Monday, January 31, 2011

Purging

I have too much stuff. Truly I do. I have more yarn than a mother of three could possibly knit in 5 years. I have a few sewing machines. I have art supplies. I have kitchen appliances. I have stuff.

It is becoming harder to hide my stuff. I can put it into closets, cleverly display it in glass bowls, put it under the bed, use the sewing cabinets as tables, but in the end it is too much. This realization has been slow to fruition. I have preached simplicity. I sold or donated most of my books. I have made a concerted effort to keep our toy population reasonable. I now buy clothing in manageable amounts (prompted by the realization that my then 5yr old oldest son had 22 short sleeve shirts - but they were all on sale or thrifted). It is harder for me to reduce my "stuff."

A few years ago I gave away most of my fabric. I kept a few key pieces that I really liked. It was hard.  I had to accept the fact that I would not use it. Despite all the potential those piles of fabric held, I had to acknowledge my limitations. I would not use it in a timely manner (or I would hate it when I had the time to sew). In all honesty I don't miss the fabric. I like the cleaner look of my sewing cupboard. Everything has a place now.
This week I decided to tackle my yarn stash. I love yarn, and I love knitting. I just am the mother of three small children who homeschools. I don't have time to knit three pairs of socks a month. What was I thinking!!! Armed with my camera I took pictures of almost 30 skeins of yarn (and that doesn't include the 5 sweaters worth of yarn I haven't documented).  It is mostly sock weight yarn, and fingering weight yarn takes a long time to knit.  I posted the yarn on ravelry for sale. So far I have sold 7 skeins. Not bad. I feel lighter already. Some of it is hard to sell as I do love it so, but I know it is better off in the hands of someone who can actually use it.
Now on to figure out what else I can get rid of!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Hiking

With such beautiful weather, it is hard to stay indoors. We have been venturing forth for weekend walks. (We have started calling them walks, because Aine hates hiking. She does, however, enjoy walks.) Last weekend, we visited one of my old haunts in the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. This weekend, Dave picked the hiking locale, and we explored the White Tank Mountains. He chose the Waterfall Trail, and it was a hit.

The White Tank Mountain Regional Park is located on the west side of town. After a brief detour due to the freeway being reduced to one lane, we arrived in the early afternoon. The Waterfall Trail is approximately 2 miles of easy path and only a slight elevation change. It was a bit slow going at first as Benton has decided he does not like the Ergo Carrier or frame backpack and prefers to walk. We sped up once he removed his shoes and walked. This caused many of our fellow walker/hikers to comment on his shoe situation.
Drawing pictures on the path with a stick he discovered

We stopped at signs explaining the flora and fauna. Aine remembered most of the plants from our trip last weekend. We did not see any animals this week, however this particular trail has amazing petroglyphs along the way. We took a look at them and talked a bit about what they might mean.

Petroglyphs used for telling stories with pictures and symbols
When we reached the end of the trail, we were rewarded with a small pool of water and a slowly trickling waterfall. Eamon and Aine skipped rocks on the water making tiny splashes. We felt the water and discovered it was quite cold. We spent a lot of time in this area looking up and around us.


Near the entrance to the pool are many large rocks and boulders just waiting to be climbed. We found carabiners on some of the rock faces. Eamon and Aine quickly scaled one of the large rocks, and Benton wanted to join them. He figured out a few footholds and was right behind them. Dave followed as he went as the boulder was a bit large. This led to more climbing and exploring.



The walk back was a bit quicker. Benton climbed onto Dave's shoulders, and we set off. We even ran a bit. The visibility was very good, and we could see Four Peaks. We talked about the upcoming spring flowers, and how we need to return to see the waterfall after our spring rains. It was a beautiful day, and we had a wonderful time. We will have to see where our walking takes us next week.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Good Foundation

Lately I have been thinking a lot about my Grandma W. When I was younger I would spend a week with her during the summer. It was a great time. Grandma was a widow who worked as a cook at the school in her town. She had lived in her area all her life, so she knew many people. We would spend our days puttering around the house, visiting relatives, walking around the reservoir, walking to church and the library, and watching her stories.

Grandma loved visiting and would take you to see Aunt Alice with her floor looms for hand quilting, Aunt Ruth with her candy jars, great grandma with her mysterious dark rooms, Roxanne with the basement hair salon, Aunt Adelphia and her daughter June, her friend Betty, and many more. She would talk about who lived where when and what they were currently doing. She told me about my dad and painting houses with my grandfather. She told me everything about her town, and a lot about the neighboring towns as we drove around in her blue Buick Monarch.

