Monday, September 16, 2013

Small Town

I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be
John Mellencamp

I wasn't born here, didn't go to grade school here, but this is my hometown.  It's a small town.

A couple of years back, you used to know everyone in town.  Never could get away with anything without your parents finding out because of the eyes and ears all over town.  Yes, everyone knows everyone else's business, but, because of this, a helping hand is always a stone's throw away.

My closest friends were born here, went to kindergarten and graduated from high school with the same crew.  They made me feel like I always belonged here.  They are the ones I got crazy with in high school, stood up to each other's weddings, am helping with their kids' weddings, and will probably get crazy with when we are old.  A bunch of good girls that just like to have fun.

My family lives here.  None of us left.  It's our hometown.  My siblings each raised their families here, and hope that their grandkids will raise their kids.  We can call, and one or other will come running right away. 

It's a small town.  Nothing special except for the people that make up this small town - a bunch of nosy, gossiping, caring, and giving people.  The best kind of people are in a small town!

Easy Recipe

Bacon Bacon Broccoli Salad 

2 Tbsp. Bacon Bacon™
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vinegar
5 cups broccoli florets
2 Tbsp. salted sunflower seeds, if desired
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Combine first 4 ingredients in small bowl. Place broccoli in large bowl; drizzle with Bacon Bacon™ mixture. Toss; top with sunflower seeds and cheese. Chill 1 hour. Makes 6-8 servings.

Aunt Janet's Famous Saying

"I have eyes and ears all over town, so I will find out."  This always amazed my nieces and nephews when I found out.   And I will never give the names of my sources!

Love you,
Aunt Janet

Sunday, September 15, 2013

If there's a road I should walk, 
Help me find it.
Sidewalk Prophets

There are times in our lives that don't make sense.  That no matter what we do, nothing seems to turn out the way we want them to - the way we think is the best way.  We thought we had it under control, we were doing what was right, we were being giving and patient, and it all blows up in our face.

We question our motives, try to figure out where we went wrong, thought this was the path we were meant to take, and we come to a brick wall.  

Asking for what we want goes unheard. Being still, and knowing God is there, just sits still.  Yelling at the top of our lungs only leaves us hoarse.  

So, I'm at the brick wall, holding my hands up, saying "Okay, You want me to just go through this," because I have no where to go - I am stuck.  I wait for the road to spring up, the path I should take. 

He shows me that this road has ended, and I need to just climb over the brick wall at the end of this road, for this road has ended, and there's another road on the other side.  I did what I was meant to do on that road.  It was not meant for me to reap the benefits, but for me to learn, help, and maybe give a little faith to the ones I met while traveling that path.

It is the hardest thing I've ever done - just giving up.  But there's a road ahead full of promise and hope.  I lift myself over the wall, abandoning what I think, and stepping into the unknown with total trust.  Complete surrender.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Love Them Anyway

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
 Love them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
 Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
 Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
 Be good anyway.

Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
 Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
 Build anyway.

People need help but will attack you if you help them.
 Help them anyway.

Give the world the best you have
And you'll get kicked in the teeth,
 As seen on Mother Teresa's children's home in Calcutta

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Refrigerator Dill Pickles - Revised Recipe

Recalling the pleasures of growing and gathering foods and preparing them with care, of relishing the changing seasons ... was her way of preserving an important part of American life and sharing its rewards with others.
Judith Jones

We have been searching for a good dill pickle for years. Finally, last year, I stumbled on one, but they were too salty. So, we tweaked the recipe to our liking, and now my mother, siblings, and nieces love them so much that they will actually steal a jar or two from my fridge when we're not looking. And they are so easy to make

First, you will need to find or purchase a gallon glass jar with a lid. You want the mouth large enough to get the pickles in and out without problems. You can purchase them from Amazon. They have plain jars with lids, Empty Glass Gallon Fermentation Jar with Lid 4 pk  for $22.95 or you can get a more decorative jar, Ball Creative container one gallon ideal jar for $12.99. We make our pickles in a gallon jar, and after they ferment in the fridge for a week or so, we transfer them to quart jars. Luckily, my parents had kept the old glass jars from our restaurant. Now, they are hard to find at restaurants - they changed them to plastic.

