Tuesday, July 31, 2012

P is for Peach: A Georgia Alphabet

For those of you with 'Georgia on Your Mind'...here's a great resource! But if you don't have our state on your mind, Sleeping Bear Press probably has an alphabet book about your state as well.

P is For Peach: A Georgia Alphabet
Written by: Carol Crane
Illustrated by: Mark Braught
Published by: Sleeping Bear Press
  • ISBN 13: 9781585360468
  • ISBN 10: 1585360465

Sometimes you just find a book or series that makes your heart beat a bit faster, and you know you’ve hit a resource jackpot! That’s how I felt as I was browsing the non-fiction shelves in the juvenile section of our regional library a while back. A picture book with a beautifully illustrated cover of a peach tree caught my eye, so I pulled it off the shelf for a closer look. I was so excited to find that it was P is for Peach: A Georgia Alphabet by Carol Crane, and I quickly started flipping through the pages.

All I can say is WOW—a geography/history/alphabet book all in one! And of course, being a Georgia gal AND a history/geography buff, I put it in my ‘check out’ stack with a sigh of contentment and a feeling of anticipation!

Sleeping Bear Press has found a niche for educators, homeschoolers, elementary school students, and state history enthusiasts with their wonderful series, Discover America State By State. A few other book titles in the series include:
L is for Lonestar: A Texas Alphabet
S is for Sunshine: A Florida Alphabet
T is for Tar Heel: A North Carolina Alphabet
L is for Last Frontier: An Alaskan Alphabet

P is for Peach is the perfect book to introduce young children to the alphabet AND the wonders and natural splendors of Georgia, but it also contains thorough information appropriate for older children and adults as well—no fluff here! In fact, according to the Sleeping Bear Press/Gale website, here is a description of the book:

“As you travel through the Okefenokee Swamp, keep an eye out for Tiger Swallowtails and Brown Thrashers, and be sure to pick some Yellow Confederate Daisies before taking a nap under a Live Oak Tree. This is the Georgia that becomes a wondrous reality within the beautiful rhyming verses of Carol Crane and the colorful images of Mark Braught. At the same time the rhymes entertain and inform younger readers, Crane's in-depth expository text will appeal to older ones, creating a two-tiered teaching tool for educators in the Peach State and across the country.”

Carol Crane has done an excellent job compiling information and fascinating facts about Georgia, and the illustrator, Mark Braught, adds much to the book with his gorgeous and vivid illustrations. Well done! I like this picture book so much, that I plan to purchase a copy for my own state history bookshelf! And an extra bonus? There is a free teacher’s guide on the Sleeping Bear Press/Gage website to go along with this book and the others in the series as well. I plan on using the book and the teacher’s guide to add more interest and variation to our Georgia history studies.

For more information about P is for Peach, or any of the other Discover America State by State books, check out the website above. Highly recommended!

Edited: I now have my very own copy of this beautiful book. I even have it on display atop a chiffarobe in my living room...it's that pretty!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Spinach Salad Recipe

Spinach Salad

1 pkg. spinach (10 oz)

1 (12 oz.) carton small curd cottage cheese

½ c. chopped pecans

½ c. sugar

3 T. vinegar

2 tsp. prepared horseradish

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. dried mustard (very important, and I always use more than ½ tsp.)


In a large serving bowl, layer half of the spinach, cottage cheese, and pecans. Repeat layers.

In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Note: If you don’t plan to use this immediately, just add the dressing right before serving.

Repurposing and Decorating with Old Windows

We live in my grandparent’s remodeled 1930′s farmhouse. This is the house where my daddy was raised, and where I spent MANY happy hours with my grandma. My grandpa died when I was three, but I remember him too. I grew up right next door, and I was in and out of this house all the time.

Anyway, I have a personal ‘relationship’ with my house. You can see other posts and pictures here, here, and here showing special things about it. But I love using old things to decorate, and things that have a special significance to my past and heritage are even better. So when we gutted and remodeled the house back in 1999 and had to replace all the old windows, we kept all of them out at the barn. My mama and daddy had plans for some of them too. Below are a few pics of some of the things that we’ve done with them.

