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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Yarn Along: Slowing Down


Does that shawl look the same size as it was when I showed you last week? You know how I mentioned that I had to redo portions frequently? I'm only one repeat ahead of where I was last week. That is a bit troubling to me, as I have to have it finished by either the 8th or 10th of March. Amira's birthday party is either going to be the Sunday before her birthday so I will need it to give her during the party, or I will need it to give her for a ballet performance we will be attending with a few of her friends.


A few people asked for the photo of Saint Helena before they decided to commit. So, here it is. I don't have a picture of it finished, as this was my prototype, and I've reworked the pattern a bit. It is knit in the round, using aran weight yarn, simple color changes such as striping and some minimal stranding, and can use bits and bobs left over from other projects quite easily. Please e-mail me or leave a comment with contact information if you are interested in testing the pattern. I have a facebook group to add you to if you are able to help me this way, and you can talk to other people working on it as well as me. (And I promise you will get something nice - besides the pair of mitts you make - if you finish them, something even more if you let me use your photo!)

I started and finished Eleanor & Park in nearly one day. A fellow yarn along-er had read it and recommended it, and it was due at the library so I started it to see if I would like it. The vulgar language in it nearly lost me in the first few pages, but the story really got into my head, and I read it voraciously. It's marketed as teen lit, but honestly my kids would not be comfortable with the language at all, and the themes of the story were too intense and dark in places, so I wouldn't recommend it to them. For adults, though, who have lived through a life like this or loved people who went through such difficult times, I think the book is startlingly accurate and has an ability to get inside one's mind and emotions quite well.

Likewise, I started The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish, on the recommendation of another person in the yarn along. The introduction alone is worth reading the book. I also no longer feel bad about no longer being able to wear sheath dresses/skirts, now that I know that they are actually poorly constructed. Even when I was young and thin, I found them to wrinkle and bunch when I moved or sat down and they rode up constantly. It turns out this is a design flaw, not a body flaw. Rich and I had a road trip with the kids this weekend, and I was reading this aloud in the car. Rich and Alexander were pretty rapt listeners, so I don't think its appeal is only for women, and we had a lot of interesting discussions of culture, social mores, ethnic differences, artistic opinions and so on. Several people on Amazon criticized the book for not being a how to text, but it doesn't pretend to be, it is a history of a specific time period and topic. Some people were appalled that it wasn't filled with color photos, but I think they are just used to modern magazines and cookbooks rather than books. There were around 50 photo plates and numerous line drawings and charts, and that is what I've observed in just the first several chapters. Here is a quotation from the introduction:

The cultural rebellion of the 1960s undermined the Dress Doctors from all sides. The home economists among them had claimed a place at the vanguard of professional women in the 1920s, but now they seemed hopelessly old-fashioned as women demanded the right to work in all fields. When radical feminist Robin Morgan spoke at the annual meeting of the American Home Economics Association in 1972, she told the women in her audience, many of them teachers, that the best thing they could do for young women was quit their jobs. By the mid-1970s, funding for home economics programs in public schools was being slashed on the grounds that their classes encouraged sexual stereotypes. Ambitious young women turned to other professions.

The art principles also came under attack during the "Youthquake" movement of the 1960s. The Baby Boomers opted for shocking color schemes that created anything but the artistic repose espoused by the Dress Doctors. The sophisticated fashion models of the 1950s sometimes worked into their forties, but now the fashion world celebrated youth and youth alone.


I found it interesting that home economics was gutted the way teaching was gutted and nursing was gutted by denigration from other women who, rather than trying to expand the options available to women by inspiring them to achieve in other fields as well, had to demean and belittle the areas and fields that were traditionally feminine. Whereas once these careers were seen as highly desirable and something of a bit of status for a working woman, her work was seen as evidence of her intelligence and skill, now they were considered the lowly options that the unambitious sought. None of them has been bettered by this attitude. Likewise, I found it interesting that the people who now bemoan the lack of options and regard for mature, older women, were part of the movement that shoved off their older sisters and have created a, seemingly, permanent temple to youth in our culture.

This week, I even had a chance to read more in Christ in His Saints. This book is so good and I cannot recommend it enough to Christians of every stripe. I think even non-Christians would find it interesting as an introduction to true Christian thought. I'm hoping to finish it this Lent, but in reality, even though it is small vignettes, they all inspire such deep thought and reflection, that it takes a little while to digest them.



Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On









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Monday, February 23, 2015

Menu Plan: First Sunday of Lent


Last week, Rich did something brilliant as we made our doughnuts for Mardi Gras: He stuffed a few of the ftira (just after they were fried) and filled them with organic chocolate truffles (two or three) and rolled the whole thing in powdered sugar. We saved those for the parents at the party.


This was about a quarter of the doughnuts we made. Since Rich had the powdered sugar out already, he dusted some of the other doughnuts with powdered sugar as well.

We were blessed to find a lot of good produce on sale this past week, and even found wild caught (frozen) salmon and cod on sale, for days that we will eat fish. We forgot to pick up the fish, but friend of ours was near the store and got it for us! It was such good timing. We will be getting a nearly 30 pound box of organic apples this week, 25 pounds of organic carrots, and three boxes from our organic produce co-op, plus the deals we found at Grocery Outlet and Fred Meyer.

