February

I want to be finishing up Galen’s birthday sweater.  His birthday is in three weeks.  I only have the sleeves left to go, which should be easy, except I’m always afraid to take it out and start working.  He keeps popping down at night, for all manner of reasons.  I really think that there is some sort of conspiracy amongst my children to stop me from getting a decent night’s sleep ever.

Beyond Lyme Disease reads rather like a school report, but there is a lot of information in it.  I’m sick of trying to be informed.  Trying to find answers.  Trying to get better.  Bleh.  So much of life wasted on something I would prefer to ignore.  But can’t.  sigh.

Bark is fabulous.  The younger kids and I have been working with it on Woods Day.  The older boys can already identify all the trees in our area, dormant or not.

I’m trying to get back into the habit of daily walks.  We need it.  I need it.

Iain, Elijah and I are working on a large project for Galen’s 10th birthday.  I have no pictures of that.  We work on the one night of the week when he’s at dance.  We run around like crazy people every moment that he’s away.  Just a few minutes before he walks in the door, we rush about packing up saws, sweeping and dusting off sawdust and generally trying to hide every sign of our efforts.  We try not to pant as all causal like we greet him, behaving just as though we spent the evening lounging about, leisurely cooking dinner.

We’re trying to convert a section of our upstairs hallway into a little mini-room, a cosy-creative nook just for him.  It’s supposed to be a surprise.  We’re kind of trying to do a custom pre-fab, sort of thing.  We’re making all of the pieces in chunks so that they can be rapidly installed on the morning of his birthday while he’s on a little outing.  There are so many ways that this can go wrong, but he’s going to be absolutely thrilled if all goes right.

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Breakfast in bed.  I don’t think I’ve ever been served breakfast in bed before.  They went all out with dairy free eggs florentine over home-made grain free English muffins.

My sisters came to stay for the weekend.  One knitted me socks and brought me herb and citrus finishing salts.  The other tried to make my birthday dreams of tiramisu a reality.  Her efforts resulted in what she coined “tiramisoup”.  We had to freeze it to be able to stick candles in it…and there was much insistence that there be candles.  All 35 of them, fire safety be hanged.  So another ice cream cake.  This one a surprise.  But it still tasted good.  And kind of a last hurrah for us, as we are embarking on some serious dietary changes.  I’m over-whelmed by this, but also looking forward to it in a way.  I want to feel well again, truly, truly well.

In a supreme act of creativity and sweetness, Steve tracked down a night robe, from approximately 1905.  It’s huge and billowy and comfy and rustles when I walk and I look kind of ridiculous in it, but he says it’s somehow sexy.  The detail on the eyelet trim is amazing and I love it all, even the ridiculousness.

We had a little walk, on my beautiful birthday.  This year has been crazy.  We spent all of November and December wondering when winter would start and at the end of January we’re all asking each other, “Is it over already?”  I can’t even tell you how deeply grateful I am.  I think another long winter would have done me in.  I feel the hope of spring even in mid-winter and time in my garden feels close at hand.  The Wee Girl is utterly perplexed by her lack of needing a snowsuit.  She can not fathom why she’s being let outside without one.  But she still wears her boots.  Her new-ish pink snow boots that she thinks are the bees-knees, which make little star prints in the melty snow when we go off to visit the birds.

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Dairy Free White Chocolate Ice Cream

I totally dropped the ball on a birthday party for the kids this year.  Birthday sweaters? check.  Quilts? check.  Wonder book with at least a week’s worth of entries for the emerging 7 year old? check.  Treasure hunt obstacle course?  check.  Meaningful charm for Mairi’s bracelet?  check.  Plan crazy, exciting, right of passage adventure for 16 year old? check.  Fancy cakes made to their exact specifications? check.  Well thought out, carefully planned party?  Nope, not so much!

Not that we always do a party.  But they did specifically request one this year.  To which I said yes.  And then promptly forgot about it until just days before their birthday.  So when a friend called to say that her son wanted to spend his birthday with us and had we done anything for our kids yet? (answer: yes!  A whole, whole lot in fact, just not a party…)  Between us we have 4 kids with January birthdays.  The answer?  A laid-back, two family, 4-in-1 birthday party,

And it was good.  Just right, really.  Good, nourishing food.  Basket ball and ping pong tournaments.  Dress up and dance play.  A few simple gifts.  And the comfortable feeling of being with dear old friends.

