Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Show and Tell

Look what I made:

My sister sent me a link to this website after I posted about Evelyn's embroidery. There's some lovely stuff on there and it inspired me to make this. I like to draw flowers and I have a drawing book full of them... so I thought I'd take some of those flowers and try this. I've never done free-hand stitching like this before, so I think it's pretty good for my first time. I know it's not perfect, but I like it and that's what counts. I used DMC thread on muslin fabric.

The younger girls are quite envious of Evelyn's framed girl/cat and boy/dog pictures above her bed and have been asking for something to hang above their beds. I think I'll make another one with different flowers and hang them above Gretchen and Sylvia's beds. It's going to be a surprise for them and I'm pretty sure they'll like it. They have been constantly checking my work as I go and offering me plenty of "oohs" and "ahhs".

I have enjoyed doing this and I find bits of time to do it while I am waiting for the water to boil, or the computer to boot up, or while giving Peter a bath. I am already looking forward to starting the next one and I have ideas bubbling to the surface for another picture. I may have created an embroidery monster in me!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Long Week

Being buried under nearly 4 feet of snow grinds everything down to a stop. After the shoveling, there is almost nothing we can do outdoors; inside, it's the same-old, same-old. This explains the long gaps between posts: nothing to say.

We have run out of fire wood. We knew that there might not be enough wood to make it through the winter and tried to make it last, only having a fire on the coldest of days, when the little electric space heaters seemed to make no difference in warming up our living spaces. The girls, though, seem to run on a higher temperature-- they are always trying to get away with just wearing summer dresses or shorts and short-sleeves. I have started to keep their summer clothes put away in my closet as I wash them, because if I put them back in their closets or drawers, they would surely be found and worn. We are forever asking the girls to put on sweaters or long pants.

Calling around to local people that sell fire wood has been a wasted effort. No one has any wood to sell. I think all the snow has people burning more wood lately. We are debating buying some oil for the oil heater, though we really don't want to do that. It's costly, and well, it's oil. There is also a minimum requirement to buy so many gallons of oil before they will send out a truck and we don't want to fill the tank, just want enough for a couple of weeks or so. Andrew is upset with himself for not having chopped more wood to keep his family warm. I try to reassure him, to tell him that a flaky chain-saw doesn't make his job easier and we have other ways of staying warm. Definitely, a new chain-saw is in the works if we get a nice tax refund.

We went into town on Friday. The whole family. Eager to get out and about, to hit a few stores and restock our pantry. We had plans! Andrew had to work from 2-5, so we were going to drop him off at work, do our shopping, then come back to pick him up and buy a frozen pizza to heat up when we got home. After dropping him off, I told him to take his key out of the ignition, I have my own key. I switched to the driver's side and the van would not start. Dead battery.

At least it was only the battery.

At least we near Sears, and they had the lowest price on batteries when we priced them a couple weeks ago.

At least it was right when we dropped him off and he was still there and Andrew has many friends in the Mall, friends that helped us out and there was a playroom for the kids to play in while we waited for the battery to be replaced.

At least we did not drive off, go shopping, and come back to a van that would not start far away from the Mall and me without a way to contact Andrew on his cell.

And you know what? That was the original battery when we bought the van new in 2001. 9 years-- that's a pretty good run if you ask me.

After a long delay, and a late co-worker coming in to relieve Andrew from his shift, we did everything we came into town to do, but did not get home until after 9pm. The kids were exhausted and tumbled into their beds without complaint. It started out rough, but turned out alright. I like to look at things positively and I am just happy that we happened to have the money to replace the battery at that moment. It was money meant for something else, but what are we gonna do? We need the van running.

