Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kitchen Stewardship

Apart from Knut's love of the South Beach Diet, in our house we're not organic food crazed or fad diet crazed (I will never consider the South Beach Diet a fad diet.  It's good, old fashioned eat right diet.)  However, I believe in real food.  I will choose real butter over margarine any day.  Real milk, real bread, real fruit.  It just tastes better, and as a bonus it's often cheaper.

The tough part about incorporating as much real food as possible is that it often requires that you cook from scratch.  That's why the use of the freezer is so vital to running our household.  I have 2 freezer cookbooks:  There's a Chef in Your Freezer and The Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmet.  The second one is good, but I'm sure there's better books out there.  The first one really taught me to have a different mindset when it comes to cooking from the freezer.  I would recommend that one to anyone who has a garden as it has less "casserole in the freezer" recipes and more "how to preserve your garden for fast, all year round use."

If you don't have a garden, you can buy in bulk when the vegis are in season and cheap and get the same benefit, or be part of a garden co-op. The main 3 things I use from this cookbook is beef and chicken stock that I make in big batches on a lazy day at home, and roasting, pureeing and freezing tomatoes when they are ready from my garden.  Those 3 things, frozen in little 1 or 2 cup portions in my freezer are something I use all the time.  Since then, I've added pumpkin, squash, as well as many other vegetables to the freezer cooking technique.  Most of all, I think about freezer cooking differently.

I'm always looking for ways to make real food faster, and in a more organized fashion.  A little while ago, I did a quick post about how we started making homemade yogurt using the tutorial from Kitchen Stewardship.  Well, Katie, who is the blogger from Kitchen Stewardship sent me an email after I posted that, saying she got a ton of hits on her site from that post.  She was so delighted that she sent me one of her e-cookbooks as a gift for me.  (Basically, a cookbook that you download no shipping...and you can print off only pages you want to...which is extra frugal.)

The cookbook she sent me was for Healthy Snacks which use real food. In the post I had asked for favorite granola recipes, and her cookbook had a few.  It also had homemade fruit roll-ups, power bars, muffins, bars, puddings, etc.  She also codes each recipe for cost and work intensity, as well as whether they are diaper bag friendly or should stay in the fridge.

She also invited me to be one of her affiliates, and if someone should buy one of her cookbooks through my site, she'd send me a cut of the profits.  It was easy from there for me to rationalize that I needed all 3 of her cookbooks so that I could recommend her with good conscience.  (Notice how little prompting I need to get a cookbook...or any book.  It's a sickness really.)

Her Everything Beans book talks about the frugality, and high nutrition density of beans and how to incorporate them in the kitchen.  She talks in my kind of language: making large batches on lazy days and freezing them into portions that are easy to grab and throw into a meal.

There's a common thread in all of her books.  They're not just a compilation of recipes, but a complete "how to manage your kitchen" book with tips and tricks along the way.  She has the organization that I lack, therefore she is my friend. ;)

For instance, she recommends some recipes that cook well together in the oven so you only have to have it on once.  There are lots of lists too, which are going to be very instrumental in my weekly meal planning. 

The third book that I drooled over for awhile and then gave in.  I don't regret it for one second.  It's her Family Camping Handbook.  Notice that it doesn't say "cookbook" although there are tons and tons of recipes in it.   Katie goes over packing tips, things you'll need in order to carry "real food" into the campsite and not settle for prepackaged food.  Details like how to camp with babies and toddlers and not go insane...every family camping tip you've ever wanted to know.

We've been planning to go camping sometime this summer, and this book has me soooo pumped to do it now!  It's like going camping with someone super organized like my sister, Heidi.  It's like peeking inside of the brain of someone who thinks of everything, and has a method to all the madness.  Some of the ideas were no brainers for me, and some were fresh and new and I will definitely be using during our next camping adventure this summer.

She teaches you how to pack a cooler for a few days worth of food, and what to prep for before you leave.  It's truly inspiring organization.  I guess I just love that sort of thing.

She does not include my mother's chili recipe, which was a mainstay in our family camping trips growing up.  I'll post that recipe later with my own tweeks, as well as about the best cornbread recipe using yogurt from a highly tweeked recipe I found online.  (I changed over half the recipe, so can I call it mine?)

So as my first hand picked sponsor, I'm going to put a link to Katie's cookbooks on my left sidebar, and right here: Click here to visit Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship. I'd like to figure out how to put a little "Kitchen Stewardship" picture button there, but for now we'll all have to settle for a little letter link that I got.  When I'm making some of her recipes in the future, I'll try to let you know how it goes.  So far everything we've tried has had a big thumbs up from both the grown-ups, kids, and wallet of this family.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Yarn Along

It's been so busy in the garden.  Strawberries are in, rhubarb won't wait forever.  We harvested our first peas yesterday, though there was only enough for the kids and I to have a quick snack while we were out there weeding.  I love fresh, raw peas!  Soon the peas will take over my life for a few weeks.  Even though they're one of my favorites, a part of me is glad that they didn't come up very well this year.  Less work now.

All that to say crafting has been at a minimum.  Sometimes that makes me grouchy.  I need to get over that.  I just went to a baby shower, and pulled out my UFO box (UnFinished Objects) and found dozens of booties that I had at one time made for the express purpose of having a handmade gift at baby showers.  In my traditional form, I had made several booties, and their match, but neglected to sew up any of the seams, weave in any ends, or make any drawstrings.  Well, one had a drawstring, as shown in the picture, but the other one did not and I no longer have that yarn.  Since it was for a little girl, I just took out some pink yarn for the drawstrings and made them up quick and did other "tidy" work.

That's the extent of my knitting this week.  It's so depressing.

I have actually gotten a bit of reading done.  I'm finally getting to the Read-Aloud Handbook which was recommended to me by several homeschoolers and looking online, several teachers and parents recommended it as well.

It could have been titled "3,475 studies that prove that reading to your kids is really, really good."  Ugh.  I hate "studies say" books, but this one has some treasure when I look for it.  I've basically been reading the sections that look interesting, and skipping a page or 5 here and there.  Normal non-fiction reading for me.  Knut reads every single word of boring non-fiction books.  He's really kind of a nerd when it comes to things like that.

I am learning some great techniques for getting David more interested in hearing stories.  He never wants to pay attention when we're reading one of our "read aloud" books, and this book suggests that if he is struggling with that to read one on one as much as possible, and I see I've been grouping him together with Silje perhaps too much.  I'm also getting some great ideas for particular books that could help Elias with his vocabulary.

Really, it's inspiring me greatly to read to the kids more, and more intentionally.  That's what I'd hoping it would do, so it's doing its job.

I'm dying to read a good novel but am too scared.  When I pick up a novel, nothing else gets picked up in my house until it's done.  So I'm not allowing myself.  This also makes me pout.  What I wouldn't give for a good, captivating story.  I'll have to at least wait until the garden is done.

I'm going to cheat a little again this week and show one more picture of the rest of the shower gift.  They're called a "bapron" (baby + apron).  I did cut out more, and they were almost done, but I think I'll save them for Solveig.  It looks like a great full size bib!  This tutorial was recommended to me by a friend and I've been waiting months to get a chance to try it out.  It came together so fast that I was in shock.  I got nearly 4 done in yesterday's naptime hour.  (From cutting fabric to clipping threads and done.)  I did use prepackaged bias tape, though, so that cut down on the time.

