Friday, August 27, 2010

What To Do With 4 Bushels of Peaches

Wonder if I had lost my mind, that's what!! Susannah and I made the trip on a Friday, driving 2 hours each way, to pick up peaches for myself and a friend. Thankfully my sister lives probably all of 5 minutes from the orchard so we had lunch with her, and then when everything took much longer than I anticipated, we were able to stop by her house again so I could feed Susannah before we headed back home. The bed of Daniel's truck was full of boxes of peaches!

I wish I had taken a picture of my kitchen floor crammed full with the boxes of peaches. Instead I have a picture of this beauty:
The peaches were enormous this year. I guess the weather must've been just perfect, because quite a few of them were as large as the one I'm holding in my hand. No puny, shipped across the nation, grocery store peaches here!

So what did I do with all those peaches besides wondering if I'd lost my mind? I canned peaches and canned peaches and canned peaches. That's what. Here is the finished product, all 72 quarts (maybe it's 73?).
I only had 1 jar crack (I'm pretty sure it had a hairline crack to start with), and every single jar sealed! I was so happy about that!

I also canned 2 canners (14 jars) of peach pie (or cobbler or crisp :) ) filling.
And made pies to put in the freezer to pull out later and bake - they taste like a fresh peach pie that way! Here is the big batch of pie dough (w/out the water) for 7 pies. (I like my big bowl!)And here's the peaches for said pies.And here's the pies freezing! (I ended up rolling the dough thick, so I had 6 pies + leftover dough, and I baked one of the pies to enjoy right away.)Once they were frozen solid, we took them out of the pie plates, wrapped each one in 2 layers of plastic wrap, then into a plastic bag marked with which pie plate it came out of (so I can put it back in that same one to bake for the right fit), and then stacked them up in the freezer. It is very important to remember to line the pie plates before you make the pie! Last time I forgot, and all my pie plates were in the freezer until I started baking the pies :P

And made "Peach Caskets" - basically peach tarts. I used my Pampered Chef Press'n'Seal, leftover pie dough, and pie filling with small-diced peaches and I made it a little thicker so it wouldn't run as much.
After the Peach Caskets were frozen (unbaked), I put each one in a sandwich baggie, then all of them into a larger plastic bag. This winter when we want a little dessert, I can pull a few out and bake them without having to eat a whole pie :)

And last but not least, I couldn't have accomplished all this in a timely fashion without my lifesaver, Katie.
She had a few days off work, and wondered if she could come visit. I told her to come on and we could work on peaches!! It was great. I could tend to Susannah's needs and not have to worry about making sure the canner was boiling or not boiling too hard, or did I need to set the timer, or was the timer getting ready to go off and the jars needed pulled out of the canner... And Katie could keep working on peaches while I fed Susannah, so there weren't big chunks of time where peaches weren't getting done.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Grocery Shopping 8/25/10

I haven't fully discussed with with Daniel yet, but it is so much easier to shop with a $40 budget, and I'm thinking that with Daniel's raise and all the overtime he's getting lately, we might leave it there for now. We can always lower it if we need to.

I do want to add that last week I didn't go shopping at all. I didn't want to go, there weren't any amazing deals I couldn't do without, and we didn't absolutely need anything. However, I had been waiting for such an opportunity so we could restock our beef supply. Daniel has a (free to us) membership at BJ's through his work, and they have the best price on ground beef... so... one evening when Daniel was finished working, and was close to BJ's, I asked him to stop and get some meat. So last week's groceries were:

13.5lbs of lean ground beef
3 lbs of lean ground turkey

Total OOP: $40.47

This week's groceries:
(2) 1lb. pasta - $1.00 ea.
(2) 5lb. flour - $1.34 ea.
1/2 gal. milk - $1.79
10 lb. potatoes - $3.99
3lb. onions - $2.98
Soy Sauce - $1.09
Margarine - $.99
Butter - $2.08
(2) Shamrock Chocolate Milk - FREE!
(2) Chicken Breasts - $1.79/lb.
(2) Sausage - $1.49 ea (Manager's Special)
2 lbs Carrots - $2.19
Celery - $1.00
1 lb. Lunchmeat - $3.99
18 ct. Eggs - $1.67
12 ct. Eggs - FREE!
4.95 lbs. Bananas - $.44/lb.
Avocado - $1.00
General Tso's Chicken Seasoning packet - $.99
Total OOP: $40.47

I did use a coupon for $1.50 off $7 meat purchase coupon, and a FREE doz. eggs coupon that I got in the mail from Kroger (yippee, I finally got coupons from them!).

