Jul 31, 2015

Canning Tomatoes for Beginners

You've read how to sterilize the jars, you've thoroughly cleaned your tomatoes, so how do you turn your over abundance of this fresh fruit into jars of tomatoes to use in the winter? Very easily I say!
The trick is to get every thing you need lined up in order and you can be done in an hour.
Get your water bath going and an additional pan of hot water to drop the tomatoes into for skin removal. Get a bowl of ice water, line up your sterilized jars and put your canning salt in the bottom (a small teaspoon will do) and have your lemon juice ready. Keep on standby an empty bowl for the tomato scraps (the tops and skins that you remove). If you make your own compost you might want to set that aside for later, personally...our chickens eat the remains as a nice treat!

Okay, you are prepared. You have what you need. The water is boiling in your pots so drop a few tomatoes into your smaller pot while you prepare some more jars or tomatoes. After a couple of minutes in the boiling water, the tomato skin will pop or begin to split open. Pull them out and place them into the ice water bath to cool while you drop more tomatoes in.

As soon as they cool enough, the skin should peel right off and you can cut the tops off of the tomato. Put the fruit into the hot mason jars on top of the salt, add a dash of real lemon juice and ladle in some of the hot water you used to remove the skin to finish filling the jar (leave some space at the top for processing). Wipe around the top of the jar to ensure proper sealing and top the jar with a lid and ring and place inside your hot water canner. Each jar should stay in the canner of boiling water for about ten minutes or so. You can use your jar lifter to get the jars out for cooling. I don't touch my jars at this point until the next day. I check the top to make sure it is sealed (the flat lid should not give or move at all when gently pressed down). I will then write the date on the jars and set aside in the pantry to use for our winter soups.

You can and should read the safety guidelines for processing tomatoes this way, but this is how I was taught and and has worked for me for years.

Jul 24, 2015

Favorite Twitter Party Sites

My first Twitter party and guess who won a prize? Me! Now I've been on Twitter for a while now and follow various people and organizations but something caught my eye yesterday when a tweet scrolled over my smartphone. It was from @Freebies4Mom. She had tweeted about an easy, interesting Twitter party where you use a couple of designated #(hashtags) and as long as you tweeted and kept active in the party, you would be eligible for prizes. It only lasted a hour and given the time of the event, I knew I could do that!

I signed up for the event, set an alarm on my phone to remind me of the party, and before I knew it, my twitter handle was called and I won a $100 gift card to Walgreens! That was it. That was easy! So here are a few of my top picks where you can find events like these....and, with Freebies 4 Mom, you'll get more than just the twitter events. She loads you up with good info and other types of freebies!

Freebies 4 Mom        @ Netgurl        @SoFabChats 

There are more options but I don't want to overwhelm you! If you follow these, you'll eventually find the other good ones as well! Good luck and Tweet away! (Twitter accounts can be set up for free at www.twitter.com)

Congrats ! You won Prize 2: $100 GC! Tweet to w/ w/in 5 mins to claim!

SheSpeaks has put together an article as Twitter Party 101 full of helpful hints: (click here to read)

Jul 23, 2015

Favorite Free Sample Site

Let's face it, we just don't have time to fill out lengthy forms and we don't have time for surveys. Just give us some free samples!

I have spent countless hours searching and participating in websites that offer free samples and so far and by far, by favorite is the freebie section on About.com. I find that she has done the work for me, and all I have to do is check her page daily to see the updated list. I follow her on Twitter and Facebook to see the reminders and updates lest I forget. By following her on social media it is easy for me to see if anything else peeks my interest that she has scouted out. Occasionally, some freebies are in-store only and living far far away from any store, I only choose the ones by mail, but that's just my preference. I click on the ones I want and I'm redirected to the sign-up page and done! I'm outside playing with the kids while I wait for my free samples by mail!

Jul 22, 2015

First Came the Chicken

Here in Alabama, the local 4-H program offers selected elementary students to learn about poultry with a hands-on project called the Chick Chain. Already interested in obtaining three or four chickens, we decided this would be of great benefit to our family of four the more we read about it. One year later, we have more eggs than we can eat with plenty to share with neighbors and relatives.

Noticing the price of eggs these days, we definitely see a difference in our grocery bill. The small monthly investment to buy feed for our remaining 9 laying hens only pales in comparison to the price of a container of 18 eggs in the store. The feed isn't the chickens only source of nutrition since they love the random treats of grass, beetles, worms, scrap fruits or vegetables, berries and more.

If a local program is not offered in your area or if you are not eligible for one and decide to go on your own to the local auction or supply store to purchase your hens, the number of birds you need to purchase will depend on your demand for eggs and your family's ability to care for the hens. Though automatic feeders and watering cans can be easily made or purchased, gathering eggs, cleaning coops, checking roosts and monitoring the overall health of the chickens will take a little devotion each day from at least one caretaker.

And just to clarify the age old question..."Don't ya need a rooster to get eggs?" Nope! Not unless you want fertilized eggs. Let's face it, females of many species have produced eggs since the beginning of time without a male present. So unless you prefer having a rooster, and listening to that delightful Cock-a-Doodle-Doo all day, hens will do fine. (opinions vary on the subject)

Eggs are not only good for you in moderation, bakers and chefs value their presence. When you find yourself with eggs galore, you'll be thankful you invested a few pet chickens.