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Monday, September 29, 2014

Getting "jammed" with Green Tomatoes

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Chopping the green tomatoes.
This growing season for tomatoes was a very interesting one. It is wonderful to extend the tomato season, but sometimes your just done. We always pick a few tomatoes early because we actually love fried green tomatoes. If your like us you can only eat so many fried green tomatoes. And before you just rip that tomato plant up and toss it to the chickens. You may want to try this.

Adding sugar.
I let it sit for 3- 5 hours
covered to let juices release.
I had never heard of green tomato jam until I was walking the dogs the other day. An older gentleman neighbor joined me on my walk. I just love older people they always have so many interesting stories about everything. He asked me if I make Green Tomato Jam. 

We I returned it looked
bubbly and juicy.
I admitted I had never heard of it. We finished our walk and departed our ways. You know what I did next: yup - I googled it! Wow, so many variations of this old-tyme jam.

Here is the recipe I came up with using
what I had on hand:

Green Tomato Jam Recipe

Added chopped seed removed lemons.
20 cups of chopped tomatoes
5 cups of sugar
2 chopped and seeded lemons (leave peels on)
1/4 cup of lemon juice

We like this jam. It is savory and sweet. It is very different.
Cook and can
like your other favorite jams.

Added 1/4 cup of lemon juice.

There is also a recipe I found that
uses raspberry Jello I might try.  I'll let you 

I am so grateful to that 
for that small mention.

Have you ever learned a cool thing from an older, wiser person and tried it with success?

Share and comment. I'd love to hear it!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Expanding an Old Farmhouse and Getting Ready for Winter Part One

Old houses are often pretty small. I know they survived this situation in the olden days. They tolerated having large families in these teeny houses. But in our modern day we I simply ain't used to it. 

Here at Sanctae Familiae Villa we are trying very hard to stay within the footprint of the home. We wanted to stay true to the home, true to our homestead lifestyle while still knowing we have to live in this modern age with our family. How could we achieve a little more comfort and still be true to our lifestyle. We did this using an existing mud room that was adjacent the living/dining area. 

We also wanted to add a more homestead friendly heat source which we decided would be a wood stove. Oil is not homestead or pocket friendly.We had 2 very old chimneys. One was for the furnace the other had clearly been abandon long ago. So we decided we would expand our family space and get ready for winter. 

With all these things in mind we jumped into the remodeling of our little humble home.

Here are only some pics of the process:
The ugly mud room at first demolition stage.

View from the existing living/dining area

A room with a new view!
 Note: You can not just knock out load baring walls. You must leave supporting wall joists or build some type of temporary structure until you put the proper beam(s) in place. 
For this job you need patience, skill, education on structure stuff, strong offspring and some great strong friends that are willing to help. Besides having such a understanding, patient wife - Rob has all of these requirements for this job!

Rob and Kolbe watch our friend
Dennis (do all the work) prep the beam.
Bonnie waits for the new beams.

Rob shows off his tools.
Dennis shows off his wounds.

Beam one going into place.
The guys await and put in the third and final beam.

The rooms become one. 

The room looks great. Thanks so much Dennis and Brian!

Look for more in the next posts:
-  adding a field stone area for the wood stove
-  choosing a wood stove and it going in
- adding a mantel and finishing the walls

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Jewelweed - The Gem against Poison Ivy

When your an active family who loves the outdoors, getting a poison ivy rash is pretty much inevitable. When my children were young and my young boys were very active this seemed like a losing battle. Most of my children would just get a very small rash, but my oldest son would get covered. This poor boy would just have to look at poison ivy and he would break out into a rash. One time his reaction was so severe the doctors tried giving him prednisone, which I reluctantly accepted only for him to get violently sick from this horrible med. There must be something natural I can do for him I thought. I made many oatmeal pastes for this boy.  

 I was so excited when I first heard about this lovely weed at Sturbridge Village. I made sure I knew from my guide every little detail. I wanted the exact name of the plant and he showed me what it looked like. I tried hard to memorize it's characteristics. I was a young mom and I was new to the whole foraging in the woods. I went home that day and looked up this amazing plant. Our family has been using jewelweed ever since! Here is a small post about it and some of the ways we use it.
First you must know your enemy. Actually knowing where poison ivy is does help somewhat. You can take measure to have someone not so sensitive to it's oils (like my dear hubby) remove it. You can avoid going near it, you can warn others, you can try to keep your animals out of that area. Even with these precautions you still may end up with this rash. If you know you have touched it you can wash quickly and apply the juice of a crushed jewelweed stem.

Poison Ivy - Notice the
"leaves of 3" coming out
of the base of the stem
Virginia Creeper - usually
mistaken for poison ivy
but it has a noticable
5 leaves from the base
of the stem
It will not give you a
rash but it like the same
growing conditions
as poison ivy.
If you see this plant
look further and
poison ivy is probably near!
A patch of poison ivy and virginia creeper.

Jewelweed's pretty orange, spotted, trumpet like
flower. The hummingbirds love to sip from them.
Similarly jewelweed usually grows very close to poison ivy. I guess that is God's way of giving us signs in nature. This is good - this is bad. Do not let it's close proximity deter you from using this great weed. I have managed many times to gather it without getting poison ivy. I believe most of our poison ivy exposure comes from interacting with our animals.