    For this recipe, you will need:
          3 lbs. pickles
          5 large heads dill
          2 medium onions, thinly sliced
          16-20 garlic cloves, crushed
          3 cups apple cider vinegar
          9 cups water
          1/2 cup regular salt (Recipe said 1 cup canning or kosher salt)*

Pick pickles that are not overripe or bruised. (Save the overripe pickles for relish.) Wash, and cut off the stem end. Depending on the size of the pickles, you can keep them whole, half, or quarter them.

Boil vinegar, water, and salt. Set to the side and cool to room temperature.

Layer 1/2 dill, pickles, onions, garlic, and rest of dill in gallon jar. Pour cooled brine (vinegar solution) into jar. Refrigerate for 24 hours, and enjoy!

We usually transfer the pickles and brine into quart jars, so my family doesn't steal my glass gallon jar. (They would!)

It's so easy, and they are sooo good that you won't want to stop eating them.

Aunt Janet (and Uncle Todd)

* Not sure of amount of canning salt - Uncle Todd has been using regular salt.  He had to cut back on the amount of regular salt.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Canning Tomato Sauce

Canning tomatoes are like summer saved all that deep sun kissed flavor ready to enjoy.

Better Homes and Gardens

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.  Everywhere I turn, tomatoes.  They are ripening on the vine as I type, beckoning me to go harvest, prepare, and savor their taste.  And, thus, I can, capturing the moment in a little canning jar.

(Canning tomatoes, revisited from blog)
After years of trying, revising, and cooking tomato sauce, and then not being satisfied with the results, I think I finally figured out the trick of making delicious tomato sauce. The recipes always say to cook until thick. Well, my husband and I would strain the tomatoes with a tomato strainer, put it in a big pot, stir, and stir, and stir a million times more, and after around 8 hours of cooking and stirring, the sauce may be at the consistency that we like (or almost there). Our sauce always turned out tasting acid-y and burnt.

When I started to make tomato sauce this year, I looked at that big pot, and I started to think that maybe the surface wasn't big enough to evaporate the liquid in a shorter period of time. So, I tried a good pan - my Pampered Chef 12" Covered Skillet.  After around 2-1/2 hours (compared to more than 8), my sauce was done and tasted oh so good. 

I discovered that the secret of making good sauce was the pan you used! Even though I am partial to Pampered Chef products, any good skillet will do, you just want to make sure it has a big surface and a thicker bottom. This may be a small investment, but it's well worth it. We use our skillet at least 3 times a week for regular meals. If you are interested in the pots and pans I sell, email me and I will send you a link to my website.   So, here's what I did, step-by-step:

Italian Tomato Sauce
makes about 5-6 quarts, depending on desired thickness

30 lbs. or 24 cups tomatoes, skinned, deseeded, and chopped
3 cups onions, chopped
2 cups green peppers, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced, OR 2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. salt
1 Tbs. and 1 tsp. of each - basil, oregano, Italian seasoning
1-2 Tbs. brown sugar (to taste)

** If you have never canned before, refer to canning books or sites for instructions.  One such website is Ball Jar's website.

1.  Wash all the tomatoes.

2. Chop and deseed the tomatoes.  I just quartered them.

 3.  Place the chopped tomatoes in large skillet, and put the temperature up high, stirring ever minute or so. 

 4.  When the liquid came to a boil, turn down the burner to a medium heat, and continue letting it boil (still stirring). The liquid will evaporate, and, in about an hour, you should have about half the liquid.

5.  While it's thickening, sauté onions, green peppers, and garlic until onions are transparent. 
6.  Pour as much of the tomatoes and liquid as you can in canning food mill or tomato press.

7.  Let the liquid drain, and return it to the skillet to let it thicken some more.
8.  As it thickens, and keep stirring, and put the tomatoes through the mill or press. 
9.  When the liquid reduces to a thick sauce, and add remaining ingredients except sugar to the skillet.

