Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 bookshelf

i didn't get quite as much reading time in this year. i think my knitting took over a little more of my free time. i also was not as good at recording my books. but, by my list, it looks like i read 16 fiction books (6 of these were classics) and 8 nonfiction (including knitting books, cook books, and biographies) for a total of 24 books.

here is a summary and my year end review:

In Search of the Source by Neil Anderson. this is a fascinating story of missionaries translating the Bible into the languages of papua new guinea. the light of God's word penetrating the darkness of men's souls. powerful.

Half Broke Horses by jeannette walls . a story of survival and resilience. this was quite an adventure with a strong and brave female heroine.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skoot. what a fascinating book! it is a combination of medical miracles and a human interest story with a little bit of mystery as the main character attempts to uncover the past about her mother. highly recommended.

Free-Range Knitters by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. wacky and very funny! the author pokes fun at herself and her obsession with knitting.

The Knitter's Book of Wool by. i loved this book which delves into the unique characteristics of wool and its importance as a fiber. i guess only the die hard knitters and sheep keepers would want so much information about wool.

a fine fleece: knitting with handspun yarns by lisa lloyd. beautiful patterns and yarns in this book. very inspiring to me!

Knit Socks! by betsy lee mccarthy. working on a pair of socks for my mom. didn't quite get them done for christmas! great patterns and tips for knitting socks.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by ree drummond. yes. i read cook books, and this is a fun one. not only do you find great recipes here, but entertainment as well. you should check out ree's blog. it is hilarious and tasty!

fiction classics:
Lady Susan by jane austen. an early, relatively unknown work by jane austen. a fun read, but definitely not as good as her famous works.

Sense and Sensibility by jane austen. a re-read of a favorite.

Frankenstein by mary shelly. not my usual genre, but worthy of reading. it is not the hollywood horror story that you might expect. rather, it was a thoughtful look at beauty and outward appearances versus the inner man and the need to be loved and accepted.

To Kill a Mockingbird by harper lee. yes, i read this book again! what can i say? i love this book!

Animal Farm by george orwell. i read this aloud to the kids. it was fun connecting the dots of this satire to historical people and events. especially since C had just studied that period in history and written a research paper on stalin.

The Bell Jar by slyvia plath. an interesting look at mental illness, but rather depressing. still i enjoyed the writing; it is no surprise that the author was actually a poet. i think i may try to read more poetry next year...

other fiction:
That Distant Land by wendell Berry. this is my favorite new author! this book is a collection of short stories revolving around the fictional community of port william arranged in chronological order. as i read through this series i was struck by the way the characters were woven together in community, a tribute to the american spirit. there was also a strong sense of generations. and like many of my favorite books, the port william stories have deep character development.
Nathan Coulter, A World Lost, and A Place on Earth are novels that follow the same community of characters. i will continue to read his stories next year.

Austenland by shannon hale. just fluff. but i suppose any austen lover would enjoy all of the references to P&P (even if it is more closely related to the BBC movie version.)

Ella Minnow Pea by mark dunn. what a unique idea. throughout the story, letters of the alphabet are eliminated. it must have been quite a challenge to write in the end! a fun read.

The Gournsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by mary ann shaffer and annie barrows. loved this one! a story told though letters, you know, correspondence.

Lottery by patrica wood. this is a great story with memorable characters. my only complaint is excessive bad language.

Prayers for Sale by sandra dallas. enjoyable read.

Resurrection in May by lisa samson. looking back, i can't believe that this is the only christian fiction that i read all year. i know that i am choosy about christian authors. it is just that i am easily annoyed when a book reduces the christian faith to one dimensional characters and unrealistic situations and solutions to life's problems. but still, i do love a good story that brings to life a deep faith and love of God. lisa samson is one of the authors that does this well.

everyday gift: beautiful words on paper... or the kindle, as the case may be!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

sculpted snow

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.

Isaiah 1:18

my favorite Christmas gift? Jesus! who makes my sins as white as snow!

Friday, December 17, 2010

small joys

these little stocking ornaments represent a large victory for me. i set out this year to learn new knitting skills, and making socks was at the top of the list. painstakingly, i deciphered the abbreviations; flipping back and forth between the glossary and the pattern. i had my Knitter's Companion by my side as i figured out new stitches. i even turned to youtube as i learned to use double pointed needles and how to turn the heel! one step, or should i say, one stitch at a time and i saw my goal accomplished. lately, i carry my knitting bag with me where ever i go, stealing a few minutes here and there to make these miniature stockings. i can make one without even using a pattern, and it wasn't so long ago that i thought socks were complicated and near impossible. life is like that sometimes. a problem seems insurmountable, and yet all i really need to do is take it one step at a time rather than allow myself to become overwhelmed by the entire task.

stocking ornament made with a single-ply handspun wool

i embellished each one with an antique button from grandma's button box.

merry christmas, everyone!
may you find joy in the small things!

