Tuesday, March 31, 2009

what we do...

Fishing. That's what we we've been doing on our weekends since spring arrived. I love it because I get to sit and knit. There is nothing that makes me happier than watching my kids outside having a good time, soaking up their "daddy time." Seriously, this is Disney World for them. They get all excited the night before, then there's the prep, the walk to the pond, and let's not forget all those "huge" fish they catch. You know, the ones that are about 5 inches long?! My little guy's favorite phrase... "BIG ONE!" He says that about everything; I'm going to make him a shirt that says that. Now isn't it just something when kids are thrilled by something as simple as fishing?

Friday, March 27, 2009

My topsy turvy two year old

So many days I find myself rushing around with my second, trying to get things done while his big sister is at school. I hate doing that. I remember how intentionally I focused on my first. There were creative activities and outings. My entire schedule revolved around her. It was no big deal to live life according to her time frame. Now that there are two kids, with two very different schedules and developmental needs, it can be tough. She has to get to school on time. There's homework and commitments. Then, throw in part-time work, and things start to get pretty harried. Maintaining a state of peace while getting it all done takes extraordinary effort on my part. We say "no" to plenty of activities and events in an effort to keep our schedule as simple as possible. " Now," you ask, "where does the second child fit in?" He's along for the ride far more than I'd like to admit. Fortunately, he's a pretty easy-going guy.

Today I realized that it had been forever since I made the entire morning all about him. So we got the groceries, went to the library, and came home. He zoomed through the painting I set out for him in minutes. He was ready to move on. Sometimes this mystifies me. His sister would have spent at least a half hour on that activity, even at two and a half. He loves artwork, but only for 5 minutes at a time. So... Plan B. Water. The boy lives to play in water. I swear. Ask his Montessori teacher. Since we do water play around here fairly regularly, I have the set up down pat. A laminated cloth underneath, towels, a big shallow metal pan from a yard sale, some cups, spoons, a glass pitcher, and some tiny colanders (a Christmas splurge.) He should have been content for at least 20 minutes. Not so. He wanted some things to float in the water.In a moment of desperate inspiration, I produced some nuts that had been in the cupboard a while. I was trying really hard not to be irritated. Didn't he know that this was our special segment of time? The nuts were magic, though. Suddenly we were both having so much fun. He counted, he sorted, he splashed, he poured. And then he wanted to eat them. Why not?So I got this nut cracker out which we have NEVER used... until today. It became this perfect motor skills activity for him. We figured out that pecans were the perfect size for him to actually work the lever and get a satisfying "CRACK!" He got busy. He got very busy. The whole counter was littered in nut shells. Then, like the sneaky mama that I am, I realized I could top off the fine motor skill development by giving him some kiddy chop sticks to pick up nuts and eat them. At first, it was difficult for him, but he worked at it for several minutes. Soon he had that mastered. Who needs expensive toys, I ask you? I am so glad that I slowed down my day to play with my little guy. Did I get the dishwasher unloaded? Nope. Did I sit, and laugh, and savor my little guy's exuberance? Yes, yes, I did.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

new stamp

I had fun cutting another stamp this weekend for my daughter's birthday invitations. It took no time at all, and is a lovely little creative outlet. This is a great tutorial if you're interested. Just scroll down to get parts one and two; it's really helpful. I used Grade B PZ Kutz for this stamp... it's orange. I liked the white (Grade A) better. Each one cuts a little differently, and I guess it's a matter of figuring out which one you like best. I plan to use this stamp on the front of some bare books for little party favors for a bunch of five and six year olds. Good stuff.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Change is here

Our spinach is popping up, along with arugula. We're still anxiously watching for our carrots and beets. It's such a great game to play with the kids. "I spy with my little eye..."
These are our "walking onions." Their stalks bend over and root into new plants from the tip.... funny, huh? A dear friend gave these to me years ago (before we had kids.) They just keep reproducing... the onions, I mean.

