Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Slow Cook Apple Butter

I love apple butter. My grandma used to make it for me when I was a little girl. Probably the only reason I like to eat at Cracker Barrel is because I know I can get it there. They do sell it there at the Country Store. However, it's full of preservatives for shelf life. Publix recently started selling a pretty good version at the bakery, but it's not cheap. So, I decided to make my own.

I tried using an apple peeler/corer, but it was just a huge mess and it peeled more apple away than I liked. So, I just did it with a knife and potato peeler. It went pretty quickly.

Slow Cook Apple Butter

Apples - I used 8 small Red Delicious, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves 
1/2 tsp nutmeg
dash of salt
1/2 cup water
Mix all together in a 4 Quart Slow Cooker and cook overnight on low. You could also cook during the day, but you need a good 10-15 hours or longer. I've heard some people cook for 24 hours. However, I used my emulsion wand blender to mix it all up after about 10 hours and it turned out perfectly. Place in jars (or Tupperware) and cool completely before placing a lid. I filled 2 medium jars. Keep refrigerated for 2-3 weeks. 

Mine turned out a little spicy, so I adjusted the amount of cloves and nutmeg before posting this. You should experiment with the amounts to adjust to your own liking. I was worried that it would be runny (the Publix one was) but once it cooled, it was nice and thick. I may try to cut back on the sugar with the next batch, or use honey instead. Hmmm, I wonder what different apples would taste like? Time to try out some more. Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sweet 16

It's hard to believe that 16 years ago today, my life would be forever changed in a most profound way. 

Always my little reader, you were brilliant from the very beginning.
I couldn't ask for a happier baby. You never cease to make me smile.
You were so full of life and so easy-going. It must have been all the practice I got with these two little girls.
My precious blue-eyed monster. 
You'll always be my Pooh Bear, even if I can't call you that in public anymore.
I hope you continue to go to new places, explore and experience new things...
and meet new people.
But most of all, I am so thankful that you have decided to share so much with me.
Our 1st 5K
Megacon 2012
Les Miserables
 You are the most important treasure I will ever find and my heart would be empty without you. You have made me the luckiest mom in the world.

Happy Sweet 16, my precious baby.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I Love Yarn Day

Happy I Love Yarn Day! I thought to celebrate I would share with you what yarn project I am working on. 
Let me start off by saying to I do love this yarn. Bernat Softee Baby is easy to work with and doesn't tangle easily. It's my favorite baby weight yarn. Usually, I have a specific project with a designated gift recipient. Not this time. I saw an article with a photo of a granny square afghan and fell in love with it. With this yarn on hand, I thought it would make a perfect baby blanket and it's nice to have a stash of baby afghans for last minute gifts. I couldn't find a pattern for the photo that I saw, so I just improvised and made my own. These make up quickly (about 15 minutes each) and I have worked up several to and from work. My hubby and I carpool many days and this is the perfect time for me to bust out some squares.

Gauge is not important for this, but I am using a G hook. Just try to keep your stitches even and consistent so that it is easier to sew together. 

  • Start by chaining 4.
  • Join with starting chain to form a circle.

  • Chain 3 (this will be the 1st double crochet (dc)
  • 2 DC into circle - first side complete
  • Chain 2, 3 DC into circle (repeat two more times). Join with slip stitch (slst) into top of first ch3. Round 1 complete.

  • Slst into next two DC and then slst into chain 2 space.
  • Chain 3 (1st DC), DC, ch 2, 2 DC all into ch 2 space. Corner made.
  • DC into tops of next 3 DC - be sure you go into the first one. I poked a blue pen cap through to show you in the photo. You may need to scoot over your corner to see it.

  • 2 DC, ch 2, 2 DC into ch 2 space, DC into next 3 DC, repeat around. Slst into top of 1st ch 3 to join. Round 2 finished.

