Friday, September 30, 2011

All Hot and Bothered - Jalapeno Jelly

A few years ago we received a jar of jalapeno jelly from Paul's aunt.  Spicy yet sweet, the jelly was delicious on tortilla chips, or spread on crackers with a little cream cheese.  I haven't stopped thinking about how good it was, so I decided this year to attempt to make our own.

Jalapenos are in season right now, and I found them for 99 cents a pound.  I had wanted to grow our own, but when the time came to plant peppers this summer all the jalapenos were sold out, and I ended up planting serrano and Big Jim New Mexico peppers instead (both of which are doing well). Still, no pepper can really compare to the flavor of the jalapeno. 

I used 12 jalapeno peppers and 2 green bell peppers (from our garden) to make the jelly, along with 6 cups of sugar, 2 cups of cider vinegar, and Bell brand liquid pectin (which includes the recipe that I used).  I got all of my supplies ready first, and then asked Paul, "Hey, do we have any latex gloves?" after searching all the usual cleaning supplies cupboards.  It turned out that we did not have any gloves.  So I took a big gulp and jumped into deseeding 12 jalapeno peppers in bare hands.

Once you get them deseeded, you just pile them all in the blender or food processor along with the half the vinegar, and give them a whirl.

Then pour it into a pot with the rest of the cider vinegar and the sugar and bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes.   This stuff got to frothing and in record time became like a science experiment gone bad.  I couldn't get it down and as a result my stove got slimed in burnt jalapeno froth - nice.  It took much scrubbing and even a razor to get the mess off. 
 By this time, the jalapenos had saturated the air in the house, and not only was I coughing, but anyone who walked through the kitchen immediately began choking on the spiciness of the peppers.  Not only that, but my hands (which I had diligently washed numerous times already) were on fire from the deseeding.

Luckily, all I had left to do was add the liquid pectin for a minute, and then pour in hot jars and process for 15 minutes in the canner.  By the time I finished that plus the cleanup, it was dusk.

The next morning, I was thrilled to find that my 6 jars of jalapeno jelly had set up perfectly.  And they taste so good.  Even the twins are going crazy over the spicy jelly on tortilla chips.  In fact, we're all so fond of this delicacy that I've decided to make another batch - or even two.  But after spending a night with hands-on-fire, you'd better believe I'm going to invest in some latex gloves first!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fired Up for a Cure 10K Race Report

Last weekend I ran the Fired Up for a Cure 10K which was so much more than just a race.  They had many booths set up and wonderful events for kids like face painting and jump houses.  All to raise money to find a cure for breast cancer.  What a great cause!
And they had firetrucks!  The race was put on by the fire department, so there were firetrucks everywhere - even a pink one!

If your portajohn is pink, does it lower the gross factor?

The race did start about 15 minutes late.  It was their first year, so sometimes these things happen.  But I do like it when races start on time.  The start and finish were at the Roanoke Civic Center.  
During the first part of the race, there was a lot of support along the course.  But the back half didn't have quite as much - there was one turn that was unmarked and unmanned, and had I not seen the runner in front of me take the turn, I wouldn't have known where to go.  One water table was also unmanned and the cups were still in wrappers with no water.  Needless to say, no one was stopping at that water stop.  I never stop to drink water in races under 10 miles (unless it's super hot) so this didn't bother me.  

There were a few hills along the course, but nothing too rough. 

I got a side stitch the second half of the race.  I haven't had such a bad side stitch during a race since 2003.  It threw me off my game a little, but at least I didn't have to stop and walk.  There was one hill around the halfway mark (there were no mile markers, so I can't give you exact location) where you crested to see a stunning view of downtown Roanoke and the surrounding mountains.  That was probably my favorite part of the race.  

While I was running, the boys were playing in bouncy houses and climbing on firetrucks:

The finish of the race was along the outskirts of the Civic Center, and then you had to bound up a small flight of stairs to cross the finish line.

I finished in 53:25, and would have liked a faster time.  I have since heard that according to several other runners' Garmins, the course was significantly long.  My friend Steve plugged in the actual race distance with my time, and said I would've run a 52:01 if it had been an actual 10K.  I can have some happiness over this time, as it would be a decent improvement over my 10K time in August, and would show that all the hard work at the track is starting to pay off.  So let's hope Steve is right on that!

I found the boys happy as could be.  Pierce was sporting a pink fireman hat.

And the twins were enjoying apples.

We walked over to where the awards ceremony was to be held, and found they were having a Zumba class.  If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I avoid dancing situations.  But we had fun watching, and the twins really liked the music and ran in circles to it.

I placed 3rd in my age group.  They had very nice medals!

We finished the morning with climbing on the helicopter.  How cool is that?!

It was a really fun event.  I would definitely run this race again - I hope they hold it next year. 

