2013: A Year of Challenges

J&T 2013
Can you believe that 2012 is already over?! Last year, I talked a little bit about how I needed to not only add some things into my life, but how it was absolutely necessary for me to take some things away, too. I can’t say that The Year of More and Less was 100% successful, but I can tell you that it was good. Actually, it was great. I learned that moderation in my life is key. I learned that time and effort should be intentionally spent, not mindlessly wasted. I learned that goals are good and that there is a lot of potential to be had. My husband read this quote to me today and it is totally fitting for how I want to live in 2013:

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room,
drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.
Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through
the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for
potential.” – Ellen Goodman

I have great potential, as we all do. My desire is to keep striving towards that great potential and encourage others to do the same. I’ve come up with a list of personal challenges for 2013 that will keep me growing and changing; they will keep me working and keep me seeking. It’s foolish to think that if I can check things off of a list that I will somehow “arrive” and be done with the challenge. This list is simply a reminder that I have some growing to do…and who doesn’t like a good challenge?!

My Body

  • Do something active 3-5 times a week
  • Juice, smoothie, or lean meals every day
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night

My Soul

  • Read scripture every day
  • Pray with and/or do a devotion with Josh every day
  • Join a small group (women’s or couple’s)

My Projects / Wifery

  • Blog once a week
  • Clean one room every day
  • Get back to menu planning!

Josh and I sat down for a few minutes last night and jotted down a few challenges for us as a couple. Because we’re a team, we thought it only fitting to go into this new year with the same goals in mind.

Our Bodies

  • Encourage each other in personal fitness goals
  • Hike or ride bikes together once a week
  • Eat smarter (stick to the menu)

Our Souls

  • Pray and/or do a devotion together each day
  • Plug into church and a small group
  • Serve in a new community project at church and/or around town

Our Home

  • Watch less, create more
  • Complete home projects on our list
  • Continue agressive debt reduction

I am incredibly excited to enter into this new year with some clear challenges ahead of me. Best of all, I’m beyond blessed to have a handsome man beside me to take it all on!

Here’s to a year of challenges,
Mrs. Edwards

Homegrown Apple Pie

We spent this past weekend at my parents home in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Their house is built in the middle of a 100+ year old fruit orchard. The original orchard was a huge area of land, but with parcels of land being sold and roads and homes being built, the majority of the fruit trees have either been cut down or engulfed by the surrounding forest. My parents own about 3 acres of the land and have made a point to keep the heritage of the orchard going. They have reclaimed and trimmed back old, abandoned trees and have seen amazing crops in recent years! This weekend we spent some time in that orchard picking apples. Homegrown, organic, delicious, apples. Here are a few photos of our apple picking afternoon…

Sweetheart Bridesmaid Dresses

One of biggest things I admire about my Mom is that she is incredibly talented in the kitchen and genuinely enjoys passing her knowledge on to me. I think it brings her a special kind of joy to see her daughter learning and loving the art of homemaking. This weekend she taught me how to make apple pie. It may sound crazy, but I had never made an apple pie before! A true homemaking crime, I’m sure! We used fresh golden delicious apples from the orchard and a tried and true recipe from my Mom’s arsenal to make the most delicious pie. It was a very simple process and is a recipe that I will be making again, very soon! 

Homegrown Apple Pie

Apple Filling  (my Mom’s recipe)

  • 7-8 medium/large golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 3/4 – 1 c. water
  • 1 c. sugar (brown or white)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cinnamon sticks + 1 tsp. cinnamon powder
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Pie Crust (adapted from Martha Stewart Living, Nov. 2012 issue)

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 c. ice water

Combine apples, water, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves in a medium pot. Simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain excess liquid and set aside.

Place butter pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until hard (15-20 mins). Once butter is hard, combine flour, salt, sugar, and butter in a food processor.

Short Bridesmaid DressesPulse until mixture is coarse with some blueberry-sized clumps. Add ice water and immediately pulse until water is just incorporated.

Squeeze a small amount in your hand to make sure it holds together.

Lay out 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Empty half the dough onto each piece.

Fold edges of wrap together and gather dough into a disk. Refrigerate or freeze until firm.

Remove pie dough from fridge and partially unwrap. Place disc on a piece of parchment, leaving the plastic on one side. Roll dough into a circle about 1/2-inch bigger than your pie pan.

