Monday, January 31, 2011

A Guest Blogger Book Review!

Hello, I am Eve. I am writing a short book review here on my Mom's blog, on a book that I finished for home school.

I think Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Bell is a very good book. This work of fiction is suited for readers who like drama, humor and a hint of romance. My Mom first spotted it at our local library.

Genevieve Welsh is a normal girl with a normal summer planned out for herself. But when her mother decides to take them all to an 1890's camp, she thinks that her summer will be ruined.

The summer turns out not to be so bad when she makes a new friend and there is a "cute looking boy" named Caleb not too far away from their cabin. Everything changes, though, when she finds a rival, Nellie Olson, who is after Caleb too.

Little Blog on the Prairie is aimed at girls around eleven and older. As of writing there is no sequel, but I still really enjoyed reading it. I highly recommend this book for girls around my age.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bread is Good

It's been a pretty yucky week so far.  So, I'm choosing to thank God for His presence and provision and I am sharing my bread recipe with you.  It's easy-peasy, inexpensive and so reliable. It's also vegan, containing no dairy or eggs.  I've only ever had requests for MORE bread, not less, so I don't think anyone has ever missed those ingredients.  Plus, using just the water and oil, it saves even more money!

 My electric mixer was a thrift-store purchase about 5 years ago and was easily 25 to 30 years old at the time.  It finally bit the dust this past autumn and I've been doing all my mixing by hand ever since.  I actually am enjoying making the bread even more now that I'm doing it all by hand.  My recipe reflects that.

Easy Whole-Wheat Bread

3 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c sugar
2 T salt
4 t yeast
4 c water
1/2 c light olive oil
6 c unbleached, all-purpose flour

Stir whole-wheat flour, sugar, salt, and yeast into a large bowl.  Heat water and oil on the stove until about 120 F. Add water to flour mixture and stir for a few minutes until it's nicely blended.  Continue stirring in unbleached flour one cup at a time.  After about the 5th cup of flour, I turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and with oiled hands, begin kneading, adding the additonal flour as needed keep it from being too sticky.  You may need more than just 6 c of the unbleached flour as you near the end.  Sometimes if it's seeming too dry, I'll oil my countertop and knead that in too before I add more flour.  Knead until it is nice and smooth - about 10 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, setting dough in the bowl and then flipping it over so that it is coated on both sides.  Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about an hour to hour and a half.  Punch down and divide in two.  On an oiled countertop, roll out 1/2 of the dough into a 9 in.-wide rectangle to release air bubbles.  Roll up, tucking in ends as needed and place into prepared, oiled bread pan.  Repeat with second half.  Let rest and rise for about 20 minutes.  While the dough is resting and rising again, preheat oven to 375 F. Move a middle rack lower, so that the tops don't burn when the bread rises even more in the oven.  Bake for 40 minutes.  You can brush with melted Earth Balance over the top if you like, for a softer, shinier crust.  I like mine as is.  Let pans cool for about 10 minutes, then remove bread from pans onto racks to completely cool.  I know it is tempting to eat the bread when it is still so nice and hot, but it will hold up much better for you for slicing into pieces if you let it cool thoroughly - at least an hour!

This past weekend I spread one half of the dough with brown sugar and cinnamon before I rolled it up to place in the pan and made cinnamon-swirl bread.  YUM!

Let me know if you give it a try! Enjoy! :)


Image by Alan Blaustein - available at

Friday, January 21, 2011

Next Week She Will Ride

This was the smiling face of my girl last October when Grandpa and Grandma visited and we all took a trip to Busch Gardens in Tampa.  It just about broke my heart.  She has wanted to have riding lessons for a number of years now.  But not everything is financially possible... This photo is of her on just one of those small, pony rides where the little ones get to just ride around a small circuit.  She was giddy.
So, imagine my joy and her UTTER delight when my mom offered her a chance to try out her dream.

We toured the barn on Thursday and... week she will ride!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Art and Color: Power for Positive Change

Don't think the arts are worth investing in? Is it wasting time to doodle?  Is it not practical to want to be an artist? How vital is art anyway? What can YOU do with a box of 64 colors?  Well, a lot, actually.

