Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Logical Thoughts on Intimidation

It's time to start making curriculum plans for this coming school year. I've ordered the English and math texts and have settled down to look over them.

For those of you that home school, have you ever made the dreaded mistake of flipping to the back of a book to see what your child will have learned by the end of the year?

Oh, what an awful thing that is to do! I see what this book will be demanding of my daughter only nine short months from now, and I suddenly become overwhelmed at the thought of getting her to that point. Currently, I have an energetic seven year old who can hardly bear to keep a pencil in contact with paper long enough to write a complete sentence. I have sixty-one lessons to get her to the point where she can write a paragraph on a given subject with little or no direction from me.

I assure you, the task seems impossible.

I'm new at this home school thing - we've only just completed first grade (and that was intimidating enough!) If there's one thing I've learned though, it's never, ever to look at the big picture. It'll only make you tremble with fear at the always present thought of permanently ruining your child. Start at the beginning, and realize that each lesson, each day, will get you one step closer to that goal.

I made the same mistake last year when we got the math book. She was pretty good at visually identifying numbers up to twenty (as long as you skipped a few there in the middle.) I knew we had some work to do. Then I looked at lesson eighty-nine, the very last lesson in the book. Gah! Adding four-digit numbers? Carrying to the tens', hundreds', and thousands' place? Yep, I remember thinking it would be impossible to get her to that point.

Of course, by the time we'd made it through eighty-nine lessons, carrying was old hat and she adds eight digit numbers just to show off.

So we'll start with Lesson One in the English book, where she'll learn that a sentence is a complete thought. And with any luck, in nine months she'll be able to form several of them on her own.

And if not? Well heck, most high school students still can't form a complete thought, so I guess she won't be terribly behind. (That's a comforting thought when faced with the intimidation of homeschooling, don't you think?)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

County Fair results

It's always so much fun to go to the exhibit hall at the fair and see all of the projects. It never ceases to amaze me to see what beautiful things people can produce.

There were some beautiful projects in knitting. Look at this sweater! Someone sure did put a huge amount of time and effort into it.

And this one too - and it looks like it fits in such a beautiful and flattering way.

And seriously, teeny tiny thread to make a Barbie doll wedding dress? Not sure I'd ever do that myself, but this is gorgeous work, and so tedious!

It floors me that the above projects only got red ribbons - you can tell how much time and energy people put into them, and I couldn't find much wrong with any of them.

There's everything in the needlework category from Barbie wedding dresses to fancy socks and everything in between. They're divided up into separate groups for judging.

My projects did fairly well. (No one wrote on the back of my tag that I kind of suck, so I was happy.)

My lace shawl took a red ribbon, which isn't terribly disappointing since it was my first attempt at a lace shawl.

I also put in a crocheted hat that got red, though I forgot to take a picture of it.

Pablo got blue - he deserved it. When I went to pick up my entries this morning, I also found out that he got People's Choice. Apparently other people think Pablo is as desperately handsome as I do.

My little girl's pumpkin hat got blue as well...

And Cora's ruffle hat got blue, plus Best of Show.

Having two purple ribbons makes me happy.

So I'm done with the panic, I have my items back at home where they belong. There are helpful notes on the backs of the cards to help me improve my knitting again over the course of the next year.

I think everyone should try entering something at the fair, even if only once. It can be fun (and nerve wracking) and is a great way to learn what areas you need to improve on.

Monday, July 19, 2010

An Observation

I made shrimp scampi for dinner tonight. (Fantastic recipe, by the way. You should try it.)

As I was cleaning up the table, I laughed out loud and what I saw, and had to take pictures.

Hubby's plate:

My plate:

Do you see it? It's a perfect (if random) illustration of our personalities.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Contented Sigh.

Life is complete again.