I wish I could sell these in my store, but since I lack the permission they may just be my next favorite baby shower gift.  That...and the booties.  ;)  I have to admit, one whole blissful hour of sewing did take the grumps out of me for quite some time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Before and After


These were strawberries from the farm down the road, picked by Knut, Silje, and David.  They are now strawberry jam, and some (well, a lot)will be frozen to throw into smoothies and smoothie ice pops for the rest of the year.  They can really be thrown into a lot of desserts.  I've always liked those ice pops at the store that use real strawberries.  I bet if I added a bunch of sugar to some of these strawberries and froze them up I could make even better ones.  
I'm pretty sure the Ice Pop Joy lady would not approve of all that sugar.  I probably shouldn't tell her that the jars of jam pictured above took roughly 10 pounds of sugar either.  

These are strawberries from our very own garden.  I can't believe how many we're getting, since last year our patch didn't produce enough for each of us to have one berry.  I made a pie with them...and I still have leftovers and we're still getting more from the garden about every other day.  (I did not have the forethought to buy cream to whip up.  We had generic cool whip in the freezer, but that kinda taints the beauty of it, don't you think?)  I'm thinking that maybe in future years we will be supplying 100% of our own strawberries.

Notice that berries that ripen on the plant and eaten the same day they're picked are red throughout...not white insides like in the store.  I always thought that's how they grew.  The pie was supposed to set in the fridge for another hour but Knut and I were impatient, so it's a bit runny.

There are no words that discribe the flavor of our strawberries.  

You can stop trying to taste your screen now.

Mean Girls

Our flock is growing up nicely.  I think they get prettier every day.  We lost "Lucky" the chicken that was attacked by Lena.  She had lasted nearly 2 weeks after the attack, was obviously eating and drinking.  Her head twitch left her and she started behaving normally, minus the eye she lost.  We started talking about reintroducing her to the flock, and the next thing we knew, we found her dead in her box.

Which brings our flock down to 18.  One was lost in the woods and never returned, (a black one) and then Lucky.  A few chickens have not returned from the woods for even a day or two since then, but they have always come back.  We haven't had one unaccounted for in a few weeks now.  They have their routine now, and I don't worry about them as much.  I know the bushes they like to hide in, and they are starting to spread over the yard more, which is good.

There is one problem which needs to be dealt with.  You might remember we exchanged some chickens with our friend, Conrad?  He took the roosters off our hands, and gave us 4 young hens.  2 of them had evidence of "bullying" from his coop as we could tell from the missing feathers on their necks.  One of them seems to be doing very well, and has regrown her neck feathers.  The other one is doing very badly, and is losing more neck feathers every day.  It's gotten to the point where she will sometimes bleed.

The other birds that came from Conrad's flock have seemed to acclimate fairly well, but this one seems to only be getting worse.  

She is constantly being put down and walked over and pecked by our the other birds.

We have named her "Princess" in order to help raise her self esteem.

I've even seen Selina, our mini-chicken who had pasty-butt in the beginning walk all over Princess.  See, here's Selina next to another of her same breed.  She's growing fine now, but is still behind the other birds.

I won't show you a picture of Princess in case some of you are squimish around wounds.  We've put an old dog crate in the coop and have separated her from the rest of the birds so that she can have a chance for her pecked at neck to heal.  Unfortunately, she's started scratching her wound often and comes out of the crate worse off looking than going in.

Knut and I have started to pour hydrogen peroxide over her neck every day, in order to promote healing.  If we can at least get the healing started, I've read in my chicken book that it's a good idea to rub vinegar over her neck before she in reintroduced into the flock.  That way if one of the other birds tries to peck at her, they'll get a beak full of yuckiness.  It puts an end to it pretty quick.

However, I can't seem to stop her from scratching.  I've looked for mites or some other bug that may be causing the scratching but can find none.  I really think it's just itchy like healing wounds can often get.  If any of you chicken experts has any idea how to stop her from scratching her sometimes bloody neck, I'd sure like some advice. It's looking worse by the day, not better.  We're trying to be vigilant.

Until then, we'll keep her separate, and use hydrogen peroxide daily and hope for it to start healing on its own.  I can't fathom any sort of bandage that wouldn't interfere with her eating and drinking.  Knut jokingly asked if they made chicken cones like dog cones.  I'm not sure how that would work.  Well, at least the chicken cones that I know of are used for an entirely different purpose...butchering.

She's a pill to try and catch.  She wasn't handled over at Conrads as much as we handled our chicks.  His chicks aren't by his house and he had almost 3 times as many birds to hold, and less hands to hold them.  Our chicks were handled by little kid hands multiple times a day and still are.  Knut and I working together will chase Princess for a good 10 minutes before she's caught.  We're slowly getting better at catching her.

They're not all mean to her, though.  The one that came with missing feathers along with Princess, except her neck feathers have re-grown seems to be her close friend.  I've seen this chicken shield Princess from violent pecks of the other girls.  She'll extend out her wing over Princess' neck, and pull her in close.  I've never seen anything like this, but it's fascinating to watch.

Amara will run towards me when she sees me coming now.  One of the other Amaracaunda's is right behind her.  I need a name for that 2nd in command girl.  She's always anxious to see if I have a treat.  I've been saving the mini strawberries for the chickens  (the ones in the patch that are so small they're hardly worth taking the leaves off).  They go bonkers over them.

I've also been giving them our excess of garden lettuce as well, and sweeping up the leftover pieces of corn in the garage from where Knut used to store the "fuel" for our corn stove last winter.  I've been reading that diversions like this can distract the birds from some far no luck.  They like the treats, though!

One of the big hamburgs (the yellowish white ones) picks on Princess the most.  I've named her Ursula.  I need a name for Princess' protector and friend, though.  Still working on that. 

So those keeping track of named chickens:
Selina (mini chicken with pasty butt as a chick.  Now fine, but small.)
Amara (the golden Amaracauna chicken.  By far the most friendly and certainly runs the coop.)
Lucky (bird attacked by Lena, and later we probably named her wrong.)
Princess (bird with missing feathers on her neck and constantly bullied)
Ursula (Princess' biggest bully.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

I'm Blessed

Last week I felt like my "I'm Blessed" post was scattered.  This week I've tried to have my eyes wide open to see God working.  Normally this is not a difficult thing for me.

After my brother left, like any guest, I had so much to do to catch up with my chores.  I was feeling so overwhelmed and was trying to quickly pull together Silje's birthday events.  I had once again left them for the last minute, and if Silje has a love language it would be this: parties.  I could not fail her in this, and tried to focus on what was important to her instead of what was important to me.  The house was not as clean as I would have liked it, but the games she wanted went on.

On the heels of her birthday came the expose-all/slightly-melt-down post about my other brother.  O, Friday was tough.  I had a nagging cold that was settling in my throat and a bit of dizziness.  Throw all of the emotions and memories that came with that day and I was a walking, weepy mess.  I talked a bit on the phone with my sister, and a bit with my mother, who both confirmed that grieving mixed with thanksgiving was the appropriate feeling to let myself soak in.  Sometimes you have to let yourself be sad for a time before it passes.

