Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Yarn Along

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading?~ -Ginny
Well, I published the cowl pattern yesterday.  I spent way too much time knitting twice another cowl like it to use for the tutorial at the end and had to rip it out twice because I didn't have quite enough yarn.  I was trying to squeeze a 110 yd project out of 90 yards and I know better. I know better.

I'm excited at how much bigger the response was on Ravelry than for my other pattern, so I feel like I'm headed in the right direction.  It was a big encouragement to me to keep on writing patterns.

I've started David's "Dirk sweater" and hopefully it will be finished up quickly so I can get my notes done on it and move along.  As long as I don't go off on a rabbit  trail like I just did with the Clara Cowl, I should be fine.  

I'm using knit picks again.  The orange (for the body) looked so much brighter in real life than in the picture on their site, or even in this picture.  I was going for a duller sophistication, but David absolutely loves the hue, and I suppose that's all that matters.  The collar, shoulders and arms will be the dusk/navy color.

I also spent some time winding up and starting to knit some of this handspun BFL that I got in a swap last winter.  It's about the coolest yarn ever.  I intend to whip up a double length Clara Cowl and put it in my store.  I mean, what's the fun of knitting if you can't be distracted by...more knitting?

I'm reading a book that my in-laws gave me as part of my birthday present.  It's by the same author of Giants in the Earth and this is a small collection of some of his short stories.  Most of his short stories still remain untranslated, but these 6 are supposed to be some of his best.  The feeling of them is so much lighter than that of his masterpiece.  I just read a fishing story about 3 former fishermen in Norway now fishing in ponds in America.  They make fun of the Irish who have no idea what they're doing and can't fish.  Since I'm half Irish and half Norwegian, I got a great kick out of this one.  I also read the short biography of the author in this book.  I love biographies.

So that's what's going on here.  What about you?  If you want to peek into what others are knitting and reading more, hop on over the the yarn party at Ginny's.

Clara Cowl

This pattern is more of a guide to make a reversible, seamless braided cowl.  It can be adapted in several different ways and with different yarn.  If you put the effort forth to hand-knitting an item from this guide and hope to sell it, by all means sell it.  Please link this pattern to your listing if you do choose to sell from it.  If you are feeling especially nice, charge more for yours on Etsy than I will ;)

You will need:

Approximately 110 yds of chunky yarn, preferably a wool or wool mix.  Wool is a great insulator in cold weather and resists moisture so it will keep you dry as well.  Not only that but it's a treat to knit.  I used Plymouth Yarn Baby Alpaca Grande in red.  The yardage worked out perfectly with 2 or 3 yards to spare.

A foot or 2 of yarn of any size, color, or weight to be used in the CO.  This will not be in the end result.

Size US 13 needles.  Pull out the big ones that you hide under your bed in case someone breaks into your house. 

Large crochet hook to use as a stitch holder when doing cables

1 yarn/darning needle

4 chunky double pointed knitting needles.  Size US 13 would be ideal, but I use US size 10 and have survived.  You can substitute any chunky size, or in a pinch use markers or thick pens.  You will not be knitting with these.  They will merely be to hold stitches while you graft.  Don't be scared if you've never done this, I'll walk you through it.

Kmart coupons may apply for some knitting supplies, so always look online before you shop.

This pattern is easily modified for different yarns or lengths.  If you would like to double the length of this cowl so that it can wrap around your neck twice in a fluffy vogue type way, simply double the yardage required and work the cable twice as many times.  If it were me I'd do twice as many times +1.  The cable pattern divides the stitches into thirds and requires even numbers.

For instance, this standard pattern will CO 36 stitches which will divide into 3 sections of 12 to make the braid.  You can easily make it thinner and CO 30 and divide each section into 10s, etc. I recommend not making the sections any larger than 12 stitches because it get's awfully difficult to cable numbers that high.  Your hands will begin to ache.

K = Knit

P= Purl

C24F in rib= place the first 12 stitches onto the crochet hook and hold in front of the work.  Work the next 12 stitches in 1x1 rib, then work the stitches off of the crochet hook in 1x1 rib.

C24B in rib= place the first 12 stitches onto the crochet hook and hold in back of the work.  Work the next 12 stitches in 1x1 rib, then work the stitches off of the crochet hook in 1x1 rib.

1x1 rib = (K1, P1) repeat across.

Shall we begin?

Using the provisional method of casting on, CO 36 stitches.  (This YouTube video was a great help to me learning this method.  It's essential you cast on these "live" stitches.)

**(K1, P1) for 4 rows

Next row: C24F in rib and (K1, P1) until end of the row.

(K1, P1) for 8 rows

Next row: C24B in rib and (K1, P1) until end of row.

(K1, P1) for 4 rows.  Repeat from ** 4 times (or desired amount)

That was easy, wasn't it?  The next part is a bit tricky, but don't be scared.  It's just yarn.  Tell yourself you're good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like you.  Think of how proud of yourself you'll be and how smart you'll feel wearing a seamless cowl.  Take a deep breath, here we go into the grafting part.  (I recommend if you have never done grafting, or even grafting 1x1 ribbing to work up a small swatch in cheap scrap yarn and practice before using your nice project.  There's only one thing trickier than doing the Kitchener stitch in rib, and that's redoing the Kitchener stitch in rib.)

I'll show you how to do this stitch using an orange swatch with smaller stitches so it's easier to see.

