Canning Fresh Tomatoes….YUM!

I planted my first outdoor garden ever this spring!!

I have been so happy with my little garden….my first foray into the world of gardening in the ground! In past years I have always grown my tomatoes and herbs in pots on my deck.  This year I decided I wanted a garden in the ground and Bluebell tilled me up a small 6×6 plot.  Of course I was overly ambitious it turns out and planted TOO much in such a small space, but who knew??

I planted three tomato plants, a yellow girl, a beefsteak and a Roma.  The yellow plant was diseased and we had to pull it up and throw it away pretty early in the season.  This made me very sad, since although I love tomatoes when I eat them I get blisters on my tongue from the acid content.  Yellow tomatoes have a lower acid content and don’t give me blisters.  Oh well, I knew blisters would abound, but I would enjoy my lovely tomatoes nonetheless!!

I also planted two green pepper plants and one yellow pepper plant.  In addition I have basil, chives, lavender, oregano, rosemary, cilantro, and thyme.

As the spring moved into summer, I was surprised by the early harvest of tomatoes.  The beefsteak tomato plant grew about 4 feet tall and two feet wide.  And the Roma plant grew the same !!  We have had tomatoes coming out of our ears, so I decided I wanted to can them so we can enjoy them all winter long!

I looked for ball jars and canning supplies at my local Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Target.  Nobody had a large canner, so I had to order it from Walmart online and have it delivered to the house.  I found a great website that walked me thorough the canning process and away we went!!

We blanched the tomatoes in boiling water for 45 seconds, then put them in an ice water bath. 

Tomatoes blanched on boiling water for 45 seconds and the skins removed

The skins came off very easily!  Skins in the canned tomatoes make the tomatoes tough.

The tomatoes were chopped and put into the sanitized jars, with 1 tbsp of lemon juice.

Blanched tomatoes being placed into prepared jars.


1 tbsp of lemon juice went into each jar to keep the tomatoes fresh after canning.


Jars filled to the top with tomatoes and lemon juice.


Lids on the jars, getting ready to place in canner

Once the lids were screwed on tightly, the jars went into the canner for 45 minutes.

Jars boiling in the canner for 45 minutes.


Jar “remover” tool and the jars after canning.


All done, ready to be eaten. YUM!

I will let you know how the resulting canned tomatoes taste!!

Did she say, “Dump the poop tank?”

Bluebell and I have been working feverishly over the past few years to pay off bills.
 Well, I have been working feverishly.
 I say “I” because I balance the checkbook, pay the bills, and decide how much to pay on each bill.  I have been “stacking” payments on some bills for the past few years.  What that means is you pay as much as you can on the bill that has the lowest balance.  Pay it off, then add ALL of that money to the bill with the next lowest balance, etc.  We have paid off a car loan, a credit card, and three store cards that way.
We had a goal!  All of that feverish paying off of things was done for a reason…….
Bluebell with the new camper!
YUP, we bought a camper. DON’T JUDGE ME!
Yes, friends, camping in a camper is still camping.  You will still have smoke, and fires in a fire ring, and toasting (burning if you are one of my sons….burning to a charred mess) of marshmallows.  There are still mosquitoes and bugs and spiders.  The difference is they are OUTSIDE, and I can be INSIDE.  Look at it this way, the most important part of having a camper is this:  a clean potty only 15 feet from my bedroom……..  it is the little things that make me happy.  I don’t need diamonds, money or cars….I just need a clean potty in the middle of the night that I don’t need a flashlight to get to.
Oh and the other thing that is very important is a bed.  My old bones can no longer take sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag, and the air mattress is always deflated by morning time.  NO MORE TENT CAMPING FOR ME!!!!
Okay, so we bought our camper from Dodd RV!  Fabulous people!  Very nice, very reasonable, and extremely helpful!
Our salesperson and the Dodd RV Manager were so wonderful!!
 We bought a camper they did not have on the lot because it is a new model, so they ordered it for us.  It was made to order in Elkhart Indiana, where LOTS of campers are made….little known fact about Elkhart.  (I used to live near there in Mishawaka, Indiana, well actually South Bend, but that is another story…..)
So we went to pick it up last week, and an amazing man named Bobby showed us the ins and outs of the camper.  Bobby has been with Dodd RV for over 50 years!!!!  This man KNOWS campers!!
Mr. Bobby knows campers!!
He showed us the camper from stem to stern, and from top to bottom.  He showed us how to fix things, how EVERYTHING works, how to put antifreeze in the lines to winterize, how to make drinking water for our fresh water tank, he even showed us the electronics and the guts.
  Okay, so those of you who know me KNOW that he really showed all of that to Bluebell.  She is a mechanic.  She understands how to fix things.  I just like to look cute……oh, and I can bake, cook up a storm, do laundry and get my honey a beer, all while trying to look cute. I was being cute with Bobby and taking pictures.  Bluebell learned about the camper.  THAT is the truth of it….so here are the pictures, ’cause I surely was not paying attention to how to drain the hoses, or the poop tank, or the shower.  I sure hope Bluebell was!!!!  LOL
Mr. Bobby showing Bluebell about the stereo system.


The kitchen. Now I need some new Pampered Chef pans for cooking!


Dining area. Folds down to a bed.


Our new baby!
This is one of the extra amenities we bought.  It is a kitchen on the OUTSIDE of the camper.  It has a fridge (for cold bevvies), a microwave, a sink and a two burner cook top.  This way I can feed the family without having to have their dirty feet inside my clean camper……

So we will take our new baby out next week during the kids’ Spring Break.  We are going to a campground about 45 minutes from the house, to test her out.  I will post pics, and let you all know how it went…….bugs, poop tank and all.