I was recently alerted to this article; I started jumping up and down when I read it. The presidential family will eat from their own organic garden AND they will have 2 bee hives! How amazing is that?! So many times, I feel on the fringes which is fine. But just once in a while, a girl wants to feel a sense of belonging. Come on, we all do! We learned about it in beginning psych class. So now, my daughter is going to be able to go to school and point out that a segment of her lifestyle is being mirrored by the philosophy and efforts of the presidential family. Finally. Now I just need a chef, a gardener, and a laundry fairy wouldn't hurt either. (You know... to support me in my efforts.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Vernal Equinox

It's spring and everyone around here knows it! Have a lovely weekend, friends. Hope you have many opportunities to be outside...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

secret life of bees

I have to tell you that I never envisioned us becoming the caretakers of honey bees. I was initially enthralled when my husband had the opportunity to save the above "bee tree" from being destroyed. Bee trees that are transferred to organized hives are a fairly uncommon event. He came home one evening and asked me how I felt about having a bee hive in the yard. I said "sounds interesting," and our adventure began. That was toward the end of 2008.

A week ago, my husband was told about an old cabin that is to be destroyed for developers. The caretaker of the property told him their were honey bees in the wall. He went to check it out, and sure enough there was a huge hive. Since this cabin will soon be gone, he made plans to move the hive to frames and a box. The following pictures give you an idea of the fascinating process. I wanted to detail some of it, for eager young learners...
First, they smoked their entry hole from the outside. This calms the bees. Then, they went in and had to saw open the wall. Before that, they could see nothing of the hive, only the blank stare of sheet rock. They were pleasantly surprised. Look at the beautiful hive! (It's a little smokey in the picture below.)
Next came the tedious process of moving intact comb from the wall into frames. He said it was really difficult not to injure a bee here and there. There were thousands. He had to use a fish fillet knife to carefully saw the comb from the wall.
The hive was rich with honey. It has a slight bit of orange or citrus taste to me. Most of it will be kept with the bees for them to feed on; we won't harvest it for human consumption yet. We were actually shocked that no bear had broken in and helped himself. The cabin has been abandoned for the last few years. The last person to live there said the bees were in the wall then.
The comb was carefully put in the frames and then in the box. You can see in the picture above how some of the cells are capped with wax, holding in the honey. This is the wax that we use for candles and body products. They let the box sit in the cabin for another day so that the bees could settle and reorganize. In a sense, they were setting up their new home. Yesterday, my husband saw the queen in the box so he knew the hive was ready to move. Last night, after dark, when the bees were all "asleep" in their new home, he brought the box home. Now we're the proud new caretakers of 2 hives that would have been destroyed. So far, it has been a very exciting year.
I said that I was initially enthralled, but now I am enchanted. Yesterday, I got to go in that old cabin. Late day sun was streaming in the windows, and thousands of bees filled the air. There was silence except for the droning of bees. It was magic. The first time I went in the cabin, I had no suit on. Some landed on me or bumped into me, but not a one was bothered by me. I calmed my breath, and after a few minutes it felt like a sort of meditation. It was unbelievably peaceful in that room, removed from all the worries of the world, and surrounded by productivity. Later I went back in with a suit, and got closer to the hive. It was just phenomenal to watch them work. There is a symmetry to their world that fills me with peace. So many times in our thirteen years together, my husband and I have stumbled onto new paths in our lives. This is one of those times when the opportunity has just appeared, and it feels so right.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I put this skirt and shirt together from my daughter's crib sheet. She loves the print, and so do I. Last weekend we got bunk beds for the kids off of Craig's list. So... we had to get big girl and boy bedding. Up to that point, my almost six year old had been on a crib mattress in a beautiful toddler bed that her dad made for her. (Luckily, she's fairly petite.) It is an exquisite bed, and it's hard not to see her sleeping in it. He milled the wood from trees he had cut, dried it, planed the boards and built a hardwood bed of his own design. I should have taken a pic of that bed and posted it. It's way more impressive than my outfit for her.
This morning she bounced out the door in her brand "new" dudes. It was fun to make up a sweet little cost-free surprise for her.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Focusing on the light

