Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Sweaters

The last week leading up to Thanksgiving has been so full, I was working my hardest to get the kids' sweaters done (using the Nate Hoodie pattern). Initially I started the red one in July. . . but then took August and September off from sweaters while I did some other projects. Inspiration struck that Thanksgiving would be a perfect deadline, so I've been busy. Ox's sweater took the longest, of course he's bigger, so by the time I finished up I had just a few weeks to get Little Frog's sweater done. Because of the deadline I opted for the bulky yarn pattern which helped it speed right along. If you don't look too closely they turned out pretty cute, which is good, because I think they'll only get one sweater a year. I don't know how Mrs. Weasley knit all those Christmas sweaters. . . oh right, magic.

Thanksgiving was lovely and tiring. I hoarded eggs for about two weeks to get enough to make wasabi deviled eggs, which were a big hit. The kids don't particularly care for eating, especially when there is a party, so their main food group was the huge platter of pickle roll-ups that my sister made. I didn't like these things when I was a kid, but my own kids will suck them down by the bowl full (we had to put them on a limit on the ride to my uncle's house, and they mostly stuck to it).

Today is Black Friday so we're avoiding all stores, which is too bad since I'm out of flour and really feel like baking cookies. Oh well, time to get cranking on Christmas gifts for the nieces. . . I'm thinking some nice fingerless mitts.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Random Things

The craze of sharing random things on Facebook has been strangely hypnotic, like 7th grade chain letters and old-school email ("Email everyone in your contact list within 10 hours or you'll be struck by the plague!")

Since I so don't want to jump on the bandwagon, but I sort of do:

3 Random Things about Me:
1) Started watching The New Girl last night on Netflix because Ask This Old House was over and I am sort of scared of what the WB has become - Zooey Deschanel is awesome, New Girl is awesome, she had me at Smeagol.
2) I blog because my ancestors were voyeurs; it's in my genes.
3) I might possibly mean my ancestors were voyageurs. French is not my language.
4) I am awkward, which has grown into just being slightly random but sometimes the awkwardness slips out and people look at me funny and I hear crickets chirping. But just in my head.

Monday, November 18, 2013

This Week

Two weeks ago - November 3
This week, November 18, 2013

This week the November weather is settling in and we're ready for the snow (again). The temperature is in the 30s and just feels Novembery. The wind has been blowing so much that we had to replace the handle on our front screen door; it just wasn't keeping the door closed and BANG it would fly open, just often enough that I would forget that it needed fixing and BANG again it would happen. Thank goodness Mastermind was home this weekend and did not forget. Lots of raking, the coop is partially wrapped in plastic to cut the wind, so hopefully we'll start getting more eggs soon. Sharona and Nugget are the only ones laying right now, the other girls are apparently cranky. Since this is our first winter with chickens we're not really sure what is the norm, and it seems all the advice is more or less trial-and-error to see what works for your hens. 

My indoor herbs are not doing a thing, and the thyme that I experimentally repotted from a bundle bought at the grocery store is not doing well at all (not that I'm surprised, but hey, it had roots!). Still, I keep them company, along with all the pumpkins and spaghetti squash we pulled in from our garden. I drooled over some gorgeous indoor herb gardens already full and ready-to-eat at EggPlant yesterday, only $19.99. . . so tempting. BUT I resisted, I will get these herbs right! 

Mondays are so hard, but this week before Thanksgiving has the atmosphere of expectant holiday which helps. The kids have all of next week off of school, which makes it a bit hard to bear for those of us who have to work (I'm not complaining about a 2-day week, however). My main goals for the week are to finish up Little Frog's Thanksgiving sweater, and put the buttons on Ox's sweater. A trip to Crafty Planet is required, tonight or tomorrow.  I had intended to make myself a shrug out of some dreamy yarn that I picked up, but with a week to go, that will have to be put on the back burner. Too many projects and not enough time. . . plus I started reading Neil Gaiman, which has significantly cut into my knitting time. 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bubble, Bubble Pasta Pot

Simple ingredients

Old-School flour well method

Little Frog floured up

Happy little (frozen) pasta nests

Who doesn't love pasta?!?

Okay, besides my dear husband, that is. Ohh he will patiently eat a small portion of pasta if it's put before him, and will enthusiastically eat more if it has lots of non-pasta ingredients like cheese or meat, but he does not love it as he should.

And frankly, that has to change. The kids love pasta, I love pasta, and so should he!