I don't know what we will do for Alexander's name day on Thursday, but we will be reading more about Saint Alexander of Alexandria at least.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Recipe Round Up: Creamy Avocado Pasta with Cashews


I saw variations on this recipe around the internet, and was rather skeptical about it, to be honest. But last year, we had a bunch of avocados that needed to be used, and it was Lent, and this was something to try. And we loved it! Even Dominic, who doesn't care for avocados, loved it. It is now a semi-regular visitor to our menu plan. I made a few changes to the recipe, aside from the obvious doubling of even this quantity, I included the nuts in the sauce, rather than only as a garnish, and I used cashews instead of walnuts, which was what I commonly saw used. That was largely because of a mistake on my part, I let myself get distracted the first night I was cooking it, and burned the walnuts, so I pulled out some cashews from the freezer, toasted those and used them. It was such a great taste, that I kept it. I've used every kind of pasta from egg noodles, to linguine, to penne, to elbow macaroni.

3 avocados, pitted
juice and zest of 2 lemons
4 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
3/4 cup of fresh herbs (I usually use some mix of parsley, cilantro, chives)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of cashews, chopped and toasted, reserving 1/4 cup for garnish
freshly ground pepper (to taste)
fresh parsley, to garnish
1 pound pasta, to serve

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, process the other ingredients, except the lemon zest, 1/4 cup cashews, and the parsley for garnishing, in a food processor until very creamy.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup of the water, and toss the pasta with the sauce and the reserved cooking water.

Serve, garnishing with fresh parsley, lemon zest and cashews.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Yarn Along: Steady Progress


This is the middle of the seventh of eleven repeats of two rows on Amira's shawl. If I have enough yarn, I think I am going to do 12 or 13 repeats. Progress is being made, little by little, but since crochet is not as familiar to me as knitting, I find myself having to redo portions of it pretty frequently. I have basically done no knitting since finishing the baby set for our friends.


This is my February yarn from Paradise Fibers' Yarn Club. It is Abstract Fiber Super Sock + in the exclusive colorway, Pendleton. With it also came a nice little pair of knitters' snips to have handy and a sock pattern. I can think of about a million things besides socks that I'd like to make with this yarn, so it's sure to come up in the next year or so in a project for the kids or for a friend. Madeline Tosh is trying to tempt me out of my non-purchasing plan. The sweater club has begun, and the colors are just great for it. But, I am being strong, and I will not subscribe.

The first edit of Saint Helena is written and I really, really, really need someone to test it. So far, I only have one tester, and I'd rather publish the pattern with a little more input and a few more eyes than that. Please e-mail me or leave a comment with contact information if you are interested. I have a facebook group to add you to if you are able to help me this way, and you can talk to other people working on it as well as me. (And I promise you will get something nice - besides the pair of mitts you make - if you finish them, something even more if you let me use your photo!)

This has been another rather busy week, preparing for Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, and Ash Wednesday - not to mention getting our kitchen ready for Lent, and trying to prepare our hearts and minds for Lent as well. We held a dance on Saturday, and our traditional doughnut party last night. I wanted to be super spiritual and get more religious reading done, but honestly it was a challenge to do the daily scripture readings. We do have our Lenten book bin out now, as you can see above.



Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On




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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

(Belated) Recipe Round Up: Chicken Salad with Bacon and Gorgonzola

This salad is simple and it is delicious. I started with a recipe I found online, but tweaked it for our own tastes. I don't care for most bleu cheese, but can eat dolce gorgonzola pretty well. This is one of only a few ways I like bleu cheese, so if you don't care for it, this may still be something you might like. We double this recipe for our family.

3 cups cooked, chopped chicken breast (I roast them with seasoning and a little olive oil if I don't have leftovers)
8 strips cooked crumbled bacon
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
3 stalks celery, finely chopped, including leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise (using lime juice instead of lemon juice)
1 cup bleu cheese dressing (using lime juice instead of lemon juice)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
kosher salt to taste

Place all ingredients into a large bowl. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve inside toasted croissants or rolls.

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Menu Plan: February 15-21


I was late on my recipe posting again. I will post the recipe today. We were invited to a neighbor's for lunch on Saturday, and had spent the week putting together a Valentine's dance for our homeschool friends. Which was a blast! We taught foxtrot, merengue, and rhumba, demonstrated swing (since some of the people had experience with that) and danced our little hearts out. We will be holding dances each month.

Now, though, we have arrived at Lent. Tonight we will be feasting on fried things and eating up the last of our candy and chocolate. Since Ash Wednesday is a strict fasting day, the only meals planned that day are for our young children. The only meat meals we'll be planning from here through the Paschal feast will be on Sundays and a couple major feast days during the season. Again, I will be trying to make our Wednesdays and Fridays vegan to increase our level of fasting on those days. So, if you are looking for menu or meal ideas, I hope I can be of help.
What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Frugality (Part XVII): More Bang for Your Grocery Buck

I've had this post percolating in my mind for some time now. With the New Year, a lot of people are thinking of ways they can save money or make their money go farther. A friend of mine is sending her son off to college and work next year and is trying to prepare him for adult life with those "What do you wish you knew?" kind of topics. Here is something I learned that I wish I knew when I was first starting out on my own: You don't have to buy exactly what you want to get something wonderful.

