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Archive for the ‘October Challenge’ Category

Cinderella traveled to the ball in a pumpkin stagecoach, and Peter Peter (pumpkin eater) kept his wife in a pumpkin shell. There are other pumpkins in literature, but until we visited College Hill Library yesterday, I had never seen literature in a pumpkin. Click on the images to enlarge them.

 

 

Impressive, huh?  Max argued that it isn’t really a carving as much as a diorama. Whatever. I thought it was cool.

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My friend Rae gave me 6 pie pumpkins a few weeks ago and they’ve been judging me from the kitchen counter ever since. 😉

We are a pumpkin loving household, but I confess I haven’t used fresh pumpkin for anything in years. The canned is so easy to grab and bake with, and I hate the icky factor of cleaning out pumpkin goop. Then Rae told me she bakes the pumpkins whole. Seriously? You can do that? Cool! So I searched the web and found several recipes for Pumpkin Butter and decided to experiment. I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures of this process. I’d fail as a photo blogger. The photos used are from people who thought ahead. Here are pics of pumpkins before and after baking:

         

Here’s what I did:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Wash and dry 6 pie pumpkins and place them directly on the baking rack in the center of the oven. Set the timer for 45 minutes. When it buzzes, start checking for doneness by sticking a fork in about an inch from the stem. If it goes in easily, the pumpkin is done. I baked mine for an hour. 6 pumpkins produced 12 cups of puree.
  3. Wearing oven mitts, pull them out to cool on the counter for a bit. Pull the stems off and use the fork to split the skin away from the flesh. The skin peels off easily. Cut in half and lay open to cool faster. When it’s cool enough to touch, scoop out the goop into a bowl so you can roast the seeds later on.
  4. Puree the soft pumpkin chunks in a food processor and let it drain for an hour in cheese cloth or a paper towel lined in the bottom of a colander to get the excess liquid off.
  5. Transfer the pumpkin puree to a 6 quart crock pot, and follow the recipe below, tweaking it until it tastes like you want it to taste. Some people like it really sweet, some like it a little spicier. Do what works for you and your family. This recipe is for a small batch, but I used my multiplication skills and used all 12 cups for the pumpkin butter.

Crock Pot Pumpkin Butter

2 cups of cooked, pureed pumpkin (or canned pumpkin)
1 cup honey (or sugar)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in crock-pot and stir to mix well. Cook on High for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. It will thicken as it cooks. Do not let it burn or stick. After it is done, fill pint jars and seal. The USDA does not recommend canning pumpkin butter due to differing pH levels among home recipes, but there are many people who do it anyway without incident. I chose to refrigerate and freeze mine in Ball freezer jars (shown) once the butter was completely cooled. This recipe easily doubles, triples, etc. Remember I started with 12 cups of pumpkin.

My family loved it. Not bad for my first try. What new things are you trying?

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Mom, Zoe and I spent about 3 hours today clipping and organizing my coupons into categorized envelopes. I have baseball card sheets, labels, clear zipper pockets, a pink pair of scissors, and a paper trimmer, so I will begin putting together my binder as soon as I’m finished posting here. I’m excited about all the potential savings on items I’ll get for pennies on the dollar, if not totally free. And I’m excited about sharing the goods with my friends and family. BUT, I don’t think I’ll ever take this seriously enough that you’ll be calling me “extreme.”

It helps that I also have a knack for being in the right place at the right time when it comes to clearance sales. For instance, today we were at Wal-Mart and I found some treasures on the clearance shelves right by the check-out. I got a few notebooks for the kids (regularly $2.97), several clear zipper pockets for my coupon binder (regularly .99), and a few other small items, all for .25 each. I have learned to buy in bulk when I find a great deal. Imagine being able to pair those bargains with a coupon? I get chills just thinking about it. hehehe

My mom and I are canning pear and pumpkin butters this weekend, and I found 2 cases of pint jars for $5 each. I’m planning on making peach jam (Benny’s favorite) next week, and I found packets of freezer jam pectin for .25 each – regularly.99. I bought the peaches in a 25 lb. bulk box for $2. I love a great deal! It gives me such a rush! I could go on and on, but I have a coupon binder to organize.

I had said on Facebook that I’d post my pumpkin butter recipe here today, but it’s still in the crock pot and I’m tweaking it. I was trying to avoid white sugar and only use honey as a sweetener, and well…it’s just not sweet enough yet. I’ll be up late tonight canning it, and I’ll get the recipe up tomorrow, IF it turns out well.

So how about you? Are you a coupon person? What’s the best bargain you’ve found lately? Got any fancy tips for me as I kick my couponing up a notch? Just think, this could be me:

“After all of the coupons we owe her $104”

 

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A man’s body was pulled from Boulder Creek yesterday. It’s the second time this month, and my very first thought was, “Oh God! Please don’t let it be anyone I know.” It’s not what I would have thought before we moved here. Back then I would have thought, “How sad!” and gone on with my day. Now news like that stops me cold. It got me thinking about how far I’ve come – how much I’ve changed. I am still me, but I’m a better version. Growth is good. My edges are smoother, the hardness softened, I have thicker skin, and more patience. God has made me pliable, more loving and forgiving, and definitely more dependent on Him. I’ve let go of so many preconceived notions about others, found a deep community of friends, walked through healing of some of my childhood horrors, and stepped into a new life of writing and speaking.

Yes, I’ve changed. The past 7 years have held such beautiful moments of triumph and crushing moments of sorrow. I’ve experienced new life and the sting of death. I know more is to come, but this post is about seeing how I’ve changed in practical and visible ways.