Well, it's back inside for me today and so I'm going to post. I'm feeling a tad bit grouchy about the cool temperatures that have returned. We've had days in the sixties, even seventies for almost a week. It was phenomenal, and I was lucky to answer email or serve dinner. We barely came inside; it just felt so good to be out. I revisited this video today because it makes me really happy. All of these people from across the world joining together in a way that makes sense to them and feels good.... dancing. My sister engraved on my Ipod, "dance like no one's watching." She knows me so well. Movement and breathing help me to break up fear. (And these are times filled with fear.) Throw smiling and music in, and I'm set. At least until the next anxious worry crosses my mind....

Friday, March 6, 2009

The reason why...

"Why should we all use our creative power...? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money."
- Brenda Ueland

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

yoga mat bag

I made this bag for myself. I got tired of lugging my mat to class as it unfurled behind me. It was reminding me too much of my unruly two year old. I've been tinkering with a pattern to come up with the right dimensions. I finally got it dialed in and made one for our school's art auction. I'll donate it, as well as three other brown robin bags. I've made one more out of Amy Butler fabric that is for sale. Now I just need to get around to taking pictures of it to post to etsy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Enough already!

I hesitated about even posting today. I don't want to subject anyone to my grumbly mind space. I have had some good mommy moments today, and plenty of not-s0-good ones. Yesterday, snow was exciting; today, it is not. I'm putting out silent pleas to the universe... no more snow... PLEASE!
I have decided that one of the best ways to get through cabin fever is food. Yes, there are the craft projects, the knitting, the puzzles, even some yoga, but food is the way to go! Last night, we were treated with sushi that my husband made. Today, it was banana bread with Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips. I think food is what has salvaged my sanity in the end. Sushi and snow... hopefully, we won't have to put that coping mechanism to use again until next winter. I mean.... bring on the sushi, not the snow.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Makin' bread

The book below has transformed our household. Honestly, I'm shocked by how much bread my husband and kids eat. Now I can better afford their appetites and feel pretty good about the quality of their bread. I know a book that promises homemade bread in five minutes a day is a bit like a diet commercial, cellulite lotion, or scum cleanser. Really, though, it is exactly that simple. I checked this book out from our local library twice before I purchased it.It took me a few times and a little asking around before I got a loaf that is consistently close to perfect. That said, I've never made anything from this book that wasn't gobbled down. It's hard to make it totally flop. Trust me, prior to this book, I had NEVER had any success at bread making. I'd pretty much resigned myself to the fact that making bread was obviously intended for a more elite individual than me. I can't say it enough, "MAKING BREAD IS A BREEZE WITH THIS BOOK!" Really.

Here are a few things I have discovered after some tinkering. Definitely go buy a pizza stone; I got one at Target for around $10. The amount of moisture, rise time, and temperature in the room can affect the bread. If you're not getting decent rise, than consider adding a smidgen more or less flour, letting it "rest" for longer, and turning on the oven while it's sitting on top to help with rise. I highly recommend King Arthur flours; they do come in organic. The quality of the flour has seemed to affect the quality of the loaf. The picture below is the average loft I get in a loaf.

The recipe that I make the most, and now have memorized after several months of using this book, is the "Light Whole Wheat." I have adapted it; I use 2-2.5 cups of flour, and the rest white (or bread flour.) I use 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt instead of 1.5. As they say in the book, this recipe really is a "workhorse." I use it for baguettes, loaves, calzones, and pizza crust. Below, is the pizza made according to their guidelines. So good.

Whenever I forget to renew the supply of dough in the fridge, I curse myself. Having it there, and ready to go makes meal prep so fast, and easy. Now, this little red hen is off to play in the snow. We got about 3 inches here. Schools are closed and there's plenty of snow for these southern kids to go sledding. To them, this is the blizzard of the year.