Monday, January 24, 2011

This Time of Year

   The holidays are a busy time of year for entertainers like myself, and this year was no exception. The exception has been the weeks following New Year's Eve! Usually a time of rest, I have been busier this month than I was last month. The sad thing is that I'm not really making any more money, but that's a whole other story...

   This week will mark four decades that I have been on this planet. I'm not sure how I feel about that. In many ways it's just another year and they seem to get easier as each one goes by. At the same time I cannot escape the feeling that time is running out. Time for what? I'm not exactly sure. Perhaps I just need to take some time to reflect...

   Now that the leftovers from the holidays have finally run out we have started making use of some of the food we canned last fall. I am happy to report that the brined dill pickles turned out excellent! In fact, the flavor is not unlike those of Mrs. Neushins', one of my favorite commercial brands. That will be a recipe to hold onto!

   I was worried that I made way too much salsa. When the tomatoes weren't coming in from the garden I bought tomatoes from the local produce stand to make salsa. Then when it came time to decide what to do with the 31 pounds of green tomatoes we did harvest, we opted to make green salsa, green tomato relish, and dilled green tomatoes. As a result, we have a lot of salsa, but we have been able to go through several jars already with a variety of Mexican dishes. Yum. The dilled green tomatoes turned out pretty good as well, though they are a bit mushier than I had hoped. Still, they'll make excellent relish! We have plenty of relish...

   We did have one canning casualty this year -- our first so far. I went to the pantry to retrieve a jar of chili for dinner one evening and found that the seal had broken on one of the jars. While it smelled fine, we did not want to take the chance of poisoning ourselves, so that went to the compost pile. The rest of the chili appears to have sealed fine and we have enjoyed a couple jars of that so far.

   Our experiment with chicken soup also turned out fantastic! Back in October we learned that contemporary canning guidelines shun the use of things like pasta and rice in canning recipes (of course, older canning recipes use rice and pasta as do commercial canners -- I need to research this one further). So we instead canned chicken soup with only chicken, carrots, and onions in broth. The plan was to make rice or pasta to add to the soup when we opened a jar and that has worked just fine so far.

   The corn turned out great! I wish I had made a lot more spaghetti sauce as we are almost out of that already. We are almost out of canned beans as well. We haven't tried the beef stew yet, but we used the same recipe as last year and that was delicious. There is still quite a bit of ketchup (which also turned out great), some applesauce, and an assortment of jellies and jams as well.

   Next year we'll make more spaghetti sauce, beans, and chili.

   An update on taxes: as I said in Reloading, Revenue, and Resolutions, I was recently contacted by the state and informed that I have been delinquent on state taxes that I did not know existed. I have now filed and paid all of my back taxes. Fortunately, I don't make much, so the taxes were pretty small. Today I am playing phone tag with the representative from the state to make sure there is nothing more I need to do at this time.

   The resolution to pay down our debt has been going slow but steady. The two credit cards with the highest interest were the ones with the smallest balances. I had been able to stash some money before the first of the year to pay off one. Today we are sending in a payment to pay off the other. That feels pretty good. Now come the big debts that won't be so easy to pay off. We just need to stay focused and keep paying as much as we can whenever we can. It's going to be a tight year, but it'll be worth it to finally get out from under everything.

   Finally, thanks to a generous gift card from my mother, the family and I will be making a trip to Cabela's tomorrow. I'll be able to get to those reloading projects sooner than I expected. Thanks mom!

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