Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dawning of the Ages

Today J and I attended our first ever parent-teacher conference, or 'goal setting meeting' as they're now called. We were talking about Henry's test scores and how he's adjusting well now (which was not the case in the beginning of the year...there were a lot of tears that first month, and they weren't all his.) When we were almost finished, his teacher asked J if he had any questions since she and I talk almost daily, and he said that he felt like I'd kept him pretty up to speed on what the teacher and I planned to help H adjust.

As I was watching him talk, it was one of those moments when you realize; we're really parents. This is our child we're talking about! I felt so adult, yet so surreal all at once. It's not as if it escapes me that I'm ten years out of college and responsible for helping to shape these people's lives, but you just get so swept up in the day to day and time flies by and for the most part, I still think of myself as that silly undergrad with a flaming crush on that cute older guy in my 8am Philosophy class. (It should also be noted that said older boy is the whole reason I started getting my bratty behind to that class every single day without fail.) He was prompt and consistent that one.

Fast forward eleven years and steady he remains; I couldn't ask for a better partner, or role model for my kids. Earlier this summer we planned to train for the Walla Walla Half-Marathon together...then I decided I'd just do the 10k because getting out and getting in the miles has been really hard for me this time around. A couple weeks ago, I downgraded myself to loving cheerleader, since I get to do the Barber to Boise the following weekend, oh yeah, and because I hadn't really trained yet.

I have nothing to blame it on, really, because I was crazy busy in Massachusetts as well, but I found the time. I have great running routes right out my front door and I invested in the double BOB stroller, which I love. I really miss my running group, they were amazingly supportive and motivating. But alas, they're gone (or rather I am) so in the last week I've started to get into a routine again and I joined the Y today as well. Yesterday, H said to me, 'Mom, let's go for a little run.' All this time searching for a running partner, and they were right here all along.

Mr. J, on the other hand, has been lacing up the sneaks and heading out the door from the moment he said he would. His steadfastness is one of my favorite things about him.  Well, almost my favorite...but that's for another post.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just Peachy

My neighbor and I had so much fun with our jam session, that we decided to purchase peaches from someone in her ward so that we could can them and bottle the goodness of summer.

Life has suddenly gone into hyper-speed, so it's been a few days and I still have the two boxes sitting in the garage, and will be purchasing the jars and canning the peaches tonight. In the meantime, I'd gone to the Bread Company and saw in their pastry case Peach Pie Pockets. Oh, did they look yummy! I knew I could easily replicate it at home as I've, of late, become a little bit obsessed with making pie crust. I had always been a firm believer in saving the time and buying the refrigerated crusts, but that was before I realized just how easy (and butter-tastic) a home-made crust could be when made in the food processor. My sister gave me a copy of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything for my birthday, and I've found that lately I reach for it before Joy of Cooking. According to Mr. Bittman, if I could only find a supplier of 'good' lard, I'd be able to sub some in for the butter and have the best pie crust I've ever tasted.

But that aside, I did make the pie pockets last night for dessert, and since I had extra crust, I used That Girl's idea of homemade pop tarts using my jam for the filling and raw sugar sprinkled on top. It's a good thing I did, because little H has some texture issues with food. He loves fruit, but give him anything with fruit chunks in it (think yogurt) and it's gag-tastic. He tried so hard to like the pockets, but after I cut into them and he could see that it contained cut fruit he quietly turned it over and pronounced that he'd eat it upside down...and then proceeded to gag on his first swallow. So, pop tarts he ate, and with gusto.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 24, 2010

Serenity Now!

My SIL was gifted a beautiful baby blanket when she had my nephew. It was such an interesting design, and just looked like it would be fun to knit so I asked if she could find out if the pattern was available, and available it was. Serenity by Laura Wilson-Martos has already proven to be the most rewarding, addictive, and also at times the most frustrating pattern I've ever knit. Frustrating because every few rounds I question whether I'm doing it right, and because it's full of beautiful cables, lace and other great textures, one stitch out of place is noticeable. No 'good enough' for this one. 

