Sunday, June 1, 2014

Gardens and Ami's

Ok, it's been a REALLY long time since I posted. Let's just leave it at "the month of May is an extremely busy time at work" as the excuse and move on. Because it's the truth.

That's not to say I haven't had any time to crochet or garden. I have. Just no time to sit down and write about it. And I don't have a ton of time right now, so this will be short.

First off, my garden. It's growing! We're getting our first strawberries now. The tomato plants are growing and starting to put on blossoms. The herbs look great. My husband is going to harvest our first basil for our pizza tonight. (Made with sourdough crust!) The only issues are as follows:
1) There is a blue jay eating my strawberries. He yells at me every time I go out there to pick. Little a**hole.
2) Something is eating my cucumber and bean plants as soon as they pop up. I think it might be ants. I'm not sure, though. Will head to the nursery this week and ask if they have any ideas.

Sweet Pea is eating the strawberries as fast as I can harvest them. I'm thinking that between her and the jay I might have to actually buy strawberries for jam this year.

I haven't had a ton of time to crochet, but when I have I've mostly made more kitchen scrubbies or amigurumi. I love making ami. They're quick, fun, and so ding-dang cute I can't stand it.

 An adorable dragon!!

 An equally adorable manatee!!

Today I started a princess. Yes, a particular one with icy powers. And her sister is soon to follow. I'll post pictures when they're done.

I'll write a longer post soon, I promise. More about how our summer is going with allowing Sweet Pea to run around the yard and play. (I'm there in my lawn chair with my iced tea....) And I'll also write about my new found ambition: Rock Climbing! That'll be a post all to itself. My reasons and what I'm doing to try and get in shape to try it!!!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Acceptable Risk

Recently I read this article. It's well worth a read, even though it's pretty long. To sum up very quickly, and maybe not so well, it talks about a park in Europe. It's basically an overgrown, fenced in lot. It has adult supervision, but parents do not accompany their children to it. There kids can basically do anything they want. Whittling sticks, lighting fires in a fire pit, playing with old tires, and a lot of exploring. As I said, there is basic adult supervision, but that adult does not step in unless the child is doing something truly dangerous. Not "oh, you'll hurt yourself a bit" dangerous, but the "oh my goodness, you'll maim or kill yourself" dangerous. I am fascinated by this concept. It goes on to say that most children now are never more than an arms' length or two away from their parents. They rarely are allowed to explore outside on their own or are given the responsibility of taking care of themselves. Because of this the children are growing up without a concept of "Acceptable Risk." Growing up with out those valuable experiences they are not fully equipped to take acceptable risks as adults. Take that new job. Invest their money. Etc.

Looking back on my childhood a few things stand out in stark contrast to they way we are expected to raise our children now. My mother, in my memory, never played with me. At least not much. I was expected to amuse myself everyday. If I couldn't think of something to do, my mother would give me something to do. And I did NOT want the activity she would assign. I was also allowed, before I was in first or second grade, to go play at the park next door to my house by myself. As long as I was where I said I'd be and came when I was called, I was allowed to go. When we went camping I was allowed to explore on my own. Again, as long as I came when I was called and used good judgement, I could wander to my heart's content. I was even allowed to go play in the sand by the river. And I knew from a VERY young age not to do the things that would get me badly hurt or worse. I took risks and many of them paid off. (Minus the decision to walk barefoot across an old wooden bridge.) These were happy memories and I think it made me a much better adult.

Now, after reading this article I've decided that I want a little of this for my daughter. Not to say I'm going to bundle her up and send her off to the neighborhood park tomorrow, but I want her to have some freedom to explore and learn her limits for herself. This year it'll just be in our own backyard. I'll be out there with her, but either in a chair, gardening, or in our screen porch. And of course our 120lb dog will be with her, too. We'll be there, but letting her do her own thing.

