Canning Tomato Juice the Easy Way!

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It’s hard to believe that fall is upon us! While walking Freckles this morning I noticed the colors of the leaves. The subtle changes that are already taking place are beautiful, which make me anxious for all of the fall festivities, foods, colors, fashion and every part of fall except knowing that winter follows these wonderful months. Dreading the snow and ice of winter is a natural part of living in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains…but I can honestly say, there’s no place like home and I can’t imagine living anywhere but the mountains of Kentucky.

With the happy thoughts of fall also came a bit of sadness. As we walked past our garden a mix of emotions consumed me. We’ve been very blessed with a bounty of delicious vegetables this year. But, seeing the final tomatoes of the season struggling to cling to the dying vines, the bean vines turning yellow and the corn stalks anxiously awaiting becoming decorative fodder shocks…a bit of sadness consumed me and filled my heart. I knew that I would miss visiting our garden and picking vegetables each evening. I would even miss hoeing the rows of ripe delicious vegetables, all the hours of hard work…but then thinking about the abundance of canned food our garden has provided somehow made the upcoming days of winter a little less undesirable. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to cook a bit stock pot of homemade vegetable soup!

With the last days of summer approaching also comes the time to can tomato juice. My family loves tomato juice in homemade vegetable soup, chili, macaroni and tomato juice and sometimes just as a wonderful and tasty juice to drink. Anyway homemade tomato juice is incorporated…it’s delicious and always makes the dish a bit tastier!

When I first began canning for myself and my family. I was eager to incorporate skills I learned as a child growing up in a farming community and also experiment and create strategies of my own to discover my own style. I was eager to make it mine, to know it and to own it! Over the years I have learned many new tricks, strategies, and ideas that have made canning much more pleasurable and shortcuts that also helps canning fit into my busy schedule. As a college professor, writer, wife, mother and grandmother my schedule can fill up very quickly, as I’m sure yours does as well. I also wanted to find methods to can healthier food to accommodate my style of clean eating. I’m anxious to share my quick and easy method of canning delicious time-tested tomato juice with you so that you can also preserve your own delicious jars of tomato juice for you and your family.

Ingredients:

Fresh tomatoes (I typically process 3-5 gallons of tomatoes at a time, but you may process as few or as many as you have)
Table salt
Lemon juice

Tools:

Quart jars with rings and lids
Water canner
Large fine mesh wire strainer or sieve 
Ninja, blender or food processor (I prefer using a ninja but either will work)
Large stock pot
Wooden spoon
Funnel

Process:

Wash and sterilize jars, rings and flats. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and one-quarter teaspoon of salt in each quart jar and set aside. Wash tomatoes, cut the core and any bruised or bad spot out of the tomatoes. There’s no need to peel the tomatoes. Cut tomatoes into quarters and place in the ninja or blender. Using the ninja I pulse several times and then process the tomatoes for a couple of minutes, usually only two minutes or so, just until they become a thick tomato puree. Pour the puree into the large stockpot. Once all of the tomatoes have been processed through the ninja and poured into the stockpot turn the burner on and slowly bring to a boil. Once the tomato puree is boiling begin stirring and allow tomatoes to boil five minutes stirring constantly. After five minutes turn the burner off and remove tomatoes from heat.

Place the funnel in the mouth of the quart jar. Holding the strainer or sieve over the funnel begin adding the tomato puree into the strainer. You may use a ladle to add the tomatoes to the strainer. Using the wooden spoon press all of the tomato mixture through the strainer and through the funnel filling the jar with beautiful tomato juice. Once the jar is full with at least a half-inch head space remaining wipe the rim of the jar and place the sterilized flat and ring on the jar. You can then clean your strainer out. You will notice that there’s not much left in the strainer, but you will find seeds and a little tomato peel remaining. The great news is there are little to no seeds in your juice! Yay!

Continue filling the jars by pressing the tomatoes through the strainer and into the jars. Once you’ve filled the jars (usually a 3-5 gallon bucket of tomatoes makes at least 7 quart jars of juice) place jars in the canner with water covering the jars by at least an inch. Slowly bring water to a boil. Once the water begins to boil process the jars of juice for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes turn the stove off and allow the water to settle and slightly cool. Carefully remove jars from the canner and place on a towel or cooling rack. You should hear that wonderful popping sound that we all enjoy hearing so much! The jars should begin to seal right away. Once they’ve sealed and cooled you are ready to add the dates on the lids with a permanent marker and add the beautiful jars of red deliciousness to your pantry shelves!

