Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Yarn Along and some finished projects

Joining Ginny for her Yarn Along again this morning, and although I've had little time for reading lately, aside from the million children's books I'm always reading to the kids, I have read an essay or two from Farmer Jane in the last week so I guess that counts. I also just started a pair of fingerless mitts which will likely be the last project that I make for myself this year before the frantic holiday knitting commences.

The yarn is Shivaya Naturals Peruvian Alpaca in ember, which has a lovely fall vibe, I do believe. The alpaca is ever so soft, and I think it will be quite cozy wrapped around my hands this winter for an extra bit of warmth.

In finally-finished news, Elizabeth's socks (info in previous post) are now on her feet instead of lingering still on my needles.

She loves them, and they are just a little bit long on her diminutive feet so I hope they'll last for a while.

Philip's Turn-A-Square is also finished, but since it's a stocking stuffer, Finn is modeling.

I had to adjust the pattern down for worsted weight yarn on size 8 needles so I'll try to get my notes up on ravelry soon. I do like this simple hat pattern on little boys. :)

And now I've finished all of the kids' stocking stuffer hats. If only the rest of the Christmas knitting would go so quickly!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

just peachy

We are fully in the throes of peach season here. I see giant heaping baskets of several different varieties at the farmer's market, and often on my kitchen counter! We are enjoying them in their various forms this month, well, except warm. For some reason my kids don't like warm peaches so Paul and I are only able to enjoy peach crisp, peach cobbler and peach galette on the rare occasion that I feel like making the effort for something the kids won't touch. But I digress.

And then there's the jam. Now we can have a smidge of jarred summer in the fall and winter. I think this was the 2nd batch. (Or 3rd, who's counting!)

I made so much, in fact, that I ran out of jars and lids and had to use an empty coconut oil bottle!

We are most often enjoying them freshly ripened, most often just sliced as a snack or side item to a simple lunch. Peaches have such a deliciously summer flavor, don't you think?

But there's the occasional peach dessert like this super-easy peach frozen yogurt that was literally just 3 cups of vanilla yogurt blended with 2 peaches and put into the ice cream freezer.

As delicious as the frozen yogurt is, I think these thumbprint cookies might be the favorite peach dessert of the summer. Delicate and light on the sweetness, they even make a perfect afternoon snack!

Fresh Peach Jam in Almond Butter Thumbprint Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup almond butter
scant 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup fresh peach jam

Cream butter and almond butter until smooth. Add sugar and eggs and cream again. Add vanilla, salt, flour then blend until you have a sticky ball. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 1 inch balls then make thumbprint indention into top of each ball. Spoon 1/4 tsp of jam into each ball. Makes 2-2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

a windy walk

This weekend while Hurricane Irene was tearing up the eastern side of our state (and proceeding to plow into our neighbors to the north), we were fortunate to only see some stiff breezes and a few scattered showers. The temperatures were cooler, however, so we decided to take advantage of the cloudy, windy afternoon and go for a walk in a nearby park.

We did see quite a bit of debris from the trees laying on the ground which excited the kids to find green acorns and gum balls. And a few yellow leaves scattered around gave a small hint to the ending of the summer and the cooler weather that will be here soon.

I hope everyone made it through the storm with relatively little damage!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday lunch in cast iron pans

When I was a kid, my mom had this dreadfully heavy cast iron pan that I thought was a truly terrible thing for cooking food. I remember being about 11 or 12 years old and having to remove a pan of corn bread from the oven and thinking that the cast iron pan had to be the worst invention ever because either I was going to break my wrist trying to get it out of the oven, or worse, burn myself trying to support it with my other non-gloved hand. I mean really, who thought that a 10 lb pan was a great idea for cooking when it took so long to heat and was too heavy to lift once you finally put food into it. And the handle was always hot! Not a brilliant invention, in my 11-year-old mind. When I grow up, I will buy all newly-designed pans with the most lightweight metals, I thought to myself.

As with many things I thought I knew as a pre-teen, my hatred for cast iron has come back to laugh at me more than once since I stumbled into adulthood. For instance, I'm now convinced that it's impossible to make good scrambled eggs without a cast iron pan.

