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I am not much for frequenting the local Starbucks, or any other coffee shops anymore.  It isn’t really the thing with four kids and breastfeeding.  However, I had recently discovered the Starbuck Pumpkin Spice Latte and was getting a bit addicted.  It was hitting me hard in the wallet too, so before my hubby could notice all the charges on our bank card for $4 drinks, I decided to save him some money and my own sanity by making them at home!  Sonlight ladies turned me on to making the key ingredient at home: Pumpkin Spice Syrup! 

Now I didn’t exactly follow a recipe here, but I guarantee you can whip this up without one. 

In a saucepan, mix about 1-1/2 cups sugar and about 1 cup of water. Stir to dissolve.  Add in ground cinnamon, ground ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.  You could also use allspice in this, but I didn’t have any.  You could also include a bit of orange peel, maybe some brown sugar in place of some of the white, pure maple syrup or even just regular pumpkin pie spice mix.  You want to achieve that “fall” taste.  I also included two chunks of fresh pumpkin from our just carved jack o’ lanterns.  Bring to a slow boil and stir a lot so it doesn’t burn.  Cook until the water is mostly cooked off and you have a syrup consistency.  Remove the pumpkin chunks if you used them and any “whole” spices you may have used.  Put your syrup in a jar to keep in the fridge.  Add to coffee or steamed milk and enjoy! 

PS.  If you don’t have a fancy coffee maker, you can make simple, frothy steamed milk easy on the stove.  Pour the milk into a saucepan and turn on the heat.  With a whisk, beat the milk into a froth until it is hot.  You can achieve a lot of froth this way.  Just be careful not to let the milk come to a boil.  Pour into mugs with pumpkin spice syrup and enjoy!  This is a great treat for the kids!

Being busy

Being busy is a great thing, I suppose.  Some days though I feel as if I have had enough of it…while it only takes about one day of the lack of busy-ness in life to make me wish I was busy with something!  Funny how that works!  I have been wanting to post about some of the things that have been keeping us busy.  Here is a random assortment from the last few weeks.

We recently took an evening hike along Akron’s newest section of completed towpath.  I was looking forward to exploring one of the most urban sections of the path, especially as it boasts a floating bridge for part of its distance. I came away from the hike with mixed emotions.  We hiked it on a lovely fall evening, cool and crisp andwith a beautiful sunset.  As you start from the parking lot, you have  a lovely view out across Summit Lake. 

Looking across Summit Lake

Looking across Summit Lake

 You also get  some views of “industrial Akron” (for which I use quotes, as this is not as ominous as it sounds considering that much of the industry is not quite what it once was, to put it nicely. ) I was suprised to find myself walking underneath Kenmore Boulevard even, but that was about as far as we got considering that it was getting quite dark.  But therein is where the problems started.  My spouse was getting rather insistent that we get back to our car lest we get robbed or mugged.  For while on one side of this path you have a lovely lake view and there are marshy areas , quaint fallen trees and geese swimming, the other side of the path is lined by Section 8 housing, and poor neighborhoods and basketball court frequented by local unsavory boys.  I say this because we saw some of these boys.  I even saw a boy I guessed to be about 13 carrying a  gun as he strode past us, and then started to run as he got just behind us.  A bit weird…or scary?  It is really too bad.  It is a lovely place…and I am grateful that locals who aren’t able to afford better lodging can have this view and this bit of nature and recreation at their back door, too, but it is unfortunate that this spot will undoubtedly become an after hours hang out for kids and ne’er do wells.  There will be grafitti and litter, which the towpath is generally free of in other areas.  I really did want to keep going to find out where this part of the path goes, and I probably will sometime, but as the sun sank, we got a bit nervous and headed back.  One of these days I plan to follow it back through the Kenmore neighborhood where I grew up, past the salt mines.  It will be interesting to see where it take us. 

Another rite of fall is the pumpkin patch, of course.  We made our annual trip to Boughton’s farm for pumpkins a couple weeks ago.  We pick produce there all summer and cap it off at the end of the season with pumpkins.  The family that owns it is so great…they always remember us and they are great with the kids.  One of the reasons I love them is because they are so UNcommercialized!  There is no quaint country cafe or gift shop selling “made in China” harvest decor.  There is no fancy parking lot or pricey corn maze (Thanks be to God).  Just a farm and a small farmstand and some really awesome proprieters.  It is THE REAL THING. Great produce and great prices, too.  We bought some lovely big pumpkins, it was sunny…we took a short hay ride…and then two days later our pumpkins were stolen off our porch.  Who take a little kid’s pumpkin?  This is the second time this has happened to us and it is sickening.  All our neighbors have pumpkins, but we were targeted.  Well, I came away with great memories and pictures at least.

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So this week we went back to Boughtons.  When I told them about our pumpkins, they very graciously offered us an “insurance policy” and allowed us to pick out anything we liked for free…which was so generous and I really appreciated their kindness.  The kids had the fun of picking again and we brought them home along with a pound of chestnuts that we picked up from their tree.  Hopefully we’ll have better luck this time. 

We have also been out and about just hiking and walking…kayaking too.  One day we drove to Peninsula and parked the cars and I took the baby in her stroller and the three kids rode their bikes and we headed north to the Boston Store on the towpath.  Steve launched his kayak there and followed us upriver.  We actually only saw him a couple times, but it was fun and I was able to get some action shots of him on the river.  He has been going out to learn more and practice about once a week and is making lots of progress.  He is also planning to take a couple of our kayaks to Florida in a few weeks. 

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We have also been busy homeschooling and taking field trips and learning all sorts of interesting things!  We spent a week doing a science unit study about the weather and how it works.  During that same week, we took time to make a bunch of fun crafts that focused on Native Americans.  We have started Sonlight’s Core 3 which introduces native cultures and early American history.  We had just finished Walk the World’s Rim and had ben reading our American Indian Prayer Guide amongst other things.  So we put together some dioramas of Indian homes and we also made our own moccassins from felt.  We made several types of Native American-style musical instruments and paper crafts found in central and south America as well. 

Breslin with his Seminole Chickee, Niall with a Plains Teepee and Hazel with a Southwestern Pueblo

Breslin with his Seminole Chickee, Niall with a Plains Tipi and Hazel with a Southwestern Pueblo

 

But frankly, what you really want to see is more baby pictures right?  Yes…Louisa is keeping us busy too.  Breslin and Hazel have been busy learning to change diapers.  Louisa herself is busy learning to laugh and smile and even starting to try rolling over!  I have no idea how much she weighs now or how long she is…but I know she is healthy and growing fast!  She wears Sarah’s pilot cap everywhere and is giving us lots of good opportunities to take pictures.  She is doing her first Metroparks Hiking Spree.  She just got her first bathing suit for the trip to Florida!  So she is a busy baby…busy like the rest of us! 

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Love this hat!

Love this hat!

 

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The Marble Jar

We have recently instituted a new policy around our house we refer to as the Marble Jar.  I should start by saying that, in the past, I have been privately skeptical, even disdainful of this concept.  So it goes to reason that I ended up instituting the Marble Jar out of desperation. 

Our summer vacation lasted about 3 weeks longer at the end than everyone else’s because of our new baby and because of a trip to the ADK’s. So by the time we got back from the trip and were ready to start school, I was pulling my hair out in frustration over the behavior of my children!  Those last few weeks they had  become a powerful whirlwind force of fighting, screaming, arguing and tantrum-throwing banshees and I had had it!  I decided on the Marble Jar for lack of any better ideas that could be quickly put into place as the first day of school drew near. 

We decorated some mason jars, and I put all the colored marbles into another jar.  The problem was attitude.  The solution was get a marble for good attitude.  The reward was that the person with the most marbles at bedtime on Thursday night gets to go out for breakfast before school with mommy on Friday morning!  This was my little bit of inspiration, this breakfast thing.  I knew there needed to be an easy, immediate reward that would make the whole thing worthwhile. 

The contest was immediately on…the competition for marbles was astounding!  The change in atttitude was like night and day within 24 hours.  Now of course I was skeptical at first about a few things.  I was worried about the kids trying to figure out ways to exploit or manipulate the system, and also about the kids fighting with each other over who would win.  Mainly I was worried because my chief problem with a system like this is that I think the kids should show good attitude/behavior without the promise of a “treat”.  Of course this is an idealistic view…I mean they have to learn somehow right?   In the real world, a good attitude has it’s rewards…so we went forward. 

Breslin won the first week, then Niall and this week it was a tie between Breslin and Hazel.  So far I have made one trip to Einstein Brothers and two visits to Krispy Kreme.  They are really having fun with this!  But most importantly I have seen an actual, tangible change in their attitudes and behaviors.  Steve agrees that he has seen less tantrum throwing, etc.  They know that if they show a good attitude towards choses and schoolwork and EACH OTHER they are rewarded.  I have been happier, less inclined to yell and there has been much less arguing.  It is working out well for all of us. 

I think that this was a good time to try this.  With all the confusion a new baby brings, added to a new school year starting and a new schedule of weekly activities, there have been a lot of good “learning” opportunities.  I would reccommend this technique, now, without my former skepticism.  However, I would caution to resist any temptation to “rig” the outcome.  The first week there was a lot of tears form the two non-winners.  We felt really bad, but we resisted the urge to help the others win the following week.  Today, when we had a tie, we honored it. 

Most thankfully, the Marble Jar has thus far kept mommy from losing her marbles!

Before the Marble Jar

Before the Marble Jar

There just isn’t enough blog space around to post about all the things I don’t “get”.  But I have thought of a few that are particulary unfathomable to me. 

As I was working out at the gym on the elliptical the other night, and checking out the other gym-goers around me, one of these mysteries hit me. 

Thing I don’t “get” #1:

Why do women who punish themselves daily by running, lifting and training for marathons, etc. come up to me and tell me that they could NEVER in a MILLION years live through the horror of natural, unmedicated childbirth? 