The coming week looks to be more of the same-old, same-old. I have a few posts forming in my head, and when they are complete, I'll be posting soon. Stay warm and kiss your loved ones.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why I Do What I Do

It's not such a big thing now, with more and more people having gardens and preserving their own food, but when I started doing it a little bit before my first child was born in 2002, I had many people question it. Why? You can buy it from the store, you know. Isn't it too much work?
My own mother often wonders why I do this, partly because it is a lot of work, and partly because she remembers her mother telling her it's cheaper and easier to get it at the store. My grandmother had no choice, she had to preserve her own food. She had no car and lived out in the country on very little income. For her, it became drudgery. It was something she had to do if she wanted to eat in the winter. She didn't have any other options, but she made sure to make clear to her daughters that they would be better off buying from the stores and did not pass on any of her knowledge of gardening, butchering, and preserving. She had high hopes for my mother and aunt to go to college, graduate and get good jobs so they could buy what they needed from the stores.
I do this because I want to, and because I can. It isn't drudgery for me. Not at all. I enjoy the whole process, from beginning to end. I love planting the seed, nurturing it and watching it grow, seeing fruit ripen and then plucking it at its' peak. I love doing the prep work it takes to get a tomato ready for canning-- to dunk the tomato in hot water, slipping the skin off, chopping or leaving it whole and placing it in the jars. I enjoy the steam from the water bath and when they're done, hearing that 'ping' from the lids that tells me it sealed.
I wish I could have picked my grandmother's brain; to have the chance to ask her how she did certain things. But she probably wouldn't have shared her knowledge with me. She was tight-lipped about things and often told my mother to "mind her own business" when asked anything.
I had to learn things the hard way, by trial and error, by devouring books and instructions and other people's blogs. I have only recently started to feel comfortable with experimenting, deviating from the recipe to add my own twist, no longer afraid that I'll botch the whole canning process. I feel confident now in my skill to make jams and sauces and I want to take the next step in food preserving. I'm ready to tackle the pressure cooker so I can try preserving other food, like corn and potatoes and meat.
Sure, I could go and buy what I need from the store. But if you have never tasted home-preserved tomatoes or home-made jams, you don't know what you're missing. Before my garden, we used to buy tomatoes year-round, never really tasting the difference from store-bought summer tomatoes to store-bought winter tomatoes. After the garden and we grew our own, and I didn't can my own tomatoes yet, we'd buy tomatoes in winter and wonder why we are wasting our money on tasteless tomatoes? We no longer buy tomatoes in winter anymore, preferring, instead, to eat what I have canned and when we run out, we will (im)patiently wait for our garden-grown tomatoes.
I didn't think I would taste a difference in store-bought potatoes versus home-grown potatoes, but I can! I really can! The same goes for nearly everything I can grow myself versus buy in the store. So after learning all this, how can I ever stop? How can I ever give up the freshest, juiciest, tastiest home-grown or home-preserved foods and go back to buying bland, flavorless, preservative-packed store-bought food?
I'm sure my grandmother is looking down at me, shaking her head at me, while I sweat over a hot stove, boiling hot water for dunking tomatoes in, washing hundreds of jars and lids, while fending off 4 children. Go ahead granny-- shake your head, but I'm not going to stop.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Won't Say a Word

I won't tell you about all the snow we got. About how we got over 3 feet of snow in 2 days and they are calling for yet another foot of snow on Tuesday. No, that's not what I am going to talk about today.
I won't tell you how we have had to shovel a path to the chicken coop and how relieved I am that we moved the coop closer to the house from the original location alllllllll the way in the garden area or else we'd still be out there shoveling a path to the chicken coop. That's not what I am going to talk about.

I won't tell you how the path to the chicken coop no longer looks white and pristine and it will only get dirtier until the snow all melts away. Nope, not talking about that.

I also won't say a word about how it has been so cold that there was frost on the inside of our doors and the condensation dripped down and froze between the door and the door frame which makes it nearly impossible to open the door. Not a word!

I also will not say that we were not very smart and left our van parked in the usual spot in the back of the house and the kindly neighbor's tractor plow couldn't make it up the hill past our garage, so we had to dig and dig and shovel and shovel to get the van out. Not a word about how we had to shovel from the window of the garage all the way up and around to the back of the house. I won't be saying that we are sore and our backs hurt and we have blisters on top of blisters. I will say, however, that we have now parked the van in front of the garage this time. We do learn from our mistakes.