Press one piece of dough into your pan, leaving edges hanging over the edge.

Cut the second piece of dough into 3-inch wide strips.

Add filling into pan and spread evenly.

Weave dough strips into a lattice pattern over filling and press overhang onto the edge of crust. Trim the edge, fold under, and crimp.

Sprinkle with sanding sugar and bake at 375 F for 30-45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Be sure to place your pie on a parchment lined sheet pan to catch any drips!

Let cool and ENJOY

Homegrown Apple Pie

Apple Filling  (my Mom’s recipe)

  • 7-8 medium/large golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 3/4 – 1 c. water
  • 1 c. sugar (brown or white)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cinnamon sticks + 1 tsp. cinnamon powder
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Pie Crust (adapted from Martha Stewart Living, Nov. 2012 issue)

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 c. ice water
  1. Pie Crust: Place butter pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until hard (15-20 mins). Once butter is hard, combine flour, salt, sugar, and butter in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is coarse with some blueberry-sized clumps. Add ice water and immediately pulse until water is just incorporated. Squeeze a small amount in your hand to make sure it holds together. Lay out 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Empty half the dough onto each piece. Fold edges of wrap together and gather dough into a disk. Refrigerate or freeze until firm.
  2. Apple Filling: Combine apples, water, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves in a medium pot. Simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain excess liquid and set aside.
  3. Remove pie dough from fridge and partially unwrap. Place disc on a piece of parchment, leaving the plastic on one side. Roll dough into a circle about 1/2-inch bigger than your pie pan.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  5. Press one piece of dough into your pan, leaving edges hanging over the edge. Cut the second piece of dough into 3-inch wide strips.
  6. Add filling into pan and spread evenly. Weave dough strips into a lattice pattern over filling and press overhang onto the edge of crust. Trim the edge, fold under, and crimp.
  7. Sprinkle with sanding sugar and bake pie for 30-45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Be sure to place your pie on a parchment lined sheet pan to catch any drips!
  8. Let cool and ENJOY!

This pie will most definitely be making an appearance again very soon. I may or may not have eaten pie for breakfast this morning. It’s healthy, right?! My Mom happily told me that I am now in charge of pies for Thanksgiving. With great baking, comes great responsibility apparently…

Eating Pie,
Mrs. Edwards

I Can-Can!

Tonight I decided to try my hand at canning. This was my first time embarking on this task solo. Other times that I have canned I’ve had my Mom holding my hand. Yep, for all the homemaking that I embark on canning has remained something that I’ve been slightly intimidated about. No more! I have conquered this beast!

Just as I mentioned in this post about making blackberry jam, canning does not have to be done huge batches, as many people assume. It can be done in a stockpot on the stovetop in small batches. Tonight, I tried my hand at canning some fresh pears from my parents orchard. I was pretty conservative in my efforts and only ended up with 3 half-pint jars. Yeah, yeah, yeah…all you canning pro’s are laughing right now. But only worrying about 3 jars was perfect for my first time solo-canning. Next time, maybe I’ll double my batch :)

First I peeled and cut up my pears and placed them in water that had some Fruit-Fresh mixed in (to keep the pears from browning). Lemon juice is also a great option to prevent browning. Once I had all my pears peeled, cored, and sliced, I heated them in a simple syrup. Simple syrup is ridiculously easy. Basically, you mix two parts sugar to one part water. Heat your water to a boil and add sugar. Heat and mix until sugar is dissolved completely. Voila! Simple syrup!

I heated my pears for about 5 minutes while I prepped my jars and lids. It’s important to wash/sanitize and heat your jars and lids before you add your fruit. I was using a large stock pot to process my jars, so first filled my pot with water and heated my empty jars in it. I heated my lids and rings (which I realized afterwards that it’s not necessary to heat the rings, duh) in a small sauce pan. Basically, by heating the lids you’re softening the rubber seal.

Once my jars were ready, I removed them and placed them on the counter to be filled. I ladled the fruit into a glass measuring cup and funneled it into each jar. Once the fruit was packed into each jar I added the simple syrup liquid to about 1/2 inch from the rim. It’s also important to release any air bubbles from your jars. You do this by using a gently inserting a knife or a plastic spacer (like the one from this Ball Utensil Kit) on the side and pushing your contents towards the center of your jar. You’ll see a few bubbles rise to the surface of your liquid.