On top of that, the kids were like this:
As the day went on, my voice slowly started giving out until it was completely gone.

There was no one left to talk to but God. 

Talk about being forced into prayer!  However, I did not feel God like I had hoped to.  I felt lonely, isolated and forgotten.

My prayers seemed to hit the ceiling, and my mind wandered to what in the world I would write for this post.  I did not feel blessed.  Last week my thoughts did not come together cohesively.  This week I felt I had no praise to give.  Don't get me wrong.  I don't believe that faith is just a feeling, nor is love.  I do think God wants us to be happy, but I think he knows that the path of happiness is through Him.  He knows that love is essential, but his definition of love is different than that of the world's.  Sometimes we don't feel love.  Sometimes we don't feel faith.  It's so hard to believe it when you don't feel it.

I remembered what I had heard my aunt say recently over a phone conversation: "Just keep praising Him, Gretchen.  Nothing gets the Devil more worked up than praising God.  There's no greater weapon that we have.  He'll try anything to rob you of praise."

So while I was making my "Mommy is sick and doesn't care what you eat" supper for the kids of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, I praised God with a will of iron.  I would not let my feelings rob God of praise.  I told God that I wanted so desperately to feel His love that day, but if I was robbed from the feelings, and robbed of any idea of what to write this Monday, I would still praise Him. (I often write my posts days ahead of time, and my mind that day was thinking about what I was going to write here.)

I dawned on me that of course Satan hates this weekly "I'm Blessed" post and wants to rob me of it.  He hates worship of God.  Of course I felt nothing besides the uncontrollable desire to cry all day long.

Just as I finished praying it, a song came on that my sister just sent to me on a mix C.D.  She sent Silje one for her birthday, and threw in a C.D. just for me.  My sister has impeccable taste in music and I am always so blessed when she sends me some.  The song that washed over me at that moment was by Adele, who of course is secular, singing a secular love song that I believe was God singing straight to my heart.  I of course, cried again.  I'm blessed.

When the rain is blowing in your face,
And the whole world is on your case,
I could offer you a warm embrace,
To make you feel my love.

When the evening shadows and the stars appear,
And there is no one to dry your tears,
I could hold you for a million years,
To make you feel my love.

I know you haven't made your mind up yet,
But I would never do you wrong.
I've known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong.

I'd go hungry
I'd go black and blue
I'd go crawling down the avenue
No, there's nothing I wouldn't do
To make you feel my love.

The storms are raging on the wild sea
And on the highway of regret.
Though winds of change are throwing wild and free
You ain't seen nothing like me yet.

I could make you happy make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn't do
Go to the ends of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love.

Won't you take a moment to link your own "I'm Blessed" post, or leave a comment saying how God has blessed you this last week.  Rules and info on linking can be found here.  Don't be robbed of praise.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

When Daddy Tries to Take a Nap

Ok, back story.  Knut always took power naps in college.  It was the first year of our marriage when he was taking 20 some credit hours and working the graveyard shift for roughly 20 hours a week and playing college football and had allocated 5 hours to sleeping for each 24 hour period (weekdays).  I believe they were divided up into 2 hours here, 2 hours there, and a few power naps inbetween.  Yeah, good times.  (He slept on the weekends...after the football game he sometimes played in.)
Anyway, as an expert in the power nap, he finds that they work better with his feet elevated in a chair.  This last week we had rain, which means he's home.  He got a chance to work more on the never-ending-project that is soon at an end.  I just needs the molding on the mantle done...and a few other finishing touches. 

 He's been working hard, though, so he thought he'd sneak in a quick power nap.  I had just sneaked in to take a picture of the fireplace in progress when I saw that someone had the overwhelming curiosity of what Daddy's lips might look like squished together. 
 Which got this response from Daddy.
 and maybe a little of this...
 Then someone heard the fun going on and wanted to join in.  He asked Daddy to do the "airplane song" and everyone wanted a turn (All except Silje.  She was hard at work making lists.  That's my girl.)
 Even Solveig got a turn in the "airplane."  For some reason, she didn't get pants back on after her diaper change.  She squealed into her fist and drooled all over Daddy, 
which made the boys squeal with delight as well.
 Then Daddy spent a bit of time trying to teach some of his kids about the beauty, power, and value 
of a power nap.

Friday, June 24, 2011

This is the Day

It's finally here.  Today is my brother, Timothy's 18th birthday.  Today he becomes an adult.  Today the closed adoption papers are opened.  Today is the first day I could legally contact him.  I've been waiting since I was 12 years old for this day.

I've written and re-written this post close to 15 times.  I'm not exaggerating.  I had such great plans to raise some money for adoptions in honor of his birthday.  I was planning on printing off these amazing pictures from the blogger Storing Up Treasures that she has released for the purpose of raising adoption money.  I bought the frames, mats, and printed them off.  I actually printed the pictures about 3 different times and something went wrong every single time.  By the time I got them perfect, they didn't fit in the mats.  I'll show them anyway, since I'm going to ask you later to pray about donating money to help orphans.  They speak to me, as I hope they'll speak to you.

They were beautiful pictures, though, even though my project was a big fail.
I'd hang any one of them in my own house.

I was emotionally exhausted.  Sometimes you try so hard to make sense of things, and keep your feet moving while you do.  Then you get a silly project before you that is just. not. working and all of the frustration of the whole situation comes bubbling forth, and you realize that your feet need to stop moving.  It's time to be still.  No amount of raising money, printing pictures, and selling them for a good cause is going to give me any more control over the situation than I have right now...none.

I'm still want to promote the adoption foundation set up by Kip and Cathy to help minority children find homes in loving families.  I blogged about them before when Knut and I went to their son's funeral.  They had saved forever to adopt a child.  They finally got to hold their son, Elijah in their arms, and months later he laid in the hospital with liver failure.  We all prayed and prayed that a liver could be found (an odd thing to pray for, I assure you) to save his life.  At the last moment, a liver was made available.  I remember jumping up and down when I found out.  I was glued to my computer the morning of his surgery to get minute by minute updates of how the surgery was going.  Unfortunately, little Elijah didn't make it through the surgery.  In their grief, Kip and Cathy started Elijah's Truth to help bridge the gap between open homes and children needing them.

I'm sure I sound petty next to Kip and Cathy's story.  I do not mean to equate my pain and longing with theirs.  The part I relate to is the loss, the lack of control.  I have no doubts that Timothy had a loving childhood, and was "in a better place" but I wished him to be near.

What I have is the hope of meeting him here on earth.  As a child, you build moments like this up in your heart so much, that when you reach the day, you look around, and see the drama is not all around you.  It's all inside.  There's no big reunion today, and I doubt there will be any phone call from my lost brother.  The childlike innocence and imagination of days like today go so differently.  I would daydream so many times as a child what his 18th birthday would look like.  I did not imagine pouring my heart out to a blog.  In fact, I'm pretty sure blogs didn't exist back then.  I'll date myself further and say I don't think I even had a dial up email account back then.  But I'm veering off topic...

There's a good possibility that he does not know my brother and sisters and I exist, nor wishes to know.  I believe his bio mom had other children as well.  Maybe I just imagined that, I don't know.  It was such a long time ago.  I wonder what their story is.