I have learned that canning a few jars of juice at a time prevents me from getting burn out and becoming overly exhausted with making tomato juice. I have also found that I still gain as many jars of juice over a period of weeks or possibly two months as I do when I have tried to juice bushels of tomatoes at one time. I like juicing in increments as I can involve my grandchildren and allow them to learn the process of canning and gaining a cultural experience and learn a tradition that many have already forgotten. I love passing down cultural experiences from generation to generation.

I hope that you enjoy my method of canning tomato juice as much we do and find as much pleasure in the dishes that you create with this tasty deliciousness. Be sure to check out Canning Green Beans the Time-Tested Way for another time-tested method of preserving your beautiful bountiful vegetables. If you’ve enjoyed my recipes or articles, please feel free to leave a comment. I truly enjoy hearing from my readers. Also, thank you for your continued support. For now, blessings from the mountains of Kentucky!

 

Living in the Appalachian Mountains

Courtesy of Jonathan Bowling

Elk captured on our son, Jonathan Bowling’s, trail camera behind our house. @copyright Healthier Me Simple and Clean.

Many people believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have been overheard many times making this statement when referring to the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. I am also a believer that not only is beauty found within the eye of the beholder, but also that success lies within the desire of the believer.

Recently I read an article about life in the Appalachian Mountains that lingered in my thoughts, with a mix of emotions hovering over and within me. Life in Appalachia was portrayed with gloom and despair, thus leaving the reader with a feeling of hopelessness. The article implied that people who were born into poverty didn’t have a choice to live otherwise. The picture that was painted was a stereotypical view of Appalachia that many have and continue to exploit to gain popularity whether it be an audience for their blog, for social media publicity, money, or their name in lights. What the author of this very derogatory article neglected to divulge were the joys of growing up in the Appalachian Mountains.

Over the years authors, filmmakers, and actors in Hollywood have profited through exploitation of Appalachia choosing to focus on what small towns “don’t” have. Films have been made with careful selection of the poorest part of towns carefully and intentionally divulging only dilapidated buildings, rather than new structures, or renovated buildings that houses independent thriving businesses. Many times the focus is often on poor housing in small towns rather than homes that proudly stand boasting beautiful manicured lawns, hardy vegetable gardens, luscious rolling green mountains, blooming flowers, and carefully trimmed hedges and trees. When the media chooses to focus on the negative aspects, or poverty, which by the way exists in all towns whether they’re large or small…the reader is left with a gloomy feeling of sorrow, despair and almost a feeling of doom.

Appalachian people are often-times portrayed as being illiterate, undereducated, and ignorant people who are less fortunate than those living elsewhere. Manchester, located in Clay County, is a small town in Appalachia where I grew up, raised my family, and still reside today has been recently been accused of being one of the hardest places to grow up in the United States, as well as being a community where citizens are expected to have a shorter lifespan than those living elsewhere. I find both of these statements to be misleading, offensive, and also stereotypical. I find myself smiling when I reflect on my childhood. I don’t recall life being a hardship, doom, gloomy, unhappy time in my life. Today, I enjoy sharing my memories of growing up in Kentucky through stories, both oral and written.

My memories are filled with fun escapades of playing outside, working in the garden, helping can fruits and vegetables, listening to countless stories told to me by my grandparents, afternoons sitting in the shade with family just enjoying the serenity of the mountains, playing with cousins, enjoying wonderful cooked meals from the vegetables that we raised, and learning wonderful skills from my mother and grandmother. We didn’t live within city limits, and still do not. We were raised in a rural community that enjoyed farming. My grandparents had a small store that was often referred to as the heart of our little community. Many of my family members still reside in this same neighborhood. I was raised to know that I had choices, and also to believe that I could be anything that I wanted to be. I was encouraged to always try to better myself by reading, learning, working hard, and also by believing in myself.

I was raised in one of the poorest parts of the state of Kentucky. What? We grew up poor! No one told me that! I wasn’t aware that we grew up in a poverty-stricken area. No, again, I was raised to dream and dream big! I could be anything that I wanted to be. I could be a mother, I could be a Christian, I could be a teacher, I could be an author, I could be whatever I chose to be! I was taught good moral values, about Jesus, how to work the land to feed my family, how to always believe in myself, to be proud of my heritage, to have a plan for my future, and if I got knocked down…get back up!  Instead of profiting from negative doom, gloom, and despair…I prefer to divulge the wonders of the Appalachian Mountains, the joys, the beauty, the opportunities, growth, success, and the wonderful mountains that I am proud to call home.

Again, I was never told that we were poor, or that we lived in an impoverished area, and never told that I couldn’t better myself. As a public school teacher, I always passed this same advice to my students. I always encouraged my students year after year that they could be anything that they wanted to be, to reach for the stars, to believe in themselves as I too believed in them. Today, as a college professor, I am still relaying that same positive message.

