Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Canning Potatoes

Canning Potatoes at Home

We harvested about 20 pounds of potatoes this year.  That's not a great yield, but it was better than any previous year, so we were happy about it.  We ate some of them right away, but I needed to do something with the rest before they started going bad.  My options were eat them (too many), make mashed potatoes and freeze them (I have success with this, but no room in the freezer right now), dehydrate them or can them.  I decided on canning just because I wanted to try them.

I remember canned potatoes, usually with a bland white gravy, from elementary school lunches and just knew that home-canned potatoes would taste better.  And believe me, they do!  One of my jars failed to seal, so we had them for supper that night.  I just mashed them with a fork, added a little butter and garlic powder, and they were delicious.

They are easy to can, too.  Because they are a low-acid food, the must be pressure canned, but the method is simple.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the forethought to take photos of the process, but here's what you do.

Clean fresh potatoes well and peel if desired.  I didn't peel them because most of the skins scrubbed off as I was washing them.  Cut away any deep eyes and/or bad spots.

Cut potatoes into chunks about 1-1/2" square.  Small potatoes can be left whole or just cut in half.

Place potatoes in clean cold water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and boil gently for 5 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, have clean, hot canning jars at the ready.  I don't sterilize jars, but I do run them through the dishwasher to make sure they are clean and hot.

Once potatoes have cooked, not until tender but just long enough to be heated through, drain them and spoon the hot potatoes into the hot jars.  Add a teaspoon of canning salt to each quart jar (1/2 teaspoon to pint jars) and then fill each jar with clean boiling water, leaving 1 inch of head space.  Use a knife or spatula to remove any air bubbles.

Apply clean, new lids and secure with rings until fingertip tight.

Process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure for 40 minutes for quarts or 35 minutes for pints.  Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for your canner, the Ball Blue Book, or the advice of your local university extension office to ensure safe canning practices.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Make Your Own Garlic Powder (Granulated Garlic)

If stored properly, heads of garlic can last a good, long time, possibly from one season to the next.  This is the situation we found ourselves in this year.  We still had several heads of garlic in the basement, with  fresh garlic ready to bring in.  I decided it was time to turn the older garlic into garlic powder, sometimes also known as granulated garlic.

The first thing I did was peel the papery film off the garlic and separate the cloves.  Because this was last years harvest, some of the cloves were too dry and crumbly to work with, so I composted those.  Some were a little dry, but still flexible (like a raisin) and good-smelling, so I saved those.  The rest seemed fresh, considering their age, and I used those as well.

I peeled the skins off each clove and, except for the very smallest of cloves, I sliced them about 1/16 inch thick.  I spread them out on the "fruit leather" tray of our dehydrator and set it on the high setting.  Oddly enough, it was the pieces that were already leathery that took the longest to dry; the fresher pieces dried right away.  I suspect it had something to do with a change in the sugar content, but I'm not sure.  It took 2-1/2 days for all of it to dry to a brittle stage.

Garlic pieces in the dehydrator

I didn't bother to measure or weigh anything before I started, but I didn't think to measure the dehydrated pieces.  A tray of garlic measured to just under a cup of dehydrated bits.

Blending dehydrated garlic to make garlic powder

I put all of the pieces in our blender and blended them on high for about three minutes or until they were thoroughly pulverized.  The resulting powder measured right at 1/2 cup.

Make Your Own Garlic Powder

I stored the powder in an airtight container in my spice cabinet, and will use it just like I would any store-bought garlic powder.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Boney Bob is a Good Garden Companion

We're doing what we can to keep things alive around here, and that includes both cats and plants.  We water our gardens every other day.  They could probably benefit from a daily watering, but because it takes me more than an hour to water it all, that just isn't happening.  Every couple of days will have to do.

Our tomatoes seem to be doing well.  We have a total of 30 plants in various areas of the garden; all but 12 of those were volunteer plants.