Friday, December 3, 2010

aura borealis scarf

i am so pleased with the way my scarf turned out. it was a very ambitious process which began with roving from our very own cheviot ewe, roxie. the roving was hand painted at a workshop held by our local guild. i hand spun the yarn and then knit the scarf with a pattern specifically chosen for an upcoming display that the guild is working on. following, i have documented the steps... (although in reverse order!) :

here is a close-up of the stitches.

all year i have been choosing knitting patterns that would teach me a new skill or stitch, including using double pointed needles, circular needles, the trinity stitch, gussets on mittens and socks. and, in this case, the drop stitch. i think the variegated yarn is well suited for the wavy effect of this stitch. it was the look i was going for in keeping with the theme of moving colors of the aura borealis.

on the spinning wheel

my hand painted roving ready for spinning

in july our weaving and spinning guild held a dye workshop. it was a beautiful day to work on our goal of creating hand painted roving to spin and warp for weaving projects. we will be creating a display at next year's midwest convention in the theme of "moving colors of the northern lights." we had a very successful and enjoyable day working together! here are a few pictures from our day:

i am in the top left picture and B on the right. we are squirting dye onto our prepared roving.

B really loved the workshop and created some beautiful roving.

everyday gift: creating!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

happiness is...

hand knit socks!

everyday gift: knitting up love for my girl

Saturday, November 13, 2010

a very sincere pumpkin patch

i am really enjoying the pumpkins from my garden this fall. and i smile at how little i did to deserve such a wonderful harvest! these are truly a gift. last fall i got some lovely sugar baby pie pumpkins from a friend's garden. but i had one left over that never got cooked and baked into something yummy or even put in the freezer for later. instead the poor thing was shuffled from the kitchen counter to the laundry room when the fall decorations gave way to christmas. then moved from the laundry room to the mud room when i cleaned one day. by now the pumpkin was looking pretty sad and slightly mushy. mark wondered why i was keeping it and i had to face it: i was not going to get around to cooking up that pumpkin. it had definitely gone by! so it was thrown outside into the flower bed. i noticed that a mouse found it and gnawed a hole in it to feast on the seeds. i'm sure it was quite a windfall for him so late in the winter when his store of seeds must be running low. spring finally came and what was left of the pumpkin was given to the chickens. i welcomed warmer weather and was anxious to get busy in my garden. it was then, while weeding my flower bed, that i noticed something sprouting, maybe sunflowers? i might have spilled some birdseed. but then i realized. these were volunteer pumpkin sprouts! what seemed like hundreds! i transplanted 3 small seedlings into the vegetable garden and sadly weeded out the rest. the little guys did not receive much attention from me over the summer. i think i gave it one good weeding and let nature do the watering. the result was 20 beautiful pie pumpkins, an undeserved gift!

(i know, that is quite a story to introduce this blog post!)

freshly pureed pumpkin

how to make fresh pumpkin puree

after cutting open the pumpkin, scoop out the inside seeds and pulp. (yes! i saved the seeds this time!) next, cut the pumpkin into chunks leaving the skin on. place in a large pot and add a few inches of water. cover and bring to a boil. turn down to a simmer and cook, covered, until pumpkin is soft. when cool enough to handle scoop pumpkin from the skins. puree in a food processor. drain pumpkin in a fine sieve for 10 or 15 minutes to remove any extra liquid. freeze in 2 cup quantities in freeze bags or containers. (2 cups roughly equals a small can of pumpkin)

and in the spirit of the season, i made some pumpkin cutout cookies. :o)

everyday gift: a bountiful harvest of pumpkins

Friday, November 12, 2010

fungus fascination

it was a hot afternoon and i was walking the path next to the creek. the shade felt good. all around me were the dark greens of the trees and brush, the black earth underfoot, and the tall dark brown trunks of the trees, with dappled sunlight peeking through the leaves. and then, across the creek, i saw an explosion of color. orange.

an old fallen tree slanted down the steep bank and dipped into the water below. it hosted a beautiful colony of lichen in full bloom, so bright and unexpected that it took my breath away. i hiked back to the house to get the camera.

i had to overcome mud, thorns, poison ivy, and mosquitoes, but i managed to get in a good position on the other side of the creek to photograph the phenomenon. i am so glad i went to the trouble, because a week later, when i returned to sight, the lichen had faded. it was not nearly as stunning as it had been.