Many might say that small Appalachian towns have nothing to offer. I disagree. So, what does our small county of Clay have to offer? The beauty of the mountains, rich farm soil, beautiful pastures for livestock to graze, farm fresh eggs, distinguished schools, top-rated teachers, private Christian schools, a multitude of welcoming churches, book clubs, a well stocked public library, quilting clubs, pumpkin patches, ATV rides, elk hunts, successful local authors, artists, parks, employment at the federal prison, kayaking, fishing, local shopping, home cooked meals at locally owned restaurants, farmers’ markets, Main Street markets, grass-fed beef, fresh venison, beautiful walking trails, beautiful homes, friendly people, smiles, and a welcoming environment. One valuable opportunity that goes unmentioned in many articles about our small town of Manchester is the opportunity to complete a college degree at Eastern Kentucky University, which is located within city limits. These are only a few things that residents and visitors have to enjoy. Again, beauty lies within the eye of the beholder, happiness with the heart of the dreamer, and success within the heart and desire of the believer.

I have been asked many times over the years why I haven’t moved…but my answer is and will always remain the same…”I can’t imagine growing up or living anywhere else than in the beautiful Kentucky mountains. As the title of my first book states, Kentucky is…The Mountains I Call Home.”

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Divine Appointments

With clouds hanging low in the sky this morning and the peaceful sounds of the dove cooing, and echoing over awakening mountains…I find myself in a melancholy kind of mood. I’m not sure, but I think several events that occurred in the past two weeks have helped me to arrive at this level of emotions this morning. Yes, it’s been an eventful couple of weeks. Not that it’s been a particularly sad, unhappy, or over zealous events, but nevertheless weeks of events that others might find to be insignificant or may not give any thought to all. I don’t know, maybe I think too deeply, or maybe I react differently than some. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve been accused of, “reading too much” into things. Maybe, it’s the poet within me that ignites my senses. Maybe…I am an over-thinker, maybe I over react, or maybe…I am becoming more receptive of what the Lord is trying to impress upon me or instill within me. Nevertheless, I think I’ll enjoy the mix of emotions that fill my cup this morning.

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To say the last couple of weeks were busy is an understatement. My daily planner has been overflowing with appointments. Urgent appointments to work on taxes as the deadline swiftly approaches. Scheduled appointments with advisees worrying about their upcoming schedules and anticipated graduation dates, appointments with colleagues to discuss students, curriculum, and more, appointments with students who desire to enter the Education Program, and the most important appointments of all…the ultimate appointed daily time of prayer with our Lord, Jesus Christ. Over time, I have found that keeping this daily appointment helps make all of the other appointments more meaningful, purposeful, and cohesive. And then there’s those divine appointments that often seem to spring up from know where! Or do they? Was it a by chance meeting? Did I just happen to be in the right place at the right time? Was I supposed to be there? What do you think? Were those divine appointments predestined, or were they by chance?

Over the past few years I have come to believe and have arrived at the decision that time is precious. Time is one thing that we cannot get back. With time, there are no do-overs! Thus, we must make the most of every precious moment that we are blessed with. I have arrived at another conclusion through various moments and gentle reminders within my spirit that it’s not about me, or us. It’s about helping others, being a positive beacon in the dark times that others might be enduring, it’s about Him, and about living a happy and appreciative life so there are no regrets. This has led me to the belief that all meetings/appointments whether they are planned or unexpected, in a professional setting, or if it’s in the checkout line at the grocery store can be a positive experience, thus, divine appointments.

So, how do I define divine appointments? Divine appointments do not have a criteria per say. Divine appointments can be the student whom I speak with that is struggling to pass a very important test. A divine appointment can be a friend who needs to be encouraged. A divine appointment can be the lady behind you in the checkout lane who is struggling with finances, or the loss of a loved one. A divine appointment can be simply the stranger that you meet in the frozen food aisle who is in search of a friendly face or a smile. A divine appointment can be that someone you meet who is unsure of the world around them. A divine appointment can be an elderly parent who needs to be reassured that their life was purposeful and that they did a great job raising their children. A divine appointment can be a colleague who needs a simple pat on the back or a hug. A divine appointment can be the young lady who has checked out thousands of dollars of groceries to bitter impatient customers and would like to have a kind word. A divine appointment can even be the person who is trying to pull into traffic, but others have left unnoticed. Divine appointments have been defined with a variety of definitions by many people over the years. However, my definition of divine appointments is simply an opportune meeting with another, whether it is scheduled or by chance, that allows you spread cheer, love, joy, kindness, a positive attitude, while also showing the love of God.