This decision has had an impact on how we are getting our yard ready for the summer. Today we spent almost the whole afternoon outside raking out the garden and cleaning up old brush and cutting down bushes and saplings we don't want. All the while looking for places that could be dangerous for a wandering three-year-old. We've identified a couple places that'll need garden fencing, but for the most part it's good to go. And the whole time we did this? The three-year-old was playing happily on her own. With minimal supervision. As long as I could hear/see her I didn't bother her. And she was the happiest little kid in the world. A minor fall will most likely result in a black-eye. (She tripped while carrying her watering can.) Her knuckles are skinned pretty bad, but she hasn't even complained about those. But it is all worth it when she calls out to me, "Mommy this is my favorite tree. I love it. When I'm here I can just be me."

I think it's going to be a good summer.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring has Sprung...

So it's been awhile. I've been on Spring Break this week. And Sweet Pea had her birthday. All week-long festivities of it. I swear she was able to spread it out for what felt like forever!! But it was a happy birthday for her. Busy for Mommy and family, but it's worth it.

Because of the festivities, some travel, and a hectic work schedule crochet and everything else has been on hold.

George has been hibernating. I fed him and put him directly back in the refrigerator last week. This seems to have done him some good, though, as he is very happy and active this weekend. I'll make our normal batch of bread this weekend and call it good.

I've been crocheting very little. With the exception of the drive to my hubby's parents' house last week. I took that time to make some kitchen scrubbies. I hate sponges. I think they are dirty, smelly, and hard to keep clean. So I made these little scrubbies that work really, really well!! This is the pattern. I made it with some cotton yarn I purchased years and years ago and never knew what to do with it. The bumps on the scrubbie seem to work really well to get stuck on gunk off of the dishes and you can just throw them in the wash. So much better than sponges. And the pattern is super easy and fast. I've memorized it so well that I can make a scrubbie in about 20 minutes. I've made about 4 for our kitchen and 2 for my Mother-in-law. I'll keep making them until I run out of yarn. :)

The other big project I tackled while I was on Spring Break (my "break" was basically one day after the traveling, working... during break, and getting Sweet Pea's birthday stuff done) was to clean and organize the playroom. UGH! two and half hours later and it was finished. I can safely say that the child does NOT need anymore toys. Does NOT need any more art supplies, and the next person who gives us play-doh is going to get an earful from me. (Of play-doh that is....) It looks wonderful, though. So much better. And we're working on the kid to get in the habit of picking up her toys and putting them away as she finishes playing with them. (yeah....right.)

Yesterday was so nice out that we even got to go outside and play. Sweet Pea's swing-set and playhouse are open and ready for the summer. My dad got her a new glider swing for the set and we got her some plastic drums that attach to the swing-set. We will attach those today. With the nice weather I got to get out in the yard. I got the puppy-poop cleaned up, the sticks picked up, and my strawberry patch raked out. Everything seems to have survived this horrible winter. My apple tree is budding and both my blueberry bushes survived. The raspberries are....well I don't think you can kill raspberries.  As soon as it is a little nicer we will dig up the suckers from the raspberry patch and transplant them along our other fence. They are Sweet Pea's favorite food, so we can't have too many. (Famous last words.) Last summer we found some wild black raspberries in our yard and we are really hoping we can encourage those to spread, too. I think I was most surprised to see that my rhubarb lived. I really thought I killed it last year. 

I really can't wait to get out and clean up my garden and start planting. On the list to grow this year:
Tomatoes (Heirloom varieties.)
Red Bell Peppers
Black Beans

I'm going to have to go get some nitrogen rich fertilizer this year. I try and rotate my tomatoes every year, but with the black beans and cucumbers needing the fence to climb on, I'll need to plant the tomatoes where they were last year. I'll find some good fertilizer and it'll be fine. I hope. We have friends with pet bunnies, so I can get some bunny poop. Best fertilizer in the world.

The artichokes will go in pots as will any herbs we plant. So excited! I got canning supplies for Christmas so we are planning on canning jellies and pickles for sure. I also want to buy peaches, pears, and apples from the farmers markets to can fruit for Sweet Pea's lunches next year. She is a fruit bat, and I'm so tired of buying fruit cups for her.