With the end you just finished with, and using 2 thick double pointed needles, divide the knit stitches onto one needle, and the purl stitches onto the other needle, like this:
Then go back to the beginning and move the stitches off of the scrap yarn used in the provisional cast on, and onto a your size US 13 needle.  Then divide the knit stitches to one double pointed needle and the purl stitches to the other double pointed needle. *Be careful to untwist, or "sort out" these stitches so that they lay correctly as if you were to knit or purl them correctly.*

Now, you'll want to loop your work around in a circle and find where 2 sides meet up by where you'll start.  Since the Kitchener stitch is worked from right to left, I recommend starting where the yarn is at the right side.  Give yourself about a generous yard of yarn to spare and cut your yarn and put on the darning needle, giving yourself a huge tail so the length you'll be working with won't be so long and tangly.

The Kitchener is worked with a front needle and back needle, but for this project I think it's easier to refer to them as the top needle and bottom needle..  Locate the 2 needles you'll be beginning to graft from.
The tricky part will be that all 4 needles will be close together, and you just want to work the front 2, and when you've worked across and those 2 needles are no longer used, you'll flip the work and work off the back 2 needles.  You'll be tempted to get frustrated with those back 2 needles getting in the way, but take your time and focus on those front 2.

Now, there's a lingo, or chant that goes with the Kitchener: "Knit purl, purl knit."  This is confusing to some because there is not knitting or purling going on with these stitches.  It is referring to inserting the needle into a loop knitwise or purlwise.  Let me show you the difference between the two.

This is knitwise:

This is purlwise:

To set up the stitch, thread the darning needle through the bottom needle purlwise, and then through the top needle knitwise.  You're ready to start the "chant" now.

Step 1: Working with the bottom needle, thread the needle through knitwise and slip that stitch off the needle.  Then thread the needle through the next stitch purlwise and keep that stitch on the needle.

Step 2: Then moving to the top needle, thread the needle through purlwise and slip that stitch off the needle.  Then thread the needle through the next stitch knitwise and keep that stitch on the needle.

Repeat those 2 steps over and over until you've reached the end of one side.  I highly recommend before starting the next side to go back and fix the tension among any of the stitches you just did.  I like to thread my yarn through very loosely and go back and tighten each stitch.  I find that's easier than doing it too tight and trying to go back and loosen them.  Once that side looks perfect, flip your work, set up your stitches again on those 2 back needles and work across the other side.

Weave in your ends and you're done.  Now go eat some chocolate.  You've earned it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I'm Blessed

This week's post is a necessity for me.  I've been stressed with my housework ganging up on me more than usual it seems.  If I want to stay on top of the laundry, I need to do 2-3 loads a day, and that includes diapers.  I've been doing maybe 1 because of our busy-ness.  Add to that busy time the fact that the kids have been kept up late often.  It's not just one night, it seems everyday someone is missing a nap, or staying up late, or...

So one of my kiddos has started wetting the bed again, from pure exhaustion.  Guess what that does with my whole "behind in household chores" problem.  If you said "compounds the problem a lot" you would be right.

I need to say "no" more.  I'm not feeling blessed this weekend, but stressed.  It's time to refocus.  It's time to breathe, and worship.  This week, I need this post.

I am blessed with a gorgeous house.  It does require maintenance, but seriously, I love it.  It's 111 years old and has such fun woodwork and stained glass windows and a huge stinkin' yard that takes hours for Knut to mow twice a week...

Sorry.  Refocus.

I'm so grateful for friends who will visit me and not even blink at the toys everywhere and the dog hair collecting on the floor.  You know I love you when I'm willing to show you how I don't have it all together.  At least that's what I tell them.  They just walk past Mt. Pajamas on the couch like it's no big deal and we sit and talk about our kids.  I love my friends.  Just a few years ago I felt so lonely and without friends and these days it's quite the opposite.  We moved out to the country 5 years ago now, and I finally feel like I have friends.  That is a huge blessing.  We were beginning to wonder for awhile if something was wrong with us.

I'm so blessed that we've all stayed healthy all summer long.  It's like a summer miracle.  And no, I'm not going to knock on wood when I say that because I'm scared that means we're all going to get sick now.  I'm going to say it's worth it to praise God for something he has done for us, and if that means that sickness will all fall on us now, it will have been worth it.  So there, silly superstitions.

We're blessed that the crops are doing well.  That is always a blessing.  On a much, much smaller scale, my small tiny business has been doing well and I got my most recent diaper order out early.  I'm publishing one more knitting pattern than I have planned this year, and I have actually been starting to get a few emails about sponsors for the blog, something I was totally not expecting.  When you're used to not making a paycheck, any sized paycheck is kind of fun.

(Small disclaimer: it's not that I'm working more and cleaning less.  I'm working on Nerdy Gerdy/blog stuff after the kids are in bed a few times a week just like always.  That work is just more productive these days.  I still work the same amount as a homemaker while the kids are awake as I did before.  That work feels a bit less productive these days for various reasons.)

Ahem.  Refocus.

I'm blessed to have a rose garden.  It's gorgeous and I can pick them whenever I want whenever someone isn't screaming...so sometimes.

I'm blessed by reading the comments each day on this blog.  It's about as fun as getting a letter in the mail.  I love letters.

I'm blessed by watching our chickens outside.  They're just a hoot.  Well actually, they're a cluck, but watching them is a hoot.

As I remain confused on why God still continues to bless us so abundantly in so many unique ways.  I will continue to rejoice that He does.  His love baffles me.  I've have reached out to Scripture more this last week and that has been a blessing. 

Doesn't it always come back to that?  It is good to be thankful for stuff, and experiences, and people.  Nothing compares to God sharing Himself with us.  Can we even fathom it?

How have you been blessed this last week?  I'd love if you participated by leaving a link to your "I'm Blessed" post, or left a comment saying how you've been blessed.  It's just for fun.  It's just for Him.  Well, I guess it's mostly for us too.  At least I know that this week, it was what I needed.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Silje the Chef

As I've mentioned before, my kids love cookbooks.  Silje received the "Princess and the Frog" cookbook  for some occasion and she's been begging to make the recipes in there for the longest time.

