Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in review

Here is a mosaic of most of the things I made in 2012.  A little knitting, a little crochet, a little cross stitch, a little baking, a little quilting, a little embroidery...what a great way to spend the year!  If you look at this mosaic on Flickr, I have links to each individual item.

I am already busy working on things that will be completed in 2013, beginning with Alicia Paulson's Winter Woods sampler.  When she premiered the design on her blog last winter, I fell in love with the woven heart, the mittens, the snowflake, the bunny, the snail, and the little cottage, but mostly I was smitten by that blue linen she stitched it on.  Where I live, the winter sky is just that color in the early morning and late evening.

The evening winter sky makes me ache to stitch!

Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope it is full of all the things you love best.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


I have been baking the past few days, mostly old favorites, but I'm trying to mix it up this year with a few new-to-us recipes (like the springerle).  Yesterday I had two sticks of butter softened for one old tried and true recipe, only to discover that I was missing a key ingredient.  My eyes fell on a recipe for Boterkoek that I clipped from a newspaper many, many years ago but have never made.  The very first ingredient listed was 2 sticks of butter, softened, and I had everything else I needed, so I took it as a sign to give it a try.  The recipe also fits my criteria for fast and easy.  I really don't enjoy shaping individual cookies, nor do I have much patience for rolling and cutting dough, so any cookie recipe that says "spread in pan, cut when cool" has me at Hello.


2 sticks butter, softened
1.5 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg, separated
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg white, baking powder, and salt.  Add flour and mix well.

Divide batter and spread into two pie plates. Decorate with cross hatching marks made with the tines of a fork.  Spread the egg yolk over the tops.

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Bake for 30 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  Cool and slice into wedges.

It tastes like butterscotch!  I have found other versions of boterkoek online that call for regular sugar, and I'll bet that tastes like shortbread, but butterscotch is a favorite flavor in this household, so we're thrilled.

I don't know if I'll post again before Christmas, so I'll wish everyone a Very Merry, full of love and family and cheer, and lots of good food. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sweater is done!

Finally!  The baby sweater for my great niece is done!  It took me over two months, but it was time well spent, and it's done in time for Christmas.  Fingers crossed that it won't be too small for her.

The photos were taken before I sewed the buttons on.  I knew the light would be gone before I had them attached, so I improvised for the photo shoot.  Plus, I was trying to decide between two sets of buttons.  I ended up using white flower buttons, rather than these, because they provided a better contrast, and I think my niece will like them better.  I sewed them on with thread that exactly matches the yarn.  Very cute.

My Christmas crafting for others is done.  I have more photos of all those projects to share here, but they will have to wait until the recipients have received their gifts. The next few projects on my to-do list are all for me me me!  That's a fun way to start the new year, I think.

I did make the Springerle cookies yesterday.  I used anise extract as the recipe instructed, which gives them a licorice flavor.  Some people in the house aren't happy about that.  Next time I make them, I will use almond extract. (Shelagh, if you are reading, what does your mom use?)  I think I will package a couple of the cookies up and have my children give them to their German teachers as a little Christmas gift.  Both of my children are studying German for their world language.  I am certain before I even do this that my daughter will dutifully deliver hers to her middle school German teacher, but my son will "forget" to give his to his high school German teacher.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Moment of Silence

Front page of New York Times, 12/16/12

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mid December (the 12-12-12 edition)

This is a hand-carved mold for springerle cookies.  I bought it at an art fair years ago (pre children), and I hung it on my kitchen wall when my kitchen had a more rustic, country style to it.  I always meant to make the cookies, but for some reason never did, and when we redid our kitchen several years ago I put the mold away and forgot about it.  It resurfaced this summer during our basement project, and I felt ashamed for having hidden it away for so long!  Now springerle cookies are on my list of things to try this season.  They seem a little complicated, but I'm up for it!  After that, I am going to find a place to display this mold.

