Friday, September 13, 2013

First Of the Canning Season

I love fall. And I really love preparing in the fall. This sense of preparation or "need to prepare" kicked in full gear when I was expecting our first child many years ago. Until that time, I just got really excited about the "back to school" season - even though we didn't have any children at the time. I assumed it was left over excitement of starting a new school year. New adventures...

My favorite time is coming!
Once the babies started coming though I would go into what Husband referred to as "squirrel girl" mode. It always hits in the fall. It always starts the same.
  • Lists. I start making more lists than I normally do. Lists for repairs. Lists for chores. Lists for food. Lists of what needs to be cleaned. You name it, if it has to do with "preparing for winter" squirrel girl is on the job! 
  • Cleaning. I have never done the deep spring cleaning that you always read about. I do clean (I promise...please don't let my previous post on soap scum give you a poor impression of my housekeeping skills), but I do my deep cleaning in the fall. Before we're all tucked inside for the icky weather and long months. I think it is also the tax incentive that encourages me to go through what we're not using and give it to the VVA or local charity. 
  • Decorating. I start to look at different spaces in our home, and since it's cleaned and streamlined, my thoughts turn to how to refresh the space and "make it new" (...I already have ideas about the laundry room...). Plus, the holiday season is just around the corner!
  • Food Storage. Maybe it harkens back to ancestors...or maybe it's childhood memories of a lot of snow in the winter...all I know is that fall starts a strong desire to make sure I have stores for the family's needs, and it goes beyond food to include toiletries, clothing, and any other supplies a family might need.
This summer I put up 20 quarts of fresh, organic peaches. I also used some of the peaches for jam. I tried a new variety -- Diamond Princess -- and they were amazingly sweet! I only used 1.5 cups of sugar instead of the called-for 7 cups! The family has been circling around the jars ever since, asking when we can open them. "Not yet!" I say, "It's still in the high-80s and 90s!" I did break down and my youngest took some for lunch earlier this week. They were so good -- it was like tasting a fresh-picked peach! YUM!

Mmmmm! This is going to taste SO good on toast on a raining morning!
My biggest challenge is finding organic produce in bulk and at a reasonable price. I was so excited when I found an excellent wholesale produce company not too far from work and home: ProFarm Produce. Shane and Ryan are awesome...and Shane is great at responding and keeping up with my regular inquiries on what's ripening. (** wink **)

Next up on the agenda are PEARS. I'm going to can pear pieces so they're easier to fit into the Ball freezer containers. These containers are perfect for freezing left over broth or drippings for soup stock (another staple in our home during cold evenings...I think my teenage son would live off soup during the winter if I let him!), and the leak-proof flexible lid is perfect for lunch containers too. It's only topped off by the fact that they're BPA free! (THIS all makes me a very happy mom.)

These come in a set of 3 for $4.99 at my local Winco
After pears comes APPLES! I do a chunky apple sauce with cinnamon. Generally I don't add any sugar, depending upon what types of apples I'm saucing. I'll probably do up some apple butter as well. It reminds me of my Mom, and I have yet to make some, so this fall seems the perfect time. 

The fruit, jams, and butters will be joined this fall and winter by the green beans and zucchini (prepped and frozen for soups and breads). Sadly our corn experiment was a bit of a bust (more in my next post). And all the other produce is being eaten as fast as I can pick it. 

Each year I learn so much about gardening. And while I'm having fun and taking great pride in growing some of our food, I am really glad that I'm not solely dependent on my garden for feeding my hungry brood. I'm going to need more time to learn and optimize my garden space!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Round Two: Me vs. Soap Scum

As promised, I'm posting the results of my experiment with oven spray to remove tough soap scum (read: black, nasty build-up). Husband took an interest, because like I said in my earlier post, he's a guy and lots of guys are interested in chemistry....but nothing exploded. =0)

So here is the shot of my shower floor. I really cannot believe I'm posting this out to the Internet and exposing my domestic soul...but I figure its good therapy (right? Right?!). In my slight defense, the lighting (you can see my shadow darkening the left side of the picture) makes it look slightly scarier in the picture than it does in person...

Yeah, pretty discussing...I know and am appropriately ashamed.
So here is the brand and type I bought. Starting at the bottom of the shower and the floor, I worked my way up the walls and used the entire can. Even though it states "frame free" on the bottle, it still does have a smell, so I turned on the fan and tried not to breathe a lot while spraying. 

I let it sit for one hour (yes, Husband checked on it several times to see how it was going), then used a stiff scrubbing brush to scrub and remove the junk. And here is the result:

I was SO hoping that it would be a miracle solution like the rubbing alcohol on the soap scum build up, but not quite. I DO have to admit, it really DID breakdown the soap scrub, but I did use my scrub brush some to get it clean. This of course wasn't good enough. So back to the store for another bottle - this time I bought the spray bottle not the aerosol can (appealed to the recycler in me).
Here is the second result:
SOOOOO much better!
WHOO HOO! Pretty impressive huh? I now know that my showers and tubs will never look anything but exceptional from now on! I've bared my domestic soul and I feel really clean now. ;0)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again!

Oh my gosh! I cannot believe how quickly time has passed...
Like many of you, I've been busy raising our family and working full time.  But the last several months I've come to rely on the advice and information on other blogs and thought, "I need to post the comments and feedback on MY blog." So here I am.

I stumbled upon a miracle last night. While husband and I read after falling into bed after a busy day (mine cleaning all day, playing catch up), I came across a comment made on a Canadian blogger a Mum 'n the Oven. They were talking about how to get soap scrum off shower doors, etc. one person posted "wipe the glass with rubbing alcohol."

What!? Rubbing alcohol? Seriously? I was so curious, I crawled out of bed, grabbed the alcohol and a cleaning rag and went into my shower. I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! The soap scum that I had been battling FOR YEARS wiped off without any effort.

I know, I's soap scum...why is she getting so excited. I may be late to the party but dog-gone-it this is a life changing moment for me (at least in the cleaning portion of my life)! For those of you who know me personally, I can get a bit...particular about things...down right anal. It has served me well in business and in life in general...but I have to admit, it was causing me some problems in the "cleaning the bathrooms" department. Because I would have to scrub so hard and so long just to get a little bit ahead of the soap scum, I was disheartened and didn't want to do it often enough to stay ahead of it (my Momma is currently looking down at me from above, nodding head and giving me one of her famous looks of "uh huh").

Needless to say, when I tried the rubbing alcohol, I was so amazed I called Husband in to take a look. Yep, called him out of bed to take a look at what the rubbing alcohol had done. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, he's a smart man...he knows that "when Momma's happy, everybody in the home is happy." He was rightfully impressed, being into guy things (which usually involves chemistry, blowing things up, and the like).

I waited until this morning to take some before/after shots. Here there are. And note, these before shots are not as bad as they've been before...this is what I got the soap scum level down to after drubbing a few weeks ago. The bottom of the doors were completely fogged and coated.

Here are a couple of the beforehand; and no there's nothing weird with my's the soap scum and their shadows.
 Before and after - pretty amazing!

Here are the after photos. Pretty freakin' amazing if I do say so. And it was only 10 minutes with little effort.

And my new best friend:

Next, I'm going to try out a recommendation to use oven cleaner to get ride of the nasty soap scrum/mineral build up on my shower walls and floor. Figured I'd give it a try, and even if it only loosened it, I always have a bottle of my new best friend, right?

I promise to document it and share the results. Please don't judge me though...I fully admit that my shower is pretty gross and something I'm NOT proud of...