I mean, I don’t get it?!  When you have a baby, you have the best kind of reward, way better than the reward of winning any marathon, and not only that, you only have to do it once for a few hours, not day in and day out, hour after hour.  The irony of course is that these exceptionally fit women are the best ones for the job of natural childbirth because they have a lot of endurance, good health and a great mindset about pain.   

When I am working out, I am thinking something like,  “This totally sucks, give me childbirth anyday over this”.  So I guess they wouldn’t “get” me either.

Another mystery:

Thing I don’t “get” #2:

Why is it that in a house of six people (like mine) if even one person is absent from the house for awhile, especially during meals, does the house seems to stay infinitely cleaner or the meal seems infinitely easier to prepare? 

My husband and oldest son were gone over the weekend.  This still left me home with three children under seven.  However, somehow everything seemed to go so much more smoothly, meals were so easy and clean-up a breeze.  The majority of the family was still here, but somehow, the house was much cleaner and easier to manage for 72 hours. 

And finally, Thing I don’t “get” #3:

How do my fully grown chickens manage to fly up and over a 6 foot high fence the day after I have clipped their wings (almost completely off!)  Are they that much smarter than me?

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Another new header

FYI, the new header is looking from the town of Piercefield towards Mt. Arab, near the road to Gull Pond.  Adirondack Forest Preserve, September, 2009.

Ambition

Do any of you recall that chapter in Little Town on the Prairie when Laura had to write an essay on “Ambition”?  Remember how she had to look up the meaning in the dictionary and then she got a nearly perfect score? 

Anyhow, I was thinking of that tonight as I read my new issue of Mother Earth News (MEN).  I know, I know…no one but me (and Melinda) thinks like that.  Well, ambitious would describe how I am feeling these days.

As fall and winter are upon us, I have already begun to think ahead to spring and all my plans.  Last spring I spent much of the time indoors, and since I planned for an early summer baby that didn’t arrive till late summer…and since then having been preoccupied with said baby, I have been extremely disconnected from my normal backyard pursuits this year.  It is very strange actually, because since I didn’t take part in the early stages of things this year, I have been utterly uninspired to so so the whole rest of the season.  I have completely avoided and even let go all the normal outside duties that I normally enjoy.  Due to this, I have been having an unusually early and fervent desire to plan ahead for next spring and summer. 

Some of the things I am looking into include but are not limited to:

  • becoming a top bar beekeeper
  • putting in a patio in the backyard
  • putting in extra front yard beds
  • cutting down a few trees
  • putting in a new fire pit and doing away with the old one entirely
  • painting my fence and garage
  • fixing up a water faucet inside the chicken area
  • building a shelving unit on the back porch
  • buying a grill

Pretty ambitious wouldn’t you say?  I am most interested in the beekeeping, but rather intimidated by it.  For those who don’t know, I have been researching and thinking about the bees for about a year or so.  I have a couple local friends who do it, so I think I can get some help.  I am thinking that Breslin and I will build the hive box in the basement this winter.  I feel like there is so much mystery to the bees, but I am also starting to think that the only way for me to solve some of the mystery is to just jump into it with both feet. 

A lot of my plans involve improvements to our backyards.  This backyard has been a long slow road to improvement, but it is getting there.  I want it to be kid friendly, but also useful and a sanctuary for the whole family.  Some of the obstacles are the large shade trees which frankly are too many and too big. Also, leaving enough free space un-landscaped for the kids to play in is a challenge in a small urban yard.  I think I have convinced them that we should do away with the  trampoline, however.  They don’t use it much, and I told them that we could construct a teepee or tree house in its place.  Some of my other ambitions are meant to make the yard more chore-friendly, such as putting water out in the chicken coop.

In the meantime I am trying to finish up some projects inside the house.  This past weekend Hazel helped me refinish the solarium door.  It was painted on one side only, so we sanded and scraped and painted both sides and then rehung it.  It now looks like a finished door instead of another unfinished project.  I am sincerely planning to tie up other similar loose ends throughout the house all winter, so that when summer rolls around I can devote myself to the outdoors! 

Hazel Helping primer the door

Yes, I realize that this might be hard with a small baby and three homeschoolers to take care of, but I think if I plan out my moves and work on them in small manageable chunks, I can succeed.  Now if I could only apply that strategy to losing weight I’d be looking great!

ADK’s again

Looking towards Mt. Arab From the edge of Piercefield as we drive in at dawn

Looking towards Mt. Arab From the edge of Piercefield as we drive in at dawn

So we just got back from another fun ADK trip. New baby, new camper…it was great!  And for the first time ever on a trip to the ADK’s for us…it didn’t rain once!  We hiked to the top of Hurricane Mt. the first afternoon, which was probably a bit ambitious as we were tired from driving all night.  Then we ate at the Lake Placid HoJo’s for dinner, as we were well exausted from the day of hiking.  The next day we finally got to drive up to the summit of Whiteface.  Every time we have wanted to do that we always had to delay because of clouds or rain.  It was fun, and the kids liked seeing the “Castle” at the top.  We then drove over to Paul Smiths, where we visited their farmer’s market on the college green, and bought some ADK roasted coffee and some sourdough bread.  Lots of fun, yummy stuff at the market that day!  I was inspired by some needle felted pumpkins and acorns I saw there and came home and made some with the kids last week.  We took in the Paul Smiths’s VIC the rest of that day, which the kids really enjoyed.  The asked this evening, while hiking, if we could go back there specifically!  On our last full day we played around in the water…first at the gorges, ponds and falls at Wilmington Notch, which was where we camped, and then in the mountain lakes nearby as we hiked up to them, Copperas Pond mainly.  Of course I didn’t get in much on the water action…too cold for me and baby!  But the kids and Steve went all out.  We stopped at Taylor Pond for a quick hike before we left and even made it to Niagara falls on the way home.  Whew!  I am tired just thinking about it! 

Not even 24 hours into it and we have a major snake catch and release!

Not even 24 hours into it and we have a major snake catch and release!

Breastfeeding...it's so portable!  (Top of Hurricane Mt.)

Breastfeeding...it's so portable! (Top of Hurricane Mt.)

Handknit by Sarah...we love the hat and Louisa got a lot of compliments on it all weekend!

Handknit by Sarah...we love the hat and Louisa got a lot of compliments on it all weekend!

Looky Grandma,  I am sitting on the top of the mountain!

Looky Grandma, I am sitting on the top of the mountain!

Looking for pitcher plants along the Boreal Life trail at Paul Smiths VIC

Looking for pitcher plants along the boreal life trail at Paul Smiths VIC

Beaver lodge...almost at eye level from the trail, near our camp

Beaver lodge...almost at eye level from the trail, near our camp

Swimming in Copperas Pond, a wash bowl about 1.5 miles up the mountain

Swimming in Copperas Pond, about 1.5 miles up the mountain

....and more than a few big ones, too!

Just one of our amphibious adventures of the weekend!

A worthy grand finale to another NY trip!

A worthy grand finale to another NY trip!

Worth Noting:  Hazel says to me, upon our arrival at Niagara Falls…”I thought you said it was going to be big?!”  WHAT??????
Oh, and just add it to my already noteworthy list of “Places I Have Breastfed”
True Whole Grain...this is what it looks like!

True Whole Grain...this is what it looks like!

This post is for those friends who continue to be baffled by my desire to grind my own wheat and do all my own baking.  Don’t forget the Little Red Hen…..everyone wanted to help her eat the bread!  If you are baking with whole wheat and it doesn’t look this good, then I implore you to come over to my side and stop shaking your head at me when I speak of my bread.
MMMM....Cinnamony....
MMMM….Cinnamony….

With the older kids gone to Grandma’s house for the weekend, I decided to catch up on my baking and a few other things today.  I baked seven loaves of bread and these cinnamon rolls.  I also made up a batch of six-week bran muffins for the fridge.  If you aren’t familiar with this recipe…basically what it is is a whole grain muffin batter that you can store for up to six weeks in the fridge.  When you want muffins, you just get it out and scoop out the amount you need, for one muffin or one dozen!  It is great for busy days and my kids can make them by themselves once I put the bowl in the fridge. 

I also made enough pizza dough to make 16 pizzas and froze it in individual bags for pizza nights.  In addition to all that, I made my first ever Texas Sheet Cake, and although we won’t be eating it till our picnic tomorrow at my mom’s house, it sure looks good! 
Steve has also been busy today, and just this minute he is getting his kayak loaded to take it down to the river.  He bought a new one just this morning for Breslin to learn in.  He spent the day doing a few handyman things around the house and cleaning out the garage.  We are bringing our new camper home tomorrow, so we had to get the garage ready. 
So that leaves me here with sleeping beauty.008
She’ll be waking up soon because I know she really wants her lunch and to go on her first trip (of what is sure to be many) to Jo-Ann Fabrics with me.  Can’t you just tell by the look on her face?

Keeping it real

Today I want to share a website I just discovered because I am so impressed with it that I am hoping some of my busy friend might enjoy it as much as I am right now. 

The site is an online family planner for keeping track of schedules, shopping lists etc.  I have long searched for the perfect family calendar and I think this may qualify.  The nice thing is I can print it out too to keep handy when I am away from the computer…for instance to put it on the refrigerator.  You can also coordinate it with your cell phone, but I don’t think that is a feature I would use much.  The website can be found at www.cozi.com. It only take a few minutes to get started.  Once you set it up, you will have an icon on your desktop so you can access it quickly anytime. 

One of my favortite things about this planner is the ease of entering items!  I can type in “8/27, Dr. Appt, Jennifer” and it just automatically updates my calendar the way it needs to be entered.  Each member of the family is color coded too, to help reading the entries.  And I can see my week or my month at a glance.  I also like that activities that take place regularly are automatically entered.  For instance, Monday, Wednesday, Friday Preschool for Niall was entered once and then automatically entered for every week going forward. 

The Cozi website also has a nice and free dowloadable screen saver collage that I reallylike that shows a continual slideshow of my pictures.  I am not sure I will use the shopping list or message features of the website, but I am sure there are those who are more techhie than I am that would appreciate those features.  I do however like the family journal feature and have already journaled in it with pictures. 