10.  Let simmer for about an hour so that the flavors would blend into the sauce.

11.  Add sugar, and simmer additional 5-10 minutes.

12.  For canning - As sauce thickens, arrange canning equipment (see canning books or canning websites to determine what equipment you will need).  Remember to sterilize jars, lids, and caps.  I sterilize mine by putting it through the dish washer right before I am going to can.  I try to time it so that the jars are still hot.

13.  Can or freeze according to instructions found in canning books. If canned, don't forget to add the lemon juice - 2 Tbs. per quart.

14.  And let the bubbles out.

Happy canning!
Aunt Janet

Monday, July 22, 2013

Guaranteed Laugh

Tonight, while watching TV, Uncle Todd asked me where I got these cookies.  Cookies?  I looked over and saw our four-legged girls, Maggie and Abbie, sitting next to him with their tails going 240. Uncle Todd was happily munching away at a cookie, paper bag on his lap, muttering “These are good.”  I started to hysterically laugh, tears running down my face, and I told him.

I had bought the cookies the day before at the annual Braidwood Days … for the dogs.  They were snickerdoodles for dogs!  It took a minute, and another bite, for Uncle Todd to realize that the girls were trying to tell him something.  UT was eating their cookies!

He threw the bag at me, and my girls attacked me with kisses and paws.  And I couldn’t stop laughing!

I’m still laughing.  And you wonder why I love him so much!
Aunt Janet

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles
It empties today of its strength.
Mary Engelbreit

For several years, I have been endlessly trying to live by the Bible quote - "Be still and know that I am God".  Endlessly because it is something I need to do everyday.  Trying because I have to consciously work at it to prevent myself from going into a deep spiral of anxiety.  Live because I need to let go everyday of my life.  Be still because I am a person of action, always trying to make everything better.  And know because I need to hold onto the belief that there is a reason for everything.

When I let the troubles invade my thoughts, they creep into every aspect of my life, sapping all the strength from me.  Letting go allows me to enjoy the little things in life that I would have normally not noticed, and, thus, not enjoyed.

Someone once said that we will reap what we sow, but the Bible doesn't say when.  So, daily, I choose to be happy instead of sad, to laugh instead of cry, to be still and know that God will take care of me.

Easy Recipe

With strawberry season fast approaching, this is a refreshing, delicious, and easy-to-make dessert that is always a hit in my family.

Aunt Judy's Strawberry Jello Dessert

1 Sm. Pkg. Strawberry Jello
1 cup hot water
16 oz. Frozen Strawberries
1 Lg. Cool Whip

Bring water to boil.  Mix in jello until dissolved.  Remove from stove.  Add frozen strawberries.  Separate strawberries as they thaw in the hot jello.  Let set.  Top with Cool Whip when set.

Until next time,
Aunt Janet

Saturday, May 11, 2013


The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts but learning how to make facts live.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

A college education is a gift that you give yourself.  Nothing can take away the knowledge that you worked so hard to gain.  It becomes a part of you and shapes you into the person you will become.  You alone can earn it - it is your accomplishment!

My beautiful niece is graduating today.  Congratulations!  I am very proud of you!

Aunt Janet's Famous Sayings

"If there's a will, there's a way."

I wanted a college education.  I took out loans, worked while others were playing (or studying), had limited "extras", ate a lot of macaroni and cheese, but I did it!  I paid my own way through college.

I hear kids and parents say that they cannot afford to send their children to college.  Yes, a college education costs a heck of a lot more than when I went, but, if a person truly wants it, they can do anything their heart desires.  I have two nieces that graduated from college in the last couple of years, and they did it all by themselves!  Not only did they give themselves a gift of a college education, but they earned it!  Be proud!

Beauty Tip

Honey to get rid of blemishes.  I'm not sure where I heard about it, but I tried it.  It's sticky, but it works!  My doctor said that honey is a natural antiseptic so that's why it works. 

