Friday, September 30, 2011

Sharing

Dave shared his geocaching love with a group of eager kids recently. He hid a box before they met and then led them on the hunt for two caches. They were ecstatic. The younger children loved the trinkets in the caches, and the older ones loved the hunt. I think he converted a few families.

One of the little boys had been on our camping trip. While camping, he asked if I would make him a hat. He saw Aine's new shawl and wanted a handknit for himself. I whipped up a quick scrappy hat and shared it with him. He wore the hat throughout most of the hike despite the very warm weather(100 degree).  I think I may have a convert as well.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gifts from the Hardware man

"Ask the oldest man in there for help." These sage words guide my actions whenever I enter a hardware store. My dad would tell me this whenever he sent me to the store looking for something specific or a little advice on a project. Although he wore a suit to work everyday, my dad was the ultimate DIYer. Now in his retirement, my dad, or Grandad to the kiddos, works in a hardware store.

This job delights my children. They love going to "Grandad's store." We visit for canning supplies, paint, nuts, bolts and anything else we think we need. A local hardware store is a fantastic place to visit. Most of the people inside know a lot about fixing, installing and creating. Grandad is no exception. Whenever we want to make something or fix what is broken, we ask him. He not only shares expertise but also his tools.

Grandad continually keeps us supplied in tools. He and Grandma outfitted each of the kids with a hammer, screwdrivers, tape measure, etc. Often when we visit with him, he gives us a new tool to discover. Recently he brought the kiddos a siphon.

The next day Aine asked to try out the siphon. She quickly found scissors and removed the bulb and tubing. The two of us went into the bathroom with two cups to check it out. After filling one of the cups with water, I showed her how to squeeze the bulb a few times to start the flow of water. She marveled at the flow of the water. The experiment was performed many times. Aine called Eamon into the room and showed him how to work the siphon. She explained that the source tubing and liquid had to be higher then the exit point of the tube. He also was amazed. The two of them used the siphon for quite some time. I later told them a bit about how a siphon works. It was a terrific tool, and they are glad Grandad shared it with them.



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Waiting


Although Benton and I only planted them a few days ago, we check on our seeds every day. I think we are all eager to see something grow in our small garden. I am trying not to yearn for our old garden and its splendor, although it was not large either. Benton wants to plant more seeds, so I am prepping some containers for beans and more greens or broccoli. Do you have a garden this time of year?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Keeping House

Over the last few months I have ignored cleaning. Our house isn't in shambles, but it isn't clean either. The kitchen and bathrooms have been cleaned, and the laundry has been done. Aside from that and a bit of picking up, the house has not been cleaned. This has allowed me to be a more relaxed mama and more present with my kiddos. It also gave me a break from feeling as if all I did was clean up after people.  However my house is disgusting, and it is driving me crazy.

I walk by the shutters and see the layers of dust punctuated with tiny fingerprints. The blinds in the kitchen block the bright summer sunshine when closed and proudly display flecks of food and layers of grime. The carpet has a dirty, worn path where food and muck from the kitchen is tracked throughout the house. The walls have smudges and black marks where hands have travelled. Piles of paper threaten to topple at the slightest brush. The back patio has becoming overgrown with foliage. It truly is a mess, and this week it is changing.

I couldn't stand it any more. I realized no one else in the house was concerned, so if I didn't like it, I had to change it. This means I have been busy. This weekend, I tackled the walls in the kitchen eating area. They were speckled with bits and bobs of dried food and drink. Next was the miniblinds. I truly hate miniblinds. I am not sure why they were invented. They are impossible to clean and they are ugly. Armed with a rag and cleaning solution, I cleaned the evil slats. I also cleaned both bathrooms top to bottom. The floor was my next project, but I was distracted by the kiddos. Who wants to clean when there is fun to be had.

Today I returned to work. I trimmed the bushes and trees in the backyard. I even hosed down the patio furniture and the toys which occupy the space. Benton came out to help me and enjoyed spraying the patio himself. He watered our small garden plot, and I added some vermicompost. Together we then planted a few seeds in our humble garden. We now hope to grow a eclectic mix of chard, kale and spinach. Luckily they can be used somewhat interchangeably, because that is how they are planted. The space looks so much better and inviting now. With the weather cooling slightly it is a space we enjoy for relaxing and eating breakfast.