We're still getting a few of our ever-bearing strawberries; we pick about a cup every 2-3 days.  I'm not sure if this is normal or not, but our raspberries have flourished in the heat and have set on quite a few new berries.  We picked just four berries in the spring and thought that would be all, so this is a pleasant surprise.  Our ground cherries (aka, cape gooseberries, aka husk tomatoes) are done for the year, but yielded a few pints.

We don't have a lot of luck growing bell peppers, so we only planted four plants, but they have done a little better than usual this year.

Our cucumbers are struggling.  They didn't germinate well, so we only have about 1/3 of the plants we expected.  There will be plenty of cucumbers for salads, but probably not enough for pickles.

Our pinto beans look sad, but they aren't.  We're drying them on the vine on purpose.

The Swiss chard just keeps going and growing.

Kat's garden still has three small melons in it, all of which seem to be growing well.

Back behind the shed, we have a Three Sisters planting.  The corn is tall and I think the ears are just about ready to pick.  This is a late season variety, so it feels like we're running behind a lot of other area gardeners.  Under the corn is green beans.  The plants are green and pretty, but there are no beans.  I think we're running out of time.  Between the corn/bean clusters are squash plants -- zucchini, butternut and acorn.  They look pretty good, but so far,  no blossoms.  A couple of tomatoes volunteered among the sisters, so we left them and I noticed they have blooms now.

The Jersalem Artichokes are thriving, and we haven't watered them at all!  We're giving our asparagus, rhubarb and blackberries a little water, just to keep them alive.  They're done for the year, though.

I think that's about all we have going on in the garden right now, but very soon it will be time to think of late summer and early fall plantings.

And before I forget, here is Bones again.  We have also started calling him BOB, which stands for Bag O' Bones.  He's gained a few ounces, I think, and it appears some of his fur is growing back in.  We moved him to our back yard and he seems to like it there.  He's quite the garden companion.  He loves to follow along and keep us company while we're watering and harvesting.  He's even started pouncing on the garden hose and chasing butterflies, so I'd say he's starting to recover.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Super Easy Protein Bars (Larabar Knockoff)

Ok.  I admit that I've never worked with dates before, and I've never tasted a Larabar, so I don't know how closely they resemble the real thing.  What I do know is that these are very tasty, very easy, pretty darn healthy, and don't require heating the oven.  They are the perfect summertime treat.

I made two small batches of these bars in about 15 minutes.  I made a Mixed Berry Cobbler variety and an Almond Butter-Chocolate Chip variety.  But really, these bars can be anything you want them to be.  All you need is dried dates (I used Medjool dates), a protein source such as nuts/seeds or nut butter/seed butter, and something to add a little extra flavor, such as chocolate chips or dried berries. 

You can add shredded coconut, cocoa powder, coconut oil, cinnamon or other spices.  If you can't find the dates, I think you could make these with dried figs or dried apricots, although the flavor would be different and they might need a little honey to sweeten them and hold them together.  Really, the possibilities are endless.

Right away, I liked the Mixed Berry Cobbler bars.  Kat seemed more fond of the Almond Butter-Chocolate Chip.  Shane liked them both.  And if you can hang on to them for a day or two (in the fridge is best), the flavors really develop. 

These bars are great with morning coffee, as a lunchbox treat, or as a protein-rich afternoon pick-me-up.

Almond Butter-Chocolate Chip Protein Bars

 Mixed Berry Cobbler Protein Bars

1/2 cup (about 6 large) dried dates, pitted
1/2 cup mixed dried berries (those I bought had blueberries, cranberries and cherries)
1 cup almonds (I used sliced, but whole will work)

Combine all in a food processor and process until a course meal-like texture is achieved.  Add water if necessary, 1/2 Tablespoon at a time, until mixture will hold together.

Scrape mixture out onto waxed or  paper, and using a spatula, form into a rough square or rectangle.  Top with another piece of waxed or parchment paper and roll to about 1/2" thick.  Using a spatula, even up sides if desired, and cut into bars.  Makes 8-10 bars.

Best if stored in refrigerator.

