10 Things to try to save those fresh garden tomatoes

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10Things to Save TomatoesI am so excited about our first crop of tomatoes grown in our tiny backyard garden.

We’ve had non-fruitful strawberry plants so far but the tomatoes…  I looked at these plants the other day and told myself “Yikes!” What are we going to do with all of those tomatoes?

Here’s our little progession of growth. Just planted tomatoes - March 15th

May 7th tomato growth

May 16th tomato growth May 23rd tomato growth

June 25th - our first harvest of tomatoes

The coolest thing about having home grown, backyard tomatoes is to eat them with the knowledge that they were untainted with pesticides and are as fresh as they could possibly be off the vine.

I don’t want them to go to waste!

We will be giving them away to family and friends, as well as sharing plenty of salsa at the summer time potlucks, but there’s just so many tomatoes coming off these six plants!

Here are the ten things I plan on doing with these tomatoes.

1.  Enjoying one with a salad or as a side EVERY DAY. 

The health benefits to eating a salad everyday are indescribable so I will choose to use those delicious fruits to get my salad into my daily diet.  But the days where I’m just lazy and cut it up and eat it straight are more likely.

2.  Cook with the fresh tomatoes where I can in “everyday meals.” 

You know the type – where you cook some chicken and veggies, and decide to throw in a cut up tomato – because you can.

Tomatoes are a power food.  Cooked tomatoes release lycopene and from what my trainer tells me and what I read around the net, it’s something my body can do amazing things with.

Instructables has a great resource for Easy Tomato Recipes that I will be checking out in the near future too.

3.  Make fresh salsa.

One of the blessings of having my mother around still is that she makes this terrific pico-de-gallo type of salsa, with hand chopped tomatoes, green onions, red onions, jalepenos, cilantro, lemon juice and salt.  Seven ingredients that can last about four-five days in the fridge and can be served on anything from eggs to tacos to eating straight from the bowl.  (Seriously, we’ve done it.)

4.  Learn to make dried tomatoes.

I found this set of instructions that not only look easy, but sun-dried tomatoes are one of my favorite things to eat.  Oh yeah, they can be used in recipes too.

5.  Make my own sauces.  For my house, I will probably learn how to make spaghetti sauce first.

An apparently time-consuming process, I found a great resource on Food.com to make my own spaghetti sauce that I want to try.  My guess is that I will have 12 cups of tomatoes at some point, and it will be worth the 2 to 3 hours to learn to make this sauce.

6.  Make and freeze tomato soup.

The resources are incredibly abundant on the subject but I found these recipes I am going to have to read more about later.

Pinterest Search Results for tomato soup

Tomato Soup Search on Instructables

7.  Make tomato jam.

I have never even heard of this until I started searching Pinterest.  The Garnish with Lemon blog has a recipe for Sweet and Tangy Tomato Jam that sounds so good, I may have to try to make it before anything else on this list.  Maybe.

8.  Buy some bacon.  Make BLT’s.

Bacon is one of those foods that everything goes with.  [EVERYTHING!]

If I knew it weren’t so bad for my health, I would eat it every day.  Along with my tomatoes.  (I’m not kidding.)

I have to do this at least once this summer, just to say I did it.  Oh and I skip the bread and use whole wheat tortillas.  It’s part of the life style change we’ve adopted now.

9.  Make some freezer meals to throw in the crock pot.

Why haven’t I done this already you ask?  Because I’m blessed to have the most amazing husband in the world that cooks as long as I clean.  (And I’m not very good at that anyway.)  It’s awesome.

But, he’s not always home and eating out shouldn’t really be an option when he’s gone.  I found this blog with recipes of meals the mom has tried and tested, straight from the freezer into the crockpot.  Sounds like a win-win to me.  I will be replacing all the “canned” tomatoes with my fresh version of course but the freezer part will stay the same.  I’m sure Pinterest will be a great resource as well.

10.  Learn to can tomatoes.

Do I need a new Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker to can?  Maybe, but probably not.

Here are the resources I found:

Instructables Guide to Canning Tomatoes

How To Preserve Tomatoes by Mom Prepares

Plus, I get to learn a new life skill.  That’s a bonus right there.

