Saturday, July 30, 2011

Yum...Nutella

A friend of mine recently gave birth to twins. Our family brought them food to help during their adjustment to a family of five. Sharing meals with a family during times of transition is such a help. I try to make a main dish, side and dessert. This time I experimented with a new recipe for dessert. I made Nutella Meringues.

I didn't think I had the patience for meringues. In the past I could never get the eggs to stiff peaks and ended up with lump cookies. This time everything worked perfectly. The eggs were beat to perfection, and the nutella added a delightful richness. I packed up half the cookies for our friends. The remaining cookies disappeared fast. Everyone wants me to make them again. It was a definite success.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Plum Crazy

Arizona has two growing seasons compared to other places. We can have a wonderful garden during the winter and spring. The summer, however, is pretty dreary in the produce area. Fortunately we have close neighbors with great growing seasons. Recently I was able to procure around 20 pound of plums from California. They were organic and looked beautiful.

I set them out for eating, since the small people love eating fresh fruit. These plums just sat. I cut them up for meals, but no one under 8 ate them. When I asked what was wrong, each told me that they were too sweet and juicy. I could not believe it.

So, I had a box of plums to eat or store while temperatures outside hovered in the 110s. I procrastinated a bit, but I could not ignore them for long as they were occupying valuable refrigerator space. This weekend I finally succumbed and pulled out the canning equipment.

All went really smoothly and I didn't overheat the house too much. I made plum jam, plum chutney and plum conserve, because I had so many plums. I used Pomonas Universal Pectin, so I could cut the amount of sugar needed significantly. The plum jam and chutney recipes originated from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. It took a lot longer than I had planned as it seems everything does. Although it was not my harvest to preserve, I now have quite a few jars of plum preserves for the cooler months to spread on toast or have with roasts.
Plum Conserve, Plum Chutney and Plum Jam

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Reading and Writing

We love to read and be read to in our home. Eamon devours books. Aine brings bags full home from the library. Benton pulls books off the bookshelves and flips through the pages. Dave and I both read or listen to audiobooks. We listen to books whenever we are in the car. Books are really important to us.

I have struggled to find a way to keep track of the books we have read or want to read. Recently Molly posted about getting a commonplace for her daughters to record the books they had read. I loved the idea and set out to get a set of books for Eamon and Aine. I told them about the books. Eamon was not very excited about it. Aine, however, loved the idea.


We decided together that we would use them for the bigger books we read. Later, Aine and I sat down to read. I was reading Jenny and the Cat Club to her, and wanted to finish the story. When we were done, Aine set to work recording her first book in her journal. She then asked what the various quotes said throughout the book as well as the instructions for other pages. She quickly recorded the first book she wrote, which is entitled Aine. I suggested perhaps she needed another book to jot down her ideas before she filled up this one. I found the small notebook her aunt gave her whih had been placed aside in a drawer. Aine quickly made more notes in her journal asking how to spell words. She put both books in her purse and was quite satisfied with her accomplishments.
In addition to recording the books Eamon and Aine read in their book journals, I am trying to record our reading online at Goodreads. It seems to be working fairly well. I want to make sure we have a record of what we loved reading from picture to chapter books. It also helps to have one place to record what books others recommend or ones we want to read in the future. So far it seems to be working.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Road Tripping - Jerome and Flagstaff

My tribe is comprised of some amazing women. Some women I have known and loved for 8 years. Some who may not even know they are part of such a thing. Without these people, I am not sure I would be the mother I am. The vary in their lives, but they all are important to me.

My tribe started when a group of women met online and then in person. This core group continues to meet although not as often. Our weekly playdates have morphed into more sporadic meetings as children grow up, some pursuing school while others kept at home. Despite the infrequency, our time together is special. Las week, we planned to visit one of our group that had moved to Flagstaff. She was moving into a new home and needed her friends to help infuse it with their friendship and make a little soap.

Three of the moms caravanned northward a day earlier to explore a bit of our state. With nine children between two cars, we made our first stop at Montezuma's Castle. Everyone bounded out of the cars to explore. The children earned their junior ranger badges canvassing the place answering a whole host of questions about the monument. The kiddos and I talked a lot about how the Sinagua built this castle and what their lives must have been like.






