Monday, January 7, 2013

It's a whole new year!

So here it is - the beginning of 2013. I really feel like this year is going to be full of new and exciting experiences for us. Since it's been awhile since my last post, let me fill you in on some of 2012.

First, it got busy! Super busy - really quickly. We lost a member of our department at work just as we picked up some additional workload midyear. So, there were two of us and two finishing graduate students. We had to drop a few lower enrollment classes, I had to pick up a few that I hadn't planned to teach and then move forward. That we did and I even managed to get one submission for my favorite conference of the year - ALE and it was accepted. So, I traveled to Key West in the summer to talk about my team leadership course and learn about what some other leadership educators are doing! It was great!

Second, we bought a boat. I know this sounds like strange reasoning, but our house had been on the market nearly a year with no offers and we were so tired of waiting for it to sell to have some fun (we have been wanting to buy a boat for awhile but have been waiting to move). So, we found a great deal on a new boat that was already on a lot and did some comparing of brands and prices and finally bought it the day we sold our old boat! Needless to say, most of the remaining summer weekends and afternoons were spent on the lake. It has proved its worth. I was wondering if I would think so during the winter while we were making boat payments and not even getting to see it because it's put up and winterized. It is still worth it! The thought of having more fun with our families this summer and getting the boat back out when it warms up makes the winter payments worth it :)

Third, my job was renewed and I was hired again for the 2012-2013 school year. I picked up additional courses and responsibilities. I also started classes in a doctoral program which is going to take the rest of my life to complete, but I am hanging in there. Each semester I have 9 hours and I had the opportunity to take on advising Collegiate FFA which has been more work but has also been totally worth it. They attended National FFA Convention and made student contacts totaling over 500 and gathered over 100 addresses for information and made many professional contacts as well. I would say it was well worth the time and money spent!

Next, we finally joined a new church in Knoxville. We love, love our church family. We had avoided joining Wallace because it is such a BIG church and I am so used to a SUPER SMALL church. So, it was intimidating until we met our Connect Group leaders - Carter and Charlotte and our Circle of Friends class. They really make being a part of a huge church feel more like family. We have felt so welcomed and included since the first day of class. We have even been white water rafting, to cookouts and I have even started teaching in the preK class - and I LOVE those babies :)

Finally, basketball has kept us busy! Since I was only part time in the summer I spent a lot of time traveling with Chris and his basketball team to camps. I hope I will always have time to do that, but I know once my position is more permanent and we have a family that won't be likely. So, I like to take advantage of my opportunities while I have them. Our basketball season is going good so far. We really get busy in the new year with more conference play and then tournament time. I really think Chris has such a great staff, GREAT kids, and awesome parents! I am so happy God put us in Jefferson County to coach (I always say US, like I coach too???).

I don't make resolutions, but I am going to make sure and find some personal time to blog this year - and drink water, and save more money, and get an elliptical (and use it).

I hope you had a fabulous 2012 and look forward to an even more blessed new year!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Canning Salsa: Easy and Yummy!

So for those of you who are my friend on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. You likely saw my posts about getting ready to can salsa. I have never canned anything on my own before. I have also never made salsa before. So it was a good night for two new things.

I have wanted to venture into canning for some time. I already freeze a lot of things during the spring and summer months for the rest of the year, but I really wanted to can some things this year as well. I borrowed my friend Lyssa's canning book, took some notes, and then thought I would give it a try. I really wanted to can this year to have some things to share with people during the holidays as well. A lot of times there are people I would just like to send a small gift to say we're thinking about you and hope all is well. What better gift than a yummy can of jam or salsa?

I love, love chips and salsa. Most people I know do! I'm a little picky about my salsa. I will actually, for the most part eat any kind, but I really, really love restaurant style salsa. There is just something about it that makes me want to eat chips and salsa from restaurant every night!

Issues with canning salsa: canning is a way to preserve food. Salsa is a little tough when it comes to making sure that you have everything sealed and canned correctly to avoid bacteria growth because of the variety of acid levels. So, make sure you look at a canning guide to help you better understand the canning process. Or you could just eat it all as you make it. Then you wouldn't have to worry!

My 1st Salsa Canning Experince
First, I got all of the materials together from the recipe. I used a restaurant salsa recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  Check out her site for lots of neat stuff and some really, really great recipes.
You can see I used already canned tomatoes instead of fresh. You can use fresh tomatoes if you have plenty, but we didn't.

I was surprise at how inexpensive salsa was to make. Salsa in the store isn't that expensive, but we could go through an entire jar in one sitting in our house. So, I was pleased to know how little it cost for me to actually make it now (and fast).

I don't have an official food processor, but I have a Ninja which basically does the same thing. I have one that is for about 3 cups and one for 6 cups. The 6 cup container is shown. The recipe says this make "a lot" of salsa. "A lot" is in the eye of the beholder. I suppose it was a lot if you were preparing it for one meal, but for canning it really wasn't that much. But I did mix all of my ingredients first in a big bowl before putting it in the ninja and did two batches and then mixed them, because I didn't want the ninja to overflow or explode.