It's one of those character-building projects that make you slow down, count all the stitches and really be present in what you're creating. While I do love those projects that allow you to just zone out and watch about 4,000 episodes of Sex and the City before you look down and you've got a full-on sock in your hands, it's nice to know that I'm making something I'm going to be really, truly proud of. 

You'd think all that counting and crossing of fingers would be tedious, but it's an incredibly addictive pattern. Knit in the round, you slowly wend your way through the row of patternwork, and then the next row you get a little rush from whipping around with all knit stitches. Suddenly, your mind is refreshed and you not only want to see how the pattern will emerge, but you also are looking forward to that next little knit row. Like a boozer at last call, you keep begging for just one more round.

I have had to stop, close my eyes and take a deep breath more than a few times, and I ripped it back to the start three times before I figured out how to make it all work in the beginning. However, once you get to a certain point, the pattern starts to lend itself to you, and you can see immediately when you've made a mistake. Hopefully, I don't have to see that too many times! 

While it's knit in the round, when you bind off you do so incredibly loosely so that you can block it, and you end up with a square blanket with slightly scalloped edges, as in the photo above, which is by the designer herself.

I had to take a little break tonight because one round was just not working out right, so I thought I'd take my self-imposed time-out to share this new project

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Brimming with Pride

Well, almost a year has passed since my dear friend asked me to make her these two Hannah Newsboy hats. I'm pretty sure that gives me a fast pass to Worst Friend Ever status, but they're now nestled in their tissue paper tombs in a priority shipping box on their way to the east coast.

A procrastinator by nature, I still feel like a lame-ass when I don't get things done on time, but this is by far the worst I've ever been when it comes to getting my act together. After a couple of rip-backs that made me want to cry, the best was when I was stitching the band to the cream hat yesterday (Pepperberry Knits' 100% cashmere, by the by, and the nicest yarn I've knit with yet! So, not only did my friend ask me nicely, she also bought supah swank yarn for me to use...and how do I repay her?!) and after I'd tied off the whip-stitched hem, I realized that I'd sewn it on inside out. Awesome. Yes, there was a swear and a head thrown back Napoleon Dynamite-style. Any-who. They're done, and I'm so happy with how they turned out. The second one (cream) turned out better than the first, but they both fit and look like they're supposed to, so I'm calling it a success.

Sitting on my head off-center like a gangsta....

The pattern is great because you have options for the hat and the band. She chose the most snug fit for the hat but there were also options for a little bit baggier, and then a super slouchy version as well. I hope they're up to snuff and you still want to see me in November!
Posted by Picasa

visited 29 states (58%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

This is kind of a fun activity, and a great visual of where you've been! All the red states are ones that I've been to, and the grey are ones that I've not. Looks like I've got some work to do if I plan to visit all 50! To make your own map, click here!

Giveaway Fun!

Over at ZigZag Stitch, Mandy Powers is so excited about her upcoming release The Red Collection that she's put together a huge prize package that will make any hand-knitter salivate! 

Not only is she giving an advanced copy of her book, plus the digital files that accompany it, a red Moleskin notebook and she's also adding in enough Lamb's Pride Bulky to knit one of her hat or mitten patterns, three balls of Lanaloft sport weight (enough to knit one of two other patterns), a copy of 1,000 Fabulous Knit Hats and the finishing touch is a bag to put it all in that was crafted especially for this giveaway by Megan at Yarnplay Cafe!

How can you earn your chance to win?! Simply click on over to ZigZag and leave a comment, you can earn more chances by sharing on Twitter or Facebook. If you don't win, you can pre-order the book right from her site. Good Luck! 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sweet for a Sweet

This week, I made enchiladas for dinner. One of my shortcuts, which always yields excellent results, is to buy a rotisserie chicken or turkey breast and then cube the meat that I pick off of it. Tender, juicy and ready to layer into the enchilada 'casserole'. This was my first time with a bird at home, while I had a dog at my feet. I remembered that he gets sick from people food, but also that dogs are supposed to get lean protein in addition to their dry kibble, so I figured a little bit couldn't hurt. The big black dog loved it. I emailed my friend later that night to ask if she'd ever done the chicken or chicken and rice thing, and she assured me it was fine. She also mentioned that she would occasionally make peanut butter 'cookies' for him, and that if I googled it, I'd find lots of recipes for homemade dog treats.

