Sunday, November 29, 2009

Finished Knits

Longies ordered by a friend for her one year old little man, Owen. I think Cora needs some too - I haven't made her any in a long time; she thought these should be hers.

My brother-in-law requested a hat for his gift in the Miller Family Winter Gift Exchange this year. The yarn is alpaca - soft as butter.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Complete Overhaul

Goal: Find a way to organize our too many toys so that they all get played with and don't end up scattered about the house, overwhelming Two Little Girls and making it impossible to clean up.

Solution: A whole lot of Rubbermaid tubs and a great-sounding suggestion from my dear friend Shawnna.


Too many toys in little storage bins, plus two enormous tubs in a basement closet that never got played with. All too tempting for Two Little Girls who like to pull too much stuff out at one time but have a hard time getting it put back when clean up time comes around.

I swear on everything holy, I really do clean their room. This is what happens just a day or two after a thorough cleaning. It's depressing!


A closet full of neatly organized tubs. No, it's not pretty. But it just might save my sanity.

I went through, quite literally, every single toy in this entire house today. Now, they are all stored neatly in labeled tubs behind closed closet doors. I can't remember the last time every single toy in our house was in it's proper place. In fact, I'm pretty sure more than half the toys didn't even actually have a proper place until today. That's exciting stuff, man. Pet Shop, Barbies, baby dolls and play food, magnets and puzzles, stable horses, musical instruments - they all have their own happy little tub to live in.

The plan: One box comes out after school time in the morning. They can pick any box, but only one. When I start to fix lunch, I'll let them know it's time to clean up. Everything goes right back into the tub. After afternoon school time, a new box comes out. That box stays out until I start fixing dinner.

If the toys are not back in the tub by the time the meal is on the table, that tub goes into time out (the spooky basement closet) for a week or so. The same rule may apply for any fussing or back talking or attitude that ensues from the "clean up" directive, if necessary. (Ooh, doesn't that sound business-like?)

The ONLY toys allowed out at all times are each girl's favorite doll.

I know I sound like a control freak, but I think they might actually appreciate this. It makes clean-up time a breeze, and they know right where to find all of their toys. It was like going shopping today - they couldn't wait to start playing with the "new" stuff I'd found buried under couches and stashed in the bottom of the toy box.

Go ahead and call me the Toy Nazi. I bet my living room stays cleaner than yours. :oP

(Please, no comments on the obvious excess of toys that my spoiled children own. I don't buy them toys. They have generous grandparents.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Some Dresses

Corduroy jumpers for the girls to wear on Thanksgiving.

Pattern: Butterick B4842, size 2 and size 6, slightly different styles of pleats.

And matching hairbows, 'cuz I felt like it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lesson Learned.

My Dearest Chloe,

We shared a talk tonight that you may not remember for long, but that I'll never forget.

I feel honored that you trusted me with your tears and your fears. I'm touched by your sensitive heart and your honesty. I'm inspired by the authenticity of your being. I'll never forget drying your eyes, stroking your hair... the way you climbed into my lap and just let me hold you and sing you to sleep.

Tonight, my dear daughter, you set firm in my heart the knowledge that I am needed and loved. As a mother, a woman is often so full of doubt, terrified of failure. I try my hardest every day to do right by you, and am often discouraged by my shortcomings.

Tonight, without ever even saying the words, you've let me know that despite my imperfections, I have managed to earn your love. You reaffirmed my purpose in this life, have reminded me that everything I do really is important.

You are a gift, Little One, in so many ways.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gardeny Bits

Gardeny Bits, you ask? How can I possibly have a blog post entitled "Gardeny Bits" in late November in Colorado? Surely that's not possible...

Ah, but it is, if you happen to be married to the greatest man in the world.

We found an old door at a yard sale this summer. I managed to convince my husband that I was in dire need of a cold frame, and so........

He built me a cold frame.

Squee! I can garden all the way through 'til spring now. Okay, well, maybe.

We planted the seeds in it today:

Mesclun lettuce mix
Broomsdale spinach
Bright Lights swiss chard
Bull's Blood beets
White Vienna Kohlrabi
Lisbon bunching (green) onions
Purple and red radishes
Cilantro, parsley, and chives in pots

The cilantro may never sprout. Littlest One was in charge of planting
that pot, and she was quite exuberant about the "press it down gently" part.

Now IF I can remember to water it regularly (the hose is no longer hooked up, so it's more work than a summer garden) and IF I can remember to prop it open ever morning and close it late every afternoon, we should have our first small leaf-veggie harvest sometime around Christmas.

Looking at this photo makes me realize how barren and desolate the garden area
looks now that all the plants are gone and the soil is tilled and dried out.
:::sigh::: who wants to start a countdown for spring?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Woolly Underthings

A beautiful sight...