How We Survived a Boomerang Kid

I have many friends who are close to my age who are currently empty nesters.  They started having children when they were in their 20’s, and are currently in their mid to late 40’s and their children have moved out of the house.  Some are married, some in college, some are working.  I have asked many of them (the mothers usually) if they experienced the “Empty Nest Syndrome”.   Have you heard of that?  It is an Syndrome where parents have feeling of depression, sadness, and loneliness when their children grow up and leave the family home.  They all said , “NO!”, some said , “Hell no!”, and one or two asked me if I was joking.

In other words apparently the Empty Nest Syndrome is NOT alive and well amongst my peers.  At least not in Southeastern Virginia.  When I seemed surprised, after all I had always heard mothers typically experienced Empty Nest Syndrome. my friends were like, “Girl, are you kidding me?  No one to cook for, no dirty bedrooms. No nagging about helping out around the house.  No one asking for money…I could go on and on.”  That was the typical response.  Being able to come and go as they please with no one to worry about seemed like such a relief to them.

My partner Karol and I have 4 kids between us.  We were so excited when the oldest (Katarina) flew out of the next last year.  She graduated high school and moved to Minnesota to live with her aunts.  She took welding classes in high school and was quite excited that she could live with her aunt and work as a welder at the place where her aunt works.  Since Karol’s sister is also a welder, all of the adults thought Minnesota with her Aunt would be a good move for Katarina. So shortly after she graduated high school she flew to Minnesota.  Karol was sad and she did cry some, but she knew there were no jobs here, and Kat had more opportunities in Minnesota.  She also took comfort in the fact that Kat would be with family, so Karol was less worried about her safety.

Kat loved being in Minnesota.  She loved being on her own (with adults who loved her there to assist).  She got the job welding with her aunt, she bought a car, managed her money okay, and was doing well.  So we were absolutely shocked when she announced one day that she was going to move back to Virginia.  We were floored and didn’t know what to think.

Remember that whole, “One down three to go thing?”  Well, we had renovated Kat’s room after she moved out.  We painted it lavender, bought two desks at IKEA and turned her room into our office.  It has a window with a view, and we bought a chaise lounge so we could sit on the chaise and read.  We made a little oasis of peace in our otherwise hectic house.

When Kat told Karol she wanted to move back to Virginia, and come back to our house, Karol explained as gently as she could that we no longer had a space for her.  We didn’t have a room.  Also the last year Kat lived with us (her senior year in high school) had been exceptionally difficult as Kat didn’t want to do as we expected her to, and instead did whatever she wanted to do.  It had not been a pleasant year for Karol or me. But Kat was determined to come back.

I became anxious, and started having stomach aches.  However, what could I do?  Kat was determined to leave Minnesota and come back to Virginia.  She had a car, bills, and no job!  We knew it was a mistake, but we could not convince her of that.  So we braced ourselves for the inevitable.

boomerang kid

Kat assured Karol that she would not be coming back to live with us, she had a friend she was going to move in with and we were relieved.  The situation was not ideal, but at least she would be safe, and her friend said she didn’t have to pay rent until she was “on her feet”.  Even though I should not have been worried at that point, I just had this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Fast forward a month.  Kat’s friend was asked to leave the residence and Kat needed to come back to our house.  We always knew this was a big possibility.  She didn’t have a decent job and couldn’t afford rent.  We told her she could come back and stay rent free until she got a job and was on her feet.  We now had a Boomerang Kid.  In just a couple of months we went from “One down, three to go.” to “Ermagherd, one came back!!”

We had to establish household rules, and had to adjust them many times.  Our Boomerang child felt as though it was okay to be a consumer of our water, electricity, food, etc, etc and not help out around the house.  Then we gave her ONE chore:  putting the dishes in the dishwasher.  She was pissed, but had no choice. I eventually had to take that job back from her to protect the dishes she threw in there to make her point of being unhappy.

Finally she got a job, but was only working about 25 hours a week, and her hours were in the evening.  So that left her sleeping until noon, then watching tv or Netflix all day.  Sometimes she would just play around on her computer while she sat on her futon that was in my living room. That was fun. And yet we were still waiting for her to “get on her feet.”  We told her many many times (too many t count in fact) that ONE job was not enough to get on her feet and she would need another one.  One she could work at during the day.  But for our Boomerang Kid, looking for another job wasn’t fun.  So she didn’t do it.

So I put her on MY plan to “get on her feet.” That plan is not for the faint of heart, and it requires a fair amount f work by the parent.  For every hour I was working outside the home (including attending my college classes), she had to be working to get another job inside the home .  The PS3 and the Wii were locked up, and a code was placed on the televisions so she could not sit and watch tv all day.  Every morning around 8 am I woke her up so she can get started on her day and be productive.  The hope was that this plan would give her the incentive to get a second job if for no other reason that she would get to have the tv to watch again.

Finally, when we could take it no more, we resorted to the “Since you are working now, we are going to start charging you a small amount of rent every month to help pay for your consumerism.”  That went over like a lead balloon.

The end result was that she met a boy.  She met a boy online.  A boy who lived in Florida.  The boy in Florida told her he loved her (they had met in person ONE time) and wanted her to move down there to be with him. So she decided to go to Florida.  Although we were not happy with her on the futon in our living room being a taker and never a giver, we were VERY uneasy with her moving to Florida to be with a boy she didn’t even know.  But as any of you who have young adults know, what we heard was the “I am over 18 and I can do what I want.” line.

So off she went to her new adventure in Florida, and we were not happy, but were powerless to stop her.  But in our gut it was only a matter of time until we would get that call, and she would be a Boomerang Kid again.