I was vacuuming our living room today in half-light conditions, and as I neared the Christmas tree I heard something bigger than cat hair get sucked into the machine.  I wonder what it was?  I probably won't know until we put the tree away in a few weeks.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Birth Sampler

My great niece's birth continues to keep my needles busy!  The latest item for her:

I covered up her name for privacy when I took the photo, which makes the sampler look unbalanced, but her name is stitched in the same color, size, and font as the other two lines of text, and it  looks quite nice when everything is visible.

I "designed" this by typing up her birth information in Word, experimenting with different sizes, fonts, and layouts, and then I used the border from this free embroidery pattern to complete the design.  I am having it professionally framed in a pink frame without matting, so the completed work will be about 7 inches square--a nice size that can be hung on the wall or propped in an easel on a bookcase.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Spinach Quiche

Like all good elves this time of year, I am busy busy busy with the making of gifts.  Nothing is finished yet, not even the sweater, because I am working on an embroidery project I need to take in for framing this weekend.

The house is all decorated now.  Every year I say the same thing:  I dread the work, but then when it's all done I am so glad we made the effort.  

Until I have photos of finished creations to share, I thought I'd share my recipe for a crustless quiche.  I adapted a quiche recipe I found on Allrecipes, and make this quite often.  Usually I eat it for breakfast, but last year this quiche was my contribution to the Christmas Eve potluck dinner with my husband's sisters (which is probably why it's on my mind for a post this time of year):

Spinach Quiche (you can also use Kale)

1 bag of fresh spinach (or you could thaw a package of frozen spinach, but I prefer using fresh)
diced onion to your taste preference
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup Greek (or regular plain) yogurt
5 eggs
handful of shredded cheddar cheese
handful of crumbled feta cheese

Wash your spinach in a big colander.  With water still clinging to the leaves, put the spinach into a large pot, cover, and cook over medium-high heat until it is wilted (usually 5-6 minutes).   Drain the wilted spinach in the colander and let it cool.  (If using frozen spinach, thaw it and drain it.)

Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and yogurt, then add the eggs and whisk again.  

Spray a pie pan with non-stick spray.  Spread the spinach over the bottom of the pie pan.  Sprinkle the spinach with onions.  Layer on the shredded cheese and crumbled feta.  (I don't give amounts for the onions and cheese because you can use as much or as little as you like, although with cheese, more is often better!)  Pour the egg mixture over the cheese and spinach.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake in a preheated 400 F oven for 45 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for 15 minutes more.  Remove quiche from oven and cool on a wire rack.  Cut into 8 pieces.

Whatever we don't eat the first day, I freeze.  The best way to do this is to put all the pieces on a cookie sheet, not touching each other, and pop the sheet in the freezer for an hour.  When the quiche pieces are frozen, remove them from the cookie sheet and put them in a freezer bag.  Now you have an instant breakfast or lunch! Just microwave single pieces of quiche for one minute on high to heat them up. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

The hard part is over!

The hard part of the sweater is over!  I joined the front pieces to the back, and then I picked up stitches and knit the neckband a few days ago, but not before watching three YouTube videos and email consulting my friend Lynn.  Thank you for the pep talk, Lynn!

It wasn't a super smooth process.  I did somehow end up with an extra stitch (or two), and at one point I dropped a stitch, which caused no end of panic because it was at a place in the sweater where frogging was out of the question.  Luckily the seed stitch pattern in the neckband hides some of my mistakes.  I also accidentally made several buttonhole-like holes along the edge of the neckband where my picking-up-stitches technique was less than fabulous, but I weaved those together with a tail of yarn.  I still need to sew the sleeves on and finish up the side seams, but the knitting part is over.

I am working on some other handmade gifts right now, of the embroidery, crochet, and cross stitch variety, but I would like to start another knitting project very soon to keep myself progressing with that skill.

Tomorrow is the first day of December.  Only 25 days to get everything done!  Bring on the mint chocolate!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


November has been a lovely month weather-wise so far.  We've had a lot of skies that look like this:

Of course, at 4:00 in the afternoon the sun makes a noticeable drop towards the horizon and it's dark by 5:30, but it's still nice to have a few hours of blue skies and sunshine in this month that is so typically gray and dreary.