I tend to be a bit of a control freak in my kitchen.  Knut tells me that for a little person, I take up a lot of space in the kitchen.  It's true.  I don't even like him making toast if I'm in the groove.  Mostly because standing in front of the toaster blocks the cupboards to all the spices, measuring things and bowls.  When I'm in someone else's kitchen I feel so out of place...like I'm in their space and I'm never sure what to do. 

Silje always wants to help and I'm so bad at letting her.  I've worked up to letting her at least stand on a chair and watch me, and I'll explain how to do things.  She's been retaining  this information, but I've still been bad at letting her get my kitchen dirty.  Well, my kitchen is dirty the majority of the time but at least it's my mess.

She seemed down about this the other day and I told her that she'd be able to cook, one day.  She asked me again: "When?"

I realized I had to let her step into this, and said "next Friday."  She perked up.  "Really?"

Yup.  She knows once I set a date there is no going back.  She quickly sifted through her recipes and picked out 10 that she couldn't choose between.  I told her if she wanted, she could pick a main dish, a side, and a dessert.  We'd make a day of it.

O, she loved that.  There was lots of squealing going on in our house that day.

So the menu that she chose from her Princess and the Frog cookbook was:

Facilier's Fruit Salad
Buford's Fish Fillets
and for dessert: Charlotte's Coffee Cake

Since the whole meal from the fish to the fruit was very light, I suggested we throw a few baked potatoes in the oven as well...for the men.  Baked potatoes are her favorite.

I knew, I just knew that if I walked her through it, I would take over.  I would scold her for spilling something.  I would tell her she was doing something wrong when in fact it wasn't wrong, but just her way.  She was so excited and I was certain I was going to ruin it, so I told her upfront that if she did this, I would be in the room to do heavy lifting or put things in and out of the oven, but she was supposed to do everything.  Everything from measuring ingredients to the dishes.  If she had a question, I would answer, but I was going to stay at the table the whole time.

She loved that idea.

We did the shopping on Thursday and picked up some wild salmon, melons, kiwis, 2 colors of grapes, fresh mint leaves.  We bought every single stinking item on that list.  She didn't want to fudge on any of it.  Well, we picked salmon because the other kinds of fish listed weren't at our Walmart.

I told her to start with the fruit salad because that way it could chill while she made everything else.  I sliced open the cantaloupe, but I had her scoop out seeds, use the melon baller, measure out proper amounts each fruit.  I even let her use a sharp knife to cut the grapes in half like they were in the picture, as well as mince the mint, and slice the kiwi.  She let me slice the apple thin for her.  This was her first time using a sharp knife, and I'll admit I hovered for that part.  She was very careful and did such a great job.

(By the way, I've never had mint in a fruit salad before and Knut and I loved it so much that I think we're going to put it in everything from now on.  It's amazing in a fruit salad.)

Then I told her that since the fish took only 20 minutes to cook, she should make the cake first so that it will be ready right after we eat.

The cake took some time.  It actually took her about 1 1/2 hours just to get it in the oven.  She's made a box cake by herself once before with me there "helping" but this was searching out the baking powder, the various sugars, reading labels, measuring it out.  She flipped out when she spilled some vanilla.  She cracked the eggs herself even.  The kitchen was a mess and I forced myself to stay at the table.  If she dropped something, I'd tell her to relax and get the washcloth.  If she was looking for something I didn't get it for her, but told her where to look.  This was going to be all her.  I wasn't going to rob her of that.

I'll tell you, though, staying out of her way was a lot of work for a control freak like me.
I was exhausted afterward.

I poured the batter for her into the pan, and once it was in the oven I told her to start on the fish fillets.  She crushed the Ritz crackers and added all of the spices one by one.  She learned so much about all the spices in our cabinet.  In fact, I could go on and on with how much she learned in the kitchen yesterday.

She was nervous about touching the fish to batter it herself, but I told her that she was the one who chose the recipe, and she was the one who was going to make it.  She looked up with me in astonishment as she pressed the fish into the melted butter saying "This isn't so bad!"  When the fish got in the oven I told her to start on the dishes.  She wasn't super excited about that but started with little fuss.  She was about half done when the fish was ready and I told her that I'd do the rest after supper.

She really made me proud.

I took the picture before the potatoes got out of the oven.  Sorry about that.  Here's Silje's plate.
Never mind the food that is already on the table. 

It was super yummy.  Knut thought she should cook more often.  I told him if I had 4 hours to blow every afternoon...

I know...it won't be long before she'll be doing it without me in the room.  I don't think I'll mind one bit because I'll tell you: she's a darn good cook.  Her meal was better than anything I've made in weeks.  It was also more expensive than most meals I've made in the last few weeks, but it was sooo worth it.  She made me so proud that I may or may not have cried after she went to bed last night.  When did she grow up?

Here is her cake.  We had friends over so I had to get it out of the pan and it stuck just a bit.  I can't for the life of me find my mesh sifter for the sugar on top but I did that for Silje since she was busy playing with our dessert guests.

It was a sour cream cinnamon coffee cake and it was delicious.

My daughter can cook...and bake.  This will take some getting used to.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Homeschool Friday

School hasn't officially started here at home.  However, yesterday we got to see many of our friends in our homeschool group yesterday as we met for a fun field trip at a honey farm.

It must have been a popular field trip because I've never seen so many families from our support group show up to one event like this before.  From babies to teenagers, all the kids were there.

I did not know there was a honey farm in our area.  Silje and David were both very, very nervous about seeing all the bees.  I thought that education would calm those fears and it turns out that the bees were all out in their fields anyway, and there were only a few stragglers by the windows of the honey factory.

This farm had 6000 hives, and 60,000 bees per hive.  You do the math.