After I removed all the air bubbles, I wiped the rims off and used my handy-dandy magnetic lid grabber thingy to fish my lids out of the simmering water. Once the lids are in place I gently screwed on the rings and placed the jars one by one into my stock pot of almost-boiling water.

I covered my pot and boiled the jars for about 15 minutes. I carefully removed each jar from the pot and let them dry/cool on a dishcloth. After about 5 minutes of sitting on the counter, I heard the pop-pop-pop of the lids letting me know that the jars sealed successfully!

And that, my friends, is how I canned my first 3 jars of pears! I’m sure my next batch will be done slightly different. I’ve found a few other ideas that may be fun to try (like this and this). Thankfully, there is no shortage of pears at my parents orchard and they’re coming to visit next weekend! My mom is a canning wizard- just tonight she posted on Facebook that in the past 24 hours she has canned blackberry jam, vanilla bean pear jam, and zucchini relish. I said, “Teach me your ways, oh wise one!” Hopefully I’ll get a few pointers from a pro next weekend :)

Have you tried canning anything lately? Did you end up with a huge haul or just 3 measly jars? Any tips that you’d like to pass along? :)

Homemaking some more,
Mrs. Edwards

Vacationing on a Shoestring Budget

What is a young couple to do when they’re on a shoestring budget but are dying to get away for a long weekend? They find the most breathtaking coastal area in their state and go camping.

A few weeks ago we packed up and headed north up the coast to Bodega Bay for a 3 night camping trip. Honestly, we live in one of the most amazing areas in the state. There is never a lack of places to go see and explore, never too few options for a weekend getaway. Last year we headed a couple of hours south down the coast to Big Sur for a weekend camping trip

We headed to Bodega Dunes Campground which is a part of the Sonoma Coast State Park. When you arrive, they tell you to drive around and find a site that you’d like to claim and head back to the gate to check in. Well, after a few loops around the campground, we thought we found “the one.” It was sunny and open and close  (but not too close) to a restroom. We let the nice lady at the gate know that we wanted to claim it and started to set up. Well, we quickly realized that it was too open and too windy. Strike one.

On to site number two. We found this cute little area that was secluded, yet still sunny. It was set back from the road and there was a perfect nook for our tent. It reminded me a little bit of the Secret Garden. Well…this site definitely had its secrets. And unfortunately those secrets were stinky like a skunky.

After the sun went down, we had not one, not two, but THREE skunks that came out of the bushes. Three skunks that had their own agenda and were not the least bit afraid of us. One of us was exceptionally afraid of the skunks. One hint- he has a beard. Josh may or may not have hid behind me as as I was warding off the the stinky beasts. I’ll let it slide this time…

There was no way that we were going to be able to sit and relax around a fire with our new found friends, so we hid in our tent and played cards. Looking back, it’s hilarious. In the moment, not so much. Strike two.

The next morning we packed up camp once again and began looking for another campsite. After looking for a while, we happened upon a gem. It was a campsite that overlooked the bay and had the perfect combination of sun and shade. No skunks in sight. It was glorious!

This was the view from behind our tent. Pretty great, right?

While we were planning the trip, I scoured Pinterest for as many food ideas as possible (see my camping board right here). We tried a few ideas, but relied on some old favorites like Saturday Morning Breakfast.

My Husband is a bit obsessed with campfires. He brought 1/4 truck full of wood and was determined to use it all before we went home. This meant that we had a HUGE fire each morning and night!

We did our fair share of exploring up and down the coast during our 4 days there. The Sonoma coast is  absolutely beautiful. There are areas of sandy shoreline and sections of rocky sheer cliffs. We quickly realized that the ocean was angry and definitely not worth swimming in.

One afternoon, we drove about 30 minutes north to the town of Jenner. It’s a really cute little area with one hotel, one gas station and one little store. The town is built right where the Russian River comes into the ocean. There is a little peninsula that separates the river from the ocean where people kayak and swim. It is also where 50+ seals hang out, play, and sunbathe.

