Friday, February 1, 2013

People That I Love – Hometown Edition


My weekend in Nephi has been wonderful so far. We’ve canned some chicken and quilted up a storm. Now it’s time for a people post.

Even more important, it just so happens to be people that I dearly love.


This cutie pie is Brynn. She is so much fun and so smart. That trait must run in the family.


And she gives this look a lot, which always cracks me up. Look at that long, beautiful hair!


My younger niece, Nora, never quite warmed up to me all weekend. I warmed up to her plenty, especially with blueberry remnants on her cute little chin.


But this perplexed look was about all I got from her. Maybe a camera is scary?


Luckily, she is so cute that even her perturbed looks don’t make her any less loveable.


And her beautiful blue eyes. Charloe’s other two kids have big, brown eyes. But Nora is our blue-eyed girl.


It was a full house for a few days. Lots of playing, eating, reading, and laughing. I really like this group of people, by the way.


Sorry about the lighting on this one. This handsome young man is my sixteen year-old brother, Parker. He just got his drivers license and his first job. Parker is an aspiring writer and loves being creative. Parker is really caring and supportive.


This is my youngest brother, Kip, who is fourteen. He is the athlete and baseball All-Star who just so happens to be good at school. He’s cute and funny, too.

Yes, sometimes you really can have it all.


This is my oldest nephew, Corban, who just turned eight. This is the kid who had the solar system memorized at the age of three and can tell you anything and everything about all forty-four presidents. He is a smarty-pants for sure.

Now, if we could just get him to eat some vegetables…


My wonderful step-dad got lots of loving time with Brynn since she loves books. Every time we turned around, she was asking someone to read some Berenstein Bears to her. I was happy to oblige a time or two, since I love those books, too!


Even Nora joined in on some of this fun throughout the evening.

Until dinner arrived, that is. And then we all got a little distracted.


We phoned our order in to Reed’s Drive-In, and then Charloe drove down to pick it all up. A nice, greasy, home-cooked meal from our favorite local drive-in? Yes, please!


I haven't had these “English Chips” in years, but they were just as good tonight as I remembered them from my teenage years. And that, my friends, is fry sauce to accompany such healthy treats tonight.


I decided to try a steak sandwich, which I also remember fondly from my youth. I think that I would stick with a cheeseburger next time, but this was pretty good. And the fries were something to write home about.

So I did.


Rosie was such a nice girl. She wanted to eat dinner with us but let us enjoy it still when she wasn’t invited.


Soon it was back to the living room to play and read some more!


Sitting on Grandpa’s lap while reading a good book…what more could a girl possibly want?


I feel very blessed to have such wonderful sisters, and we all get along. This is my favorite Utah-residing sister, Charloe. Isn’t she pretty? She came up just to spend a few days because I was there. That made me feel special!


Don’t they clean up well? This was us ready to go to church on Sunday morning, which happened to be Stake Conference. Parker got a suit recently…doesn’t he look nice? I got to sit by these good-lookins for the entire meeting!

My Mama is so pretty. She is one of my favorite people in the world.


When we came home from church, Mama had a yummy pork roast and potatoes ready to eat from a low-temperature oven. Talk about amazing smells when we walked through the door!


And the meat was so juicy while the potatoes were perfectly cooked. I love me some meat and potatoes! It was such a yummy meal!

It’s been an incredible weekend in my hometown. Tomorrow morning, once the fog burns off a little, it will be time to drive north to Salt Lake City once again for a cold flight home.

What are some of your favorite times spent with family?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quilting in Numbers


While I was in Utah for work, we decided to tie a few quilts for my sister and her new baby. Of course, in order for this to be a completely enjoyable process, we invited my cousin, Dolly, over for the day. And she brought her two adorable kids.

Dolly is such a hoot. We really love when she shows up. It’s really nice that she and her husband bought a house just a block from my Mom’s!


As you can plainly see, Dolly is really shy around cameras. And this certainly isn’t the pose that I got from her when I said, “Smile!”


She is very witty and sarcastic and funny. We are glad this girl is here! Double-bonus is that she also happens to know how to tie a quilt!


Do you want to know one of the best parts of the entire weekend? My sister, Charloe, showed up with her three kids in tow. They spent a few days with us and made the entire weekend that much better!

She brought the quilting fabric, so I’m glad that she decided to show up!


