Friday, December 05, 2014

Meet Rose Bud Facer - aka Rosy

I blame my sister, William, and her cute dog, Gizmo.  They showed me how much my girls would love to have a dog in their life and how responsible they could be too. 

So, for Christmas this year we got a sweet little puppy for the girls.  I had no idea what getting a puppy meant.  I have not had a solid night of sleep since Rosy joined our family.  I am up at least 2xs a night to take her outside.  She has added a huge dose of extra laundry, cleaning, puppy-proofing, walks, and love.

Rosy is about as cute as they come.  She is a Cavatese - which is a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Maltese.  She is mostly white, but has apricot ears and a big apricot spot on her back.  She is a cuddle bug and she already thinks she is part of the family and whines if we leave without her.
November 22, 2014, Rosy sitting on Audrey's lap in the pet store

Rosy and Meredith - Meri is always trying to hug Rosy and kisses her on the head

Rosy taking a nap on the couch - Meredith put a couple of baby doll blankets on her, including one from Gigi

My Mama came for Thanksgiving and was a big help teaching us how to take care of a puppy.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Dinner in a pumpkin

aka - I lose my mind trying to carve a pumpkin.

Ryan's mom has this fun tradition of making dinner in a pumpkin on Halloween night.  So we have adopted the same little tradition.  The idea is super simple and pretty healthy.

This year at Belvedere Plantation, they had some super fancy pumpkins that are supposed to be amazing flavor wise.  So I got a medium sized pumpkin for our Halloween dinner.

These crazy little pumpkins are super thick - which I didn't know when I tried to quickly pop the top and fill it.  I ended up butchering the damned thing and cussing like a fighter pilot trying to break this thing open.

It is almost funny what things make you so mad you literally cuss - apparently for me it is carving pumpkins - good to know.

Dinner in a pumpkin recipe (more or less):
1 pound of ground beef
1 diced onion
2 T crushed garlic
2 T soy sauce
2 T brown sugar
1 can cream of something soup (or a white sauce - which I like better, but was in no mood today)
2 cups cooked rice
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ground beef and onions, add garlic, soy, sugar, and cream.  Mix well and then add the rice.  Pack in a cleaned out pumpkin with a face drawn in sharpie.  Bake for about an hour at 350.  Or until the pumpkin flesh is soft.  Scoop some of the pumpkin flesh out with the rice mixture when serving.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cookie #1 - The Classic Chocolate Chip cookie

To start the 89 cookie challenge, it made sense to go with the most popular cookie in the Milk and Cookie cookbook - chocolate chip.  This recipe is an amazing twist on the quintessential American classic. In addition to chocolate chunks, the recipe calls for chocolate shavings or curls.
Chocolate chip cookies and a jeweled mason jar of milk - keeping it classy!

After reading a few amazon reviews on the cookbook itself, here is what I did:

 - Butter - I waited for the butter to get to room temp and then I beat the tar out of it, till it was super creamy. The book says to whip the bitter until light and creamy, so this isn't different from the book, it's just different from my usual throw the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and butter together then beat method. The amazon reviewer emphasized the importance of actually beating the butter for a good 3-5 minutes, so I did, it worked well.
 - Oat flour - The recipe called for oat flour from processed oats,I just threw the oats in my blend tech and one I had flour, I added the rest of the dry ingredients into the blender too, no point making another bowl dirty says I.
 - Ingredient variations - salted butter, chocolate chips, salt, eggs - My slight variations on the recipe based on what was in my kitchen at the time of baking: I used salted butter rather than unsalted which it calls for, I used chocolate chips instead of chunks, I are a touch more salt, I used extra large eggs rather than large eggs. 
 - Baking time - The only real difference in my preparation was the baking time. The recipe said to bake the cookie for 15 minutes, which seems like an unconscionably long time to bake a cookie. I live comfortably in the world of under done cookies and I just could not cook then longer than 10 minutes, which is the longest I have *ever* baked a cookie (on purpose anyway).  The recipe called for cookies that were big, I used my 1/4 cup measuring cup as the scoop.  For such big cookies, 10 minutes worked.  When I decided to make the cookies a bit smaller - ie my normal cookie size, my normal baking time worked well too - 7 minutes.

Big cookies - only 6 per sheet.