A sweet woman and her grandson (I assume) gave the presentation where the kids learned a lot about bees.  Well, Silje and Elias learned all about bees.  David was overwhelmed by the crowd of people (like always) had a mini flip out session and then I let him run off and play with the Grandma Bee Lady's grandson.  They climbed trees during the presentation.

We learned that the number one consumer of bees wax is the Catholic church.  Most other churches use part paraffin wax candles.  Interesting.

We learned about the 3 different roles of bees: queen, drone, and worker.  We learned how queens get overthrown, how often they are replaced in farms like this one, and where bees go for the winter.  I guess bees don't freeze up here in the winter, but there is nothing for them to eat, so this farm loads up the hives on a semi truck and trucks them down to Mississippi and California to go help the farmers pollinate down there for the winter.  Again...fascinating, yes?

Then we broke up into 3 groups according to age: big kids, small kids, and really small kids.  There were 3 places to tour: the factory, the playground they had outside, and the car garage.  Silje headed with her group to the factory, and I headed to the playground with the boys.  Solveig was hanging with me as well.

When it was our group's turn to tour the factory both boys dug their heels in as they protested leaving the playground.  A veteran homeschooling mom said she'd watch the boys so I could tour the factory.  That way I could tell them about it later.  I thought she was wise, so Solveig and I went with the group to the factory.

I took pictures so David could see honey shoot out into big barrels.  When the barrels are full, they weigh 700 lbs.  Cool, huh?

We saw several empty hives.  (Like I said, the hives were currently on the land gathering pollen.)  My pictures of the hives and the machines slicing the wax from the honey did not turn out as good as I'd have hoped. 

When the factory tour was over, it was time for the little kids to tour the garage.  My thinking was "so what...a garage..."

Turns out the honey farmer is an old Ford collector too.  For that, the boys left the playground immediately.
Really old Ford collector. 

We had to stop by the store and post office before we left for home from our fun field trip.  It was nearly 1:30 before we got close to home and the kids and I had not even had lunch yet.  Knut called to see if the kids wanted to see a backhoe working close up since I was already in the car.  Since no one was screaming or asleep (a miracle when you consider it was nap time and an hour and a half past a missed meal).  Sometimes when you're so off schedule, it doesn't even matter if you're more off.  (I had been sneaking crackers to the kids for the last 2 hours or so...)

So we drove out to the recently harvested wheat field nearby, and Daddy took the 3 older ones for a little walk.  The last few years the farm has only grown a few acres of wheat on fields that need some work.  Wheat harvests in August, leaving some time open in that field before the big harvests to get the work done.

Our kids are spoiled rotten.  It was a good field trip day!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summer Days

I'll admit, I'm ready for a winter pace.  This summer has been busy and I'm nearing burn out.  The other day I spent knitting up my cowl because I just needed a break from all the chores.  I paid for it with a messy house for 2 days as I tried to catch up.  I ended up having to stay up after Solveig's 5:30 am feeding, and just get ahead on the cleaning while everyone was asleep.  I may have not mentioned this in the last few posts, but I know I've said it: I'm not a morning person.  So 5:30 was a big deal for me.  Normally I only get up at 5:30 to feed a baby, or go to the airport.  That's about it.

We've had a lot of company over, so the house has been clean more consistently.  It's hard to keep the house nice all the time.  I think I burned out and hid in the corner and just knit my way back to sanity.  I suppose no one else has ever done that before... ;)

For today I have a hodgepodge of fun pictures of the kids.  I hope it will give you a taste of our days.

David and his chicken "Gimpy."  She's the one who limps because of "twisted toes."  We decided to keep her and David likes her the best because she's easy to catch.  Correction...David just told me this is not Gimpy.  This is "the really fast brown one."  I see him with chickens a lot outside.

This is Elias and Daddy.  What?  Not every blog has pictures of a 2 year old in mix matched pajamas and over sized mud boots riding on a tandem bike on a farm?  Weird...

Move over Silje...even though Elias can't reach the pedals, I think he's almost ready for a helmet and a spot on the family bike rides.  I'm hoping she'll get the hang of riding a bike soon.

Although she has been venturing outside more!

Here's Solveig taking a snuggle with "Oldefar" (Great-grandpa Jorolf) out at the lake cabin.  I wish this picture wasn't so blurry.  He has a tough time seeing these days, but she crawled right up to his feet and he tried immediately to pick her up.  We set her in his lap for him and she was just as content as a peach there.

The kids had fun slipping down Grandma and Grandpa's hill...

Well...not everyone was brave enough.

Even though Summer busy-ness is soon at an end, Knut got promise in the mail of a very active Winter:

He made "Wave 1" for his next Birkie race.  That is a BIG deal and has been his goal these past few years of racing.  His first year doing the race, he was assigned in wave 8 since they had no data on him to go with.  His time qualified him for wave 3 last year.  Last year he pushed through the bit of frostbite on his nose, and qualified for wave 1 for this upcoming race.  I'm so proud of him.

This has been a crazy fun summer so far...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Yarn Along

I haven't been doing much reading these days as I'm finishing up a custom sewing order.  I have been reading my Bible a bit more, so that's good.  I'm never as good at reading my Bible daily as I should be.  I don't know why, but I started reading through Jeremiah, and it's been so good.  I'm surprised how relevant it sounds for today.  Well, I shouldn't be surprised.  I'm not saying that we are Israel, but we are like Israel...people in general.  We go through cycles of disobedience.

As for knitting, I finished Elias' sweater, and am saving pictures of it for when David's is done and I'll do an official photo shoot in the yard or something for the pattern.  I stopped by the yarn store last week just for fun.  That's very dangerous to do.  I missed seeing the ladies in there, and was shocked that it had been so long since I've been in there that there are some knew people who didn't even know me.  Serves me right for trying to work from my stash, and buying some yarns online.