Yes, we cheat by using a quilting knot guide. We tried it once years ago without a guide. Let’s just say that it didn’t win any prizes at the fair!

Dolly, you crack me up!


My little brother, Parker, who isn’t so little any more, helped by stringing us some needles. It was really helpful to just demand a new needle with thread, and it would magically appear in my hand.

The other ladies called for new needles more often than me. I guess I am more quality-than-quantity when it comes to homemade handicrafts?

Or I’m just not so good at quilting.


Isn’t this lady pretty? It was so fun to have you here for a few days, Charloe. Thanks for making the hour-long trip from your house to join us for so much fun. You made everything better!

And not just because you were also the runner to get our Reed’s Drive-In dinner!


Anyway, back to the quilts. We ended up tying two quilts today for Baby James. He was born in December in Frisco, Texas, so we’ve all grown accustomed to calling him The Frisco Kid.

Luckily for him, we made a cowboy quilt today to honor his heritage.

IMG_7472 Cropped without Mama

Isn’t it cute? It has bucking broncos on one side, and cowboy hats and boots on the other.

Don’t worry, this is completely appropriate. In fact, did you know that I wore cowboy boots to school until the sixth grade? We grew up around horses, so this cute quilt is right up our alley.


Speaking of cute, this is Cambree…Dolly’s baby girl. She was enjoying some blueberries while we quilted in the living room.


This is Brynn, my sister’s daughter, and Connor, Dolly’s oldest son. They played so well together! In fact, when Connor didn’t come right away because he was taking a nap, Brynn started to cry. She was really excited to spend some time with Connor today.

Who could possibly look at a camera when there are so many interesting toys to admire instead?


Brynn is such a sweet little gal. She is lots of fun to be around and so affectionate. She just started tumbling and preschool and turned five years old a few weeks ago!


And this is Connor. Can it get any cuter than this little boy? Even better, he is just as nice as he is cute. What a fun kid!

Dolly and Travis done did it real good by having these two babies.


Here are some more pictures of beautiful Cambree. She has such a fun personality and is just gorgeous.


Dolly was trying to get her to smile, and this was the closest we got.


But look at her hair! Isn’t that incredible?

For the sake of my future daughter, I hope that Dolly moves next door to me so that she can do hair. I am, um, not so skilled in that arena. I mean, you’ve seen my hair, right?!


We were very careful to check that all of the pins were properly removed. We learned the hard way eight years ago when we made our first quilts for Charloe’s oldest kid, Corban. She wrapped him up tight in his quilt and then had to soothe his cries. I guess one lone pin had been left inside and poked him every time he moved.

Poor little guy! It’s amazing that he turned out so well!


This is quilt numero dos. A bright, fun yellow on one side, and lots of cars, trucks, and airplanes on the other.

I approve.


Action shot!


I thought that this quilt was so sweet. And did I mention…airplanes?!

You know that is all my kids will have, right?


Cambree, Dolly, and baby Nora (Charloe’s youngest) posed for a few pictures. Aren’t all three of these girls so pretty?


And one of them is tired, too. Guess who?!

Quilting was a success. My Mama bound up the edges and sent them to Texas this week. We hope that Baby James gets to enjoy them for years to come. In just a few hours, we knocked out two quilts and had lots of laughs!

This weekend is shaping up to be pretty darn nice, I must say.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Canning Chicken Like There’s No Tomorrow


A few weeks before I arrived in Nephi for “work,” my Mama told me that she could get a killer deal on chicken if I wanted to can some and take it home with me.

It just so happens that she got a pressure canner for Christmas, and it just so happens that I have a glass cooktop at my house, which prohibits the use of heavy pressure canners.

All of the stars aligned to let me bring home almost forty pounds of canned chicken for our pantry!


The chicken was just beautiful, if I may say so about a bunch of raw chicken. I had to trim very little, and they were perfect for stuffing in a jar and applying insane amounts of pressure to cook them!


My first task of the day was to chop up the chicken so that it could easily fit into a jar. Mama bought wide-mouth pint jars, but even that wasn’t enough for these still-frozen beauties.

We took them out of the freezer the night before, but it took over a day for them to get pliable enough to make it into said wide-mouth jars!


However, still being frozen made chopping a little easier.


But I got a nice blister after cutting up forty pounds of frozen chicken. No, you can’t see the blister in this picture. But I know it’s there. And that’s what counts.