Mixed Berry Cobbler Protein Bars

Almond Butter-Chocolate Chip Protein Bars

1/2 cup (about 6 large) dried dates, pitted
1/2 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips - divided
2 to 4 Tablespoons almond butter

Combine dates and 1/4 cup chocolate chips in a food processor and process until a course meal-like texture is achieved.  Add almond butter, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture will hold together.  How much you need will depend on the consistency of the almond butter.  If it is very thick, you may also need to add a teaspoon or two of water.

Scrape mixture out onto waxed or  paper, and using a spatula, form into a rough square or rectangle.  Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips on top and press them in lightly.  Top mixture with another piece of waxed or parchment paper and roll to about 1/2" thick.  Using a spatula, even up sides if desired, and cut into bars.  Makes 8-10 bars.

Best if stored in refrigerator.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kat's Watermelon

Here is a watermelon that came from Kat's garden.  It's a medium-sized (11 pound) melon.  The variety is Moon and Stars, although this one only had stars on it's rind.  Some have larger yellow spots (moons).

We took this melon camping with us, but ended up not eating it until we came back home Sunday night. 

Mmm...it was really sweet and flavorful.

Monday, July 23, 2012

More Heat, More Camping, More Floral Trunks

Despite the excessive heat warning we're currently under, we decided to go camping again over the weekend.  This time we went to the NW side of Truman Lake, just south of Clinton, MO.  It took us about an hour and 15 minutes to get there from our home.

Truman Lake, Sparrowfoot Campground
Level, pull-through campsite.  An RVer's dream.

This was a very relaxing and quiet weekend for us.  Because of the heat (I assume), campers were few and far between.  In our loop, there were only six campers and one family with tents.  There were another half-dozen or so campers in the other loop.  Overall, the campground has 111 sites, so we obviously felt like we had plenty of elbow room.

Truman Lake, Sparrowfoot Campground
No other campers to be seen.

Truman Lake, Sparrowfoot Campground
There's another camper back there, if you know where to look.

Most weekends that we camp, we plan some kind of activity away from the campground, but not this time.  We made a quick trip into town to a Dollar General to pick up a couple of things we forgot to bring with us. 

Kat and a dinosaur named Fried Chicken.

The local radio station had played a frequent ad for an ice cream social in a tiny little burg (pop. 500, more or less) just five miles from camp, so we went to that, too.  I'm pretty sure we were the youngest family there, and no doubt the only "foreigners".  It was worth it, though.  $5 each bought us a BIG bowl of homemade vanilla, chocolate, and/or strawberry ice cream, a homemade baked dessert (pies, cakes and brownies galore), and a choice of tea, coffee or water.  And it was for a good cause...'cause we wanted ice cream.  Seriously, though, it was a fund raiser for the Deepwater Labor Day & Harvest Picnic.

Other than those two outings, we stayed at camp.  We're still under a burn ban here, so no campfire, but we sat around outside in the evening looking at the stars and enjoying a few drinks.  During the day, we ate, read our books, played cards, ate some more, and of course, swam in the lake.  Shane and Kat also rode their bikes early in the morning and late in the evening.  I still haven't bought a bike to join them.

Here are Kat and Shane standing in the lake near the beach boundaries /markers.  I read that the lake is down a little more than a foot from normal, but I know from experience that the water should be about shoulder deep on Shane at the markers. And look!  There is grass growing on the beach. The surface temperature is a warm 86 right now, but that's still refreshing when the air temperature is over 100.  (Actually, that's about the perfect temperature for me anytime.)

Truman Lake, Sparrowfoot Campground
Lake level is LOW.

Truman Lake, Sparrowfoot Campground
Grass on the beach.

We stayed 'til dusk.

I can't omit the token shot of the floral trunks.

Water should be up to about mid-frame.

For now, it's back to the daily grind.  Our next outing is in 19 days.  But who's counting?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rambling Random

I'm taking a break from posting about tomato condiments to insert a few random thoughts. 


I cut my own hair a couple of nights ago.  I was sitting in bed reading and my hair was driving me nuts, so I got up and took the scissors to it.  Nothing drastic, mind you, I just trimmed it a little and cut some light, wispy bangs.  I think Mark will disagree, but I needed bangs.  I wear my hair pulled back almost all the time in the summer and without bangs, it's just too severe and schoolmarmish.  Not to mention, my what a big forehead I have!