I ended up buying a skein of baby alpaca as an impulse buy.  I always buy baby alpaca on impulse.  It's a weakness.  I don't usually work with chunky yarn, but I made this quick little cowl for myself for this winter.  I think it will go very well with my coat.  I looked on Ravelry for a cowl pattern, and didn't like the ones I saw so I made one up.

So I guess I'll be posting a free pattern for a cowl sometime next week.  The only tricky part of my quickie pattern is that I wanted it seamless and reversible.  That required that the whole thing be done in 1x1 rib, and I didn't know how to graft using the Kitchener stitch in 1x1 rib.  After some Google searching, I'm realizing there is not any good, clear instructions out there for this, so I figured it out based on some vague online discussions on the topic I found.  I'm determined now to post a good tutorial soon as well: how to do the Kitchener stitch in rib.  I'll squeeze that in...somehow.

In the mean time, I'll be petting my new cowl as it's super soft.  I love baby alpaca...

Thank you, Ginny, for doing the Yarn Along again.  By the way, I love your recent trip pictures on visiting a yarn mill (Cestari).  You may guess now what my vote is for our next family vacation...


Last year during school, puzzles helped so much.  They would keep David so engaged and quiet.

With the summer busy-ness, somehow puzzles always didn't get put away.  Then I started finding pieces all over the house: under couches, in pockets, in the Legos...etc.  It was driving me nuts.  I moved the multiple puzzle boxes from where they were on the bookshelf, and into the old drawer for homeschool supplies.  It's a broken dresser from the dumpster, and until it is replaced, I thought it could serve as a good hiding spot to keep the scattered puzzles together.

As I found more pieces, I threw them in the drawer.  "We'll find which puzzle they go to later." I told myself.

Well, the day came.  The kids needed a job, and I needed to make sure these puzzles were ready and available for when school started.  It did not go well.

So the next day, I figured I'd have to do all umpteen puzzles myself to organize them and see what was still missing.  However, if I was going to spend the precious time while the babies were napping, than Silje and David were going to have to at least be there to help me.

We cleared the dining room table to assemble all of them.  The puzzle pieces were in a huge pile and I started sorting them as best as I could.  I had to make a few judgment calls.  Did this yellow machinery piece go to the Transformers puzzle, or the bulldozer puzzle?  Were these deer eyes, rabbit eyes, kitty eyes or porcupine eyes?  Then there was the grass.  4 puzzles had lots of grass in them, so there was just a pile of green pieces that could have ended up with any of them.

I thought about just throwing it all away.  I really did.  It was my best help in managing the preschooler during homeschool last year and I was going to throw them out without a fight.

We did the easy puzzles first.  When someone had used all the pieces available for that puzzle, they would move on.  Sometimes when we were working on the next one, we would find a piece that belonged to a "finished" one on the table that still had missing pieces.  It was a good system.  We each had our own puzzle to work on.

Puzzles are really David's thing, and it was so much fun to see him in action.  Many of them he's done easily 100 times, but some he had never done, like the 100 piece puzzles.  When we were down to the last 3 puzzles...the hardest, Silje had the one with the bunnies, I had the one with the kitties, and David had the one with the porcupine.  The kitties I was working on were sitting in a mess of yarn, and my head was beginning to spin.

David asked if he could work on mine for awhile since he had done that one before.  I was stuck, not knowing if I was missing the pieces I needed or if I just wasn't seeing it.  He finished it in about 60 seconds after I left the puzzle.  Then we worked on the porcupine one together.

It's amazing to see your child's brain at work.  There is no other word for it than amazing.  He put together 5 pieces for every 2 that I put together.  He would just see a piece, and set it down exactly where it should go.  He had not done this puzzle before, but we (mostly him) finished it in a matter of minutes.  He was moving at least 3 times faster than me.  Then we went to help Silje with her bunnies.  3 ended up being a crowd, so I let Silje and David (mostly him) finish it up.

I just stood back and thought "how is he doing this so fast?  He just sees it all organized in his head!"  He would rarely look at the picture on the piece, but would look hard at the shape of  the edge.  Then he would match it exactly to a shape in the puzzle.  It was so much fun to watch those wheels turning.

When we were done, and all the puzzles were boxed in their own boxes, David gave a huge sigh of contentment.

"I've missed doing puzzles, Mommy."

Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm Blessed

Sometimes it's hard to see the blessing.  Other times it comes like an avalanche.  Still other times, it's like steady rain.  It's raining here...metaphorically, that is.

It's easy to feel blessed when the season is that of reaping.  When the work of the summer is paying off in dividends of amazing produce in the kitchen everyday to work with.

It's easy to feel blessed when the crop on the farm looks good at this point.

How can you not feel blessed when your routine to close in the chickens after the kids are in bed starts to change.  Now when I go for my little walk around the yard, I bring cutters with me for one of my favorite kinds of harvests.  Pretty soon though, the chickens will start getting shut in before the kids go to bed.  The sun is going down quick these days.

I love the change to a new season.  I may even love it more than the season itself.  The change to fall is a lovely one.

I'm blessed to have gotten a visit from my sweet friend this last week.  She gave me some much needed perspective, and she probably does not even realize how much of a blessing she is to me.

I heard Knut talk to one of his good friends at church yesterday.  His friend asked what he'd been up to.  Knut said he's been spending a lot of time cutting wood for the winter.  His friend laughed and said "Everytime I talk to you, it's like I'm talking to someone from the 1800s!"

I love our 1800s life.  I know most people heat their house by turning a dial.  I like working with a fire every few hours in the winter.  It's so enjoyable.  I like having it in the background when I read to the kids.  I'm so blessed with this life and I am still pinching myself.  Still!