As a professor, I am continually encouraging my students to reflect on their week. So, as I enjoy the taste of my favorite coffee this morning, the sounds of the mountains coming alive, the purposeful crowing of our roosters, the soft snoring of my canine friend, Freckles, who is napping by my feet, and a little “me” time…I find myself following my own advice by reflecting over the past two weeks, while also thinking about the divine appointments that I have had, and whispering a prayer for those whom I have had the pleasure of encountering through those divine appointments, and also counting my blessings. I find myself questioning my self as well. Have I truly enjoyed the time that I have been blessed with and what more can I do for others? With reflections of days gone by and visions of the days ahead of me…I feel excited, inspired, and look forward to the moments and days and opportunities that lay ahead of me, as well as the divine appointments that await me.

From the mountains of Kentucky…be blessed and enjoy the divine appointments that you encounter. Feel free to leave comments as I enjoy hearing from each of you.

Ten Achievable Goals that helped Improve My Year and My Life!

Do you find yourself making New Year’s resolutions year after year that you simply do not keep? If so, don’t feel bad, because you are not alone. Making and breaking resolutions is a common practice among a large majority of people whom I surveyed. Many of the people I surveyed had similar responses when asked about the resolutions or goals they had previously made and also previously neglected. Some of the neglected goals included; lose twenty or more pounds, exercise more, read twenty or more books per year, organize my entire house, save more money, shop less, spend less time on my phone, watch less television, pray more, go to church every Sunday, eat healthier, floss my teeth everyday, and the list goes on and on. I must admit, I too, have made and neglected several of the above resolutions in the past. It’s hard to believe that it’s already the time of year to set new goals. But first, before setting new goals, we must reflect on previous goals.

As the year comes to a close I find myself browsing my memories of the year 2016. I also find myself reviewing my goals that I wrote down in December of 2015. Had I achieved them? Had I tried to achieve them? Did I veer off the path? As I reviewed each goal that I had carefully chosen and written down I felt a sense of satisfaction. I had worked hard to attain my goals. Did I ever fall, or fail? Yes, I had worked hard, and yes, I had veered off the path several times. However, I had gotten back up, and dusted myself off and resumed the path that I had mapped out for myself. Had I achieved all of my goals? I achieved some of them, but made progress with all of them. Some of my goals are still a work in progress, but nevertheless I am progressing. What were my goals? How did I and how do I maintain my desire to achieve them? What was my plan? I am anxious to share my ideas with you so that you too can set realistic and achievable goals to help improve your year and your life.

Nearly six years ago while trying to decide what goals to set for myself I realized that the goals that I had previously set, and previously neglected, we’re not realistic goals. My goals were too large! I should have set more manageable goals. Was this possible? My mind immediately rewound and replayed my voice. I could hear myself encouraging my first grade students. I could visualize myself explaining to six-year olds how to set realistic goals. For example, I had students whose goal was to read “big chapter” books. I encouraged them to set mini-goals to read small books first. When they achieved this goal, set another goal to read lengthier books, then advance to small chapter books, and finally begin reading their desired “big chapter” books. So, the decision was made. I would try to follow my own advice that I gave my first, fifth, and sixth grade students when setting their goals. I would begin by setting smaller more achievable goals.

It worked! I had made it through an entire year and had made progress with each goal that I had set. I felt really good about myself and was more encouraged, positive, and better able to deal with stress on those days when I felt the urge to cheat on my diet, spend a little extra on myself, etc. I was also able to resume my plan and move forward on the path that would lead to achievement. The goals that I set actually helped change my year, and have improved my life every year thereafter. I now find myself repeating this story to many of the students that I advise each semester in an effort to encourage them and to also help them learn to set realistic and achievable goals that are meaningful and will change their life as well. What are these goals? I’m excited to share them with you so that you too can make positive changes in your life.