Have I mentioned my basement project here?  I know I've talked about it on Flickr.  We are making progress.  My husband put up wainscoting to hide the fact that we had to tear out water-damaged drywall, and we finished painting this weekend.  We brought everything back in from the storage unit, and even though I have been purging left and right, we still have so. much. stuff.  More stuff than places to put it, unfortunately.  But we're getting there.  We will be home for Thanksgiving this week, just the four of us, so we should have some time to work on organizing and sorting together.

Here is what it looks like at the moment:

Four years ago it looked like this, this, and this, so we've made progress!!

The baby sweater I am knitting is coming along.  I fixed the wonky left front piece and am now working on the second sleeve, which is the final piece to knit before I start putting the pieces together.  The next step involves the dreaded "picking up stitches" and just thinking of it has me in a nervous sweat.

This sweater has been very difficult to photograph.  The edges curl like crazy (which explains the little crocheted rock paperweight in the photo), and the color doesn't come out right no matter what lighting or which camera I use, but here is the sleeve I am working on:

There is something about seeing all those stitches looped along a knitting needle that makes me feel all cozy and happy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins

Hope everyone in Hurricane Sandy's path weathered the storm safely.  We were lashed by the outer reaches of it yesterday and today, and it's much colder than it usually is for the end of October, but that's about all the  storm news to report from here.  There was snow on the rooftops this morning, but it was gone (either melted or blown away!) by noon.

Luckily I had nowhere to go today, so after days and days of having to be up and out early (including both Saturday and Sunday), I took advantage of the clear schedule and slept in a little this morning, and baked a batch of pumpkin muffins.  I searched through my blog kitchen archives and can't believe I have never shared this recipe here before.  It is such a staple in my household.  I can't remember where I originally came across this recipe--probably another blog--but I've been making it for years.  I've tweaked it a bit (reducing the sugar), and here is my iteration of it:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
15 oz can pumpkin (or 2 cups cooked pumpkin)
2/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup canola oil
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spray muffin tin with cooking spray or line with muffin liners.  In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together. In another large bowl, beat eggs and stir in sugar.  Add pumpkin, applesauce, and oil to the egg mixture and mix well.  Stir wet ingredients into dry and stir just until dry ingredients disappear into wet ingredients.  Stir in chocolate chips.  

Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Makes about 34 muffins.  (If you use the original measurements of 2 cups of sugar, you can easily get a full 3 dozen muffins.)

You can make mini muffins instead if you prefer.  Use mini chocolate chips instead of full-size chocolate chips and bake at 350 for 13 minutes.  The yield for mini muffins is 6 dozen.

These freeze well.  After I bake them we eat them fresh for a day or two, and then I put them in the freezer.  The kids take them to school in their lunch boxes for dessert.  We put them in the lunch box frozen in the morning, and they thaw by lunch time.  If anyone wants one at home, a muffin will thaw in the microwave in about 10 seconds.

Muffins are my preferred thing to bake because I am content having just one muffin a day.  With cookies, I will eat a cookie here and there throughout the day until I've had 6 (or more) cookies before I realize what I've done, but muffins are too decadent to eat repeatedly.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Knitting update: mistakes were made (and probably more will come)

So, the baby sweater I am knitting...sigh.  I got the back piece finished.  Hurray!  Then I started the front left piece.  Things began smoothly, but I panicked as it grew on the needles.  I kept looking at it and thinking: This isn't the left piece, this is the right piece.  I wonder if I'm doing this wrong? I wonder if there's a mistake in the pattern?  Before I panicked about that for too long (a day or two, tops), I realized my perspective was confusing me.  As I held the piece out in front of me at arm's length, it seemed like the right side piece, but if I held it up to myself as if I were wearing it, I realized it was the left piece.  Whew!  And sheesh.

The next panic moment came when I had to begin the decreases to shape the neckline.  Technically this was going along just fine, but the piece seemed much too short.  I checked my gauge--that was right on target. I checked online for pattern errata--there weren't any.  How bizarre.  The proportion of the front to the back seemed way off, but I chugged along, thinking that maybe babies just have really fat necks, and what do I know about garment construction anyway?