There is a lot of work in the season we are in, and even more work in the season that we are approaching.  The corn is beginning to change color, and the soy beans will not be far.  I have yet to meet a farmer who will not harvest because the harvest involves too much work.  As I look at blessings as they are described in the Bible, I see how closely God ties blessings and work.  God's salvation requires no work, but that does not mean that His blessings often involve work. He knows how we are designed, and he knows we do not do well when we're idle.

I always find it so funny that the verse often linking children with blessing is this: "Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him." (Psalm 127:3)  The funny part is the words just before that verse are: "for he grants sleep to those he loves."  Surely God would know that having sons and having sleep do not usually go together.  When I think of the energy of my children, and the work they require, I do not think of sleep.  Well, I dream of sleep, and vaguely remember how much I used to get.

God blesses us with work.  He has cattle on a thousand hills, and those cattle require work.  Wealth, blessings, children, health...all require work.  That work becomes almost an act of worship, of us accepting this amazing gift from him.  Those who do not have work these difficult days will tell you how much they long for it.  I think some school kids may even admit that they can't wait for school to start because the work is good.

We are busy.  We are blessed.  I'd love if you'd share how you are blessed, too. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Knut's Post

Knut always refers to this blog as "our" blog.  I tease him about that because the extent of his contribution is normally skimming it once a week or so.  True, he blogs when a baby is born and I'm at the hospital.  He's very good at that.

Last Thursday, my friend Melissa and some of her kids were over for the afternoon to just hang out.  It was seriously a month or more of trying to get our schedules to align, but they were finally here.  Since we have a bunch of sweet corn in season, I asked if she wanted some.  She didn't want to make Knut go out there and pick it, but as soon as he saw she might be interested, he wasn't going to let her go home empty handed.

So he went corn picking.

When he got back, he stole my camera, and was taking pictures of a corn stock.  Now, maybe you're like me, and would ask your husband: "Dear, why are you taking pictures of corn?"

If he were like my husband, he would look at you like you had 3 heads and say "Because I've never seen this before!  It's amazing."

Then you look at him like he has 3 heads and say..."It's corn...and you're a corn...farmer..."

Then he explains that a corn stalk only grows one cob.  Always.  He had never seen 2 cobs grow on one stock before.  He said when he was out picking, he saw half dozen stocks that way.

He was taking pictures for the blog because it was so amazing.

He wanted to share this freak of nature, so I'm doing that for him. 

(psst...this is where you oooh and ahhh)

O, and he also took a picture of the pancakes and sausage he made for Silje the other morning.  He did not want to be outdone with all the food blogging I've been doing lately.  (Speaking of which, these pancakes were the traditional buttermilk kind but subbing in homemade yogurt for the buttermilk.  Let me just say YUM!) 

The kids know that Daddy is a morning person, and I am not.  They know better than to ask me for pancakes in the morning.  If I'm making pancakes or waffles, it's for supper...when I'm fully awake.  I serve cereal in the morning and on rare occasions: toast.  If Knut doesn't have to be at work in the morning, Silje just has to ask and pancakes with blueberry syrup are laid before her.  She rarely has to ask him twice.  Breakfast is his meal, and he believes in yummy hot ones.  Can we say Daddy's girl?

And that my friends, is Knut's post.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Homeschool Friday

(used with permission from the Family Man)

I'm so excited for school to start.

I'm nervous about doing kindergarten with David.  Teaching him will be very different from teaching Silje.

I'm already planning a field trip before school starts.  Our homeschool group is going to a honey farm and I thought that sounded like fun.

We started our science course for this next year already.  The curriculum has a "cold climate" alternate schedule to optimize observing plants while we can still see them.  Silje's loving it, and I'm doing better at customizing it for her age.  David has not tagged along with this yet.

I'm already starting to debate in my head how things will run.  I think my biggest fight with Silje this year will be over her handwriting.  I got a new program and it is working, and she does not like having to re-learn how to write.  Last year I only made her do it properly during handwriting, and write however she likes in other areas.  Her handwriting did not improve that much under that system.  I'm thinking this year I might expect good handwriting in all subjects...but I'm not sure I want to cut the thrill of writing from her that much.  I keep thinking to myself that if a "real teacher" expected that of her in a "real classroom" then it would be fine, so why not here?

I keep adding things to the list of things to do.

Silje has been reading literally hours everyday this summer and should pick up school just fine.

David has been reading to himself his early readers, or sitting and looking at books for at least an hour every day unprompted.  Last year for preschool we finished our kindergarten reading program.  This year for kindergarten I'm hoping to finish a 1st grade reading program.  I'm a little nervous.  He is very excited.

I don't know why I'm nervous about teaching David.  He does great doing anything one-on-one, which is what school will primarily be for him.  He loves routine and this will be great for that too. 

It's less than 3 weeks now before we're going "full time."  I'd start this next week if I didn't have so many summer chores still to do.  The anticipation is killing me.  We'll need some prayers over here!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer Freezing

The garden is keeping me busy in the kitchen.  Since I've been getting multiple questions on how I preserve some of our garden goodness, I thought I'd share.  My other long-winded posts on the back burner are not complete or remotely edited.

There are 2 types of freezer cooking, and I do both.  The one kind is making casseroles or meals and freezing them so you just have to pop them into the oven.  The other kind is freezing what I've heard some cookbooks refer to as "building blocks" to meals.  These can be sides, or just raw vegis frozen ready to throw into a meal.

The second type is what I'm working on these days.  For instance, here's what's going on with the tomatoes:

I wash them, slice them in half, lay them in a 9x13 pan, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 350 degrees for roughly 2 hours.  I've done more, I've done less.  You basically want to cook them until they shrivel and look like this:

I suppose you could do it less, but I like a really concentrated sauce.  When they look like that, let them cool a bit, throw them in the food processor and puree them up, skins and all.  I'm pretty lazy about skins.  Then measure out 1 cup portions into ziploc baggies (buying the freezer kind really does make a difference.  In a pinch I'll use regular ziplocs but I always have to use them first because the food in there will get a freezer flavor after a few months).