What?! A new baking project! I was on it!

First of all, I had to go to the store to buy natural peanut butter because I use Jif in my kids' sandwiches. What?! I'm going to buy natural peanut butter for my dog while I feed my kids a sugar and salt laden preserved glop? Yes. But, then, if I felt that there was a threat that my kids would vomit or poop on my floor for me to clean up if they got too much salt or it would otherwise mess with their sensitive system, I'd probably be building up my tri-ceps stirring up the jar of Adams for them too.

That said, I did get the big jar with the intent that I'd phase out the Jif, since I was feeling a touch guilty about this conundrum. Then, I licked the spoon after stirring... blech! I'm sorry, I'm like the Beastie Boys when it comes to sugar. I suppose I could aquire a taste for it, and I will use natural peanut butter in baking and in oatmeal so that you're not adding sugar where you don't want to, but a good ole PBJ calls for Jif and homemade jam. But I digress...

With the kiddos romping in the yard, I busted out a pyrex bowl, whisk and spatula...that was all I needed for these Peanut Butter Goodness treats.

Whisk 1c. water, 2T oil and 1/2 c. peanut butter. Add in 1.5 c. Whole Wheat flour, followed by 1.5 c. flour (which I thought was too much, and would cut down to 1 c. regular flour next time as there was a lot of flour that failed to incorporate in). Knead the dough to form a ball. A very stiff, tough ball I might add. Basically think of the texture that would make you cry were you attempting a pie crust, and you've got the perfect consistency for dog treats. Roll the dough out on the counter to 1/4 inch thickness. The directions say to cut into 3-4 inch pieces, but I actually used a cookie cutter, because that's just how I roll.

I didn't have to flour the counters or wash my hands aggressively to get off cemented blobs of four and dough. I'm assuming it's because of the oil in the peanut butter, married with the 2 T of oil that you add, but this is the easiest dough to work with, and work with it you must; a lot of kneading in what I think is slightly too much flour and cutting, rolling then cutting again (and again).

All ready to go in a 350 oven on an ungreased cookie sheet for 20 minutes.

Again with the olfactory disappointment, I was expecting a yummy whif when I opened the oven door as the timer dinged, and that's just not what you get, it's not that pungent smell of regular dog biscuits, but it's also so not warm peanut butter cookies. Ease and speed of preparation paired with the fact that the cost is significantly less than a gourmet or 'green' commercially packaged treat, and I think we've found a winner. There are a ton of resources online for homemade dog treats which incorporate vegetables and fruits, so bon apetit to your friendly pooch.

I sure wish I had me a treat...

She read my mind! (When I get my beloved SLR you'll be able to see his face as I rapidly click-click-click the frames...)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Don't forget to click over to Green MomCentral every week so you can see the many subjects on which I pontificate! Bus Stops and Cold Meds and Product Reviews, Oh my!

She's Radiant

I finally completed it! All told, this sweater doesn't really require a whole lot of time, it was just finding that small span to actually sit down and do it. What better time than at my parents' house when Granny would fully occupy my kids. I was so appreciative of this pattern's in-the-round construction because after binding off in pattern I just had to sew the underarm seams and weave in my ends. I altered the pattern so that the sleeves were shorter so that she could wear it in the Spring and Fall since it's a cotton sweater. Also, I knitted for four inches at the yoke instead of six. With a shorter torso, I felt like it would be too much at the neck and I'm glad also because I feel like the patterned stitch starts at just the right point on the bust. She was a very good sport to model the sweater for me literally when she first walked in the door after driving to my parents' house for about three hours.

Now I'll just be praying that it doesn't fall apart the first time she washes it!