We always freeze tomato sauce, and my hubby likes that better than canning so we'll continue to handle the tomatoes that way. I also want to try canning roasted red peppers. And maybe invest in a food dehydrator for sun-dried tomatoes and dried fruit.

Well, the sunlight and my back yard is calling me. I'm sure I have more puppy poop to pick up and my lavender plant needs to be uncovered before it smothers. So happy to be able to get outside!!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Glitter, glitter everywhere...

I apologize in advance for the large post. Lots of pictures to come!

First off, last week I got an email from a major online retailer that had just settled a lawsuit with some publishers. The result was a $13 book credit. At first I thought it was only valid for e-books, but discovered it was good for a print book, too! So exciting! I truly prefer print books when I order pattern books, so I was really happy. I ordered this book. I LOVE this book. The borders are amazing. I really want to find all sorts of projects that require fancy borders just to use them. But instead of using them as borders this week, I realized that some of those borders could be put to a different use.

CROWNS for Sweet Pea's 3rd birthday party!! I simply cast on my stitches over a headband and then worked the patterns back and forth. In case you're wondering, my favorite to use from the book is #22 as it looks like a snowflake crown in honor of Elsa.

As you can see, I crocheted beads into the pattern to create jewels. And the best part? One crown takes me approximately 10 minutes to make. So I have 5 crowns made as of this weekend. I think I'll make one more in purple. I was pretty surprised that when I gave Sweet Pea her choice of them, she chose the white one. I also mentioned that I can make her one in any color she wants later. 

But alas, there is one problem with my crown plan. We have one little boy who is attending the party. Sooooo... TADA:
Mouse ears! Again, an easy-peasy project. I just cast on stitches on the headband and then made two circles of the size I wanted. (You can find tutorials for circles all over online.) I then whip-stitched them onto my base row, and voila!

With both the ears and the crowns, I sprayed them heavily with spray starch and pinned them into the shape I was happy with to dry. I let them dry over night, sprayed them again on the other side and let them dry thoroughly. We will see how they hold up! I'm thinking about selling them as I get better at making them.

In other projects, my snowdrop shawl is turning out amazing! I am about half-way done. I'm hoping to have it finished and blocked in two weeks. Totally doable, I think.
I also made Sweet Pea a headband holder yesterday. I was so sick of them falling all over the place and getting stepped on and lost. So I took an empty oats canister, strung a ribbon through it, and hot-glued some fabric over it. I need to make a decorative something for the ends to cover up my half-assed glue job, but it's functional right now.
(pardon the stray sock in the background...)

Now onto the project you've all been waiting for. I made the tutu...

YIKES!! There is glitter everywhere in my house from this thing. I didn't even bother hiding it from her once it was made because, to be honest, I didn't want to put it in a closet and get glitter all over my clothes, coats, or anything else stored IN those closets. It turned out beautiful, though, and I think Sweet Pea will LOVE it. I just need to sew the elastic and it'll be all done. But I'm not feeling it today. I don't want to hand sew it today. It can wait.

I think it looks a bit like a skirt a snow queen would wear!

Just a small sample of how much glitter is in my house right now. Even after vacuuming!!

So that's what I've been up to this week. Busy, busy, busy. But all fun projects! And I promised Sweet Pea an afternoon of movie watching. We are going to make the couch into a bed, cover it with soft pillows and fluffy blankets, and cuddle while we watch a certain movie that is set in a snow storm. Oddly enough, it'll only be the 3rd time I've seen it since we bought it. Only....

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Odds and Ends

So it's been a busy week. And not in a "oh, look how much crocheting, baking, or fun projects I got done!" sort of way.

Work was crazy. Really crazy. Exhaustingly crazy. 'Nuff said.