I finished the left front piece.  Hurray!  Then I started on the right front.  New challenge: buttonholes!  I made it through the first buttonhole (and the first yarn forward) with only one YouTube consultation, so I was feeling sassy, but then as I stitched along, counting rows, the next buttonhole came up too quickly, only a few rows above the first buttonhole, and suddenly the instructions seemed wrong.  They were telling me to knit a row when I knew it should be a purl row.  What was going on?

I took a good hard look at the instructions.  I compared the instructions for the two front pieces.  I got a pencil and a calculator and drew little diagrams and added up rows of stitching.  And that is when the mistake I'd been making finally stood up and waved at me with a fiendish grin.  If you heard a loud despondent wail last night, that was me saying "NOOOOOOO!"

That part where it says "Rep the last 2 rows 22(27:32:32:39:45) times more"?  That doesn't mean 32 more rows.  That means 64 more rows. DUH.  

Knitting progress report:  Technical Skills, showing improvement.  Pattern Comprehension, needs work.

left front piece for a giant-necked baby.  go ahead and laugh.  
Thanks to my keen observation that the buttonholes were too close together, I saved myself from making a mess of the right front piece (still in progress, so maybe I shouldn't be counting my chickens just yet), but that sad little misshapen left front piece will have to be frogged and made over. 

When I felt depressed about my knitting mistake last night, I thought I'd soothe myself by starting this pattern--a present for my daughter--but when I went to assemble the supplies, I realized I'd run out of DMC 310.  That is the color black.  What kind of cross stitcher runs out of DMC 310?  The cross stitch authorities are going to revoke my license to stitch if word of this gets out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I was reading Frankenstein at midnight last night in our darkened house. I was the only one still awake. Suddenly there was a flash of lightning and a loud crack of thunder outside my window!  Spooky, atmospheric, and good unexpected campy fun.

Friday, October 19, 2012


I finished this little cross stitch this week.  It was a bonus pattern (one of three) included with the Lizzie Kate Very Scary Mystery Sampler (blogged here).  I haven't put a single stitch into the sampler since I last posted about it, but I really wanted to get this bonus pattern done in time for Halloween.  The fabric is a gorgeous orange color, deeper and richer than my camera could capture.  This was a quick stitch, except for that big block S, which took forever!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Halloween Decorations

I walked around my house and took pictures of the Halloween decorations I haven't showcased here before.  Some of these are old toys that my children don't play with anymore, so they've been appropriated for holiday decorating!  

 My daughter made the tree tile in 5th grade art class a few years ago.  I crocheted the pumpkin.
 The pattern for the Boo cross stitch was a freebie from here.
The plastic pumpkins in the photo above are from the bottles of Pumpkin Juice we bought at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The little white bowl with the hearts in the two photos below is from Julie Smith's etsy shop.  It's not Halloween or fall themed, but it's so cute I leave it out year round.  The children and I made the salt dough ghosts six years ago following these instructions, and the little pointy things are soft trees I made with Halloween fabric.

And finally, a Lego jack-o-lantern.  I miss the Lego days so much.  I thought my son would play with them forever.
If you'd like to see my older posts about Halloween crafts, books, recipes, and decorations, click on the Halloween label on the right hand side of my home page.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Knit gets better

The knitting went a bit better the past few days.  A knitting friend was here for lunch last week. She looked at my work and suspected I was periodically knitting into the wrong place.  That's what I get for thinking I can knit while watching a movie or sitting in a darkened concert hall!  I have been paying extra careful attention to every single stitch, and it's going well.  The back of the sweater is nearly complete.  Just one more inch to go and I will bind off some stitches and put the rest on a stitch holder.  Then I move on to complicated pieces, like knitting and shaping the front pieces, and making buttonholes, and picking up stitches.  I don't know why picking up stitches strikes terror in my heart, but it does.  Expect to hear more complaints from me in a few days when I muck that all up.

The camera also cooperated for these pictures.  Happy times indeed.