God gives beauty and color in such unexpected places. watch for it!

everyday gift: unexpected color

the hope of a spring yet to come

autumn's overnight frost has ushered in the end of summer.
what was once green and lush, now turns brown and brittle.
the milkweed pods look like death shrouds,
but as it splits open it reveals something quite opposite of death;
a hundred seeds spill out with wings that will carry them on the wind.
seeds that carry the hope of new life and a spring yet to come.

everyday gift: beauty in a milkweed pod

Thursday, October 7, 2010

summer camp

dusting off this blog post draft left over from the summer... i downloaded a few pictures from B's canoeing adventure in july, but never went any further. and then life kept happening. and happening. so here i am trying to get back into the blogging habit. i will start by posting this summer memory. now that it is october the days are getting shorter, the nights cooler, and the evenings are now filled with homework. how did the summer fly by so quickly?

a picture perfect day for canoeing

everyday gift: summer sun, fun on the water!

Friday, July 30, 2010

one thing i love about summer...

everyday gift: vine ripened tomatoes

presto! pesto!

my basil really took off this summer. i love the spicy smell as i pick large bouquets from my herb garden to make pesto sauce. i have purple basil growing as well... i wonder what it be like to make purple pesto?! maybe i'll try that someday.
i have been re-establishing my herb garden at our new house. chives, thyme, and feverfew made the move from the old house. in this picture i have rosemary, sage, apple scented geranium, purple basil, and sweet basil

mollie katzen has written some of my favorite cookbooks. it is her recipe from The New Moosewood Cookbook that i use to make my pesto. fresh basil, pine nuts, lots of garlic and parmesan cheese make this recipe so flavorful!

i put some in jars to use right away. pouring a little olive oil over the top for storage will keep the green pesto from turning brown. i also made a few batches to freeze for later.

everyday gift: fresh basil pesto

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

a noste-who-ee?

a nostepinne! well, actually, it is an antique spool that has been re-purposed as a nostepinne, that is, a Norwegian ball winder. i can wind my skeins of yarn into a handy center pull ball. clever!

from skein to ball

i finished spinning the rambouillet wool/angora blend roving that i purchased at the iowa sheep and wool festival. it was very nice to spin. the angora gives it a very luxurious feel and will make my cowl even warmer. i found this easy pattern at crazy girl yarn shop and adjusted it slightly making it several inches shorter. i didn't want quite so many folds. around my neck.
i got a few strange looks when i knit this cozy neck warmer while the sun was blazing in july and temperatures soaring in the 90's! but i was hoping to knit some of that heat into my project. come january, i'm going to need it!

the finished product
everyday gift: storing up the summer sun :o)

Monday, July 12, 2010

snap shots of a summer adventure

a glorious week on clayter lake.
sailing, canoeing, swimming, snorkelling, rowing, water skiing.
a summer to remember.
i think C is the last one in the last canoe.

sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
sunshine in my eyes can make me cry,
sunshine on the water looks so lovely...
(sorry, i just couldn't resist breaking into a john denver song)

the dock

umm. i guess they weren't really "roughin' it", now were they?

the rocket, pulled by a speed boat

a beautiful sail boat.
C tells the story of their first day out in the sail boat when a storm popped up. the wind was keeping them from making any progress toward the dock and at one point the boat was almost capsized! i'm not sure, but i think he actually enjoyed it. or maybe he just enjoyed telling the story and how he had lived through it! ;o)

C learned to row and really fell in love with this sport at camp. living right on the mississippi river, he may have the opportunity to pursue this new interest. i'm looking into it.

his incredible week of water sports ended with a bang. the night before heading home, C caught his hand between two boards tearing his finger, requiring an ambulance ride to the ER and 11 stitches. now i know why i was praying so hard this week! and despite the injury, i know that God protected him. C's tendon was exposed from the cut. had his tendon actually been cut, he would have needed surgery instead of just stitches! so we are thankful for the silver lining.
C in the ER
"yes, mom. i'm really okay!"

everyday gift: C on an exciting adventure... and safely home!

lemon blueberry bread

i love the summer tradition of picking berries; strawberries, raspberries, blueberries... all in their turn, with the sun on our backs, the kerplunk of berries in the bucket, and pleasant conversation buzzing like the bees around us... forgive me for being a bit sentimental, but that really was the lovely time we had at Beacon Woods Farm. thank you, chris, for the delicious berries and the warmth of your friendship!

lemon blueberry bread

1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon, zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries

2 Tbl lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
preheat your oven to 350* and grease an 8 x 4 loaf pan.

combine the flour, baking powder, salt in a mixing bowl, and set aside.
cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. add the eggs, one at a time, beating well. mix in the lemon juice. add the flour mixture and milk, alternating. fold in the blueberries and lemon zest. pour the batter into the prepared pan.
bake at 350* for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. combine lemon juice and sugar to make a glaze. pour over the top of the bread while still warm.

everyday gift: bursting blueberries