Also, the movie, you know THE MOVIE, came out this week on DVD. My daughter loves it. We've already watched it twice. Which is really very few times considering. I have to admit, though, that when we put it on, I drop everything and watch it, too. With the movie, though, comes the desire for toys based upon the movie. My daughter wants a specific doll. A specific doll that is incredibly rare right now. Sweet Pea wants it for her birthday and we had to start the conversation this week of, "Honey, we might not be able to get one for your birthday. They just don't have any, ok?" I refuse, flat out refuse, to follow the crazies and shop ebay for one. Not. Going. To. Happen. So I'll find it when I find it. It doesn't help that we are being very picky as to which version of this doll we are willing to buy, too. I am also refusing to buy one just for the sake of buying. I will wait and get the nice one. The one that actually looks like the character from the movie. In the mean time one of my very dear friends is making Sweet Pea an Elsa costume. Well, the cape at least. I'll be creating the skirt in the form of a tutu. Trust me, when I start this project I will photo-document it and post here. Me... making a tutu. NEVER thought that'd happen.

Anyways, on to an update about George.

Today was a day that all sourdough owners have to face. A day (or two) where the starter bubbles, but does not double. Active, but not doing what it should. George had grown too large. So we took two cups out to make bread sticks. (I'll post the recipe if we like it.) I then took a scant 1/2 cup out to keep. Then I ended up throwing away almost 3 cups of starter. It wasn't active enough to even give away at this point, so we're basically starting over. I'll give it a feeding of whole wheat before storing it for the week and George should be back to normal next week. Still, even knowing it had to be done doesn't take the sting out of the process. Maybe I'm too attached??

In crochet-land, I've succumbed to my inevitable ADD when it comes to projects. I always have 2 or three going at a time to keep myself from growing bored.

Yesterday I started the Snowdrop Shawl. I'm making it for my mother-in-law. (For some reason, I truly prefer making gifts to making things for myself.) I'm using the Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable yarn in "Echo." So far I'm loving the pattern and how it's turning out.

The picture isn't doing the colors justice at all. It's quite lovely.

I was very nervous to use this yarn as the reviews I'd read complained of it actually just falling apart as people were working with it. I have to say that now I'm more concerned with how much tension the reviewers use while crocheting!! So far I am not having a single problem with it. I love the feel of it and can't wait to see how the whole shawl looks when I'm done. In fact, I've already ordered two more skeins in "Tidal" to make another shawl for my niece, E. 

The pattern itself is very easy to do. In fact I would highly recommend it as a first or second project. It just uses basic stitches and yet ends up looking really fancy and beautiful!!

So stay tuned for my attempt at making an Elsa tutu in the near future. Anyone want to take a vote as to how much glitter I end up with all over my house??

Monday, March 17, 2014

D's Afghan

This past February I decided to make afghans for my nieces and nephews for Christmas. For my niece, D, I ordered a Stylecraft Special DK Colour Pack and decided that I'd look at the colors and decide what inspiration hit me. 

After trying several stitch patterns, I ended up choosing an old stand by, the crazy stitch. 

I love this stitch pattern. I love how it looks. It's easily memorized and I find it easy to do. It was the pattern that my mom used to make the one and only afghan she made just for me. And I used it when I made my daughter's baby blanket before she was born. The one she drags everywhere with her. 

I wrote out the pattern, including the stripe order for the colors. I'll post it here, just because I'm really loving how it's turning out.

D's Afghan

For a blanket approximately 48 inches wide.

Size F (4.0 mm) hook
Stylecraft Special DK Colour Pack
Abbreviations: dc = double crochet, sc = single crochet

My color order:
spring green
cloud blue

Chain 240 or length desired. (Multiples of 3)
Row 1
3 dc in 4th chain from hook, * skip 3 chains, sc in next chain, chain 3, 3 dc in same chain. Repeat from * across row. End with sc in next chain.

Row 2

Chain 3 to turn. 3 dc in sc of previous row. * sc in next chain-3 space of previous row, chain 3, 3 dc in same chain-3 space. Repeat from * across row. End with sc in last chain-3 of previous row.

Repeat row 2, until desired length is reached.

Change colors every two rows.