This building block is a great add on to a beef stew or soup.  It doesn't make it taste tomato-y but does give a richness that you try to place.  It can also be put into homemade spaghetti sauce, lasagna or marinara, or whatever else you use tomato sauce for.

Our sweet corn is ready, and I think it's the best corn on the cob I've had in years.  We don't grow sweet corn commercially.  At this point the vast majority of our corn is made for ethanol.   The guys always do one section of one field for sweet corn that we all eat and share.

So besides having corn on the cob, we freeze a lot for the whole year.  It's my mother-in-law's recipe for creamed corn, and it is so popular in my house that guests that we have frequently will often request it before they come.  It's super good.

Husking an insane amount of corn and slicing off all the kernels is a job, so we kind of have a party of it.  Knut's parents and his sister and family, as well as his grandma come over for the morning.  Linda, my mother in law, is often the one who cuts the raw husked corn into 9x13 pans.  We fill them up pretty good.  At this point with what my family eats, I make 5 pans for the year's supply.

When a pan is full of corn, you add a whole stick of butter cut up, and a whole pint of half and half.  I didn't say this was a healthy recipe.  I said it was a really good one.

Set your oven to 350 and bake for 1 hour.  When the corn has cooled, dish up into quart sized freezer bags.  To reheat you can just put the thawed corn into a pot and heat up, or reheat in the oven.  We reheat on the stove 95% of the time, although in the oven is very yummy.

Other vegis are easier.  For instance, with our peppers, we just wash and dry them and throw them into a big gallon ziploc.  If you cut them when they are not completely thawed it's easy to remove the insides.  We do this with bell as well as jalepenos.  Green beans are easy as well, as I just wash, dry, and snap them.  Well, I've handed over the snapping beans job to Silje and David.  They do a nice job of it.

I didn't get enough peas to freeze, so we'll have no garden peas this winter.  I can almost hear the sighing disappointment I'll hear from Knut when he sees store bought peas on his plate.  He's a bit s-p-o-i-l-e-d or as we say in my family a "honeylamb."  When I do have peas, I use the technique that my mother in law taught me, and that's to blanch them (that means boil them for a very short amount of time) and then spread them on a cookie sheet to freeze.  When they are frozen hard on the cookie sheet, scrape them off and transfer them to an ice cream pail or gallon freezer bag for storage.  This method freezes the peas separately so you can scoop out the amount you need instead of thawing a whole bag at once.

This post might explain why I have so many 9x13 pans.  They don't get used every day, but this time of year, if I have any less than 6 in the house, I'm in trouble.  I like the glass ones to have on hand for the other type of freezer cooking.  They freeze a great lasagna, and you're not supposed to freeze meals in the pans with non-stick coating as it will ruin your finish.  Glass baking pans are great for that, as long as you don't put your meal straight from the freezer to the oven!

Some other day I may share the chocolate chip bar recipe I also made yesterday to sustain us through the preserving day.  It's Knut's cousin/farm partner's wife's recipe and it's a layered cookie bar with the top layer being a brown sugar meringue.  Yum! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yarn Along

Thanks, once again, to Ginny for hosting the Yarn Along.  It's always a pleasure to participate.

Life has been so busy.  I cannot wait for school to start so there's a return to rhythm in life.  I feel like everyday I'm running someplace else, and all with very good reason.  I see Knut getting into his warp speed of being social, and I've come to realize over the years that he gets chunks of time with people, and then there are chunks of weeks or even months where he can't hang out with our friends ever due to work.  So we're having people over, or going out with people, or going someplace just the two of us or volunteering here or there it seems almost every day.

Combine that with the garden mass producing at this point of the season, and the fact that I took on a  custom diaper order this month, and you've got one busy mama.  It's all good stuff.  It's just a lot of good stuff. 

That is the reason why I don't have a lot of knitting and reading done.  I have gotten a bit of knitting done when Knut and I have been watching movies after the kids are in bed.  That's another thing that we only get to do seasonally.  This may just look like the difference of adding a sleeve to the "Dirk" sweater, but in reality, the cap to the shoulder was done no less than 3 times.  It was good, though, because I learned something with each mistake.  I learned how to pick up stitches along the garter stitch edge which can be trickier than a stockinette stitch edge, in my opinion.  I fiddled with a few short row techniques, and I measured, and measured and measured.  In all honesty, I think I'm going to redo this arm one more time...

Elias is trying on the sweater much more willingly these days as he understands now that it will actually be a sweater.  He smiles now when I try it on him and says "Mine?!  Mine?!"  I'm making the sleeves about an inch too long because I'm hoping the sweater will make it through the winter.  We'll see.

Aaaaand the thing that always happens to me when I'm 3/4 of the way through making a new pattern has started.  The notes for the next pattern has started.  If I could, I'd wait until after this one is all done, but when the newer design is constantly pushing towards the front of my brain, it's so much easier to write it down, so that I can then focus on the pattern at hand.

O, and I've read about 2 little chapters of Silje's school book "Frindle."  I'm not far enough to give an opinion, but I can say that I've read a little.  I've also been reading a few articles in the Wall Street Journal every few days lately.  Many articles have been fuel for lots of blog posts that have started.  I have 5 probably pretty boring ones I'm working through now (though not really.  They're just sitting there) because of what I'm reading there.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

There is No Balance for Books

In most things, Knut and I balance each other out.  Normally, he's the saver and I'm the spender.  We're learning that's only in regard to certain things.  I'm a night owl and he's an early bird.  It's nice to have both in the family when there are little ones in the house.  I've learned to appreciate that we each have our strengths because it brings so much balance to our household.