For more information on this very cool project, pay their site a visit!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sketchbook Challenge: Highly Prized 2

My second sketchbook challenge offering for the theme, "Highly Prized."

Scenes from the Week Past: January 9-15, 2011

Just a few images to share from our last week:

One of the things that I love about homeschooling is that my daughter can work on a project, cozy in her robe on a drowsy, Monday morning.

Preliminary sketches being done for a piece that would be finished in charcoal.  This week's assignment was to draw an instrument.

It's citrus season!  The grapefruits and tangeloes abound in our backyard. homage to Amanda Soule who has many tips of shoes in her fabulous photography... :)

I had one down-and-out with a headache-causing cold.

All was better for our mid-week visit to Grandma's house.

And one sketchbook challenge was accepted and begun!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sketchbook Challenge: The Justification and First Sketch

Hahahahahahahahahaha!  Did I really say this?! :

Drawing and painting may end up on the back burner for a while... for a while.

That's the hard thing about having a blog.  Or putting anything in writing for that matter.  You can always look back and find where your inconsistencies lie.  There's evidence.

Well, at least I also said this:

That may prove hard in a week when my art students return... and inspire me again!

I gave myself a safety net.  But I didn't think I'd need it so quickly!  But last night... late last night... I suppose when my tired brain was more receptive to insidious plans, hypnotic spells, and devious suggestions... I saw this:

*sigh* I woke up with a list of sketching ideas floating around in my brain.  I'm weak, I tell you, weak!  But this is only one prompt per month.  I really only need to do one sketch per month. I don't need to do all of my brain list.  In fact, it is highly, highly unlikely that I would be able to find time to draw everything my mind puts in front of me.

But I was lucky this morning, because I got all my errands done yesterday. I have a day to play!  So, taking advantage of a quiet, sleeping family, and getting the pets all fed and occupied with their goodies, I made myself a pot of tea and got to work.

This month's Sketchbook Challenge theme is "Highly Prized".  Think on that for a moment.  You will be surprised as to what your mind conjures up.  For most of us, our direction will likely first head to our families.  For many, including myself, our faith. I wanted to stretch myself beyond the obvious, though.  It's not that I won't sketch those things too, perhaps, but what else do I prize, and why? When I began to think about the things that I care for, the things that make up my daily round, I began to get a number of ideas, the first of which is presented here as well as the text I included on the page.

I don't really think of myself as a technology lover. I'm certainly not into all kinds of gadgets & never feel the need to have the latest of anything.  In fact, I just purchased my first-ever cell phone in Nov. of 2010. And despite the fact that I felt a bit shallow thinking of my iPod shortly after thinking of my family & my faith, I have to admit that it's true.  I was even skeptical when my husband gifted it to me for Christmas 2006.  I mean, I enjoy music, but not all the time. But what I hadn't considered was podcasts.  Like the blogosphere that had connected me with so many amazing, interesting people from around the globe, podcasts did the same thing through sound.  I often feel like a fish out of water in everyday society, but through the internet & podcasts & communities that form around them, I connect daily with other creative people.  It's been literally life-changing for me, a sort of lifeblood in otherwise lonely times.

One of the cool things I love about working in sketchbooks is that ordinarily, they are for your eyes only.  Some sketches may develop into works of art, some sketches may be works of art, and whole sketchbooks are their own genre of art.  But for me, there are no real expectations when I come to my sketchbook pages.  Like my journals, they are just thoughts on paper with imagery included.  I am more of a written word journaler, but whenever I sketch it adds another dimention to my experience.  I lose myself in the concentration of the lines being placed on the page.  The final outcome may or may not be pleasing to me, but it still cements a memory, still captures a moment of time - my time.  That is what is important to me. 

I will never be famous.  At least I don't plan to be, nor do I want to be.  Despite the sharing I do of myself in this space, I'm much too private of a person to desire fame.  I do, however, wish to leave a mark.  I think that is why the words written and the images collected never seem to stop.  I am a collector of my own life.  A storyteller telling myself my story.  I believe that someday my decendents may enjoy glimpses into the past - mine and theirs - through my words and art.  Especially in a world that's highly digital, marks on a page, handwriting... anything handmade...seems to have that much more value.  At least it does for me. 