From Montezuma's Castle, we headed to Jerome, an old mining town and former ghost town. Our family had visited here with Pap, but the kiddos did not remember it well. We roamed the streets, ate lunch and played sandwich on a neighborhood playground.

We drove through the winding streets of Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. The weather was cool and the views marvelous. We slept in Flagstaff after a quick dip in the heated pool.

Soap was on the agenda in Flagstaff.  The kiddos fell into a comfortable groove with each other despite the time between their last meeting. They read, played card games, roamed the yard and visited the neighborhood skate park to run in "the pool pits." It was so nice to be up in the pines with friends. Everyone was so tired when we journeyed home falling asleep before we had even left the city limits.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hot, hot, hot

When we arrived home from camping, the house was warmer than usual. I usually set the thermostat higher when we leave, but the display said it was 90 degrees. Upon adjusting the temperature lower, only hot air blew from the ducts. It was painfully obvious that the air conditioner was not working. Quickly windows were opened and fans installed throughout the house.
Living in the desert air conditioning is just a part of life. All homes have air or at the very least swamp coolers. The kiddos did not mind the heat, but our whole family moved quite a bit slower. We played a lot of games, read, knit and swam. It was not truly horrible, but the temperature on the last day was 94 degrees in the house! It took two days to find the right part for the motor and have our cool air restored. We are all thankful to have the cool air flowing again, but we are pleased to know that a little hot air won't stop our fun. It just slows it down!



Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quick Knits

I finished up the headband I was knitting last time I participated in Ginny's Yarn Along. I then started a shawl. For some reason I have been loving shawls lately. I don't wear them granny style over my shoulders, but rather wrapped more like a scarf. I love that I can knit a shawl with a single skein of sock yarn. I happen to have a plethora of single skeins of sock yarn to knit. I love wool socks, but one can only wear so many pairs of wool socks in Arizona.

The shawl I knit was the Multnomah shawl. It is a free pattern with a garter stitch body and a relatively easy lace pattern. Most of my knitting was done along the drive to camp with a bit of swim team and game day knitting as well.
I used Three Irish Girls McClellan Fingering in the Tolkein colorway. I really liked the yarn. The colorway worked beautifully for the shawl - no weird pooling or flashing of the colors.  The completer shawl went really quickly. I finished it in 8 days, which is amazing for me. The shawl was a bit small off the needles, but I was able to block it to a bit bigger size. It is now in my closet waiting for cold air-conditioning or winter to wear it.
You would think I read a bit of Tolkein while knitting it, but I did not. I just continued reading Unbroken. The story is amazing. War is a horrific occurrence and the atrocities experienced during such times boggle the mind. I am appalled at what people can do to one another and what one individual can endure. The story however also describes the power of the human will to survive. Louis Zamperini was an amazingly resilient individual. I would recommend this book for those interested in a bit of non-fiction. I am now reading part the most recent book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. Definitely a lot lighter read, but I am hoping it helps me power through the sleeves of my newest sweater.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Building

I feel strongly about a lot of things. Some of these thoughts have remained consistent while others I have had to modify. As I get older and hopefully wiser, I see that some of my strong feelings may not be in harmony with my children and their strong opinions. One big area is guns. 

I never wanted to have toys which resembled guns in our home. I believed that if we didn't have them and promoted kindness to one another, my children would not seek them. I was completely wrong on this count! My children would pick up sticks, dinosaurs, fingers, pretty much anything to use as a gun. My oldest would make shooting noises while holding one of these "weapons." I still didn't want guns in our home. 

Gradually small guns started to enter our home. Well, truly they were light sabers or pistols in LEGO sets. There were also guns in the Playmobil sets. First I would remove them. Then I decided to just go with it. The gun love did not skyrocket. My children were still the same. In fact some of the fascination ended. I still balked at life size toy guns.

Recently I saw a photo on Pinterest that led me here.  I thought my kiddos would love them and the pacifist in me could handle shooting marshmallows by blowing through PVC. So we set out to our local hardware store to buy some PVC and connectors. The kiddos and I sketched out the plan. 


We gathered two elbows, one "t" and an end cap in addition to our PVC. We decided to cut our PVC as follows: 1 - 5", 2 - 4", 1 - 3" and 1 - 2.5". This seemed to make a marshmallow shooter which could be used by each of the children.