The result was amazing! I liked it better than the one i had at the milk and cookies store itself - probably the extra salt and the underdone softness.  Seriously one of the best cookies I have ever made and I am known for my cookies. The shaved chocolate gives melted yuminess in every bite. The oat flour gives it a nutty taste and a heartier texture. It is really good. The other thing I like about the recipe is the amount of vanilla - 1/2 tablespoon. I wanted to shout amen! I *always* add substantially more vanilla than most cookie recipes call for because it is such an important ingredient. And my vanilla is already stronger than most store bought vanilla because I make it myself with good vodka and hand scraped Madagascar vanilla beans.

I loved this recipe, but the ass pain associated with grating 2 while bars of chocolate may keep me from making it as often as other cookies in my repertoire. Perhaps I'll source some chocolate curls and then it will be in my regular rotation for sure, it is that good.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The 89 Cookie challenge

Many years ago my dear sister William went on a food tour in New York and discovered a lovely little place called Milk and Cookies. She loved it so much that I had to visit that cookie shop the next time I was in town. It was really amazing. The cookies were delicious and the milk was so fresh. 
Naturally, I was thrilled when I happened across the cook book written by the proprietor sharing her famous cookie recipes and gave it to Will for Christmas. 

The cookbook of 89 Cookie Challenge
Last weekend as William and I were cleaning out her kitchen and she was getting rid of cookbooks I asked if I could take the Milk and Cookies cookbook off her hands, she gladly agreed and said, "I'll probably get more use out of you having the book anyway."

Apparently, she has prophetic tendencies...

I was just perusing the book this morning and there is such an amazing variety of cookie recipes and I love making and eating cookies.  Honestly, I think cookies are my favorite dessert. So I decided to take on a challenge. I am going to attempt to make *every* cookie in this book. There are 89 different cookie recipes, so this challenge will take me a bit of time, but I am excited!!

My neighbors already call me the Baker neighbor, I think they will be willing taste testers.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ohio visit to Lehman's

Weary traveler looking into the sun for a selfie in front of Lehman's
My trip back to DC from Chicago was a great adventure. I took small country roads through most of Ohio and it was breathtakingly beautiful especially this time of year.  It was not a fast drive.  If I ever have time to just drive through out the country, I hope to take lots of small country roads.  That is when the drive is really pretty.  I certainly appreciate road trips via the highway for speed, but the beauty found down the country roads can't be beat.

Cast Iron Cafe - seriously cute!
I finally pulled up to Lehman's and was super excited, hungry, and a little weary.  This place is huge! I immediately headed towards the "Cast Iron Cafe" but was a bit disappointed that they were out of soup and the specialty was hot dogs.  I asked what the most popular item was and purchased a bratwurst with swiss cheese and sauerkraut along with potato chips made with lard and a Lehman's brand root beer.   Whether it was my hunger or the food, I don't know, but it was all surprisingly good.
Made with Lard Potato Chips - quite tasty.
The store was organized like no store I have ever seen, it was amazing.  The sections I saw: gardening, dairy, canning, stoves, sewing, laundry, lighting, oil lamps, soap making, cleaning materials, toys, books, food, clothes/hats, kitchen, grain milling/grinding, and a fudge counter. There were real Amish people there too, with their horse and buggy parked out back.  Lots of people in overalls (it made me really wish I hadn't cut mine up into a denim quilt...).
Dairy section - above the for-sales items, displays of antique items
I thought the dairy section was neat.  They had milk pales, cheese making supplies, butter churns, butter presses (which I almost got to make cute designs in butter for holidays).  

There was an exhibit of wood relief art.  I wish my photography were better, because this art was truly amazing.  These pictures do not do it justice.

I think my favorite section was the wood stove showroom, which was rather warm with a couple of the stoves lit. 
This is an old fashioned look to mostly modern appliances - they had it in red too!

Dreaming - me and my homesteading stove

The dream stove in all its own glory.
The section I did not take a picture of, but should have, was the laundry section.  They had a variety of washboards, glass, galvanized steel, and several sizes too.  I almost got one - just for the coolness of a washboard.  They had all kinds of drying contraptions - and that was a real temptation (but I did not have the room in my vehicle).  Well made drying racks are hard to come by and they had so many sizes and types and they all folded down, some attached to the wall and folded into a nifty shelf.  

After a good meander through the store, I ended up purchasing a bag of white popcorn kernels, a thick square yardstick, a stainless steel colander, and a paring knife.  Practical souvenirs from an impractical visit to a practical store.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Our first crash

Audrey rode her own bike to school yesterday and I rode Big Bleu with Meredith on the front. The rain held off until we got back but then it was raining most of the day. Luckily the rain cleared as we needed to leave the house to get Audrey, but the ground was rather wet.