I'm excited by this challenge and hope that I will be able to create a minimum of 12 sketches this year.  I aim for more, but I do know how the things of life like to make claims on our time.  But I love projects. I really do!  For me, they make the ordinary extraordinary.  Do you have any that you are working on for 2011?  And if not, feel free to join me!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

You Know You're a Grownup When...

Now THIS is fabulous!  I'd made something similar years ago, but lost the file in one of the computer upgrades.  I started to make another one and then I said to myself, "Self, " I said, "I bet there are many grocery shopping list templates out there on the world-wide webby already." And I looked and I found one.  But, being vegan, I was going to have to do a lot of modifying of it.  But then I said again, "Self, you know there is probably a vegetarian shopping list out there too.  Why not check before you reinvent the wheel?" And so I did, and so there WAS!  The list was modifiable for my family's needs and now, oh, it's just brilliant as far as I'm concerned.  It jogs my memory.  But more than that, other family members can simply check the list when we run out of something.  Having had a few years of mommy experience under my belt, I am not naive enough to think that this will always work, but hopefully we'll have fewer moments of walking to the cabinet only to find the last of the bread has been used and not reported to the bread buyer!

You know you're a grownup when you get excited about appliances... and grocery lists.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Links to Love and Inspire on a Snowy Day

While the rest of the country seems to be taking turns being blanketed with snow, we have remained pretty mild on the gulf coast for the past couple of weeks.  So, then why do we find our intrepid heroes inside watching Disney teen and Mary-Kate and Ashley movies inside instead of out in the nice weather?  Well, my Eve is laid up with a virus (hence, "Avalon High" and "A New York Minute") and I am having some lower-back issues, so it's the heating pad and stretches, if not yoga, for a few days for me.

In the meantime, I've been enjoying some of the great content that I've found in the blogosphere lately.  I've really been enjoying Tiffany's blog.  From there I learned about this. I'm thinking about it.  It seems like a good challenge, has an open-ended timeline, and I've been looking for some interesting projects to do in this new year. Elsie's is always a cheerful place to visit. She's started her own project for the year.  I won't participate in this one, but it will be fun to watch!  Due to that project, I've been introduced to Lia's fun home on the web.

So those are some of the faces and places that are new to me in this new year.  Hope that you pay them a visit if you have the time.  Perhaps a heating pad behind your back too?  Or at least a snow day.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mid-Week Mix

This is our second year as members of the Gamble Creek Farm CSA and we are just into our third month of receiving shares.  Our gulf coast season for receiving produce from the farm is from November to May or early June.  That's a nice, six-month stretch of fresh, locally grown veggies. 

Last year, my family had its own share; this year we are splitting the share with my mom and her s.o. Last year we had oodles of lettuces and every week there was a large head of cabbage.  There was hardly room in my fridge for all that greenery; we had many salads and many green smoothies last season.  This season has been different.  The lettuces bolted early-on and had to be replanted.  We haven't had as many greens yet, but they are picking up again.  Last night's share included: spinach, eggplant, roma tomatoes, peppers, kohlrabi, cabbage and baby bok-choy.  We had ratatouille for lunch today and I think we'll have a cabbage and noodle melt tomorrow. 

I'm so thankful for all the online recipe sources. Vegweb is a gem!  When we were introduced, through the farm, to kohlrabi and bok choy last year, that is where I turned to get some ideas.  Vegweb is where I turn first for everything vegan -- mmmmmm!  Kohlrabi (that pale-green, alien-looking bulb in the bottom left of the photo) is now one of Eve's favorite veggies.  She loves me to cut up carrot-stick size pieces of it to eat raw.  I enjoy it like that, but love it even more roasted and in stews.

Art class began again for the new year.  Today I introduced the girls to charcoal.  They were delighted to move beyond their graphite pencils and really took to experimenting. (That's a wet rag, by the way, in the middle of the table, for wiping blackened fingers!)