If we were on a more restricted budget than we have now, if we had to really make every penny count, and couldn't buy our meat in bulk or choose to buy locally or organic, I would stick to certain cuts of meat and certain fruits and vegetables, only getting other kinds for special occasions. Generally speaking, tough cuts of meat and root/winter vegetables - things that store well or take a long time to cook. The pay off is that they are inexpensive and have a ton more flavor. I mention soup and stock bones frequently here. These are usually quite meaty, and the meat can be removed and used for other dishes before you finish simmering the stock, or can be used as the meat in your soup quite generously. Learning how to cut down poultry is an excellent skill, but even if you don't want to do that, learning how to roast a bird is something that is manageable for anyone (and some people like to "roast" them, braise them really, in their crock pots and come up with broth as well as meat), the meat can be used for multiple meals, then the carcass used to make soup/stock.

Fresh Herbs:

Parsley
Cilantro
Ginger
Scallions

Vegetables:

Onions
Garlic
Celery
Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Winter Squash (these can keep for months!)
Carrots
Salad Greens
Radishes (which can be eaten fresh, or cooked and are made more mild that way)
Apples (which can be gotten out of season as storage fruit)
Bananas
Frozen Peas
Frozen Corn
Frozen Pepper Strips (Trader Joe's has these for a very reasonable price, and so does Safeway, I find them on sale at Fred Meyer and a local chain grocer as well)

Poultry:

Whole Turkey (stock up when they are free/cheap around Thanksgiving and Christmas)
Whole Chicken
Drumsticks
Thighs
Leg Quarters
(Wings are often cheap, but aren't as good a meat to skin/bone ratio, in my opinion)

Beef (some of these may be harder to find if you only have a grocery store butcher, but keep your eyes open):

Shanks
Shin Bones
Oxtail
Chuck (ground, roast or steak)
Stew Meat
Cube Steaks
Rump
Heel
Neck Bones
Soup Bones
Short Ribs (meaty ones, English style)
Tongue (if you are brave)
Heart (likewise)

Pork:

Shoulder (strips, cubes or roast - also found as country style "ribs")
Ground (to use in meatloaf, meatballs, or to make your own bulk sausage)
Ham (when they go on sale around holidays)
Ham Hocks
Shanks
Bacon Ends (for using in soups, stews, seasoning beans, in gratins, and so on)

Lamb and veal are often hard to get at a decent price, but if you live where you can find it inexpensively, this is what I'd recommend.

Lamb:

Lamb Shanks
Shoulder (roast, chops, steaks)
Neck Bones
Ground Lamb
Stew Meat
Bones for Stock/Soup
Leg of Lamb (when it goes on sale around holidays, it can be used as is, or cut into cubes/strips for other meals)

Veal (if you can find it inexpensively at all):

Ground Veal
Shoulder Roast
Stew Meat
Shanks (osso bucco)
Neck Bones
Shin Bones

Even if these were the only fresh/frozen things you bought for a year, you could make so many different and interesting meals with these that you wouldn't feel deprived. However, if you added fresh, in season produce when it was plentiful and on sale, you could add more variation to your meals as well. Obviously, you don't need to buy most or all of these. We only buy pears in the fall, we only buy oranges and most citrus in the winter, we buy berries and stone fruit in the summer. There are other vegetables and fruit I'd add to this list if the budget were above bare minimums, but if you are on a subsistence budget, this would be a good place to start. We are blessed not to have to pare down our budget like this, but I am glad to know that I could feed my family on rather little if it were necessary, and I try to keep recipes and menus at the ready for if the economy turns, or something else happens that means we need to tighten our belts. Honestly, if we had to, I could pare these lists down quite a bit, too. I am simply trying to offer options to choose from for folks who either have to or wish to stretch their grocery budget more.

Previous Posts:
Make it at Home
Grocery Shopping
Waste Not, Want Not
Soup
The Celery Stalks at Midnight
Use What You Have
Combining Trips
Storing Bulk Purchases
Turn It Off
Grow Your Own
Buying in Bulk
Gleaning
Entertainment on the Down Low
Finding Fun Locally
Holiday Shopping
Reconsidering Convenience

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Yarn Along: Moving Right Along


You are stuck with a cell phone picture of my work in progress again. I actually took a semi-decent picture, but never loaded it up and now I can't find it. Anyway, I have made some progress on the shawl, though not a ton, because I was finishing up a baby set for a friend who is expecting. The shawl is not going as quickly as it did for the more experienced crocheters, but I think now that I have some more pressing items finished, I will be able to make progress at a decent clip. I'm a little further along than that picture shows, but not by much. I'm hoping to have at least half of it done in the next week or two.


Blueberry Baby Boy Set

I also finished a washcloth that has been on needles since October of 2011! It only took me an hour to finish it. Part of me wonders why I never got it done, but the truth is I always pushed it aside to get other things made that were higher priority.


This, with the soap, will be a gift for a friend

I have Saint Helena written up on my first edit. It is still in need of testers. Please e-mail me or leave a comment with contact information if you are interested. I have a facebook group to add you to if you are able to help me this way, and you can talk to other people working on it as well as me. (And I promise you will get something nice - besides the pair of mitts you make - if you finish them, something even more if you let me use your photo!)

It has been wonderful to be reading again. There was a touching reflection on Saint Andrew, which really made me appreciate the first-called brother of Saint Peter much more, and an illuminating one on Adam, which gave so much to think about in terms of human relations in general, and specifically male and female relations, in Christ in His Saints. It has been such a busy and exhausting time, and I just couldn't focus enough to really think about anything for a sustained period of time, but I was able to pick this up several times last week.