On a side note, I was sending warm thoughts during this race to Leontien, who is in her second fight against breast cancer.  She is a wonderful writer and blogger who shares stories about farm life and crazy Americans.  She could use positive thoughts and support right now.  If you haven't been to her blog before, won't you go by and share some warm fuzzies?  You can find her at Four Leaf Clover Tales

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Running on the Greenbrier River Trail and through Sharp's Tunnel

On the last day of our trip to Seneca Forest State Park, WV, we decided we had to check out the Greenbrier River Trail, one of those converted old railroad trails.  We got directions to drive to Sharp's tunnel, which involved some hairy roads, made all the hairier by an emergency little boy bathroom situation!  But we finally made it to our destination.
 Sharp's Tunnel was built in 1900 and is 511 feet long.
We brought headlamps, which is good because it was pitch black once you got in the middle of it.

The light at the end of the tunnel...

Paul hung out with the boys so I could go on a run.  It was a crisp morning for it, and I put in 6 of the most beautiful running miles I've seen in ages.  Not a soul on the trail, the smell of fall leaves in the air, and a deer with her twin babies that watched me run by.  
I ran from mile marker 65 to 68 and back.
On the way back through the tunnel, I didn't use a headlamp but just went by feel. 
Kind of strange trusting my feet in the pitch blackness.

Pierce took both of these pictures of me while we hung out waiting for Paul to take his turn with a run.
Like the shirt?  I didn't run track for UNI but my friend Shelli coaches there, and gave me the fun running shirt.

Gorgeous bit of trail by the river, isn't it?
When's the last time a view took your breath away?

The winner of the $40 gift certificate to Milk Nursingwear was Deanna Menyes.  Thanks so much to all who entered!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Exploring Cass, WV, and an Incredible Sunset

After our train excursion on the Cass Scenic Railroad, we decided to walk through the tiny town of Cass to check it out.  There is a free museum there that we walked through, and a couple of open cabooses.
Reid was still on guard, but he tried to relax a little as we walked around.

I wish I could remember which blogger collects that cat railroad pictures - I didn't realize that a kitten was a railroad symbol until I read her blog about it!  See the cat symbol to the right?
 The boys certainly liked exploring the insides.

After that we had to decide what to do about supper.  There was nothing to eat near Seneca Forest State Park, where we were staying, and since we didn't have any success lighting the woodstove and had already done hotdogs on sticks over open fire the night before, we wanted to eat out.
Cass had a restaurant that had good reviews online.  However, we'd purchased box lunches there to take on our train ride.  And while the food was okay, the waitress was rude.  So I wasn't keen to give this place any more of our money:

Instead, we decided to drive up to Snowshoe Ski Resort, in hopes that they would have a few restaurants open.  There, we sat down for dinner at Cheat Mountain Pizza.  Not only was the food excellent, but the waiter was so nice and he was wonderful with the boys.
And then we walked outside with full bellies to find this -

Talk about the perfect ending to a day.
It was surreal, standing there and staring at this glory.
What an adventure!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Welcome Autumn - Muffin Tin Monday

With Fall officially launching last week I decided to break out a few spooky items for Muffin Tin Monday.  I found a jello mold of Halloween shapes at a thrift store, and this is the first time I've used it.
Pierce had garlic shrimp (shrimp is still a favorite food of his), grapes, green beans, and cheesy hash brown casserole (which is total comfort food and perfect for Fall!).  He ate all but a few bites of his hash brown casserole, and he also finished Cort's shrimp (and then Cort finished Pierce's casserole - so it worked out as an even trade). 

For more cute lunch ideas, go visit Muffin Tin Mom.

If you are a breastfeeding mom (or are soon to be one) please go enter my giveaway for a $40 gift certificate to Milk Nursingwear HERE - it ends tomorrow at noon!

Friday, September 23, 2011

What Kind of Books Do You Take When You're Roughing It?

We always take along several relevant books when we take trips.  I have fun choosing books with themes related to our travels.  For our trip to stay in the Pioneer Cabin and to ride the Cass Scenic Railroad, I had quite a few good choices.
 I also packed the book Freight Train for the twins, but somehow between packing it and arriving, it didn't actually make the trip.  Funny how things like that happen.
 Reading with Daddy.

And reading with Mommy.  We're lucky enough to have 3 little boys who love to read.

As it turned out, the most fitting of the books we brought was When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant.   It's long been one of our favorites, but it was fun to experience so much of the book in real life.

Living life simpler, for a few days.  No electricity.  No running water.
Brushing teeth with a dipper in the "sink".  Which led to a conversation about how we could conserve more water at home - you don't need much at all to do little things like teeth brushing.

Just like in the book, Pierce got to experience pumping icy cold water from the hand pump.
We also experienced what is called in When I Was Young in the Mountains the 'johnnyhouse' or outhouse - or as they call it now, the vault toilet.  Not so much fun in the middle of a cold night!

Sadly, although we brought hot cocoa to drink like in the book, we couldn't get the wood cookstove to take correctly, so we opted for s'mores by the fire instead.
 Not a bad consolation prize, huh?

If you're a breastfeeding mom, please check out my review and $40 gift certificate giveaway for Milk Nursingwear  here!