Soap operas intrigued her, and she loved One Life to Live and Guiding Light. She called them her stories. As a widow, Grandma was also partial to Tom Selleck. I always wondered what exactly she meant when she said he could put his slippers under her bed anytime. If we weren't busy, we would watch her shows in the afternoon working on crossword puzzles together. She was a whiz at crosswords. Occasionally she would start to snooze a bit with the warm sun coming in the front windows.

Grandma was quick with a game of Old Maid. She would try to foul you up by putting cards in the front of her glasses and look at you like nothing was amiss. Should you pick from her hand or grab the one sticking out of her glasses? Oh, how to decide! She loved playing games -- War, Go Fish, Rummy, Old Maid and sometimes Euchre.

There were always sandwich cookies in her house. Sometimes she even had the neopolitan wafer cookies. The ones that you could separate into layers and eat the cream and then the flaky wafers. She was generous with them too. You weren't limited to three like at home. She also had a stash of gum. I remember her always chewing gum. She would give you a stick whenever you wanted one. At Christmas she even gave you a plenti-pac!

After dinner most nights, we took a walk throughout the neighborhood. She would stop and talk to people as the mosquitoes started to appear. We would head to one of the three reservoirs in town. You could walk clear around them. It was great fun throwing rocks into the water and watch the sunset. She was a spry and energetic Grandma.

There are other things to remember about my Grandma -- her shower in the basement, keeping glass soda bottles on the stairwell, the heat register in her middle room, her garden, the smell of the garage --but the biggest thing reminding me of my grandmother this week is her foundation garments. I always wondered about them. They were all white, and they were pointed. Why did they stand up when she dried them on the washer or the line? My moms laid flat, but not Grandma's. The reason I have thought about my Grandma and her foundation garments is that I went shopping this week. All I saw were pointed, preformed cups. They looked just like the ones my Grandmother wore. Granted the new style is colorful and textured, but they still look the same to me. 

So as I tried on various sizes, I thought of my grandmother. I thought of her changing into pants from shorts to leave the house. I thought of her running upstairs when I was scared during the night. I thought of my first memories at her house when I cut my own hair. And then I thought of her smooth silhouette and of Tom Selleck.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Not enough time

If only I could read and knit. I enjoy audiobooks, but right now I have quite a few books to enjoy the old fashioned way. I am reading The Room for my book group. It is an intriguing read. I often wonder how many people realize the little boy is an extended nurser. I am still knitting the monster longies for a set of twins expected to arrive in May. I am eager to begin my first sweater when I am done.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beautiful Weather

We are fortunate to live in the land of sunshine. This time of year it is difficult to be inside. We have endless blue skies and temperatures in the 70s. The weather is just too wonderful. I know many people are battling snow, ice and cold, but we enjoy the winter in our little corner of the world. 

The kiddos are busy riding bikes, running around the block, and playing catch. Scooters, bikes, plasma car, dump truck and skates all get plenty of use. We are riding to the park for play with a lunch to eat on a blanket in the grass.  Knitting is done in the sunshine amidst games of catch, guarding the soccer goal and racing around the block.

Eamon and Aine even wanted to test the pool. It is still a bit chilly for swimming, but everyone stuck their feet into the water. 




Monday, January 24, 2011

Secret Letters

Inspired by Unplug Your Kids, today we made some invisible ink and wrote a few letters. I mixed up the two ink concoctions. The first was fresh lemon juice. The second was a mixture of equal parts baking soda and water. Armed with cotton swabs, the kiddos worked on their mysterious letters. Aine enjoyed creating drawings and notes with her invisible ink.
Eamon did a few drawings, but worked mostly on decoding the messages. He used a light bulb to read his invisible ink.
I wrote my letter for the 4th week of the 52 project to my niece Ashlyn using the invisible ink. I used both types of ink and even drew a picture for her. I am sure she will like using her detective skills to read the letter.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Date Night

Our science center provides a lot of opportunities for homeschoolers. They offer reduced memberships, educators nights, guest speakers, family science nights and homeschool science classes. We value the opportunities it provides and try to visit often. We received notification that all educators could preview the new Body Worlds exhibit for free. My parents offered to babysit, so Dave and I headed out to Body Worlds at our science center for the educator night on Saturday.

I enjoyed the exhibit when it was in town previously, but Dave had never seen it. It is an interesting look at human anatomy. Each display had copious amounts of information and intricate anatomical marvels to examine. We spent almost 2 hours touring through the exhibit. I even overheard another couple mention that they too were homeschoolers and were enjoying a date night!

After Body Worlds, we continued our date night with dinner. It is nice to have a few hours to ourselves to talk. Although we do talk about the kiddos, we talk about so many other things. I truly enjoy spending this time with Dave.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Abundance

As a family we strive to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.  We enjoy growing our own food and have belonged to several CSAs. We also shop at the farmer's market when possible. In addition we  participate in a produce buying coop. It is not always seasonal or local, but it works for us right now. I volunteer and run the site closest to our home. Every Saturday morning you can find me at the park helping distribute produce very early in the morning. It has been great for our area. I meet a lot of our neighbors and recognize more faces when I am at the library, gymnastics class, and the park.