Check out Cozi if you get a chance.  I would love feedback from anyone who tries it out.  I am wondering if others will enjoy the ease of using it as much as I am so far!

Belly be gone!

I am already in weight loss mode…physically at least….and getting there mentally too. 

Physically I am already helping myself to weight loss through the wonders of breastfeeding.  Most people don’t realize you can burn 800-1100 calories a day nursing a baby without ever getting off the couch or putting down your donut.  I am hard at work burning those calories these days, but I am also mentally preparing for getting back into shape with food and exercise….but give me a break….I’m not going to worry too much for at least the next few weeks. 

But speaking of bellies, I wanted to show off a few pieces of art I’ve made to celebrate the belly.  When I was carrying Hazel I made and decorated a cast of my breasts and belly.  I decided I liked the idea of having it as an heirloom piece for her when she is grown, so I made another one for Louisa to inherit for herself.  You can see in the side by side shot how they compare.  While I only weighed a couple pounds less this time than when I delivered Hazel, I was actually somewhat smaller this time around. 

Louisa's as-yet-unembellished belly cast

Louisa's as-yet-unembellished belly cast

 

Hazel's belly cast 2002

Hazel's belly cast 2002

 

2002 and 2009

2002 and 2009

A friend who is due with her fourth baby next week just called to find out how to make one of these casts and inspired me to blog about them.  They are really a fun project for mom and dad to work on.  My husband like the part where he got to slather me with petroleum jelly.  I like the finished product.  Although I am not sure what will become of these items when my daughters inherit them, I like the idea at least of them being around, commemorating the growth of my child in my womb.  When the baby has come and gone and grown, they are a sweet remembrance of a special time of life…for both of us.

Day 3

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It was just lucky for me that I got my new laptop the day before Louisa was born.  I can share her a little more and finally get back to some blogging.  Our old computer took days (it seemed) to download a single picture and so I hadn’t blogged once since May!  I have people waiting on recipes and info and I kept saying…”I’ll put it on my blog for you…”  but I couldn’t! 

Grandma and grandbaby No. 6

Grandma and grandbaby No. 6

Of course having a baby in the house means I am busier than usual, but there is also a profound sense of calm that reigns in this “babymoon phase”  I am enjoying her long naps as a way of easing into the chaos that will surely ensue later on.  I decided that having a baby in August is nice.  It is a time of my year that little is expected of me in general, and since everyone knows I just gave birth, I can easily get away with doing as little or as much as I please this month! 

Speaking of August, I discovered that my new daughter will have a lovely peridot birthstone.  All my other children have blue colored birthstones-turquoise for December, sapphire in September and aquamarine in March.

Of course the real reason for this post today is to share a few new pics of the baby…we are all enjoying her so much.  In the tradition of our home, she has already earned nicknames from everyone, like “Mrs. Soft-Head” (Niall) and “Lu-Lu” and of course, the expected “Baby Sissy”.  She may well hear that one all her life! 

Breslin reads to Louisa on her birthday while Hazel holds her

Breslin reads to Louisa on her birthday while Hazel holds her

Born

Welcome home baby! 

277 upright

Louisa Frances

8lbs 8 ounces

August 8, 2009

7:01 AM

The Details:

My water breaks…this had never happened to me before labor before, so I was a bit surprised when just after midnight, I found myself leaking!  I had been sitting at the table having a late snack of hummus, tomatoes and pita, when I sneezed and felt a little trickle.  I actually thought that it was my bladder, but when I stood to take the plate to the sink, I quickly realized it was not!

After cleaning up, I called to tell the midwife, and then proceeded to wait for contractions to begin.  By 1AM, I was contracting about 3 minutes apart.  I tried to sleep but at about 2AM I decided I needed Steve in the room with me….(he was trying to get a  little rest on the couch).  We lay in the dark in our bed for a while, but shortly before 3 o’clock I relized my moaning was keeping him up and I went to the bathroom to make myself pee.  I had three really close contractions while there, and when he heard the long, almost unbroken noises coming from within, he came in and suggested calling the midwife again.  I told him I’d rather get in the tub first, so he filled up the birth tub in our bedroom and I relaxed and contracted there for about another 45 minutes till Steve decided he wanted the midwife to be there and called her in.  She lives close, less than a mile away and so by 4AM she had arrived and set to knitting on my bed, waiting me out.  By 5 o’clock, her assistant had also arrived, and we were all enjoying ourselves; well, they were all enjoying themselves! 

I kept up the good work, and by about 6 or 6:30 was transitioning to the final stage and frankly, had a few scary moments of trying crawl out of my own skin….but they kept me going and kept me moving and kept me peeing.  I only left the tub once in all those hours to pee, and so I kept pretty comfortable there. At about 6:52, I began to announce that I wanted to push.  After that, a lot of what happened is blurry.  I know I pushed at least twice to really bring her head to the door, but as it came through, I had to stop and “blow” for awhile because her cord was wrapped and her hand was on the back of her head so I really had to ease her out rather than push her out.  The only other push I remember was the one that got her the rest of the way through, and I was holding her and weeping the next second. 

I was out of the tub shortly after this, the cord cut and I was getting wiped off and starting to nurse when Niall, who is 4.5 came out into the brightly lit hallway from a  night of rest.  The midwife greeted him and he just came in and crawled up on my lap.  I asked him if he saw the baby and he just looked blankly at me.  I got him over to the other side of the bed and with wide eyes he looked at her and whispered “Can I go wake up Bres?”!  We all laughed as he ran off to tell his sleeping big brother.  Breslin argued sleepily with Niall till Steve went and got them…Breslin didn’t believe him!  But he soon came in and saw what all the fuss was and was thrilled.  Of course they ran to get Hazel up then, and Steve captured with the camera her big eyes and smile as she saw the baby and lit up! 

We are all well and happy and so glad to have our little girl here safely.  This pregnancy had its ups and downs, but we are so grateful for God’s love and mercy and the prayers of our friends and family.  We could not have asked for a happier ending than this.  Welcome, Louisa! 

Proud Siblings

Proud Siblings

SL forums have done it again!  Today I found a thread about making powdered soap for the dishwasher.  I tried it out immediately with sparkling results! 

The Recipe:

Borax

Baking Soda

Vinegar

In a wide mouth container, mix equal parts Borax and Baking Soda and blend well.  Use a scoop to measure into your machine when you are about to wash a load, and pour 1/3-1/2 cup white vinegar into the bottom of the machine as a rinse aid.  You may also (in addition) fill the rinse aid compartment with vinegar.  Run your machine as usual. 

What could be easier?  Oh, and cheaper?  I already keep a bulk size bag of Baking Soda (got it at Sam’s Club) on hand because I use it to clean about everything in my house.  And of course I always have Borax for making my laundry detergent.  So it was a no brainer for me to whip up this stuff. 

I haven’t figured out what the total cost savings would be compared to using other dish detergents, but I can tell you that every time I buy dishwasher soap, I cringe at the price….not to mention the chemicals.  And the main thing is effectiveness of course…..it works….so how can you go wrong?  For a family of five, soon the be six, we do a lot of laundry and a lot of dishwashing.  It is not unusual for me to run my dishwasher up to 3 times per day!  So to be able to have a savings of approximately 85% or greater on the soaps and household cleaners is really worthwhile!

Bag-A-Day May

Well, I have been really productive this week!  The Doc lightened up my bedrest restrictions on Monday and I haven’t lost much time getting a few things done.  Something about having a new baby makes you ready to say, “out with the old and in with the new”!

I am participating in a month long event on the SL forums called “Bag-A-Day May”.  The purpose of this is to clean and declutter your home.  I have filled 12 bags for donation and about 4 bags of trash as well as filling my city recycling container.  Today I actually found empty boxes in storage…like I was ever going to use them!  I also found a bag of old used socks and underwear….what!  Now, normally, I am  a regular purger: maybe a half dozen bags or items every 2 months or so go to Goodwill.  But it is amazing, even with that, what you can part with when you are really goal oriented! 

I have a huge built in cabinet in my dining room that consists of 3 large drawers, two cabinets with 3 shelves in each and one large cabinet with 2 shelves.  It is quite a lot of storage space.  Today I cleaned out about 50% of it to the point of EMPTY and have really, nothing to replace it with!  What a great feeling! 

Ifyou get inspired to have a “Bag-A-Day” month of your own, let me make here a few suggestions:

  1. Set small goals, like one bag of trash OR donation OR recycling each day. 
  2. Have some accountability-tackle the project with a few friends and then take pictures to share of your growing “piles”. 
  3. Read up on how to declutter if you aren’t sure what to do.  “Organic Housekeeping” by Ellen Sandbeck devotes a whole chapter to having a “Clutterectomy”.  Once you learn, you will get better in the future.
  4. Have a small reward (other than the reward of a cleaner home) like buying new organizing tools or something nice to take the place of the pile of junk you just pitched.  Or just have a big bowl of ice cream! 
  5. Think of the thrift shops as your personal storage unit.  You put the items in “storage” that you are not using and when you need them, you pay a small fee to get them out again.  You don’t pay for the storage unless  you actually need the item again.  If you ever need it!  (Got that little gem in a homeschooling tome!)

Happy decluttering!

First Harvest

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My very first rhubarb harvest…after waiting for two years…here they are….big and beautiful.  I got about 2 cups chopped….might be good stewed over ice cream, or on oatmeal…..

I have three more plants that will be ready next year and I bought six more today that I can eat in 2011…….well worth the wait!

Finished Product

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The finished outfit in organic cotton…I posted just the pants a few posts ago…the sweater is done, with wooden buttons and a little embellishment on the back:

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The next pic is of  finished newborn sized wool longies and a matching diaper cover.  For the uninitiated, wool longies serve as a diaper cover and a pair of pants at the same time, while the diaper cover is worn over a diaper under jeans or a dress etc. 

