Category Archives: Food

The First Week of (Home) School

Homeschooling quote of the week: “I am not talking to myself, I’m hosting an impromptu parent-teacher conference”

We managed a little walk in the woods together, I believe for the first time all summer.  And a trip to the pond as well.  In a normal year we would go from the end of spring, through the beginning of autumn at least once a week for the better part of the day.  I think this was only our third 1-2 hour visit of the year, so it felt like a big deal.  The teeny-tiny people on the teeny-tiny island out in the middle there are my great-big boys.  We came home with a bucket full of treasures and much to detail in our nature journals.

I’m not squeamish about snakes, and I say this as someone who has been bitten by a snake- everyone present freaked out, I found it totally (perhaps morbidly?) fascinating (it didn’t hurt at all, it was crazy to see this thing attached to me and the fang marks on my arm were pretty cool).   Snakes don’t bother me, except when there is the possibility of an overlap between bare baby feet and poison/fangs.  Last summer Steve and Iain were pretty sure they spotted a copperhead sunning itself in our squash garden.  And while I don’t mind snakes, I’m also not particularly knowledgeable about them, though we all learned quite a bit in this last week.  So we were very cautious around and in identifying this neonate that we found on the driveway.  Thankfully, from what we can tell, this one appears to be a type of brown snake, and therefore harmless.  Unlike the poisonous “White Baneberry”, also known as “Doll’s Eye’s” (Actaea pachypoda) that we came across later in the woods.

My first batch of apple themed books came in from the library.  Emily of New Moon is not, in fact, apple related, but with the pretty apple speckled cover on this edition, it fit right in.

We started school a week earlier than usual this year, because there have been some big changed in our little homeschool.  With the intention of earning an official high-school diploma in a couple years time, Iain is now enrolled in a virtual high-school.  Classes started for him this week and I wanted to be sure we had a bit of time together, to ease into the school year, before so much of his day was taken up in a room closed off from us.  This is a totally new experience for our family.  So far it has been much more time intensive for me than I was anticipating!

Speaking of time, there is none.  Ever again.  In August I sat and got my homeschool binder in order and it seems our calendar is full to bursting, and still going strong three to four months out.  I refuse to look beyond that point.  I’m not sure how this is even possible.

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Lil Shepherd in the Rain

In an otherwise dry summer, I feel as though we’ve had a whole season’s worth of rain over the last week.  There were points when I was convinced that the entire house was just going to bob up and float away.  I would lie in bed at night in semi-consciousness listening to the torrent all around me and get the impression that I myself was being washed away.  In a way I kind of adored it.

I made Seraphine a Lil Shepherd vest a couple of weeks ago when I needed a break from tiny sock needles and thin fiddly sock yarn for bitty socks.  She likes the vest (I think it’s the pom-poms) and the socks, which is a huge boon for me because more and more often lately she’s been telling me that woolen items are not soft and that they “hurt”.  She’s very fickle.  There are some items that I consider rough, but she accepts without question and others that are soft as can be and she turns her nose up at them!  Very frustrating for a mama-knitter.  It seems to help for her to see me knitting them.  She always wants to know what I’m making and who it’s for.  Then there is a build up of excitement about this special bit of clothing just for her.  I think that may have been the saving grace of the vest and socks.

I just started reading A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle.  I can’t remember who recommended it?

The salad above is kale with chicken, avocado, black olives and that vegetable cheese I’ve been making (it’s similar to this, but we have our own way of doing it).  That was nice, but I’m terribly disgruntled about food in general lately and sick to death of everlasting elimination diets, which I’ve been on various variations of for the better part of 16 years now.  And I just seriously need a big long vacation from the whole darn thing.  Unfortunately, vacations from eating don’t tend to work out well.  I know there are plenty of ways to make it exciting and delicious, I’m just too everlasting busy and tired to, a) be that creative and b)  actually have the time to make it all.  And the times when I do manage to make something novel and interesting, it takes hours to create and disappears in mere moments because there are so many people digging in.  Alright, end rant.  Moving on.  Here if not in my head.

I’ve experienced a very unexpected knitting/wardrobe windfall!  I had this theory that my best bet, as my kids get older, for insuring that they quietly and happily keep wearing my knitted goods was to be as discreet about their home-made nature as possible….classic men’s wear colors, simple designs, nothing that’s going to call too much attention. In passing Iain mentioned liking brown, so I was thrilled when a shade of brown went on clearance in my favorite, go-to, everyday yarn (the color is “Doe”.  It’s now sold out in worsted, but still available in DK weight for $2.81 a ball, which is a pretty fabulous price for superwash merino!). I ordered enough for a sweater and started planning my simple, non-threatening, fingers-crossed teenager approved, palatable classic.