In light of the type of reading I've been doing, here is a project (almost) finished by my husband. We still need to put candle scones up on either side, but we have our icon wall set up in our house on the eastern wall of our living room. It's been up since Sunday, and I've noticed how much more reverent (not perfect or angelic, mind you) all of us have been when we are before it. We now have a delineated sacred space and it has changed the whole environment of our home for the better. We have long wanted a place to respectfully display our icons, as well as a place set apart for the reserved Eucharist we depend on out here where we have no parish. This is a beautiful way to remind us of the one needful thing as we do our work and play throughout the day.




Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On




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Monday, February 09, 2015

Menu Plan: February 8 - 14

Dinner on Saturday became an appetizer of cold leftovers and a main course of take out pizza, as we had a power outage that began just as I was beginning dinner and took nearly two hours before it was back. About an 11 square mile area was affected. This is after months of their replacing power poles. After months of multiple power outages each week, sometimes each day, with the lame explanation that there were lots of birds on the line. As though that hadn't been the case every single year we have lived here. Oh, and then they started replacing everything shortly afterward. Hmmmm. We are not thrilled with our local power company. So, that dinner has been moved to Monday night.

Our friends did end up delivering their little girl and just over 28 weeks. Her mother is in a lot of pain, both physically and emotionally, and though their daughter is doing well, for her situation, and is a fighter, she still could use all sorts of prayer to get her through the weeks and months that are to come.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Sunday, February 08, 2015

Recipe Round Up: Nutball Soup & Dill Pickle Dip

Nutball Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
6 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped (divided)
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 14 1/2 ounce cans Mexican style tomatoes (or plain tomatoes, even home canned, and season more heavily)
1 1/2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 quarts vegetable broth or water

"Nutballs":
12 sprigs of parsley
4 eggs
2 cups walnut pieces
2 cups plain, dry, breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon salt

4 limes, quartered, to serve
chopped cilantro, to serve

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add celery, carrot, half of chopped onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrot is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juices. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 more minutes, to reduce liquid slightly. Stir in chile powder, oregano, cumin, and vegetable broth. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 - 20 minutes.

As the soup simmers, prepare nutballs. In a blender or food processor, place remaining onion, parsley, eggs, and walnut pieces. Process until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in bread crumbs and butter. Season with cumin, chile powder, and salt. Mold the mixture into 3/4" in diameter balls. With a large spoon, drop them into simmering soup. Cook until they float to the surface, about 8 - 10 minutes. Serve immediately with lime wedges and a sprinkling of cilantro over the top.



Dill Pickle Dip


The pickle dip is really simple and really delicious.

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup finely chopped dill pickles
1/4 cup finely chopped pickled jalapenos
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dill weed

Mix it all up and serve with ridged potato chips, or vegetable sticks, or spread on bread (as two of my children did the next day).

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Saturday, February 07, 2015

Stitch Fix #2

I wrote about my first experience with Stitch Fix here. Since I received enough credits from people signing up and price matching, I felt like I could try again to get something special for Valentine's Day. Thank you!

I had the same stylist, and she did a great job again. One thing I didn't mention this time is that I wasn't looking for black, as I have so much of it in my wardrobe. I may adjust my style profile so that black only shows up if I specifically request it. Again, there were two items that I loved, one that Rich loved and two that I didn't love so much. Nothing that I hated this time, though, which I see as a success. Liz did a better job of keeping the prices closer to my range of comfort and found more that was natural fiber or at most man made like rayon (from wood pulp) or in a blend.

Rich took all my pictures again, and let me tell you how wonderful it is to have a photographer who thinks you are beautiful. I am no model, but he was able to get some great pictures, even on a windy day. Four of the items I doubled up on, so I have some cheater pictures with two items in them.

Item #1 Mystree Janine Colorblock Ruffled Open Cardigan - $64

This is kind of my own fault. I really like these ruffled cardigans on other women, and I specifically asked if one could be included. The color is great, but I just feel like it is a touch too long, as it cuts me off at my widest point, and adds bulk to my figure. I really want to like this, but I don't think I do.

Keep or return?

Items #2 Sanctuary Vino Lace Detail Tee - $48
& #3 41Hawthorn Dianne A-Line Skirt - $78



The black top is something that is quite like a blouse I pinned on Pinterest. I am tempted to send it back just because it is black and I own SO MUCH black clothing. But. Rich really likes it, and it does go well with that skirt. Though, I have a cream colored blouse with some sheer panels near my collar bone that also looks quite lovely with the skirt.

The skirt. Oh! I love this skirt! It is in between the lengths I normally wear. I usually either wear a skirt that is above my knee or at my ankles. The color, though, and the twirl, and it has pockets! I knew when I saw it in the box that I was keeping it.

So, what is your vote on the top and on the skirt?

Items #4 Pixley Kathy Striped Fit and Flare Dress - $68
& #5 Pixley Lucille Cascading Pearl Collar Necklace - $38


Honestly, when I saw these stripes, I was sure this dress would make me look gargantuan. And when I put it on, I felt like an optical illusion. Dominic said he had a hard time focusing his eyes when he looked at me in it. But Rich loved it on me, and when I saw my picture, I liked it a lot more, too. So, I think this is in the keep category.

