Thursday, May 29, 2014

Outdoors adventures

I went to a free class at rei (we have one right next to our grocery store) tonight called backpacking basics for women. In some respects it was a sales pitch for lots of cool camping gear, but it was also a really cool basic class where the instructor talked about experiences she has had and when various gear comes in handy. It got me really excited to go camping with Audrey (this weekend if the weather cooperates) and to do bigger hikes and camps in the future. The woman sitting next to me was about to do her first section of the Appalachian trail with her girlfriends this week, that sounded awesome. I would love to do that. And I would also love to hike machu Picchu and Kilimanjaro before I go the way of all the earth. Considering I haven't backpacked in a decade, I've got some work ahead of me.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Spring Break

Audrey's spring break is usually the week before Easter.  For the first part of her spring break, the girls and I drove down to North Carolina with Ryan's mom to visit Ryan's sister and her family.  They have four kids and two of them match up perfectly with the ages of my girls.  We arrived Saturday afternoon and returned Tuesday afternoon.  The drive there was slow - we hit all kinds of traffic, but it was so lovely to see spring starting.

The girls had a wonderful time.  Audrey and Tori had a sleepover every night.  They were inseparable the whole trip and got along great.  Audrey, Tori, and I played a game of Ticket to Ride (which is definitely one of our favorite games). Meredith would not take any noteworthy naps, however, she maintained a sweet disposition and loved playing with the baby and Ellie (the cousin who is about 6 months older).  Meredith also went and found quiet spots to play on her own whenever things got chaotic (with six kids and four adults under one roof, that was often).  That was interesting because at home she usually just wants to play with me.  It was good to see her becoming more independent and finding fun things to do for herself.

The girls and I were able to visit some old friends/neighbors who lived a few houses up from us for several years.  It was a lot of fun to catch up with Chris and Amanda and to see their kids again.  It is amazing how fast kids grow!

The highlight of the trip for me was a stop at a little local yarn (and quilt) shop, A Fox in the Hen's House.  It is right by Alisha's house and so Margaret dropped me off on the way back from our activities on Monday and I was welcomed with that famous southern hospitality.  I had so much fun that I stayed for a couple of hours, just knitting and chatting with the other ladies there.  Since then I have been wishing I had a good local yarn store here.  (Perhaps I should open one.)

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Basic Easter Egg Knit Pattern

All of our Easter decorations are a little too fragile for Meri and Audrey to play with.  Audrey can help me put up the Easter tree, but since many of the ornaments are glass, I then put the tree up high.  Lately, I have been thinking about knitting up a few eggs for the girls to play with.  They loved to throw the knitted ornaments about when I made those, so I figured eggs would be just as fun.

The first egg I made using some cheap acrylic yarn.  I bought it for the girls at Walmart because they *loved* the color and begged me to get it.  I figured it would be a great way to let them play with yarn and not mess with my fancy yarn.  So far, I have used it to make a heart garland for Audrey's bed for Valentine's Day.  I let the girls make necklaces using this yarn and various cereals (cheerios, fruit loops, apple jacks), they both like to "knit" (make knots in yarn with needles), and generally tie their toys up and drag them about the house.  

Back the eggs, I made an egg out of this yarn because I knew the girls would love a hot pink egg.  Even though I did not really enjoy working with this yarn, I will probably make another one, because they really do love it.  I found myself wishing that I had other colors of acrylic so that I could do a little fair isle into the egg...

I also pillaged my cotton yarn supply.  I have a weakness for cotton yarn.  I love homemade dishcloths, so whenever I see a cool colorway for a dollar or two, I just grab it.  At least I used to, until I realized I had an entire large tub full of cotton yarn...  So I started raided the cotton yarns stash and grabbed bright spring colors.  I love the way these eggs are so bright and colorful with the variegated cottons.


Basic Knit Eggs
Yarn: worsted weight
Needle: size 4 DPNs - 4 needles

Abreviations:
k: knit
k2tog: knit 2 together
kfb: knit front and back of the same stitch
ssk: slip, slip, knit together the slip stitches through the back
st: stitch(es)

Directions are the same for each needle, the instructions are given per needle.

Cast on 12 stitches using long-tail cast-on method.  Being careful not to twist the stitches, spread the stitches over 3 needles (4 st per needle) and join.

Bottom of the egg
Row 1: k
Row 2: kfb, k, kfb, k (6 st)
Row 3: k
Row 4: kfb, k3, kfb, k (8 st)
Row 5: k
Row 6: kfb, k5, kfb, k (10 st)
Row 7: k
Row 8: kfb, k7, kfb, k (12 st)

Body of the egg
Knit in the round for 12 rows

Top of the egg
Row 1: k, ssk, k6, k2tog, k (10 st)
Row 2-3: k
Row 4: k, ssk, k4, k2tog, k (8 st)
Row 5-6: k
Row 7: k, ssk, k2, k2tog, k (6 st)
Row 8-9: k
Row 10: k, ssk, k2tog, k (4 st)
Row 11: k, ssk, k (3 st)

Cut yarn and pull through the remaining 9 stitches as if to knit.  Secure the yarn and pull the end into the egg.

Stuff the egg with fluff from the bottom.  Using the rest of the cast on tail catch the end of each stitch and pull it tight.  Secure the yarn and pull the end into the egg, trimming as necessary.

Variations:
 - The main body of the egg is just begging for a bit of color work.  I would love to do some little flowers or animals - a bunny or chick - something in the main body with fair isle.
- Sock yarn and size 0 needles would be really neat for smaller eggs.