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A lot of the handknit longies I have seen online have been done with variagated wool that is dyed with a  long color change….meaning you get a lot of stitches in one color before the next color comes along.  I do not care for the overall effect that this has on the look of the longies.  It tends to make the butt section more varigated and the legs end up with bold wavy patterns of color.  I had used this very same yarn/colorway to make my daughter a poncho and I knew for sure that you would only get three stitches per color before changing.  What you arrive at is a pair of longies witha  smooth color changing pattern.  This yarn is by Ella Rae and I bought it on clearance from Web’s

Finally, here is a finished pair of longies in a pink wool, that was more like pencil roving than yarn…perfect for longie knitting.  In fact, the Ottobre pattern prescribes this type of yarn for its soakers.  I found this pattern online.  It had new information for me about making a crotch gusset, as well as using short rows on the backside to give it more room to fill with a thick cloth diaper.   That is why you will notice that the back is a little higher than the front.  If I could remember where I found the pattern, I would credit it…sorry. 

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Pride and Joy

Well, a miracle has occurred.  While a baby knits in my womb, I have managed to create my own knitting pattern!

This is not something I ever thought I could really do.  Sure, I have made lots of variations on existing patterns at times, but I realize now that taking the next step-designing-is inevitable after you start making changes to the patterns you try. 

For a year or so I have searched the internet for a plain, fitted onesie pattern.  you know, something akin to those basic, white, Gerber onesies that are a staple in every infant wardrobe?  Everything that turned up was frumpy, bulky and I felt, poorly shaped.  Once I figured out how top-down sweaters worked, after making a few for this baby, I realized I could maybe design this onesie that I was in search of.  The main issue for me was shaping.  I wanted something with clean lines and classic shaping that wouldn’t be bulky on the baby.  I did not want leg bands.  After using some of my onesies around the house for shaping and measuring ideas, I got to work.  Here is the resulting garment:

My Pride and Joy

My Pride and Joy

As you can see, it is very simple, but that is what I was going for.  The most embellishement is seen at the shaping around the shoulders, where I used yarn overs for the increasing.  I like the slightly lacy effect, and over a colored tee shirt, it will look cute.  The collar and wrists are a simple 1×1 rib.  This was knit with a  worsted wool on a size 8 needle.  The buttons at the crotch are 1/2 inch wooden buttons.  It is approximately a 6 months size. 
The appeal of the wool to me comes from my family’s love for hiking in all seasons.  We will carry the baby out in the backpack in in January, and a woolen onesie will be just the ticket to keep the baby cozy.  I call the pattern “Pride and Joy” because it is just that to me, as I am sure my new little one will be when she arrives.  I hope this is something I can pass down to her children! 
I did not write the pattern down as I went on this project, but I hope to make more, and thus I guess I should be getting out the pencil and paper.  I think the directions will be along the lines of Elizabeth Zimmerman, in that they will follow a formula rather than a set of instructions.  But, lets not be hasty and compare oneself to the immortal EZ.  There is still a LONG way to go for that! 

The big decision

Here is a story:  A man works in a barber shop.  Some thugs come in and try to rob and shoot up the place.  As they are doing so, they shoot and badly injure the man as he throws himself over the bodies of two very young children to ultimately save their lives.  But now the man cannot work for several months due to his injuries.  The man is a wrestling official and has a wife and kids, and so the local officials association give him a thousand bucks to help out from their treasury, because Christmas is just a few weeks away.   

Fast forward to a few months after Christmas.  The man is still unable to work but will be able to return to the barber shop soon.  Things are pretty tight.  Another wrestling official uses his charity organization to organize a big raffle to raise money for this family.  They make over $5000!  There are lots of great prizes to be had in the raffle, however, the Grand Prize is a 50 inch flat screen TV!  One of the other officials buys $80 in tickets, and write the names of himself and wife and kids, his mom, sisters and brothers on those tickets, hoping to make some good of it all.

This official would like to win, and one night, a middle aged man calls, mysteriously asking to speak to the 6 year old daughter.  The mother of the girl is alarmed, and demands to know why this man is calling her young daughter.  Suddenly, it is all clear…the 6 year old has won the Grand Prize!  She now has to make a choice…the TV or $800 cash! 

Well, it must be said that the young girl thought the TV would be pretty cool, but her parents and brothers managed to convince her that since they were not a TV watching family, they might like something different.  One night in a dream, it comes to her mother that what they could all enjoy would be a nice wall tent to put up in the Adirondacks for extended vacations!  Waht 6 year old could say no to that? 

Okay, well, my 6 year old.  But I guarantee, it will be way more fun than the TV.

…here’s more knitting. 

This is the fairisle tote.  I made it in just under three days…whoo-hoo! I have been using it for about a week and I love it…especially as the handles are very sturdy and do NOT pull away from the body of the bag as I had feared, and as I have experienced with other felted bags.  I am usually loaded down, so that is a plus for me. 

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A close up of the fairisle pattern

A close up of the fairisle pattern

I made some cloth baby wipes this weekend.  If diaper wipes can be described as luxurious, then that is the word I will use.  I get it that some people would find this laughable. 

When I had my first child and he was in cloth diapers, I discovered quite by accident that you could wash the fabric-like Huggies Premium baby wipes and reuse them…so I did.  I threw them into the diaper pail with the dirty diapers, and it all went into the washing machine at once.  When they emerged, dry and staticky, I folded them, and put them back into the plastic container.  They would last this way for  about three to four months. 

Since my spirit for cloth diapers has been renewed, I have discovered homemade flannel baby wipes.  Very simply, they are squares of flannel with serged edges.  I bought some coordinating fabrics in flannel and terry cloth, cut 8″ squares and serged them together in flannel/flannel combos, or flannel/terry combos.  I made about 4 dozen. They are really cute, and I am sure they will be plenty handy!

These are the flannel on flannel wipes, with different backs and fronts

These are the flannel on flannel wipes, with different backs and fronts

 

I made three dozen of each of these fabric patterns, backed with terrycloth

I made three dozen of each of these fabric patterns, backed with terrycloth

…is often the result of spending copius amounts of your daylight hours behind the needles.  Of course, I am not complaining, mind you.  I have never had so much ease finishing projects in my life now that I don’t have to take care of my family all day!

I have this amazingly talented friend who lives far far away, but one day long ago when she lived around here and we worked together at a job that gave us a lot of free time, she taught me how to knit.  I owe to her all my own skill, and also the sweater adn pants set you see here.  She kindly spun up some wool and dyed it as a suprise for me to enjoy on bed rest.  I knit almost all of it up in jsut 4 days into this neat little outfit that I designed myself.  The multicolored novelty yarn is from my stash.

A Tunic.  The purple is the handspun, hand-dyed yarn

A Tunic. The purple is the handspun, hand-dyed yarn

Some pants to go with it...also handspun and dyed by my dear friend, ruffled at the bottom by me

Some pants to go with it...also handspun and dyed by my dear friend, ruffled at the bottom by me

 

This next pair of pants will soon have a little matching cardigan in the same purple organic cotton.  The pants are organic cotton in 2 colors.

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Now here is a little cardi that has just one button, out of my mom’s old button jar…I got this pattern from fpea and her “free pattern friday”.

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Here we have a large batch of wool soakers using the Ottobre pattern…oh and one from little turtle knits as well.   Most of these have been made over the last year, not the last few weeks and mostly from my stash to use up my wool leftovers. 

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Next we have a round baby afghan…a little different that the normal baby blanket.  It is washable wool, and about 30 inches across.  I got this pattern from The Knitting Goddess and I also had made one for Shepherd last year, which is tucked away for a keepsake now.  It is a very fast knit. 

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This is a soft cotton hat and an organic cotton wrap sweater with shell buttons, both sized for a newborn.  The sweater was knit in one piece and was super easy, so I might make some more with that purple organic stuff I just bought from Web’s.

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Here is a little “swing” jacket that I made before I knew the baby was a girl, so it is a little plain, but I might girlie it up yet….

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Finally, an unfinished pair of wool longies for cloth diapers….part diaper cover, part pants. 

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I also have in the wash (felting) right now a fair isle knitted tote  in brown and purple and I have knit a dozen or so washcloths.  I have yarn for a few other projects on hand….so what am I doing here blogging when I could be knitting!

New ADK header

This shot is along the roadside going to the ADK Loj.  The weather was gloomy and muggy, but the lighting and clouds were just right for this dramatic photo!

I’m just sayin’……..

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I recently posted about the frame that we got from a neighbor’s backyard.  We set it up in a cleared area of our flower beds and put into it a lasagna of compost, soil and chicken manure.  It is a 3’x8′ rectangle of 2″x4″‘s hammered together with a divider vertically across the middle.  We decided to make it in to a square foot garden!
Breslin worked on it over the weekend by measuring off the 1′ intervals, marking them, and hamming in nails.  To the nails, we tied twine across the rectangles, marking a grid for planting. 

Bres taking measurements

The finished frame with the twine grid

The finished frame with the twine grid

Breslin and Hazel each claimed a side, and each has 8 boxes for planting.  We picked out four kinds of seeds that are ready to plant for early spring, and got started.  Each type of seed got 2 boxes.  We made a plan on paper as to where we were planting each veggie and how many seeds we needed and then we got outside….

Breslin breaking up the soil

Breslin breaking up the soil

 

Hazel planting the seeds in her box

Hazel planting the seeds in her box

They planted cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and also peas.  Their seedling should be up in another week, and harvet will be in the late spring.  Check back for more updates on this little adventure.

Steve and the kids measure the tree circumference to determine how many taps we need

Steve and the kids measure the tree circumference to determine how many taps we need

 

I drill the first hol into our largest tree.  We had a total of ten taps in the yard

I drill the first hol into our largest tree. We had a total of ten taps in the yard

 

A clear drop of sap-we used freecycled 3 and 5 gallon buckets for collecting and they hung from our taps

A clear drop of sap-we used freecycled 3 and 5 gallon buckets for collecting and they hung from our taps

 

Papaw uses his garage as the setting for his propane powered evaporater

Papaw uses his garage as the setting for his propane powered evaporater

 

DSC_0430  And the result was some awfully yummy syrup on Daddy’s famous whole grain pancakes!

