Breathing in the Apples

What does moving on look like? (pause) I really don’t know!  The other night, I was thinking that I can’t go back and change things – much as I would like to – and I don’t know how to move forward.  But… I guess I am, one step at a time.  Sometimes the every-day routine helps, and sometimes it seems exceedingly pointless and infuriating.  These things – getting myself out of bed, finding something that fits and is presentable to wear, getting healthy meals on the table, cleaning the house, keeping up with everything, homeschooling the kiddos – were already challenging.  With the weight of sadness on my shoulders, sometimes I wonder how I’m still breathing, existing.

It helps when there are some outings and activities to look forward to.  One of my favorite Autumn activities is apple-picking (yup, it’s officially Fall).  The smell of the apple orchard, selecting the best apples, tasting the different varieties, imagining what to make with the bounty, smiling as the kids ask for “just one more.”

I just made Phil an apple pie for our anniversary and didn’t feel like making another – the crust is so bothersome.  I decided to make some crock pot applesauce, try my hand at some apple jam (with less sugar), and make syrup from the leftover apple scraps.

The applesauce is always good, and so easy – no peeling necessary, just cutting out the cores.  I put everything in the crock pot on low overnight, then blend it in the morning.  I usually add a bit of lemon juice and cinnamon, but rarely add sweetener (if I do, it’s maple syrup, honey, or some other less-processed sweetener).  It’s great on its own, but I also like to add it to pancakes and other baked goods.  I just used some for this carrot cake banana bread since I also had some ripe bananas that needed to get used up (I’ve done a bunch of baking recently, so this banana bread will go in the freezer – yay for planning ahead!).

I didn’t have the cardamom for the apple jam, so I ended up using star anise and an early grey green teabag for flavoring – it’s pretty good!  I think the kids will love it on English muffins or toast for breakfast.  The syrup turned out a bit too runny for my taste, never did thicken up, but it still has good flavor.  I’ve been saving apple scraps and will try another apple scrap recipe in the future – perhaps Spiced Apple Jelly or Apple Honey Jelly.

My friend Nichole organized the apple-picking trip to Knight Farm with her co-op group, and we were happy to tag along.  This is the same place where we got over six bushels of apples last year!  Their prices have gone up, though, so we probably won’t be buying bulk apples for cider this year.

Just down the road from Knight Farm is another orchard that a friend told us about, the only organic apple orchard in the state.  Elwood Orchard had Phil itching to come home and plant more apple trees of our own!  Their selection of apples is mouth-watering, but since we had just picked a big bag of apples, we opted to pick peaches instead.  We were really excited to try their garlic, too, but they were sold out of most of the varieties.  When a recipe calls for a clove of garlic, we’re like, eh… just throw in a whole bulb. *grin*  The kids really wanted to buy the hugest pumpkins they could find.

So peaches… right away I made a dump cake.  Have you heard of those?  Basically, you dump all of the ingredients in a pan and bake.  I haven’t made one of these in a while because it typically calls for a cake mix and a can of pie filling, things I rarely buy.  But I just so happened to pick up a box on sale, and was looking for a quick peach dessert – so I tried fresh peach dump cake.  It was really good!  But sweet.  I think it’s a keeper for when I want a fast, no-fuss dessert (and have fresh fruit on hand), but decided it would be best with more fruit, less topping.  I got a couple more boxes of cake mix on sale, and will divide up each package into two mason jars with old-fashioned oats and chopped nuts for topping.  The chocolate cherry dump cake looks sooo good, but I refuse to buy the canned pie filling.

There were still a bunch of peaches left over, and I decided to pick one of the peach jam recipes I had pinned recently.  I love the idea of adding sweet and spicy elements, and ended up making Spicy Peach Jam (with, you guessed it, less sugar).  I realized too late that I had the wrong kind of pectin, and I was kicking myself – arrrgh!  So, I have a Spicy Peach Sauce. The kiddos and I dipped our grilled cheese sandwiches in it – yum.  And it will probably taste good on grilled chicken.  I do have a host of other canning recipes I want to try, both online and from cookbooks I have (Canning for a New Generation and Blue Ribbon Canning, both from my brother and sister-in-law… are they giving me a hint?).