My Challenges for 2013

  1. Post to blog.  (I'm shooting for weekly.)  - Okay, I fell short on this one.  Lately, I've experienced many challenges in life, and let's say they haven't all been positive.  I did not want this to come out in my blogging.  Who wants to hear about negative things?  I know, I know.  I need to count my blessings and write about them.
  2. Keep house organized.  (This is a big challenge for me.  I especially hate paper.)  I really hate paper.  One improvement that I have noticed, it doesn't take as long to pick up the house.  So, I guess I am improving on this.  I'll keep pushing on about this goal.
  3. Crochet a sweater.  I am more than half way done.  Okay - I did take a break and crochet a wrap for my sister, a bridal purse for my niece, and I'm working on a poncho for me.  I found a passion that I forgot about, so I am confident that I will get this sweater done and much more.
  4. Eat healthy.  I have been eating less junk food, and more fruits.  Now, I need to get my husband on the same track as me, and then we'll both be eating healthier.  Oh, he's be doing most of the cooking lately.
  5. Get my mom's house organized.  (Bigger challenge for both my mom and my sisters.)  Slowly...
  6. Make homemade cheese (my Christmas gift from my husband).  I did this!  I made cheddar cheese.  It needs to age for a couple of months, so we haven't tasted it yet.
  7. Preserve more homegrown food.  Garden is being planted, and I'm trying to plant more of what we eat.  I guess I'm on my way to checking this one off as a big "Yes"!
  8. Learn to sew (again).  Have to work on this one.  Now, I have a Home Ec teacher in the family to assist me - my niece whose graduating today!
  9. Learn one new thing every day.  Ongoing goal.  I love to learn new things, so I am confident that I will accomplish this goal, maybe not on a daily basis, but I will learn.
  10. Plan monthly craft nights with my sisters and nieces.  With weddings, new babies and what not, we really have not had the time.
  11. Sell on ebay until all my stuff is gone.  Still selling...
  12. And above all, Enjoy LifeCounting my blessings, allowing myself "fun" time, doing activities I enjoy, ...

Until later,
Aunt Janet

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year!

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
C.S. Lewis

Goodbye 2012 - Hello 2013! 

It's faith and hope that fortify my days - the strength to tackle life's many challenges, for challenges strengthen us.  Without challenges, there are no rewards.

May you be challenged and rewarded inexhaustibly in 2013!

My Challenges for 2013
  1. Post to blog.  (I'm shooting for weekly.)
  2. Keep house organized.  (This is a big challenge for me.  I especially hate paper.)
  3. Crochet a sweater.
  4. Eat healthy.
  5. Get my mom's house organized.  (Bigger challenge for both mom and my sisters.)
  6. Make homemade cheese (my Christmas gift from my husband).
  7. Preserve more homegrown food.
  8. Learn to sew (again).
  9. Learn one new thing every day.
  10. Plan monthly craft nights with my sisters and nieces.
  11. Sell on ebay until all my stuff is gone.
  12. And above all, Enjoy Life!

Grandpa's Sayings

Sometime sayings are not words but actions.  My dad believed in bringing in the new year with celebration!  Since I could remember, we gathered in the living room, champagne in our glasses (we got to drink a smidgen), silver dollars in our hands, and pickled herring on forks (yuck!).  With the television in the background (you needed it for the countdown), we'd all cheer in 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1, and shout Happy New Year!  We brought the New Year in with kisses, hugs, clinking of glasses, and words of prosper for this coming year.  For my siblings, we remember.

Easy Recipe

This is a recipe from a friend that my taste buds forced me to make last night to bring in the New Year.

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

1 cup ketchup
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
16 ounces sliced bacon
2 (8 ounce) cans water chestnuts,drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a saucepan, combine ketchup, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce; heat just to boiling.  Cut bacon slices in half.  Wrap chestnuts in bacon and secure with toothpicks; place in a 9x13 pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes.  Take chestnuts out of pan and drain grease.  Put chestnuts back in ban and pour sauce over them.  Bake for another 30-35 minutes.

Happy New Year!  This is going to be a great year!
Aunt Janet
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