Saturday, September 24, 2011

Preserving Carrots

I wanted to share how we keep the abundance of carrots that we grow in our garden for most of the winter.  I didn't blog much about my garden this year because 3/4 of it was carrots.  We had a couple rows of sugar snap peas that did OK this year and 4 pepper plants but other than that our little plot was covered with carrot greens.  And weeds.  But mostly carrot greens.  We pulled them earlier this year (mid-September) because last year we waited until October and they were TOO big.  When they get too big they taste more bitter.  I used them just fine in stews and pot roasts over the winter but they didn't taste quite right raw.  This year we pulled them at just the right time and they taste great.

To store carrots during the winter months all you need is a container large enough to hold everything, some moist/damp sand and your carrots.  You'll want to layer the sand and carrots until you run out of carrots and then cover it all up with one last layer of sand.  I took this picture before the final layer.  Then you just remove carrots as you need them.  Keep a lid on the container to keep out bugs and store in a cool, dark place such as a basement or a garage.

Some important things to keep in mind as you are placing your carrots into the sand is to keep about an inch of greens at the top, don't break or cut off any of the thin root extending from the bottom and watch for bruised or split spots.  Any damaged ones can just be placed in the refridgerator to be used within the month.  Not following these guidelines will cause the carrot to eventually rot.  It won't affect any of the other carrots in the bin so if you miss something a find a rotten carrot a few months later, just toss it and use another one.

I have actually read that stored carrots increase in their nutritional value during the first 6 months in storage.  So "aged" carrots are actually a bit healthier to eat.
 Two little rabbits with their carrots.
I will have another post soon about the other foods I have preserved this year.  I like to keep a count of jars or bags of each type of fruit and vegetable that I put up each summer so I have a better idea of how much we go through during the winter and how much I will need to do the following summer.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Project for a Rainy Day

I saw this on Pinterest awhile back and thought it was so cute.  We have a ton of broken crayons so I knew I had plenty of supplies.  One rainy, gloomy day we decided to try it and add some color to our day.

First we gathered all of our broken crayons and removed all of the paper.
 I then took a regular kitchen knife and cut them up into small pieces.  My cutting board still has a slight rainbow effect.
 Next I filled a chocolate mold with the bits and pieces of crayon.  I used the heart shape, but I would think that any shape would work.
I placed the tray in the oven at 250 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.  I just kept checking on them and peeking to see that there were no more obvious chunks of crayon.  So I didn't set a timer.
 And this is what we are left with once the wax has cooled and the new crayons can be popped out.  They are fun to draw and color with as they produce a color changing effect on paper.
Magnolia loves doing arts and craft activities so I've been looking for new things for her to try this winter when we will be spending most of our days indoors.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Our Denver to Chicago return trip wasn't quite as charming as the Chicago to Denver leg of the vacation.  Just to add another element to the chaos, we had Dan's cousin's 3 year old with us.  His mom met us in Chicago to pick him up.  Turns out she could have driven to Denver to pick him up just to save some time...

So where to about at the beginning...

First of all, thank God for the internet which allowed us to know ahead of time that our 7pm departure time was going to be delayed until 11pm.  Frustrating but I didn't really let it bother me.  We all took naps that afternoon and the kids fell asleep in the car on the ride from the Lane Guest Ranch to the train station in Denver.  We arrived at about 10pm to wait for our 11pm train only to find out the train wouldn't be arriving until at least 1am.  Ok, sitting in a train station for 3 hours with 3 kids under 4 in the middle of the night wouldn't be my first choice in vacation activities, but there was nothing I could do and we made the best of it.  The kids were so so good and for the rest of the day people complimented me on how well behaved my kids were...all the time thinking ALL 3 were mine plus I was obviously expecting another!  Anyways, we got onboard at 3am.  Three o'clock in the morning.  Closer to the time we usually wake up than the time we usually go to bed.  Plus with the time change, it was actually 5am back home.  Lord have mercy.  Needless to say no one brushed their teeth that night.  We barely made it into pajamas before falling into our beds in our sleeper car.  This was 3am.

At precisely 8am we are awoken by this:
 Now granted, we didn't know exactly what "this" was.  We just thought the conductor had made a very hard stop as our car was one of the last on the train and remained on the tracks and upright.  The kids actually all slept right through it.  We heard the porter talking out in the hallway and he said we hit a crane.  Being only half awake at this point, the only thing that I could think of was that we had hit a bird "a crane".  I was confused about why we possibly had to stop just for hitting a bird.  Was it an endangered species?  Within the next 20 minutes we learned that we had to deboard with all of our belongings,3 car seats and 3 kids who had only been asleep for the last 5 hours.  The scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles came to mind when they are schlepping their heavy bags across that huge field.

This is the crane we hit.  No it is not a bird.
 Luckily when we got off the train TONS of rescue workers and volunteers were on the scene to help out.  We didn't have to carry anything but the kids and my purse.  They fairly quickly loaded us onto school buses and away we went to the high school gym.  Where unbeknownst to us we would remain for the next 8 hours.