We’ve decided that all of our camping trips need to be at least 3 nights. If anything, it takes that long to find a campsite that isn’t occupied by skunks…

Some tips on how to plan and enjoy a camping vacation on a budget:

  • Choose a location that is close to home, but is far enough to feel like you’re getting away. We traveled about 3 hours from home, which was close enough to save on gas, but far enough to have a change of scenery.
  • Plan simple, but tasty meals. Use websites such as Pinterest and All Recipes to find new ideas.
  • Save in advance! I found it helpful to stash cash away in an envelope or jar for a few paychecks.
  • Use websites/apps like Yelp to find local favorites and affordable restaurants.
  • Plan simple & free activities to enjoy throughout your stay. If you camp within the State Park system your campsite fees will get you into any other local park. If you don’t own bikes, try to borrow some from friends! Take a picnic to the beach, go tide pooling, take a good book and relax!

The Camper,
Mrs. Edwards

How’s it Growing?

I have a few updates for you. Things are growing ’round here…

Remember back when we revamped an overgrown flower garden? Well, the bulbs that we planted decided to make themselves known and have brought a ton of color and happiness to our street corner. Daily, I get a neighbor driving by telling me how beautiful my flowers are! I can’t take too much credit…all I do is water them for goodness sake.
How's it Growing? // Simply Mrs. EdwardsWe have the marigolds that keep chuggin’ along, some monstrous dahlias behind them and some slightly shorter lilies hiding in the very back. When the dahlias reached the 4 foot mark, we realized that we planted the bulbs in the wrong order. Oh well, you grow and learn, right? I’ll need to dig the bulbs up and reverse the order next spring. But for now, we’re enjoying some amazing blooms! You also may have noticed some clean looking mulch on the ground, too. That’s thanks to my sweet husband! He spread it out while I was at work one day. It’s done a fantastic job of keeping the moisture in and the weeds down.

Let’s take a moment to enjoy these beauties…first up the dahlias:

How's it Growing? // Simply Mrs. Edwards

Next up are the day lilies that my mom gave me…How's it Growing? // Simply Mrs. Edwards

And lastly the  white lilies that I planted…How's it Growing? // Simply Mrs. Edwards

Pretty, huh?! Not to toot my own horn, but dang. That flower garden is lookin’ good!

Next update: our vegetable garden! I have to forewarn you…it’s not the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen. I’m still finding my inner organic vegetable gardener. Unfortunately, a few of my starter plants didn’t make it, and some things are looking a little wimpy. On the upside, I have already harvested my first fruits! Two pea pods. Yep…a whopping two pods! That’s like 12 peas! I know, I know…too impressive to even comprehend. Moving on, let’s take a look…

How's it Growing? // Simply Mrs. Edwards

My green beans have climbed to the top of our trellis, but are starting to turn yellow. A friends idea and a quick google search makes me think that it’s from a lack of nitrogen in the soil. I watered with some Miracle Grow this evening, so hopefully that’ll perk ’em up. I think next year we’ll amend our soil a bit more and probably follow the recipe for Mel’s Mix (1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 compost). How's it Growing? // Simply Mrs. Edwards

My corn is doing pretty well, so far. A few plants didn’t make it, so I hope to have enough for them to cross pollinate. We’ll see!How's it Growing? // Simply Mrs. Edwards

My cilantro has gone to seed and my basil is growing like crazy. Every time I water I get a whiff of the basil…yum! You can see that my bush beans aren’t doing so hot either. Four of the six plants keeled over about a week ago. Ya win some, ya lose some.

How's it Growing? // Simply Mrs. Edwards

My broccoli is doing pretty well! The peas, notsomuch. Two didn’t make it, and the two that did are looking like pygmies. BUT, like I said above, I’ve already harvested 2 pea pods! Yeah!How's it Growing? // Simply Mrs. Edwards

Two more pea pods ready to be eaten! Yumyumyum.How's it Growing? // Simply Mrs. Edwards

Squash! These plants are the pride and joy of my garden right now. The two plants have about 8 little squash growing (what’s the plural of squash…squashes, squash’s, squishes?) I can hardly wait until they’re ready to be picked and eaten. YUM.

How's it Growing? // Simply Mrs. Edwards

The broccoli seems to be doing well at this moment. It has it’s days where it’s looking kinda sad and temperamental.
How's it Growing? // Simply Mrs. EdwardsSo that’s what’s growing here at the Edwards’! How are your summer flowers and crops growing? Do you have an over abundance of big blooms? Have you harvested any veggies yet? Do you have temperamental broccoli? Hope you’re enjoying the process and getting dirt under those fingernails, ’cause I sure am :)

Growing on,
Mrs. Edwards