The contents of our basket change week to week. On Saturday I try to create a weekly menu from what we have received. Some weeks we fly through the food.  Other times, it takes a bit longer. Recently we have had a plethora of winter squash. We had a bounty of acorn, kabocha, spaghetti and butternut. Especially butternut. Our family loves Butternut Squash Soup and Baked Rice with Butternut Squash, but we can only eat so much of it. Luckily my mom had a different recipe. She had a recipe for bread. She claimed it was the best bread, and she was right.

I roasted two smaller butternuts and made the bread. I omitted a bit of the sugar in the interest of making it a bit healthier (snort). I took a loaf to a playdate, and everyone ate it. A few of the children took several pieces. I even saw a dad eat it. We have only a small piece left, so we have plans to make some more tomorrow.

I am sharing the recipe with you, because it is that good. Any changes I made are included in parentheses. Enjoy!

All that is left of 2 huge loaves
Butternut Squash Bread
1 c oil (I used coconut oil)
1 c water
3 c sugar (I used 2 cups with no problem)
2 c pureed butternut squash (I used two smaller squash)
4 eggs or equivalent egg substitute
3 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
2 cups nuts, pecans or walnuts (I would use less next time)


Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour 3 loaf pans (I used two, because that is all I have). 
Roast the squash. (I sliced the squash and seeded it. Each half was placed cut side down in a dish with a bit of olive oil. I baked it at 400 degrees until it could be easily pierced with a fork. Spoon out the squash flesh.) 
In a large bowl, mix squash, egg, oil, water, and sugar until well blended. Set aside.
In separate bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients except nuts.
Stir dry ingredients into squash mixture. Lightly fold in nuts. Pour into prepared pans.
Bake for 75 minutes or until toothpick is clean.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Amazing Ordinary Day


Today was a great day. Benton and I cleaned the kitchen; he helped wash dishes and make dinner in the crockpot. I rearranged the kitchen giving us a lot more counter space. We read Judge Benjamin: Superdog together. Benton cut a bit of his hair. Aine and Eamon played Minecraft and Crazy Machines. We ate a delicious lunch. There was a bit of painting. Benton napped. We spent time outside playing in dirt, using the hose, riding bikes, and shelling pecans. Everyone enjoyed baths. We ate a delicious dinner of spaghetti with side salads and apple cobbler. We read more books. Dave ironed clothes.

Sounds less than amazing when written down. It is true that it was a rather ordinary day. We didn't go anywhere fantastic. We didn't even make it to our homeschooling park day. I wasn't even able to do any crafting, although I did find my missing yarn in the train bin. We truly just enjoyed being together and going about our day. Days like today remind us of what we find important and how lucky we are to be together.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Comics

Eamon loves reading. He especially enjoys comics. Initially he would read the exploits of Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Duey and Louie. He then read several Pokemon chronicles.  One of his uncles loaned him a few Calvin and Hobbes books, and a whole new world unfolded. However the interest waned a bit when the books were no longer readily available.

Recently a friend let him borrow an anthology of Calvin and Hobbes. The interest was renewed. Then his grandpa gave him a large stack of Calvin and Hobbes books. Now he is reading Calvin and Hobbes all the time. He loves Calvin.


"Mama, mama, guess what Calvin did."
"Okay, listen to this..."
"So, guess who is hiding behind the door...Hobbes...and he is counting...and Calvin is coming in the house. This is hilarious!"


Eamon reads Calvin first thing in the morning, while he eats, before bed and every time in between. He laughs out loud at the exploits of this little boy and his tiger pal. He is enamored by the mischief which unfolds.  He believes Calvin would be a good friend to have. Although Dave and I are a bit unsure of the mischievous nature of his hero, Eamon is undeterred and finds Calvin irresistible. He does not tire of these books and has reread each of the books he has received several times.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Visitors

We are fortunate to have a few of our cousins living very close by our home. Today they paid us a brief visit. Benton and Aine enjoyed running around the front yard with them. They rode bikes, scooters and worked on building projects.  Benton showed his cousin how to hammer, and she rewarded him with a kiss. He was a bit perplexed by the display of affection, but he rolled with it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Third

He almost fell asleep on the way to Grandma's house. 
He played and ran around with her and his brother and sister exploring a previous generations' toys.
He explored at the park climbing trees and swinging from jungle gyms.
He reluctantly went home.
He took a bath.
He wanted a bandaid for his thumb and ankle.
He sat on mama's lap for dinner.
He flattened his food with a fork.
He quickly jumped up after eating.
He replied "uh huh" when asked if he was going to brush his teeth.
He was found moments later fast asleep.