The plan remains the same, and at this point, I hope to make contact with an agency and somehow make available to him a letter.  I don't want to charge in and claim him.  I don't want to make assumptions.  I just want to let him know we exist and we've never forgotten him, and have prayed for him steadfastly.  Then wait.  Maybe he'll write back, maybe the letter will never be read.  It's completely in his hands.

One thing I am sure of...God arranged his adoption.  Hearing the news of his adoption was very happy news to my sister and my ears.  (She was with me when we found out.)  God kept him safe and put him in an ideal situation.  I'm forever grateful to his parents.  They got to be a part of something that is so close to God's heart.  I'm sure they were blessed for it.

If you're like Knut and I and do not feel called to adopt at this time, don't forget that God didn't call all of us to such a task.  However, God calls everyone to remember the orphans.  Take some time and pray about it.  Getting involved with something that is so close to God has the amazing blessing of seeing God work up close.  If you're looking for a way to be a part of adoption in a positive way, consider making a donation of any amount to Elijah's Truth.  My whole fund raiser idea (as a way to celebrate Timothy's birthday without being with him) fell through the way I had planned it, but I'd still like to take this time and reflect that as believers this is our mission.  I cannot think of any more relevant ministry than the ministry of the home.

I'd love to run into Cathy at the next softball tournament fundraiser that she got a flood of donations as a result of this post.  It would make me feel like I did something.  I didn't just sit and sulk and wait for my situation to meet my aspirations.  I took that frustration to do something and turned it into making someone else's life better.  So say a prayer for my family today, and then move onto this site.  I can think of several families who would be grateful that you did.  More importantly, I think you will be grateful that you took the opportunity to see God work up close.

Storing Up Treasures

Later today, I'm about to pour my heart out.  Consider yourself warned.  As I've been dealing with the thoughts of adoption, and processing all that God has laid on my heart, I want to take a moment and point you to a blog that has really been a big help to me.  It's inspired me, and drawn in my heart.  The writer is an adoptive mother of a large family.  Just like many of the mothers of large families I know, she has an awesome sense of humor.  I think when you have that many kids, a sense of humor is the only way to go!

Her blog is called Storing Up Treasures.  She has this neat program as well called "Blogs of Note" where she lists other mom blogs.  I think there are a lot of moms, especially Christian moms, who are being called right now to live their faith out loud.  It's a good place to find blogs and be found.  Since she has been so gracious to let people use her beautiful art/photographs that I'm about to use in the next post, I thought I'd dedicate at least a whole post thanking her for that, and encouraging others to go over there and poke around.  You're sure to be challenged.  You're sure to be encouraged.  It's a fun place to hang out.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Silje is Seven

My firstborn is 7 today.  

This girl changed my life.  She was the first child to call me "Mommy."  Since she's still my "first" for everything (my first 7 year old, will be my first teenager, will be my first on most things I'd imagine) I over analyze, over research, question everything I do in regards to her.  With the others, I parent their age with some experience.  With her, I'm constantly flying blind.  I have made the most mistakes with her, it continually astounds me how amazing she still is in spite of me.  I love this girl.

She is already pointing me to Christ when I'm down or frustrated.  She's full of ideas and imagination.  As much as she wants to be one of the grown ups, she still is such a child in the best sense of the word.

As a word of caution, do not bring up the fact to Knut that she is now closer to adolescence than birth.
It does not go over well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Giveaway Winners and Reminders

OK, before I forget, here are the giveaway winners...

The winner of the lilac colored purse, picked by is....
                        Kristen...from the Sunny Side of the Street.  She was #9.  (I was personally impressed that 33% of the participant's names were some spelling of the name "Kristen" so I shouldn't be surprised that one of them won!

The winner of the dishclothes, picked by is...
                        CJ Olson!  from Olson Family LifeShe was the first commenter.  I guess was favoring the first and last on my range today.

I'll try to contact each of you today to get your address so I can pop your prizes in the mail. 

As a reminder, keep your eyes peeled for blessings God is showering on you this week for next Monday's "I'm Blessed" party.  I don't think we'll have a giveaway next Monday, but we will have another one in the next month or two. 

My goal, if anyone is wondering, is to get at least 10 blogs participating every Monday.  We were so close last Monday!

Also, thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!!!! for continuing to vote for my blog!  I'm currently #26 and my goal is to be in the top 25.  I had no idea that I'd be so close so fast.  I'm a bit giddy about it.  Voting is so simple it can be confusing.  You click on a voting button like the one below or on the left sidebar.  It brings you to the "Top Mommy Blogs" list, and that means you're done voting.  It traces how many people come from my blog, and that's how they tally votes.

Yarn Along

Knitting and reading.   *Sigh*   Is there anything more peaceful in a hectic time.  Thanks, Ginny, for continuing to host the Yarn Along.  I keep doing it because it's still fun.

I finished up the last little bit of Silje's Milo Vest.  I made hers in size 6 and Solveig's in size 18 months.  I'm thinking that's where they'll both be this winter around Christmas.  So now, I have a decision to make.  Do I next move onto making the finishing touches on Silje's surprise American Girl Doll Dress that just needs sleeves, and then pretty up the pattern I had made up for it and put in on this blog?  (She's getting her doll on Thursday for her birthday...) Or, do I plug away extra hard at the Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt that I've been working on for years and have set the goal to have the top ready to quilt this winter?  Or, do I abandon all "finish things you start" ethic, and work on the "Dirk" little boy sweater that is done with the design stages and just ready to cast on and test out.

So many little time.  That is the theme these days, isn't it? Anyone relate?

In all reality, I should say the answer is door #4...get your house in order and weed the garden, Gretchen!  Well, at least that's what the answer should be... but one does need something to do after the kids are in bed and I'm having my much needed "sit on a couch" time.  We saved so long for our couch.  I do like to use it at least once a day.

I have really been enjoying Loving the Little Years.  The chapters are so short, the thoughts are quick.  I love how real this book is.  It's not talking about ideal parenting, or what you should or shouldn't do as a mother.  You may or may not agree with her method of disciplining, or coping mechanisms (we all have them), but the book isn't about either of these. It's about finding joy as a mother.  Most especially, finding joy when you are constantly surrounded by little ones.  The back of the book says she has a 5 year old, 4 year old, twin 2 year olds, and a 5 month old.  This author does not live in "ideal."  She lives in reality.  There are ideas as well as to how to get to your child's heart, and helps to model and direct a godly attitude.

I came across a great article on the ministry of motherhood going around Facebook, and came to find out that the same author of this book wrote the article.  It put into words what God has been putting on my heart for a few years now.  If you have some spare moments, I bet mothers reading this would be blessed by it as well.  In fact, if you don't read anything else today, read the article, or pass it onto another mother.  It gets straight  to the heart.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Full Speed Ahead (Recipes Included)

I cannot...
we are nearing the end of June.

Why on earth is this summer so busy?  We are so busy every single day.  I scheduled swimming lessons for the kids this week (private ones...long and very boring story).  The teacher called to reschedule the days, and I said, sure, we have nothing going on.  Then I realized that I had scheduled one of them on a very important birthday for my eldest child at the end of this week.  We just finished celebrating Knut's birthday, then Father's Day, and now we have another birthday.  We are on a perpetual cake high.