Nothing brings satisfaction like fresh-smelling, just washed and lanolized woolies drying in the cool fall sunshine.

Because I'm sure it's normal to have knitted under-things draped all over one's front porch... right?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Snuggly Gift

Two years ago I made a blanket for Chloe out of fleece. That blanket has been her most beloved since the night I gave it to her. (In fact, it's so well loved that there are some holes in it that need to be patched.)

I figured that Cora could probably use a fleece blanket of her own, and with the scraps I made a matching one for Little Baby, her favorite tiny little baby doll.

It's easy sewing - 6" squares of three fabrics sewn in a simple rotating pattern, seam side out. Then the seams are cut into fringe, and the edges of the blanket are fringed as well.

Keep an eye out for fleece on sale during the winter months - it's often available for half price, making this an inexpensive gift. Cora and Little Baby will get theirs on Christmas morning.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I do one big grocery trip every three weeks. I'm due to go again on Friday - read: there's just not much left.

I managed to scavenge an array of edible, lunch-ish items and concocted an interesting sort of meal...

In fact, it was so interesting that yes, I took a picture.

Cheese slices
Rolled up turkey lunch meat
Carrot sticks
Sliced tomato
Pretzel sticks still leftover from the spider snacks
A handful of dried fruit
and I opened a jar of bread and butter pickles because I thought they'd round it all off nicely.

That's what you call desperation.

And wouldn't ya know, the kids cleaned their plates like they'd never eaten such a delicious meal in all their lives.

**In looking at the above photo, I realize that it looks like I don't feed my children nearly enough to fill them. Let me assure you, on any normal day neither of my kids could put away that much food in one sitting. I don't really starve them... it only looks like I do.**

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On Grinding Meat

I know y'all are desperate to know just exactly how one goes about making elk burger from scratch, right? Well, it's your lucky day. Grab a cup of tea and sit back while I share the intimate details of meat grinding with you.

We'll assume you have a considerable quantity of red meat to grind. We do both elk and venison the same way. (In case you've ever wondered, we got 36 pounds of meat from the little buck that Andrew shot. 36! As compared to about 200 for the bull elk. We're grinding nearly all the venison - it's just not as good as the elk and we have plenty of steaks and roasts from the two elk he shot first. Basically, any meat that doesn't make a good steak or roast gets chopped up and tossed into the burger bucket.)

So anyway. Wild meat such as this is very lean. And the fat on an elk or deer doesn't taste that good anyway, so we cut most of it off. Have you ever tried to grill a 100% lean burger? Right - it falls apart. Good, juicy hamburger has fat content. That's where the pork comes in. Call up your local butcher and request "pork trimmings". (It's the fat that's been trimmed off of the pork they sell.) It's cheap - a little more than a dollar a pound. You'll want enough pork trimmings so that your meat is 25% fat, 75% elk. You could probably go more like 80% elk if you wanted, but much more than that and you run into very dry, crumbly meat.

Now for the grinding. We use a KitchenAid mixer with a food grinder attachment. I pine for a true honest-to-goodness meat grinder, but the KitchenAid serves the purpose for now. Whatever kind of grinder you have, it will likely have a plate with larger holes and one with smaller holes. Start with the larger holes. Grind all the fat, put it in a big bowl, a grocery sack, a garbage back, whatever, and stick it back in the fridge. (Meat needs to be kept cool or it spoils. Work in small batches and get them in a cooler or fridge as fast as possible.) Once the fat's ground, grind the elk. You should have three times as much elk as you do fat if you did your math right.

Ground fat. Now that looks mighty tasty.

Now we mix 'em together - one pound of ground fat, three pounds of ground elk. (An inexpensive kitchen scale is a must have if you want to have any accuracy in doing this.) Put on some rubber gloves and start mixing. It's like kneading bread.... really, really cold bread that makes your fingertips numb. Mix it good. Now run that four pounds back through the meat grinder, this time with the smaller plate.

What you have now is hamburger. Yay!

For packaging, I use an ultra-high-tech method that involves sandwich-size Ziploc bags and freezer paper. I weigh out one pound in each bag, push out the air, seal the bag, wrap it in freezer paper, tape it, and label it. Air is your enemy when it comes to freezing meat. The double wrapping seems to do a great job of saving the burger from freezer burn, even a good eight months later.

Sounds easy, right? And it is, really. It's just that until you do it, it's hard to imagine the actual amount of time it takes. We ground about 160 pounds of burger and sausage this weekend. It was a full three day's job for two people.

My life has been consumed by meat for the past few weeks. I'm glad it's all in the freezer now, ready to keep us fed all winter long... and I promise, I'll stop talking about meat!

The Genetics of Clean

I come from a family where women are immaculate housekeepers. Forever I thought all women of their generation were that way, but I've learned that some women really are normal.