Thursday, April 03, 2014

Sticky situation

Everyday when I go down stairs to the first level of our three level townhouse, Meri goes with me and plays in the playroom there.  The first level is basically one big open room and we turned it into a playroom for the girls, so they have toys and craft stuff accessible.  The laundry room is like a closet on one side of the big playroom.  I always leave the door open and I can hear her playing but I can't see her.

Today I was showing Audrey how to do laundry and Meri was playing as usual.  While Audrey was putting the detergent in, I peeked in on Meri. She was just closing a craft drawer and said to me, I all done.  So I asked her what she was "all done" with.  She said she was all done with her makeup.  So I looked in the drawer and saw a glue stick on top with the lid on very loosely and picked it up and asked her if this was her makeup.  She said, yes and showed me where she put it - all over her little face.  Then I asked if she puts on her makeup whenever I do laundry and she said, yes.

This explains so much.  Lately, she has had particularly sticky cheeks and chin.  I thought she was wiping her nose onto her cheeks and I have been following her with tissues in hand for weeks.  She also has been getting little pimples on her cheeks and her chin.  Ryan thought it was just food on her cheeks or that she had a skin condition.  What a cute little sneaky stinker.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Camping

As a kid went camping a lot.  We went as a family usually at least once a year, the church had family camp overnight camps that we always attended, there was a week long camp every year with the other girls in church once I hit 12, and then in high-school and college I occasionally went camping with friends.

I liked it until I hurt my back half-way through college.  After that sleeping on the ground lost its luster.  However, lately, I have been thinking about camping again.  I cannot think of a better nights sleep than when I have been camping.  I love looking at the stars, singing by the camp fire, cooking camp food, hiking, etc.

This year, I have decided, I am going to take Audrey camping.  I think she is old enough and so I am going to do a mama/daughter camping trip this summer.  In preparation, I got a sleeping pad that self-inflates.  I already own a sleeping bag and I think we can borrow a tent.  She and I have been talking about it and we are both super excited to try it.

Any of you expert campers out there, do you have any recommendations for taking a kid camping for the first time.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Grilled cheese and tomato soup

The other day I made grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner.  This is a fairly common dinner for us, we have it every few weeks.  I always make the soup from scratch and it is super easy.  I just saute an onion in some olive oil until it is soft, add some garlic, lots of basil, salt, and a couple cans (or a quart of home canned) of diced tomatoes (I like the Costco brand organic ones, when I don't get around to canning my own).  I throw the whole batch into my blender, return it to the pan, bring it to a boil and add a bit of cream at the end to round out the tangy deliciousness.

I love all things southwestern so one day when we were out of bread, I decided to make a southwestern twist on our usual grilled cheese and tomato basil soup.  So we had quesadillos and southwestern tomato soup, topped with avocado and a dollop of chipotle adobo sauce (I buy cans of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and then I puree them in the blender in the sauce and store it in the fridge, it is our favorite spicy southwestern sauce).

To make my Southwestern version of the creamy tomato soup:
1 medium onion - diced and sauteed until clear or even a bit browned in a bit of olive oil or butter
1 big spoonful of diced garlic
~2 cups of salsa (I used my homemade salsa made with fire-roasted tomatoes and loads of cilantro)
2 small cans or 1 quart of diced tomatoes
pinch of oregano
cumin to taste
sea salt to taste
some cream

I blend all of that except the cream in my blender then put it back on stove to warm up.  I add the cream right before I serve it.  It is awesome the second day.

I love it with the chipotle adobo sauce and avocado slices. Audrey had hers with avocado and fresh cilantro. This is one of the best foods I have ever made and ever consumed.  I enjoyed and savored every single bite.  The creaminess of the avocado in each bite of the spicy warm tomato soup with the cilantro and cumin in there.  So so good.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Something fishy

Yesterday Meri and I went to Costco to grab a few things and saw that they had wild caught Atlantic cod at a good price. I was hoping to find decent fish to eat at some point this week, so that seemed like a good idea.

I consulted "the Google" to find a recipe, since I have never cooked Cod.  I found a recipe for Poached Cod with Cabbage and Peas. That sounded interesting and I happened to have 1/2 a head of cabbage sitting in the fridge with no particular recipe in mind.  While the cabbage and peas were sauteing, I grabbed the package of cod and found...  a worm trying to wiggle its way out of the package.

I am not super squeamish, I worked at a salmon cannery in Alaska one summer for heaven's sake, but I am also not one for feeding my family parasites.  So once again, I consulted "the Google" and learned that the worm in the flesh just meant that it was "fresh" and was not to be worried about in the same way as a hookworm or other intestine bound worm.  I have picked tapeworms out of salmon roe (just part of roe processing), so I know what they look like.  This cod worm was not that type of worm.  So, after a good Google search, I just picked the worm out of the fish, inspected the fish well for any other interesting things, washed it, and cooked it.

The dinner was delicious!  Because of the worm, I probably over poached the fish, it was falling apart when I took it out of the liquid.  Luckily cod is a nice firm fish and the extra cooking just meant a little more time to absorb the yummy poaching liquid.  The recipe called for adding chicken broth and lemon juice to the saute pan (after you remove the cabbage and peas).  I squeezed 1/2 of a fresh lemon into a bit of chicken broth and added a bit of white wine too (a late harvest Riesling).  I served it with a bit of fresh lemon, that was nice to squeeze onto the fish and a bit of the same white wine for the adults.

Poached Cod over sauteed cabbage and peas