First of all, a dear preacher friend of ours used some of the windows to build this conservatory for my parents. Now I WANT one too!

Now, here’s another idea that I got from Angie over at The Happy Homebody. After scraping off excess peeling paint, I stained one of the windows with a nice Italian sage green, backed it with burlap, and propped it over my mantel. Then I used some ribbon to coordinate with my living room colors and hung a nice ‘Home Is Where Our Story Begins’ sign in front. When I decorated for Christmas, I hung a wreath and a seasonal sign that said "It's A Wonderful Life" that my daughter painted for me.

One last photo. I propped one of the old windows (peeling paint and all) up on a small entry table beside my front door. I know it looks rather bare here, but since this photo was taken, I've used it to display seasonal decorations such as wreaths, garlands, signs, snowflakes, etc. I LOVE it!

We also have some old outbuildings from when this house was constructed. One is a pump house, and I have plans to repaint it, and hang one of the windows complete with window box underneath on one side. That project is right up there with repainting the picket fence! Sigh…..

Decorating with old windows...it's a good thing!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Awesome Homemade Salsa Recipe

16 c. tomatoes, chopped and drained well (very important)
4 c. onions, chopped
3/4 c. Jalapeno peppers, chopped (I just used a small can that I bought)
2 c. green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 c. white vinegar (I think I used apple cider vinegar)
2 T. canning salt (I just used regular iodized)
3 T. sugar ( I think I added more)
1 stalk celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. oregano

Note: To drain my chopped tomatoes, I used a colander and drained the juice into another pot. I did this twice to try and make my chopped tomatoes relatively ‘dry’…I saved the drained tomato juice, cooked it down, and put in the freezer to make tomato soup with later.

Bring all ingredients to a boil over high heat, stirring often. (Again, I used my ‘prone to scorching’ large stockpot…so I REALLY stirred often)! Then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour. I think I had to simmer just a tad bit longer than that. Remove from heat and let stand several hours or overnight. The flavors meld together well if you wait. I think I prepared/simmered my salsa one morning, then I let it sit all afternoon and canned that night.

Reheat sauce. Ladle into prepared, hot pint sized jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal with lids and rings. Process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.
This recipe makes approximately 10 pints. As usual, I doubled the recipe and made more!
Great with homemade tortillas!

Homemade Pizza Sauce

Pizza Sauce
25-28 tomatoes
2 large onions, minced
3 T. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. cracked pepper (I just used regular black)
1 T. sugar (Sometimes I add more and sometimes I use brown)
2 T. parsley, chopped ( I just used dried)
1 T. oregano
1 T. basil
1 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. celery seed
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. summer savory (Left it out, didn’t have any)

*In the past, if I didn’t have some of these things, I would just substitute by adding more Italian seasoning and tinkering with the taste. 

Peel and puree tomatoes. I do this by dipping my clean, de-stemmed tomatoes into a pot of boiling water (in a metal mesh basket) for about 30-40 seconds. Then I put the tomatoes in cold water in my sink, and the skins come off easily. I simply puree by putting the tomatoes (seeds and all) divided into small batches into my Bosch blender for 20-30 seconds and then pouring them all into my largest stockpot.

Meanwhile, in another large, deep pan, I sautè my onions and garlic until transparent. I add that to the tomato  puree in my stockpot. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. (Now, here is where you’ll have to do a lot of testing and tasting to see if it’s to your liking…I usually end up adding brown sugar as we like a sweeter sauce and more seasoning like oregano if needed). 

Continue cooking over low heat until mixture is reduced by half. Stir occasionally. I really have to watch my sauce and stir often, because it seems to want to scorch in my stockpot if I’m not careful. My stockpot isn’t real heavy, so that can be a problem.
The reduction stage will usually take 1 1/2 to 2 hours, but sometimes more. I guess it depends on how thick you like your sauce. I’ve heard of some folks adding tomato paste, but that’s up to you.

When the sauce is done and thickened to your preference, it’s time to can. I ladle the sauce into hot pint size (or quart), clean the rims, and seal with lids and rings. You can process the pint jars in a hot water bath for 25-30 minutes. For quart size jars, increase the processing time to 40-45 minutes.