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Welcome to the sometimes random posts of Gina Reynolds. Use the labels at right to select your area of interest. Comment and let me know what you think. Scroll down on the right to follow this blog. Please feel free to check out my website as well at http://ginareynolds.org
God Bless...Gina



Friday, August 29, 2014

Salsa Verde

This year we tried something new in the garden, Tomatillo's.  They have been prolific which lead to the question: "What do we do with them?"  The answer, salsa Verde of course!

growing in the garden
I must say I don't think I had ever tried "green" salsa till I made this recipe.  It is different but I am smitten.  Green salsa has a fresher taste.  It's somewhat like a cross between a green tomato and a kiwi.  Weird I know, but really it is good!  It's got a crisp fresh flavor but with a bit of sweetness too.  You can use it in place of regular red salsa (or in addition to if you like) on nachos, tacos etc...   Or just dip it with tortilla chips. 

The first batch I made ended up a little "hot" for my taste so I tried it over a block of cream cheese and oh, my, was it amazing! The only downside of this recipe is it only makes 3 jars!
amazing over cream cheese!  Scoop with chips...

This recipe is from my favorite canning cookbook, Put'em up!, but of course you know I tweaked it a little.  If you are buying tomatillos look for nice green color without brown or mushy spots.  It should be firm and usually "husks" are still attached.  Push on it and it should "give" slightly.  Remove the paper husks before using.
beautiful with husks removed
 
Salsa Verde
4 lbs tomatillos
1 T vegetable oil
1 cup lime (fresh, or partly fresh if possible)
4 onions chopped
1/2 of a jalapeno pepper (mine were red)
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 chopped cilantro
salt to taste (I didn't use any)
Take half of the tomatillos and rub with the oil.  Place them on a broiler pan and broil till parts are blackened.  While cooking place the rest of the ingredients except the cilantro and salt in the blender and blend till it's a nice "salsa" consistency but don't puree.  Add the broiled tomatillos and give the blender another whirl or two to chop those in.

3 jars of goodness!
Pour into a pan on the stove and simmer 10 minutes.  Add cilantro and salt if desired and water bath can for 15 minutes.  Enjoy!
 




Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Getting US ready for school

It is here.  The last week of summer vacation.  I know, some of you already are back, but I have always been a summer child and I guess always will be.  I want to stretch it as long as I can and we have never gone back to school before Labor Day.

Recently I wrote an article for Home and School Mosaics  titled, "Is Your House Ready for Back to School".  Well, now I'm taking some of my own advice.  You see, we do those articles a month or more ahead, so while it gets published in August I was writing it in July.  In July I certainly wasn't actually "getting" ready for school.

What are you doing to get ready?  Here's what I'm doing....

So my thinking today is about getting food in order.  That is one of the biggest things that helps me get our year off to a good start.  If I don't have a plan for dinner things go downhill.  With new schedules, classes and just getting used to everything you have to expect that things won't always go as planned.  The idea is that this week I can get my freezer stocked and have some "back ups" in case we have "one of those days".  

I don't always do this, but for September many times I even schedule what meal we'll be having when and know that I've got it either in the freezer or on hand.  Much of the time I resist this as I like to be a little more spontaneous, but to get school off to a good start it's something to consider.  To keep it simple just take a look at what you've got, or what you're making ahead and write it in on the regular calendar for the day you want to serve it.  


One of our Chickens
The other thing for me is to try and get as much of my canning done as I can and other putting up.  Today for instance I dried Cherry Tomatoes and am trying a new egg recipe that uses 16 eggs.  Why?  Well, we have Chickens.  For those of you that have chickens that is answer enough, but for the rest of you that means in the summer I have an abundance of eggs!  We currently have 15 dozen eggs in the refrigerator and the girls will collect another dozen or more today.  So my goal as part of "getting" ready for school is to do something with all these eggs.

Take a look around the house.  What do you need to get ready?  The first weeks of school are not the time to have "extra" projects around.   Get the laundry done, cart those bags sitting there off to the thrift store, and get ahead on a few blog articles if you too do that sort of thing!  

Ready or not here school comes!


Monday, August 25, 2014

Drying Roma Cherry Tomatoes


 This is the time of year when you are reaping the benefits of all your hard work in the garden.  Or, if that didn't go so well, you are at least perusing the farmers market to reap the benefits of their hard work!  Either way, if you live in or near Michigan, it's Tomato time!