I'm so excited to have beef on hand (from last week). I feel like a king, walking down to the freezer and having several lbs. of hamburger, and not feeling like I need to ration it out and make it last. I think if I can get it to work out, about once a month we'll skip the regular groceries and stockpile meat.
This post has been brought to you by 2 sleepy heads who just ate ice cream... and then everything was funny because Daniel kept saying stuff that was just... funny. At least to 2 sleepy people who'd just had ice cream. I'm rambling.... Goodnight!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Susannah ~ 5 months

It's been a while since I've written specifically about our beautiful Susannah Faith, and I think it's high time I write :) For memory's sake and to share her sunshiny-ness with you.

She is 5 months (and 2 weeks as of yesterday) now, and is really growing up! She's not a little baby anymore, but an active, food-eating little girly. I weighed her last week, I think, and she was right around 15 lbs. Tonight I opened another pack of diapers - size 3's. I still have plenty of 2's left, but she wizzed right through that size!

She still doesn't laugh very much, but I think she's just holding it in :) Her eyes and face laugh a LOT!

Daniel was getting her ready for bed one Sunday night and called to me, asking me to bring the camera into her room. This is what I found:

He had put the bloomers from her Sunday dress on her head :)

Daniel is such a good Daddy, and she loves him SOOO much! Since there are plenty of days that she doesn't get to see him at all (when he leaves before she wakes up and gets home after she's asleep for the night), I have a picture of him in her room, and she always lights up with a smile when I show it to her.

I put her in the Johnny-Jump Up sometimes and she likes it for a while. I'm sure once she gets the bouncing thing figured out better she'll like it for longer lengths of time :)

She's also gotten VERY good at rolling over in her bed in just the last week or two. There have been some nights recently where we put her to bed, then a little while later we hear her talking, and we go in to find her partying away in her pitch dark room. This is what we find:

I started her on baby cereal, applesauce and pureed peaches when she was 4 months & 1 week. Some may think that was a little early, but she was waking up early from her naps hungry, and woke up in the middle of the night twice, hungry. Yes, it was time to start the solids. It solved all of those problems :)

I decided I had to get a move on and start introducing vegetables, so last week I cooked and mashed up peas. Oh my, she did not like them very well at all. But with lots of coaxing, she ate a baby food jar's worth over the course of several days.

Tuesday night we had corn on the cob for supper. She was watching us like a hawk, so after I finished one of my ears I handed it to her. She examined it for a bit then like I knew she would, put it to her mouth. She wasn't too sure at first.

Then she got the end and started really tasting...Then she decided she liked it :) I let her chew on it for a little bit.Yesterday I cooked some green beans, and she isn't too excited about them, but she eats them MUCH better than the peas. She still prefers them with a little cereal on the spoon, but she doesn't gag if it's just beans like she would with the peas.

Tuesday and Wednesday my youngest sister, Katie was here. She was a HUGE help with finishing canning the peaches (another post for another day). She and Susannah also spent some time bonding :)

Susannah is still pretty tall. I haven't measured her recently, but she's easily wearing 9 month sleepers, and 6-9 months sleepers are almost too short for her. She LOVES her baths and swimming. Today we went to our MOPS pool party, and though I didn't get in the pool, I had her in a swim diaper and held her in the water. I think if she would know to hold her breath, she could kick and paddle enough to go somewhere! I hope we have another opportunity to go swimming yet this summer when Daniel or I can be in the water with her so she can really get the full experience.

She's my little sunshine. It's such a joy to walk into her room in the mornings, she just gets so excited, and wiggles and grins like she just couldn't wait to see me! I love being her Mama.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Awesome Friends

I've been thinking lately how blessed I am to be able to have my best friends. I feel like I can share pretty much anything with them. In fact, I talk to them sometimes about stuff I wouldn't dream of telling anyone else! Maybe it's the fact that they don't know anyone else that I know that makes me feel comfortable with them like that, Ha!

The strange thing...

Of these friends, every single one of them I've become friends with either through Facebook or Blogging. One I've never even met IRL (in real life). But I love them and have come to consider them almost like sisters. I share with them, pray for them, cry with them, laugh with them, and wish I lived next door to each of them (I don't think that would ever be likely as we all live in different states!). They're the kind that I wouldn't care if they came over when my floor is knee-deep with clutter, the toilet is growing pink stuff (*ahem*), or I hadn't showered yet. Well, ok, I would care, but not as much :P

When I think about what great friends they are, I wonder... would we be as good of friends if we'd started out knowing each other in real life? If we saw each other in the grocery store every week, would we have taken the time to say "hi" and get to know each other, or would we have said "dude, she's nothing like me" and left it at that? Because, granted, we really ARE different from each other in a lot of ways. But somehow we have so much in common that I rarely see the differences.

Now I just need to gather up the guts to call them once in a while for a phone chat! Several times I think I'd like to talk to so-and-so, but can't get up the nerve, even though we have each other's phone numbers (well, I think I do... I might not have 1 or 2) and have said "call me!"