We have our Daddy back for a little while!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kid's Gardening - The Full Circle

I was reading through other KinderGardens blogs the other day, and came across this sweet post from Mommy Topics where she talks about how as a "silly city girl" she was surprised that when she went to plant her garden, the pea seeds were just dried up peas, the pumpkins seeds were just... pumpkin seeds, and the sunflower seeds were plain ol' sunflower seeds. I had to laugh, but not at her. No, I remember quite well when I was surprised by the same thing when I started planting my first garden. I, too, remember that light bulb moment when I finally understood why they called it the "birds and the bees" talk. I should've been about eleven when I figured that out. I was twenty three.

What I'd like to know is how on earth did any of us manage to graduate elementary school without this basic knowledge? And sadly, I think you could ask most people what a pea seed looks like and they'd probably be stumped. We all know that plants come from seeds, but most people just figure seeds come from little Burpee packets in the store. Until I started gardening, I always did.

That's the beauty of home school. Seeds are no longer a mystery in our house.

Last year, we saved lettuce, pumpkin, marigold and sunflower seeds. We planted all but the pumpkin (ran out of room), and this year we're seeing the circle completed as each of those seeds is now a thriving plant in the garden.

This year, we're adding spinach seeds to our repertoire.

It's something of an adventure to see how each plant matures and goes to seed, and collecting seeds is different for each type of plant.

There are certainly more efficient ways of seed saving (rather than scattering dried leaves and chaff everywhere) but doing it this way makes it possible for even the Littlest One to get involved.

If you're interested in saving seeds from heirloom vegetables in your garden, there are plenty of books and internet guides on the subject. And, come next spring, you can give your Small Ones some colored pencils and envelopes, then fill the envelopes with seeds they saved themselves - they make a lovely May Day gift!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Self-Inflicted Torture

If there's one thing I know for certain about myself, it's that I don't handle constructive criticism well. At all. I hate feeling like anyone is judging me, probably because I'm perfectly capable of judging myself.

That fact alone renders it completely ludicrous that I enter my needlework projects into the fair every year. I spend months working on these projects, hours and hours of knitting, and then I put them out there for all the world (well, okay, the county) to judge.

I entered five projects this year. As I was filling out the paperwork and attaching my little tags to the projects, I'm pretty sure I came this close to having a heart attack. Or at least a nervous breakdown.

I realize this is ridiculous. For Heaven's sake, it's the county fair. And yet still, I'll now sit for three days with a mix of dread and anticipation as I wait to see how my hard work is judged, to see what little notes the judges write on the backs of my tags. I have this horrible vision of reading "Wow, you really kind of suck" on a tag, and crawling into a hole somewhere to cry.

I haven't yet figured out why I torture myself this way, and yet I keep going back, year after year.


If you're a knitter and you haven't read Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne, you should. One of them wrote a piece on entering a project in the fair, and she does a beautiful job of summing up the stress and the excitement. It made me laugh out loud as I identified with every sentence she wrote.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Camping with The Toddler

Ya know what's kind of funny?

When a two year old little girl wakes up in a tent, peeks into her pillow case, and calls out, "Squirmy? Are you still alive in there?" because she stuck a caterpillar in her pillowcase so she could save it 'til morning.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Camping in Silverton/Ouray

Since meeting my amazingly capable husband, I've allowed myself to become painfully dependent in a lot of ways. It's just so easy to trust him to take care of things, because he always does and he's always so good at it!

Well, when Mr. Capable is working out of town for two weeks at a time, that means I have to re-learn how to function on my own.

No way to put my capabilities to the test than to go camping for a night without Mr. Capable around to do things like pack the gear and start the fires and do the driving. (I did take my cousin, so I wasn't on my own with the girls. It was her first time tent camping, so it was an adventure all around!)

I learned a whole lot.

I learned that I can indeed start a fire without trouble (after watching Mr. Capable for the past four years.) I can even use a camp axe to split wood! (And doing that was utterly thrilling. A little scary, but definitely exciting.)

I learned that cooking foil packets for dinner takes a bit of know-how. I usually prepare all the packets (meat, potatoes, veggies) but he's usually the one in charge of grilling them. He's good at it. I'm not.

I learned that one should down-shift the transmission when driving on incredibly steep, quite scary roads, or one's brakes might start smoking.