So, with a little time to spare and my Sunday urge to cook in full swing, I dug out the pasta machine that hasn't been used in a very long time. Pre-kid for sure. I don't know why it hasn't appeared in so long, but it's definitely overdue.

I grabbed the kids and showed them how, old-school, to make pasta. Well, okay, technically old-school would have meant cutting those noodles by hand, but that's just a little to old-old-school for me.

Making pasta is so simple, and especially now that we have all those beautiful fresh eggs to make it with, it's more satisfying. I think I will need to get some real semolina flour to play with, and try my hand at ravioli, too (add ravioli attachment to my Christmas list, along with an immersion blender). Also for sure, is that rustic flour well method will only be brought out on special occasions. I think I'll make it next with my trusted Kitchen Aid mixer's dough hook.

Because I won't have time to make sauce until later in the week, I froze the pasta into nests and popped them into a bag to be used later, maybe Thursday when I have a little more time to make dinners because it's piano lesson day. It's so simple to freeze the pasta, because they can be popped right into the boiling water with no thaw time (so easy).

Along with the pasta, I made up a batch of puppy chow (dangerous), crock pot Santa Fe chicken tacos (for dinner tonight), and chow mein casserole (for dinner last night) - old school satisfying. I am working to get my groove still, after nearly 8 years of being a working mom. Cooking more on the weekends to ease the time during the week seems to be the thing to do. Crocking one thing while making another makes it really easy. Yeah it would be easier to crock on the actual day we're going to eat it, but the reality is crock pots are finicky beasts, and that "cook on low for 6-8 hours" just does not fly with me when the timeline of a weekday is pressing. I need to know something will be done at the time I need it done, you know?

My fridge is stocked, ready for the week. Have a good one!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Power Outage

Ohh Thursday, almost done with the week but not quite. I've had some sort of cold or flu thing this week so I came home at noon to try to sleep it off but managed to drag myself to get some groceries on my way home, because who is going to make healing chicken chili verde* if not me? Easy peasy, throw it all in the crock pot, and off to take a nap so that by the time piano lessons were done for another week, dinner was ready, along with some cornbread.

The restlessness of an almost-Friday was making everyone whiny, however, so someone suggested we have a power outage.My kids, Ox especially, loves a good power outage (especially if it is accompanied by a fierce storm), and it seemed like a good idea and maybe-just-maybe it would lead to an early bedtime.

I had a sudden realization that we must have an oil lamp, and while that may be a purchase in the future for such "emergencies," I made do with making a Simple Olive Oil Lamp (thank goodness the internet still worked, and I had the patience to wade through the more complicated oil lamp tutorials). This simple little lamp was so very, very simple and burned for nearly 4 hours with no smoke, no odor, and very, very bright.

There is something so relaxing about eating dinner by candle (oil) light, and after cleaning up we all piled into the bed and cuddled in the dark in hopes of that early bedtime. . . but soon I grabbed the most recent Magic Treehouse book and read that by flickering oil lamp light (which I don't suggest - it was relaxing, but a bit hard on the eyes).

- - - - -
The chicken chili verde was fantastic! I got it from Get Crocked. . . but unfortunately that particular recipe is no longer loading for some reason. I linked the page, the recipe is a pork chili verde that I just substituted chicken for the pork. Really easy and really good.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Garlic and Winter Herbs

Summer's Lettuce Bed turned Chicken Garden
Now to be our Garlic Experiment. They should
have gone down in October, but I didn't
realize it was a good idea until November.
Pretty Garlic Bulbs from Mother Earth Gardens on top
of some nice new soil. I love clean soil. 
Garlic getting ready to nestle down for the winter.
Brr I hope it's not too cold for them! 
Naughty Chickens exploring the hay in the Garlic Garden.
They later dug up a few of our bulbs that Mastermind had
to replant. They might be banned from free ranging
until I can come up with a chicken fence.
Weird - chickens don't even like garlic. 
Good Sharona, the only girl laying eggs right now.
We put plastic shower curtain liners up around
the coop this weekend, too, hopefully
that encourages the other girls to get busy. 
Indoor Herb Garden. I have terrible luck with growing herbs, so this, too, is an
experiment. This is the only window in the house that gets direct sunlight,
so hopefully we have some tasty herbs this winter.
Basil in 2 pots, Cilantro, and Parsley, plus Thyme replanted.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

First Snow

The yard, early morning. Quite a difference from a few days ago

Assessing the accessories.
Throwing snow at the window: such fun!
Can't quite get the shoes on with the 2 pairs of socks,
or bend over to tie them with all those accessories!
Isn't that turquoise wall lovely? I had my doubts when we
painted it in August, but with the light bouncing off the snow,
I know we made the right choice. 
A Chai on the way to work to celebrate
the first snowfall. Yum! 