There son knit Iain a hat.  That one is a boy after my own heart.  The beautiful beeswax candle was their gift to Mairi.  She’s enchanted.  We’re both really itching to make candles now.

Since we had already done the cake thing, I decided to play around with ice cream for the “party”.  We made a White Chocolate and Clementine Bombe inspired by this recipe.  Our version included home-made dairy free white chocolate ice cream.  Which was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself!

Dairy Free White Chocolate Ice Cream

6 egg yokes

1 1/2 cups of sugar

450 ml full fat canned coconut milk

200 grams of cocoa butter, broken into small pieces

450 ml of cashew cream (see below)

seeds from 1 1/2 vanilla pods

2 tsp vanilla extract

To make the cashew cream: place cashews in a high power blended, such as a Vitamix.  Add water to the same level as the cashews and blend until smooth.  If you don’t have a high power blender, try soaking the cashews for several hours first.

Mix the vanilla extract and vanilla seeds into the cashew cream.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yokes and sugar together.

Slowly heat the coconut milk in a small pot until it just about reaches the boiling point, but do not allow it to boil.  Whisking continuously, pour the hot milk over the egg mixture and return to the pot.  Stir the mixture constantly over low heat until it forms a film on the back of a wooden spoon.

  Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa butter until melted.  Allow the mix to come to room temperature.  Stir in the vanilla cashew cream and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Run through an ice cream maker, as per the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Makes approximately 2 quarts.

The “baby bombe” consisted of cashew cream, coconut milk and banana, frozen in a lined teacup.  She was pretty thrilled, as you might imagine!

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8 things I’m kind of obsessed with

Deep winter is finally upon us and that fire cider has been coming in handy.

One my mind and in my kitchen….

Grapefruit.  We’ve been peeling them like oranges and eating the meat out from between the segments.  It’s messier than slicing them in half and daintily eating with a fork, but far more satisfying.

The perfect teapot.  Having given up hope that I’ll ever come across a giant pottery one like they use to serve tea in the servants hall on Downton Abbey, I think this, in white, may be my more realistic dream teapot.  The one that I use now, which has been without a lid for the past 4 years, is by this same company.  I love, love, love the infuser basket.  And this one is shaped like an acorn. Cute!

 Simplifying.  I know I talk about it all the time, but I’m stepping things up a notch.  I just sent five bags of books packing and I’ve only just begun.

The Concept of a Capsule Wardrobe.  And more specifically, a mostly home-made capsule wardrobe.  This of course ties in with the topic above.  On a ten piece wardrobe.

These Books.  Give me a fantasy adventure geared at teenagers and apparently I’m good to go.  Oh, but I’m almost done!  Suggestions for future reading?

Color.  That’s right, the Queen of Neutrals is all about the color at the moment.

Knitting.  Shocking, right?  But perhaps even more so than usual (I don’t really know how that’s possible either).  After a long hiatus, I’m back to designing and will hopefully have a couple new patterns for you in the very near future!

Tiramisu.  As in trying to figure out a way to make it with safe-to-me ingredients for my birthday next week, quite the challenge!

What’s interesting you these days?

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approximately 7 minutes with the munchkin girl

Seraphina’s knitting

Scene:

Our house, a typical weekday night.

I’m quickly trying to finish something up before Steve and the older boys get home.  Mairi and Galen are upstairs working on a project.  Miss Seraphina is busily running in and out doing her own little toddler thing.

Suddenly I hear, “Mommy!  Mommy!”  “Mommy, hep, hep!!” (help).  I find her locked in the bathroom without a light on, complements of whichever child left the door open this time.  I scoop her up and say, “Were you trapped?” in that soothing mama rhetorical way.  Wide-eyed she nods solemnly and says, “scream”.

A quick cuddle and she squirms to be put down.  I go back to my task.  Just moments later, I’ve got my hands full when I hear her running by behind me.

Me: Whatcha doing baby girl?

Her (cheerfully): Have knife!

Everything is literally dropped on the floor as I come running to find that the knife in question is a plastic butter knife that has somehow escaped our box of camping supplies.

Me: Ok, you can have that one.

Her: *smiles* and runs off again

Me: returns yet again to my task

Around two minutes later…

Galen: Did you know that Seraphina is nakey bottomed on the kitchen table, helping herself to applesauce out of the jar?

She used the knife to serve it.

For the record I was never more than ten feet from her this entire time.  You can kind of tell just by looking at her that she is full of mischief!

