I love life!

Hi, I am Jo and this is my blog about my life. Here you will find entries on cooking, gardening, food safety and the interesting things happening in my search for an inexpensive and healthy way of living. My home is located in North Florida and I am relearning how to take care of myself at almost 50. This is the deep South so my garden and season may be a bit different than yours. I look forward to seeing what you have to say as time passes. Read on and have a beautiful day!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Putting Food By

Strawberries! Red, luscious and dripping with juicy sweet flavor. 12 lbs of strawberries picked by my own hands while sweat dripped unimpeded from every pore of my being. Next year the berries will be picked early in the day and not in the scorching Florida afternoon sun.

They are now cleaned, cut and waiting patiently in my freezer to be used in the morning smoothie or maybe a strawberry pie. If it were up to the family they would be turned into strawberry shortcakes served with homemade whipped cream flavored with a hint of bourbon. Ok, to be fair I am the Bourbon fiend.The family is fine with vanilla.  

In the other freezer there are 6 lbs. of diced peppers- red and green- that will be used in cooking for the months fresh peppers are not in season or cost too much at the store. Dicing peppers by hand is a chore yet using a food processor works for slicing or mincing- not for dicing. The tasks kept me busy and the radio kept my normally worried and spinning brain occupied while listening to "Fresh Air"  on NPR. All in all much was accomplished.

Two weeks ago Onion Pepper Relish and salsa were the projects. 13 more pints of condiments are awaiting consumption and the relish is going fast!

Why do I take the time to produce these items that are so time consuming? Why put food by? 

1) It tastes better than store bought. Yes, there are flops that end up composted. Overall there is more fruit in the jam, the salsa isn't too spicy and the pickles are sliced how we like them sliced.

2) It can save money. Note this says CAN save money. If you find a local farmer, a farm market or grow your own there are savings to be had with the extra labor involved.

3) Quality- I know what is in the food. Seriously, no extra chemicals. My preservatives are salt, sugar, acid (vinegar, lime juice or natural acidity) and the application of heat. With food allergies this is really important. additionally, the berries I picked went from the plant to my freezer in a couple hours. No old strawberries here. The spices are ones we like and if possible fresh is best!

4) It is better for the environment. Buying local, freezing or canning means that foods do not need to be shipped from miles away for us to eat the out of season. Buy it in season put it up and then have it for the non seasonal periods.

5) A sense of accomplishment. I did it. Yes, me. I put food by for my family to eat later in the year. I can stand back and look at what was accomplished and take pride in my work.   

6) We can have foods we like that can't be found in stores.  Where can one find onion pepper relish or papaya jam on a store shelf? Maybe in a gourmet market but always in my pantry.

What do you "put by" and why? Happy preserving.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Boston Bound

Tomorrow, at way too early in the morning, my husband and I will be boarding a plane to Boston for the Marathon. This will be the 8th time he has run and I have only missed a couple of them due to work.

Last year was rough and it took us weeks to come to grips with what we experienced. Part of a person never forgets the stunned feeling of shock from when the two explosions rocked the finish line of the race. Luckily, my husband had finished almost 15 minute prior to the bomb blasts. We had already walked several blocks away to our designated meeting spot when the ground shook and the explosions rumbled sending blast waves through the air. My first thought was, "Oh, $*#@! WTF?"

The worst is always my first assumption. Once the PTSD starts screaming, my body is ready to run for the hills. My mind insisted explosions, however, as indication to the contrary all of the officers blocking the streets were laughing and joking. My husband and I looked at each other and he said it had to have been a construction crane collapsing. I breathed a sigh of relief and began to relax. Then the second blast jolted everything and the sirens started, the police officers walkie talkies starting crackling so fast with voices yelling and chaos ensued. Everyone in uniform bolted- running for the finish line.
We could see a haze of dust and smoke in the sky in the distance. My husband was physically spent and we needed to get him somewhere warm before hypothermia set in. (Here I might add that I had been reading many books of the "prepper genre"and was mentally bemoaning the fact that we did not have an airline friendly a "bug out bag"). Since we had no idea what was occurring, we headed to the train station to travel back to where we were staying, Once at the station several Transit Authority Police vehicles screeched to a stop at the entrance with men and canines jumping out to begin running the dogs through the facility. Later they took the dogs up and down the boarding platforms and on the tracks.  

The texts from that day are still on my phone. If I could ever get the pictures from my I-Phone to the blog I would post the screen shots. Basically, my brother was keeping me posted of the news as it hit the national press. He knew more of what was going on from where he was at in Alabama than we knew in Boston. The gist of it was "Get the Hell out of there! There were bag bombs at the finish line." Followed by , "Can you avoid the trains?" We were trying on the first and it was a definite "no" on the second. The following advice was to stay by the front and by the door and to, "...stay on a swivel." He is prior Special Ops not the wimpy stuff we hear about but the stuff that rarely its the news unless it goes bad. Thus, I took him VERY seriously and we did. Luckily, the trip back was uneventful.  

In fact, no one really knew what was going on until we were in the train station and getting ready to head out. It was weird everyone was calm, courteous and considerate. They loaded anyone they could onto the train we took out of Boston, then shut down all service out of the city. We were some of the lucky ones. Many racers were stuck in the cold, a mile from the finish, with nowhere to go and many others were unable to make it into or out of their hotels near the finish line.    

We poured the wine almost as soon as we walked into the kitchen where we stayed. Our mantra of the night was "WTF?" repeated again and again while we watched non stop footage of the incident with our host. It was while watching that I realized I had been standing roughly a hundred yards from where the second bomb went off when I watched the race. I stood in the same spot for over an hour and only left when Rob ran past me toward the finish line. Really!!! WTF?

In my case 15 minutes was a long time. Long enough for me to walk away and be safe.

After all of the danger and drama of last year we are going back. I myself am not trying to prove anything other than I love my husband. Rob will run, only this year I will be viewing from the comfort of an easy chair with coffee in my hand. It is not that I don't want to go- I would love to.My asthma has been really bad and I have been out of breath easily. Until it is under control it is better I stay out of the wind and cold. My cheering him this year will be from afar. Rarely, do I get to see him race anyway. With tens of thousands of people running the Boston Marathon, it is hard to find one in the melee.

Maybe next year I can watch him race again. In the face of it all with the spirit of Boston there will always be another Boston Marathon to run.