I'd like the give a huge thank you to those who participated in the I'm Blessed post yesterday.  That was really fun for me.  I didn't get a chance to leave a comment on all the blogs that linked up, but my brother has been staying with us and I'm trying to not completely ignore him for the laptop.  I hope to finish commenting today.  If you haven't read all the other posts, you really should.

So, my brother is leaving today and headed back to Cali.  We made a lot of jams and jellies.  He's taking most of them with him to give to drooling family members of ours all over the country.  I've learned the hard way that giving a jar of jam to a farm wife doesn't have the awe and wonder of giving jam to a city-dweller.  I can use 2 jars tied together as a Christmas present filled with delightful "oohs" and "aahs" that fill the room, but if you give that up here people don't give quite the same response.  Well, except me.  I used to be a city-dweller, so sights like this still fill me with awe:
(Jeremy got these fancy little jars to give out as gifts.  The big ones in the back are mine...and I'm keeping them.)  Although, I normally make this much jam...and maybe more for just my family.  So the preserving job of the summer has just begun in this household.

We started out with making my Great-Auntie Signe's recipe for "rhubarb jam" which I had found a few years back in our family cookbook.  My brother Jeremy and I have renamed it to "Minnesota Summer."  Recipe follows:

Minnesota Summer Jam
5 cups of rhubarb diced
1 cup of water
5 cups of sugar
1 can of blueberry pie filling
2 packages of any red jello (I always use strawberry and it's amazing)

Cook the rhubarb and water until soft.  Add the sugar and pie filling and cook at a boil for 6 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and add 2 packages of jello.  Ladle into sterilized jars, seal and give it a 10 minute boiling water bath for good measure.  Makes about 4 pints.   

Do not double jam/jelly recipes ever.  Or so I'm told.  Make it in batches and save yourself sorrow.

This jam does make homemade yogurt disappear twice as fast.  Fair warning.

This is Knut and my favorite jam but I don't often make a lot of it, because it's the most expensive jam recipe I have because of the blueberry pie filling.  It adds a few dollars to the cost of the project, although not enough to make it as expensive as store bought jam.

At the end of the day we cut up the rest of the rhubarb that we picked, placed it in a big pot, covered it with water, let it boil for awhile until it was pretty soft, strained it and stuck the "rhubarb juice" in the fridge until we had time to get to it again on Monday.  We used Knut's mom's recipe for Rhubarb jelly, and it's such a pretty pink jelly.

Rhubarb Jelly

3 1/2 cups of rhubarb juice
1 package of pectin
5 cups of sugar
optional 1 T strawberry jello for color (I rarely do this, but it might depend on the coloring of rhubarb you have)
1/2 tsp (I don't measure) butter to help with the foam

Pour juice, pectin and butter into pot.  Bring to a full boil stirring constantly.  Add all 5 cups of sugar at once.  Stir and bring it back to a full boil.  Boil hard for exactly 1 minute.  Remove from the stove and let it sit for about 1 minute to let a "skin" of foam set so that the "jam scum" as Knut calls it can be removed easily.  (Jam scum is really popular on homemade bread at our house.)  Ladle into sterilized jars and follow normal method on the pectin box (again...water bath for 10 minutes.)

If you don't know the regular canning process, most pectin boxes come with very detailed instructions inside, so don't worry.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm Blessed

Welcome to the very first "I'm Blessed" blog party.  It's a time to reflect on God's direct hand in our lives.  It's an opportunity to document the things He does for us.  We are all blessed, though we don't always notice.

I actually came up with this idea for the Blessed party, and then it dawned on me that I'd have to write a post about what has been blessing me this last week.  So I was on the look out for what God wanted to show me. At the same time, I was (am) a little self conscience about this post.

It started with Knut moving his grandma into a new apartment.  It's a good move since Knut's grandpa's death last December, as she'll be closer to a lot of her friends and have easier access to friends and activities in the winter.  Still it was an emotional move for her.  She was downsizing, and was getting rid of a lot of stuff.  All of her sewing stuff somehow made their way to our house.  From dozens of packages to vintage rick-rack and other trimmings that I drooled over, to an entire box of saved shoulder pads, the boxes had about everything you could imagine.  There was buried treasure in the boxes I got, but some not-so-useable things as well. 

What I'm trying to say is that I had been given this awesome blessing of a boxes of zippers, and bindings, and yards of fusible interfacing, and over-the-top-amazing vintage buttons and my first thought was: "This is awesome...but I guess now I have to magically find time to go through this all, figure out what I'm keeping, organize it and find places to put it in my already packed sewing room, which wouldn't be overflowing if I actually had time to sew!!!"

The huge blessing of vintage sewing things that you can't even buy these days made me a grump.  I was grumpy because my blessing involved work.

I soon found a pattern in my "blessing list":
I have the blessing of a big farm house, and I complain about how I have to clean it.
I have 4 beautiful children and I complain when I have to discipline them.
I have fresh produce in my garden and I complain about weeding.
We have so many beautiful clothes and I complain about the laundry.

Sometimes I wonder why God continues to bother blessing me.  Blessing me in the first place...a sinner not deserving of anything, is mercy and grace poured out.  The fact that he keeps blessing even though I complain because His blessings almost always involve work.

So I guess after narrowing it down, I'm blessed that God still has hope for me.

There are some blessings, too, that I can't help but tear up over:
--seeing my husband thoroughly enjoy our children.  He can't get Solveig in his arms fast enough when he gets home from work.  He is always reading them books, talking to them about life, showing them how to do things, and planning fun family events.  At the end of the day, he's never in a rush to get them to bed like I am.  He'll stay in their room and wrap his big arms around them until they fall asleep if they ask him.   

I cannot state enough how much watching him be a father has blessed me.

So much healing for me.  So much blessing.

--having my brother visit me this last weekend.  There's something about someone who comes from the same stock as you.  He shares my history.  We can talk until the middle of the night over stuff that matters.  There's nothing about me that would surprise or shock him, and through our differences, we always hold each other up as best as we can.  This truly blessed me this last week.  (It didn't hurt that he helped me make a lot of homemade jam.)

Please leave your blessings below in the comments or link your site to share with others.  As a reminder, those who participate either by leaving a comment or adding a link to your own "I'm Blessed" post will be entered into the drawing for these prizes.  For linking rules (there's not a lot) you might want to take a quick look here.

You may not have the exact same blessings as me.  God gives blessings to us custom made.  Let's praise Him together.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wa-Wa Shoe Man

Elias' word for David: Wa-Wa  (we think he's trying to say brother.)
Elias' word for Spiderman: Shoeman
There's a reason we hear "Wa-Wa...shoeman" a lot lately.


Busy, busy, busy!

Yesterday was Knut's birthday.  We had a last minute party when we saw a break in work.  I was going to post this fun birthday post, but the last minute party had me thinking I should clean up before people come over.  So for a few blissful moments, much of my house was clean.

My brother flew up from California kind of spur of the moment to spend a long weekend with us.  It made Knut's birthday that much more fun.  He booked a plane ticket just after I posted about making rhubarb jelly.  Coincidence?  I think not...

He'll be here until Tuesday and we'll be spending all day today making rhubarb jelly and my Auntie Signe's recipe for rhubarb/blueberry jam.  He came up here with a list of "orders."  I think I'm going to show him how to make yogurt too.