Once inside, I continued my cleaning of the window treatments. With the miniblinds out of the way, the shutters were the next task. I went through 6 rags cleaning them. They were so dusty! The house already feels much cleaner. The view out of the windows seems brighter. It has been a long time since they were dusted. It is my #1 hated cleaning chore. I will clean every bathroom twice before I dust. It seems like such a pointless task, but it is so nice when it is done.

Tomorrow is the kitchen floor. After that I will concentrate on more purging of my stuff (still working on the yarn reduction). The garage should be tackled as well, but I will wait until the outside temperature is below 100 degrees. In the meantime, I will continue to grab small bits of time for fun and knitting.
Seed Stitch Cowl and Hat finished today and photographed on my clean patio

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Full of Greatness

Last night, Aine spent the night with her Grandma. I don't know what they did yet, but I know Aine was beyond excited. She called Grandma a few weeks ago requesting a date day. She was very specific that she wanted to spend time with her grandmother by herself and spend the night. It was fine if GrandDad was there, but none of her cousins or siblings. We arranged a time with Grandma, and Aine has been counting the days.

With Aine out visiting, Dave and I were able to spend time with the boys. After a long day Benton fell asleep very early, so we were down to just one child. It was so nice eating a late dinner together with only Eamon. We were able to just focus on him and really listen. He talked and talked and talked a bit more. The topic was Minecraft, of course. We talked about his favorite things to do on the game. He taught me a bit more about the new update that was recently released. Dave added his insights into the game. It was fantastic.

During the discussion I asked how many people play the game. Dave asked Eamon if he remembered. The figure is around 3.5 million people. I was astonished. Minecraft is a game that no large software company would have made, yet it is a fantastic game with a huge following. It was developed initially by a single developer in the course of 7 days. His name is "Notch," and Eamon thinks he is pretty cool. Notch now owns his own company, employs 6 or 7 people and is a multi-millionaire. It is estimated that his game made around $33 million dollars. I find this phenomenal as he did not have the backing of a major software publishing company or advertising and the game sells for around $10-13.

This discussion about the creator of Minecraft led to talk about knitting. Ravelry started when a couple(Casey and Jess) had an idea to create an online forum for fiber artists which also included methods for organizing and storing information about tools, patterns, yarn, etc. It is now a business which employs other people and is huge in the fiber community. It is also a platform for new knitwear designers to gain attention and market their wares. I just read about one of these knitwear designers online on a great blog I follow. She has published 10 designs and is only 13. And her designs are good. Casey, Jessica and Lily found something that excited them and are pursuing it just as Notch is pursuing his passion.

Dave and I then turned to thoughts of what our passions might be. What truly drives us and brings us happiness. What would we do if time and money were not factors. Eamon added bits and pieces to the talk. The three of us talked about finding what you really like and following that for success. We really want our children to know themselves, find their passions and enjoy what they do. To have the freedom to accomplish this feat is a great gift. If this happens, I know I will have done a good job.

So, now I am thinking and ruminating. What do I love to do? What skills do I have? What is my contribution? I have ideas and I think I am much closer to an answer than I was several years ago. I am more comfortable with who I am and continue to learn and expand my knowledge daily. I think reading and knowing about others who have followed and shared their greatness on many different levels has helped. We are full of opportunity, I just need to figure out how to find my greatness and share it.

Today, ask yourself, am I doing what I love in some part of my life? What is your greatness. (Share it if you want. I would love to know!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Apples





Apple picking in the desert is a bit different than cooler climates, but still oh so much fun!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Old Mother Hubbard

Today I sent a text to Dave telling him that I felt like Old Mother Hubbard. With the weekend spent camping, our food stores were bleak. Nothing in my pantry or refrigerator looked appetizing. Aine wanted pizza, but we had no tomatoes for sauce. Eamon wanted a sandwich, but we had no bread. I wanted anything that would taste good. The only person able to be satisfied was Benton with his request for cereal. I stood with the refrigerator door open staring. Finally I was struck with inspiration. Eggs!

I had hard-boiled a dozen eggs a few days ago. Usually the kiddos gobble them up. They were eating these a bit more slowly, so I decided to whip up some egg salad. This is something new for my kiddos. I am not sure they have ever really had it. I was in potentially dangerous territory, but I forged ahead.