Imagine my surprise when a week after the yarn arrived he told me he wanted me to make him something “wild” and unlike anything he owns, with as many colors as possible!  Preferably loud, bright, attention grabbing colors!  I guess the joke is on me with that one!  That’s more than alright because the consolation prize for being way off base is that I’m getting a new autumn sweater after-all.  The full coverage warm sort of one that I had in mind, though in a different color and pattern than planned.  I never would have bought the yarn for myself, but since it’s already here…  And I also have the unique, endearing and amusing task of working up a wild and crazy sweater for my son’s seventeenth birthday.  Not a bad deal at all.

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And it was summer-

warm, beautiful summer. ~Hans Christian Anderson

After dinner swim…

This girl cracks me up.  This is the funny face you get if you ask for a smile…

Maybe some peek-a-boo?

I made BBQ Pizza with Chicken, Bacon and Cilantro.  We used our own crust recipe.  I omitted both the cumin and the maple syrup from the sauce and switched out the apple butter for pumpkin puree.  It was very good.  I think it may be even better with the apple butter: motivation for putting up extra jars this autumn.

Mairi Rose has been all about popsicles this summer.  This left me scrambling for some sort of popsicle mold.  I could not bring myself to buy the plastic ones.  These stainless steel ones look great.  But when you add up the per person price for as many people as we have?  Eeek.  Steep.  Finally, I spent $10 on a set of made-in-Spain tempered juice glasses.  We fill them up, pop in a spoon which we already have, freeze and voila!  A couple minutes on the counter and they pop out perfectly.  The ones I got are actually a little big for this purpose, which of course everyone is seriously thrilled by.

I had a conversation years ago with a friend who was trying to build an ecologically sound, healthy house.  He was talking about how in the name of recycling and conserving resources you could go out and buy an incredible artisan crafted sink made of say, reclaimed copper for thousands of dollars.  Or you could go to your local salvage shop and get a previously owned sink for $30.  I often try to think in those terms.  There isn’t always a simple, less splashy and obvious solution, but often times there is.

I’m reading The Secret Garden to the younger children.  I used to read it aloud ever year, but it’s now been several years since I have.  Long enough that they don’t remember it.  The older two, of course, could probably tell you the story inside and out!

Another pair of toddler socks done and her looking like a wee, woodland sprite in them.  The yarn is leftover Stroll Sock Yarn, from Elijah’s vest, in “Peapod” and “Forest Heather”.

The world….I don’t know what to say.  It always seems almost vulgar to post about quiet, sweet everyday life in the face of so much suffering.  To say my thoughts and prayers are with those who are in pain seems both trite and obvious.  Like most people, I don’t have any answers.

Edited to add dress details because a couple of people asked.

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days of pink lace

I’m still reading and enjoying The Summer Book.

I’m trying to pull myself out of a long standing food funk.  Breakfast one day last week: Cinnamon-Raisin Meatballs, broccoli from our garden and half a Japanese yam.

I’ve gotten out of the habit of making sauerkraut, even though my children love it and it’s excellent for them and good too just to have around to pad out meals.  After years of successful kraut making, we were experiencing problems with mold growth.  It was frustrating and wasteful and at some point I just gave up.  This time I used this method, packing it in a Fido Jar to ferment and it turned out beautifully.  We get our jars at our local Farmer’s Supply, but you can also find them here.

I’ve also been experimenting with making vegetable based “cheeses”.  I added some fresh herbs from the garden to the batch above.

Speaking of the garden, these purple radishes have grown amazingly this year.  I wish I could remember what variety they are!

The first pair of little toddler socks are done and seriously a more adorable, little, rosy, lacy pair of tiny ankle socks has never been seen.  I always want to nibble her toes when she wears them.  They are made of yarn leftover from this dress and bonnet.  Would you just look at her perfectly precious, tiny baby self?  Darling little love of my heart.

There are so many small projects going on all the time here, but little to no time to share them.

The chicken coop is well underway!  So far we’ve managed to use all salvaged materials.  Once we get to the siding I think we’ll be investing in some local rough-cut lumber.

Someone discovered her old Moses basket!

Do you know the trick of blocking hats and bonnets over an inflated balloon?  Just blow it up to about the size you need and balance it on a bowl.  Or, as in this case, with a very tiny bonnet, a large mug.

One of my oldest and dearest friends just found out that her fifth baby is going to be her first girl.  If that isn’t a reason to knit a pink lacy bonnet, I don’t know what is!  (you can’t tell me that there is never a reason.  I simply won’t believe you.)

This is my Flora Irene pattern again (also here and here).  I have three patterns either ready or almost ready to go out to test knitters.  But the test knitting process requires my being ever available and quick to answer questions.  And as my over-flowing inbox will attest, that is *not* in the cards at the moment.  frustrating.