  1. First and foremost, start the day with prayer and meditation as well as a little “me” time. I enjoy walking my dog early in the mornings. This gives me the opportunity to gain exercise, pray, meditate, plan, reflect, visualize, dream, and also appreciate nature, while allowing my canine friend to gain her exercise. Me time can be walking on the treadmill, enjoying a quiet cup of coffee, yoga, a long hot bath, or relaxing on the porch. Wherever your happy place may be…take the time to pamper yourself and focus on you every day, even if it’s just fifteen minutes. I have found that me time promotes peace, tranquility, and a positive attitude, all of which will help you reach your desired goals.
  2. Stop dieting! What? That’s right, stop dieting! Simply make better food choices. I achieved this goal by eating less processed foods, less restaurant food, meal prepping, and also planning my meals. Drink less soda and more water. Replace at least one unhealthy item with a healthy item. For example, replace white sugar with stevia or honey. Bake foods instead of frying them. Replace white bread with whole grain bread. Decrease salt and increase black pepper. Replace cream based dressings with oil based dressings. Eat Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt. Eat crunchy veggies and fruit instead of chips. This list could go on for pages. Do you have to make all of the above changes? The answer is no. Simply, select one or a couple that you feel would make your diet more healthy. Once you’ve become accustomed to this change you might find that you will have a greater desire to replace more unhealthy foods with healthy ones. Take the step to reducing your intake of unhealthy foods. Remember, your journey begins with a single step and a single choice.
  3. Random acts of kindness are a wonderful way to promote happiness and encouragement while also helping to promote unity of mankind. Have you ever been in the checkout line with two items and find yourself behind someone with a full cart of items. Did you feel the dread of standing in line while the person in front of you prepared to checkout the large number of items and use the hand full of coupons they were clutching? I’ve been there too. Have you been on the receiving end when that person with the loaded cart offered to allow you to check out your two items ahead of her? I have been there as well. Do you remember that wonderful feeling that you felt as you quickly checked out and made your way to the exit? It was a warm and nice feeling. It served to remind you that there are still nice people in the world. How about the feeling that you felt when your waiter explained that your meal has already been paid for? Whether it’s a smile, kind word, encouraging word, paid meal, advancement in a long line, or tiny token of thoughtfulness…each are random acts of kindness that we all enjoy, and that often come when we need them the most. It’s an even greater feeling to be on the giving side of the random act of kindness. I challenge you to shake that veteran’s hand and thank him/her for their service. I challenge you to allow the person with fewer items than you to check out before you. I challenge you to smile or tell the cashier who doesn’t seem to be very talkative to have a blessed or wonderful day. Buy the person behind you lunch, or a cup of coffee. Leave a kind note in a colleagues mailbox or on their door. This list could go on and on. The possibilities are limitless. Above all, be an encourager not a “discourager.”

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    A gift I received as a result of a random act of kindness. I’ll treasure it always.

  4. Read every day, but don’t focus on reading a large number of books in a year. Simply set a goal to read at least twenty minutes per day. This will keep your mind fresh, be a healthy change from television or your electronic device(s), while also helping you to learn something new everyday. Remember, we’re never too old to learn. Reading improves the memory, thought process, and also is a wonderful form of entertainment. In today’s technological society reading is more convenient than ever before which limits your excuses to not read. You can achieve your desired reading goal by reading on your smart phone, tablet, kindle, in a magazine, newspaper, blog post, or my favorite…a good old-fashioned book! Reading for twenty minutes each day will also help you spend that quality time with  yourself that we all need and deserve.
  5. Make time for family and friends. I have come to realize that time does not slow down, for anyone or anything. It truly feels that time is passing more swiftly than ever before. Do you ever think about how eager you were to grow up when you were a child? I’ve thought about this often over the years and have advised my young students as well as my children and grandchildren to slow down and enjoy being a child. We are a child for a short time and an adult the remainder of our lives. Time is something that we cannot get back once it is gone. Make the most of it and enjoy time with family and friends. Plan to have dinner together, road trips, family night, visit each other, go out to lunch, have coffee together, go shopping, or simply sit on the front porch (without our smart phones) and enjoy conversation with them. This can include your immediate family, extended family, and or friends. Don’t take time for granted…make time for family and friends.
  6. So, you want to save a little money? We’ve all made this resolution or set this goal, and all of us have also ended up breaking this resolution or not meeting our goal. I decided several years ago to cut corners on unnecessary spending by watching for bargains, clipping coupons, and also use digital coupons. I also decided to take my lunch to work to avoid buying lunch or spending money in the cafeteria for food that ended up being tossing in the garbage, or consume unhealthy food that I did not need. The result was a smaller grocery bill each week, a few more dollars in my purse at the end of the week, and feeling of satisfaction. Whether it was one dollar or ten dollars each week the savings were added to my makeshift bank, which started as a simple zip-lock bag, and quickly grew to a small storage container. This year my savings were used for various things. I used part of it to help with our remodeling project, to pay my granddaughter who likes to earn a little extra money by dusting, walking my dog, or vacuuming the inside of my jeep. I had a nice little Christmas savings as well. Did I veer off of the path, did I stumble, lose sight of my goal, or go on a spending spree? Well, I didn’t go on random spending sprees, but I did enjoy a few shopping trips…but I am always on the lookout for bargains. Did I eat out for lunch? Of course I did occasionally as it was a great way of spending quality time with family, colleagues, and or friends. We all need to indulge occasionally, but it’s important to not fall into a pattern of indulging on a regular basis. It was a great feeling to have my extra savings available when I needed it without having to dip into budgeted money, or our savings account. I look forward to exceeding last years’ savings this year through the same simple steps. I challenge you…take a cup of coffee with you instead of buying that specialty coffee everyday. Make that specialty coffee a special event, take a friend out for coffee occasionally and spend quality time with them while enjoying your favorite cappuccino.