P.S.  I am hoping that sewing the sweater pieces together and blocking the whole thing will fix the curling of the bottom edge.  Please tell me I am right!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Knit happens

I mentioned last spring that I wanted to knit  a sweater for my niece's baby.  I actually did start to knit it last spring, but the dusky pink yarn I was using looked too mauve, almost brown, as it knit into fabric, so I stopped and shopped for a brighter pink yarn.

Then summer started and I didn't get around to casting on the brighter pink yarn until last week.  I am sorry to say it is not going well!

I have already had to start over completely, and every night I end up having to undo most of what I've accomplished.  I seem to keep making the same mistake, but I can't identify what is happening.  It's not a dropped stitch, but I seem to be crossing stitches and ending up with a weird loop on the backside of the fabric. Or something.  It's confusing.  This constant frogging and reknitting is wearing down my good humor.  How many times can baby cashmere yarn be frogged and reknit before it gets all worn out?

I really do want to make this sweater, but the lack of progress is disheartening, especially given all the other stitchy projects I have in mind to do for Christmas.

Also, my camera doesn't seem to want to focus any more.  It's a simple point-and-shoot, 5 years old already, and I've taken approximately a million photos with it, so I guess this is to be expected.  New camera for Christmas this year, perhaps?

Because pictures like this just won't do!

(I'm really hoping I can get this knitting thing figured out.  I just love how all those loops look sitting on a knitting needle, and when I sit with my "cheater" glasses on and a lap full of knitting, I feel all snuggly and cozy and kind of smart.  That is, until I realize I need to frog again.  Then I just feel mad and frustrated, and I want to go running for the crochet hook.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Prairie Tales

On the shores of Lake Thompson, near DeSmet, SD, August 1991.

Two months ago I noticed that the book The Wilder Life, by Wendy McClure, was available for Kindle from my public library.  It was on my to-read list, so I downloaded it and read it.  That, my friends, was  the innocent beginning of an unplanned two-month-long immersion into Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I have read pretty much nothing but things by and about Laura Ingalls Wilder for a number of weeks now.  It's been an enlightening and absorbing time.

The Wilder Life was entertaining.  McClure's book is about her personal journey as she rediscovered the Little House series as an adult, and of her subsequent visits to all of the Little House locations across the midwest and upstate New York.  I could relate to much of her experience.  Like McClure, I was a Little House fanatic as a child, and I, too, reacquainted myself with the series in my early 20s.  Over the years I have visited some, but not all, of the Little House places. (My visit to Plum Creek is blogged here.  My second visit to DeSmet, SD is blogged here.  I have also been to Pepin, WI, and Mansfield, MO.).

I was intrigued by some of the books about Laura that McClure referenced, so a few weeks after finishing her book I read Little House, Long Shadow: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Impact on American Culture, by Anita Clair Fellman.  This is a very well-researched, scholarly tome that presents some ideas about Laura Ingalls Wilder's motivation in writing the series and how the books may have influenced the political landscape of the second half of the 20th century.  I also read the biography Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder, by John E. Miller, and am currently reading another biography, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life, by Pamela Smith Hill.    Each book has been fascinating to me in its own way.  I have learned some things about Laura and her family that I did not know before, and even though by now the facts in each book about Laura are all the same facts, I am interested in the different perspectives and analysis each author presents.

Some of the truths I have learned about the family have stung a little bit.  Laura's daughter Rose edited the books so heavily that she should probably be considered a co-author.  The family's isolation and self-sufficiency throughout the series were exaggerated.  On at least one of the moves, Pa packed the family up and moved them away in the middle of the night to escape creditors. Most of the dresses Ma and the girls wore were not made by them, but were shipped to them ready-made from friends in the East.  Mary's college tuition was paid for by the government.  A carpenter, not Almanzo, built the pantry in the couple's first home. The Ingalls had another family living with them during the Long Winter, but Laura chose not to include them in the story because she wanted the focus to be on her family's struggles and triumph.  Some of these things I knew before, but with all of the reading I've been doing lately,  I felt that the revelations were piling up, and I started to feel sad and overwhelmed by them.

