Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Nebraskan Barn

It's been a great week and I have been busy with the kiddos, the County Fair, and I am finally getting some produce from the garden to can. 

I wanted to share this picture of the big red barn.

I really miss seeing these giants dot the landscape and I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to restore their barn to it's former glory.  It has been said that the barn was typically built better than the house.  Farmers and Ranchers painted them red, typically, because red paint was the cheapest.  This photo was taken at Stuhr Musem in Grand Island, Nebraska earlier this summer.

In honor of my love for the State, I thought I would share a fun post, shared by Christine at Movoto, about things a person should know before moving to Nebraska.  Some tips are truer than others, but I think it depends what side of the State you live on. 

Please check it out-  it's a fun read-  especially if you are from "The Good Life" State!


Monday, July 28, 2014

10 Tips To Boost Your Creativity

We have all been there-

You have a project or assignment that is due and you can't come up with any ideas.  You have been procrastinating, hoping that inspiration strikes, but alas-  you are still stuck. 

What do you do?

Here are a few tips that could help you overcome a temporary road block and see the light of creativity again:
  • Eat chocolate!  Yes-  I just gave you permission to eat chocolate.  I heard this tidbit a few weeks ago on the radio as I was cruising down the highway.  I can't remember if it was Nikki Sixx or John Tesh chatting about chocolate, but this article from ABC News confirms what they were saying.  I will take it!  S'mores anyone?
  • Do mundane tasks.  I know that sounds strange, but stressing out is only going to make you more stressed.  Take the dog for a walk, take a shower, wash the dishes, and more.  Do something physical that lets your mind wander and wait for inspiration!  Prevention Magazine agrees and recommends exercising to get the creative juices flowing.  I get a lot of great ideas (well, I think they are great) while mopping the floor or walking the dog. 
  • Eat your breakfast differently!  Sometimes you just need to have a leap of faith and scramble those eggs counter clockwise.  I found an article from United Academics that showed a correlation between how you prepare your food and creativity.  Hmm.  I wonder what would happen if you combine chocolate and cereal? 
  • Keep your desk a little messy.  I like this one for obvious reasons.  I am not saying it's okay to hoard take-out boxes and piles of junk mail, but sometimes chaos leads to great ideas.  The Arkansas Traveler tells us that if you want to be creative, wait a bit on the cleaning.  However, if productivity is your goal you might want to whip out the vacuum and dust rags.
  • Immerse yourself in color.  I have seen the colors blue, green, and orange labeled as creativity enhancers.  The Science Daily suggests blue is the way to go for creativity.  Try these simple ideas for adding a perk of color to your day: wear a fun scarf, buy a flower arrangement, go outside and look at the sky, and color or paint a picture
  • Read.  Sometimes taking the time to immerse yourself in another world can do wonders for your creativity.  One study from 2009 shows a correlation between reading and creativity.  Head to the library or crack open a novel.
  • Play.  Yes, I am suggesting you play.  It's no secret that play benefits creativity in children.  Play, creativity, and problem solving go hand in hand according to research at Education.com.  Find your inner child and grab some Legos, go to the park with your child, or engage in pretend play with your niece.  It definitely can't hurt to try it and you will make some memories.
  • Watch people.  A lot of creative people consider this a sport-  almost!  Don't be rude or stalk innocent people, just go to a common area and observer people in the environment.  Bring a latte or a friend, read a book, or just soak up nature's colors.  For more tips, click on this link from wikkiHow on people watching.
  • Listen to music.  Music has shown to boost creativity and learning.  You may already know what songs inspire you or help get ideas turning in your noggin.  As Frank Fitzpatrick mentions in his article, Einstein even used music to help him ponder life's questions.  Keep it classical or crank up more modern fare-  just choose what fosters your imagination. 
  • Take notes.  This is a brainstorm technique to use on days you have so many ideas that you can't think straight.  Write them down to use as prompts later.  Keep a notebook on your desk or by the door-  just remember where it is and write down all ideas when they happen.  This will keep your thoughts filed away for later and keep the creativity process more organic.
Hopefully, you will be able to try a few of the methods mentioned above to help you finish your next project.  Remember that different things work for different people and you will get different results than others.  That's the beauty of creativity.  People can see light in the darkness.

Do you have any tips on finding creativity?  Please share!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

How To Can Green Beans Safely

"My Dog Green likes to roam.  One day he went far from home.  He came back squeaky clean.  Oh, Where has my Greeeen beeeen?  Greeeen Beeeen, Greeeen Beeeen.  Oh Where Has My Greeeeen Been?"