It used to be that we'd get so many cherry tomatoes that toward the end of summer I'd quick picking them as there wasn't much you could do with them.  That was before I discovered how wonderful they are dried!

Drying cherry Tomatoes is a simple process.  
 
#1 Start with incredibly flavorful cherry tomatoes.  I grow heirloom Roma Cherry Tomatoes that have incredible flavor.  Try to find some great tasting ones at a farmers market.  Most of the ones from the grocery store have little flavor.  The flavor will intensify with drying and you'll get a deep, rich, dark tomato taste.  

#2 Rinse them off.

#3 Slice them in half and place them cut side up on your dehydrator.  If you place them cut side down they sometimes stick to your rack.  Any dehydrator will work.  Mine is an inexpensive variety that you find at Wal-mart or Meijers for around $30-40.  We've had it for years.  There is no need to go out and buy some of these expensive ones you see advertised (at least not for this job!) 


#4 Turn your dehydrator on and let it work.  The time will vary to get them dry.  Usually I turn them on before bed and let it run all night.  By morning it's "almost" done.  You'll know because as you feel them there will be no soft or mushy spots, it will all be dry.  You don't want to go till they are hard as a rock.  The tomato can still feel "bendy" but shouldn't feel mushy at all.

#5 Lastly, place them in pretty clear jars, label and store.  They look so pretty in the jars I almost hate to use them.

So now that you have dried cherry tomato's what do you do with them?  Use them any way you would sun-dried tomatoes.  Just put as many as you want in a small bowl and cover the tomatoes with water.  Microwave for a minute just to get the water hot and then let them sit for 15-20 minutes (if you can.)  They are now ready to use.  You can also soften in oil and they will be like the oil packed sun-dried tomatoes.

We like them in hummus, on pizza, tossed in with pasta and a little oil and on bruschetta bread with some basil and oil.  You can also just toss them into soups and stews. ENJOY!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

3rd entry, garden in $ents

Time does fly when the summer gets busy and it's been over a month since my last update.  If you didn't catch the first two you can click the garden category at right and catch up.  The basic idea is that I'm tracking how much in dollars my garden produces.

It's been a cool summer and the worst year I've ever had for basil.  It's not growing well and turning black (just like when it gets a frost.)  I think it's the cool nights.  We've been down in the 40's some nights.  Basil LOVES and thrives in warm.  I do still have pesto in the freezer from last year, think I'll hoard that as we'll be lucky to get more this year.  (Usually I do 10-15 for the freezer.)

Well here we go, and again I'm pricing the best I can.  Oh, and I rounded some this time, tired of math...  This was as of about the 1st week of August, I'm behind on posting.
My first Eden Melon

Zucchini (.99lb)  = 12.18
Bok Choi 6oz ($1.99 a bunch) = 1.00
Swiss Chard 6oz ($1.99 bunch) = 1.00
Pea Pods 10 oz = 1.25
Raspberries 5lb 12oz =15.75
Cucumbers 9lb 6oz ($1lb) = 9.00
Cabbage 4lb 8oz (.50lb) = 3.00
Cilantro 1lb 6 oz = 3.50
Basil 4oz = $1.40
Eden Gem Melon 6 ($2ea.)= $12

So adding this (60.08) to the $69.55 thus far I have 141.63 that has been produced.  With the new things I added this year I was still 71.45 in costs more than what it had produced.  So now I'm only $11.37 of breaking even. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What we're doing this year




Really, it's August already?  Time for the annual, "What we're using this year post."  This summer seems to have flown by, but it is that time to start buying the new index cards, planners, binders etc... and gear up!

Around the World in 80 Days NovelOnce again our year will be different.  It seems like I say that almost every year, especially the last 4-5.  We keep losing students (to graduation, it's a good thing!) and situations keep changing as they get older as well.  This year Ariel my 3rd will be starting early college at Bethel with their REACH program.  So I keep saying instead of "homeschooling" we'll be "bethelschooling" as she doesn't have a drivers license so Lex and I will probably be frequent visitors to the Bethel library to get Lexie's school done!  Not much of our "home" school will actually be done at home this year I'm afraid.

 So anyhow...here's what we'll be doing, wherever it is we'll be doing it!
 