    coffee time II

    I enjoy an occasional cup of coffee from our local coffee shop.

  7. Exercise more, yeah this is one that most of us make year after year. Year after year we start with a zest and a made up mind, but also year after year we lose that fire and determination and fall into a rut once again. Nearly six years ago, I began working toward this goal in various ways that has helped improve my health and also helped me to achieve my goal, as well as maintain my weight after losing seventy pounds. What did I do? I simply set realistic small goals for myself. These goals included walking my dog daily, even when it was snowing or raining. Parking farther away from the store, even when it’s snowing or raining. Using the elliptical daily, even if it’s just fifteen minutes per day. I have also worn a fitbit for the last three years and tracked my daily steps. Boy, was this an eye opener! I have worked hard to ensure that I am actually getting up and moving every hour. There are hours during the day that I cannot get up and move, such as during my commute to and from work. However, I find this great “me” time, time to listen to an audio book, time to do breathing exercises, and also time to pray, meditate and reflect on the day or plan for the next day. Exercising more can include going to the gym, going to zumba class, or running in the park. But, let’s face it…with the demands of our jobs and the fast paced world we live in, these are not always an option. Instead, take time each day to achieve your goal in small manageable as well as realistic goals. Get up and move everyday!

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    I track my steps using a fitbit.

  8. Get organized! This is a goal that I too have several failed attempts. It is now a work in progress and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. How did I do it? One area at a time is how I started this goal and have maintained my progress. Also, with each mini-goal, I use the three-step process. I make sure that I have a container for donations or sell items, items you wish to keep, and a container for unwanted items to toss. I began my organized journey with the linen closet. I was amazed how much soap, deodorant, air fresheners and many more items I found while cleaning this small space. I bought enough one dollar plastic bins to line the shelves and labeled each so everyone in the family knew where to put items away. Labeling has helped me maintain a clutter free and organized linen closet. Once a month for a year I have worked to de-clutter and organize an area of our home, and once a month or more for a year I have tossed, donated, or sold the excess items and organized the things that I chose to keep. I love  having less clutter and more organization as well as space. My home is still a work in progress, but there is a significant less amount to organize and de-clutter than there was last year! Cha-ching…another realistic goal achieved!
  9. Grow a plant! Yes, I just said that…grow a plant! I love working in our vegetable garden and my herbs. Fresh vegetables are much healthier for you than veggies purchased at the store and are less expensive. I enjoy being able to have fresh basil, chives, oregano, and stevia at my fingertips. Fresh herbs are very expensive in the grocery store, and you either have too many or not enough. Will you be required to grow a large garden to have fresh herbs, tomatoes, or cucumbers? No, you can simply have small  bed, box, flower pots, or a small raised bed. Tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, and onions make a wonderful addition to flower gardens and doesn’t require a lot of space or upkeep. Growing your own herbs and vegetables can also help contribute to a healthier diet. Herbs can also be grown inside, so there’s no reason to deny yourself the pleasure of fresh thyme. Find a herb or plant that doesn’t require high maintenance and will live in your desired location. I have found that thyme is a very easy herb to grow. It requires nothing more than watering, and of course an occasional pruning. I don’t find this difficult as I love cooking with thyme. It’s a great addition to eggs, meats, soups, and much more. Whether you choose to grow a single plant, a window box herb garden, raised bed, flower bed, or a full-scale garden…nurture your plants with tender loving care, make a simple plant journal, record their progress, what worked and what didn’t work, take pictures of their growth, take pride in your plants. It’s a great feeling to watch something that you’ve planted or repotted, nurtured, and enjoyed grow into a fully mature plant. It’s an even better feeling to reap the rewards of their fruit, spice, taste, beauty and or simply their wonderful addition to your home. Caring for your plant(s) is also a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with yourself, or your family

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    I love being able to clip fresh herbs from my herb box.