I went out to feed the chickens yesterday.  There were the 18 (which includes the separated/injured one.)  I left the coop door open as I went back to the house to fill up their water.  When I returned to the coop, there were 19.  One lost in the woods has returned.  That was so neat.

I'm having trouble getting thoughts to focus lately.  So much swirling around in my brain.  I want to get the "I'm Blessed" post done for Monday, and am probably playing it up too much in my head.  I'm also trying to wrap my brain around what to do with a big medical bill we just got in the mail from my surgery in Arizona 2 years ago.  As in, before I was pregnant with Solveig.  It's like the anaesthesiologist just woke up and said "Hey, didn't I help remove a cyst from that one lady a few years ago?  Did I ever send the bill for that?"  Ugh.  Like I have time to sort that out.

My squash plant has died...again.  This will be our 3rd year without squash.  I tried looking for one already started at the nursery, and they're out of squash vines.  The cucumber vine never came up either, but I was able to get one of those vines at the nursery.  Other than that, the garden is coming along great.  The asparagus is now done, and our strawberry crop is looking like I've never seen it before.  We have so many huge berries that are nearly red.  It's going to be amazing in a few days!  Knut is now enjoying fresh spinach from our garden in his egg mash dish he makes every morning, and we have fresh salads at night.

Summer is so busy.  I think whoever called it a vacation was using that term pretty loosely.

 Please keep voting.  You just have to click and you're done.  It's insanely simple.  It makes me feel special.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Epic Chicken Saga (aka long chicken post)

There are no pictures for this post.  When you start reading, you're realize why, and thank me.

So, I posted on facebook a few days back that Lena ate one of our chickens.  That wasn't entirely accurate, as she merely attacked one of our chickens, and chased a few into the woods behind our house.

It all started when I heard David from outside yell: "Mommy!  Lena's getting the chickens!"

So I ran outside, and sure enough, Lena was chasing them all over.  I quickly reprimanded her, and she hung her head in shame.  I told Silje to take Lena up to her kennel.  Outside play time was done for her that day.  I quickly went into the coop to see how many chickens were in there.  We lost one after the first day that we let the chickens roam around the yard, so I was hoping to find the 19 that were still accounted for.  However, I only counted 15.  I recounted about another 4 times to be sure because they were moving around a lot.

I left  the coop and heard loud chicken cheeps behind by the woods.  There were some chickens who had run into the underbrush of the woods for safety, and I wanted to see if I could locate any of them.  Just at the edge of the woods, I found one of the yellow/white hens, a blue hamburg laying there with a bloody head, and a missing eye.  It lay motionless.

As I thought it was my first confirmed dead chicken, I was angry and scared.  Was I supposed to bury it?  Serve it up for supper?  I didn't want to touch it.  So I left it and continued to search for the other birds.  I heard them chirping loudly in the underbrush of  the woods, but I couldn't see them.  I was worried their chirps were so loud that it meant they were hurt too.

Then I went back in the coop to recount.  Wait a minute, one big chicken had a twisted, limp foot.  It was still walking, or limping.  Great.  Lena broke a foot too.  It was a bigger that would be big enough to butcher.  Shoot.  Have I mentioned that the idea of cleaning a chicken dead chicken scares me to death?  The plucking, and organs, and blood.  Ugh!  At least neither bird was one of the favorites.  Selena and Amara are the favorites, and they were both fine and unharmed in the coop.

As I had just ran out of the house, I thought I'd think up what to do with the dead chicken behind the coop while I cared for the little ones back inside.  I'd call Knut.  Maybe he'd handle the body for me.  I closed up the door to the coop to keep the remaining 15 safe inside.  I wasn't in the mood to lose anymore chickens.

After the kids had gone to bed, it was nearing dusk (gotta love summer!).  I brought some food outside to see if I could lure any of the chickens out of the woods.  To my surprise, as I passed the hamburg's body, I saw the bird that was blind on one side look around, get up, and go for a stroll...twitching all along the way.  Knut happened to drive by in the semi truck just then, and I waved him over.  I asked him what we should do.  Should we kill it and put it out of its misery?  Should we see how it's doing in the morning?  If we left the bloody bird out for the night it would certainly lure every predator in the area.  He told me to set up a box for the bird away from the other chicks with food and water.  So I did that, and was mentally thinking about garage sale-ing for old bird cages so that we could have a "sick bay" area in our coop or garage.

I showed him quickly the bird with a limp leg, and he spotted a second one with the same issue.  That did not make me happy.  He then said that he's 100% certain Lena did not do that, because Conrad, the guy we ordered with from the hatchery we won't use again said he had several chicks with what was appearing to be a defective gene for twisted toes.  I did an internet search later that night and saw that it's often caused by vitamin deficiency, although I've been giving the girls vitamins and electrolytes in their water.  Apparently with this one breed, the hatchery had hatched a "bad batch" of birds with twisted toes.

So again, to the internet.  The birds can lay just fine with twisted toes, but we shouldn't breed them.  That's fine, because we weren't planning to.  They'll be slower, which is bad for open range as they need the ability to run, and they may have trouble scratching for food.  Most chicken owners cull these out of their flock for simplicity, and have a nice chicken dinner.

Great.  So if we don't eat these chickens, there's a good chance some fox will because they're the slow limpy ones.

As far as the missing ones in the woods, I called for them and laid out some food, and they came running to me within seconds.  Well 2 of the 3 did.  The 3rd is still missing.  So including the chicken lost from a few days prior, there are now 2 chickens MIA, and one half dead.  The total count has fallen to 17.5.

Now that's it's more than 24 hours since the incident, I keep peeking at the one who got attacked and is now resting in her own box.  I'm always nervous to look in because I don't want to peek in and see a dead bird.  She walks around, twitching a bit less.  She bumps into every wall of the box.  I think she may be completely blind.  She looks better each hour, though, so I don't know what to think.

I'm working on getting tougher skin.  I'm trying.  I'm learning.  I sure hope at least some of them make it to maturity so we actually get some eggs.  For now, Lena won't be outside with them anymore unless she's right next to me.  No longer will she be left alone, or with just the kids with the chickens.  I still have hopes we'll train her to protect them, but after this, I have my doubts.

As far as letting them free range, we've already lost 2 chickens to this.  Will there be more?  We didn't budget for a little movable pen to move around the yard.  Half the reason we got these birds was to rid our yard of grub and tick problems.    I'm so scared to let them out of their coop now.  I think my next move is to let them free range when I'm home and working in the garden, and keep them in their coop on rainy days like today...or days when I'll be gone...for now.  I'm not sure how this story will end.  We're still in the middle part.

Conrad was just by last night and exchanged 4 of his Wellsummer hens for our 3 roosters, and 1 of our Hamburg hens.  The 4th one that I couldn't tell if it was a rooster or not, he thought was a hen, so he asked if he could have one of our Hamburgs, since he didn't have any of those, in exchange for the 4th hen he brought to trade.  So now they'll be some re-establishment of the pecking order with 4 new hens in the house and no roosters to dominate them, which will hopefully not be too rough.