I've been working on this post for several days and still can't figure out how to end it. So, I'll just say, I love you guys! You know who you are :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Yay for Me Wednesday!

Horrors! Re-reading this for the umpteenth time, I've found some major typos! They are fixed now (I think...), and I blame it on the brain cells I lost during the pregnancy :) Seriously, I misspell and dial more things wrong now than I did before!

I love this Yay for Me Wednesday thing :) Last week I couldn't come up with any "yays"... I guess I was too Eeyore-ish. This week, though, I do have some yays! Small things, and things you might not care one snit about, but they are certainly YAY things for me :)

*Oh! Ok, this one is from last week, but after Wednesday. We got a new 20 cubic foot (upright) freezer!!! The reason we got it is rather un-yay (only had to throw out a little bit of stuff), but the "bonus yay!" is that it happened while my sister, who is an employee of Lowe's out in her boondocks town out west, was HERE, AT MY HOUSE!! and she went with Daniel and saved us 10% on our purchase with her employee discount! Double YAY!! (Yay-yay!)

*I spent about 1 hour in the checkbook Monday night. I thought it was surely forever since I'd updated it, turns out it hadn't even been a month yet. Not caught up yet, but that's not for here.

*I've drank 8 glasses of water each day this week!

*I've stayed on top of my To-Do list each day, too, and it feels GREAT!

*I'm getting myself to bed earlier, AND getting up earlier. Still not to the times I want to be at, but we're getting there. I think my days will be much more productive and easier overall when I can get more stuff done before Susannah gets up.

*I had a load of laundry ready to hang out at 9:15 this morning :)

*I (and Daniel) tackled a pile of laundry in our bedroom last night. It's nice to not have it there anymore :P

I can't think of anything else right at the moment, but I'm tickled about these things for sure :) I think I'm finally getting a new normal figured out here :)

Be sure to visit Courtney, who hosts this each week, and join in or cheer us on!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Circle of Life

And 'round and 'round we were going this past weekend!!

Last week I spend Wednesday and Thursday mixing up three 3x batches of frosting and who knows how many batches of cake batter, making the cakes for my sister, Laura's, wedding. Thursday night we loaded almost everything into the car; Friday morning Daniel loaded up the cakes and icing (the cakes were un-iced) while I got Susannah fed and ready to go, and we trekked down to North Carolina. It's a 4 hour trip and we made it in 5, with just two stops.

Laura & Branden

Friday afternoon before the rehearsal I iced all the cakes. There were three tiers for her cake - a 16", 12" and 8". Everything was going along great. I was very, very pleased with how everything was going so well, but the more I iced the 12" cake the more it was cracking. Any cake-decorators nightmare. I hurried up and finished, then put the dowel rods in it (to support the 8" cake that was going to go right on top of it) and put it in the fridge, hoping the dowels would help hold it together and it wouldn't crack anymore. Just in case, though, I called another sister who was coming from the hotel to the rehearsal, and had her stop at a craft store and pick up separator plates and pillars.

Saturday morning we headed back over to the church so I could finish the cake - I just had to put the ribbon and icing decorations on it and assemble it. The 12" cake had split a little more overnight, and Julia and I decided it would be best to go with a modified cake than have a crashed cake. Julia did a great job on the flowers, and I thought the cake turned out beautifully! I did talk to Laura on Friday and made sure it was ok with her if I had to do the pillars instead of just the 3 cakes stacked on each other like she wanted.

Our family of 3

Since the wedding was in the evening, most of us stayed Saturday night at the hotel, and a bunch of my siblings came to our room and hung out till about midnight :) Susannah was great the whole time, and went to bed very easily in her pak'n'play right there in the room with us, even with the TV going and people talking.

She enjoyed visiting with herself in the mirror, too :)

Sunday late-morning we loaded back up (minus the cake, thank goodness!) and made our way back home. Daniel got bored with the interstate, and since we weren't pressed to get home he meandered us home on more scenic highways instead. It took a little longer, and we ended up stopping a couple times, but we got home :)

Soon after we got home, my mom called to tell us that my great uncle had passed away, and that the memorial service was Tuesday evening. I knew I was going to be gone again all day Monday, babysitting our 2 nieces on Daniel's side, but I really wanted to go to the memorial service for my uncle, so I just mentally shifted gears and knew it would be even longer till I'd get this week going.

Well, life just kept getting more exciting!!

My sister, Sally, who was unable to go to the wedding because of the impending arrival of their baby, gave birth Monday afternoon! Daniel made arrangements to get off a little early Tuesday, and we were able to go to my uncle's memorial service and then afterwards we went by the hospital to meet baby Marie Grace!