So, I re-read the entire series these past few weeks, something I hadn't done in a long time.  Fortunately, even knowing the truth now, I still felt joy spending time on the prairie with the Ingalls family again.  I was completely absorbed.  When I read these books as a child, the people and places in them would fill my dreams at night, and that was true this time, too!  Every night I am dreaming of the prairie.  Even if the books are more fiction than fact, they are still based on a reality, and they still tell a tale that is worth knowing and living, and even emulating.

I know the Little House books have influenced my life in a positive way.  They stress so many wonderful ideals:  eat good food;  take advantage of opportunities to learn; value education; take care of your family; notice the beauty that surrounds you; sing, dance, and make music whenever you can; take care of your belongings; be fair and gentle; make a home where ever you are.

I noticed some things with this reading of the series that I thought would be fun to share here:

The common dipper.  When Ma and the girls ride the train from Plum Creek to Tracy, Laura is fascinated by the water faucet on the train.  She watches a man fill a cup with water, drink from it, and then replace the cup on a shelf above the sink.  When he is done, Laura picks up that same cup, fills it with water, and drinks from it.  I wanted to gag when I realized what was going on!  Later in the series, Pa takes Laura and Carrie into town for the 4th of July celebration, and all the townspeople drink lemonade from a barrel, sipping directly from one single dipper.  Shudder!  Can you imagine sharing a dipper with every random stranger in your city?  I don't even like to drink from public drinking fountains!

Disgusting food.  I always thought the head cheese and the pig's tail in the first book were stomach turning, but this time in one of the later books I noticed the family sprinkles their tomatoes with sugar and covers them with milk.  That sounds vile to me, but I am strangely tempted to try it.  In Farmer Boy, Almanzo says if you take a cup of milk and a cup of popped popcorn and transfer the popcorn into the milk, the milk won't spill over.  According to Almanzo, popcorn is the only food you can add to milk in an equal amount and not have the milk spill over.  After you've soaked your popcorn in the milk, you eat the popcorn from the milk with a spoon.  This initially sounded revolting to me, but upon further reflection, I'm thinking it probably tastes like corn flake cereal.  And I'll bet that today in these modern times of processed food, you can fill a cup of milk with a cup of dry cereal and not have the milk spill over.  This would be a good science project for young children to try.

Fashion.  The Ingalls women were fashion conscious! When they are preparing Mary for college, Ma worries that Mary's clothes will be out of place in Iowa. Teen Laura wants hoop skirts and bangs and name cards. Endless descriptions are given of what clothing looked like, what material it was made of, and how it was trimmed.  Even when Laura was younger she coveted a fur cape like Nellie's, and when she got one, she was a little bit smug that her cape also came with a muff, while Nellie's had none.  My overall enduring impression of the Ingalls women is that they were practical, so if you had asked me if they cared about fashion, I would have said no.  I was so wrong! And I am happy to have been wrong.  I loved finding out that the adult Laura, who was a farm wife, would dress up to run errands in town.  Some of the other rural woman apparently perceived her as a bit snobby because of this, but I appreciate the fact that she liked and paid attention to her style.

I feel like I've been on a journey these past two months, discovering that my childhood passion and lifelong influence was perhaps falsely portrayed, but realizing that I still love and appreciate it anyway.  As I mentioned in my Goodreads book review of The First Four Years, it's been as if someone told me Santa doesn't exist, but I'm okay with it, because the magic is in the joy the myth brought me.

I have a set of photos of the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites I visited two years ago, and if you care to read my reviews of the Little House books and the books about Laura, you can find them on my Goodreads little-house shelf.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Much of the apple crop around here was destroyed this past spring due to early warm weather, which led to early blossoming.  A hard frost killed the blossoms, and the orchards really took a hit.  My front yard apple tree survived, though, and now it is harvest time.

I am re-reading the Little House on the Prairie books right now.  It's been many years since I've done that.  I read some of the books to my children when they were younger, but my son lost interest, and my daughter was keen to read them on her own.  My urge to read them now was sparked earlier this summer when I read the scholarly book Little House, Long Shadow, by Anita Clair Fellman.