I've been told that chicks die when you look at them funny.  They're not the brightest birds, but I've already fallen for them, and hope their transition from the cardboard brooder box to coop/free-ranging life gets easier.  I'm also beginning to understand why many chicken keepers get new chicks often.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yarn Along

I'm still working on Silje's Milo vest.  I am probably near the end but haven't measured yet.  I love how that mass of string is knitted up so neatly into stitches.  No wonder knitting organizes my brain.  
As far as reading goes, I've been going through pieces of probably my favorite knitting reference book: Knitting from the Top.  I haven't cast on my next knitting design yet, but I've finished the leg work of planning out some details.  This book is a huge help in getting my thoughts unstuck.  

I don't know if I ever blogged about how the "Jane Dress" looked on Solveig for Easter, but my overall impression was "eh..."  Sure, people liked it, but I didn't like how it rode up her neck in the back, and the overall drape over her body, as it really tugs at a spot that I can't seem to fix.  

I think I'm going to scrap the design, but hold onto the American Girl Doll (18" doll) size because it doesn't ride up the back of the neck or tug on a body that doesn't move.  I'll try to proof that size sometime next month and will probably put it up for free on this blog.  I've convinced myself that even if I publish that one size, I can still count it towards my goal for the year of publishing 4 knitting patterns.  This dress will be pattern #2.

So onto #3 which will be a little boy/baby boy sweater.  There are so many fun frilly girl designs out there.  Girls get ruffles, many more design elements than boys.  It seems that there are unisex sweater designs, and girl sweater designs.  If you have little boys like me, you can relate!  There are very few "boy sweaters" and all of those have trucks or something designed into them.  So I'm after a very masculine looking baby sweater, or probably up to the little boy sizes.  

I'm thinking of naming it "Tough Guy" or "No Girls Allowed."  My girl designs are all a people name, and the only one that comes to mind is "Dirk" because that is the most masculine name in the world, according to my Advanced Grammar professor in college.  So that's on the table too.  (I love you Dr. Black!  I hope you never read this blog and see what a terrible grammarian I am!)  I'd love an opinion here.

Alas, the sweater probably won't be ready for my testing until late summer/early fall.  Things are just so busy lately. 

Thanks Ginny, for hosting this Yarn Along event over at your blog small things.  I truly enjoy your blog.

If any of you just stopping by for the Yarn Along have an extra minute, please look at the "I'm Blessed" event that I'll be starting next week.  There's a little button in the left sidebar, or you can read about it here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

For the Giveaway

OK, I think I got it.  I've been debating over a few things to giveaway for next Monday's "I'm Blessed" party to kick it off.  I'm going to set in a disclaimer from the beginning, that I don't consider this a normal giveaway on my blog because it's kinda stuff that's been in my "unfinished pile" for a few months, and I would normally like to make something fresh for you dear readers.  Reality hits a bit, that I have a bunch on my plate, so we're going to do this the quick way.  Think of it as a "mini" giveaway.

For those who link their blog next Monday:

It's a lavender buttercup bag in the regular, small size.  I like this size purse to carry all of "my" things in, and I can easily tuck it into a diaper bag and my wallet and sunglasses don't have to float around in the big bag.  The outside of it is baby corduroy, and the inside is a pretty floral cotton.  I was planning to make it for my store, but when it was all said and done, I realized that I forgot to put interfacing in the strap.  The pattern has interfacing for the strap as optional, but still I like to be consistent in what I'm making.  (For those who do not sew, this means that the strap isn't as stiff as the ones I sell.)  Since it's not consistent with the bags I usually sell, I thought I'd give it away.  It's still really pretty, but I figured I'd have full disclosure there!

For those who leave a comment next Monday for the "I'm Blessed" post (you can still do this if you link up!):
So this is the picture from Nerdy Gerdy Boutique, but it's not this set. It's a set exactly like this set.  The reason that I have another set using the exact same yarn and it's not in the store, is because of those little holes bordering each dishcloth.  See them?  The ones I'm giving away are each missing one bitty hole.  If you sit down and count all of the holes, you'll be missing one on each dishcloth.  See, not only have I fully disclosed the "defect" of this prize, but I have fully disclosed how much of a lunatic I can be with nit picking things that go into the store.  If you must have a certain amount of holes bordering your handmade cotton dishcloths at your house, I suggest you do not comment with your "I'm Blessed" moment next Monday.  You could win these, and you'd better not risk it.

Both prizes will be picked randomly from the links section and comments section.  Links and comments will be closed midnight after the post, or Tuesday morning...whenever Solveig decides to have me up.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who struggles with Mondays.  I'm not sure if it's my lack or organization, lack of sleep, or lack of work that gets done on Sundays.  Mondays are rough for me.

It's all to easy for me to shift into "survival" mode.  You know that mode...when your only goal for the day is to make sure everyone makes it through the day alive.  You toss Cheerios at any kid who whines, hide in the corner with a knitting project and chocolate and occasionally poke your head up to yell at the kids if they are misbehaving.  By "you" I mean "me."

I think on Mondays, I need extra reminding of how much God has blessed me.  I'm continually encouraged by looking back to times in my life when a bill that I couldn't get paid got paid with money I wasn't expecting.  I'm reminded when someone brings me a meal when I have felt at the end of my mental rope.  I'm reminded by the card I got in the mail after my miscarriage.  I'm reminded of the bouquet of dandelions that my boys picked for me.  I'm reminded of the snuggles I get when I get up to help a baby who can't sleep.

God blesses us in so many ways, doesn't He?  I'm thinking about specific moments like my kids hugging each other before bed.  I'm not just thankful for my sister, I'm thankful we are able to talk on the phone at least once a week!  I'm thankful she's there to talk me off ledges and snap me out of stupidity.

So here's what I propose.  Starting next Monday, and God willing, every following Monday, I'd like to set the day aside to talk about how we have been blessed.  We'll make a "carnival" out of it.  Here's what you can do to participate:

If you don't have a blog or don't want to involve your blog:
    Leave a comment next Monday that says how you have been blessed in the last week.  (Don't worry, I'll remind you!)

If you do have a blog:
    Leave your link (starting next Monday) to a post talking about how you have been blessed in the last week.  Add a photo or 10 if you like.

Try to be specific.  A story is even better.  Try to aim away from "my kids" and shoot for "My daughter sang me a song when I was doing the dishes."  I'm a firm believer that God cares about the little things.  Of course he cares about the big things, but big things are really just made up of lots of little things, aren't they?

If you feel that you want to put up a whole list, feel free.  It's your blog, and post as much or as little as you like.

Just to sweeten the pot for the first "I'm Blessed!" blog carnival next Monday, anyone who links their blog next Monday with a post will be entered in a giveaway.  I'm not sure what I'm giving away, but I have a really good idea, and it will probably be handmade by me.  Who doesn't love something handmade?  I'll try to post a picture before then to further motivate you.  UPDATE:  You can find the giveaway post here.

Do you think the blessings always pass you by?  Pray about it.  Before the week even goes another moment, pray that God will bless you in a very real way this next week.  He can't wait to knock your socks off.  Pray that you'll see it.  Blessings come in the oddest forms sometimes.

This will be good for me.  This will be good for us!  Imagine, a whole pile of blog links where families pour out how God is blessing them in very real, tangible ways.  He blesses us with time, material things, people, a Scripture verse at just the right moment, a babysitter, or a second chance.  We are so blessed, and oftentimes, don't pause to recognize it.