The necklace delighted me when I saw it in the box, but I wasn't sure I should go for it. When I put it on, though, I really thought it was a keeper. I have a few pairs of earrings that coordinate with it already, so it makes it more wearable for me.


Here is the necklace up close.


Rich took a ton of pictures of me, trying to get the right shot, and make me look good, and show the clothes, and not be blurry and all that. So, much of the time, he was just keeping his finger on the trigger and taking lots of photos when there was something he thought was good. This was the second or third picture of me getting my hair out of my face, and as soon as I scrolled through the pictures, I knew this next one was Rich's favorite. Which it was.



Again, I'm kind of wishing for more color, though I suppose my stylist may be a little gun shy after the whole mustard affair. I am trying to get out of my color rut, though, so I should ask for some adventure the next time I do this. Which may be a while, unless I get a lot more credits from referrals. I'm in that weird position of trying to figure out which items I should keep and what would be least expensive for me. If I get only the skirt, dress, and necklace, then it would be more economical to simply pay for those and return the rest (especially because of the amount I have in credit). However, if I keep the black top, the price is actually higher than the price for the whole box with the 25% discount. I like the black top, I just don't know if I like it enough to keep and pay for, and I'm still not sold on the cardigan. However, if I decide for the top, I have a friend who loves the cardigan, so I could just give it to her. Rich is of the opinion that I should let the stylist push me outside of my boundaries a little and try some things I may not be completely comfortable with yet on for size. I have until Friday to decide.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Yarn Along: FO, FO, FO! Literally.


Am I allowed to brag a little? My socklets are finished. The preemie bonnet for our friends' daughter is finished. A baby vest for another friend who is expecting is finished. That makes six finished objects by February! Yes, two of them were nearly finished already, but that is still four more. I always knit more in the winter, though, so we'll see how I fare through the rest of the year.

As you can see above, I have things on both needles and hook. Aside from the matching baby hat to go with the vest, the crocheted beginning you see is a lace shawl for Amira. It is my first attempt at a crocheted shawl and following a crocheted chart. Fortunately, I read through other people's projects and the comments, as I now know only to use the chart, since the written directions were confusing and there was at least one error in them. I also still have the Weasley-ish sweater on needles. That is being knit in the round, since it's basically four rectangles put together - I'm working on the letter chart at the moment.

Saint Helena is still in need of testers. Please e-mail me or leave a comment with contact information if you are interested. I have a facebook group to add you to if you are able to help me this way, and you can talk to other people working on it as well as me. (And I promise you will get something nice - besides the pair of mitts you make - if you finish them, something even more if you let me use your photo!)

Again, the only reading I've done this week is pretty negligible.



Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On



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Monday, February 02, 2015

Menu Plan: February 1 - 7

Well, if you were looking for the nutball soup recipe, you noticed that it wasn't posted Saturday. I was going to do a try to get that posted first, but I will just have to add it to this week's recipe post.

We used to go to Superbowl parties at other people's homes and hang out by the snacks while everyone else watched the game. Now, we just stay home, make snacks ourselves, and have a little anti-Superbowl party. I cannot say how much I appreciate that Rich is not a sports fiend. We watched Labyrinth, ate snacky foods, and Rich and I fell asleep. We are still in serious sleep deprivation due to Nejat's not sleeping much at night. She slept through the night exactly once this week. We could still use your prayers. As could she.

Today is the last day of the Christmas season. It is the Feast of the Purification, when Saint Mary came with the infant Jesus to the temple for her purification and His presentation. It is a feast of light, and it is traditional for churches to have candle light processions and for candles for the year to be blessed on this day. The Light of the World was made known on this day. I love that this is a feast celebrated together by both East and West. I love the idea of rest that is given by God and the Church for women after childbirth, and the welcoming back into communal worship with the rituals of the purification and, now, the churching of women.

This means that we are inching closer to Lent again. Our diet will be nearly all vegetarian during that time, so we are enjoying our meat and treats for now. Our Bible reading plan begins in February, so I will begin posting the references with each day. These are not the lectionary readings, but a plan to get through the entire Bible in a year.
What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Yarn Along: Eclectic and Disorganized


I'm almost finished with my socks, though I'm wishing I had ended the pattern on the first sock about a round before I did. Since I didn't want to undo the toe to fix it, I'll keep it the same on the second sock, but another time, I'd leave the last purl round off, and let the zig zag BO be the final ridge. I still need test knitters for my aran weight fingerless mitt pattern. Please e-mail me or leave a comment with contact information if you are interested. I'd like to get these published by the end of February, if that gives you an idea of a time frame. The first mitt I knit took me about three days with lots of homeschooling, errands, extra evening activities and so on - this isn't a project that will take a large chunk of your time. Please, please, please let me know if you can do this. There will be prizes and rewards for those who do.

Again, my knitting is a bit mixed up this week. Partly, it's because I have had so many other claims on my time, so I've had to work on things that don't require much concentration. Partly, it's been because we've been exhausted and sleepless and a little worried about Nejat. Also, I have a new set of projects for a friend who lost one twin this past fall, and just was flown to a nearby city's hospital because she has a pretty serious rupture of membranes, and the other twin is only 27 weeks old. Please pray for them as well. Her husband is trying to be home and at work with their six other children, while she is in the hospital. So, I've set aside some of the other projects I was working on to make some preemie clothes, since I don't think she'll be able to keep her in as late as I kept Nejat in, as she is five weeks earlier than I was at my rupture, and she has less water in the pool, it sounds like. They, too, could use your prayers.