What I will talk about is how much fun the kids had in all the snow, and they made this snowman taller than them! How they ran and played and made snow angels and jumped from the back of the truck into huge piles of snow. I'll talk about how they came in with rosy cheeks and twinkly eyes and cold fingers and toes and warmed up with steaming mugs of hot chocolate.
I won't say that the snowman is now buried and I won't talk about how I have what seems like hundreds of wet mittens and socks and hats and scarves and boots and snow pants lying about in various stages of dampness.
No, no, not a word about snow!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Play With Your Food!

Would you like some eggs and toast?
How about a ham, cheese and tomato sandwich with a nice crunchy carrot?

Maybe a nice cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato on a sesame seed bun?

A breakdown of the cheeseburger:
This is everything I've made so far. It's fun!
I have a few more food items I'd like to make: pancakes, bacon strips, pizza, to name a few.
I went surfing on the web and it's over-whelming all the ideas out there! Also a little intimidating when you see some really exquisite felt foods! I saw a fancy pasta dish with shrimp and tomatoes and if I didn't know it was felt, I would have thought it was real!

Everything was made without a pattern, just cutting out shapes and sewing them together, adding a little detail by sewing lines on the lettuce and tomato, zig-zag lines on the burger for grill marks, and I used embroidery thread for the sesame seeds on the top of the bun. I'll post more later as I make them.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


...From Alcacrib!! (suspenseful music playing in background)

Seriously, the boy is skilled! Since he has figured out how to climb out of the crib, there is not a moment's rest for me anymore. He refuses to stay down for a nap and one day, I waited just outside his door and put him back into his crib 17 times before he gave up and went to sleep. But those nice, peaceful 4-hour naps? Ha! Those are long gone. I'm lucky if he naps for 20 minutes.

Here he is in action:

The coast is clear... Mama's gone!

Hooking one leg over...


Almost there...

Little bit further...

That, my friends, is how you do it!


You can't stay mad at this cute face, can ya?!
I love this kid! I also mourn the loss of those 4-hour naps, sigh. Yesterday, he barely napped for 15 minutes and by late afternoon, it showed. I tried to get him down for another nap, but it was no use, he just wouldn't stay in the crib. With Andrew home today, maybe I'll have a chance to do a few things while he distracts Peter for me, or else I'll be mourning the loss my my sanity, too!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just Socks

They're just socks... but they are socks that have been with me ever since Evelyn was a baby. These socks have been in my laundry baskets for the past 7 1/2 years, passing on to Gretchen, Sylvia and now Peter. They are a constant among clothing that has come and gone. They keep my babies' toes warm.

After 7 1/2 years, they are finally showing some wear. Normally I don't repair socks, they get tossed into the rag pile, but I cannot let these socks pass on so easily. Letting them go means my babies have gone and grown up. Even after they are grown, I suspect I'll keep these socks in my own sock drawer, to remember when they once had little feet that I kissed and tickled and played "This little piggy..." on their toes.

I don't put shoes on my babies, so these socks are all I have to remember their little baby feet. Peter has just about outgrown them, maybe another couple of months or so if he keeps growing as fast as he is. Just in time for warmer, bare feet weather around here. He went from under average to over average and grew 6 inches in the last 6 months!
They're just socks, but they hold more than just feet.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Favorite Tooth

We had another milestone happen this month-- Gretchen lost her very first tooth on Saturday night! It took quite a long time to convince her that her tooth needed to come out, her new one was already poking through and growing behind the baby tooth. She would open her mouth to let me pull it and at the last minute, slam her mouth shut before my fingers could grasp the tooth. Finally, after much cajoling and talking with her, she let me pull her tooth.

Here she is with her new smile! After I pulled it, she cried and said, "That was my favorite tooth!" Such a funny girl! After rinsing all the blood out, she happily ran around the house showing everybody her teeth and put her tooth under the pillow for the tooth fairy.

Evelyn taking a look at her missing tooth while daddy looks on.
She got $5 for her first tooth-- that's the going rate for first-timers, then it drops back down to $1 a tooth; and the two front top teeth are $2 apiece.
She woke up this morning waving her $5 bill around crying, "I'm rich! I'm rich!"
What a busy month January was: Evelyn lost her 7th tooth; Sylvia and Gretchen had birthdays; Peter figured out how to climb out of the crib; and Gretchen lost her first tooth. My babies are growing up!