I have this song stuck in my head and it keeps replaying over and over.  If you have never heard this children's song, consider yourself lucky.  This song is becoming my theme song as I pick and pluck beans from the garden.  I am desperately trying to can as many pints and quarts as possible this year and singing in the garden is one way to pass the time.

I thought I would give a detailed post about how to can green beans safely.  I am amazed at the number of people I have encountered that don't know the right way to preserve beans.  I thought I would share the pressure cooker method, just in case you were curious about it. 

A lot of people shy away from this method, because they have heard stories about a pressure cooker that exploded or the fact that Grandma never used one. 

"We've always done it this way and nobody has ever gotten sick," is the mantra I hear over and over.

I promise you that it's not scary

Actually, it is scarier if you don't use a pressure cooker for canning green beans.

Germs and bacteria are killed at the heat only a pressure canner can achieve.  If you don't properly seal and heat the jars, a surprise of deadly bacteria can flourish inside your harvest.  Don't risk it-  do the job properly and everyone wins. 

Would you risk your family's life for a can of beans?

I hope not.

So-  here is the lowdown on how to safely put up green beans. 

To begin you will need

  • a  pressure canner-  To ensure you don't have an explosive experience remember to add plenty of water when you begin.  That is the key to avoiding a catastrophe.
  • canning jars-  Use real jars specifically made for canning.  Please don't use leftover mayonnaise or jelly jars from the store.  You will not get the proper seal and your food will not be preserved. 
  • canning lids and rings-  You will want a new lid for every jar.  You can reuse the rings, but avoid reusing the lids at all costs.  Proper sealing is your highest priority.
  • cleaned and snapped green beans-  Wash and rinse.  Repeat.  Dirt and debris can harbor bacteria.  Preserve all your hard work-  clean it properly.
  • boiling water
  • canning salt-  You can purchase salt specifically made for canning.  It is a higher quality salt, but table salt will work. 
  • clean towels
  • a jar grabber or sturdy tongs
After you have assembled all of your equipment and veggies, you will need to do the following:

  • Place water inside your pressure canner and start heating it on your stove.  I fill mine up about halfway, but consult the manual that came with your pressure canner for the exact amount.  Remember you want to keep plenty of water inside.  If it runs dry, you will get booming results.  Check the water levels before placing the beans in the canner. 
  • Clean and sanitize your canning jars.  You can boil them the old school way, but I prefer to fill them with water and microwave them for a few minutes.  I let them sit with the hot water in them until I am ready to fill.  I have also ran them through the sani rinse in the dishwasher.

  • Fill your empty jars with the snapped beans.  I try to squeeze as many in and fill empty spaces.  I fill up to the bottom of the rim.

  • Add 1 teaspoon salt for pints or 1 tablespoon for quarts.

  • Pour boiling water over the beans and salt.  Fill just above the beans.

  • Burp the jars.  Use a spoon or knife to apply pressure to the beans.  This releases air pockets inside the jar.

  • Wipe the rims and seal.

  • Insert the jars inside the canner.  Check the water levels and make sure no jar is touching the sides or each other.

  • Place the lid on the canner.  Wait until steam starts to come out of the top before placing the weight.

  • Add the weight at 10 pounds.  When the weight starts "rocking" and making noise, start your timer.  20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.  Keep an eye on the canner.

  • Remove the weight with your tongs.  Steam will shoot out as the pressure releases.
  • Wait several minutes and soon you will be able to remove the lid.  The lid will not move until it is at a safe pressure. 
  • Carefully remove the jars from the hot canner. 
  • Place the steaming jars on a cloth towel.

  • Listen for "pings" as the jars seal.
  • Do not move or mess with the jars for about 24 hours.
  • If you notice a jar didn't seal, you can let it cool and refrigerate it for immediate consumption.
  • Wipe down the jars.
  • Remove the rings.  THIS is very important you do this so you can tell if there was a bad seal. 
  • Write the date on the lid.  You typically want to use canned goods within a year.
  • Store in a cool, dark place.  Do not stack the jars-  you want to keep the seals intact or notice if one is bad.
  • When you are ready to use, open the jar.  The seal should make a "woompf" sound.  Smell and examine the food.  Bring it to a boil for at least 15 minutes.
  • Serve and enjoy your food all year long!

What have you harvested lately?  Check out other canning recipes in Simple Living.