This month is the last month of my Magnolia Club subscription, and the fifth month of my Paradise subscription. The yarns this month were better than last month's.


You'll have to trust me that there is more green in the skein on the left and that the center two are more brown than they appear. It's hard for me to capture color anyway, and with little good outdoor light and the lights of the room, it's nearly impossible for this poor photographer.

People were talking in the Paradise group about finding knots in their yarn. I don't normally wind my yarn until right before I use it, because I like to keep it more relaxed and have the tags on the hanks or skeins. However, since this was a small lot, specially hand dyed color, I wound mine so I could get a replacement if there was one in an inopportune place. Which there was (see above). However, not only did they replace it, but they let me keep the first skein, too! The second skein was a nicer example of the colorway, Palouse Yarn Company's Merino Fine in Idler's Rest, as well, looking more like the trees than simply the tree bark. I still haven't decided what to make with it. The two middle skeins are some MadelineTosh Blue Faced Leicester Light in a neutral colorway called Floorboards, which I am loving. It is a brown that tends toward the purple and grey. I'm having a hard time deciding what to make with it. There is enough to make two pairs of socks, or a rather big shawl, or some small garments, or...

Since this is the last month of my Magnolia subscription, and I'm trying not to buy yarn outside of souvenirs this year, I am not going to be seeing any more MadelineTosh for the year unless it's given to me as a gift. So, Yarn Box is tempting me with their sock yarn club and there are noises of a sweater quantity Magnolia Society subscription starting up soon to lead me astray from my good intentions as well. However, I am steeling myself and looking away, because now we have an ambulance and ER bill to add to our medical bills. I'm expecting to have those bills in hand about when I've paid off Nejat's and Mariam's. At least I have the Paradise club to get me through August, when it ends, as Rich told me to ride it out rather than cancel it, which was my inclination.

Between our emergency adventures and our time commitments this past week, I have done absolutely no reading that wasn't directly related to homeschool lessons or Morning Prayer.



Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On



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Monday, January 26, 2015

Menu Plan: January 25 - 31

My menu plan is a bit late this week, as we had a kind of scary adventure this weekend. We went to a nearby city to do some shopping with Christmas gift cards, do some exchanging of Christmas gifts, and get some more extensive grocery shopping done. While we were at the Cash and Carry, Rich and I headed into the refrigerator case to look for a few things, so we handed Nejat to Alexander. Shortly after, he opened the door and told us something was wrong with her. She had begun what looked like a seizure. Since Amira had a seizure resulting from choking and hypoxia which followed, we knew what it looked like. Nejat was still breathing and had her eyes open, though, and we didn't know what could have brought it on, as it didn't appear she had choked on anything. Rich took her from Alexander and I called 911. We tried back blows, in case she had choked, but there was nothing to dislodge. We held her and talked to her until the EMTs and paramedics came, when I got to ride in the ambulance with her, as nobody knew what brought on her seizure and her muscle control and heart rate didn't normalize in the amount of time they liked to see. Rich followed with the rest of our children. At the ER, they were relieved that she had a high fever, as it indicated a febrile seizure, rather than diabetic shock or epilepsy. They gave ibuprofen to help reduce her fever, and we stripped her down to her diaper to help cool her off. We are all still pretty shaken up by this, and since she has had such an episode, it doubles or triples her chance of having one again, though that is still only .2 - .3% of a chance. And she doesn't get fevers that often, let alone ones that come as suddenly as this one did. The odd thing is that not one of us was sick or had been recently, and even she didn't show signs of being sick, except for having little appetite that morning. She had been playing and singing and cheerful just seconds before it began. She is doing fine now, and we have her sleeping in our room again to keep an eye on her, but we are all still a bit tense, and she isn't sleeping well at night, which keeps Rich and me awake, too. We would appreciate your prayers for her health, for our peace and rest.
What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Yarn Along: New Projects and Equinox Photos


This week's yarn along is kind of a mish mash. In an effort to both knit more for myself and make more socks, I have cast on for a pair of anklets. Mostly because I bought an oddball skein of this angora merino sock yarn, and while I could make children's socks or use it in colorwork, I really wanted to have angora and merino socks for me. So, I did a little ruffle on the cuff and a rib pattern that is broken up with some garter bands, and I'm at the heel on the first sock. It's so much faster when you don't have to knit an entire leg first!

I'm also working on a fingerless mitt pattern for publication. The one up there is the prototype, and I'm not happy with it, so I'm modifying the pattern. I'm searching for some pattern testers who will receive the pattern for free, as well as being able to provide some input on the design, and I have set up a Facebook group for pattern testers. I'd like a few more testers, so if you are interested, please contact me using the link in my side bar, or leave a comment with contact information and I'll find a way to add you to the group. This set of mitts requires an ability to knit in the round, basic stranding skills, uses aran yarn, in small quantities, so it is suitable for oddballs and partial skeins, and will need three colors. Those who finish the mitts and let me use their pictures on the pattern page will get a little bonus, too.

Each year, I try to avoid the Christmas rush of knitting and crafting, some years with better success than others, but I do try to knit something for each family member as a birthday gift. Well, birthday season is nearly upon us and that bag of red yarn and the one skein of ivory yarn is about to become a Weasley-esque sweater for Elijah. I'm not going to make it quite as baggy, and I'll use our last name initial instead of his first name. This is so it can be passed down to other siblings more easily.