I shelled five eggs and finely diced them. I added some pickles, mayonnaise and mustard. I added some red onion to mine. I whipped together a garden salad and cut up an apple I found in the bowels of the refrigerator with one bite out of it. I even added a small piece of chocolate leftover from our camping s'mores to their plates. It was a huge hit with Aine and Benton. They both declared it delicious. Eamon told me he could do better and proceeded to smear peanut butter onto a corn tortilla. Everyone was happy.

With success in the air, I decided to bake some bread. We needed a loaf to take on an upcoming picnic. I loaded up the bread maker in hopes that it would not heat up the house. The smell of baking bread wafted through the house and pleased everyone. The kiddos said it looked so delicious. I must admit that it did look pretty.

The day culminated with a few trays of snickerdoodles emerging from the oven for our picnic. It is amazing what can be made from a cupboard that appears bare. I guess we had more food than it seemed when I stood in front of the pantry. I wonder what I can make tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

At Long Last

While camping this past weekend, Aine asked me to teach her to knit. I think my heart leaped a bit. I have shown Eamon and Aine how to knit in the past several times. We have used looms and actual needles, but it never seemed to spark their interest. They would do just enough to make an i-cord garland and set it aside.

As soon as she asked, I jumped into action. Fortunately I had some cotton blend yarn and a set of straight needles with me. I made a camping dishcloth on the ride north with the needles and yarn. Aine wanted to make one too. I cast-on. She watched intently as I showed her the knit stitch. She asked a few questions and then set to work. Aine sat for a long time with her knitting. She called her big brother over to admire her handiwork thus sparking his interest. I pulled out another set of needles and yarn (you can never be too prepared). I cast-on again and set him to work. Aine offered to help him if he got stuck, since she was an expert. The two of them knit for quite some time. They would oh and ah over their projects. When our friends arrived to the campsite the next day, Aine eagerly told them that she could knit. She pulled out her little dishcloth and proceeded to show them. She now tells everyone that she loves to knit!

As they sat engrossed in their knitting, I worked on the shawl I started last week for Aine. I was able to finish it the next day when I stayed at the campsite while the others went crawdad fishing. It turned out well and used two full skeins of yarn. It is soft and squishy and in its natural unblocked state. Aine loves it. She immediately took it and put it on her shoulders. She wore it the whole time we were camping.

Moody Kerchief  (ravelry link) for my little girl
Since it was quiet at the campsite when I finished the shawl, I cast-on for a pair of mittens using more of my stash yarn. The pattern is Shelbourne from Knitty. It took me a few tries to read the pattern correctly. I insisted on trying to slip one instead of skip one, which I could not get to work. Once I figured it out, both mittens flew off the needles. They are thick and should keep my fingers warm when we are in cold weather. The yarn is from Three Irish Girls. I belonged to her Stash Menagerie Club a few years ago. I made myself a hat and cowl with part of the yarn, but still had a bit leftover for the mittens. I now have a matching set!
Matching Mittens (ravelry link) for me!
As I sat knitting by the campfire, I listened to a new audiobook. Since I had finished Crossing to Safety earlier in the week, I needed a new audiobook. I started Little Bee by Chris Cleave. It is a startling story full of sadness and resilience. I am about halfway through the book, but eager to find out how it ends. I am still reading Ellis Island at night, but my progress is slow. I usually fall into bed exhausted.

How are you doing as you knit and read with Ginny?

Second Annual Crawdad Crawl


This weekend our family traveled northward for a few days of fun in a cooler climate. We spent two nights near Woods Canyon Lake on the Mogollon Rim. We eagerly donned wool hats and jackets in the cool mornings and evenings. It was a great break from our 100 degree weather.

We found many things to do to keep our family busy. There were activities to please everyone. Eamon, Aine and Benton built a house, found animal scat and ran around in the surrounding forest discovering a fort, rock city, mini forest and molecule forest. Dave gave the kiddos lessons on chopping wood, and each excitedly took their turns swinging an ax. I finished knitting Aine's shawl and started a pair of mittens. Dave and I were able to take a few moments to sit and just watch our children creating and exploring. We talked and laughed a lot.

With two cans of wildflowers decorating our table courtesy of Aine, our cookout retained a sense of refinement. We cooked our meals outside and enjoyed delicious chili, bacon and eggs, oatmeal, baked beans, fresh fruit, veggies, hot dogs, crawfish and of course many marshmallows. Eamon created culinary masterpieces that he willingly ate although they included marshmallows, oatmeal and berries. Benton loved toasting marshmallows and eating them despite tummy aches.