Last week I told her to take something out of her mouth.  She smiled at me ever so sweetly and said “no!”.  I gave her the stern mommy look and still with a great big smile, she squinched up her little eyes so as not to see me.

Yup.  This one is going to be a handful.

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A 7th Birthday and a 16th Birthday

Considering the clues and untangling his way through his birthday gift treasure hunt.

“Happy birthday to YOU!”

That handsome young man up there, could that really by my little son??  The one I used to carry about in a star covered sling and tickle and kiss and cuddle?  Can it really be that same boy, who when I hugged him last night, swept me off my feet and carried me across the kitchen?

And goodness gracious, that sweet girl of mine in morning glory blue!  I’ve been wanting to make one of those dresses for years now.  I don’t know why I waited so long?  The pattern is Caesia made in Swish DK, “Twilight”.  Now that’s my kind of princess dress!

If I don’t mention Iain’s sweater can we just pretend that everything went well and that you don’t notice anything, uhm, askew?  This sweater was coming along absolutely beautifully.  I was so excited about it!  The very last thing I had to do was the shaping around the collar.  I walked away from it for a while and couldn’t for the life of me figure out where I was when I picked it up again.  There were days of knitting and ripping and nothing looking right.  Then when I did figure it out things kept going wrong with the shaping.  Nothing would lay as it should.  The cables looked strange.  His birthday loomed ever closer.  I was stressed and not sleeping and feeling like my brain was going to explode and come oozing out my ear.  It got to the point where I couldn’t bear to think about it for a moment longer and I switched to nice, simple, soothing ribbing.  ahhh…  I was so feed up with the whole thing that I couldn’t even be bothered to do it exactly the same on both sides.  The asymmetrical look is in, right?  Yeah, I meant to do that.  Well, actually I did mean to do it, but only because I was at my wit’s end!

The pattern is #732 by Bergere de France made in Comfy Worsted, “Planetarium”.  Even tracking down the pattern was an ordeal.  Alas, after all of that, it’s too short. (!!!)  It fits very nicely across the chest, which I was worried about.  And the sleeves are fine.  Probably because I was so worried about those that I added a couple of extra inches in length.  I added a bit of length to the body as well, but clearly not enough.  I blame the 4 1/4″ that he grew in the last year.  He will get some wear out of it, just not nearly as much as I had hoped. boo.

I finally finished Mairi’s quilt, started several years ago.  I couldn’t figure out a way to discretely do the hand-quilting on Iain’s without him noticing (it’s huge), and I really wanted it to be a surprise.  So I gave him the completed quilt top, along with batting and backing.

I know, it’s such a cliché, so much so that even saying so is a cliché, but I really can’t believe how big these two loves of mine are getting and how very quickly it’s all going! My heart is full of joy and yet aching all at once.

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the perfect everyday cardigan

It would be nice to be with a man who wants to know what’s underneath my cardigan. FYI, it’s another cardigan. ~Amy Farrah Fowler

No, my ideal cardigan is not of pink lace, though this yarn is heavenly…baby soft, both in tone and texture, like knitting wisps of pearly cloud at sunset.

I’m in a period of self examination.  As a mother, do you find yourself over-looking yourself?  I know I do.  I’ll put the greatest of care and thought into decisions and purchases for the children and others, but for myself I just take whatever comes my way.  Whatever is easiest.  Whatever requires the least amount of thought and effort.  I’m trying to be better about caring for myself.  If nothing else, I really want to be a better role model for my girls.

A big part of this process seems to be about paying closer attention to the things that I truly love.  It’s a little startling to realize that I often don’t really know my own likes and dislikes!

For the last, gosh, 20 years or so, I’ve always had a go-to cardigan.  There are others in my collection.  I do love me a good cardigan- that much I know!  But there is always one that I grab consistently, most of the days of the year.  Sad to say, so far I’ve never made a sweater that has been elevated to this status.  My current everyday cardi is on it’s deathbed; pilling, threadbare and well past being presentable in public.  Which has left me considering the elements of my perfect everyday cardigan…  Grey- my last two were grey, that seems to be a theme.  It has to be fairly washable.  At least half wool, just cotton doesn’t cut it.  Not too fitted, but also not too bulky.  Pockets, there must be pockets.  At least thigh length, I think.  Some sort of closure.  Soft.

This pattern was love at first sight.  I think I literally gasped when I saw it.  I really don’t know why, but it just felt entirely right.  The only item off my list that it lacks is some sort of closure, which I think can be remedied with a pretty clasp.  Inconveniently for me, the pattern isn’t available on it’s own, but only as part of a $22 book, which adds a considerable amount to the final sweater cost.  I’ve tried to convince myself of the merits of other patterns, but this one seems to be the one.