Cheers and happy-full-bellies to you this summer!

Crocheted Sponge Bob Square Hat

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My favorite site, other than Pinterest, is Instructables.com.

I “got started” in the web world on that site and am excited for the new opportunities it has given me in the near future.

Fair warning – that site can be addictive, almost as much as Pinterest. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Anyway, you are here for a Sponge Bob Square Crochet Hat Pattern.

SpongeBob Square HatMy three-year old asked for this hat.

I consider this pattern an easy pattern, and if you need crochet help, you can use one of the Instructables from this Collection: How to Crochet on Instructables, or a tutorial from Craftsy.

It took me about two hours to crochet the cap/beanie. Sponge Bob‘s embellishments took me about four (4) hours to make and sew on, but I was taking photos in that time too. Sponge Bob Square Hat Pattern Link

As with all of my free patterns, please feel free to make and sell anything you make from them. Do not use my photos and do not call this pattern your own. In all cases, please give me credit for the pattern and better yet, link to the Instructable or this web post.

A shout out to the basis of the square crocheted hat: Rachel’s Hat by Leslie Rudden.

I wrote my own pattern and instructions to make the square hat, and included gauge in the Instructable.

The instructions have full details and photos for three types of characters, including the Instructable Robot, Sponge Bob and Wall-E, all made from the same square yellow hat.Crochet Square Hat Pattern Link

The thing that took me the longest to make was the Instructable.  It took over a week and lets just say it was a labor of love for the site.  As always, I’m trying to win a contest (for the Instructable Robot hat) so wish me luck!

I hope you enjoy the tutorial on Instructables.  It’s called Crocheted Square Hat – Instructable Robot, Sponge Bob & Wall-E.

Drop me a line on the site that you found the pattern through this site and I’ll send you an emailed gift!

Sponge Bob Square Hat Pattern Link

Summer’s ~almost~ Here!

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I know many families that almost dread summer, especially in Central California.

There are days here where you CAN NOT go outside, because the temperatures are over 100-degrees and the air quality is poor.  The valley we live in traps heat and sometimes smoke from close-enough wildfires that unfortunately happen surrounding the valley.

This post is about those 20-30 minutes after work when I just want to do something with those gifts the Lord gave me that is simple, fun, and not too messy.

Other than the obvious, “try to go outside before it gets too hot” or “wait until it cools down a little” answers, (and the planned vacations in other parts of the State,) I put together a list of the top ten things I want to try with my kids INSIDE this summer.

10-indoor crafts to do with kids

These things aren’t really fancy, just fun stuff I found on the inter-webs that I look forward to trying out and doing with my kiddos.  Obviously, this post was written for the mom who is looking to do some indoor activities, not just the standard “10-things to do with your kids this summer” gig that’s already on the Pinterest boards.

My primary criteria for making this list: That ALL my children are able to do the craft/activity.

This means I had to find crafts for a short-interest-span 3-year old, a very mature 4-year old girl and an 8-year old boy.  Believe me, I looked far and wide to get this list together.  You bet I’ll be making other lists as I go along though.

A quick shout out: I love you mommy bloggers!

Other rules to make my list: It had to be made inside and used inside, it had to be “making something” or a game inside (no puzzles or reading for example,) and it cannot involve any kind of painting (something we do outside as a family anyway.)

Inside Activity No. 1: Make Slime

Inside Activity No 1 - Make slimeWe made slime last year and it was a hit!  Instructables is my favorite website other than Pinterest and I created a collection of slime recipes for my children and I to try out.  We used a simple recipe with ingredients I had at home.  I know we will be doing this one again!

Inside Activity No. 2: Make Ice Cream-In-A-Bag

Ice-Cream-in-a-BagI think this activity looks amazing and of course with my kids, all three will have to have his or her own bag.

Inside Activity No. 3: Make a mini marshmallow (or pom pom) popper

I’m almost ashamed to say we haven’t done this yet!  This one is going to be so fun.  Who doesn’t love marshmallows or pom poms?