Well, if you had any doubt about the size and shape of things on my urban homestead, these pictures should clear things up for you.

Our lot is about 50×180, and narrows down to a sort of point at the very back.  You can see below that there are houses on all sides, and some very busy streets surrounding.

Here is a view from the schoolroom overlooking our backyard, which slopes frmo the house to the far back

Here is a view from the schoolroom overlooking our backyard, which slopes frmo the house to the far back

In this picture you will note several things.  On your right, below the garage, is the chicken coop and outdoor run, which is soon to be enlarged.  Beyond it is the swing-set and trampoline.  You cannot see it, but directly behind the trampoline, down another slight grade is the compost heap.  In this area you can also see our sap buckets still hanging up, although we are officially done collecting.  We will probably take them down today.  Between the trampoline and the upper, rock-walled garden, is a flat, bare space.  The use of this  is yet to be determined,  but it is precious to us as the only flat spot in our yard.  We are thinking of eventually putting in a stone patio and fire pit there and taking out the fire pit you see in the fore ground.  I’d like to put up a fence to shield the “patio area” from  the other driveway and landscape around it with herbs and flowers.   The enclosed garden structure you see there is somethign I built last year.  I used concrete pieces we had on hand from re-doing the sidewalk in front.  The wall is three layers high and I am slowly mortaring it together.  All the fill for planting also came from right here in the yard.   The brick walkway that borders it on one side is made from all the bricks we pulled out of the previous owners “landscaping” ideas.  The brick walkway is filled in with creeping thyme and moneywort.  It ends at the woodpile, which is year’s worth of yard debris, etc.  Nothing bought, everything gained!

Above it all in the foreground is our only grass, bordered by beds, a fence, the house and some trees. 

My freecycled garden frame

My freecycled garden frame

This is a simple wooden frame to which I have no idea about it’s original purpose, but it is perfect for my kids to do a little square foot gardening with.  When some friends of our bought a house four doors down from us, they had this in their backyard, and they let me have it!  I placed it in the bed where last year I planted tomatoes and am making a lasagna in it with my chicken manure, compost and leafy debris.  I am going to have my son mark it off and put in some strings to denote the “squares” and let the kids plant it up.  To the sides and back I will plant a few of my own choices.    The area of bed right behind our bench seat is currently filled with hosta, but we are moving them to shadier spots and putting veggies in their place, probably tomatoes. 

We are homesteading with what we have, and making it work, learning as we go.  Overhead are not the endless skies of farm country, but rather……..

Our namesake, The Spirit of Akron

Our namesake, The Spirit of Akron

The iconic symbol of where we DO live…the city. 

And why do we do it?  Well, here is one small reason-

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Mindless knitting

It is amazing to me now that I ever thought this dishcloth pattern was too complicated for me to spend time on just for a dishcloth, of all things.  While I wait for my Web’s yarn purchase to arrive in the mail, I am knitting dishcloths.  And I am in love with the ball band pattern.  Can’t even bring myself to make anything else.

I have always wanted to have a plethora of knitted dishcloths on hand in the kitchen and bathroom, but as my knitting time is usually limited, I never allowed myself to just sit and knit them.  I have recently made two realizations:

  1. Dishcloths are the perfect carry around with you all the time project
  2. If you memorize the ballband pattern, you will always have a bevy of beautiful dishcloths in the house

The thing about the ball band pattern is that it looks so striking.  It is really great in bold colors and just as cute in soft colorways.  I much prefer it over the typical square with a cutesy design in the center that many people seem addicted to.  I love it’s texture especially. 

One of many "ball band" dishcloths i have made recently...to match my kitchen

One of many "ball band" dishcloths i have made recently...to match my kitchen

I recently participated in a “dishcloth swap” on the Sonlight forums.  About 50 of us joined in to send knitted up items to each other.  I have sent mine to the recipient, who is right here in Ohio and she is enjoying it as we speak.  It was a three color ball band.  I decided it was time to try the pattern, so my very first one went to her, and then I was addicted!  Mine has not arrived yet, but I happen to already know that it is coming all the way from Barbados!  Maybe it will bring a little sunshine with it?!

Aren’t I clever?  For Christmas I gave my husband the best ten dollar gift money could buy.  A new calendar!  BUT, this was not your ordinary calendar.  Marked off on it were four exclusive weekends that I give to him to backpack wherever and with whomever.  This is what he most wanted…more time for backpacking. 

So to use the first weekend, which was also the first full weekend of this month, he took our oldest boy and a friend with HIS oldest boy (the boys are both 8 years old) and hiked on Cannan Mt. in Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. 

I really know how to pick ’em, too.  While it was cold, grey and pouring buckets here for three days, they enjoyed sunny and mild 4 hours south.  It is MARCH people…who knew? 

Anyhow, here are few pics from their beautiful weekend.

The little boys

The little boys

The shelter they used for 2 nights, complete with 2 bottles of pale ale!

The shelter they used for 2 nights, complete with 2 bottles of pale ale!

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This one says it all!

This one says it all!

 

A parting shot at the top of Seneca Rocks

A parting shot at the top of Seneca Rocks

 

The March Centerfold

The March Centerfold

We didn’t have enough pets.  We only had two snakes, a toad, two tanks of fish, a gecko, 5 chickens and two cats.  How can children in these modern times be expected to live with so few companions, I ask you?   Especially homeschool kids, who are already so thin on friends? 

 

So we got 15 more chickens.  But they’re little, so it isn’t like a big deal right?

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You can’t tell at this point, really,  but there are 5 Aracaunas, 5 Dominiques and 5 Silver Laced Wyandottes there. 

They are currently living in a feed trough in our dining room, and boy are they cute!

I am on bedrest.  I have been learning how to do it since last Monday.  I think I’ve got it now. 

Sit and don’t do anything but knit. 

Last week I had my 20 week ultrasound.  The baby is looking nice and normal, just a bit small for my due date.  This is her (yes, I said HER) response to the placenta issues that have arisen due to my first trimester bleeding.    We are praying that she will continue to grow normally and even if she is a little small, that she not lag behind anymore.  Do you hear me Young Lady?  However, what all this means for me is bedrest and more bedrest.  It is possible and even likely that I will be sitting here knitting till June or even July.

This means:

  • No planting and working on the yard, except from a supervisory standpoint.
  • No spring flings to the park with the kids.
  • No berry picking this year for me anyways.
  • No camping for awhile, including a trip to the ADK’s till at least late summer

Among many other things.  BUT, I can live with all that. 

 

My new abode, the couch.

My new abode, the couch.

See if you can spot these things in the picture:

  • A bag of cotton yarn for knitting a million dishcloths
  • beads left our by boy #2
  • blocks left out by boy #1
  • School things left out
  • paper plate that needs thrown away
  • A $70 bottle of Folic Acid I must take, but that insurance won’t cover, even though I have had three doctors (not insurance agents) tell me it is a necessity. 

Well, anyways, with all this time on my hands, maybe I’ll actually blog more than once a month!

Quickie Pasta

Sonlight forums abound with the easy and delicious, but this is one of the best I have tried…thanks to Zeph317!

Pasta with Garlic, Basil and Tomatoes

1 lb cooked pasta-fetuccine, angel hair or spaghetii

1 large can of diced tomatoes

Several cloves of garlic

Olive Oil

Dried or fresh basil, chopped

Grated Parmesan cheese

Cook up your pasta and while doing so, slowy sautee the garlic, crushed, in a bit of olive oil.  Mellow it out real good over medium heat, stirring often, do not let it burn.  When it is pretty mellow, add the can of tomatoes and the basil and cook down for a bit.  Drain the pasta and serve the tomato mix over it…SO good and simple.  This is really wonderful with homemade garlic bread!

Owed to a Crock Pot

No, not “Ode”…I haven’t gone so far as to be serenading it…yet. 

What do I owe to my crock pot?  My undying respect!  I have owned a crock pot since my wedding shower (11 years ago, yikes!), but until last year, I never made anything but chili with it.  I discovered last winter that whole delicious meals  and even desserts can be made effortlessly with the darned thing! 

So I got me a real big one…seven quarts…to accommodate my growing family.  I have been in love ever since.  Then, because I was using it more, I decided to buy some cookbooks to give me some ideas.  I can never say no to a new cookbook.  I have two, the Gooseberry Patch Slow Cooker cookbook, and a cookbook put out by the manufacturer of the Crock Pot ™.  I especially like the Gooseberry Patch one for its “Five Ingredients or Less” chapter. 

While reading through the Gooseberry Patch book, I discovered an absolute gem

YOU CAN TAKE A CROCK POT CAMPING!

This has become the solution to a nightmare situation for us.  When we camp, we rarely stop to eat.  We usually eat a huge breakfast of pancakes and meats adn other delectables.  We then pack a lot of quick goodies for the rest of the day.  We are usually eating lunch on the trail or in the car  and it will be snacks, veggies, drinks, etc.  We then return to camp late and exhausted with very hungry children. And then you have to START dinner!  You can easily see where the nightmare begins! 

BUT, if the crockpot is cooking all day in your camper while you are working up the appetite, you can come home and sit right up to a better meal than you would have otherwise prepared!  Ingenious!

We now have a bevy of recipes that we use camping and it is so much better this way.  There are a few restictions, however.  This cannot be done safely in a tent….not to mention making the tent damp and smelly.  Also, if you are in bear country, you really shouldn’t do this unless you have a hard sided camper or motor home.  We have just a pop up camper, and if I make beef stew in bear country, I am going to come home to a big mess. You can smell it outside after hours of stewing.  Also, remember bears can smell your skin lotion from, like, five miles away.  It’s their job.

In light of this, let me give you one great recipe my mom just discovered that I plan to use in the camper.