I learned that when Mr. Capable is driving, I get to look at the window at the gorgeous scenery. Focusing on the road is sort of dull compared to views of Red Mountain and several-hundred-foot waterfalls and old mine remains.

I learned that it's very likely to rain in the mountains at any moment, without notice. I'm happy to report, we did stay dry!

I learned that being the responsible one is kind of a pain- packing the food back in the van after dinner (bear country), making sure everything was secured in case of weather, then cleaning everything up once it all got rained on, and laying everything out to dry at home.... all that responsibility is not so much fun.

I learned that hauling gear up and down steep basement stairs is one heckuva workout if you're not a big, strong man. And that carrying 30 pounds of toddler in a backpack on a hike is even more of a workout.

I learned that it's not an easy thing to get that enormous tent into that tiny little bag. I tried twice, and got pretty close the second time. And now I have to hope that Mr. Capable (who is also Mr. Never-does-anything-half-assed) isn't terribly annoyed that our tent is sticking four inches out of the tent bag.

I learned that going camping with someone you don't know really well can be kind of nerve-wracking. When it's your own family, if everything isn't perfect you can kindly tell them to shut up and not complain. When it's someone you want to impress, if everything isn't perfect it becomes inordinately stressful.

I learned that the food we consider "normal" - grilled meat and veggies for dinner, oatmeal with blackberries for breakfast - might not actually be normal at all.

I learned that while a Capable, strong man isn't a requirement, it sure does make things easier on me. And that I undeniably have it easy, because I'm married to the kind of man who does all those things without one bit of complaint, and does it all right every time.

I also learned that there's a reason that men and women play such distinctly different roles. Even with camping, it works out so much better when I'm in charge of preparing and packing food, clothing, and bedding, and he's in charge of all of the gear. When both of us are around to do the jobs we're so perfectly suited for, things flow much more smoothly.

I'm glad we tried camping on our own, the girls and I. I'm glad to know I almost might deserve to be called Mrs. Capable. But I'm over it now - it's all much more pleasant when Mr. Capable is there to share the fun (and the work!) with us.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Kid's Gardening - I Believe

For the Kinder-garden Series, Kim over at Inadvertent Farmer asked us to write this week about what we believe. When it comes to the garden, there are a lot of things I believe in!

I believe that red, ripe tomatoes are the greatest treat the garden has to offer.

I believe that babies grow best in gardens.

Between the local news articles and the thousands of baby grasshoppers I have feasting on my lawn, I believe the story of the grasshopper plague that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about.

I believe that one should always be mindful of whether or not they suffer from a... ahem... "plumber's crack", but that it is especially important in the garden - otherwise, one might end up with mosquito bites in said crack, and this is a very uncomfortable experience. Trust me.

But most of all:

I believe gardening is 10% know-how, 10% luck, and 80% faith. I'm not so good with the faith part, but my kids? They amaze me.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time planting and growing carrots. I make a sort of "seed tape", I fight with the spring wind while I lay them out, carefully spritz them with water, cover them delicately with exactly 1/4" of soil, mulch, and water three times a day for three weeks until they sprout.
I give a small handful of carrot seeds to each of my girls, they walk over to their garden, sprinkle them generously in the area they'd like them to grow, and then they walk away. Three weeks later, their carrots have sprouted and are growing faster than mine.

Me? I doubt nature from the beginning. I just don't have a strong enough faith in those little seeds to believe they're going to turn into food. I nurture and I coddle and I worry - as if anything I do will have an effect on this natural process!
My girls don't have a problem with the faith part at all - they know without a doubt that if you plant some beans in the dirt...

...that they will grow higher than little hands can reach.

They see no reason that a sunflower pulled out of the ground as a weed can't be replanted in a better spot and turn into a beautiful plant.

When tomato plants freeze and look completely dead, they don't give up on them, they rescue them from Mom's compost pile and replant them, only to find tomatoes growing on the plant a few months later.