I promised myself I wouldn't start any new projects until I'd completed the two that I started in Massachusetts and were for other people. That means I have to now put together the hats for my friend. Why have I been putting it off for so long? I'm terrified that I'll completely eff up the assembly, and there's no going back once you do it, because it involves fusible interfacing. They are a really simple project, and I just need to get over myself. 'Luckily' I was asked by a mom in PTO who saw my blog signature to donate a hat for the PTO fundraiser, so I have the perfect motivation to finish the hats and send them off to their rightful owner. I will be posting about them by Wendesday.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Splish, Splash!

Head over to Knitty Reviews to check out my review of the Johnson's Natural line of baby care products. A good time was had by all!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Great Slow Down

I ordered a great new cookbook; The Gourmet Slow Cooker which has awesome slow-cooker renditions of everything from Artichoke Risotto to Beef Burgandy separated out by country. I made the risotto last night and it was fantastic. It's the same as any other risotto in that you start it out on the stovetop, but when you get to the point that you'd lovingly ladle in 1/2 cup of stock at a time and stir, stir, stir, stir...and stir some more (generall right after you've added 1 cup of wine) you transfer the rice mixture to the crockpot and dump all the stock in at once. Cover and cook on high for two hours and Voila! Generally, I like the meditative process of it all, but now that school is in full swing, I don't want to spend 5 nights a week with H being tired or over-excited trying to corral him and make dinner at the same time.

When I lifted the lid with about fifteen minutes left, I had my doubts...there was a lot of liquid left to be absorbed. But after about twenty minutes more, I lifted and stirred and it was the same perfect creamy consistency of every risotto I've slaved over. Except instead of stirring for about 30 minutes constantly, I was watching H race his bike down the street, getting to hear all about his first day of Kindergarten and how he's 'nervous to not make new friends.'

Another bonus was that I was able to hit the road (literally) with my new running buddy, J and the kids ate, and when I got home, dinner was still warm for me. Genius!

I'm going to try to make at least three slow-cooker meals during the school week throughout this year. There are two more volumes to this cookbook, including a vegetarian slow cooker tome. And now, it's time to hit the road with my new BOB jogger and baby Charlie while the big boy is at school.

And, if you were born before 1986, you'll appreciate that today is 90210

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sittin' On a Corner...

Today was the first day that I not only sent H off to school for a full day, but that he started the day by stepping into the hands of a stranger. That's right; the school bus. I have to say, it was a far less traumatizing situation than I thought it would be, but the bus driver was the antithesis of that of South Park's which I'm sure aided in my comfort level.

Rewind to the night before at about 5:30 when I realized that I hadn't even asked the school what time the bus would be there. Thank goodness for the age of the internet, because they had their schedule posted on line. Phew! Crisis averted, but oh-so-typical of my organizational skills these days.

I just couldn't get over the fact that my baby, flesh of my flesh, was getting on a bus to be in school all day long. Away from me. Out of my influence. Spreading his wings. He was so excited, and just seemed so grown up. After he left, Charlie and I walked back to the house, C crying the whole way that he wanted to ride the bus. Oh Charlie, for the love, let me have my moment. Back at the house, I settled him in his carseat so we could go grocery shopping.

Momentous occasion number 2 for the day came when I got to order a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks because it's Fall again! That out of the way, I went to Super 1 Foods to get the items from my grocery list to fulfill what will amount to about two weeks' of meals, Charlie acting as monster truck driver all the while and then it was home again, home again, Jiggety Jigg.

As we walked in the house and were greeted by our pooch, the now-familiar smells of my home greeting me, I took a look around at the walls that finally had some of our decor on them, my seven year-old rubber tree that had been lovingly tended by my co-workers in Portland during my stint in New England had been brought back home, and time itself had started to make its stamp. I felt myself release a breath I didn't quite realize I'd been holding. It was like running in that the first mile is always hard for me. I run and run and think, this is never going to feel good or natural and then at about the same point every run I take a deep breath and release it and my body just settles in. But, if I'd stopped before that point, I would say with conviction that I hated running. I don't hate running, I just hate getting into my run.

Walla Walla, I think I'll settle in after all.