After they'd practiced for a while I asked them what they thought of the new medium: friend or foe?  A couple of girls liked it and one declared it a "frenemy"!

I took a couple of photos of my newer projects to update my Ravelry page.  I'm working on a pair of Monkey socks (Ravelry link), that famous Cookie A. pattern.  Yes, I'm about 5 years behind the popularity curve for this one, but I am really enjoying the pattern so far.  They are my first socks I am doing on a circular needle instead of the double points.  I'm loving that I'm not having to fiddle with trying to keep "ladders" out of my knitting.  For those of you who don't know, "ladders" are spots in your finished work where you can see where one needle met the next.  It's kind of like seeing a seam where you don't really want one.

So, I'm liking the circular and then... this morning I found the tip of one of my needles on the floor.  I must have shut the drawer on my project last night and broken off the tip. :(  They were wooden Knit Picks Harmony needles.  They are lovely, but since my looser knitting has forced me down to the teeny-sized 0 needles for my sock knitting (ugh), I'm going to purchase the nickel-plated ones to replace these.

And here is the Watered Steel Cardigan (Ravelry link)I cast on a couple of days ago.  I'm knitting it out of Lion's Brand Fishermen's Wool.  I've just barely started on the lace pattern at the bottom of this seamless cardi, but so far, so good.

Finally, yesterday when we were at our weekly library stop, I was having Eve pick out a couple of books.  I wanted her to find another to read for school.  She found two that she liked and I was trying to convince my more reluctant reader that she could still get the other one and read it on her own time, like before bed.  "But I need motivation, Mama," she said.  "That's why I like when you assign them for school." "Well," I replied, "why don't you make it a new year's goal?  How about a '12 in 12' that I've seen knitters, crafters, and readers alike, assign for themselves? " She could give herself a book to read a month and keep a running record of it in her journal.  She liked the idea and is going to give it a try.

I like the idea too.  Last year one of my resolutions was to "read more fiction." And I did, but I didn't really keep tabs.  And some books I started and then didn't finish.  I am such a non-fiction reader and have a hard time, sometimes, settling in for fiction.  It really has to capture me and I wish I could figure out just what it is about certain books that I like and what it is about others that have me rolling my eyes and tossing them aside.

There are few romance books that I have ever really liked other than Jane Austen's.  And I loved Wuthering Heights, but that is not exactly a romance.  It is more romantic anguish!  I adored Dickens', Great Expectations, but his Bleak House grew dull for me and I have never made it very far into Tale of Two Cities (I wonder if I should try that on audio?).  I also love Anne of Green Gables and am currently, for my first book of the year, reading the third in that series, Anne of the Island (it's a free Kindle download, so you can't beat the price!).  And The Scarlet Letter was compelling, but I only got into that with the help of Heather Ordover and CraftLit.  Once started, though, I loved it!

I'm not all about classics, though. That's just what comes to mind when I think of books I have reeeeally enjoyed.  In 2010 I read Maeve Binchy's Circle of Friends and I also really liked Curtis Sittenfeld's An American Wife.

I can tell you what I don't like and that is dark novels.  I look to my reading for escape and entertainment and while it doesn't all obviously have to be fluff, I'm not interested in anything pertaining to missing or molested children, incest, or a great deal of violence.  I can read murder mysteries, but they are not usually full of sordid details of twisted acts.  That is not entertaining for me; it only serves to make me sad.

So.  I'm going to try to keep track of at least 12 pieces of fiction this year.  And I'd like to read at least two biographies too.  I'm not sure if those will be in addition to, or in place of, a few of the fictional works.  I'll also say, that my track record for setting these kind of every month or every week or every day goals is not very good.  My Project 365 of a few years ago, fizzled around April.  And even online book groups that I've tried to do do not always make it to the end.  But I'll give it another go.  I'll be accountable here and to my daughter and we'll see what we can make of it all.