For all that I do believe, this is a lesson my children will teach me - I need to believe in nature.


It's Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-fil-a again.

If you happen to have an old cow costume lying around...

Or if your mom is too cheap resourceful to buy more fabric and uses the cow-print scraps to make your pajamas...

...then dress up, and head down to Chick-Fil-A today and grab yourself a free meal!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

FO - Traveling Woman Shawl

Since my birthday is coming up, and I'll be Closer To Thirty, I decided to knit myself a shawl. Because, you know, old ladies wear shawls, so I thought it would be fitting.

Okay, not really.

But I've always wanted to knit a lace shawl, so I went for it. I started when we were headed home from California. I finished when we were headed home from Marble - it took every day of June (on the days I had time to knit, anyway) to finish.

It's the perfect size for tying around my waist to dress up a skirt or jeans, tying around my head as a kerchief, or wearing around my shoulders as a shawlette. I'm quite happy with the result.

The yarn is 100% alpaca laceweight, soft and lush as can be.

Pattern: Traveling Woman by Liz Abinante
Yarn: Cascade Yarns Alpaca Lace Paint
Needles: size 4 circular
On Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/projects/itdoesntsck2bme/traveling-woman

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Storing Beets The Old Fashioned Way (Kind of...)

I've been reading about ways to store beets. We still have some left from the first harvest, and there are two more plantings still in the ground. I'm not a big fan of pickled beets, and freezing them turns them a bit mushy - bearable, but not as yummy as fresh.

What I learned is that storing them in damp sand - the old fashioned way - is still the best thing to do. They'll keep from 2-5 months this way. If I harvest the last batch in October, we could still feasibly be eating fresh beets in March.

Here's what we did:

Bought a big Sterilite container with a lid from Wal Mart. (If we were really going for old fashioned, we'd use a wooden crate. But wooden crates are not readily available these days, and plastic made in China is.) We already had sand on hand, and it was already damp. We poured in enough to make a 1-2" layer on the bottom of the container.

Then we set the beets on top, separated enough that if one starts to rot, it won't spread easily to the others:

Then we put another layer of sand on to cover them.

You can keep layering them this way until the container is full. I chose a fairly shallow container because I didn't want to have to dig too deep to find dinner.

When you're done, put the lid on - this holds in the moisture and keeps the beets from drying out and getting shriveled.

Ideally, I'd have a root cellar to store the tub in. Unfortunately, root cellars are not commonly found in homes in our area, so the basement will have to suffice. Anywhere that stays pretty cool should do.

Now, I have no idea if this is going to work or not, so don't trust me too much. It's all an experiment. I just know that I don't have room in the fridge for the 150 beets we'll have before the end of the growing season, so I had to try something else. I'll let you know how it works as time goes by.

Other beet storing tips I've learned along the way:
Leave them dirty. Washing them causes them to deteriorate more quickly, so just brush them off a bit and go ahead and store them.

Trim the leaves off fairly soon after harvest - the leaves will draw moisture from the root, causing it to shrivel much more quickly. Leave the 'tail' on the bottom though - trimming it makes a beet-red mess all over.

Eat your beet greens! So many people don't know they're edible. Beets and swiss chard are essentially the same plant, except that chard doesn't grow a bulbous root. Beet greens taste just the same, and they are plentiful when you're growing beets. Small beet greens cans are also tasty in salads.

Does anyone else have any beet growing or storing tips to share?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A momentous occasion in the garden

We picked the first red ripe tomatoes yesterday. Three Tumbling Tom cherry tomatoes, which was perfect because there was one each for the girls and I. It was a rather momentous occasion. They may have been just tiny cherry tomatoes, but after a whole spring of waiting for the delicacy of home grown tomatoes, those tiny tomatoes sure did hit the spot.

I'd have taken a picture, but we couldn't stand to wait a moment longer, and we ate them before I could get the camera.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pretty Little Squashes

I've never been a squash eater. I've come to realize that the primary reason for general disgust with squash is that my mom served it boiled or steamed to a slimy, mushy consistency, then piled it on my plate and expected me to eat it.