I have a lot of thoughts swirling in my head about that book and my current re-reading of the series, but I'll save all that for another post, because today I am making Apple Upside-Down Cake, using Laura's very own recipe from The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook.  These aren't recipes from the series; these are recipes that Laura used as a married, farming woman when she lived on her orchard and dairy farm in the Ozarks of Missouri.  My cake is in the oven right now, smelling delicious.  I am a little bit apprehensive about inverting it out onto a plate, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

If this is too small to read, you can click on the photo for a larger image.
ETA: The cake came out beautifully!  See it here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I haven't shared any needlework projects in quite a while.  That's because I've been working on this Very Scary Mystery Sampler by Lizzie Kate.  The pattern was a mystery, released in three installments the beginning of July, August, and September.  Stitchers were asked not to share photos online so as not to spoil the surprise for others, but I think by now there are enough pictures out there that I'm safe.

When I got part one in July, I started stitching right away.  We did so much driving all over the state this summer, both for vacation and to get the kids to their respective camps, and this was a good take-along project.  The colors are really pretty as they come together.  I finished stitching part one just as part two arrived, and I finished part two as part three arrived, but now I haven't stitched one single stitch of part three!  Part three included a full color photo of the completed sampler, and now that I've seen that, I've lost my motivation. I like the design, but stitching on this is keeping me from other things I need to work on, and I'm feeling restless.

Our basement is also taking up my time.  Those of you who follow my Flickr stream will know that we are in the final stage of the work.  The flooring is being put in as I type this, and once that is complete by the end of this week, we hope to paint, and then we can put everything back together again.  I've been purging all along, but I know we still have more things than we have storage space.  My plan for reorganizing is to put back the things we absolutely must keep, and be ruthless with the rest.

And marginally related, because I mentioned driving all over the state this summer, the Pure Michigan campaign just released this statewide sing-along video, and I love it.  I have been to 30-plus states in the U.S., and each has its own beauty, but I do think Michigan is one of the prettiest places in the country!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Foggy September Morning

The children started school yesterday, and I am trying to find my routine with the new schedule. This morning I took a walk around the community garden. 

Harvest time never looked prettier.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Tomorrow is my son's 15th birthday.  I think of sunflowers as "his" flower, because the place where I went for my midwife appointments during my pregnancy had a giant field of sunflowers next to it, and they were in full bloom the last few weeks before he was born.  I used to grow sunflowers in my yard, and had a glorious crop the summer he was born.  When we brought him home from the hospital, I showed him the sunflowers before I carried him into the house.  I also grew sunflowers the following summer when he turned one.  They bobbed around outside the dining room window, and he was very entertained by them as he learned to sit in his high chair and eat solid food.  I even had a little singing sunflower toy hanging over his changing table.  It played "You Are My Sunshine" when you pulled the cord on the stem.

I was thinking yesterday:  fifteen years before he was born, I was fifteen.  In that fifteen years, I completed high school, moved away to college, graduated from college, moved out of state, worked full time, moved back in state, got married, got a graduate degree, worked again, and bought a house.   Then he was born, and for the past fifteen years, I've mostly taken care of him (and his sister). I spent that fifteen years before him doing everything I could do to be ready for him, and I've spent the last fifteen years enjoying him (and his sister).  How lucky I have been!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bonus Day

Thanks to both children being away at two different music camps at the same time, my husband and I got to enjoy some vacation time alone, just the two of us.

My daughter was here:

which is close to here:

I grew up going to the beach in Grand Haven.  It was close enough that we could decide in the morning it would be a beach day, and off we'd go.  Walking that boardwalk and pier is the stuff of teenage dreams.  As an adult I like walking it because it brings back memories, and I love the lake, anyway.  I don't visit Grand Haven very often any more (it's been at least 5 years since I've been there), but I was thrilled for the opportunity to spend a day there with my hubby after we dropped our daughter off at camp.

My son was at a camp near Sleeping Bear Dunes, so my husband and I had a bonus day there this year, just the two of us!

We brought our bikes and tried out the new bike trail.

My children both enjoyed their camp experiences very much, and I'm glad to have them both home again.