Big Bleu in the garage, safe and sound.
While Audrey wiped her seat and handle bars dry, I warned her against going too fast, especially around the first corner, which is a sharp steep turn. So of course, that is right where she fell. She landed in the grass, so she was quite lucky, except for one thing.  She landed on a previously sprained pinky and that really hurt. She couldn't really ride her bike, so I did just what any person with a cargo bike would do, I strapped the bike into the back of mine. The only tricky thing was that my only way to tie up the bike was a bungee net that was holding the back pack.  After a bit of pulling and tugging it worked. 

We were quite the scene, a kid in front, a kid in back with a backpack and an extra bike attached to the back.  We went slowly up and down our hills, but we went! It was awesome.  I love having such a functional bike!

The bungee net that I wrapped around the back of my bike and the front of Audrey's.

Friday, October 10, 2014

I love yarn day

Yes, there is such a thing and I wish I was celebrating it properly. What a great reason to buy lots of beautiful yarn at a local yarn store or sit on a comfy sofa knitting the day away.  Instead I'm heading to see William!!! Yay. A very good alternative. :)

Happy I love yarn day everyone!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Kids say the damndest things

We were driving to school a few weeks ago - prior to getting Big Blue - and Meredith brought her baby doll, Shelly Sheryl along with Shelly Sheryl's car seat into the car for the wait in the car line.  (Incidentally, both she and Audrey like to bring their babies on Big Blue too, but the babies get put into the panniers and randomly call out things like - "I wish I could see something!")

Meredith pulled Shelly Sheryl out of the car seat and handed Shelly Sheryl to Audrey and forcefully told Audrey to hold her and make her talk. So Audrey says in a sweet little baby doll voice, "I am so glad I don't have to sit in my damn car seat anymore."

I thought I must have heard that wrong, so I asked Audrey to repeat what she said and sure enough, Audrey was making Shelly Sheryl cuss.  It was so funny I was busting a gut trying not to laugh out loud as I informed Audrey that she wasn't supposed to say damn like that.

Meredith and a slightly shaken Shelly Sheryl...

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Lehman's here I come

I like old-fashioned and home-made things.  I value making things myself whenever I can.  I love to learn a little more and improve my domestic skills all the time.  I read books, blogs, and articles on cooking, preserving, knitting, and homesteading.  Someday, I would love to have some acreage of my own to grow a big garden and raise some chickens, maybe even have a milk cow too.

Because of my love for old-fashioned things, I have a bit of a fascination with the Amish too.  I love their simple (yet hardworking) ways.  I like sparkle, shine, and the internet too much to ever join the Amish, but I do admire their culture.  So naturally, I have been hoping to go visit Lehman's, a store that specializes in old-fashioned and Amish tools.   This weekend I am going to go visit Claire in Chicago to help her get ready for her upcoming move and I have decided that I am going to finally stop by Lehman's on my way.   It is about half-way between me and Claire, but I usually have the girls in tow with me and they make a long drive so much longer, so I haven't wanted to extend it even more with a bit of a side trip.  This time it is just me and I am super excited.  My plan is to leave early Friday morning and have lunch at Lehman's and wander around the store for about 45 minutes, then continue on my merry way to Chicago perhaps with a new colander.  

Monday, October 06, 2014

Errands via Bicycle

There is something awesome about biking as a means of transit.  It is such a pleasant way to get around.  I literally can't help but smile as I am taking Audrey to school.  That is the only route so far that I have completely stopped using the car.  It's funny, I rarely think about my mode of transportation in any terms, let alone one that makes me happy.  Aside from extremely bad weather in which I usually feel super grateful to be in a climate controlled bubble of my car, I rarely feel happy (or anything) to be driving.  But riding a bike just has a fun factor that I truly underestimated.  I love the fresh air, the sounds of the birds, the exercise - it is just awesome.

I am getting more comfortable riding again (I used to ride my bike in Japan as my primary mode of transit) and I think I am getting stronger too.  Last week, I took some dirty clothes to the dry cleaners after dropping Audrey off at school.  Today, I rode to a grocery store that is about 5 miles away on bike after dropping Audrey off.  I also learned that one pannier is not quite enough for grocery shopping.  It could hold all of my groceries just fine, but two gallons of milk plus the other stuff I was getting actually made the bike tip over - which is pretty hard to do with the double kick stand.  So I returned one gallon of milk and then rode back to the house.  The system still needs some tweaking.