Working together in the driveway we cut and assembled four shooters.  One would be a gift for a friend's upcoming birthday. Bags of marshmallows were distributed and each of my children set off to shoot marshmallows. They created targets and taped them to the front door. They tried to shoot over small LEGO and Playmobil people. Quickly with the help of a friend, they discovered that if you lick the marshmallow it will stick to your target. Fortunately only one got stuck on the ceiling. They had tremendous fun with their "guns" and I think I may just be okay with it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Quick Getaway

Our family headed north to enjoy some cooler weather for a few days this past weekend. Dave selected an area by the Blue Ridge Reservoir  in the Coconino National Forest for our trip.  We left midday on Friday and setup camp when we arrived. The kiddos wanted to explore, so Dave set off with them to look around the area. When they came back, Aine was excited to show me the ridge area and the amazing views. The two of us set off again. The view was amazing. It was so green compared to our normal desert views. Aine spotted some water which had collected on a rock. She floated a few leaves and discovered other creatures in the water. We also spotted some deer or elk scat as well as some intricate spider webs.

The reservoir, dam and a bit of hiking were on our agenda for the next day. After Dave made a yummy breakfast over the campstove (campfires are currently prohibited due to wildfires), we set off. The reservoir is a canyon lake. The sides are steep and the water was a bit lower due to work that is scheduled on the dam this year. As we made our way along the road, the lake looked much more like a river coursing through a ravine of trees.


We made it to the trail and set off to explore the dam area. The path began as a dirt road to a viewing area for the dam. Initially we examined the dam through chainlink fence. The path, however, continued, so we followed it past the fence into an open area. Dave spotted the trail and pointed out the rest of the route.

Moving toward the water on the other side of the dam, we discovered a shallow stream. Benton worked on throwing rocks into the water; Eamon spotted a large crawdad in the water; and Aine floated her feet in the water. All of them enjoyed climbing over rocks and fallen trees by the water's edge. We spent some time enjoying the stream before we set off again.


Aine and Eamon set the pace with Dave following the trail to the base of the dam. Benton and I meandered along behind them studying the plants and rocks along the way. The kiddos touched the dam and tested out the fantastic echoes.





We returned to our campsite to find our friends had arrived. They brought their fishing boat to explore the lake, so we headed back to the reservoir. The men and children piled into the boat. Benton had fallen asleep, so I sat with my friend in the car while he slept. No sooner had they entered the water then rain began to fall. At first, they were sure it would pass. Over an hour later when the rain had not abated and hail and lightening added to the mix, the men returned with soaking wet children. Everyone climbed into the car and the moms headed back to the campsite with the kiddos. When we arrived, we found tents with open windows. Each of the families had forgotten to shut their windows, so we now had two tents full of water. The men soon returned with the boat. Dave was cold as were the kiddos. We decided we would need to sleep somewhere other than the tent and the soaked sleeping bags. The car would not fit our whole family, so we left our friends to sleep in their van and headed home. Despite the rain, we loved our trip and all want to go back soon. Eamon did not want to leave and wanted to sleep in the tent with his wet sleeping bag. He was having that much fun!

Friday, July 08, 2011

I can hoop

I must confess that I have never been able to hula hoop. As a child, I practiced all the time. I watched most of my friends as well as my mom master the hula hoop. I could not do it. To clarify, I could hula hoop on my neck and arms, but never around my waist. The hoop just would not stay up. In recent years, I have tried time and again to hula hoop. I read countless blogs devoted to the fun of hula hooping. I watched as some of my friends discovered and mastered hooping. This past summer my daughter and I practiced hooping. Even she figured it out, but again I did not.

This all changed recently. While at my weekly Stitch 'n Bitch group, a friend told me I could hula hoop. I argued with her a bit trying to ignore her assertion that I could do it. Finally she urged me to go outside and try the hula hoop which she had brought that evening (don't ask why she had a hula hoop. Sometime knit night is like that). Tentatively I tried her hoop. I wasn't a master, but I could do it. It was amazing. The hoop did not fall. She then let me in on the secret. I needed a bigger, heavier hoop.

Armed with her directions, I made plans to craft hoops for the whole family. As I discussed this week, though, my intention took awhile to come to fruition. Finally, after seeing more hoops hit the web, we made our own.