Friday, January 14, 2011

On the Bright Side

I have been sick, suffering from the same malady as the children. It has not been fun. When the mama is sick, things do not go well.  On Wednesday, we sat in front of the TV watching movies. Luckily Dave was able to take Thursday off of work to hold down the fort. Having him home meant I could sleep and recuperate. Today the fever seems to be waning, and I was actually able to do a few things. Granted I still stayed mostly in bed, but I was able to function a bit better.

On the bright side, during this bout of illness and forced bit of rest, I have completed the Easy Drop Stitch Scarf, read Ninth Ward (did I mention she was one of my favorite professors in college), started The Girl Who Played with Fire as well as Knitting Rules! and watched a few movies on Netflix.  You have to use your down time wisely!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Still Sick

Everyone here seems to be sick.  It seems like every stage from beginning to end is covered.  We are watching a lot of movies, reading a load of books, listening to a few audiobooks, making comfort food and just plain old laying around the house.  The kiddos are already asleep, and I think I am going to go cuddle up with a book.  I am currently reading Ninth Ward which was written by a former professor of mine.  Read it; it is quite good.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Final Gift Finished

For my dad's birthday I gave him an IOU.  I don't like to do this, but when your birthday is a week before Christmas you leave me with little choice.   I told my dad he would be the lucky recipient of a pair of handknit socks.  He was presented with the pattern and his yarn, which Eamon and Aine had picked out.  The skeins were Cascade 220 Superwash in blue and red.  He wondered why the colors were selected and then offered a few suggestions about sizing and fit.  He may have also grumbled about IOU gifts and hoping to have them before summer.

I started knitting the socks just before Christmas.  The yarn is a worsted weight, so I was able to knit them quickly.  I had him try on the first sock for fit.  It was perfect, so I forged ahead.  I finished the pair and gave them to him yesterday.  He was quite pleased.  I hope he gets a lot of wear out of them and has warm toes.

Thuja Sock detailed info on ravelry

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Long Day

Today Dave and I attended a memorial service for his Uncle Bill.  His uncle was an amazing man who was loved and respected by many.  He was a master in his field.  He loved animals, and he loved those close to him.  I remember the first time I met him.  Dave and I had not been dating long when he took me to his aunt and uncle's home.  His uncle was a big taciturn fellow, and I was quite certain he disliked me.  They took us to dinner, and I remember riding in their vintage car with the windows down.  Dave spoke a bit to them, but I was more quiet having put my foot in my mouth about not liking meat.  At the restaurant, I spilled my spaghetti dinner down the front of my shirt, and Uncle Bill just looked at me and laughed.  He had the most infectious laugh.  He then said something to lighten the moment and put me at ease.   He had a quick wit and a ready smile.  He was important to my husband, and he will be missed.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

52 in 11

When my grandfather died last year, my mother and her brothers went through his home.  They sorted his possessions and determined what to keep, donate or throw away.  Among the treasures to keep were a stack of old letters, cards and miscellaneous correspondence.  From this pile, I received a few letters that I had written to my grandparents over the years.  Some were thank-you cards, others wrote about the mundane everyday occurrences in my life.  They had saved them.  They kept them all tucked away to read again.


Some days I feel like the art of letter writing is dying with the older generations.  Too often, I receive emails or text messages in lieu of a letter.  I enjoy writing letters, and like most people I enjoy receiving them.  I try to make sure I write letters.  I try to write cards or letters for no reason.  Small packages are also important to me.  I send them to my nieces and nephews filled with small things I find, which remind me of them. 


A few weeks ago I formulated a plan to mail letters on a regular basis to a few people.  I want to make sure they know I am thinking of them.  Then this past week, I read about a letter writing challenge for 2011.  It seems simple - write 52 letters or one every week for a year.  I decided to join.

My letter this week is actually a few letters.  I wrote expressing my thanks for the gifts I received this holiday season.  I enjoyed sitting down with my children to write our thank-yous.  We talked a bit about the people we would contact and how we felt about them.  I really look forward to writing more letters this year and with any luck I hope to complete the challenge.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Tired and Under the Weather

Today was a slow day.  Aine and I went to Girl Scouts to learn all about cookie sales.  That adventure begins 1/15, and Aine is very excited.  The boys stayed home and relaxed.  Eamon has not felt well, and Benton has been tired.  
When we returned home, we watched a lot of PBS and a few things on Netflix.  The kiddos currently love The Wild Kratts.  We built with blocks and did a bit of Blokus.  Butternut squash soup was eaten for dinner followed by early bed for all.  Benton was so tired, he fell asleep while sitting up.