The rest of my hair was already layered a bit, and long, so I bent at the waist, brushed it all forward and put it in a ponytail at my forehead.  Then whacked about an inch and a half off the end of the pony tail.  That got rid of split ends and evened things up, but didn't really change the style or shorten the overall length, which is fine with me. 

For the bangs, I pulled all of my hair back in a headband, used a comb to pull forward just a small amount of hair at the hairline, and cut the bangs very long, then just gradually trimmed them up.  They still need some time to not want to part in the middle on their own.

Naturally curly hair

This was an exercise in self-confidence; I simply made up my mind that I can cut my own hair.  While this isn't the best haircut in the world, it's as good as most of the salon cuts I've had.  It was also quicker and cheaper than paying someone else to do it.

Of course, it helps that my hair is naturally poofy curly and very forgiving of mistakes.  It also helps that I'm not especially vain.


Here at the Haphazard Homestead, communication is key.  We keep each other in the loop.  And by this, I mean we tell each other the most mundane of plans. 

"I'm going downstairs to flip the laundry."

"I'll be outside watering the garden if you need me."
"I'm taking a shower now."  (Important info, since we only have one bathroom and someone's sure to need in before a shower is done.)

"I'll be in the garage trying to find that doohickey that I need to fix that thingamajig." (Which also implies, "If I'm not back within an hour, send the rescue team.")

Seriously, we hardly breathe without announcing our intentions to each other.  I don't remember doing this in my childhood home.  There were eight of us during the full house days.  It was every man for himself, and the bathroom was first come, first serve.


Screw the current heat advisory -- we have A/C in our camper and we know how to use it.  Besides, we're due for some rain, and it rains almost every time we go camping.  Heading to camp this weekend can only be to our advantage.


Speaking of swimming (yes, I was speaking of it, indirectly), this picture of Shane from our last camping trip stirred up a bit of conversation on my real-life Facebook page.  Why is it that these are perfectly fine as swim trunks, but that he'd never be caught dead in a floral if they were street shorts?  I tried to interest him in wearing kilt the other day, but he wouldn't hear of it.  I thought it would go well with his red hair.

Real men wear florals

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Blender Ketchup

homemade ketchup, tomatoes

Today's tomato-y condiment is Blender Ketchup, and the recipe comes straight out of "The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving" by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard.  (Thanks to Paula, The Cookbook Junkie, for sending this book to me).

If you are looking for a copycat recipe for Heinz' or Hunt's, you might be disappointed with this one. But if you are looking for a fresher, lighter tasting ketchup (think spiced thick tomato sauce), then this is your recipe.  I'm looking forward to trying this on a burger soon.

homemade ketchup, tomatoes

Blender Ketchup

7 cups chopped peeled plum tomatoes (about 4 pounds) I used a variety of tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped sweet red bell pepper
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pickling salt
1 cinnamon stick, 2 inches long
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Combine tomatoes, onion and red pepper in a  blender or food processor and process until smooth.  remove to a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Add vinegar, sugar and salt.  Tie cinnamon, allspice, cloves, peppercorns and bay leaf in cheesecloth and add to saucepan.  Return to a boil and boil gently, uncovered, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by half or until mixture rounds up on a spoon without separation, about 1-1/2 hours.  Remove cheesecloth bag.

Ladle hot ketchup into hot 8-ounce jars to within 1/2 inch of rim.  Process 15 minutes as directed in this book, or per the Ball Blue Book or your local extension office.

Makes about 3 cups ketchup (it made almost 4 cups for me).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tomato-Lemon Marmalade

We don't eat a lot of jams, jellies, preserves or marmalades around here, but the idea of making one with tomatoes struck my fancy.  I used a couple of very similar tried and true recipes and came up with this small batch, which makes eight 4 oz. jars or four 8 oz. jars.

tomato marmalade, lemon marmalade, tomatoes

Tomato-Lemon Marmalade

2-1/2 to 3 pounds tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 medium lemons, cut into thin slices, then slices cut into quarters
1/2-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into slices
1 Tablespoon pickling spices
4 cups granulated sugar

Combine tomatoes and lemon slices in a large stainless steel or enamel pan. 