  10. Make a blessing jar. This was an idea given to me by my Sunday school teacher. Last year was the first year that I had set this small, but significant goal. I simply took a container that I already had to use for my jar. I used a small crock that a previous student bought me. It was the perfect container to add and collect my daily blessings. Several people decorated jars, boxes and other various containers. This is how it works; Simply, find a container or make one,  at the end of each day write down something positive that has happened during the day. Trust me, even on those days when everything seems to be going wrong…you can find something positive to be thankful for. The object is to find positive things in your life and to take focus off of the negative things, which happens to all of us. The plan is to open your blessing jar on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day and revisit and read each blessing that you wrote down. It’s a great way to reflect, remember, count your blessings, while also promoting a positive frame of mind. I challenge you to try it…go ahead and begin today counting your blessings.
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    My blessing jar

     

    In review, these are the realistic goals that has helped improve years for me including 2015, had a major impact on my health, happiness, and my family as well as my life; make a blessing jar, grow a plant, get organized, save a little extra money, make time for family and friends, read every day, stop dieting and most of all make time for yourself! These are only suggestions, and not scientifically proven, but goals that helped me have a better quality of life. What are you waiting for? Today is already the second day of the new year! Have you set your goals? Are your goals realistic? Revisit the goals that you’ve already set to ensure they are realistic and achievable goals. If you’ve not set your goals yet…take that first step of your journey to achieve your resolutions, or your goals! Remember, your journey to a better life begins with a single step. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my New Year’s goals and resolutions. Please feel free to leave your feedback. I’m interested in your goals and how you achieved them. God bless and have a wonderful 2017!

 

 

Quiet Mornings in the Mountains

Good morning from the mountains of Kentucky! The day that thousands of children have awaited for months to arrive…has finally arrived…it’s Christmas Eve! With our children now married and spending quality time with their families today, I find myself busy this morning baking and preparing for tomorrow’s much awaited family Christmas dinner/breakfast. A few years ago we started a new tradition of breakfast for Christmas. It’s a delicious change from the traditional turkey and dressing. Although, we still prepare a turkey and dressing for those who like to indulge in the traditional Christmas dinner there’s plenty of delicious breakfast items on the menu as well.

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Our Nativity Scene that adorns our mantle every year. 

With the aroma of cornbread baking in the oven, banana bread cooling on the cooking rack, light rain tapping on the roof, and the tree brightly lit…I find myself recalling our family Christmas traditions from years gone by. 

I recall how much we loved watching the much awaited Christmas cartoons each year. When I was growing up cartoons  were not as convenient as they are today. Saturday was considered cartoon day! Cartoon channels didn’t exist at that time, at least not in the mountains. The Internet was obsolete, and only seven channels graced our black and white television, while four of those channels were not always available. Much of the television reception depended on the line that protruded from our television and made its way up the mountain. If a branch fell on the line or the wind blew the cable over…it meant little to no television reception. So, with excitement in our eyes and voices we would gather around the small television hoping for a clear picture while indulging in a pan of homemade caramel corn ready to watch Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, and many other wonderful cartoons that are now referred to as classics. These were simple times, but very happy times.

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Cornbread baking for the dressing and clean banana bread for a sweet treat. While I bake I am enjoying one of my favorite childhood cartoons! 

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Bedtime came early for my brother, sister and myself. Even though we retired early sleep didn’t come easy for us. We were far too excited to sleep thinking about the gifts under the tree. We had high hopes of receiving that one toy that we had dreamed of for weeks. The toy that we circled countless times in the Sears Wish Book. The toy that our mother worked hard to make sure she could afford for us. We knew that we could always depend on a couple new outfits of stylish clothing, and that one desired gift that we had dreamed all year about. When sleep finally arrived it felt like we had only been asleep for a short time when one or the other of us was waking the rest, and urging each other to get up with shouts that it was time to open our presents!

While still in our pajamas we would eagerly run to the tree where mommy would be awaiting us with her coffee in hand. As a child, I often wondered if she ever slept. It seemed that no matter what time we woke up for whatever reason she was already awake and either sewing, humming, drinking coffee, or all of the above. These were wonderful simple days that have come and gone. All too often these cherished simple times are now replaced with glitzy glamorous thematically decorated trees, elaborate gifts, stress from shopping, and often times lack of appreciation. My heart aches as I recall the days of my youth, family times, simple days, and our family traditions. These memories help me to strive and work hard to keep them alive in our family year after year while we continue to build new memories.