 

Chuck Wagon Stew

2 lbs stew meat

1 lb smoked kielbasa

1 large can of BBQ baked beans

2 onions

5 potatoes

Chop vegetables and put all ingredients into the slow cooker.  mix well and cook on high for 6-8 hours.  YUMMY! This is also a Gooseberry Patch recipe, although not from the Slow Cooker book.

Do the Neti!

No, it is not a new disco beat.  Actually, I just had a Neti encounter and I am on a high.  well, the sort of high you get when you can breathe air.  Thank you to my firstborn offspring for the lovely cold, and aren’t we all in agreement that colds are ever so much more FUN when pregnant! 

Luckily thanks to all my sort-of-“out-there” friends, I have discovered Neti.  If you are already involved in a Neti relationship, you know how happy I am right now.  But I am going to speak to the uninitiated today.

What is Neti?

 It is a simple pot, traditionally made of clay or ceramic and now found at Walgreens in plastic for $14.99.   If you purchase it like I did, it may come with the saline packets necessary to use it.  These are a mixture of equal parts baking soda and salt. 

This is the one I have

This is the one I have

 

To use your Neti pot, you simply fill the pot with warm tap water and the saline packet and mix them to make a salty water.  You then cleanse your clogged sinuses with this mixture using the pot.  I cannot attempt to descibe how this is done, so here is a video

The boon of this product must, I repeat, MUST reach the ears of all pregnant women everywhere!  I discovered this last winter in my previous pregnancy and I felt like someone was handing me the keys to heaven.  The lovely charm of it is that it can be used as often as necessary with no side effects.  There is no longer a need for medications, and it can be used safely while breastfeeding as well!  Another benefit of its use is that it not only allows me to breathe, but erases the pressure felt behind the eyes during the sinus cold/infection. 

Now I have tried this out on the children.  They do not enjoy it at all.  But even they concede to feeling better afterwards.  I have tried to convert people to the Neti, but it is slow going.  I think people are afraid of what it will feel like.  It doesn’t hurt at all, but it is “different”.  But so worthwhile!  Also, let me make mention that once you run out of your saline packets, you can make more.  I keep a small jar in the bathroom with the pot that is 1/4 C of baking soda mixed with 1/4 C of salt, and use a medium sized pinch of it in the pot.  My philosophy for doing this is the same as the one I use when making my own laundry soap.  You know I am going to need it at the precise hour that I cannot get to the store to get more and have run out. 

So, I implore you to give Neti a try, and while doing so, make a promise to yourself to tell at least one pregnant lady you know about Neti.  She will love for it almost as much as she loves the baby!

Thanks you to Lisa Miller for this yummy treat.  We are having it for dinner tonight.  Yes, I know it is supposed to be an appetizer, but whoa, it is loaded, and I am sure it will make a great casserole-type dinner as well!  We are having it with salad. 

Anitpasta Appetizer (or casserole)

2 pkgs of crescent rolls

3 eggs

1 jar roasted sweet peppers

minced garlic

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 lb each: salami, sliced ham, pepperoni, American cheese, provolone, swiss

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly oil a 13×9 pan and press on 1 pkg of crescent rolls to form crust.  Layer with cheeses and meats, alternately.  Mix 2 eggs and garlic, salt and pepper and beat.  Pour over meats.  Layer on the peppers and top all with remaining pkg of rolls.  Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes.  Remove foil and brush remaining egg, beatem, over top, and bake another 25 minutes, uncovered.  Serve hot or cold.  Eat as a casserole or cut into small pieces to serve as appetizer.

Ah, the taste of fame

While still basking in the glow of fame brought on by my newspaper article and TV spot of fall 2008, I am now being picked up by ADK bloggers.  It makes me squirm a little, however, ther are things that I suppose that I would want to be know for, and these are they.   Today I’ll take fame over infamy. 

If you’d like to see where I’ve been picked up you can check out City Mouse, Country House (thank you Mouse for the props) and Adirondack Trailhead.

Better Early Than Late

At least, that’s my motto.  My husband on the other hand would abide by the old adage “Better late than never”. 

I hate to be late.  I adore to be early.  I am sitting here right now with more than an hour to spare.  I am unencumbered with children or husband today.  I taught a class, shopped and cleaned the house. 

This evening at 7 pm the family and I are hosting a suprise 60th birthday party for my dear mother-in-law.   Today was my day to shop, pack the car, cook and prepare for the party. I have to be there in a little over an hour to set up and I am blogging….because I am a woman who get things done. 

In the past, I hated this inevitable downtime I would create for myself by getting everything done early all the time.  But, oh, how we change when the children arrive.  Nowadays, if I can have that little bit of time to relax befor ethe storm of whatever I have been preparing for, I savor it like never before! 

Happy Birthday to Sandy, and I hope you are suprised and delighted and have a wonderful time tonight.  Maybe I’ll get some pics to post!

Building the dream

Alternative.  Sustainable. Simple. Affordable. Efficient.  Green.

We are hearing these words in common conversation more and more now.  They are becoming more widely embraced and understood.  In most cases they now apply to building, infrastructure and consumption.  For years, people on the fringe have been building this way. 

I have done a lot of reading lately about building techniques that my engineer husband and I find fascinating!  I have read about “earthships”-passive solar homes made of old tires, aluminum cans and dirt.  I have read extensively about Strawbale construction.  This is probably the style I most prefer of everything I have read.  This involves building your home from bales of straw and plastering them with adobe.  They are inexpensive, long lasting, weatherproof and beautiful.  There are many environmental benefits of building with straw.  I have read about portable homes, mini-homes, yurts and log cabins.  I have watched interesting videos on eath-bag construction-homes constructed by layering bags filled with soil into walls.

One of the things I find striking is how many of these homes are downright gorgeous, and yet not only environmentally inspiring, but inexpensive as well!  It gives me hope that we will yet build our Adirondack dream home affordably. 

Here is a clip that might interest you regarding straw bale construction:

Our immediate plans for the camp in NY have faltered a little due to the fact that I won’t be doing as much hard labor this summer as I had anticipated before I found out I was pregnant.    My goals for this year look like this:

1 week trip, early June

  • Clear a place to park the car
  • Designate a Camp building site
  • Clear the building site as much as necessary
  • Erect an outhouse building and dig a pit
  • Erect a camping platform, designate a cooking and fire area

1 week trip in early fall

  • Erect a cooking and picnic shelter and build or purchase picnic tables
  • Set up a water tank
  • Winterize outhouse
  • Possibly clear more driveway

Yes, this is extremely ambitious.  But I suppose one must have some ambitious goals to get anything done.  We will head up there, chain saw in hand in the late spring to get started.  I think I could be satisfied if even half this work got done. 

Our idea for making the camp is to erect a raised platform and set upon it a canvas wall tent. 

wall-tent-picThis is an example of a type of wall tent you can purchase.  They come with many options like floors, windows, and stovepipe vents.  Yes!  You can safely put a woodburning stove inside and keep your tent cozy in all seasons.  We’d like to build ours on a raised platform.  The space underneath would be used for storage and keeping the tent off the ground would help deter critters, dampness, etc. 

I’d love to also build an adjacent picnic shelter to use for cooking and eating in warm weather.  Centrally located would be the fire pit where the family could gather.  Basic necessities like water and toilet have also been on my mind.  I have read a lot about the use of an outhouse.  it can actually be quite sanitary, when you think about it.  Consider this:  our outhouse would be a single seater with a pit below.  It would be used only by the five of us and only a few times a year.  Lime could be added yearly to neutralize the waste if necessary.  It would take a long time to fill and could later be capped.  We can keep it clean with ease because it is a one-family deal.  The reason port-a-johns and camping facilities are so often nasty is mainly because of the massive amounts of people utilizing them.  Now I hate an outhouse as much as the next person, but I find myself accepting that this is the way business was done for thousands of years, and can be done well by our family as well with a little care.

As to water, well, we don’t have any. Our land is high on a hill a few miles from nearby lakes and streams.  The ADKs are teeming with water, just not right on our property.  However, we are lucky that because of the nature of the formation of this region, water can easily be found below the surface.  However, drilling a well can be expensive and for us at least, will have to wait.  What I’d like to do is bring in a 100-gallon water tank and have water delivered and have it for our needs  the few times a year that we would be there.  In the future, when our stays would be longer and perhaps more frequent, we can move on to bigger and better things.

I am immensely enjoying all the discovery that is going into our future in the ADKs.  I can hardly wait for the snow to melt so we can begin!

Tonight I saw a grown man, a big, burly, bearded guy, weep. 

It isn’t a great thing.  But in this case, as all of us in that room listened to him as he poured himself out, it was great!  Knowing that you are helping someone simply by being there is a great feeling.

On the third Tuesday of the month, my husband and I attend a meeting at the local hospital called “Precious Parents”.  This is a support group for those who have experienced a perinatal or neonatal loss.  Our son Shepherd was born on March 13, 2008 at 30 weeks gestation with a large cancerous tumor that left no room for his brain and he lived with us just 8 hours.  So we attended our first meeting just one day after arriving home fom the hospital last March. 

One of the reasons that this group is so amazing is because you know that you can pour out your real feelings about the loss of your child and everyone in the room understands you.  Often when you lose such a young baby, people do not realize that this child was one of your living breathing children.  I was guilty of being insensitive to this fact before I lost my son.  I now understand that when you discover you are having a baby, you begin to prepare a small place in your heart and your mind and your life for that child.  In my experience, the longer the child is with you, the larger the space becomes and when the child is suddenly gone, the space seems empty.  But it doesn’t go away.  Ever. 

You hear people say things all the time like “not a day goes by when I don’t think of him”– and have you thought to yourself, oh, that is just a figure of speech.  Sometimes surely, you forget for a day or two.  Well, I now know that when people say something like that, they really mean it.  Truly not a day goes by that I do not think of my baby boy.  Whether I want to that day or not.  The space is still there, you see.