Inside Activity No. 4: Make a Piggy Bank

recycled bottle piggy bank from Martha StewartI saw this cute recycled bottle bank and immediately recalled how my kids need to see the money, not just keep collecting it.  We could specifically call the savings for summer-fun goals, and other than cutting the hole on top, I would try to get all three kids involved with the decorating, cutting paper, taping and gluing parts.

Oooh – How about using some washi tape to decorate it?  I could use up some of my scrapbooking paper that’s been around forever.  There could be so many possibilities.  Now I just have to save some spools of thread for the feet….  Or think of something else.

Inside Activity No. 5: Make candy bracelets

candy-bracelets from Little Luna

It will be interesting to see which types of candies and cheerios or fruit loops my kiddos put on their bracelets.  This craft could easily be done with more children this summer.

Inside Activity No. 6: Balloon Rockets

balloon rockets

Now I’m really starting to feel like a bad parent.  How could we not have done these yet?  My oldest is able to help blow up the balloons, but I know my younger two will only be able to tape the straw on and let the balloon go.  I hope daddy helps out with this one because I can see my 3-year old being thoroughly entertained by this.

Inside Activity No. 7: Sticky Spiderweb Throwing Game

A sticky spider web

I’ve got the painter’s tape already.  We have the perfect doorway in our home for this.  Now to just find some recycled papers to crumple up….  It’s for a Halloween-themed post, but this can be fun anytime!

Inside Activity No. 8: Plan and Have an Inside Photo Scavenger Hunt

This is based off of a Boy’s Life Photo Scavenger Hunt, but toned down for the younger ones.

This activity is going to require much more work than the other listed above, but I could see it being a hit with all three of my kids.  I know they all love looking at photos, but the prep of taking photos of things will have to occur in the morning, then theirs the downloading, maybe cropping and finally printing at my local Walgreens.  (It’s the closest and cheapest.)

Inside Activity No. 9: Make & Play with Magnetsaltoid magnet set from DoodleCraft

There are so many cool things we could do with magnets.  The pocket sized magnetic fishing set shown above is just one of the many possibilities, although I know my three-year old would be playing with it more than helping make it.  He’s not one to put things in his mouth though, so I am taking that into consideration for my kiddos.

I would also lump together making fridge magnets into this activity, as those never seem to get old, and usually that involves glue.  What child doesn’t love to play with glue?

Inside Activity No. 10: Scrapbook Together

My three-year old is coming up with some seriously funny zingers.  He’s a mix between the humor of my husband and the serious-ness of my personality.  I used to be an avid scrapbooking mommy, but the hey-day of choosing to make time for that has gone.  Now I’m in the phase of going to Cub Scout events, planning parties and going to church events, the list never seems to end.

But I want to remember the everyday events of eating dinner together and answering questions are just the things that I want to remember in the future.

summer scrapbook

I bought a simple book at Target for about $7.

The plan as of right now is to write down memories with my children about the “everyday” things that we take for granted.  I want them to tell me about one thing that each of them are thankful for.  I’ll print out photos of events or life, (whoa is that a concept to have printed photos!) and we’ll paste them into the book as the summer goes by.

It’s not going to be fancy, but it’s going to be ours and it’s going to be great!

I hope some of you can do some of these things too this summer.

I have many family friendly crafts for various age children on Instructables:

DIY Dinosaur Eggs DIY Dinosaur Eggs

Rainbow Bubble Cloud Makers Rainbow Bubble Cloud Makers

Silky, Stretchy Conditioner & Cornstarch Play Dough Silky, Stretchy Conditioner & Cornstarch Play Dough

Fluffy Stuff – Two Ingredient Play DoughFluffy Stuff - Two Ingredient Play Dough

Feel free to come check me out and let me know you found me through my site.  I’ll set aside a little online gift just for you.

I print all my photos at:  Walgreens

The Most Important Things in Life

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2Corinthians 1:13-14I’m not a very good theologian.

I’m not sure I even spelled that word right or even using it right for that matter.

I do the whole praying thing, go to church thing, try to find the positive thing in every situation, love making bible verse media, and truly believe that if Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior then I got the ticket to heaven because of grace.