The simple family traditions that I grew up with have been revised with many new traditions. The wonderful traditions that I grew up with haven’t been forgotten. I reflect on them often. Over the course of thirty-seven years our family has created many new memories, traditions, recipes and more that will be passed down to our grandchildren. These are years that I will never forget sharing with our children, and now with our grandchildren. Even though time marches on…we can still indulge and enjoy delving into our memories and into own Christmas traditions each year. So, this morning finds me a bit saddened by the sweet memories of the past…but anticipating and excited for the new memories to be made this weekend! I would love to hear from you and hear all about your family traditions. Just a few thoughts from the mountains of Kentucky this blessed Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas from our family to yours! 

 

Feeling Nostalgic

Good morning from the mountains of Kentucky. It’s a cold and clear morning in the heart of the Appalachia Mountains. As I enjoy the warmth of my home, hot coffee, and a sense of satisfaction knowing that my Christmas shopping is finished, presents are wrapped, the turkey and ham are in the fridge, and ingredients for Christmas candy and cookies fill the pantry. However, a little twinge of sadness fills my being this morning as I browse the many cherished ornaments that grace our tree given to us by our children, grandchildren, students, and friends. I find myself missing days gone by. I miss reading the letters to Santa each year that our children would carefully plan, write with excitement, filled with anticipation, and above all their honest and sincerity. I miss baking cookies to leave beside tree, and miss eating them as well. I especially miss the sounds of our children rising before daylight eager to open gifts. There was no other feeling quite like watching the excitement in their faces as they stood before the tree admiring all the presents and a full stocking that had somehow magically appeared during the night. I say that to say this, cherish each day that you are given. As we all know, time is one thing that we cannot get back. However, I was reminded yesterday that we can enjoy and cherish past memories time and time again, and that we can also enjoy making new memories each and every day. Just because we cannot turn back time and relive those wonderful days gone by…we can envelop the present and create a new and lasting memory each and every day.

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A locally owned gift shop filled with wonderful gifts and warm smiles.

I love to reflect on the days of shopping in our small town. The streets were always lit up and busy, the store windows were decorated with beautiful Christmas scenery, and people were bustling about looking for that special gift for that special someone. Smiles adorned the people’s faces as they shopped and greeted each other with Christmas sentiments. It was a more personable time. Neighbors knew each other and above all cared about each other. The fear of a catastrophe happening in a crowded area never entered the minds of the happy shoppers. The true reason and meaning of Christmas was evident in the decor that filled the little shops windows. There was an excitement in the air…not the dread of overspending, finding the best or newest tablet or smart phone for children too young to even own a phone. The competitive spirit that seems to fill far too many today was not evident in this simpler time. A level of mutual respect was obvious between parents and children. Yes, it sounds like a scene from a Christmas movie, but it was actually a selfless place and a time that I grew up enjoying. However, it is also a time that I have sadly witnessed slowly dissipating and evolving into a totally different time.

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The Makery…A locally owned shop filled with handmade gifts, warm smiles, and unique items as well as Christmas cheer.

Have you ever experienced dejavu? It is often defined as an overwhelming sense of familiarity. I think we’ve all had this experience at one time or another and to be quite honest, it’s can be a little creepy when it happens. However, yesterday I found myself enjoying the moments of familiarity and was pleasantly reminded of the wonderful days of shopping in a small town.

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Happily Ever After Boutique…another locally owned shop filled with beautiful gifts, clothes, and friendly faces.

My daughter and I decided to finish the last of our Christmas shopping yesterday. Like most people, we automatically drove to the local department store. The parking lot was crowded, the isles were even more crowded, the merchandise was in a disarray and picked over, people were rushing, complaining, and scampering to finish what appeared to be a dreaded chore. We left the store with a few items and a bit discouraged as we were still in need of a couple of gifts that we couldn’t find in the chaotic and crowded store. We decided to turn our search in the direction of local shops. I must admit that I often forget about these wonderfully local owned shops as they are not in “the shopping” center. It was a wonderful feeling to be met with a warm and sincere greeting from the shop owner in each store. It was nice to be asked if they could help us find what we were in search of. Christmas music filled the buildings as did Christmas decorations that weren’t as elaborate but were more sincere. It was sense of family, friends, neighbors, and a nostalgic feeling. With each purchase I was reminded that we cannot truly turn back time…but we can create new memories that are truly meaningful while also supporting locally owned small businesses. No, it wasn’t exactly like the days gone by, but it was a day of shopping in beautiful small shops that will be a new cherished memory to reflect on in days to come as well as a new Christmas tradition. Just a few nostalgic thoughts from mountains of Kentucky this beautiful December morning.

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The Axis…a locally owned coffee shop is a great place to get a delicious cup coffee and sweet treat or a bite of lunch with friends.

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A locally owned small business filled with wonderful gift ideas.


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A locally owned shop where you are greeted with a warm smile and can receive a great message.