Tie ginger and pickling spices in a piece of cheesecloth or use a spice bag, then add the bag to the tomato mixture.  Bring to a boil.

Add sugar gradually, stirring until completely dissolved.  Bring to a boil and boil rapidly until mixture forms a gel*, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare water bath canner for canning.  Also prepare 4- or 8-ounce jars, lids and rings for canning.  Use standard preparations per the Ball Blue Book or your county extension office.

When canner is ready and marmalade has jelled, ladle hot marmalade into hot prepared jars.  Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

*There are two ways to test for gel.  For the first, place two small plates in the freezer when you begin cooking the sweet spread.  As the spread nears the end of cooking time, put a spoonful of the hot spread on one of the chilled plates and remove the spread from the heat source.  Return it to the freezer for a couple of minutes.  If the mixture is sufficiently cooked, it will form a slow-moving gel that drips across the plate when the plate is tilted.  If the gel runs quickly, continue to cook the spread for an additional two minutes and repeat the test.

For the second test, dip a metal spoon into the spread and lift it up.  If the spread "sheets" off the spoon rather than dripping quickly, it is ready to ladle into jars.  If it drips quickly, continue cooking.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lacto-Fermented Salsa - Two Ways

Our tomatoes are finally coming in, so this week I'll be focusing on a variety of tomato-y condiments.  Here are a couple of different flavors of lacto-fermented salsa.  Keep in mind that L-F salsa is preserved with salt or a salty brine --it's what makes lacto-fermentation work -- so it will taste saltier than many other salsas.  You can offset that by serving it with low-sodium tortilla chips and/or reducing the salt in the Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes that you'll be topping with the salsa.

If you have more salsa than will easily fit into your jars, it can be eaten the day you make it.  However, the flavors will blend and mellow the longer it is stored.

salsa, lacto fermented salsa, tomatoes

Annie's Basic Lacto-Fermented Tomato Salsa

4 cups of diced tomatoes (no need to peel)
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons whey
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon sea salt
2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Finely diced jalapeno pepper - to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Adjust amount of jalapeno and/or spices to taste.  Ladle into clean wide mouth pint canning jars.  Press vegetables down so they are under the liquid and/or use a glass weight to weigh them down.  Seal tightly with canning lid and ring.  Set on countertop at room temperature for 2-3 days, or until brine is bubbly and salsa tastes tart.  Remove weights and reseal with lids; place in refrigerator until ready to eat.  Will keep in fridge for up to a few months.  Makes about 5 cups of salsa.

lacto-fermented salsa, strawberry-kiwi salsa, tomatoes

Annie's Basic Lacto-Fermented Strawberry-Kiwi Salsa

3 cups of diced tomatoes (no need to peel)
1 cup of chopped strawberries and peel, diced kiwi (any amounts to total 1 cup)
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons whey
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoons sugar (optional)
1 Tablespoon sea salt
2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Finely diced jalapeno pepper - to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Adjust amount of jalapeno and/or spices to taste.  Ladle into clean wide mouth pint canning jars.  Press vegetables down so they are under the liquid and/or use a glass weight to weigh them down.  Seal tightly with canning lid and ring.  Set on countertop at room temperature for 2-3 days, or until brine is bubbly and salsa tastes tart.  Remove weights and reseal with lids; place in refrigerator until ready to eat.  Will keep in fridge for up to a few months. Makes about 6 cups of salsa.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Meet Bones.

stray cat

I first saw bones asleep under our truck on the day before we were supposed to leave for vacation.  The temperatures were in the 100s that day, with a heatwave forecast for the entire time we were to be gone, so I gave the poor, starving cat some food and water.

stray cat

Then I called animal control to come get him.  They take cats to a nearby no-kill shelter and I felt that was the cat's only chance to survive the heatwave.  By the time they got here, he had vanished.