Other system "tweaks" are more critical than double panniers.  My main concern for now is what to do with Meredith.  She is just barely within the weight limit for the ibert seat on the front handle bar stem - so that is what I use when I take her.  However, the ibert has its limitations, namely it is not compatible with the front basket, and most importantly, I can't comfortably stand on the ground with the ibert.  I lowered my seat considerably, so now the tips of my toes can touch the ground while I am seated and even though that does not give me the best angle for pedaling up hills, I have electric assist, so I am cool with that.  However, Meredith is just a pound shy of the weight limit and she is not old enough to hold onto the handle bars behind me on her own.  I am looking into other options, but I think a trailer may solve that and winter weather problems in the short term - craig's list here I come.
Big Blue sans front basket with the ibert attached and the big pannier

Visibility is my other main concern.  As the days get shorter and if weather suddenly changes, we still need to be visible.  I rode to Audrey's Back to School night last week and realized as I was getting the bike out of the garage, that I had no front light.  I put a spelunking light on top of my helmet and I tied an LED hand-cranked emergency light that is also a radio into the cup holder on my handle bars and turned the cup holder so that the light would shine on the ground ahead of me.  That worked surprisingly well.  But as the light bounced out of the cup holder when I crossed the first road and I had to hold it with one hand the rest of the way, I realized, it was not going to be a good permanent solution.  I would love to install dynamo lights - they never need batteries because they use the power of the bike's movement, but I have been told (by my local bike shop) that I cannot have both the electric assist motor hub and a dynamo motor hub on the same front wheel.  That makes sense.

In the meantime, to improve our overall visibility, I  ordered bright neon yellow reflector jackets for me and the girls and we wear them every time we ride now over our regular clothes.  There are not a lot of bikers in my area yet, so cars do not look for bikes.  I want to make sure that car drivers see us.

Long-term I think the Yuba elMundo, Big Blue, has true staying power.  This surprises me a bit.  I thought this would be a good proof of concept bike to see if biking was something we could do in our area for our local adventures.  I thought I would see how things went and then eventually replace this bike with a bucket bike that could protect the girls and any cargo from the elements.  However, I am becoming more convinced that this bike is capable of comfortably taking me and the girls to our local spots for a long time to come.  Bad weather may change my mind - time will tell.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bicycle Lady

In the past few years, I have become a bit of a bicycle convert.  First of all, I really dislike traffic - and DC is known for traffic.  In order to eliminate traffic anxiety for myself, I try to keep most of our frequent activities as close to the house as possible.  Most of our shopping, library, school, and sports activities are within a 5 mile radius or our house.  Audrey's school is only 1.5 miles from our house, and the county put in a lovely wide multi-use trail for most of that distance.  Last year we rode bikes to and from her school quite a few times, but with weather both too hot and too cold and a heavy toddler on the back of the bike, the hills between the house and the school were just not as fun as I was hoping (and admittedly, I am a bit of a wimp).

I have suspected that we may be good candidates for an electric assist family cargo bike for awhile. And I have been researching family cargo bikes for several months.  I even created a spreadsheet with the costs of all the things I considered to be important - electric assist (to get up those hills easily), disc brakes (to get down the hills safely), etc.  The fanciest of the bikes I looked at is the Urban Arrow - at $5900, it is not cheap, but it can literally serve as a car replacement.  My favorite options are the bucket type bikes - with a bucket for kids and/or cargo in either the front or the back.  The beauty of the bucket is that it is easy to cover for weather protection as well.  The cheapest of the bucket options (the Madsen bike) comes in around $3500 after adding in electric assist, rain covers, and lights.  None of the bikes, I have been looking at is honestly within our price range.  While I love the idea of being able to replace our dying 2-door Honda Civic with a bike, I just don't know if I truly have the fortitude to do so in bad weather.  And in an area that is not known for its friendliness to cyclers, I don't know how safe it is either.  

Naturally I have been combing Craigslist for a suitable used family bike, but they usually go rather quickly if they show up at all.  Right before Claire showed up for Meredith's birthday party, an electric assist Yuba Mundo came up for sale nearby for $1500.  And after a bit of negotiation, I am the proud owner of a family cargo bike.