Oh, have I mentioned it’s reversible?

I often get asked why I don’t talk more about chronic illness and how it effects our lives.  I guess the simple answer is that there is enough heartbreak and sorrow in the world.  And I’d rather devote my precious little time to trying to put some beauty and joy out there.

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And so it begins…

My allergies have been awful this year.  I’m the human equivalent of a machine gun, sneezing in rapid-fire succession, with Seraphina chorusing, “Bless you Mommy!  Bless you, bless you, bless you, bless you!”, one for each and every sneeze like a courteous echo.

It’s a funny thing to have a family of dancers.  Seraphina saw one of those photos above and casually said, “That Galen flying.” As if one of her siblings taking to flight is the most natural and expected thing in world.

I just started reading Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book.  It seemed fitting.  Recital season is over and now the summer begins in earnest. We had our first pond trip of the year.

I’ve been knitting little toddler socks. The Violet-Girl needs socks and I thought that if I used bits of yarn leftover from other projects and knit a pair here and there over the summer, by autumn she could have a nice little stash of them tucked away.

I was asked about a recipe for the chicken soup in this post.  I’m afraid I don’t really have a recipe!  I never do for things like soup.  It just cut up whatever veggies I have about that sound good.  Usual for this sort of soup would be carrots, onions, celery, yam is nice, parsnips, perhaps some turnips or Jerusalem artichokes, maybe some cauliflower.  Add the chopped up veggies to chopped up chicken, cover with home-made broth (that part is important, it makes all the difference in the world), add some freshly crushed garlic or finely chopped garlic leaves and let it simmer until everything is soft.  At the very end I’d add in lots of greens, kale in this case.  Salt to taste.  For this particular soup I stirred in coconut milk and lime juice after everything was cooked.  Fresh cilantro makes a nice addition as well.

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Summer Solstice

The children found a fallen and abandoned nest in the woods, nothing very out of the ordinary about that, but this one happens to be lined with a lock of Mairi Rose’s hair!

Breakfast fixin’s from the garden: garlic scapes, onion tops, sweet thyme, mint, pineapple sage and regular sage to season our sausage patties.  Lemon balm for tea.  Once the sausages were cooked I tossed all the greens from the bottom of the basket; collards, kale and the last of the bolting spinach, in the pan with the juices, added a bit of broth, then covered them and steamed.

 

We usually have a Solstice celebration.  Last week I was thinking about how I wanted to do something special, but I never really got beyond that thought.  The day of, on my way up to put the baby down for a nap, I told them all to come up with a plan while I was away.

This is what they came up with: A picnic dinner in the garden.  Burning the Swedish Torch that Iain made a few months back.  Baking and eating strawberry-rhubarb pie (as we are not currently eating any sweetener or grains and they made up the recipe themselves, this part was kind of gross, but they seemed happy with it anyway!).  And launching rockets.  I added a sun inspired craft and our celebration was complete.

 

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knitterly

It’s been unseasonably cool this last week. I wore my new cowl, made a giant pot of chicken soup with lots of greens and garlic leaves from the garden and made angel baby a new bonnet.  I was cranky about the lack of muffin-like things in our current diet, until I found this recipe for Morning Glory Muffins and was somewhat appeased.

I’m working on the cowl pattern now.  I don’t like it when I design things that I then have to model.  It’s awkward.  Perhaps I should stick to writing children’s patterns?

I haven’t been doing much reading, just listlessly paging through random books from time to time, preferably the kind with pictures.

Oh, and I don’t think I ever posted a full length picture of Mairi Rose’s birthday dress, so there is one above.

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simple cookery: pork chops and greens in tangy lime sauce (AIP friendly)

3 pork chops

1 T coconut oil

1/4 C coconut aminos

1/4 C lime juice

1 tsp smoked sea salt

1/2 onion, large clove garlic

spinach or other greens

optional: fresh mint for garnish, cauliflower

Preheat oven to 350.  Slice the onion and roughly chop the garlic.  Set aside.  Heat the coconut oil in a cast iron or other oven safe pan.  Brown the pork chops on all sides.  Set the chops aside.  Place the onions, garlic and smoked sea salt at the bottom of the pan.  Lay the pork chops on top.  Pour the lime juice and coconut aminos over top.  Bake for approximately approximately 13 minutes or until chops are cooked through.

Set the pork chops aside on a platter,  Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and use the juices to wilt as much spinach as will fit in your pan.  Other greens work as well, but spinach is my favorite for this.  You will have to heat it for a few minutes on the stove top with other greens.  Serve the pork chops over streamed cauliflower- preferably steamed in chicken broth for added flavor and nutrition- with greens, onions and sauce.  Garnish with finely chopped fresh mint.