7 years ago, if the weatherman reported a forecast of a blizzard, I would smile and think, “Yes! Good napping weather, hot chocolate, pajama days.” Now I worry about my friends who live on the street and hope they find shelter with warmth and welcome.

7 years ago, I threw away food when it hit its expiration date. (Like it magically goes bad at midnight on that day??) Now, I am choosy about the food I get rid of and I not only share with friends in need, I feed my family on America’s leftovers. I use lots of coupons, shop at bakery outlets, and frequent a food bank.

7 years ago, I thought homeless people were middle-aged men with missing teeth, holding brown bags wrapped around a bottle. Now I know they are just like me. They have family and friends, problems and stress, and cover all ages from birth to 100 years old. They are someone’s daughter, son, father, or mother. Like me, they have a story to tell and need someone to listen and care.

7 years ago, I relied on a steady paycheck with insurance for my kids and money to pay for swimming lessons. Now I rely on God moving in people’s hearts and donations to our ministry so we can pay our bills, feed our family, and share what we have with our street friends. There is no money for lessons or insurance.

7 years ago, I was nervous pulling up to a stop light if there was a person there holding a sign asking for money, food, or work. Now stop lights are opportunities for me to chat, ask a name, and offer bottled water, new socks, and snacks to the person with the sign.

7 years ago, I hoped for miracles of healing. Now I manifest them.

7 years ago, I stepped out of the church (full-time ministry) and into the world. Now I step out of the world (full-time ministry) to speak at churches.

7 years ago, I was pretty self-centered and loved people like me. Now I’m less so and love people whom I have little in common with, and I’ve been surprised by who those people are. They’re not who you might think.

7 years ago, I thought my faith was real. Now I know it is.

I’ve come a long way and I’m looking more and more like the me I am made to be.

What about you? How have you changed in the last 7 years?

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Christopher would have been 3 months old a week ago today. Instead, Lexi and I drove to Children’s Hospital to pick up his autopsy report. Pulling into the parking lot felt like being punched in the stomach. Walking through the entrance, I couldn’t help but lift my eyes to the 4th floor balcony and remember the details, emotions, and horrors of July 22nd. I choked on my tears as we walked back to the medical records office, and I updated my Facebook status as I sat waiting while Lexi signed the paperwork. She sat down next to me, staring helplessly into my eyes. Mirrored pools of grief. We left, hoping never to return, and hugged and cried in the parking lot.

If you’re new here, you can read  about Christopher’s amazing delivery here, and my memorial post about him here. But even those two posts only hint at the whole story. He is loved and he is missed. I have been able to get through a few days here and there without thinking about him, but the anguish I experienced today was fresh and rolled over me in waves. My heart still bleeds. Lexi and I likened it to ripping off scabs that haven’t healed and begun to separate from the wound yet. I told her that grief has no deadline and she should take her time dealing with life as it comes. Another lesson for me as I practice what I preach.

Tomorrow is a new day, one with hope and love and room to grieve and heal, but today was rough. Very rough…but I’m still standing.

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o’er-wrought heart and bids it break.” ~ William Shakespeare

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief… and unspeakable love.” ~ Washington Irving

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” ~Winston Churchill

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I was sick all last week, and now my October Challenge partner is sick. Since I’m in Colorado and he’s in France, I can’t make him (and his pregnant wife who is also sick) homemade chicken soup, I thought I’d do the next best thing. Who couldn’t use a good laugh when they feel crappy? Unless it causes a painful coughing fit….I hope not, but I apologize if it happens! Here’s to finding something to chuckle about, and I hope Don and Ami heal quickly!

(All of these pictures were found while on StumbleUpon. Are you stumbling yet?)

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Pete is my goofy kid. He is highly entertaining! One of Benny’s favorite hashtags on Twitter is #randomcrappetesays. He loves making people laugh and he’s one of those kids that is just naturally funny. He uses a lot of big words-most of the time in the correct context, but it’s funny to hear those things come out of such a small mouth. Much to the dismay of his siblings, he also loves playing practical jokes on people.

Pete is a builder. He loves to spread things out so he can get a good look at what he’s got to work with, so it was no surprise when he covered our dining room table with Legos last night and spent hours dreaming up variations of speed cruisers, water/land boats, and various flying machines. He makes all the noises that go along with building things and it gives me the giggles. He plays with such abandon. I want to be more like that.

If we were a normal family –and believe me, I know we’re not – Pete would have been labeled already. I’d have teachers wanting him sedated medicated. The boy has loads of energy. A few years ago I was lectured by a woman who told me that at some point he needed to learn how to be quiet and sit still. Duh. He knows how to do that and I believe there is a time and place for it, but I also let him be him. He often stands up to do his schoolwork, or does a problem then spins around in his desk chair, then does another problem. He concentrates better when he can wiggle a bit. If I notice him getting too squirrely, I have him do jumping jacks or bounce up and down for a minute. It helps. I also understand that he can sit for hours at a time if he is engrossed in what he’s doing (like his Lego time), so I’m not going to let him be labeled. I’m going to take my cues from him, then direct him accordingly.

This pic (click on it to enlarge it) is proof to all who are familiar with his energy level that he can in fact sit quietly in a chair. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s possible. He can also sit still in public. This is him playing Chess with one of our street friends on the mall. He LOVES being there with us, and he talks to everybody.  He is somewhat fearless in public. For example, he took a blanket and his bongos to the Pearl Street Mall and played for over an hour hoping to make a little cash. I NEVER would have done something like that at his age.

He’s an amazing kid, goofiness, high energy, and all. I love him that way, I just wish he’d share some of that energy with me. 🙂

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