You may wonder about the eating of crawfish. Last year we stayed at the same campground with friends, and one of our favorite activities was fishing for crawdads in the lake. Fortunately the other families joined us again this year, and we again caught a lot of crawdads! The kids, armed with sticks, string and bacon, fished from the shore. One of the fathers build several traps which he placed around the lake. With the children fishing and the traps, we had a significant haul of crawdads. The kiddos loved holding the mini lobsters and watching them move. We talked about responsible handling of animals and their ethical treatment (prompted after the early demise of a crawdad under a water bottle). They also enjoyed cooking them in the pot of water. Eating the catch was not quite so exciting, but several kiddos liked taking the shells apart and producing the flesh for those who wanted to eat it. I think it was a successful 2nd Annual Crawdad Crawl.
(Crawfish are an invasive species in Arizona and cause quite a bit of harm to riparian areas. Catching and eating them is encouraged by our local game and fish department).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Budding Author


Eamon has been writing stories. He wants to write a book - a real book. He crafts tales based on his interests and life. His stories tell of a hero that partners with his younger pesky sister. There are monsters, battles, jokes, and tricks. He will tap out his words on the computer and then read his creation. We took the typewriter into the shop for a quick tune-up so he can continue his masterpieces without using mama's laptop.

Tap, tap, tap his fingers pound on the keyboard. Writing is important to him. He is eager to write, but can be easily dissuaded with too much emphasis on spelling, punctuation and writing rules. He wants to write, but he wants it to be right. We talked about just writing to get his thoughts onto the page. Time can be spent later on the mechanics. Right now he is crafting his tale and having a wonder-filled time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quickies

For September I mentioned that I am knitting single skein projects in the hopes of knitting out of my stash. Thus far it is working. I have knit two hats and one cowl. Here is my update for all those visiting from Ginny's Yarn Along.

Eamon wanted the purple scrappy hat only if I added a button(it was pictured last week). He crafted a Pokemon button which was promptly sewn onto the hat. He has worn it everyday. The other hat is mine, and I think it will match my gray coat very well. In truth I love it. The pattern is Foliage from Knitty.com. The beginning of the pattern is a bit fiddly as you work from the top down. Once you have a few stitches on the needles, it just flies. The yarn is Malabrigo from deep in my stash. I believe I bought it in 2005 for wool soakers. It is delightfully soft and squishy.
I am not sure about the wearer or recipient of the cowl. It is super soft and squishy. I made it out of two different skeins of Malabrigo in complementary colors (beige and applewood). I ran out of one of the colors, so the back is a bit lighter. It works though. I think I may want to keep it. Of course, warm squishy cowls are not a real necessity here.
Nice photo of the camera, eh?
 I also finished my February Lady Sweater. I love it! As I mentioned I wasn't sure about the fit and whether it would flatter. I really think it is a great shape. I still need to block the sweater. I am a bit concerned abut how much it may grow. I tried to make it a size smaller and a bit short, but it is still generous. Once I block it and find buttons (which are a whole other challenge), I will share it with you.

Today I cast on a shawl for Aine. When I made the Lavalette shawl, she really wanted it. I wasn't sure I wanted to part with that particular shawl. This weekend, we talked a bit about what she wanted. She likes all things pink and purple. I selected two skeins of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino from my bin of yarn and set to work. I am making the Moody Kerchief from Kirsten Kapur of Through the Loops fame. I really like her patterns for clarity and beauty (I knit her Mystery Sock patterns during October for three years and am a bit sad that she may not do it this year). Hopefully Aine likes the result.
I am still reading Ellis Island. It is enjoyable, but I have been slow. There is too much knitting to do! I am also finishing up Crossing to Safety on audiobook. I have made a bit more progress on this book since I can listen and knit at the same time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Slight Reprieve

Temperatures dipped this weekend to 100 degrees. I think we may have even been down to the high 90s. This was a welcome reprieve. The kids and I hit the park on Friday enjoying slighter cooler weather and overcast skies. They climbed on a metal sculpture at the library which is usually too hot to even touch. They reveled in the outdoors running and playing.