It's when we are too alike that we get into trouble.  For instance...

we both hoard books.  It is an addiction for both of us.  O, we've seen a Kindle, and it was kind of cool.   We both still love the real deal.  We love vintage books or new books.  We both could spend days in Barnes and Noble.  We buy books online, on ebay, at garage sales.  Our main curriculum through Sonlight is a literature intense program.  You should not be surprised.

We love to read.  The books don't just lay on the shelf.  We actually do read them several times.  We love discussing them.

So I must show you our recent book score:
These are only 3 of the 4 boxes.  I told Knut to bid on the box containing the first 18 Nancy Drew books, still wrapped in plastic.  He got it for $10.  He also got a box of books for $7 containing some amazing vintage children's books.  They will be super for David doing kindergarten.  I saw most of them at the used book fair at the last homeschooling convention, and nearly bought the set at $3 a book.  It's nice to have the whole set plus some Dr.Suess ones for much less than that.  Knut also got some woodworking books that he said were awesome, and not pictured is my impulse buy of $2.50 for a box of National Geographic hardcover book collection on places around the world from the Alps to America's deserts.  Knut was so excited to see those. 

We were at an estate auction this last weekend.  Someone should have been there to say "You guys don't need any more books."  We wouldn't have listened, but one of us should have some restraint.  Instead, we were pushing each other on to bid on yet another box.  When we were separated at the auction, we both bid on and won different boxes of books that were not on our list that we had made after walking around together.  We had not discussed, and we had no plans to buy them.

When we found out about each other's purchase, we congratulated each other on our amazing finds.

Because we both love books.  It's probably a problem.  I'm thinking those built in bookshelves that he's hoping to build this winter may not be enough room... 

In some other minor estate sale updates:
Knut also got a neat tackle box-ish thing for his ski wax.  Silje got some ceramic kitties, and I bought a pretty bird cage that will probably only cage a plant.  Knut also got some tools, I got a child's rocking chair and I bid on and lost: a flour mill (I really wanted that one!) and some skillets. About everything there was in amazing condition.

There was a sewing machine there that was gorgeous, but I didn't happen to see it out of it's case until it was on the table for bidding.  It was an antique Singer that was portable in a cute little carrying case and it was pristine condition.  It was one of the most beautiful machines I've ever, ever seen.  I'm guessing it was made pre-WWII.  I held on tight to my ticket and chanted to myself "this wasn't on the list, you don't need this."  It sold for $65 and had I gone there planning on spending that money, I would have done it in a heartbeat.  If it were under $50 I would have bought it without hesitating.  That's my limit for impulse buys.  We have a $50 limit in our family that we must discuss every purchase above that amount.  Had I seen it, thought about it for 10 minutes, told Knut my intentions, I would have bid with reckless abandon.  I was holding out for the flour mill...that I didn't win.  I'm going to be mourning not bidding on that sewing machine and losing that mill for a few weeks I think.

Good thing I'll have some books to keep me company.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm Blessed

I'm blessed that we have a garden.

This was one day's harvest.  I like to harvest about every other day this time of summer.

I'm blessed we have good land to have a garden...

and that we are healthy enough to work in it.

I am so grateful for flowers.  I read a study once that flowers had a similar effect on depression patients as some medications.  I love having flowers in the house all summer long.  Just looking at them and breathing in their perfume makes you breathe differently, and allows your brain to pause and enjoy the moment.

I'm thankful for the rain and the sun.

I'm blessed by the colors, the tastes, and the amazing smell of fresh produce in my kitchen. 

We're so blessed.

(p.s. I have cucumbers to spare.  Just sayin...)

If you'd like to share something God has blessed you with this last week, please share.  I love pictures, so a link is great...otherwise feel free to leave a comment.  God is so good to us and I never, ever want to lose sight of that.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Elias wears a disposable diaper at night.  He's the only kid of mine that I haven't been able to resolve nighttime issues with cloth.

It gets worse.

I only have 5 cloth diapers that still fit him.  He goes through 6-8 a day.  That means sometimes he wears a disposable diaper during the day.  You see, I could make him more large diapers, but he's supposed to be potty training.  If I make him more diapers, it's like admitting that I'm not potty training him.  Yet buying disposables doesn't.  How's that for logic.

I'm always afraid when I'm buying disposable diapers someone will recognize me and say "Hey, aren't you that lady who sews cloth diapers?" and then they'll see my cart.  Then they'll know

It gets worse.  Knut and I don't have a perfect marriage.  It's not like I ever said we did, and I for one think we've put the work into the marriage that we have.  Sure, we love each other, and I think he's the coolest man in the world.  We still fight.  About a month ago, we had a doozy.  It got as bad as yelling, and maybe some name calling, and pretty much mean.  It was about ice cream.  I am not proud.  It's still kind of fresh, so if you see either of us, we're not ready to joke about it for another year or so.  Who knew ice cream could reveal so many issues below the surface.

There's more.

I haven't held totally to my "no t.v. for the kids all summer" goal.  It's not what it used to be.  The kids don't watch t.v. everyday anymore, and often only for an hour or less when they do.  Maybe a total of 2-3 hours a week max.  I know that's not bad, but when my goal was zero...

I sometimes get desperate for moments of quiet.  Other times someone calls me on the phone and I really need to talk to them for a few minutes without interruption. Everytime I pay for it with cranky kids.  If Knut and I didn't like watching movies together once or twice a week when the kids are in bed, we probably wouldn't have it.

As well as I'm clearing my conscience, I've been listening to Weezer when I'm sewing lately.

Lastly, I like Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Fake potatoes and all.