Hiding Place (The) NovelEnglish- Of course we're using Total Language Plus again for Lexie.  This year we're doing The Hiding Place and Around the World in 80 days to compliment our history studies.  Both of these guides have great paper and project ideas that will go well with our modern history study.  With writing cases and speeches for Speech and Debate we've found that 3 Total Language Plus guides makes a solid year of English for us.  So the third guide which I've also used for my other 3 is The Giver.  For us, this is a must do.  It is so timely with papers on careers and dating/marriage.

Ariel has been a year or two ahead in English so she may not do any "curriculum" but rather do some CLEP testing.  She will probably study and clep out of Composition 101 as we checked and Bethel does accept that CLEP.  We were originally thinking of doing Total Language Plus American Literature Poetry or Short Stories and then studying for the Analyzing Literature CLEP but Bethel doesn't accept this one so we may go a different route.  It might be we CLEP composition for the 1st term and then she can take Composition 102 the second term, we'll see how the year goes.  She really doesn't "need" more English or literature so we're not worried which is the beauty of homeschooling!

The Mystery of History Volume IV Hardback w/ CD Companion Guide *PRE-ORDER*History- That bring us to our modern history study.  We are very excited to be using the BRAND new Mystery of History IV!  It was just pre-released and we don't actually have the book yet though we do have a pdf of the 1st quarter.  Over the years we've done books 1, 2 and 3 of MOH twice but have had to piece some other things together to cover American and Modern World.  I'm very excited to instead this time through have it all pieced for us!  I'll do a separate blog soon just on this as I just finished our 1st quarter syllabus.

Advanced Pre-Med Studies CurriculumScience- This year the girls are splitting in different directions for the first time with their science studies.  Lexie is VERY excited about doing a Pre-Med study put out my Master Books.  It contains 4 separate books with study questions and quizzes.  The books are:  The Genesis of Germs, The History of medicine, Building Blocks of Life Science and Body by Design.  We are going to add a few "labs" with it that are not included in the text just because she likes doing them.  I'll also probably do a another blog on this soon outlining our plans including the added labs.  She's doing this one largely "on her own" for the first time though I will help her outline the labs and cave in and read aloud to her at times (she prefers that.) 

Product DetailsAriel will be doing Signs and Season Astronomy which I have already blogged some about, and will probably share our co-op schedule and syllabus to help others that may want to incorporate this into a group setting.  She's not my traditional "science" kid and wanted something different than your biology, chemistry, physics kind of schedule.  I think this will be a science she'll like, remember and actually find useful in life.  I'm excited to learn it with the kids as I teach it for our co-op.

Financial AccountingMath-  The girls have been on separate paths here for awhile now and that will continue.  Ariel will be finishing her "last" year of high school math.  She is not a math child so we are counting financial accounting as her "math" for the year.  We're using Professor in a Box Financial Accounting which we'd also used for one of her brothers and her other brother used parts of it to prep for the CLEP accounting test.   She may also end up doing whatever she needs to to pass easiest college math she can find in the spring if we can work it into her schedule.  They have free tutoring and she talked to another Art major that claimed she was also terrible and math and did it so that encouraged Ariel greatly!

Understanding GeometryLexie really needs an easier math year this year as last year was a not successful switch of curriculum that left her doubting her math capabilities.  Up until then she always felt she was good at math.  My goal is this year to re-instate that good feeling for her.  We are using Understanding Geometry from the Critical Thinking Company.  It is a high school course, but not an overwhelming one.  I think she'll enjoy it and find it "easy" which is my goal this year.

Electives- This year it looks like Ariel will be doing Art electives.  She's hoping to take Art History and either Graphic Design or Photography at Bethel College.  We won't find out for another week or so if she can get into those classes but that is the current plan.  She'll also take Art (mostly drawing) at our co-op.  She has decided she wants to be an Art major (probably studio art) and wants a bachelors in case she decides to go on for further study in another area.

Lexie wanted to do cooking at the co-op so I am teaching a class.  We are using some of the Homestead Blessing DVD's and teaching things like canning, pressure canning, bread baking and more advanced cooking techniques.  It should be a lot of fun but also a challenge to fit the cooking into a one hour co-op class!

Of course we'll do Speech and Debate again.  They are especially excited about and planning their speeches for the fall.  Both of them would like to qualify regionally at least.  Though Ariel loves debate she's not so excited about the resolution this year, but hopefully that will change as the season begins.  We compete with NCFCA but are looking into other options as NCFCA doubled in registration this year which was disheartening.  The girls have met many friends with NCFCA and don't want to leave them however, so we will probably stay. 