stray cat

When we returned six very hot days later, there was the cat!  He'd made it, somehow.  Now that we're back with no plans to leave for more than a couple of days at a time, we named him Bones and decided to see if we can restore his health.

stray cat

He's so thin that I can hardly stand to pet him, except for on his head and his tail.  He's literally just skin and bones.  As far as we can tell, though, he is just malnourished. 

stray cat

He's missing large clumps of fur and seems to have an injury in his mouth, but there are no other bruises, cuts, or lesions of any kind.  His eyes are bright and the fur he does still have is soft, shiny and not matted.  He is the most loving cat I've known in a long, long time, and not fearful of us in the least.  He was obviously a pet until just recently, as he has no front claws and has been neutered.  We suspect someone moved and left him behind, either because they couldn't find him or couldn't take him with them for some reason.

stray cat

He stays in our front yard and sleeps in the storm drain when he's not eating or being petted by us.  We are careful to wash our hands thoroughly after we are done petting him.  We don't plan to bring him inside with our other cats, but will be glad to have him as another outside cat.  We will eventually have him checked out by a vet to assess his health.  We don't want to do so just yet,  because we are afraid the vet will want to put him down.  We don't think that's going to be necessary, though.

stray cat

Stay tuned for more pics as Bones (hopefully) puts on some weight and becomes a healthy cat again.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I'm Down With That

I just don't know what "that" is.  At first I just thought it was post-vacation blahs, but no, it's something else.  Body aches and shooting pains in my back and legs, headache, sinus pressure, feeling hot then chilled, nausea, thick snot. 

What? That last bit was too" informative"?  Sorry.

The little shooting twinges are a dead giveaway that I have some kind of infection.  I suspect sinus.  Or maybe ear, since I heard some vacation river water rattling around in there a couple of times.

I didn't take all of my antibiotics from the last time I had sinus infection (bad), so I'm taking them now (bad).  Shane usually calls me at lunch, and as soon as that happens, I'm putting myself down for a nap (good).

I'll be back when I feel better.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Back to School???

Is summer vacation almost over? 

It would seem that way, judging from the ads in Sunday's paper and the back-to-school displays in the store.  As for us, we still have about a third left.  As of tomorrow, seven weeks behind us and five left to go.

Since Kat received a gift card for her birthday that was burning a hole in her pocket, we went shopping this morning.  And since we were there, and the school supply list for our school was there, and the school supplies where there, I went ahead and picked up what Kat needs to start 4th Grade in August.

Our district doesn't ask for much.  This year, they asked for a little more than in the past, but it's still not much compared to some other schools.  I got this pile of supplies for right at $10.

It's three spiral notebooks, 1 package of loose leaf paper, 2 packs of pencils, a package of ball point pens, a package of highlighters, a box each of crayons, colored pencils and markers and a couple of glue sticks. 

The list also called for scissors, a school supplies box and a backpack (things we already had at home), two boxes of tissues (that I still need to buy) and a bottle of hand sanitizer (which I'll opt out of buying because I think it's unnecessary and may not be safe).

It's a small list, really, and I didn't mind paying $10 for what we bought, but I can't help but wonder if Kat will use these things.  Every year, at least one or two items are sent home unused, usually around the winter break, and usually it's the spiral notebooks and/or the supplies box.  I wish, instead, the school would just ask for items as they are needed.  I guess I could opt out of buying all of these things, but I suppose I'd end up paying more for them later when they aren't on a back-to-school sale.

  1. Has anyone else purchased school supplies for this fall? 
  2. Does your school ask for items that probably won't be used? 
  3. Is your school's list long or short? 
  4. If you are a homeschooling family, do you take advantage of the back-to-school sales to stock your at-home class rooms or do you wait to buy things as you need them? 
  5. If you don't have kids at home, do you still take advantage of the sales?  (In addition to office supplies, it's a great time to buy new underwear and socks...)
  6. Most importantly -- do you think summer really is almost over??? 
Explain your answers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Livable Living Room

There's nothing like coming home from vacation to make me realize just how dirty and messy our house is.  It seems like time away makes it easier to see all those things I've been overlooking and ignoring.  One thing I wish I hadn't overlooked was the breakfast burrito and bowl of strawberries I made for Shane on the morning we left for vacation -- last Wednesday.  I stuck it in the microwave for safekeeping while he took care of a few last minute chores.  We were 30 miles down the road by the time we remembered it was still in the microwave. 

