Thursday, October 22, 2009

10 years of Little Things

I have a cute little sign on my end table that reads, "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." (You may never have seen it, which is perfectly understandable since on any given day it is likely to be buried behind a box of kleenex, one baby shoe, half a dozen Matchbox cars, 2 pencils, a naked Barbie, a stack of catalogs and various other objects that are simply woven into the fabric of our daily lives.) But I digress...
I love that sign. I am fortunate enough to be celebrating 10 years of marriage with my wonderful husband tomorrow, and that sign got me thinking. Its funny how we focus on the little things that are negative (the empty toilet paper roll, the dirty socks on the floor, or the cap that just couldn't quite make it back on the tube of toothpaste. Love you honey!!) But the positive little things are often overlooked because they are just part of our every day life. I want to take this opportunity to say that I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people in the world because of all the little things with which I am blessed. Days get stressful and we think, "If I can just get through this day..." Well, I am lucky to have spent the last 3,650 days with Tim. Believe me, he deserves some sort of award for having the sense of humor that he does to put up with me some days (especially considering that I have been pregnant and hormonal for combined total of 3 years and 9 months during our marriage.) Each morning, my husband gets up and makes coffee and brings me a cup in bed. EVERY MORNING without fail. Then he goes to the kitchen and empties the dishwasher and washes any stray dishes. He does laundry (boys can wear pink socks. Really they can.) He changes diapers, he coaches basketball, he plays Barbies, he gives baths and cleans up vomit.
I'm not a fancy restaurant, flowers and champagne sort of girl. I'm a homebody and creature of habit. I like what is familiar. I'll take the everyday little signs of love over the grand gesture any day, because I truly believe that in the end, we look back and realize that the little things really are the big things! I tell the kids all the time that you never know how one smile, kind word or gesture can impact someone. How it can totally change the tone of their day. We've all heard the stories of the people who because of one little, seemingly insignificant thing, were late to work at the World Trade Center on September 11th. And because of that, the course of their lives were changed forever. Switching my major to communications after my sophomore of college was what caused me to cross paths with Tim (granted I now use that degree to negotiate who gets the blue cup or which bowl of yogurt has more granola sprinkled on top.) A little thing that has turned into a big thing.
Happy Anniversary to my hubby Tim (aww, mushy mushy) and to everyone else, don't forget to appreciate all the little things in your life. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apple of My Eye

Its fall and I find myself humming a little tune as I make my way through the day. I LOVE Fall! I love the colors outside, the cooler temperatures, the smell of leaves burning, the fact that there's no chance of it being so hot that the back of my legs stick to a lawn chair as I try to stand up. These are valid reasons, okay? With fall comes my insatiable need to create in the kitchen! I think no matter how technologically advanced we become we still have a little Flinstone in us! I'm stocking up for the winter here (Tim is a happy man when I go into this mode!) I love all foods fall - soup, chili, pumpkins, apples, cranberries, you name it! We spent a lovely 39 degree day on Saturday at our favorite orchard in Malta. After making three bottles for Scout, spilling an entire one on the floor, cleaning it up, forgetting the other two in the fridge, and making a bathroom stop halfway, we finally arrived at the orchard. We watched the temperature on the rearview mirror in the burbie drop degree by degree as we got closer. We were so unprepared for how cold it was, we put on every remotely warm article clothing we had brought along, it was reminiscent of Clark Griswold locked in the attic in Christmas Vacation, minus the turban! Our comedy of errors continued as we waited in line for tractor to take us to the pumpkin patch, got too cold, went into the "Country Store" to warm up, saw the tractor coming, ran back out (as fast as we could with five stay-puff marshmallow children, 4 pecks of apples, a gallon of apple cider, a diaper bag, a camera bag and two strollers.) You know where this is going, don't you? The tractor was filled up by the time we got back out there. So, as Finley's running nose actually began to freeze on her face, we decided to call it a day. After packing up, driving 10 miles down the road, realizing Tim forgot one of the strollers, turning around to retrieve it, and finally getting home, we just bought some pumpkins and gourds from a nice farmer in Monee. But, I did have an amazing variety of apples and a hankering to do something with them. So here is my creation . . .

Crockpot Apple Butter

Start with about 18 apples
(I used a mix of Jonathan, Ida Red and Stabrite, I like mine more on the tart side)

Core, and slice apples (Leave peel on)

Add 1/2 cup apple cider and 2 tablespoons mulling spices to crockpot. Cook on high 3 hours and you will end up with this:

Here's where you need the best kitchen tool ever - the food mill. Mine was purchased from a hardware store for under $20 dollars. Nothing fancy, but it does the job!

Working in batches, run apple mixture through food mill, you will end up with an applesauce like mixture. All the seeds, peels and whole spices remain in the food mill.

Return apple mixture to crockpot, add 1/4 sugar, 1 tablespoon good cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon each of mace and cloves. Cook two more hours on high.

Now if you're a fan of apple butter, you know what makes it different from applesauce is its richness and velvety texture. If you have an immersion blender (got mine for $9.99 at Jewel,) here's where you use it. Put that bad boy right in the crockpot and make some apple butter!! This makes all the difference in texture, believe me!! Now taste your creation. If you like more sugar, now's the time to add it. Then finish cooking another hour or so, stirring occasionally.

Your house will smell so incredible when you make this (if you had a scratch-n-sniff computer screen, you'd understand!)

Crockpot Apple Butter
18 apples
1/2 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons mulling spices
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon mace
1/8 teaspoon cloves


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