Here are those daylight pictures of Equinox for you!


I have done almost no reading this week. Christ in His Saints has been neglected, but I didn't even really feel up to reading the light and easy The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2: The Terror of the Southlands. I've just been too worn out and tired and busy. I'll have to live through your reading.



Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On



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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Menu Plan: January 18 - 24

We ordered quite a lot from our produce co-op this week, so we have quite a bit of good fruits and vegetables to use this week. On Saturday, we ate such a late brunch that we ended up eating carrot ginger soup with salami sandwiches. So the meatloaf was moved to tonight. We ended up having a cookie emergency, and the horseradish dill potato pancakes became baked potatoes, instead. I'm still cooking through our freezer and trying to find a source for more pastured pork and beef for a decent price, or at all, at this time of year. We have some more butchering to do, we just put seven roosters in the freezer in the last couple weeks. I have made soup and chicken salad out of one, and another is destined to be soup. The others are still up in the air as to what they will become.
What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jumping on the Bandwagon. A Year Later

So. A little over a year ago, I saw some mommy bloggers that I follow, and a food blogger I'm friends with, post about ordering a personal stylist service from Stitch Fix. I liked the idea of having a personal stylist who could pick out some pieces for me without my having to go anywhere, but honestly couldn't justify the price and there were always mental reservations that held me back. I decided to go for it this time, though, and I was happy with my experience. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than my worst fears, and there were definitely some winners. This is something that I would do again, probably in a few months, maybe for my birthday. The service can be regularly scheduled for up to every two weeks, but I just don't buy that many clothes that frequently.

There is a $20 styling fee that is applied to any and all items you purchase from your box and if you buy all five items, there is a 25% discount on all of them. Also, you can get credits from referrals, and they do sell gift cards. You lose your styling fee if you don't get anything from the box. At that point, you are paying for the experience. Anyway. Friday morning, my box arrived! Dominic was the only one who noticed the FedEx truck, as we were in the middle of Morning Prayer and he was standing to read the Psalm. Which means either that we were all really unobservant, or he just wasn't paying that much attention to our prayers (or that, since he was standing, he noticed the movement outside the window more, though why we didn't hear the truck, I'm still not sure).



Inside were five pieces of clothing, a note from my stylist (Liz) who did a great job paying attention to the comments and requests I made, along with five style cards that had a couple ways to wear each piece, a postage paid envelope for anything I don't want to keep, and a card on how best to utilize the service.

So, here we go. These are the clothes that were in my box. I specifically asked for a dress I could wear in the winter, because most of mine are pretty light, thin, and/or summery. I also asked that they not be black or charcoal, because I am trying to expand my options, stretch myself, and wear more colors. She did a great job on the dresses, and picked perfect ones for me.





Item #1 Market and Spruce Colibri Polka Dot Print Blouse - $48

This would have been fine if it fit properly. Even though they ask your size and bra size, this one pulled a bit across the bust. Anything that buttons across my front needs to be bigger. I can't help it, I'm just drawn that way. There are tabs to button the sleeves up in a fashionably casual manner, but I didn't bother, because it didn't fit. I did like it, though, from the 3/4 sleeves, to the polka dots, and the navy color, and even the way it buttoned, leaving an interesting neckline (which I mentioned I liked). I asked if they could find it in a larger size, but they couldn't.

Item #2 Ellison Tommy Colorblock Raglan Sweater - $48

This is my new boyfriend that the kids made. Rich was having me pose with "his arm around you" and making me laugh. He was too cool to come inside with us, though.

I hated this. A lot. I was pretty specific about what I like and didn't like (because of reading this post about how best to use Stitch Fix), and even mentioned what shades of yellow I liked, but I didn't say that I despise mustard yellow, which I evidently should have. And this is not just mustard on the sleeves, it is all across the back, too. It looks like baby poop to me, and even my kids' suggestion that I could wear it while holding a newborn wouldn't work, because the front is white, and that is where the baby would poop on you. Also, it is baggy and sloppy, and I like my sweaters and tops to be more fitted. And the seams are visible. Because of fashion or something, but I don't like that at all.

They have a place where you can tell them which items you don't want them to send, and I said I didn't want outerwear, because even though there are lots of coats and such that are great, I have several that I like already and do their job. I think I'm going to exclude sweaters, too, because I am a knitter and I am really picky about them. And I obviously need to knit more sweaters for myself.

Item #3 Yumi Marina Polka Dot Belted Dress - $114

This one is a little more expensive than I would normally spend on an item while also buying other items. If this were the only thing I were considering, it would not be such a stretch, but it really made me think twice. Except that it's polka dotted, which Rich loves on me and I like, too. And it's retro, and 3/4 sleeves, and so, so cute. Rich didn't even wait to see it on before he told me that he didn't think there was anything to decide. It was polka dots. What was there to wonder? When he saw me in it, he told me it was a definite win, and who am I to argue with my husband? I'm just being a good wife here.

I like that the dresses are fitted without being tight. They show my shape without making me look trampy, which is a risk you run when you are busty. This makes me feel pretty and happy and it is something I can wear to church or to dinner out, the fabric is stretchy, but not too thin, and I just like it.