Ew.  Just, Ew.

But enough about my past.  Back to the present.  After catching up on a few things that had to be done today, like watering the garden, bringing in a small harvest, and starting some laundry, I decided to tackle a room of the house.  I let Kat choose for me, since choosing seemed beyond my capabilities today.  She picked the living room, and I tacked on our one hallway as well. 

It's not spotless, but I gave it a pretty good top-to-bottom cleaning:

  • Cleared out any items that don't belong in this room
  • Organized the hall (coat) closet
  • Dusted the ceiling fan and attached light fixture
  • Cleaned cobwebs from the ceiling and corners
  • Dusted the blinds
  • Cleaned the windows
  • Removed cat hair from upholstered furniture
  • Dusted the furniture, wall decor, etc.
  • Cleaned all glass surfaces
  • Swept and cleaned the laminate entryway
  • Vacuumed
  • Spot-treated the carpeting

Here's what I can think of that I didn't do:

  • Clean the glass in the front storm door
  • Wash the curtains (they'll surely fall apart if I do)
  • Organize the photos in the cedar chest that we use as a side table.

That last one has been an item on my to do list since my mother-in-law gave me this chest in 2001.  The only time I open it is to quickly shove another photo inside.  Nope, it's not likely I'll be checking this off my list today.

So, at least one room is livable again.  I'm going to do my best to ignore the rest, at least until tomorrow.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Vacation Days 5 and 6 - More Fun in the Sun

Our last episode ended with a little rain.  That storm intensified a little to the east of us and dropped what is believed to be a small tornado in Cuba, just a little while after we left there.  But all that happened in the campground was some heavier rain for the rest of the evening and the loss of wi-fi in the campground.  Wi-fi in Missouri State Parks is a new amenity.  It's so new, in fact, that the maintenance guys didn't know what to do to get it back online, so we were without for the rest of our stay.  So what?  We were camping, after all.  It's not like we needed to be on the computer.

We woke up Sunday morning to bright sunny skies, so as soon as we could, we headed to the river.  We stayed a couple of hours, came "home" for lunch, and went back to the river for a few more hours.  By then, the skies were overcast again, but we didn't let that stop us a second day.  The temps dropped a little, but there weren't even any sprinkles until we were done playing and back at the camper.

Snorkling for sunfish.

Hey, she netted one!

Being a turtle.

Pretending to boogie board.  (It's touching bottom).

Since it was Sunday night, most folks had moved out.  There were just three other RVs in the whole park and a couple of tents.  None of them were near us, though, so it was almost like having the entire park to ourselves.  It was very peaceful.

Today was almost a repeat of last Wednesday.  We spent most of our day driving.  This time we did take the great advice of the Osage Bluff Quilter and ate at Steve's Family Restaurant in Lohman, MO.  It's about 5 or 6 miles off the main highway and worth the detour.  They don't have a website for me to link, but I can tell you they specialize in homemade fried chicken, catfish and ham, with sides like real mashed potatoes, country style green beans, pan gravy and local ice cream.  Served all-you-can-eat and family-style, of course.  It was absolutely the best food we had during our trip.

I was glad we ate there, but sorry that our change in camping plans also changed our plans to actually meet Patti and her husband.  I'm sure we'll catch up with them sooner or later, though.  Maybe we can use a return trip to Steve's Restaurant as an excuse to catch up with them...or use a visit with them as our excuse to go back to Steve's.  Sounds like a plan either way.

We pulled up in front of our house around 5:00 this evening, putting a wrap on this year's vacation.  But camping season isn't over yet.  I'm sure there will be a few more weekend trips in store before it is.

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