  • SS in next DC and into ch2 space. Ch 3, DC, ch 2, 2 DC into ch2 space. Corner made. (DC into next 7 DC, complete corner) repeat around and join. Round 3 complete.
  • SS in next DC and into ch2 space. Ch 3, DC, ch 2, 2 DC into ch2 space. Corner made. (DC into next 11 DC, complete corner) repeat around, but do not join. 
  • Leave a 3-4 inch tail and cut yarn.
  • Pull tail through stitch by lifting hook until tail comes all the way through the loop.
  • With needle, insert yarn through both loops of the top chain in the first ch3. Pull through, but not tight.
  • Insert needle into middle of last dc created (where the tail was pulled through on the last dc of the round).
  • Pull through, but not tight.
  • Weave in tail on backside of square. Double back over to secure. Baby yarn has a tendency to slip and if you don't secure your tails, your work will slip apart. I learned the hard way.

See? You can't even tell where you joined the round. Much prettier!
Maybe soon I'll get all my squares done and start sewing them together. Until then, I hope you have fun with some yarn!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Half Marathon Training

Now that the 10-miler is complete and I have taken a week off, it's time to start training for my first half-marathon. I signed up before I completed the 10-miler only because I was able to score registration for $1. No kidding! How could I not? The hubby also signed up, but his registration was $10. Even so, $11 for 2 people to run a half-marathon is incredible. On February 2nd, 2013, we will be running our first half-marathon in the Best Damn Race. Seriously, that's the name of it. We will see if it lives up to its name.
Even though I just completed the 10 mile race, the hubby has not, so I'm going to start over with the training. Wonder if he will survive? He bailed on the 10 mile training, but now that he has committed to a race perhaps he will see it through. This time, I have stuck to the more traditional training plan. I used baby steps to work my way up with the 10-miler, but I had a lot more time to train. 
After finishing this, I discovered that K2 was moving up to the next level in gymnastics and would be going two days a week. Too much planned for Tuesdays and Thursdays, so we will be doing Monday and Wednesday instead. I left the long runs for the weekend (not enough time during the week) and also kept it open for Saturday or Sunday. Some weekends the busier day is Saturday and sometimes it's Sunday. The best part of all this is the timing. The weather should start cooling down soon. No, not yet...we are in Florida, but soon and it's should be perfect for the long runs in January. 

So far, we've completed our two weekday runs for week 1. Time to kick this training into gear! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beef & Beer Vegetable Soup

It's not quite cool enough here in Florida to start up the chili or stews, but we are going to pretend anyway. With our crazy schedules this month, I decided it was time to utilize my slow cooker more. So, I found a few recipes and I'll be digging up some more in order to use the slow cooker at least twice a week. First up, Beef and Beer Vegetable Soup. 

3 medium onions, sliced
1 pound carrots, cut into ½ inch slices
4 parsnips, cut into ½ inch slices
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp snipped fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme, crushed
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 Tbsp quick cooking tapioca
1 ½ pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 14-ounce can beef broth
1 12-ounce beer

In slow cooker, place onions, carrots, parsnips, garlic, bay leaves, dried thyme, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with tapioca. Place meat on vegetables. Add beef broth and beer.

Cover; cook on low heat for 10-12 hours. Remove bay leaves and stir in thyme before serving.

This was well received, however, hubby requested to add potatoes next time and fewer veggies (duh). This was our first time with parsnips. They were fine in the mix, but I agree that it would be better with a few less carrots and add a few potatoes. Otherwise, we all really liked the flavors. Who doesn't like a good beer flavor in their meat? Yum!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Flipping Fantastic

To celebrate National Gymnastics Day, K2 participated in a Fun Meet. It's an opportunity for kids to experience a meet without the pressure of competing.
They get to show off what they have learned in class and even get scored by judges.
It's pretty chaotic in the gym with so many kids at so many different levels, but the coaches kept it moving along. 
There were a few kids who really wore themselves out with all the waiting, but many were really attentive to the others while they were performing.
She stuck this landing, which is better than I can say for my photo taking.
Oops!  Cut her head clean off! She was just too quick for me.
At the end, everyone got the opportunity to stand on the winner's podium when they received their flower and ribbons. K2 was excited to see her scores.
It was an exhausting day filled with lots of excitement. When it was over, we found out that she gets to move up a level. Now she will go 2 days a week to practice. Looks like Mom and Dad get to try to coordinate schedules some more. It's worth it. She really loves it and I love seeing her so happy. We are so proud of her!