I'll be perusing various book-listsand re-looking at my birthday book, Honey for a Woman's Heart for recommendations , but if you have any favorites that seem to meet my criteria, please do share them in the comments!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Liking Mondays

Each year of our homeschool years is a different from the next.  There were years of a physical education group we attended, years with nature notebooks, one year we attended a large co-op with a number of subjects taught and learned, and another year we had a small science co-op with friends.  Some years have also had evening Bible studies, recitation recitals, and craft groups.

This year Mondays have been the easy day.  I really like it; it's a great way to ease back into the week and right now, it's a great way to ease back into school from our Christmas vacation.

Tuesdays I try to get to my yoga class and in the afternoon we volunteer at the sanctuary.  It's more of a rushed day.  Wednesdays we alternate with my mom on trips out to our CSA farm to pick up our share.  We stop at the library on our way over to Mom's for Wednesday night dinners.  Thursday brings another shot at yoga and teaching my afternoon art class.  Fridays are a toss-up: sometimes there is a field trip other times not.

But Mondays are pretty reliable.

I like staying home.  Yes, there are times when I like to get out, but for the most part, I like to be at home.  I like when there is no place I must be.  Those are days to get creative; those are juicy days!  You just never know what you might mix up.  Loaves of bread are good.

So are beans, simmering on the stove and more beans soaking.  It's time to re-stock the freezer.

A good night's sleep after a month of rest? Yes, we take the whole month of December off - I highly recommend it!  It was good.  A good start.  I'm liking Mondays.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 Word of the Year :: Flow

close up to lower water falls looking up stream just before falls showing rapids in river waterfall yellowstone wyoming canyon wy

"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'" - James 4:13-14

The river or stream or brook all move along with varying degrees of power.  What they all share though, is that when facing an obsacle, they are able to move around and beyond it.  Whether or not the obstacle is removed, the water continues on.  The obstacle may not be changed, but the stream learns how to change and adapt so that it can continue on its course toward its ultimate goal.

I had been puzzling over what my word of the year was going to be for a couple of weeks.  I can tell you I'm not feeling over-ambitious these days and I wanted to be careful if I was even going to give myself a word of the year at all.  I was replying to a post over at another
 blog the other day and was explaining why I didn't have as many goals for this new year as I have had in years past and I found myself saying that what I'm really going to need to be able to do this year is go with the flow.  And there it was.  And it's perfect for now.

There is a big undertaking in our future, which I am not quite ready to share here, but it is one through which I will need to remain flexible and trusting.  Really, this is the way I feel I really always ought to behave, remembering always that things are not my will or my way, but God's.  This is something I have been working on in 2010:  yielding and giving up my expectations to what God has in mind.  This remains challenging for me and I therefore consider it a good lesson to be mulled over and worked out even more in 2011. It's application is broad and needed in many areas of my life and so, "flow" it is.

As for goals or resolutions for this year, I have very few.  I just want a couple that will be easy to remember and that really ought to be accomplishable.

1 - I want to write more.  I want to show up here more consistently.  I want to add to my regular, years-old journaling practice with more focused writing practice.  I have begun doing this over the past week, working my way through Lisa Garrigues' Writing Motherhood which is the first purchase I made on my new Kindle that Paul gave me for Christmas (thank you, Sweetheart!).

2 - I want to knit a well-fitting sweater for myself.  I have knit one that fits me by luck; one that has an irritating neck opening I don't like so well, but wear anyway; one that is too big because I listened to someone else's idea of how I should fit the sweater to me, but I wear it anyway too; one I ended up giving to my mom because it didn't fit and another that was gifted to my sister for the same reason.  So that's 5 sweaters and only one that fits me due to more luck than preparation.  So, I will not only be making guage swatches this year, but also washing them and blocking them.  I will also take my measurements before beginning.  Simple things, but oh-so-necessary.

3 - Finally, I will use my camera more.  If I become a better photographer, it will be a bi-product of more use.  I don't have time to explore my camera's capabilities, but I do just want to use it more and part of that is simply for this space too.

So, that's it!  I hope to succeed, but will remember to be gentle with myself if something gets in the way.  I will, after all, be going with the flow!

Image courtesy of Tim Pearce.

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