

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Two weeks after our first Tomato Sauce Party at Eatwell Farm, we couldn’t resist going back to the farm for Round 2.  We got to the farm even before the official festivities began and got ourselves set up.  Steve and Sierra joined us again, and this time Melissa, Lauren, and Kaycee also drove up to join us.  I didn’t take as many pictures this time because 1) we had taken a lot the week before and 2) I had some serious tomato products to be producing.  We didn’t finish processing jars until after 11 PM, and we ended the day with over 60 jars of tomato sauce, salsa, heirloom bruschetta, bloody mary mix, and tomato juice.  It is going to be glorious to enjoy these fantastic tomatoes when the weather is cold and dreary.

Sauce on the left, salsa on the right.

Melissa having a fabulous time.

Colorful heirloom tomatoes, about to be turned into tasty bruschetta topping.

The trophy husband himself.

Kaycee enjoying Steve’s break from tomatoes.

Much of the products of the weekend on our kitchen table (where it unfortunately sat for a few days while I got my act together enough to label and store them).

Overall, I’d say that this year’s tomato parties were a great success.  We ended up with just under 100 jars of amazing organic tomato products, the only cost of which was the jars.  Thanks, Eatwell!  We are so proud to be members.

And on a random note, it was fun to get a text message from Sierra letting me know that a picture from our home was featured on Food in Jars last week.  These shelves have been a godsend this summer.

Mango and Plum Jams, Pesto, and Cherries in Wine

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After we left the farm last Sunday, we had to make our obligatory stop at Pedrick’s Produce, which is just down the road from Eatwell.  While there, I got tempted into way too much produce and ended up making several things in jars over the past week to use it all up.  Let’s be honest, though – that’s never a bad thing.

I grabbed a few extra pounds of green beans to turn into dilly beans:

As well as some mangoes for mango lime jam, which I mostly made because one of GO’s summer fellows, John, really likes it and he’s been doing a bang-up job.  I felt like he deserved a little jam love to show my appreciation:

I also have been wanting to make some plum jam, so I tried that out on Sunday as well:

I ended up making a few of the jars into vanilla plum jam, and I actually prefer this variation to the regular kind.

It was a busy weekend – almost 50 jars of food.  I’m pretty sure that blows any previous record of mine totally out of the water.

While we were at the farm, I was telling my friend Sierra about how much pesto I had from our farm drowning us in basil (never a bad thing!).  She reminded me what it would be like in February when I was out of pesto, and I realized that it would indeed be smart to make more.  Before we left the farm, I grabbed several bunches of basil to take with me and ended up making quite a bit more one night this week and freezing it.  I think we’ll be set for the year at this point.


And finally, we had some cherries that needed attention.  Cherry season seems to have come and gone, but Jon somehow brought home a few pounds of them from the grocery store last weekend.  We have been enjoying the few jars of cherries in red wine that we made a few weeks back, so we made several more jars of that this week.  I wanted to experiment with doing some in white wine (since I prefer whites to reds).  Interestingly enough, by the time the jars were filled it was impossible to tell between the white and red wines because the cherries added such a strong color.

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, and More Tomatoes

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Last weekend, Jon and I joined our  friends Steve, Sierra, and Allison to head up for Eatwell Farm’s annual Tomato Sauce Party. Eatwell is the farm that Jon and I get our CSA box from every other week – we love our boxes, and we especially love the events that Eatwell puts on throughout the year.  This is by far my favorite – we went last year, and I’ve been planning for and anticipating it ever since.

This event boasts thousands of pounds of amazing tomatoes, garlic, peppers, basil, and onion that about a hundred Eatwell members and their guests then turn into hundreds of jars of tomato products.

We decided to make four things at the party – tomato sauce, salsa, bruschetta, and whole canned tomatoes.  We started going around 11 AM and finished up our cooking somewhere just before dinnertime (7ish?).  Eatwell has a great garden that members can camp on overnight, so we stayed to enjoy the campfire and woke up the next morning to farm fresh eggs with amazing tortillas.  To say that I love going to these events is quite the understatement.

Below is a slideshow of the fun we had.  The best part? We’re going back for Tomato Sauce Party #2 next weekend!

Dilly Beans!

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This spring and summer, I’ve been putting at least a thing or two into jars most every weekend.  Perhaps I should have been blogging about these things for the past year, but alas, that is not the case.

For the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve been watching the prices of green beans at our Farmer’s Market to see if they might drop.  Unfortunately, they’ve stayed right at $3/lb for organic.  However, dilly beans could wait no longer.  These are one of the most popular things I’ve ever canned – our friends even ask us to bring them to parties.  We ran out about a month ago, and a dearth of dilly beans is totally unnecessary – so we took care of that little problem today.

Dilly beans are SO EASY.  You just drop some spices into sanitized jars (red pepper flakes, dill, garlic) and then fill them with green beans and cover with brine (a hot solution of 50% vinegar and 50% water, with 1 tbs kosher salt for every cup).  Process in boiling water for 10 minutes, and done.

Some photos from today’s adventures:

Jars, just before green beans got added.

Some of the delicious green beans.

Packed into jars, ready for processing.

Just for fun, I also made one jar of pickled yellow wax beans.

En route to being all sealed up.

It is so crazy to me how different the color of the beans is after they are processed (the processed ones are on the left).

And…the finished product.