When afghan is the desired length, bind off and then take the last color listed above (cloud blue) and stitch two rows of the pattern along the bottom of the afghan, then sc the side edges in a color of your choice following his pattern:

Sc in each sc and 3 sc in each ch 3

Here's how it looks so far:

I will keep posting updates and any changes/corrections to the pattern, but it's going along very well!

I'm happy with it. I love the colors even more than I expected. I thought it might be too much, but I think it'll be perfect!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Meet George

Wow, two posts in one day...

Ok, meet George.

He is a "wild caught" sourdough starter. I made it by mixing 1 part water with 2 parts whole wheat flour and putting a whole purple cabbage leaf in the jar. (You know that white film on a purple cabbage leaf? That stuff is yeast. Wild yeast ready for taming!) About 24 hours later I removed the leaf and fed it 1/4 cup warm water and 1/2 cup flour. And did it again 12 hours later. By that point it was bubbling well and doubling in size after every feeding. Once it was doing that, I put it in the fridge.

So, you want to make  a sourdough starter? Or you some one gave a cup of their "mother"?

The Care and Feeding of Your Sourdough Starter

To feed:
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup flour.
Stir well.

DO NOT let ANY sort of metal touch the sourdough. We use plastic spatulas or wooden spoons. I refuse to even use measuring cups with metal handles. Or plastic spoons with metal handles. I'm really careful with this.
DO NOT let any salt touch it
Keep it in a very large class container. You want it big enough that the starter can comfortably double in size.
DO NOT use a container with a narrow neck. The gas from the yeast will get trapped and it might "pop"
Keep two large glass jars for your starter. Each week we transfer it into a clean container. We scrub the container between uses and run it though the dishwasher so it keeps VERY clean to prevent cross-contamination. I think this is the biggest factor as to why we have been so successful with this starter.

Bread Recipe:
1 part water
1 part starter
2 parts flour
we do this recipe by weight, so we end up with:
10 ounces water
10 ounces starter
20 ounces flour
1TBSP salt

(Sorry for the blurry picture...)

We also add 2 1/4 TSP of yeast to the water and let it bloom before adding the other ingredients. Our starter isn't quite strong enough to really leaven the bread the way we like it. We figure that we are primarily interested in the flavor.

Mix well until the dough cleans the bowl. (I use a stand mixer for this.) Continue to knead for around 8 minutes. Put in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise. NOTE: Sourdough takes around twice as long to double in size as regular bread. Also, cover with a moistened towel or plastic wrap.
After the rise either shape into one large round, peasant loaf or divide into two loaf pans. Let rise again until doubled. Before baking, lightly score the top of the loaf with a knife.

(this is how mine looks after the first kneading.)

Bake at 450. We put a pan of water in the oven for the first 5-10 minutes to steam the loaf a little. It helps brown the loaf. After you remove the water bake for an additional 5-15 minutes. Watch it and you'll be able to tell when it's done. (If you "thump" the crust it'll sound hollow)

Our Weekly Sourdough Routine:
When you get home from work, pull the sourdough out of the fridge. Let it come up to room temperature. You'll notice it start to bubble. It has the consistency of very thick pancake batter. After it is at room temperature, feed it. (around 7pm) Leave it out in a warm spot.
Saturday AM:
Feed again when you get up in the morning.
Saturday Noon(ish)
If you have enough to bake with AND it has doubled in size you may now bake with your starter. If not, feed it again Saturday evening around 7pm.
Saturday afternoon IF (AFTER) BAKING WITH IT:
transfer remaining starter to a clean glass container and let sit.
Saturday evening IF YOU BAKED WITH IT:
Feed and put in the fridge

If you don't have enough to bake with or it needs more activity, just follow the Saturday baking routine on Sunday.

Another thing to know:

It can get too big. If you let it get too large without using it, giving some away, or throwing some of it away (the horror!), it will start to fail as the wild yeast will not have enough to eat as it has already consumed what it can from the flour at hand.

Also, it LOVES whole wheat flour. About every other week we will feed it a nice meal of whole wheat flour before we put it in the fridge. We even make whole wheat bread sometimes!