Before next Monday, I'll add a link on the sidebar sometime this week with an "I'm Blessed" button and more specific "wording" rules for those who are like me and like to write their blog posts ahead of time.  It's up!  Just click on the little "I'm Blessed" button in the left sidebar to get all the goods to join the party.  So as you go about your week, until next Monday, be looking for blessings.  'Cause I'm going to ask.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Ladies

 We've moved our ladies, as well as the rooster-imposters-soon-to-be switched-out-for-more-ladies.  Instead of trying to move their big ol' box myself, Silje and I hand carried each one from the garage to the coop.  David carried one of them, but with the second one, he forgot to keep one hand over the back and the bird began to flap her wings and scared him.
 Once they all got settled, he picked them up again, remembering this time to keep a hand over the back.  The black ones are his favorite.
 Elias even picked up and played with a few.  He went for the big ones, like the Americaunas and our few roosters.
See, here he is with one of the roosters.  They are the ones with the white tummies and red combs showing up.  The kids are having even more fun now that the chicks are in the coop.  I'm loving that!

Lena stood at the door with interest, but did not dare go in, or mess with any of them.  I've been so pleased about her reaction to the birds that I'm toying with the idea of having her help me with them.  Right now, we're leaving them in the coop for a few days to let them settle in and see it as home.  Then we're going to let them go tackle our wood ticks in the yard.  It's said that chickens love to munch on wood ticks. As soon as it is dusk, people tell us that they instinctively go to the coop for protection, and we must be there every night to close the coop so that predators don't get in.  I want to train Lena to stand guard at the entrance of the coop if we don't get there right away, or are delayed for some reason.  From her reaction to the chicks, and her strong intelligence it might be possible.  I think it would be an easier  thing to ask of a stronger herding breed, but she is half German Shepherd, and understands way more than we normally give her credit for.  I've heard that Great Pyrenees dogs don't even need to be trained to do this, but are the best chicken dogs out there.  No...we're not getting another dog...especially a moving piece of furniture like that.

So my plan is to always bring her with me when we go out to the chickens so that she recognizes the daily routine of them.  If she's always at my side and sees us care for them and sees what's supposed to be done, she will ideally try to keep that in routine when we're gone.  We've just recently been able to leave her outside when we're gone again, although we still put her in her kennel because of habit.  When she was just a little puppy, she would tear at the outside of the house if we left her outside without us.  Now after a few trial runs, she simply waits on the driveway or porch until we return.  I think it may work...or she may eventually eat all of our chickens herself.  It's a gamble.

Don't forget to vote today!  Just click on one of the buttons, and voting is complete.  No need to find my blog or anything.  Thanks so much for your votes!  We've just broken into the top 50 mommy blogs (out of 900 something) and it would be really fun to stay there!

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Quick Recipe Post

It's rhubarb season.  I tried to make a dent in rhubarb lane across the road from us, but even after picking all of this, you can't even tell I was there.  I only have 3 jars of rhubarb jelly left.  We're on our last jar of strawberry jam (which causes me to breathe fast when I think of it.)  Strawberry is my favorite.  We still have 2 jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam, and 1 jar of blueberry-rhubarb jam.  If you saw how much we normally stock, you'd recognize this as a huge shortage in our house.   I didn't put away any jams or jellies last summer because I just didn't feel up to it when I was pregnant with Solveig.  This year I need to catch up.  Since the strawberries aren't ready yet, I'm going to start with some rhubarb jelly.  I think I'll prepare the juice tomorrow and turn the rhubarb juice into jelly tomorrow.  If I have a free hand, I'll post how to make it.  I'm not promising, though.

I posted on facebook awhile back about making yogurt.  It has always been a scary idea for me, but since Knut's cousin and fellow farmer, Erik, has enjoyed delicious yogurt made by his wife, I've been hearing it.  I debated about using a crock pot method, but in the end, I decided to use the method recommended by Sara, Erik's wife.  The website used as a reference can be found here.  I found it extremely helpful.

I've just done my second batch.  The first batch went pretty fast.  My family likes yogurt, and I didn't buy it as often as they wanted it because it would go so fast and cost so much.  Since this is once again a fraction of the cost, I don't feel bad about serving it all the time for snack.

I've been making 3 quart jars in one batch.  The first batch was a bit watery, but I think I've gotten the hang of making it a bit thicker.  I stirred much slower, and let it incubate longer.  We tried eating it with fresh fruit, but found we all like it with sugar added as well.  Actually, honey is great in place of sugar, too.  The quick and easy (my favorite) way to eat it is with some jam.  Sugar + fruit = yum!

I made the second batch last night, and we've just finished the 1st quart from that batch today.  O, this was such a tasty snack this afternoon!  (A few of us had it for breakfast too!)   It really could have used some granola, though.  Anyone have any recipes or links to point me to?  I really don't have the time... but when has that stopped me?

Homeschool Friday

This is a special Homeschool Friday post, because the next 2 Fridays are kinda big family events that I may blog about, and the month of July I have set aside for something fun.  I've been thinking about the strereotype of the typical homeschooling mom.  Let me tell you, they do a great job of making fun of themselves at the homeschool conventions.  For instance, as I put my bags in the vehicle of the other moms I carpooled with to the convention, they asked if I had packed my jean skirt.  Homeschooling moms wear jean skirts, you know.  Then there's the big family jokes, etc.

For instance:
(picture used with permission from The Family Man.)

Anyway, for the month of July, I'm interviewing a few different homeschooling moms.  One each Friday, so it will be 5 interviews over the course of the month.  We'll learn about their family, their education, their philosophy.  They all don't think like me, have the same view of education, and their parenting styles vary as much as the children they educate.  Some live near me, some live states away.  Some have grown children, some just have little ones, but all of them are currently homeschooling.  One schools at a farm, and another does school at Disney World.  Yes, I said Disney World.  One is a famous author, and another has a law degree.  I'm hoping to give a great perspective, and insight as to how homeschooling works in different families, and within different philosophies.  All of the families are from a Christian perspective, however.  

It's so interesting to me that in all the homeschooling families that I've met, none of them school the same way, and I have never received or seen any judgment between families for not doing something "the right way."  I think everyone realizes that each family knows exactly what their specific kids need.  Plus, each set of parents have their own priorities as far as what is important in their school, and it's often custom fit for each child.  For instance, we do a lot more language study than others that I've met because that is really important to Knut and I.

I have one quick disclaimer, and that is I did most of this interviewing via internet, and they sent me their answers in various forms.  I copy and pasted many of the answers, and it messed up some of the formatting of the posts.  I've fixed what I could quickly, but I think the only way to make it run completely smoothly is to retype it all.  Since I'd rather be sewing, you'll just have to survive the words moving between fonts and such and I don't want to hear any complaining about it.  (Imagine me shaking my finger.)

I'm so excited as I've just finished setting them to automatically post every Friday at 7am, I'm so pleased at the diversity of each family.  Some of the moms are very type A (you know who you are) and some are very laid back (you know who you are too!)  Each of these women are such a treasure to me, though, and I'm so excited to share them with you.

So stay tuned...