On Saturday we went to a friend’s wedding reception, someone Phil has known since high school.  It was bittersweet, since we were invited when I was pregnant and I figured we would tell her the news then, what would I wear?, and of course everything has changed.  It was a beautiful day, much of the time spent outdoors at Stepping Stone Ranch, and the kids had a blast.  There were all sorts of outside and table games for people to play, good food to eat, and the favors… burlap bags to fill with APPLES!

Can you ever have too many apples?  And by apples I mean food, family, fun, good times, chocolate, peaches, Autumn-y things… and apples.


Fourteen Years

“Marriage is the clasping of hands, the blending of hearts, the union of two lives as one. Your marriage must stand, not by the authority of the state nor by the words of the minister, but by the strength of your love and the power of faith in each other and in God.” -anonymous

I loved that quote so much that I put it in our wedding program, along with a wedding scrapbook.  I have four different wedding albums – the professional one for which my parents generously paid; the scrapbook; a journal-type book to write details about the engagement, wedding, honeymoon, and current events; along with a mini book in which I put some of the leftover professional photos.

I love to look at pictures – to a fault!  I will pore over photos, analyze what was going on in my mind at the time, remember how much I weighed based on what I was wearing… argh.  Admittedly, I’ve gotten better since having kids… now it’s mostly a wistful journey back in time, wondering how my kids were ever that small, bemoaning that fact they they’re so big and growing into such varying, strong, willful personalities. *sigh*

So, I’m stealing the collage from my eleventh anniversary post.  I haven’t scanned all of our wedding pictures, and I probably won’t get to it anytime soon.  Digital is so much easier!

anniversary collage

We’ve had quite a journey over the past fourteen years, and I can’t believe both how some things change and how some stay the same. One of those Mysteries of Life!  Lots of good times mixed in with challenging situations – many, many blessings – all of which have helped shaped who we have become.

“I don’t have the prettiest face to look at, or the skinniest waist to hold, but I do have the biggest heart to love you with.” from my Love & Romance Pinterest board.

Phil, I love you so much.

Eleven Years

When we planned our wedding for September 15, 2001 we had no idea we would share the week of our wedding with what would forever be known simply as “9/11.”  I felt guilty getting married; it seemed so trivial in comparison to what was happening in the nation at the time, but life goes on.

And life has flown by for eleven years!  Like so many things – school, children, etc. – the moments can at times crawl by and it seems like we’ll be stuck in a situation forever, but then we look back and wonder where all that time went.

Phil and I are always joking, “how did we end up together?”  When he says I’m a city girl and he’s most definitely a redneck; when I love mushrooms and olives and he can’t get them past his throat; when I’d rather read or craft and he’d rather tinker on rusty junk.  But the important things – our belief in God and family, our appreciation of nature, the blessing of our children and the desire to raise them as best we can, our love for each other – these are what we have in common. 

Oh, and we both love cheese.  And bacon.  And going to bed really early because we’re both old farts.  I ask him, “what time will we go to bed when we really are old farts?”  It also helps that we make an effort to spend time together and we each think the other is HOTT (although I know he has poor eyesight).  

This week Phil took me by complete surprise and actually planned something for our anniversary!  He’s on shift today, but on Thursday while the kids were with their grandmother he and I took a day-trip to Nantucket Island, MA where we spent our honeymoon (and where I worked during high school, squirrelling away money that would eventually go for a down payment on our home).

We visited some of the same places as last time and had fun discovering new ones.  I got enough exercise to last for the rest of the year, wandering down cobblestone side streets and toting our lunch to a “just-around-the-next-corner” beach.  My poor back, hips and legs aren’t too happy with me right now but we had a great time.  I wish we could do things like that more often!

“Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.”
Song of Solomon 8:7a

Celebrating Ten Years & a Mini Scrapbook Album

Last week Phil and I celebrated ten years of marriage – woot!  Makes me feel like I should have some advice for all the newlyweds out there.  Truth is, I’m still taking it one day at a time, learning new things as I go.  You can’t possibly know everything there is to know about someone before you marry them – and this can be a good thing!