I was so tickled to be working alongside my Mama for this project! She cans a lot, and I have really been wanting to learn her skills. It’s hard when we live so far apart, but this weekend allowed some time to can up some chicken boobs.

So we washed the jars to prep them for the canning process.


And then I filled the jars with chicken and half a teaspoon of salt. The jars the next morning were even fuller as the chicken continued to thaw. It’s easier to stuff more chicken into the jar when its pliable!

And I am all about pliable chicken.


This is her new All-American Pressure Canner. I have one on my Amazon wishlist, though we wouldn’t be able to use it until we get a gas stove.

Sigh. Someday.

I’m just glad that Mama let me do chicken as the first thing to break this puppy in!


Because of our altitude at over 5,000 feet, we had to let the pressure rise to fifteen pounds-per-square-inch before the chicken could properly cook. First the heat had to build, and then we had to let it “vent” for about ten minutes. Then we placed the weight on and let the pressure rise to fifteen psi. Then we had to let it cook for seventy-five minutes. Then we turned off the heat to let it cool down. When the gauge read “zero,” we removed the weight to let the canner vent the rest of the way. Very quickly after it was vented, to avoid a vacuum from taking over, we removed the lid and removed perfectly-canned chicken.

It was quite a process. With beginners luck, our first batch went off without any problems. The second batch…well, let’s just say that we were up until almost 1:00 AM canning chicken.

The third batch the next morning went well, too.


These cans are ready for their lids, and then ready for the pot. This is second batch ready to go in, while first batch is almost ready to come out of the canner.


Here we go! The heat has been off, and the gauge has dropped to “zero.” Now it’s time to remove the weight so that the rest of the pressure can be released.


This little metal guy is the weight on top of the vent. Once we removed this, a constant stream of steam escaped for another several minutes.


And then it was time to remove the lid to check our handiwork. How exciting!


But we couldn’t get it open! So we had to bring in the Big Guns and his muscles to open the canner for us. He even got out a rubber mallet to tap the lid open. It was all very adventurous, I must say.

And I’ve never been able to use that work to describe canning anything!


Soon, the lid was off. And we all stood around to “oooooo” and “aaaaaahhh” the end result.


Somehow, Mama got lassoed into doing all of the manual labor while I sat back and watched with my camera lens. That doesn’t sound fair, now does it?


But I daresay…that is the prettiest jar of homemade chicken that I have ever seen! And I’ve seen a few (literally, just a few).

What is it about doing something so domestic and self-reliant that feels so amazing?


After they were removed from the piping-hot canner, the jars continued to bubble and boil inside. It was really neat. And then, one by one, we heard them “pop” as they properly sealed!


Per some instructions we found online, we added vinegar to the water bath to prevent the canner from getting stained. The vinegar stained the jar lids instead! Weird, huh?

Dang chemistry. It still confounds me!


After the first batch was so successful, we moved on to our next batch. It took two attempts to get the lid properly sealed, so too much stream escaped during the canning process! But getting to that point had taken over an hour each time. So, by the time that we were finishing this last batch, Mama and I were the only ones still awake.

Even Rosie had gone to bed. Slacker.


This was the clock when we finally finished our sketchy second batch. Silly me…I was thinking that we would finish all three batches today by lunchtime!



Even though we were tired, I couldn’t help but admire all of our hard work on the countertop. Can you believe that I am brining home almost forty pounds of chicken for $1.30 a pound?!


The ones on the towel just came out of the canner, while the ones in the back were from batch numero uno. Lots of chicken going on ‘round these parts!


These boiled until they sealed with some loud pops. Even after going to bed, we could hear them popping out in the kitchen. Ah, the sound of edible success!


And we did pretty well! Out of three batches, processing sixteen jars in each batch, we only lost three jars that never properly sealed.

Mama put them in the fridge and made delicious chicken salad sandwiches and chicken enchiladas out of them. Everyone that I talked to said that they were delicious!


And I managed to bring three cases of chicken home on Gladys. They look rather nice in my pantry, don’t you think?


We have a few chicken cans from Costco to finish first. But I am so proud of the homemade versions next to them! Canned meat doesn’t always look appealing, but I am pretty stoked about this canned meat!


In fact, because I’m so patient, we are going to try our first jar tonight in some Mexican Chicken Wraps. I can hardly wait!

Mama, thanks for all of your help. I can’t imagine doing all of that on my own, and it was so much fun being in the kitchen with you!

Even if it was until the wee hours of the morning…

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