I visited my aunt yesterday - she and my uncle moved here about a year ago and is raising her 6 year old grandson. Going into her house... well, it's kind of depressing. Only because, you see, my house is never going to look like that. HOW on earth do these women find the time to make every surface free of clutter, every floor sparkle, every bed wrinkle free? And why can't I figure it out too?

Do I not spend enough time cleaning? No, that can't be it. On an average day, I'm constantly walking around picking things up and putting them in their place. Is it because we don't have a big, fancy house to store all of our crap in? That might be part of it, but to me that's just a hint that we need to decrease the amount of crap. Is it because I'm the mother of two small children and we home school, which means there's never a break during the day like school kids give their mothers? Hmmm... I might be on to something there.

I love interior decorating. My living room is beautiful, full of lovely things and arranged in such a matter that is pleasing to the eye. Except that once the eye has passed over the littering of toys, books, blankets, balls of yarn, and miscellaneous shoes and socks, the eye no longer has any desire to even look at the "pretties". I can clean up all the "litter" and I swear to you, by the next morning it looks exactly the same. My aunt's house looks like it came right out of a home decor magazine - everything so perfect and neatly arranged, and you can even see the carpet for lack of "litter". It's fascinating to me, because I've never been able to accomplish any of that.

Some day - I hope - I'll accept the fact that my home is never going to look like a model of perfect decor. It's just not in the cards for me. And maybe I'll avoid going to the homes of the elder women in my family so as not to make myself feel so bad for my shortcomings. :o)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Taste of Home - the Anti-Healthy

My mom and I went to the Taste of Home Cooking School on Thursday night.

I'd love to tell you it was fantastic, inspirational, and informative.

Mostly though, it was frustrating and depressing. There were good points, little useful tips and hints, etc. so it wasn't a total waste. And I'll never pass up an opportunity to hang out with my mom, so it was worth the ten dollars spent.

But overall, it was a testament to all that home cooking has become in the last 50 years, since the years of the Industrial Revolution when our purpose became wrapped up in convenience and disposable everything.

Vegetables that you can purchase in the freezer section of the grocery store (probably grown in Guatemala or something) that are pre-cut, pre-washed, pre-packaged into a microwave safe package. Put the package into the microwave and when you take them out, they are perfectly steamed. Only two minutes' worth of work, and voila! Vegetables, microwaved to remove every possible nutrient the body could possibly glean from them, in plastic nonetheless, bringing every consumer that much closer to a cancer diagnosis.

Or there's the crock-pot liner. You can now purchase a (probably-cancer-inducing) plastic liner for your crock pot. Crock-pots are already the lazy mother's best friend (and I use mine frequently - no insult intended!) But to use a plastic liner? Now you don't even have to wash the contraption after it's done cooking your food. Then, you just toss that liner into the trash can where it will make it into the land fill, adding to the already disgusting amount of garbage our society produces. It's like killing two birds with one stone - you get to eat harmful chemicals leached into your food from the plastic, and then you get to add to the ever-growing pile of unnecessary household waste. Awesome!

And recipes aren't what they used to be. Many of the recipes call for things like "1 can of chili with beans" or "1 jar of spaghetti sauce" or, most commonly, "One package of frozen dinner roll/bread/biscuit dough.". It's assumed now that no one is going to take the time to actually make these foods. Our society would much rather purchase a can of something the company claims to be food, pressure cooked in a can along with a smattering of preservatives, MSG, and GMO's. If I'm looking for a recipe for a fancy breakfast pastry, I don't want to see "2 packages purchased frozen pastry sheets" in the list of ingredients.

And what bothers me most of all is that these Taste of Home people are sitting here evangelizing the greatness of all of these convenience foods and disposable products to thousands of women across the nation, playing on our addiction to consumerism and our genetic need for "more, bigger, better, newer". Women of today are brainwashed into thinking that "convenient" means "better" when in reality, we're becoming sicker and sicker and feeding the same crap to our husbands and children, causing mass epidemics of a whole host of illnesses that no one wants to take responsibility for.

And that ends my rant. Thanks for listening.

Taking a 180 degree turn, I feel compelled to include this absolutely delicious recipe for a coffee cake from one of the free cooking magazines handed out from the show. You really should try it. It's easy, quick, and positively sinful.

Cinnamon Nut Coffee Cake

1.5 cups all purpose flour (or whole-wheat pastry flour)
1 cup sugar (or organic raw cane sugar)
2 tsp. baking powder (aluminum free is best)
1/4 tsp salt (I omitted this with success)
1/4 c. melter butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup packed brown sugar (I would bet date powder would work well here)
2 tbsp. all purpose flour (or the whole wheat stuff)
3 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. melted butter

Oven: 375

Combine the dry ingredients for the batter. In a separate bowl whisk together the butter, eggs, milk and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Set that aside. Combine the topping ingredients.