I just love how pretty all the ingredients look. Using lime or lemon juice is really important in the recipe. It calls for half a lime but I used the entire lime for canning purposes. Most store salsas contain vinegar for preservation purposes. Lime or lemon juice can also be used. This helps with the acid levels so that bacteria doesn't grow in the can. You can read up on all of that here. Trust me, you want to make sure you get that part right!
Part of the recipe calls for onions. I know a lot of people don't like onions, but they add a really great flavor to the salsa. So, I definitely recommend getting at least a few in there.
Then I stirred the ingredients in the bowl and then emptied half into the processor or in my case the ninja. I pulsed it about 10-15 times. I found that after my first taste test, my batch really needed more salt.

Taste testing is crucial. Make sure you have something you like. If not, there are a few things you can do to tweak it. I taste tested a lot :)

Then, it was on to canning. I put some salsa away for use for dinner that night. I cleaned as I cooked and making all this salsa literally took me less than 10 minutes. Who knew?!

I don't have a lot of the proper canning tools, but I used what I have and so can you!
I cleaned and sterilized all of my cans and lids. Instead of a big boiler, I used my biggest pot and lid. I only made three cans. So, it wasn't that big of an issue.

You'll also want to make sure you have something to get your cans out of the "water bath". They'll be really hot. I used these cooking tongs. They actually make canning tongs though.
I filled each can almost to the top, carefully avoiding a spill on the rim. If you do, just wipe it clean. Then, I placed the lids on and fastened the top tightly. After that, I submerged them in almost boiling water and brought the water to a boil for 25-30 minutes. Afterwards, I removed them with the tongs and placed them out to cool and dry.
They are actually on a cooling tray so that air can flow all around them. I read that tip somewhere. Make sure that if you are using the lids that click down on top that it is actually clicked in. If not, your can likely isn't sealed correctly. You might want to just go ahead and eat that one or at least store it in the refrigerator. I also read that you could try to reprocess and re-can that one after 24 hours.

Then, I decided to decorate one of the cans for a friend of ours who volunteered to be a taste-tester. I'm not sure if I have mastered the art of canning yet, but the salsa tasted really good. It was so simple and inexpensive to make and beat store salsa a million to one!

Let me know if you try it and if you enjoy the salsa recipe. I am also looking to try some new ideas. Let me know what you tried and how it tastes!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Football Time in Tennessee

There are not many things I look forward to more than fall. School starts again, the weather cools off, the leaves turn the most beautiful colors, pumpkin patches open, and the Tennessee Vols run through the Power T and Knoxville becomes one of the greatest places to be in the world!

Tailgating at the Twister

On the field after putting out poms for Orange Nation.

Tailgating our last season in college together.

Today, I started thinking about whether it's the football I really love, the leaves, the tailgating and friendship or just the change of pace? And then I ran into a blog post that put it all into perspective for me. All of the things mentioned are part of my life here in the South. Not all regions of the US get to experience fall weather, the scenery, the football traditions, or even the pumpkin patches. I love the fall because I'm from the south and what's not to love about fall in the south?

Here's hoping you have a great Labor Day weekend!
If you're wondering about the inspiration check out the link below!

Monday, August 29, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things...

Today, I have had a few extra minutes during lunch to enjoy catching up at some of my favorite blogs and finding a few new ones. I wanted to share a few of my favorite girly blogs with you in the hope that you would enjoy them as well. The topics of these blogs range from DIY decor, smart shopping sense, how to be a good wife and parent, menu planning, new recipe ideas, faith, social media, and so much more. I hope you will enjoy!

For all things southern:

For social media tips:

All my favorite DIY things:

Being a good wife and mama:

Frugal living and great shopping habits:

All things girly, pink, and princess:


I hope those will keep you busy and interested for the week and plenty of time to come! There are definitely tons of great information and ideas on those blogs!

Happy reading :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I love bridal showers!!!

I of course love everything DIY! Well, when I have time that is! I get the chance to do a little extra "playing" when it's time to host a bridal shower for one of my friends. I wanted to share some photos from Lindsay's bridal shower in June and beautiful July wedding! I think I am lucky to have such beautiful friends on the inside and out that allow me to be a part of their day :)

This is Lindsay the beautiful bride!

The entry table at Lindsay's shower had wedding mints and personalized Jordan almond favors for her guests.

The coffee filter foof I learned to make from Jones Design Company Blog - she has a million cute things!

Gorgeous hydrangeas in an antique vase Chris helped me find with some cute personalized decorations hung with clothespin. I just LOVE clothespins!

Yummy food my Mom and Lindsay's Aunt Carla helped to prepare.

Antique blue mason jars for the forks - so adorable!