It’s strange to forever associate or wedding day with 9/11.  Yup – we got married on the 15th of September, just a few days after the attack on the Two Towers.  At our reception, we honored my grandparents on their 60th anniversary, who got married the same year as Pearl Harbor.  I felt so guilty getting married, continuing with my life almost as though nothing had happened.  But you know what?  Life Goes On.  There were a number of friends and family members who were unable to attend our wedding due to the lack of flights, and it’s a good thing we had already planned on honeymooning in nearby Nantucket, MA because we wouldn’t have been flying anywhere.

I spent my anniversary by myself.  Phil was working a 24-hour shift, and Meme had the grandkids.  I didn’t really know what to do with myself!  Were it my birthday, I may have done a little shopping, maybe gotten a small box of chocolate truffles.  I felt the need to somehow celebrate, but it didn’t feel right without my husband.  In honor of the fact that I had a carrot cake muffin on my wedding day, I had a piece of homemade carrot cake (recipe courtesty of Nourishing Traditions) and got an iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts.  Then I drove around aimlessly, trying to figure out what to do. 

Later in the day, I decided to whip up a homemade gift for Phil.  I’m usually on top of these things – and had already gotten a special package deal from Omaha Steaks through Plum District –  but I like to do something special if I can.  Last year for Valentine’s Day I made a little love book from a deck of cards, so my idea for making a love jar filled with 365 thoughts and sentiments felt a bit too similar.  Instead, browsing around and inspired by some of my favorite craft sites, I decided to make a simple scrapbook album with one picture for each year of marriage. 

I didn’t go crazy matching and coordinating elements, but it still took a while to pick the pictures, print them, cut and assemble the book.  I interspersed the photos with the Bible verses, songs, and readings from our wedding, along with a couple others to fill the book.  I like how it turned out!    

We walked down the aisle, each of us escorted by our parents, to Bebo Norman’s A Page Is Turned.

My sister sang I Will Love You, by Kathy Fisher.  I forget where I first heard the song, but I fell in love with it and had to have it in the ceremony. 

One of my favorite passages in the Bible about the passion between husband and wife is in Song of Solomon, when the writer says “Arise, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me… My lover is mine and I am his… Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.”

Another favorite verse about love, loyality, devotion is found in Ruth chapter 1 – “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.  Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God…”

We danced our first dance to Kenny Chesney’s “Me and You,” special to us since we dated and fell in love listening to his songs.

I don’t remember where I found it or who said it, but I put the following quote in one of our wedding albums.  It really resonated with me; there were some people who tried to discourage our relationship, tried to tell us how our relationship should look, and when it all comes down to it it’s between us and God. 

“Marriage is the clasping of hands,
the blending of hearts,
the union of two lives as one.
Your marriage must stand,
not by the authority of the state
nor by the words of the minister,
But by the strength of your love
and the power of faith
in each other and in God.”

A Couple Gift Ideas

I’ve gotten lots of gift ideas browsing craft blogs, and wanted to share a couple that I’ve used recently.

For Valentine’s Day, I was trying to figure out something I could make for Phil that would both communicate how much I love him but would be relatively cheap.  I found this great idea using a deck of playing cards, and pounced – I was able to combine two of his greatest loves, playing cards and me!  You could make this for any occasion, and for anyone, depending on the sentiments you include inside.  Here’s a peek at the one I made:

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I’ll be going to a friend’s wedding in October, and luckily she’s not online so I can show the gift I put together for her!  First, pick something from the registry – behold, the humble pitcher:

Then, add a few extra elements that can be used with it: lemon juice lemons, a couple kitchen towels, and a wooden spoon:

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And I haven’t done this part yet, but include a recipe for lemonade…

1 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
1 cup lemon juice
6 1/2 cups cold water

Dissolve sugar in lemon juice; add cold water.  Serve over ice.  Makes 2 quarts but can be adjusted as needed.

Minted Lemonade Stir in 2-3 drops peppermint extract to 1 quart lemoade
Pink Lemonade Stir in 1-2 teaspoons grenadine syrup to 1 quart lemonade