There is something so exhilarating about waking up to the first true snow of the season. The way the light comes through the windows, the color of the sky, and all that WHITE! Ox and Little Frog were over the moon excited, but allowed for a little cuddle time on the couch, just gazing out at all that snow. It was beautiful. After they were dressed and oatmealed, on came the snowpants, mittens, scarves, hats, and coats despite it being a mere 3 inches of snow and a balmy 35 degrees.

Only this mama forgot to get boots. Oy. Their winter coats were bought in September which made me feel so proud and prepared. Until this morning when I realized with horror that last year's boots were not going to work. Ox immediately ran out into the backyard in his crocs, forgetting (as he does every year) that crocs and snow are not a great combination. By the time we left for school the sunroom was a mess of sloppy shoes and socks, which reminds me I have to hunt up the drying rack that makes a (temporary) permanent home in the sunroom during the winter months. . . and maybe I'll need to knit up a few pairs of spare mittens. Amazingly enough, last year's mittens and hats are all happily present and in great shape. I truly had no idea that home-knit mittens would be so sturdy, last winter was my first time with them.

So a trip to Target is in the works for tonight, both to get boots and to spend an exciting gift card that I got for my birthday. I'm planning on getting an immersion blender (kids don't like tomato chunks, go figure. We have to do something about that since I am in the mood to make lots of tomatoey things this winter), and an electric frying pan for camping. Yes we are already planning our camping trips for next summer, but hey, you have to have something to look forward to during the long Minnesota winter. In case you're curious, we're heading to Grand Marais for a week in the pop-up.

Lovely day.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Before the Snow Flies

The yard, first week of November 2013
Garden, first week of November 2013
"Snow" Fort
It's early November and we're battening down the hatches and all that for the long winter ahead. In Minnesota, winter truly is a state of mind; you can either complain about the flakes of snow once they start coming down, and feel grumbly all winter long, or you can embrace it. Last winter we had snow on the ground for over 6 months, so it is in my humble opinion that you had better embrace it.

So on this fifth day of November with the first Winter Storm Watch in effect (2-4 inches of snow in tonight's forecast) we are ready to go. Well, almost.

The yard got its last mow of the year on Sunday, and the kids' forts got mostly taken down. As you can see we are leaving one up for a winter snow fort experiment. It is always hard to get the kids outside in the winter, we are hoping that training them in the fine art of snow forts will make them more enthusiastic. We'll see how it goes.

The garden is ready, too, minus the usual layer of manure. We went with straight compost this year. The 5+ months of snow will reduce those leaves and things to a nice welcome soil for the plants come spring. Dear husband has nestled a couple of seedling apple trees that he proudly grew from seeds and has tended carefully for a couple years now. He decided they needed to spend the winter outside, now that they're "big" trees. Albeit with a nice warm pile of hay to keep them protected.

I'm already thinking spring, and picked up more bulbs for our tulip garden in the front yard, which always gets a lot of sun and grows beautifully. Last year we had a gorgeous lupine plant, too, which was quite a surprise since they are so picky about growing. The long, cold spring must have been what it needed. I added a few hydrangea and crocus to the mix for the spring. There is something so hopeful about planting bulbs, knowing you won't see them bloom until the very end of the winter. Knowing that the sight of them poking up through the snow will be such a beautiful sight, with snow still lingering elsewhere in the yard.

I think that's why I like winter so much. The changing of the seasons is so hopeful; November's anticipation of snow is like a long-day's anticipation of sleep. And while I know that March's snow (okay, April's snow. . . possibly May) will bring a bit of eye-rolling, knowing that it is all about to end and those tulips will start popping out is something that is thought of even in November. The cycle is inspiring. Spring always comes. Even in November.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Bread Dough Tornado

Theeeere's some Bread Dough on the rise!

Buddha Dish: when eating bread and butter is truly exercise.
Beautiful Bread

I'm baking more these days. Lots of things. I took a break from my meal swap (in the aftermath of Ox's vegetarian phase and my "Quit All The Things" phase) which gave me more time and mental space to bake.

Plus its very trendy, which we all know is so important.

My most recent change-of-life is making bread for the family. It has been intense and lovely. I started with an old bread machine, made four loaves in one weekend trying to find a recipe that worked (I refuse to buy special ingredients just to make a machine work; Bread flour? please. Powdered milk? silly) and realized that I hated the big square loaves. I wanted real bread.