My thoughts turned to the indoors and the kitchen. With cooler temperatures, we opened the house over night to enjoy the cool breezes. I felt inspired again to cook and prepare meals (this has been happening for a few weeks now). I put together a quiche for our family to enjoy as classes begin this week keeping us away from home in the afternoon. I made Benton more of his delicious granola. I pulled out my stack of Everyday Food magazines and I dreamed of more meals to prepare as our temperatures dip and we gear up for our version of fall and winter.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Playing Games

As a family we love games. We play board games, card games, video games and dice games. Everyone has their favorites, but we will play just about anything.  I get many ideas for new games from my favorite blogs as well as from our homeschooling friends.

Recently I heard about the game, Blink. Aine loves it and is quite good at the fast paced game. We decided to share it with our homeschooling group. We are fortunate to have a vibrant homeschooling group with which we share our love of games on a weekly basis. The children range in age, but everyone plays together. The kids loved Blink. Each could play on their own level. We decided we need a few decks, so more kids and adults can play at one time.

Other favorite games for the group are: Sequence, Sorry, Twister, Bananagrams, Dice games, Apples to Apples, various card games, Connect Four and Blokus. Each week new games are brought as well as old favorites. The games are shared and some even find new favorites. One of our friends loved our Blokus game so much that his mom bought him his own.
I love sharing new games with the group and hearing what games they love. Do you have any favorite games for us to play?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Still Knitting and Reading

Phew, it has been a bit too long. I haven't meant to neglect this space. Somehow days turn into weeks around these parts. We have been trying to stay cool as our temperatures continue to hover in the 110s. I think each of us is ready for fall and cooler weather (yes, 90 degrees is cooler to us). In preparation for cooler temperatures, I continue to knit. Several people have commented on my knitting in such warm weather. I just tell them I am optimistic that the weather will cool at some point.
Scrappy Hat, FLS, Foliage hat and current reading for Ginny's Yarn Along
My February Lady Sweater is almost complete. I really wanted to have it finished by the end of August, but that deadline came and went. I then thought for sure it would be done by Labor Day. Again I hit a snag. I was merrily knitting the sleeves while at my book group. The needles were flying, but so was my mouth. When I stopped to look at what I had knit, the stitch count was off; my lace was not right. I spent some time trying to figure out my problem before unceremoniously stuffing it into my bag. I haven't pulled it out since Saturday night.

In the absence of sweater knitting, I have been organizing and documenting. For several years, I have listened sporadically to the Stash and Burn podcast. I like getting ideas for new patterns and yarn. I also like listening to ideas on how to keep a moderate stash and knit what you have without amassing more. In all that time, I have continued to keep my yarn in the closet. I finally pulled it out and documented it in Ravelry this weekend. I snapped photos, weighed partial skeins and entered all of my yarn into the database. It wasn't pretty. Once I had completed the task, I decided I needed to do more reduction. I had previously destashed quite a bit of yarn, but more needs to go. I am now on a knitting frenzy trying to reduce my yarn.

I have a plan for the yarn. There is enough for a sweater for me and two of the kiddos. I plan on making some hats, cowls, scarves and socks. I also realized I need to make two more stockings for my children. So, for September, I am tackling single skein projects. Today I made a quick hat from two partial skeins. I also cast on for another hat. These quick projects will be my fodder for the next month or two. Of course, I will finish my sweater. I just needed something to distract me for a few days.

As I mentioned above, I belong to a book group. It is composed of some of my very best mama friends. Each month a different member picks a book. This month I neglected getting the book until just a few days before our meeting. I quickly read the book, and we had a great discussion. The book was The Raven's Bride. It was an interesting perspective on Edgar Allan Poe. I had always believed that he was a crazy opium addict. After reading the book, I did a bit of research on Poe. He was not an opium addict, although he did have a problem with alcohol. He wrote a large variety of pieces, worked as an editor, started the detective genre and championed for the rights of the career writer. The book is written from his wife's perspective, which I really enjoyed.

With my book group reading out of the way, I picked up a couple new books from the library. While organizing this weekend, I listened to part of Crossing to Safety. Thus far, I really like the characters. It is nice to listen to a good story while working on projects. In the evenings, I am reading Ellis Island. I have only begun the book, so I have no strong opinion. Both of these books were recommended by friends through goodreads. I really like that website for organizing what my family reads and what we want to read.

Hopefully next week, I will have pictures of my finished sweater and a few more stash-busting projects. (Sorry for the sub-par photo, I forgot my camera at a friend's house.)