 They fed us as much as we could eat and were very accomodating, but sitting in a hot gym with a couple hundred people after a 5 hour train station wait and only 5 hours of sleep with, let me remind you, 3 kids under 4 got really old. I hit my breaking point somewhere around hour 5. Before then, I had remained positive with a "it could always be worse" attitude. After leaving the guest ranch at 8:30pm and as I sat in a Nebraska high school gym in the middle of no where at 1pm I began to wonder if things COULD get worse? The closest car rental company was about 2 hours away so we didn't have many options. We knew that United Limo type buses were going to pick us up and so we waited.
I guess Boothe is dancing here.  Seriously check out those moves....

 They brought toys over from a nearby preschool for the kids to play with.
And so at 4pm we loaded up onto a bus that would take us halfway across the country during the next 18.5 hours getting us into Chicago at 11:30am.  Only 21 hours late.  Bringing our total travel time to just under 40 hours. Never had I been so happy to get into our own car.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lane Guest Ranch

The day after my birthday, a couple weeks ago, we traveled out west to spend a week with family in northern Colorado.  Near Estes Park in the Rockies there is a wonderful all-inclusive ranch that is perfect for all ages making it a great spot for family reunions.  Check out their website here.  It was definitely a neat place to spend a week.

We took Amtrak from Chicago to Denver and loved it.  The girls and I had never rode on a train in the US and we all thought it was really a great way to travel if you are in no hurry to get anywhere.  It's just relaxed.  It was suppose to be a 17 hour trip and ended up being about 20 hours, but we had decided the traveling was going to be part of the vacation.  Usually the travel days of a trip are dreaded, long and stressful whether you fly or drive.  We wanted the train ride to be part of the fun and it really was.

The girls in Union Station, Chicago.
 The girls settled in on the train.
 Night time on the train was really cool.  Everyone slept well in their own bed and I thought it was relaxing (for the most part) to sleep while in motion.  I love to sleep in the car!

 Arrival in Denver.  Off to meet uncle Pete who picked us up from the station.

 The girls in front of the sign for the ranch.
 Three out of 4 of the girl second cousins.  Hailey 8 months, Boothe 2, Magnolia 3.5, Ayla 2.5
 Pierce, 3 years.
 Magnolia getting on the train in Chicago.  Somehow this picture got out of place...
 Cayden, 4 years.
 This was either breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Lodge.  Some Hughes and some Haynies.
 Guess who...
 We swam everyday before and after lunch.  The pool was great.  Lunch was served at the Cafe next to the pool.

 All 5 of the girl second cousins.  I wonder which one is the BIGGEST ham?
 Enjoying the nice weather on the deck of the house.
 Play-doh kept the kids entertained for awhile one day.
 Magnolia and Boothe's only 1st cousin on Dan's side.  Ayla is 4 months younger than Boothe.
 Baby Harper 15 months, with her mommy, Erika.
 A family picture before dinner one night.
 Pete and Boothe obviously really enjoying themselves at dinner! :)

 This place is amazing with kids.  Counselors just for kid stuff.  They took the kids pony riding.  Took us all on a easy hike.  Kept the kids at Kid's Camp to do arts and crafts and just play.  Came to the house to babysit.  Were essential to this trip feeling relaxing and like a vacation to us parents.  Priceless.
 Magnolia and Pierce waiting to ride their pony, Salt.
 Pete and Ayla waiting for her turn.
 Most of the horseback riders.  Harper came over to the corral late and LOVED the horse so they actually took her on a short ride and then another with she said "more, more, more"!
 Magnolia and Salt.  What a big girl.

 Beautiful backdrop at the corral.

 Then it was Boothe's turn.  She was ecstatic!  Only rider who wanted to go again once everyone had gone.  Fearless.

 Tried to get a nice family picture in front of the scenery but the sun was RIGHT in our face so Magnolia didn't want to look towards the camera and Boothe was cheesing it with her eyes closed so she could get some candy (bribery).
 Feeding the pony apples.
 These little guys are in great supply around the ranch.  They are EVERYWHERE!
 Boothe on round 2.

 Group picture.  Only missing uncle Frank.  Here's the lineup:  Justin and Lowry and their 2.  Ken and Erika and Harper.  Aunt Mary.  Aunt Susan and Pierce.  Us and our 2.  Pete and Mis and Ayla.
 Another dinner shot, from a different angle.
 Almost everyone from the group went along for an easy short hike one afternoon with the children's counselors.  It's actually a kid's hike but being pregnant and already having a hard time breathing because of the altitude and dry air, I wanted to do something but nothing AT ALL strenuous or even long.  This was perfect and ended up being perfect for everyone, the kids and parents.
 Magnolia led the way for the first part of the hike.
 We walked to a beautiful waterfall.
 The kids throwing stones into the river.

 Another picture that somehow got out of place when I uploaded them.

 Next the kids went fishing with the kid's counselors.  Dan and Justin were there too but this fishing trip was for the kids.  The guys all took an early morning fishing excursion and caught....nothing!

 Does it matter if you don't catch anything while fishing when you have scenery like this?

 The counselor caught a very small fish that they all got to touch.

 Simply perfect.
 Simply perfect.
We took the train home from Denver to Chicago, but had a slightly different experience on our return trip.  I have to save that for another post.