Me and the girls starting up the hill to take Audrey to dance class.
This is not the cargo bike of my dreams, because it doesn't have any simple and elegant solutions for kids in bad weather and that was something high on my list, but for the price, it is a wonderful solution in good weather.  I feel like it is a good test to see how much we actually can go without our car in this hilly suburb
and luckily we do have a lot of good weather here in DC.  I don't know if we will be able to ever go to just one car for our family, but with this bike, I am hoping to not have to replace the Civic for at least another year or two.  

I just got it last week and have already put over 20 miles on it just taking Audrey to school and her dance class.  It is so much fun to ride and Audrey and Meredith both LOVE it.  For the school ride, it is actually faster than driving and waiting in the car line.  On the bike, the trip to her school is about 20 minutes round trip.  In the car, it is about 30 minutes at least, though most of that is just waiting in line.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Audrey the builder

Audrey built a pencil holder crate at the August Home Depot kids event.
Audrey building a tree house at the September Home Depot kids build event.
Audrey and Jacob (our neighbor) at the HomeDepot Sept kids event.
Audrey has been talking about designing and building her own house for many months now, maybe even years.  So in order to get her some basic building skills for free and to let her see if she actually enjoys it, I have taken her to the monthly Home Depot kids workshops.  So far she has loved it and walks away wishing she could build something bigger and more complex.  

All of her talk about building reminds me of how Claire and I used to talk about building our houses right next door to each other when we grew up.  We would come up with new designs nearly every Sunday during church service.  We each made sure to grab a program and we would draw our designs on that.  It was a lot of fun.  I remember one design idea in particular that still makes me smile - the teddy bear shaped house.  Only a kid would think that is an optimal house design...
Meredith hamming it up in Walmart.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Audrey starts 4th grade

Audrey ready for 4th grade

Meredith ready for Amineh's house
Aren't they just precious!

silly girls, posing and making faces
The plan for awhile has been to have Meredith start at the Montessori preschool near us today too, but over the last few weeks we have just been feeling like she is a little too young.  So Friday morning, we postponed her enrollment by a year.  Then I went and talked to Amineh, the wonderful woman across the street who runs a care center in her house, and asked if she happened to have a bit of temporary room for Meredith to come in the mornings a few days a week.  As luck would have it she does, so today Meredith went to Amineh's house for the morning so that I could start studying for the Biology test that I have to take and pass before I can even apply to teach.  She was very excited and practiced her letters.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Career thoughts

For years, I have had teaching on my list for possible career choices.  However, I have had enough hesitations that I never felt confident enough in the choice to bite the bullet and start down that path.  Recently, however my hesitations have dissipated and I have really felt like that might just be a good career for me.  So I found a couple of career switcher programs in my state and it looks like I should be able to start the process towards a teaching license within a few months.  

I am going to try to teach secondary biology and math.  I found a federal grant program that offers money towards people teaching in math and science in low income schools.  Luckily for me, that is what I want to teach and most of the local schools qualify as low income. :)


Saturday, August 02, 2014

Audrey the builder

Audrey has told me she wants to learn to build stuff. So I signed her up for the home depot kids workshop. She made a pencil crate and loved hammering away. We will definitely be back to do some more projects.

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

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.

 - 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


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

Friday, March 21, 2014

Gym fun

While I truly believe that being healthy and fit has very little to do with a gym, I have loved my membership these past few days.

We joined on Tuesday. Wednesday I met with a personal trainer and went through a strength training circuit with her (this was included in the membership).  Thursday after school I took both girls to the daycare and swam laps for the first time in forever.  It turns out that "small" pool felt much larger once I was swimming in it for the first time.  I also forgot some strokes, so I am going to look those up on youtube.  After I felt like I got a good swim, I went and grabbed the girls from the daycare and took them swimming too.  They *loved* it.  Audrey is taking lessons at the rec center on the weekends, so this was awesome to just let her practice a little in such a low-key and fun way.  This morning I tried Zumba for the first time.  It is awesome.  It is everything I ever wanted in a workout class - fun, high-energy, dancing to hip-hop.  I want to do Zumba everyday.