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June

“Things didn’t turn out the way that they were supposed to, but what can you do?  You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it” ~Yann Martel, Life of Pi

I finished Life of Pi.  While there were some aspects of it that I liked, I did not enjoy reading it. I do not enjoy gruesome violence.  And yet at the end it left me with many things to think about.  And I feel like it could inspire many deep and intriguing conversations.  I think I’ll pass it on to the teenager who has a high threshold for gore and hold it back from the one who, like me, is more sensitive to such things.

“Cake” decorating.

I love the way that rain and dew cling to lady’s mantle.  I have mixed feelings about this year’s garden.  I try to spend any time out there in the front, where most of the flowers are.  Ever changing, wild masses at a distance and pure delicate beauty up close, they are cheering.  For now anyway.  If I don’t find the strength and time to put some serious work in on them, they will quickly be over run, much like sections of our vegetable garden…

In theory a garden bed exists under this.  The back, our beloved kitchen garden, mostly makes me feel anxious and guilty.  I haven’t had the strength for it and the open land is reclaimed so quickly.  It’s over-whelming.  Steve has spearheaded a work team on weekends and occasional evenings.  Slowly, with the help of the kids, the garden is being brought back in hand.  On my own I’ll go out and try to do a bit here and there, only to be thwarted by some minor setback, throw my hands up in the air and retreat.

When she thinks we’re not watching, this one makes a beeline for the stone wall and deftly scales it, hoping to go exploring in the woods before anyone notices she’s gone.  When caught she quickly turns around, with her hands in her lap and a painted on expression of sweet innocence and declares with tellingly over-dramatic force and emotion, “I just sittin’ here!”

uh-huh.

A pair of grey foxes at dusk, as seen through my living room window.  One of the reasons I’m questioning the logic of our potential chicken venture.  

Two new holzhausen, making our front garden seem like a tiny village.

In the last two weeks I’ve knitted almost an entire adult sweater- body, button bands, collar, one full sleeve and two-thirds of a second.  If nothing else it is surely a personal record.  Ironically, this must make me sound like a lady of leisure.  If only that were true.  One of my children has been very ill, in a way that keeps us both up late into the night, every night.  I crawl into bed, desperate and weak, as the birds begin their morning serenade.  Most of the time there is not much I can do, beyond being present.  Luna moths bounce off the window screens, while we watch 60′s sitcoms as a distraction from the pain, our skin becomes polka-dotted with no-see-um bites and, in between providing all the practical care I can, I knit in an attempt to stay sharp and sane.

This summer is not shaping up to be the one I had planned.  In my mind, though I don’t mean to do it, I sometimes find that I’ve already written it off and started looking towards fall.

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cook, knit, plant, repeat

The woods are misty green.  There are violets everywhere.  Seraphina calls them “Violet Juliette ..(our last name)..”s (her name is Seraphina Violet Juliette).  Dandelions are “Gordie-Dandy lions”, a reference to our friends Gordie and Dandy.

We’re trying to blitz-plant the garden.  The black flies are suddenly terrible.  We come up with a plan, all run out the door and try to put it into action right quick, before the bugs make us so crazy that we are all driven back inside in a buzzing cloud.

Elijah’s vest is done, and with a week to spare! There were 155 ends to work in. He counted. It’s now blocking.

I’ve mostly been getting on with some mending. Which is a good thing, since I tend to neglect it and with 5 active children it’s often much needed. Sometimes I can be so foolish! I found an entire sweater who’s only flaw was snapped yarn on a single stitch! Somehow I never thought to just fix it. And in my head there was a terrible lot that needed fixing about it, which I suppose is what happens when you leave something at the bottom of a work basket for years. Because why else wouldn’t I have just fixed it? Oh no, surely it must be a big project. Oh well, at least I’ve discovered it in time for it to pass through 3 more children! Sometimes having a big family brings with it less obvious blessings….like second, third and fourth chances!

Otherwise my knitting is sort of stalled out. I started playing around with making up a stitch pattern. It’s interesting looking, but I don’t think it’s the type of fabric I want for the project I had in mind. Too stiff. I want something mindless, but not quite as mindless as my blanket. Something quick and satisfying.
I have this little bit of yarn here that I know is not enough to turn into a vest for Galen, but that I still want to turn into a vest for Galen, and therefore keep trying to convince myself that it is indeed possible. Even though it’s really not.  And he doesn’t even really need a vest.  It was just a whim of mine.

I’m still reading and enjoying Spark Joy.

Yesterday I woke up thinking of the great many things I wanted to do with the day, but I ended up spending most of it in the kitchen, cooking, very, very slowly.  Pictured above is the Urban Poser Tomato-less Marinara in progress and this Oxtail Stew, which turned out on the greasy side, but that may have been due to some of my modifications.

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