This post is linked to -

Shibley Smiles

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Halloween Swapping

Seems like the first day of Fall is tomorrow, and it's hard to believe the summer has passed so quickly.  To get in the spirit, I signed up for a Halloween blog swap.  You can sign up anytime between now and September 28th, and how much fun will it be to swap boxes of Halloween themed goodies?

Here is where you'll find the two hosts - My So Called Chaos and Living A Goddess Life.  

Cass Scenic Railroad, WV

Ever since Paul and I rode the train up to NYC last fall (so that I could run the marathon) Pierce has been begging to ride on a train.  We looked into riding the train up to D.C. but to be honest, with luggage and logistics it would've been so much easier to drive.  Then one day I was flipping through a magazine and saw an ad for Cass Scenic Railroad in WV.  This sounded like a fun way to let Pierce experience a train.

 The train was awe-inspiring with the black smoke billowing out the top.  
The twins were not impressed.  The moment it rolled up and let out that LOUD rush of steam they both took off running for the woods, screaming the whole way.

We wrestled them down and got them on the train.  Cort recovered quickly and started enjoying himself, as seen below.  Reid - not so much.  He was scared.

As the train chugged up the mountain, the kids were able to walk around as they pleased.  They enjoyed watching the beautiful scenery going by.  The train moves slowly - less than 9 miles an hour, so there is plenty of time to watch and relax.  Our round trip took about 4 1/2 hours.
There were tons of other little boys on the train, and Pierce made several friends during the trip.

On the ride up, the train stopped at Whittaker Station.  Beautiful views, and a historic logging camp to check out.

It was a gloomy and cold day for pictures.  Even bundled up we were still chilly.

This is how I spent the ride.  Poor Reid.  He was so terrified. I confess that even though I didn't want him to feel scared, I certainly enjoyed 4 hours of snuggling.

The Mountain Ash berries were thick and ample.  Paul said that there is a bug killing these trees, and they will eventually be extinct.

I think the word "scenic" in the title Cass Scenic Railroad is well earned.

Finally we arrived on top of Bald Knob, at around 4700 feet.  It was cold!
The boys posed for a pic on the observation deck, but note that Reid wasn't going to let down his guard for a second.  He knew that scary old train was still there.

Doesn't the observation deck look like something out of Survivor?

There were several deer on the mountain that were very friendly.  We saw a few that were eating out of people's hands.

Finally, we began our descent down the mountain.
Reid was willing to get off my lap a few times, so long as he was still holding on to my leg.
The view - as the train went around a curve.
As our family of five snuggled up under the warm blanket we'd brought for the train ride on the final stretch back to Cass, we definitely (well, except maybe Reid) thought it was a fun day, and one that we'll remember for a long while!

If you're a breastfeeding mom, please check out my giveaway from Milk Nursingwear for a $40 gift certificate here! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Milk Nursingwear Review and GIVEAWAY!! $40 Gift Certificate!

I breastfed all three of my boys for over a year, and I know firsthand that there can be many challenges to breastfeeding, which are fortunately outweighed by all the wonderful benefits.  I didn't wear a dress the entire time I was breastfeeding, because I didn't have anything that was accommodating for nursing.  It was a really a bummer during the hot summers, particularly back when I was working full time.  So when Milk Nursingwear contacted me about doing a review and giveaway, I was intrigued.  I went to their site and couldn't believe how many chic nursing tops and dresses they have.  Reasonably priced, too!  I would've loved to have known about them when I was breastfeeding.

Milk was kind enough to send me a shirt to try.  This is the sleeveless crossover nursing top in blue.  I love that you look at this shirt and would never know it was for breastfeeding, so you can wear it even when you are no longer nursing.

The material is really soft and comfortable.  Inside, the inner layer moves to the side to allow easy access for an infant.  You don't have to deal with any buttons or snaps - so no fumbling.   And this shirt is so versatile - you could wear it casual with jeans, or dress it up with a skirt and heels.

Milk Nursingwear has been generous enough to offer one reader a $40 gift certificate to use in their store.  You can enter in three different ways (do all three if you'd like):
1.  Like Milk Nursingwear on Facebook and come leave a comment letting me know you do.
2.  Go visit Milk Nursingwear and leave a comment with a link to your favorite product.
3.  Tweet with a link to this giveaway, and leave a comment letting me know you did with your twitter handle.

This giveaway ends on September 27th at noon when a winner will be chosen by  I must have a viable email address to contact you (it's okay so long as it's visible in your profile - otherwise leave it in your comment) and you must respond with your contact information within 48 hours.  Otherwise another winner will be chosen.  Giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada.

Thanks for entering!

Disclaimer:  I was sent an item of my choice to review for this post.  All of the opinions in this post are my own.  While I am no longer breastfeeding, I am a big advocate, and I strongly believe in products that help make nursing easier on tired moms, which is why I chose to do the review.  I will be passing this fabulous shirt on to my sister-in-law, who is expecting her second baby next spring.