So tonight, it was a relief from my own grief to be present in support of a couple who recently lost triplet boys in a very sad ordeal.  It was uplifting to me in my grief that he felt he could cry, nay, weep in front of us knowing that we all wept inside for him.  It felt good to see a man like this, and all the other men and women as well, find a safe haven for their grief, if only for a little while, before returning to the reality of everyday life.  It felt good, just to be there.

Feeling the Crunch

I read some sad news on the Adirondack Almanack this weekend.   Apparently, the town of Au Sable Forks, about 5 miles from our place, is having a lot of trouble surviving the recent economic hardships that are affecting the nation.  If only I had a lot of capital, I would love to invest in saving a place like taht from becoming a ghost town.  And while Au Sable forks is ahrdly to that point, small town suffer greatly during times like this.  The hardware store on the main drag suddenly shut its  doors and there are rumors flying about the fate of the grocery.  I am prayign that Au Sable Forks stays afloat….and not for the sake of my property values.  I am hoping that this country begins to ready itself to reinvestigate the inherent value found in smaller more closely knit communities.

It seems that the building trend of the last few decades has also created a culture of independence that leads to Americans no longer feel relaxed in  their own backyard.  New housing developments have cropped up all over the country in which there are barely any living, breathing semblance of camraderie or community amongst the dwellers. 

I live in a small city of about 250K people.  I live about 2 miles frmo the heart of downtown in a decent neighborhood.  We can walk most anywhere we need to go pretty quickly.  The houses are old, and very close together, the backyards are small, the garages are generally single-car and many of us share our driveway.  The streets are tree lined, but the sidewalks are bumpy.  It is a classic midwest old-city neighborhood.  But I know most of my neighbors…have been inside their homes and know their habits.  I know people all over at the local shops, parks and schools.  I can relate to them because we are actively engaged in our neighborhood and we have a stong sense of what we expect in this community.  This is something that seems to be lacking from the newer places where “Keeping Up With the Joneses” has been taken to a new level, and large lawns, lack of sidewalks, etc. have stripped people of neighborliness.  I believe that this is what small towns have that larger and newer communities often lack, and I hope that Au Sable Forks will survive for this reason.


Helping Others

I try to help out whenever I can in my day to day life.  I don’t always do the best job, but it is important to try.  I wanted to post about a couple of things in case anyone else is interested in learning more. 

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Since 2007, my husband and I have been supporting children who are attending Dalit Education Centers across India.  These DEC’s are schools that feed and educate children from the “untouchable caste” in India.  Officially the caste system is not supposed to exist and freedom of religion is supposed the be a part of modern India.  But as we know, old habits die hard,  especially when Satan is involved.  The Dalit (pronounced dah-leet) of India are considered to be lower than animals.  They are untouchable in a literal sense.  The Hindu belief is that if a Hindu comes into physical contact with a Dalit, that they then must submit to an elaborate cleansing ceremony.  For this reason, Dalit people are oppressed mentally and spiritually in the culture.  The philosophy of “karma” that we bandy about lightly in this country is what gives them their label.  It is believed that they are born into this caste as punishment for past sins from previous lives.  There are a controlled amount of jobs open to the Dalit which include cleaning the streets of trash and human waste, cleaning toilets, etc. 

Although legally, Dalits are supposed to be afforded most basic rights by the Indian government, this is not true in practice whatsoever.  The Dalit Freedom Network, based in Colorado, is a grass roots effort that now has built schools and Christian churches, trained medical workers and teachers and pastors for a number of years now. 

 For a cost of about $30 per month per child, our family sends four children to school all year long.  The school also provides some meals, which is crucial to their health as the families are very poor and have squalid and unhealthful living conditions in most cases.  We pray that through education and salvation, these children will have better futures. 

hands of compassion

If you could not afford to put food on the table, let alone pay for a private Christian education for your child, but this opportunity could be had for a mere $30 per month, how would you feel when another parent stepped in and offered “don’t worry, I’ve got it” so that your child could vastly improve her future?  I would fall to my knees and praise God.  When we pay the money for these children, it isn’t always the kids I am thinking of.  I often pray for and think about their parents and caregivers.  About the burden that is lifted, so easily by me, from them. I really think a lot about them–the gift from one parent to another.   

Personally I would love to have the chance someday to work amongst the Dalit in India as a medical worker with pregnant women and children.  Right now, I am happy to provide a decent education for four little  oppressed people of India. 

DCF 1.0

Recently, I met a couple who just began attending our church.  They had tried our our ABF and also brought their oldest daughter to my Wednesday night Chayil class.  In speaking with them, we learned that not only had we gone to high school together but that the woman’s mother runs an orphanage in Ghana with about 25 children living there at this time.  Today I had a chance to check out their website, and I hope you will, too.  It is amazing the way God is working all over the world and we don’t even realize it. 

Please take time if you can to check out the links provided here and also to pray, if you feel moved to, for the Dalit people and the spiritually and culturally opressed people of the world.  It matters a lot to try, even if you can’t do it all.  None of us can without His help.

I tried a new recipe this week and I wanted to post it.  Thank you to Kelly from SL for this recipe.  Its awesome!

2 lbs Bnls Sknls Chicken Breasts cut into large chunks

Toss these chunks in a packet of taco seasoning and put in a large skillet with

2 T olive Oil

and sautee.  Then dump in

1 jar of salsa   and

1 jar peach preserves

Heat through and serve over brown rice.  Delicious as leftovers too!

Well, it is a New Year, and I am sure we are going to have lots of new adventures.  I got a really awesome camera for Christmas from the  Ohio Turnpike Commission, oh no, I mean, from my husband.  ( But thank you to the OTC for making this all possible).  So you will be certain to see lots of pictures of our many exciting adventures! 

If you didn’t hear it already, we got the greatest gift we could have wanted for Christmas….the news that we are expecting someone new in our home late this summer!  The information came to us in a roundabout way, so we were duly suprised.  But so happy.  There have been a few ups and downs already, but everything finally seems to be under control and baby is doing wonderfully right now.  Please feel free to pray for us. 

We are already planning our trips for 2009.  We hope to travel out west, maybe South Dakota way, for about 2 weeks.  We want to make at least 2 trips to the ADKs, probably one long and one shorter one.  My mom and I are going to Kentucky in April for the AQS Paducah quilt show.   And Steve is already lining up his backpacking plans.  I am sure we will be doing some camping in more nearby locations this summer as well. 

Niall and Daddy at CVNP

Niall and Daddy at CVNP

We hope to enlarge the chicken coop considerably this year and add to our flock as well.  I am hoping to have a bigger vegetable garden this spring, too.   As always there is still lots left to work on around this old house.    Not to mention wanting to make improvements to  the Guideboard Road land in  NY. 

Fort Island Park, Fairlawn

Fort Island Park, Fairlawn

 I wish all my friends and family lots of new adventures this New Year as well.  Check back to see what the wacky Walkers are up to next!

After being asked at holiday parties about “the” laundry soap, I decided it would be easiest to post the information and then direct all inquires to the blog. 

I started making this soap from a recipe I found on the forums at Sonlight, and I have not tweaked it any.  However, I am sure if you researched online you could find lots of interesting ways to do this. 

I have encountered a lot of skepticism and scoffing about this process of making one’s own laundry soap, yet I cannot for the life of me figure out why.  I have “converted” about a dozen people and they are all very happily saving money with this method, and wearing clean clothes to boot!  I have a hunch that people either feel that it is too much of a hassle or that they just don’t believe it cleans your clothes.  Let me tell you, friends, that if you have seen me or my family wearing clean clothes in the last 18 months, it is thanks to this recipe.  As for it being a hassle, let me share this:  I can make 4 gallons of soap in less than 17 minutes (without hurrying at all) for less than 50 cents  per gallon.  If I drove to the grocery store, walked to the detergent aisle and picked up four gallons of generic detergent and went straight to the checkout and then drove straight home, it would take much longer than 17 minutes and be much more costly, even if I bought the cheapest, most generic brand. 

The recipe is simple.  If you convert the dry amounts to one cup measurements, you can quickly make four gallons.  Please feel free to e mail me with questions.

Laundry Soap

1/4 Cup of Borax

1/4 Cup of Washing Soda

1/4 Cup grated bar soap such as Ivory or Fels Naptha

Water

In a large non-reactive pot heat 4 cups of water.  Pour 4 cups of hot tap water into a 1 gallon milk container.  Add grated soap to pot on stove and mix till soap is melted, but do not boil.  Remove from heat and add Borax and Washing Soda and mix well. Pour soap mix into gallon jug and then slowly fill the jug till almost full with hot tap water.  Leave some room at the top so you can shake the mixture.  Put the cap on the jug and shake till well mixed.  Take the cap off and leave it sit till cooled before replacing cap to store.  What could be easier? 

Using a small funnel is very helpful so you don’t make a huge mess.  I always use all my regular kitchen utensils for soap making and have no problems.  They wash right up and there is no funny taste or residue.  I save my old milk jugs, but I will also save juice jugs, vinegar jugs, etc. 

The soap will be gloppy.  It will have solid glops and watery parts.  This is normal and okay.  Just measure out a normal amount with some water and some glops.  I do not measure or care about this, and my laundry is fine.  Adding more borax will thicken it.  If you have hard water, a bit more borax added will also help.  I use pure white vinegar as laundry softener, as well. 

I have a Kenmore HE front loader washer and this is the ONLY detergent I have ever used in it and have no issues.  I use about 1/2 cup per load, but I don’t really measure.  I fill the fabric softener compartment with the vinegar.  The thing about this soap is it isn’t very delicate and frothy, so the HE washers have no issues with it. 

Happy Soapmaking!

We have a great new holiday tradition in Akron and because we live so close to downtown, it is now part of our family’s own traditions.  Every year in downtown Akron the Chriskindl Markt opens up along with an ice rink  at the end of November.  We go as often as we can.  Ice skating is free,  if you have your own skates, so I have scoured the garage sales and thrift shops and now own 2 pairs of adult skates and about 10 pairs of kids skates in various sizes.