Marie is about 1/2 a pound lighter and a couple inches shorter than Susannah was when she was born... she's so tiny :) And she has a TON of hair :) But she's also very cute! I knew Susannah had grown, but Marie makes Susannah look like a giant :P

Sally and I holding each others' baby :)

Marie and her Uncle Daniel

After we left the hospital (did I mention that the preacher for the memorial service spoke for about 30 min. too long??!!), Susannah still needed her last feeding for the day along with her last solid-foods meal which we had to push back for getting the the memorial service kinda on time. So we trekked back to Rachel's house and I nursed and fed her there. She ate really well, then we loaded her back up and finally turned in the direction of home. We got home about quarter to 2am. *zombies*

Needless to say, this week has been anything but normal :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Coupon Q & A

Joanna asks:

"...I was wondering if you have a certain time that you recommend shopping. The frustrating thing about couponing for me is when I spend the time collecting my coupons and then I get to the store and that item is totally sold out. Do you have this problem? I've been trying to buy Charmin toilet paper for two weeks but every Krogers I go to is sold out. Same thing happened today with dryer sheets. So is there a best time to shop or is this one of the downfalls to trying to get deals?"

I do run into that problem from time to time, Joanna! And it is frustrating. Last week I had a really good coupon for Charmin, but the shelf was cleared. I haven't been there this week yet, so I don't know. Sometimes it's just a matter of who gets to it first.

Soon after I started shopping at "my" Kroger store, I asked one of the nice stocker guys when they restock their shelves. Now I know that they get their truck in Wednesday evenings and restock early Thurs. mornings (sometimes if we stop there after church Wed. they are already working on it). After I learned that, I switched my shopping day from Tuesdays (when it seemed they were always sold out of what I wanted!) to Thursdays - and now it doesn't happen so much. I would suggest finding out when your store restocks, and plan your shopping for soon afterwards if you can.

Another thing you can do is to ask if they have any more in the back (a hot item like that, I doubt it, but you never know), or ask for a raincheck. You want to make sure the raincheck price is for the final sale price - if it's a Mega Sale item, it needs to be for the "after reward" price, if that makes sense? They may write on it that you have to buy the certain number of items to get the price, I'm not sure.

I hope you're able to get what you're going for, and with the low sale price! Couponing can be tricky sometimes :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Getting Coupons to Work For You

In her comment on this post about using coupons, Maria said:

"...It seems that all the coupons I get my hands on are for gum, dog food, or products that are still more expensive than store brand, even after coupons. I'd love to know how you get your coupons to work for you, and where you get the useful ones."

Hmm... she got my wheels turning, thinking through how to offer some suggestions and help her out!

First off, I'd recommend making sure you're getting the largest newspaper you can for your area. Oftentimes the smaller papers will have less (and less desirable) coupons in them, even though they're still the "same" inserts. If that doesn't help, then your options would be internet printable coupons (IPQ's) from places like Smartsource, Redplum and, and also watch for "blinkies" (the little blinking coupon dispencers hanging on the shelf) and tearpads in the store. If your store has a loyalty card, see if you can load e-coupons onto it from Shortcuts and Cellfire.

Another option if your coupon selection still stinks would be to get them from clipping sites, or from e-bay. When getting coupons this way, you are not paying for the coupons, but for the person's time spent clipping, and the postage. I will sometimes get extras this way when it's a seasonal sale on something I want to stock up a year's supply of.

"...products that are still more expensive than store brand..." Are you making sure to combine the coupon with the sale? It does take a while to learn the sale cycles, and to know when something is really a sale and not just a flashy sign (WalMart comes to mind with that one... they often advertise"Rollback Prices" but if you look under the big tag, the "Rollback" price is the same as the original shelf price.). If you use the coupon with the regular price, then yes, most of the time the item will still be more expensive than store brand. When combined with a good sale, though, most things are cheaper - at least for me.

And in the end, it might just all boil down to your location and the stores available to you. My Kroger will take however many coupons you have... my sister's Kroger (2 hrs away) will only take 2 like coupons per transaction. A big part of my savings comes from the doubled coupons, and some places you just can't find a store that will double coupons - that is often referred to as LOND, or Land Of No Doubles :)

My trick to getting my coupons to "work for me" it to hang on to them until a good sale comes around, and then stock up as much as I can (within reason - and "within reason" is different for each family). I can usually stockpile enough to last until the item goes on sale again - with more coupons. If it is something that we need, I will buy it even if it doesn't have a coupon or isn't on sale, but I try to plan ahead as best I can so that I don't have to pay full price if I don't have to.

I also recommend reading couponing blogs such as MommySnacks and MoneySavingMom where they post sale and coupon matchups each week. I use their blogs and also subscribe to The Grocery Game, where they provide a complete list of the best sales and coupon matches each week. The Grocery Game offers a FREE 4 week trial, so maybe give them a shot... it might be worth it :) I know it's very worth it for me.

How about you... do you have trouble finding coupons and good deals? What do you do to make your coupons work for you?