So I told myself that I was going to start out slow, but I have just enjoyed it so much, that I haven't started as slowly as I intended.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Getting Fit

Before I had Meri, I was an exercising fool.  It just felt good both physically and mentally.  I ran (slowly) a couple times a week with my neighbor in the evenings and then I discovered swimming. I took swimming lessons to learn how to lap swim to add a little variety to my fitness.  I wanted to get better at swimming and remember what I was being taught, so I thought I would practice what I was learning once a week in the morning before work.  I enjoyed it so much that I literally woke up at 4:30 am without an alarm clock excited to go to the pool.  Soon I started going just about every morning before work - just because I loved it so much.  

My love for it ended abruptly when a certain sweet baby started pushing on my lungs.  Suddenly it felt really scary to be in a 8 lane 50 meter pool that was 14 feet deep at the deep end and 8 feet deep at the shallow end, while not being able to take a good deep breath.  So I stopped.

But lately, I have been jonesing to swim again. The rec center that I went to is not really very close to my house.  Once I made it there in 17 minutes when I got lucky with the lights at 5 am.  Usually it was closer to 25 minutes.  So I have been looking for other options.  Recently a sport and health club facility opened in the Wegman's complex near my house with a 4 lane 25 meter pool shallow pool (only 4 feet deep). 

Today Meri and I went to check it out and I ended up signing up for a one person membership with the rest of the family getting free memberships for 3 months.  If the whole family actually uses it, we can upgrade to the family plan later.  I am *super* excited about this.   

The pool seems small in comparison to the rec center, but it is also lightly used according to the club.  Lane sharing was a regular sport at the rec center - one that I will not miss. Plus they have family swim time in two of the lanes in the afternoons, so I can take Meri and Audrey.  The club has an amazing daycare with a nanny camera that lets you see what your child is doing from any of the workout machines on a certain channel.  Two hours of daycare is included every day.  Meri went right in so I could take the tour and she didn't want to leave when I was done.

I am also going to try some of the group classes.  Zumba looks like so much fun, so I will definitely do that one and I want to try this crazy bodycombat class that is a mixture of martial arts - sounds interesting.  Unfortunately, the yoga classes are right at Audrey's schools drop off time, so I probably won't get to try those classes until summer.   

Sunday, March 16, 2014

St Pattys Day

I love St Patrick's Day.  It is a fun holiday to celebrate and yet it doesn't involve gifts or too many expectations - just fun.

Every year I make my Guinness Chocolate Cake.  I also make corned beef and cabbage, which I love.  But the real star of the day is always the cake. 

It starts with a good cake recipe with buttermilk, coco powder, and Guiness.  After it bakes, you poke holes in it and pour on a soak of Guinness, cocoa, sugar, and vanilla.  Then you turn it over and repeat.  Finally, you cover the whole cake in a chocolate ganache.  It is awesome.

Meredith and Audrey loved it!

Monday, March 03, 2014

Christmas makings - ornaments

As previously mentioned, this year I planned to make ornaments for cousin Christmas gifts. I started with the cousins on Ryan's side because we usually buy something for each of the kids, so each present I made was money saved.

I found some graph paper from my nerdy days of math fun (sometimes being a packrat is useful) and sketched out each of their names across a grid of 32 x 13 squares.  Each square represented one stitch in the middle of the ornament, and I repeated the pattern once for a total of 13 rows of 64 stitches (16 stitches on each of 4 needles).

Once I got the hang of it, the ornaments went really quite fast.  I also realized that my color work skills are still at the beginner level.

I completed all 7 ornaments for Ryan's sisters' kids and then I decided that everyone else (including my sweet girls) will have to wait another year.  I was pleasantly surprised that Audrey and Meredith were really excited by the ornaments and wanted me to make one for each of them.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Valentine Gift for my Girls

We love reading together, so for Valentine's Day I made the girls these little dragons, to go with the My Father's Dragon book set
Sparky on my computer.

The pattern (and idea) is from Susan's blog. I used Lion Brand sock-ease yarn in the cotton candy colorway on size 0 needles. She offers some modifications for making the little dragon in single ply sock yarn, but once I got started on the pattern, I just stuck to the pattern for the most part.  The dragons were pretty quick to knit up, but seriously fiddly to add all the little appendages - ears, arms, feet, wings, tail. I did most of this knitting at the kitchen table so that I could follow along with the pattern.  It was not a knit while watching a show kind of project.  
Audrey and Sparky

The girls LOVE them - which is always nice when you spend time making something.  Audrey named hers Sparky, Meri named hers Jenkins (she was trying to say dragon, but I thought she said Jenkins and it stuck).

The book was a huge hit too.  The illustrations are fun and the story is a quick read with action in every chapter.