Yarn wise I’m thinking Swish Worsted in Dove Heather.  I really should do Marble Heather or Cobblestone Heather.  They would be more practical.  Sometimes I resent practicality.  I’ve really been drawn to lighter colors lately, but with five kids, a garden to tend and most of my day being spent in the kitchen….  Still, I really would prefer the Dove.  Do I risk it?  I think it might just be worth it…  It will be a while before I’m able to put aside the money for it, so I have some time to decide.

Are you as cardigan crazy as I am?  What would be your ideal?

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odds and ends

“The worst thing you can do is to wear a sloppy sweat suit.  I occasionally meet people who dress like this all the time, whether waking or sleeping.  If sweatpants are your everyday attire, you’ll end up looking like you belong in them, which is not very attractive” ~ Maire Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (read while wearing a pair of sweatpants handed down to me by one of my children and looking every bit as though I belong in them)

Galen knitted a hat for my uncle, which I found totally adorable.  And actually there is a really cute story behind it, but probably a bit long to share in this space.  It made me feel really good about the kids being able to have a heart connection with our extended family, even though they are all far away.

I’m trying to get life back on track now that the holidays have passed, including getting back to regular posting here, and failing miserably.  I’m reading The Life Changing Magic when I’m feeling motivated and inspired and a young adult adventure series when I couldn’t care less and just want to pretend everything away!

I am excited about being in this space in the coming year though.  I have a feeling that this year is going to be a pivotal one in my life.  It will be interesting to see what develops.  I have several fresh ideas and exciting projects to share.

Iain and Elijah spent huge chunks of the holiday break trying to figure out how to solve rubiks cubes.  Now that they’ve mastered the 3×3, they’re moving on to more complicated configurations.I’ve spent the last week banishing Christmas from the house and still I’m finding rogue ornaments in the dress-ups basket or amongst books on shelves.  I think…I think, I may finally have gotten it all.

Winter has finally arrived. I made fire cider with our Christmas horseradish and other garden goodies, to help keep our family warm and well through the winter, along with several jars to share with friends.  It’s really fabulous over roasted cauliflower.

Our house is many things to many people, including a concert hall, as needed.

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Christmas 2015

I never plan to take a giant blog break at this time of year, sometimes I even make an effort not to, but it always happens anyway.

I opted out of sewing Christmas pajamas this year, both because I had other projects to concentrate on and because I had something specific in mind that I very much did not want to make.  We purchased double thick, wool-cotton red union suits for the kids.  The making of which would have required sewing about a gazillion button holes in stretch fabric.  My brain translated that as akin to being trapped in a medieval torture device while forced to watch people burn perfectly good yarn.  No, no, and no I say!  It was a good purchase.  They will wear them under work clothes, under snow gear and around the house all winter long.

I was, however, content to do a little Christmas knitting and since the suits we bought came in sizes to fit everyone except for dear Seraphina, I made her one.  Very cute.  And I was right, that Hollyberry is an amazing color for her.

The whole time I was planning for Christmas, I was thinking in terms of keeping everyone warm for the winter.  Steve and I decided together that it was far more important to us that they feel well cared for than entertained.  We gathered together coats and wool socks to go with those woolly suits.  Wool on wool on wool, to shelter our babes from the harshness of a New England winter in the mountains.  On Christmas Day we beat the long standing record high by something like 15 degrees.  I walked barefoot in the garden, mostly so that I could say that I had.  It was far from unpleasant, though a little moist.

Don’t be too freaked out by the shorts and the fan.  It wasn’t that warm!  But I’ve noticed that teenagers tend to exaggerate these things for effect.and there was a smokey kitchen mishap (one of Galen’s precious pies bubbled over).

Some of the kids were devastated by the idea of a truly green Christmas, but they appeared to have a good time all the same.  To me it actually seemed the grandest of gifts.  It will be a story to tell, a memory to share, “Remember that Christmas where we were out playing football in tee-shirts?!?”  After a full summer of not really having the strength to step outside, much less enjoy the weather, I hoped and prayed for a long mild autumn.  And when I was granted it, I found my days too full of trying to play catch up to go out and enjoy it.  But on this one glorious day, I had nothing much left to do and I just reveled in it.  And, well, finally harvested my horseradish…

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