Squash cooking tip #1: Do NOT over cook! It's much better if it's tender, but firm.

I'm growing a variety called Patisson Jaune et Vert, purchased at Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. Mine aren't as fancy looking as the one in the picture, because they've been picked fairly small (about 3 1/2 inches across.) If you aren't sure how big they are, send your first grader outside with a ruler to measure them, and call it math class. And this brings us to

Squash cooking tip #2: Use small squash! Big squash have big seeds and a mushy interior.

We've tried the squash a few ways now - with as much as we have growing (I've already picked 24 of them) I figured we better find a way to enjoy it so we can get some use out of it. The first time was over a camp fire, wrapped in foil with a bit of salt and pepper and butter. That wasn't bad. Then I sauteed it in olive oil and butter with carrots and broccoli and two cloves of fresh garlic, and sort of "mixed veggie" side dish, and I sprinkled it liberally with Mrs. Dash. That was pretty darn good.

But the best squash recipe we've tried (and I've only tried it three times, so don't count me as an expert) was Squash Volcanoes. Or "Stuffed Pattypan Squash" if you're not serving it to small children. This recipe taught me that bacon and squash are clearly meant to be friends.

I've never been a big bacon fan. When it comes to breakfast meat, I much prefer our homemade elk sausage to bacon. The fat on bacon grosses me out. But in searching out new recipes to try with all the garden produce, I'm realizing bacon certainly does have it's place in cooking. I always hear about Southern greens. I finally figured out - they sautee them with bacon, in bacon grease! Hah! Shoulda known with Southern cooking that it'd be something saturated in grease. I'm so gonna try it.

But anyway. Back to the squash. Squash volcanoes were a big hit, and were pretty easy to make. I made them ahead of time so they were ready when the rest of dinner was. The girls thought they were neat and liked the taste. I didn't mind it.

I won't say I love squash - at least, not yet. But I also don't really like many vegetables. So this is a big step up for me to actually be eating it.

I'm still on the lookout for more recipes that use scallop (pattypan) squash, so feel free to share!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence... on two wheels.

Chloe has a tendency to possess excessive fear about things. Riding her bike is one of them. I think I posted earlier this spring about how much better she was doing on her bike when we went for a trail ride... well, she's beat that by a mile now.

She's riding on two wheels.

This is a pretty momentous occasion - I remember how proud I was when I finally rode a two-wheeler. Well, okay, when my dad stopped being patient and removed my training wheels and wouldn't give them back right before a long bike ride with friends and made me figure it out. It was bloody... and terrifying... but I did manage. And I was glad I did, after all was said and done.

Thankfully, there has been no blood, only a few little spills when she's trying to get going. I let her ride to the grocery store yesterday afternoon - she's building confidence quickly.

Riding a two wheeler seems to be such a huge step in growing up. There's a certain amount of freedom that eventually comes with riding a bike, when they suddenly have an ability to go a little further a little faster.

And on that note, Happy Independence Day to all of you! Hope it's a lovely day filled with tasty food and happy family time!

Friday, July 2, 2010

A quick trip to the mountains

Daddy's home with us for the week, so we drove to the mountains to see some new sights and escape from real life for a few days. We camped at Bogan Flats campground near Marble, CO, and made a few excursions from there.

We drove the rough, rocky five mile dirt road to the ghost town of Crystal.

We hiked at Maroon Bells.

It was a wonderful time for wildflowers up there. I never tire of wildflowers.

We stopped for dinner and a few minutes of splashing in an ice cold river...

And then we drove up to the top of Independence Pass, where the views were incredible and we were rewarded with a rainbow above the mountains.

We did plenty of relaxing and playing at our camp site...

And a bit of fishing before we headed home.

A bit of a whirlwind, trying to get a lot done in only a couple of days, but a lovely time nonetheless.

Today: hiking with Daddy while he shoots 3D archery targets, get a few things done around the house, and some family snuggle time before Daddy heads back to North Dakota tomorrow morning.