The “Markt” part of it is a German market with German holiday items and food and beers, complete with German workers hawking these things.  These people spend part of their holiday here,  from our “sister city” of Chemnitz, Germany.  They also demonstrate woodcarving, handpainting and blowing glass ornaments and ice skating shows.  We often buy the kids their annual Christmas tree ornaments here.  There is a “History of Akron” museum set up inside the parking garage, along with the concessionaire,  a throne to meet Santa, and a nice little picnic area, enclosed,  with a stage and usually live entertainment.  We like to go for the lantern parade (where the kids make lanterns and parade around with the German band), get hot doughnuts, ride the carousel, ice skate and take in some music.  It is a really great tradition and I am proud of Akron for it. 

We recently met our friends, the Emery’s, there for the lantern parade and got some fun pictures.  I thought that this was one of the most beautiful “Santa’s” I have ever seen.  And I love that it is so humble, no lines, pictures to buy, or general Santa exploitation. 

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The kids were entranced by the holiday music after the parade and five kids who never sit still somehow did!

We attended our first-ever gymnastics comptetition this month.  Hazel began taking gymnastics in June of 2007 and in May of this year she was invited to be a team member.  She really enjoys it and has gotten so strong and thinned out a lot since she began the twice weekly practices.  She loves to put on the leotard and pull back her hair and get on the equipment.  She likes to use the pommel horse and the uneven bars and she like the balance beam, too. I do not think that when we went to the meet she had any idea about competing or what to expect, but now she is eagerly awaiting the next meet!

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dscn08481She was so excited to have four ribbons and a medal to take home!

December Birthdays

December birthdays can be a little unfair to kids.  Although one of my children, whose birthday is NOT in December, thinks that the other two, whose birthdays ARE in December, should not get anything for their birthday’s because of Christmas.  I think he is just a little jealous.  He forget that not even three months ago he had a birthday, too!  So we have two birthdays a week apart at the beginning of the month.  This year Niall had a small family gathering for turning four and Hazel had a tea party for girls only on turning six.  Her are a few pictures. 

Niall makes a wish!

Niall makes a wish!

Niall had a yummy chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting!
Hazel and Josefina

Hazel and Josefina

My mom made Hazel and Josefina matching princess nightgown’s for their birthday’s. 
The Tea Party

The Tea Party

All the pretty princesses had fun making jewelry at the tea party!

And as usual, we tried to squeeze as much out of the Thanksgiving weekend as possible!  Some things we did this weekend:

  • Repaint our master bedroom
  • Ice skating
  • Put out Christmas decor
  • Hiking
  • Took in a stray cat, which we then took to a shelter
  • Returned from shelter with a new kitten
  • Spent time with relatives from both near and far

Notice that nowhere did I mention knitting.  I am sadly behind schedule on the holiday knitting.  I really need to buckle down starting Monday since it is, after all, December 1.  I would like to make 2 more stuffed animals and some American Girl Doll Clothes and hopefully at least 1 more pair of slippers and a pair of mens socks. 

I have some new pictures of our lovely weather and some of our holiday happenings as well.

dscn04731Early evening on the back forty

Partied Out!

Partied Out!

Niall had had enough by Saturday night.  This is him taking repose at Grandma’s after a weekend of partying.  A movie and a dark room was all it took, and this is what we found when the lights came on! 

dscn0542 Another picture of man in repose, but this time it’s Steve.  This is on our hiking trip to the Ledges in the Virginia Kendall area of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

This is where the Tale of Two Kitties actually began. As we were approaching the trailhead and our car, a stray cat came running out of a nearby hollow log and was meowing wildly to us and wouldn’t leave us alone. We realized by the look of him that he was a drop-off, because he was very clean.  We also found out he was very hungry…probably didn’t know how to hunt and associated humans with food.  We took him home and fed him but we had no plans to keep him. However, when the kids came home the next morning from my mom’s they begged us to keep him, as I knew they would.  I relented and agreed that we would keep him for a week long trial as long as there were NO problems of ANY kind.  Mostly, I was concerned about his interaction with our 14 year old cat, Holstein.  But, within the hour, this new cat had diarrhea in my house 3 times and also peed on my lap. I had him in the cat carrier in a hurry.  I took him to the um, er, animal shelter (read P**ND), which I felt bad about, but I simply cannot take on a problem cat.  I was THE worst mom in the world that morning, apparently.  When I got to the shelter I started looking at all the kittens that you could adopt and started thinking about it, and all of a sudden in came a man with three healthy kittens to drop off.  They had been born at his home, were de-wormed, had shots, etc.  And they were housebroken as well!  i had really wanted an orange one, too.  Two ladies adopted them right out of his car, and I took the last one, now affectionatley named “Jamey” (after James Madison, I am told by my 8 year old).  I was much more willing to take on a problem-free, healthy baby.  It might sound a littel cruel, but since we already have quite a menagerie around here, I had to make some tough choices.  Jamey is turning out to be a great cat, too.  And most importantly, I have now regained my status as best mom in the world. 

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Our July ADK excursion

Every year my Mom blesses me and my children with time honored tradition she calls “Grammy Camp”  This is usually a 3-4 day weekend where she loads up all three of my children and a car full of camping gear and takes them off to a special camping spot.  The weekend is spent with her best friend of 31 years, Barb, and three of Barb’s grandkids, Davis, WIlliam and Mia.  Grammy Camp has its own rules, traditions and format, and is something my kids look forward to all year.

Steve and look forward to it too because it usually means a weekend of camping or backpacking by ourselves each summer.  This past year, we camped at the Taylor Pond DEC campground in the ADK’s.  We also have a Grammy Camp tradition that Mom might not know about.  That is, when we meet people in our travels and explain that our kids are away for a weekend of camping with two grandmas and other kids, we have to help them pick their eyeballs back up and put them into their heads.  People simply cannot fathom that two slightly older than average women would take SIX CHILDREN camping for FOUR DAYS. (Without men, I might add.)

When we went to NY in July, we had already found our property on a website and made arrangements to see it and get some more information.  We spent the first morning after arrival looking around and talking with the real-estate agent.  Prior to this, we had thought about property in the UP of Michigan along Lake Superior, or possibly even West Virginia.  I personally was pushing for the ADK’s and I knew I wanted to be inside the “blue line” of the park boundary.  Previously we had only been familiar with the immediate Lake Placid area.  We knew we definitely wanted to be in the High Peaks region.   We were really happy with what we saw and spent a lot of the weekend mulling over becoming a part of the local scene.  We had some fun discoveries, too. I discovered that the local dairy/gas station has wonderful cheese, that Ausable Forks and Jay are practically indistinguishable, and that taking the back roads is even more fun than the main roads!  It is very interesting how differently you observe a place when you have prospects there. 

We also had only just the day before we left purchased kayaks for the first time and took them out on Mirror Lake and Taylor Pond.  I decided immediately that I like kayaking, at least on flatwater.  I don’t think river running would be my thing.  i like the beauty, calmness and exploration that a pond or lake brings. 

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Here is Steve ahead of me in his kayak when we got out on to Taylor Pond at dusk.  The put-in was right at the edge of our campsite. 

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This beaver lodge was very near to the campground ont he same side of the lake, but it wasn’t visible till you got out on the water.  It was quiet and peaceful, and I just thought it was so beautiful and exquisitely humble. 

On the second full day we were there we hiked Algonquin…our first 46er.  Of course, we will have to do it again with the kids at a later date.  I was not in a good mood as we hiked up, I have to admit.  It was extemely humid and the air was so thick I felt like I was suffocating.  The heat was oppressive.  All this and we knew that at the top we almost certainly would only get a so-so view.  And we were right, but it was still worth it all.  On the way back down, Steve took the turn off to Wright Peak, where he was completely alone at the summit, and suddenly all the clouds cleared away.  I was tired, and stayed behind to hike in to the Loj with a friend I had made on the trail.  How typical!  He is a peak-bagger, and I am a trail socialite. 

heart-lake-from-wright

This is looking down from Wright peak at Heart Lake, the same one that is pictured in my Winter header photo at the top of the blog page. 

summit-of-wright

Here is a lovely look at the summit of Wright.  The Algonquin pictures just didn’t come out great due to the overcast sky. It actually briefly hailed while we were on it. 

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A parting shot (on the way up Algonquin).  It is obvious why we desire to carve out a little piece of this place for ourselves, yes?

Enable Me

I have developed an addiction.  I am in a “relationship”.  It is going to cost me…it is going to be blissful and dangerous at the same time.  This new little toy, desire, whatever you want to call it, has got its hooks in me.  And I don’t even care!  You may say that this is unhealthy….but I swear it isn’t.  You’re just jealous. 

It’s the sundried tomatoes. 

I have become hoplessly addicted to them.  I crave them at all hours…their salty soury vinegary leather!  I love everything about them!  The texture!  The color! The flavor!  The recipes!  The price per pound!  Oops…not that.  They are a bit “dear” as you might say. And considering how quickly I can consume them…they aren’t exactly cost effective.  At about $4-$5 a pound, I can either practice restraint or topple my grocery budget in one fell swoop.  It may be dangerous to let me grocery shop alone from now on. 

Oh, I haven’t just discovered the little darlings.  I’ve had them in hummus, soup and on sandwiches for years.  But ever since Barbara Kingsolver turned me on to the sundried tomato pesto with the balsamic vinagarette and the walnuts (which I eat with a spoon by itself some days) I have begun an earnest relationship with this objet de desire! 

If you find my name on your Christmas list this year, I beg you…enable my addiction.  It will be the cheapest and most heartfelt gift, I assure you.  If you knock on my door and I answer with oily fingers and red smeared cheeks, don’t try to talk me down. 

I prefer the ones that are not packed in oil, and I prefer them with herbs.  I prefer them on pita with a smear of hummus.  I prefer them plain and chewy.  I really, really just prefer them!