More pictures of the bride and grooms with some clothespin decorations that Ashley (my co shower host) helped make.

The flowers were just too pretty not to show you this shot!

Now onto the wedding!!!
Lindsay and Kenton had a beautiful outdoor ceremony at the farm where they are going to live. Even though it was July, it wasn't too hot to enjoy the beauty that was everywhere around us. Kenton and Lindsay are perfect for each other because they really seem to already understand what it's like to work together and appreciate the other person. I really think that Lindsay and Kenton bring out the best in one another.

Getting ready! Our friend Melissa helped Lindsay get gorgeous, as if she needed any help with that.

The car Lindsay's dad drove her to the ceremony in - and it looked stunning!

Lindsay and Kenton's Farm - where the wedding was held.

Have you ever seen a more gorgeous bride?

Best friends.

A cute shot I snapped after the ceremony while we were cooling off inside for a second before some more pictures!

Thanks for letting me be a part of your special day, and especially for asking me to make a toast at the reception. I am so honored to be your friend and to have gotten to stand beside you on this day! I love you both very much and am so excited that you are finally MARRIED!!!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

We're Selling Our House!

Are you interested in buying a condo or know anyone who is? We are finally making the big push to sell our condo in North Knoxville to relocate to a more permanent home closer to Chris's job. Instead of driving 50 minutes each way every single day, he'll now drive about 15!

Our condo in Knoxville has been the perfect first home for us. I am sad to sell, pack up, and leave. However, I am excited for new opportunities at a bigger home with a yard :) I am certain that our home will be a perfect fit for another couple or a few college students looking to get away from the noise of campus.

So, pass along the word!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

For My Ag Ed Friends

I was helping a student develop a case study/project he could use for final project developing a lesson plan for agriculture education last week and developed this rough case study. You could vamp it up a little or use as is if you think it would be helpful for students. I think it would be great for a freshman or sophomore level class. It requires use of the scientific process to evaluate an income/marketing issue on a farm and then requires the students to present a marketing plan to help the farm.

Grannie's Greenhouse
Grannie’s Greenhouse is located in a rural area.  It is a family run business in conjunction to a farm. They have been operating three greenhouses on their property for over 10 years. Update costs in the last two years have been very expensive. The farm breaks even and usually makes slight profits based on the farm operation from year to year but counts on the greenhouses for their additional income and profit.  During the last two years sales have significantly declined. Grannie’s Greenhouse would like to hire you to help them understand any issues they are having and to develop a new marketing plan.

Here are some things to know about Grannie’s:

Farm and Greenhouse
Grannie’s family farm grows peaches, apples, plums, and hay. They also make many homemade products which are sold off the farm at several farmers markets.
Three greenhouses that grow ferns, annuals, and some starter vegetables
The greenhouses usually combine for an income of $10,000 per year.
The past two years have only provided $6,000 and $4,000 each year.
Two years ago a Lowe’s was built between the interstate major traffic and Grannie’s.
Grannie’s does not want to change much about their farm production products.
Grannie’s has a $5,000 budget for the marketing plan that you team develops.  (Plus the cost of your firm.)

Use the scientific process to work your way through this case study.
What is the problem?
What does your research tell you?
What do you hypothesize? What are your intended results?
What is your planned procedure?
What materials do you need? (At what costs?)
When will your “experiment” time occur for this plan?
How will you analyze results? What is you evaluation method?
Share the results with others
Then develop a marketing plan based on the given information that you would share with the owners of Grannie’s. (Based on National FFA Marketing Plan CDE Scoring)
1.     Analysis of market – “Where are we now?” “Why were we hired?” (10 points)
a. Industry trends.
b. Buyer profile and behavior.
c. Competition’s strengths and weakness.
d. Your product’s/firm’s strengths and weakness.
e. Original research results.

2.     Business Proposition – “Where do we want to be?” (5 points)
a. Key planning assumptions. (cite sources of information)
b. Measurable and attainable goals – must be measurable, have completion dates, be specific and attainable.
c. Target market – identify specific market segments which achieve your goals.

      3. Strategies and Action Plan – How and when will we get there? (10 points)
a. Product attributes: size, quality, service, etc.
b. How will you distribute and sell?
1) marketing channels
2) physical distribution modes
c. What will be the price structure?
d. How will you promote the products? Which promotional activities, or combinations of activities, are appropriate for your product or service? How much promotion can you afford?
1) personal selling
2) direct sales promotion
3) public relations
4) advertising – mass media
e. Develop a mission statement and predict competitor reactions, if any.

       4. Projected budget – “How much will it cost to get there?” (5 points)
a. What will be strategies cost?
b. Pro forma income statement which highlights cost of the strategies on an incremental or start-up basis.
c. Calculate the financial return of the marketing plan

5. Evaluation – “Did we get there?” (5 points)
a. Specific measurement tools to measure the accomplishments of the goals