Grease a 9x13 pan. Spread half of the batter across the bottom of the pan. (It's going to be spread really thin, which surprised me but turned out great.) Sprinkle half the topping on top of the batter. Carefully spread the remaining batter on top (that's what the directions say. That's a joke. There is no spreading that stuff. Better to drop teaspoonfuls of dough across the top of the first layer of topping - close together, but they don't have to be touching. Trust me.) Top with the rest of the topping.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or so. You'll be able to smell it when it's done. :o) Yield: 12 servings

I froze these separately in ziploc bags with success.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pure, unadulterated intelligence... NOT

I was at Wal-Mart today, already feeling mighty irritated with society and consumerism on several levels by the time I made it to the check out lines.

There was a young lad checking me out, probably 19 or 20 years old. He seemed to have a hard time mustering the courage to actually speak, which poses a slight problem when you're supposed to be providing customer service. Anyway...

I paid with my debit card. Upon doing so, I requested cash back. I asked the kid, "Can I specify the denominations when I ask for cash back?" His reply? "What's a denomination?" "Can I tell you what bills I want?" He answered affirmatively.

When it came time to give me said cash back, he asked how I would like the forty dollars I requested. I asked for three tens, a five, and five ones.

And ya know what he said?

He said, "Okay. Does that add up to forty?"

For the love of the Almighty, how on earth do people like this actually get jobs?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Caps for Sale

Curlicues, shown in Christmas Brights.

All Tied Up, shown in Christmas Earthtones.
Can be tied in a bow for a girl, or knotted for a li'l boy.

Snowflake, also available in light blue.

I promise I won't fill my blog with shameless advertising. I'll make this quick.

Colors are interchangeable, either the earth-tones or the brights. I was also thinking some baby blue and white would be very winter-y if you're interested. All hats are made to order. Yarn is a good, high quality acrylic - acrylic is machine washable, which is why I chose that. It's soft and cozy to wear. All hats available in sizes infant, 12 months, 2-4T, and 4-6.

All hats are $20 postage paid, payable with check or PayPal. Approximately 1 week turnaround, depending on number of orders.

And now, back to your regular scheduled programming.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why not?

I've never made stew before. I remember really, really not liking it as a kid, so I never bothered with it as an adult. (One of those great things about being a grown up, ya know?) Well, that was all fine and well until my husband killed two elk and a deer and we now have something like 30 pounds of cubed stew meat in the freezer. So I made stew. And ya know what? It was darn good.

(Also be sure to note the fancy new bowl - I got new dishes!)

And, for no reason other than because I felt like it and thought it would be fun, I made leaf-shaped biscuits. Which made the children think they were far more tasty than regular round biscuits.

Because taking pictures of your dinner is completely normal, right?

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Chiro Office

After two visits to the chiropractor last week, I feel mostly normal again. That's always nice.

The second visit came with it's own version of hilarity...

I had Chloe with me - Cora was home with her daddy. We walk into the chiro office, sign in, and sit down. She settles in with a couple of children's books, I just sat and waited. And overheard.

The lady who was back there was really enjoying herself. He'd crack something or another and she's do this high-pitched, girly giggle. "Ooooh hoo hoo hoo!" And lots of "Oh, oh, that feels so good!" or "Oh, that's so amazing!" (Followed by more giggling.) It kept going on for at least ten minutes. It was strange. I felt uncomfortable. I felt like I had walked in on something I wasn't intended to hear. I felt kind of... dirty.

And what might my poor daughter think as she sits there reading about Minnie Mouse? What does she think I go there for? Sheesh.

I just have to wonder... does Dr. Chiropractor enjoy himself nearly as much as some of the patients? Hmm.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's that time again

With Halloween (and therefore, costume sewing) over for the year, it's time to settle in and start Making Stuff.

On my list of Stuff to Make:

*Doll and Barbie clothes for the girls
*Dress up clothes for the girls
*A fleece blanket and matching doll blanket
*Baby slings (all four of those will be for Christmas)
*This really cute apple garland
*A couple of new aprons
*Perhaps a Christmas quilt... except that after the farm quilt, I swore I'd never make another one....
*Christmas hats for the girls, some to sell, and something funky for me using my great-grandma's buttons

My list just might never end.

First things first, though. After the crazy busy week we had last week, I need to get this house in order. There is about 50 pounds of raw elk meat in my refrigerator still (we ran out of freezer space) so I need to run that to my mom's freezer, run errands, get back on track with school (we took the week off), catch up on laundry, and clean. It's gonna be a long day, but I'm so glad to have my routine back.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

More Halloween pictures

After we took the girls trick or treating, we dropped them off with my parents and went out for some grown up Halloween fun. ;o)

I made all of the costumes - great fun! Halloween is the only time of year I get to do creative sewing like that, so I enjoyed it. We all had a great time.