Jewelweed is in the impatiens species. I believe the kind I have is Spotted touch-me-not (Impatiens biflora). It grows to about 5 feet tall and I am forunate to have a few good-sized patches on my property. It is called Jewelweed because water beads up on the leaves making it look like jewels.
A patch of Jewelweed stands about 5 feet tall.
Cutting Jewelweed.
 We usually just use the plant directly all summer. In the fall, however, we harvest as much as we are able. I usually do a few things with it. I infuse it in oil (any except olive oil - it burns) in a crockpot, make tea ice cubes, soak it in apple cider vinegar and dried some out. This year I made soap out of the oils and tea cubes!
Our Jewelweed harvest.

Washed in cool water and laid out to dry.
Jewelweed contains anti-inflammatory properties as well as a fungicide. That is what makes it so beneficial for all skin irritants. It can be used on bug bites, nettle stings and anything else that has got your skin itching and swelling.

It is okay to crush the stems, leaves and flowers.
It helps remove the wonderful, healing juices.

Pouring apple cider vinegar onto it.

Letting the infusion brew in the window.
I will later move it into
dark bottles and stored in my fridge.

Making Jewelweed tea.

Straining out the plant parts. 
Pouring the tea into ice cube trays.

Find this Gem near You!

I hope this was helpful. Let me know. 
I enjoy your comments good or bad so please do!

Friday, September 12, 2014

How patriotic are you ?

Did you know it 2 days it will be the 200th year anniversary of The Star Spangled Banner?

In the year 1814 on September 14, soldiers hung a huge flag in Honor of winning of the war of 1812.
Francis Scott Key saw this and was inspired to write the song that today is our National Anthem .
Our Flag at Sanctae Familiae Villa

Recent polls show that only 10% of Americans know the words to are anthem.  So if your in the 90% of Americans who don't know the words here is our National Anthem. The  lyrics are below as well as a nice karoke video for you to sing along. You have 2 days to learn it! Be Patriotic and Have Fun!

Also look below the lyrics for a link to quiz your knowledge on Our Nation's Anthem

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

If you feel you have done a great job, you already knew our Anthem or you are just a plain smarty-pants . . . then check out this link to the Smithsonian and Collect Stars

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bittersweet 9/11

A young Rob and Mickie
at Charlotte's baptism.
Today is the 13th memorial of the 9/11 attacks. The flag flies half mast today at Sanctae Familiae Villa. But today is also the 13th birthday of my daughter Charlotte. I suppose we all have a story to tell about where we were on that frightful day. Here is ours. I woke up around 6am to my water breaking. My husband, Rob, at that time was working 3rd shift; so knowing he was already on his way home I called my neighbor. "Hey Patty, could you come over I think my water broke" She came as quick as I called. "So what do you think . . . do you think my water actually broke?" I asked. "I don't know, you've done this more than me and more recent." she replied. I told her I was pretty sure it was my water but I was wondering why I wasn't having any contractions. I thought that contractions would come soon so I suggested we feed the boys and ourselves while waiting for Rob to arrive home from work.

Rob arrived home, ate quickly, and we prepared to leave for the hospital. Patty would stay with the boys until my parents made the 2 hour journey from Massachusetts. While we preparing for another beautiful family memory, planes were being boarded for what people thought was just another ordinary day in their lives. While we arrived at the hospital, flight attendants tried to contact FAA to signal that they were hijacked. I was hooked up to a fetal monitor, my water had indeed broken, but there were still no signs of contractions. The doctor figured I should just rest a bit. So hubby and I decided to turn on the television. We were watching Good Morning America when it suddenly broke in live with the first plane crash into the World Trade Center. "What is going on?" I remember saying. Our nurse became curious as well and turned to see the t.v. I remember Rob saying "that is a lot of fuel for a small plane, it must be a commercial plane, why was it flying so low?" Since my husband works in the aviation field I considered this thoughtfully. What if this wasn't an accident? Were we being attacked? Scary. I thought about my brother who lived so close to the towers. I was just there at Christmas time the boys took a photo on Santa's lap (right in the World Trade Center). As soon as I thought those thoughts the second plane flew right into the other tower. Why would someone do this?
Charlotte was born bringing in the harvest.

I called my home to tell Patty. "Your brother just called, he sounded crazy, he was looking for you, said he couldn't get in touch with your parents. I told him they were on their way here because you were at the hospital having the baby, she's having the baby now? he blurted out . . . but he said to assure you  he was okay. I've been watching Bob the Builder videos with the boys. What's going on?" I explained to her what was going on.

My parents arrived at the hospital too sit in front of the t.v. in shock. They tried endlessly to reach my brother only feeling little assurance from the call to Patty. Things got more emotional when the pilot name was release John Ogonowski. My mother burst into tears she had watched his children for years. I had no words for her. And I still had something to do. I had to have a baby. I began pacing up and down the halls of the hospital. I knew if contractions did not come on their own they would chemically make them come . . . and I wasn't cool with that. It was a little to late for thoughts of why I was bringing a child into this crazy world. But those thoughts lingered. I finally kicked everyone out of my room, demanded the television be shut off, and that I was going to have this baby. And I did.