But every once in a while, like today, are those moments where I feel like spilling my guts on my blog about what I think the most important things are in life.

If you haven’t been reading my blog and don’t want to check out some previous personal posts, let me give you a summary:

My mom is dying of diabetes, congestive heart failure and is on dialysis three times a week.

For the past year, the doctor’s have been keeping her alive (thank you Lord for modern technology) and in May 2014 we were told that there is not much more they can do but keep her comfortable.

She’s had a total of seven heart attacks (that we know of) small, but as the doctor described to us, every single one of them damaged her heart just a little bit more, and two of them (TWO OF THEM) happened yesterday morning.

She’s at home now and is planning on going to see my kids (three of her grandchildren) this afternoon – just like a regular Tuesday.

I have been putting off many of the tasks as the eldest of two children that involve getting things ready for my mother’s eventual funeral.  It’s been challenging to say the least to do this, as the human side of me doesn’t want to face death.

The believer side of me knows where she’s going, so what am I afraid of?

Yesterday’s phone call from my mother woke me up from my silent denial.  My amazing & awesome husband is going to go with me to the funeral home I have picked out to talk to a funeral director and hopefully walk out with a plan.  We’re doing that this week.

I’ve put this off long enough.

The reality is, the more I get done now, the more grieving I can do later.

So what’s the most important things in life right now?

My answer is this: Keep having the same awesome, perfect days.

“What’s a perfect day?” you ask.

For me, it’s enjoying the sweet faces of youth I am blessed to be called mommy by.  It’s the ability to call my mother and check-in-on-her.  It’s the positive & encouraging Facebook post someone posted that spoke to me or tagged me in a photo.  It’s the fact I have a job, healthy children, an amazing husband, a terrific family, a wonderful church and the cutest nephews and niece any auntie would ask for.

It’s my life I’ve been given for as long as I’ve got.

My life is perfect - just for meIt’s perfect for just for me.

It’s the crazy, dependent parents.  It’s the guy who cut me off in traffic that I said a little prayer for so he doesn’t hurt somebody.  It’s my four-year old’s tears because she didn’t get the happy meal she asked for.

I got picked to do this job of wife, mother, daughter, sister & friend in this world, here and now.

It’s all perfect.  It’s routine, normal, peaceful, perfection that I always dreamed of.

I know the time is coming for the drama.  I know the time is coming when I’m going to have to deal with death for both my parents and so many others – if I make it that long.

But to me, that’s all a part of this perfect life – so I can get to heaven and be with all the others that have become before me and we can talk about the perfect lives we had.

I’m alive.

It’s all I need to make the most of every day.

Graduation Season is Upon Us

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My children seem so little right now.

I love it and wouldn’t want it any other way.

Recently enough however, our family and I were invited to five different high-school graduation parties for children my husband and I have seen grow up before our eyes.

My husband and I have been married for almost 18-years and have attended the same church in that same amount of time, so many of these families are part of our family.

I remember 8+ years ago, holding my first son in my arms and thinking how as I knew he was going to grow up, I would cherish memories, remember dates, and recall moments in time when precious events of his life happened.

Enter reality.

Eight years, two more children later, I kick myself for not grabbing the camera and capturing moments while they happen so I can remember them.  So is the story of every momma who fells the same way right?

Think of it as you ticket to change the world

Our family attended a graduation party at our church for twelve (12!) graduating seniors.  Many of them created boards of accomplishments, showcased photos of themselves as children, and displayed honors, achievements, and the important things of life that a high school graduate wants people to know about him or her.

I have ten years left until my oldest will be a graduating senior.

It seems almost surreal just writing that sentence.

Shop Amazon – Congratulate Your Graduate – Class of 2014

Although there are plenty of blogs with words of wisdom for the graduating senior, or collegiate, or mommy letting their 18-year old grown “baby” off to college, I offer one piece of advice:

Always be open to change.Always be Open to Change

It will always be there, and eventually, (even if it seems to be horrible at the moment) it will be for your good.

...so that you may be mature & complete not lacking anything. - James 1:4