Item #4 Gilli Genna 3/4 Sleeve Faux Wrap Dress - $64

This is a perfect color for me. I love this plummy purple. I love the sleeves, the wrap front, the clingy fabric that isn't too clingy, that it is low cut, but not so much that my bra shows (because busty women also have to wear steel-belted, industrial bras, and it's hard to find them in "pretty," let alone "not above your neck"). This is a popular dress with the stylists, as I've seen it in this and other colors in other people's fixes. I think it is really flattering. But I read skinny women talking about how it made them look too fat. I'm not sure how that makes me feel, but I like myself in this dress, and so does Rich, and even our boys commented on what a great dress it was. It can be worn with flats, or heels, or short boots, or high boots. This seems pretty versatile, and good for different weather, can be dressed up or down, which makes it a good piece for me. It's right in a normal price range for a dress for me, too.

For winters here, I will need to wear tights with it, but I have some that I like and would go well. Also, I accidentally saw some turquoise/teal on this purple from the ribbon from the tag on the polka dot dress and that made me think that I'd like a thin, laceweight to fingering, buttonless cardigan (or a cropped cardigan in a sport/DK) to go over it in that color. So, again, I should get knitting.

Item #5 Octavia Harlow Heart Print Infinity Scarf - $28

This is the item that surprised me the most, actually. When I saw it, I really didn't think I would like it enough to keep. It was cute, but I have scarves, and I had almost excluded them as items for my boxes, and I have this thing about hearts. I like hearts, but not all the time, cutesy, everywhere. Rich found that out when we were dating on our first Valentine's Day together. He brought me a HUGE heart balloon with hearts on that and hearts on my card and hearts on something else and hearts in the candy and heart shaped boxes and maybe a human heart and I had to tell him to back off on the hearts. He backed off so much I never saw them again. Until one day (nearly ten years after we were married), I was knitting a sweater with heart cables and he said "I thought you hated hearts?!" and I said I didn't hate them, I just don't like them over done, so now I sometimes get hearts, but not everywhere, all the time.

Back to this scarf. I tried it on (the box said to try everything on, even if you're not sure about it, and I can follow instructions) and I liked how it looked and how it felt. I tried it with the purple dress, and I liked it with that, too. So, I decided I would keep it. Although Rich says I should probably tell them no more scarves from here on out, since I make them and have several others. A funny thing that lets you know that our children are used to a different culture than most Americans. They saw the scarf, how it was put on, and Dominic, Amira, Jerome, and Yasmina all commented that I could use it as a head covering for church or at monasteries. Which I could.


I did kind of wish there had been a little more color in this, beyond the navy. The plum was beautiful, and there was nary a black or charcoal item, as I asked, but except for that horrid mustard, it stayed more conservative than I thought it would. On the other hand, there wasn't anything wildly out there, either. My stylist did well and respected my choices and requests, while still picking things I might not get myself. Rich thinks that they should ask for a picture of you, too, which is not a bad idea, if anyone from Stitch Fix or the other stylist services is out there reading.

It's interesting, as I know it makes Rich happy to provide these things for me, too. When we were first married, and oh, so poor, I didn't have children and was thin and still enjoyed shopping. So, I took Rich with me, because we had moved to a city where I knew nobody but him, and I didn't drive. He was miserable. Not because he hated shopping, but because it made him feel bad that he couldn't afford to get the things I liked for me. We were just starting out and had a net value that was negative. I was just having a good time looking at things I liked, but he wanted to be able to bring them home. Now, when we do shop together, I notice that he finds things that he thinks I would like, or that he would like on me, and is always encouraging me to get them. We can't always get everything we like, but it pleases him to know that when we do decide to go for it, we can. When we travel back "home," he has me scan the boutique shops there to pick something up for myself, as a souvenir, and because he thinks I don't do/get enough for myself. So, anyway, this is definitely an every now and then and special occasion type thing for me. Normally, I shop clearance and Ross and consignment.

I'm also not really a fashionable person. I like to think I have a good sense of style, but it really is my own style. I no longer resent it when something I like is in fashion (I used to hate it, because I thought people would think I was just following the fads, now I see that it just means that I have more opportunities to find what I like), but I don't follow fashion that much, except for noticing what seems to be a trend in pictures I see and on people I know. This was a fun treat and experience for me. If you use my referral link, though, it could be a more frequent treat. Also, you can sign up and fill out your profile without scheduling a shipment, just to get a feel for the service. I did that well over a year ago. I modified my profile after reading how others had used it to its best, and I left a note to my stylist asking for some particular things in this box.

One thing I did, too, was to purge my closet of some dresses, skirts, and tops, and my dresser of some sweaters that I just don't fit in anymore. Unless it has sentimental value, or is something that I might fit in again relatively soon, I just want them gone. It was hard to do that, because I like these clothes, but my body isn't that size anymore, and I am tired of having a closet full of things that are nice looking, but that can't fit me. I was tired of trying to find out what I could wear, instead of what I wanted to wear. Now, I may very well fit in them again in the future, but I didn't want to hold on to them for years, just in case. So, I'm going to give them to my thinner friends. Why do I always have thinner friends? When I was in high school my friends were rail thin, and wore size 0 - 2, while I felt fat in my size 6 and curves. I wish I realized how good I looked then. So, I've decided that I will have a closet full of clothes that I like and that fit, or might in a reasonable time, or that remind me of a place or time that brings me joy.

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