The girls also both need their P.E. credit and though Ariel has already done her life-guarding for part of it we may try to get a volleyball team going this fall to finish it off.  We are in process of working out the details on that one.

Besides that, who knows?  Something else always comes up.  They both got to participate in a musical this summer and loved it.  I suspect if we have openings in the spring co-op schedule they'll be wanting a drama class.  We'll see what opportunities God brings our way.

So if you're interested in some of the above mentioned curriculum watch the blog for future posts as I'm likely to update how we're preparing and how we're liking our choices.



Thursday, July 31, 2014

Margins...

A long time ago I heard a sermon about the importance of having margins.  What are margins?  Simply, it's the white space around the words in your paper.  In your life it's the white or empty space around all the important stuff you do.
no margins = stress

Life without margins is chaotic and no room for any interruption good or bad.  There is no time for impromptu ministry, fellowship or unexpected emergencies.  If one little thing happens it throws you way off balance and recovery is long.

Life with margins allows for fitting in an unplanned visit with a friend who drops by for coffee or time to make a batch of cookies to bring to someone who needs a visit.  When things do happen, such as car repairs, dr. visits etc... there is time to fit them in without making life completely miserable.


Blessed margins, room for the unexpected...
So why all this talk about margins today?  I've been reminded that people will try to stress your margins and push them in as much as you will let them.  Sometimes push with such force that you want to please them, as well as get them to stop, and cave in to their margin wrecking goals.  They don't mean to, they have their own agenda and ideas about your life and what would be best for you or your family.  But YOU know, God has already instructed you about these margins and they are best.

God doesn't want us to be so busy we can't take time for ministry, fellowship or most importantly to be intentional in teaching our children.

So what can we do with these margins?

I've been fighting to keep my margins this week and so far we've been able to: support a friend and say yes to going to see his play, my daughter and I are having a date today to go to an art show, I get to catch up on ministry to my husband and iron some shirts, my daughter got to have a friend over to just hang out, later we're working on fair projects together, and I'll be able to talk with my daughter as we leisurely get her packed and clothes labeled for camp instead of hurriedly throwing things in a bag and hoping nothing is forgotten.  Oh, and I had time to write this blog!

So plan for margins and fight to keep them!  It's worth it!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

2nd entry of Garden in $ents

When I can remember to do it, keeping track of the harvest is kind of fun!  It sure does make you realize how much gets eaten and not accounted for.
some of the raspberries being weighed

I didn't record any of the amounts of strawberries as we prettying much got maybe 1 cup a day or every other day over about 2 weeks.  These were either eaten as picked or brought in the house in a cereal bowl and sat on the table to be eaten at will (mostly by Taylor.)  We really need to put in more strawberries so that we'd get more at a time to be able to really do something with them (like jam.)  One of the pickings we did end up mixing with some store bought for strawberry shortcake.

Here's what I did keep track of:
6oz Basil at $1.75 oz = 10.50
2 1/2 lbs of Rhubarb at $1.99 lb = $4.98
2lbs zucchini at .99 cents a pound = 1.98
10 oz Cilantro = $2.65
1lb 2 oz of pea pods at $1.59lb = 1.75
1lb 6 oz of oregano at .80 cents an ounce = $17.60
2 lbs 6 oz of raspberries $3lb = $7.13

So that makes the total since last time $46.59, plus the $42 from before, which I'm adjusting down to $22.96 (because I figured the oregano price too high)  is $69.55 so far that the gardens produced!  Taking the 69.55 from the $141 spent this year (as outlined in the last post) that makes me still $71.45 in the hole, but we're getting there!

A word on the prices.  I'm finding them where I can (local grocery ads, physically at the store etc...)  I will say they vary A LOT and I'm trying to use the most "reasonable" price I can find (that's why I adjusted from last time, I found something I thought was more realistic.)  It's not a scientific study and really just for my amusement but I want it to be a good comparison.  My stuff is almost always organic.  I do use Sevin dust or other things when I have to (rather do that then lose the whole crop) but so far this year I've only used it on the spaghetti squash which may or may not make it and early on before the fruit was forming I had to hit the tomatillos with a spray.  However, in my pricing I have not necessarily priced by "organic" prices which would be higher.