Initially we tried our local hardware store, but they did not have the supplies we wanted. The local big box building supply store had everything we needed. Armed with 160 psi poly tubing, connectors, a cutting knife, electrical tape, we set to work.
 Eamon, Aine and Benton helped form the hoops. We measured each hoop to chest height. Eamon and Aine helped cut the tubing. I filled my hoop with oatmeal to add weight (my friend's secret). We used the hair dryer to warm the plastic for easier connections.
Each of us decorated our hula hoops with the electrical tape and some duct tape from Eamon's stash.
Once we had our hoops decorated, we showed off our skills. Even Benton is getting the hang of hooping. The kids then practiced tricks with their hoops. As for me, I can see quite a bit of hula hooping in my future.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Out of Ideas

I am struggling to find meal ideas that do not require a lot of effort on the cook's part. I am definitely running out of ideas. I need your input. What do you make when it is too hot to cook? 

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

My Epitaph

A while ago a friend of mine talked about an article she and her husband had read. The premise of the article was to summarize your life in 6 short words. It could be a memoir or a succinct epitaph. We talked and laughed about many versions that would work depending on the timing. She and I came up with quite a few good ones that day. Most were situational: she thought she'd be skinny again, she loved really good dark chocolate and she'll never know the story's ending. Some were more serious.

That conversation has stayed with me over time. I often go back and think about how I would summarize my life. What is the overall theme? How will I be remembered? I always go back to the same one I came up with that day:
She always had really good intentions.
I always plan to be on time, mail gifts before the actual date of the event, do more things with my children, eat healthy, exercise, smile more, yell less, etc, etc. Each day I have great intentions, and by the end of it all, most have fallen to the side.

Fortunately I don't forget about those good intentions, and I often roll them over to the next day. After enough days, they do actually happen. Today was one of those days. I finally made good on two birthday gifts that were very belated.

My niece had a birthday a bit ago. Okay, it was in April -- early April. I promised to make her a sling for her baby doll. I kept intending to make it. I even told Dave that I HAD to sew today on several different occasions. Finally after a quick reprimand from my niece, I made her present today. I hurriedly had Dave take it to her when he took Aine on a date. My niece was so pleased. She called to thank me and, so I am now off her list of bad aunties!
My niece Kailana
The second gift took a bit longer to make, but it wasn't quite as overdue. I knew what I wanted to make after reading about the project on Jean's blog and looking at the tutorial. I had most of the materials on hand. I did need a bit more fabric, which I picked up weeks ago before my nephew's actual birthday. I truly planned on making and mailing the gift well before his big day. Luckily my good intention finally paid off. I sat down today and cut copious amounts of feathers for a set of dress-up wings. It is amazing how long it took just to cut the material. I assembled the wings quickly and without difficulty. Instead of seam binding I attached the wings together with black grosgrain ribbon. I also used the ribbon to finish the rough feather edges for a cleaner look. For the neck I sewed velcro onto a ribbon loop. I think they turned out pretty well. The package is now in the mail. I really hope he likes his new dress-up wings.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Ooh, shiny!

Monogamy is not my strong suit in knitting. Lately I tend to flitter from project to project. I want to finish what I start, but the drudgery of stockinette sleeves can deter even the strongest among us. The signs are evident. I start browsing Ravelry for patterns. The slightest hint of a beautiful knitting project on facebook or a fiber blog can pull me right off the wagon. This week I was caught looking. 

A friend innocently posted a pattern and photo of a headwrap she knit. I really liked it, and I had just the right yarn. I told myself when I completed my Shalom cardigan I could start it. The stitch pattern looked very similar to the lacy Baktus which I made last year. I just knew it would be a quick knit. I tried valiantly to resist. Truly I knit a lot on my sweater. The body flew off the needles, and I was working on the sleeves. But I have really long arms. And the weather was really hot. So I cheated. I cast-on for the headwrap. 
Ginny's Yarn Along - Headwrap
So now I am working on my sweater while at home and on the headwrap while facing the hot summer temperatures. The headwrap should be done in a day or two as it knits really quickly. My sweater may take a bit longer. Stockinette sleeves are a bit boring and tedious especially when you have long arms.

I am reading a bit here and there. I started Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I seem to be on a non-fiction jag, and I am liking it. This story is riveting and brings up many thoughts on war. The books are not read very fast though as I keep adding more knitting to my pile. 

Monday, July 04, 2011

Relaxing

 We celebrated the long weekend with swimming, food and fun. Hope yours was wonderful.