And I now appreciate the fact that cast iron takes so long to heat because the heating is always even and my food doesn't get scorched in particular areas. I can start cooking on the stove and move the cast iron to the oven, which is how I nearly always make potatoes. I also appreciate the fact that since I use each of these pans several times each week, they will always be seasoned and probably last as long as I desire to cook in them. I also have a cast iron soup pot, acquired from my grandmother that is awaiting a good cleaning and seasoning so I can start using it. I think I might have judged my mother's cast iron pan a little too harshly in my childhood.

VoilĂ ! Saturday lunch from my very-loved cast iron pans (and crispy kale from a baking sheet instead of cast iron...but I wonder if they make cast iron cookie sheets, hmmm...)

Although the farmer's market this morning was a cloudy, muggy and very windy experience as the edges of Hurricane Irene swept through our area, I managed to find potatoes, onions, zephyr squash, kale (fixed like this and my boys ask for 3rd and 4th helpings), and eggs for our Saturday lunch.

With watermelon for dessert!

Friday, August 26, 2011

{this moment} - monthly reading

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. See Soulemama to play along.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

learning through soup

In my opinion, one of the benefits of homeschooling is the learning that can take place through senses that are frequently neglected by traditional schooling. Although Elizabeth was fortunate enough to have a K-1st teacher who sometimes cooked or prepared dishes for the class that went along with a unit of study, many children have no education through their senses of smell and taste during the years they are in school.

Another opinion that I carry is that life travels more smoothly and is enjoyed more readily when it flows at a gentle rhythm. One way that this manifests itself is in our daily, weekly and seasonal activities. Now that Finn is homeschooling, our weekly rhythm is starting to concretize into a different main focus for each day of the week. (Nicole wrote a great piece about this subject on her blog earlier this week.) Since Mondays are our baking/cooking days, I decided to start a series, planned to travel at least through the fall, of making soup each Monday with Finn.

I've scrounged our vast book collection and the libraries available to us to find every possible children's book on soup. We'll read a soup story each Monday, then make a pot of soup, hopefully to be enjoyed at lunch. Sometimes the soup will follow the story plot, sometimes not.

This week we read Soup for Supper and then made a recipe for Cream of Broccoli soup from The Waldorf School Book of Soups, which has a great collection of soup recipes, from simple to complex and from light to hearty.

Finn did all of the chopping of the broccoli and potatoes by himself while I sauteed the onions (instead of leeks). This was his first experience with a knife and cutting board, but he picked up the skill quickly.

He helped me measure the broccoli and potato when we were done to make sure we had enough of each, then he poured the vegetables (carefully) into the stock that was just beginning to heat.

The soup needed little attending while it simmered, and I handled the blending of the hot soup. But when it was finished, Finn handled the garnish of parmesan and nutritional yeast. He has the garnishing down pat!

Then we were able to enjoy the fruit of his labors. Not only was he so proud of his accomplishment, "mama, you should thank me for making this delicious soup!" But we were able to share the soup with his brothers and daddy the next day at lunch. They were glowing in their praise and he beamed over their accolades.

And he clearly enjoyed the soup quite a bit himself.

If you have any favorite soup books, please share! I'm sure we'll be looking for new titles in another month or two!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Yarn Along

Now that the morning's have the slightest chill, I decided to bring out a project that stalled (left sock syndrome?) back in the spring. Sock knitting is just not inspiring when you're sweating to death (go figure!) The details of these socks are in my previous post about them. Hopefully they'll be finished soon and I can move on to other fall and winter knitting. I have so many knitting plans for the next few months!

The books I've been reading this week have been with the kids. Finn and I are working on Charlotte's Web, with which he's completely enraptured. I'm reading Phantom Tollbooth to the older kids and they are thoroughly enjoying the quirky story.

What are you working on this week?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

reason #467 why I love homeschooling

because within the space of 30 minutes you can go from playing with items that sink or float

to building a fort that would hold you and all of your siblings