The little blondie, so different from her
darked-haired brothers.
I had the most beautiful, blondie, tiny, baby girl. She was so different from her dark haired brothers. She was a blessing from God.

Enjoying the snow with
her little sister Gigi.
Later on we found out a boy from school was on one of the planes, Brian Kinney. My brother lost the building where he lived. Many people lost so many loved ones. Sadness. I call it bittersweet because I had joy on such a day and actually felt guilty. This has been my reflection for many years. Why sadness for some and joy for others? A mystery. I do know this however, the world may be crumbling around us but a baby is sure to bring a huge smile across our faces. There may be sadness and death but there is also life. Choose it! One and a half years later we had another little girl and we will accept more if God wills it. And even if I knew of all the terrors I would still have my children. I will try to raise them with love and no fear. Heaven is our goal.

The newspapers did a story on her birth and every 5 years they contact us to run an article on the local girl born on that dreadful day. She is used to the looks she gets when she shares her birth date and always repeats "yes, that day". When she was younger she did not really understand, but as she grows older her understanding grows. When I asked her how she feels about being born on this day. This beautiful 13 year old replied "I think I was born to try to bring joy to the sadness of the world". And that she does. We are so proud.

Thank you God for giving us Charlotte, our little beacon of light, on such a dark day.

Here is a link to one of the newspaper articles:

Dedicated to my husband's grandfather Gerard Atkinson died on 9/11/13 and to all the victims and families of the 9/11 attacks. You are always in our prayers.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Our Lady around the Villa

Today is the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Yes, it's Mary's birthday . . . and like Fr. Larry said this morning at Mass "I am not going to tell you how old she is , but about how great she was . . ." We get to celebrate this day with a special meal and maybe even a birthday cake. But of course it got me thinking about everyday around our homestead with Our Lady. So in honor of Jesus and His Mother I present this simple little post as a birthday gift.

Photos of Our Lady around Sanctae Familiae Villa

Our Lady welcomes us, guests and morning glories!
Mary is the garden. The Holy Spirit dropped a seed into Mary in a spiritual manner. The seed grew into the flower that is Christ. 

Even in a room with construction and rubble
Our Lady of Lourdes
finds a place to remind us of Christ.
Our Lady of Sorrows image displayed
 next to an image of The Sacred Heart of Jesus.

My daughter cleaning and caring for
a statue that is displayed in the
heart of our home. 
Our peacock even gives homage
to Our Lady by giving us
his feathers to decorate her.

A light in the dark.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Canning Salsa Water Bath Method Revised*

Now everyone always asks me for my salsa recipe . . . it is different every year. I will give you a basic of what is in salsa. You must make it your own. Don't be afraid to try different things. But if you are not like me and need and want more guidance, there are plenty of great recipes on the internet or you could check out cookbooks at your local library.
But here is what I do:
Tomatoes - how many?  just pick out of your garden, food store or farmstand and chop until you don't feel like chopping anymore
Onions - what you got 
Garlic - raw or roasted we don't care
Peppers - hot, mild, sweet, throw it in there
Touch of sugar, Dash of salt, toss in some vinegar. Oil is optional.  * I actually added lime juice to this batch of salsa. . . what is important is you need some form of citric acid  . . . it could be lime or lemon juice or some type of vinegar to prevent botulism. I prefer lime juice because the vinegar gives the salsa a funny taste. 

Next cilantro is one of my "have to have" in salsa. I pick a bunch, chop and in the pot it goes.
My family loves it when I add fruit : peaches or pineapple or mango. This batch has there favorite mango. Why my son threw in a cucumber this year I'm not sure why. . . but it tasted great! 

Once you have made a whole bunch and your family has eaten a bunch of it with chips, eggs, rice (whatever you and them love to put salsa on). If you have any extra (because you made so much) you will need to do something with it so it doesn't go bad. Canning is usually what I do next. Then I hide them in the basement away from hungry teenagers! Yes, I ration!

 What you need:  A canning pot with jar rack, other pots for boiling water and food, canning funnel, magnetic lid catch, jar grabber, ladle, glass jars, canning lids and fasteners (all must be sterilized in boiling water) and Your Yummy Salsa
I heat to 165-180 degrees to kill any bacteria.

Pour into sterilized jars. Leave at least 1/2 from the top.
Be sure that there is no food spillage on top.
Wipe with cloth dipped into boiling water.
Carefully remove sterilize lid.
Place lid carefully on top of filled jar
Screw on fastener. Not too tight not too loose. 
Start putting them 
Once your jar rack is full put it in your canning pot.
Slowly lower into boiling water. Add more water if needed.
Process Time: 20 minutes

After your process time is finished
carefully lift jars out of the water bath.
I leave mine alone for 24-48 hours
before putting them into storage.
Be sure your lids have suctioned down.
I usually remove fasteners for storage. 

I hope this was helpful. If you have any further questions feel free to comment or contact me!
Happy Canning!