My dear husband, ever the Mastermind, bought me two gorgeous new bread loaf pans, and the rest is history. That is if a 6 week experiment can be called history. Store-bought bread might be history, though, Mastermind didn't automatically buy some at the store yesterday as is his habit (yes, he does the grocery shopping).

Step 1: In the quest of Keeping It Simple, I realized the real convenience of a bread machine is that it does all the hard work for you. Kneading sucks, even if it is good for wobbly underarms. I had a vague recollection that a kitchenaid mixer does much the same thing, and had a 12 year old, unused, bread hook attachment sitting in a drawer somewhere.

Step 2: find a recipe that works. A few good google searches yielded a few promising results. First up was BabyLovinMama's "Making Bread with my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer." Delicious. But the recipe was all spread out along the blog and was annoying. Plus I want wheat bread. I'm on week 2 of Plan To Eat's No Fail Wheat Bread, this week I added a half-cup of wheat bran for added wheaty-ness. So far this is my go-to bread. Next time I'm going to add a quarter-cup of molasses instead of the honey it calls for. I just love molasses. Which brings me to another point. Why can't I find a molasses cookie recipe that actually tastes like molasses? Every recipe I've tried (and I'm only on #2 by the way) results in a mild ginger snap which is insulting to the non-mildness of molasses.

Step C: This step makes me sad and might be expensive. The kitchenaid I got as a wedding gift from my dear aunties might not cut it for much longer. It's not quite big enough, the bowl gets so wedged into it's tread after the kneading that I have to whack it with the rolling pin to loosen it, and it gets VERY hot (nobody could ever say it has wobbly underarms though). I really don't want to spend the dough (ha ha) for a new fancy one though, so it will have to do until it if-and-when burns out and I have no other choice. It seems 12 years of marriage and all the awesome wedding gift appliances are starting to show their wear.

Step 4: Devour all the bread, especially with butter (I got an awesome new Buddha Dish for my birthday, I've been wanting it for at least a year. Makes butter so much more meditative. You can tell yourself it's as good as yoga, and therefore you are exercising by eating butter. Yes.)

We enjoyed today's loaf #1 hot out of the oven for lunch with a new spaghetti squash au gratin recipe. Fantastic, and I think our new go-to spaghetti squash recipe, too:

Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin
(credit: no idea, it's all over facebook)
1 med. spaghetti squash

2 Tb butter
1 small onion, sliced very thin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (we omitted, for kid taste)
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese (we thought asiago would be amazing, too)

1) Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Place in a covered dish with a 1/4 inch of water and microwave for 10-12 minutes. 
2)In a skillet, saute the onions, red pepper, and thyme in the butter. Cook until onions are slightly caramelized. Salt and pepper to taste
3) Using a fork, scrape the inside of the squash and mix with the onions, sour cream, and cheese. Transfer to a buttered baking dish. 
4) Bake for 20 minutes at 375. 

Now to go plant some bulbs. Busy fall Sunday here.


I've had several people ask me if I am going to continue blogging. . . that they actually enjoyed reading what I wrote (!!!)

I have to admit that the format of blogger makes me cranky, and that was one of the main reasons I stopped. It was irritating that pictures kept moving around on me every time I saved. And who has time for that?

But I've been changed, too. The original purpose of this blog is no longer relevant. My desire to erase my mamaguilt, just a little, peaked into a full-blown panic attack about 2 months ago (mom, please, I'm fine) and my doctor telling me "well sweetie, you've always been a bit high strung." I realized I needed to change again.

So I'm back, my purpose is to simplify. Or more specifically, to really only get worked up about what really matters. I quit lots of things, started saying No, and began baking again. I'm inspired by one of my favorite blogs of all times, SouleMama, and her busy-yet-simple life in Maine. There is now a very huge part of me that would give it all up for a farm in the sticks (I blame the chickens in part for this, they say chickens are like a gateway drug and I would have to agree. I kind of want to get some emus or alpacas. New Brighton might draw the line at that).

So you'll see a change. Less pictures (or all of 'em slumped up to the top, who cares about formatting anyway?), more about baking and knitting. And of course Ox and Little Frog, because they're so darn amazing. The nicknames still fit after all these years, too, although Ox is contemplating changing his name to Rory. He just watched the Doctor Who where Rory and Amy bid adieu, and it made quite an impact on his developing psyche. I doubt I'll post every day like SouleMama, or even once a week, but a little baring-of-the-soul is good for you.

Plus I have to admit looking back on the posts I've posted so far is extremely entertaining.