Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Dinner

I decided to try a new tradition this year for Christmas Eve. We tried to have a meal that would have been similar to what Jesus would have eaten. After doing some research I came up with the following menu:

Dried dates and apricots
Dried meat (beef jerky)
apples, grapes, pomegranate
rustic bread
Pita bread
olive spread

It sounded kind of funny, but it was amazing how well all the flavors went together. The kids really enjoyed trying some new foods, too. And since it was an easy meal to prepare, that helped us think about the Savior, I think I will make it again next year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gingerbread House

We finally got around to making a gingerbread house. And by finally, I mean finally. Just so you know, gingerbread house pieces can successfully be frozen for a year.

I had attended a gingerbread workshop given by this wonderfully creative person. We had a great time decorating a house there and I learned a new couple of tricks, like how to make glass looking windows out of candy and put a string of lights inside to make it look lit up. Loving Architectural history, I decided I wanted to create a classically styled house. Believe it or not, Bob Villa has a few different home style gingerbread house plans posted on the web. I swear, you can find anything on the internet! So, I made all the pieces for a classic colonial last year, only to not have the time to put it together. So, after a year in the freezer, I thawed out the pieces and we made it this year.

Notice Cyrus using chopsticks to help hold up the walls.

The kids had a great time, even Marv joined in at the end.

Unfortunately, our decorative pay load on the roof was too much, and shortly after finding a home out of Cyrus reach for our finished creation, the roof caved in. We were able to patch it all back together, but I think it would have been better if the house assembly had occurred at least a day before the decorating part began. Just writing that here so that so I will remember the next time we make one, in about 10 years.

I never got a picture of it with the lights on. It made a nice cozy glow, especially when all the lights in the room came from it, the tree and the fireplace. And the best part was the gingerbread smell it made!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


We like to take the whole family to the XC meets. I think its good to have siblings support each other in their activities when they can. Plus, I am hoping they all want to follow each others examples and become runners. So far, it is working, with Emily doing XC after Marvin did. Maddy loves to run the races, too. Even though she has to stay behind the last person, and often the ATV who follows the last runner. Elsie seems to be expressing interest already, too:

In fact, I got inspired and decided I wanted to try running, too. Actually, I had already tried it once, back in 9th grade I ran the mile on the track team. But, after admiring so many of my friends who are runners, I decided I would try it again as an adult. I started a Couch to 5k program and got several weeks into it before cold weather and crazy busyness undermined my efforts. I actually got to the point of running 20 minutes at a time. Impressive, I know. Ha ha! I have to be honest, though, I didn't like it. Running just wasn't fun. I half suspect that it could be, sometimes, if I put enough into it so that I actually was fit enough to be doing it. Not sure I am willing to do that, though.

(By the way, that is me in the middle of the picture. Click on the picture and you can catch a glimpse of my very amateur running form.)

While running itself basically sucked, doing it outside where I could enjoy nature was actually quite nice. I found a gorgeous trail to run near my home, around this open field area, bordered by woods. It's the same place where we took our fall family portraits. I wasn't able to get there for all my runs, but if I could have and the weather had stayed nice, I might still be running. I'm thinking that I might start again when things thaw out a bit. Staying fit for the warm portion of the year is better than not ever being fit, right? Still, I'd probably much rather be sitting on a rock, sketching sights like these, rather than catching quick glimpses as I whiz wheeze past.

And just for fun:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Changing Bloggy World

I was blog browsing tonight and discovered more blogs by people that I know in real life. It is amazing to me how blogging as a hobby has suddenly surged in popularity. And the blogs are different than when I first started. Everyone seems to post their full names now. They are family blogs, with full disclosure of where they live and what they are up to.

I remember when I discovered the fun of blogging over 2 years ago and mentioned it to a couple of in real life friends. They looked like I was speaking a foreign language, so I stopped mentioning it. My readers and the blogs I read were all either family or friends I had met through their blogs. And name and city mentioning? No way. Too dangerous putting private information like that on the internet. Nobody did that! I guess blogs are now so common, that its no different than having your name in the phone book. And do people make friends through blogs now? When you know no one who blogs, you naturally reach out to those who do, even if they are strangers. Now that there are so many blogs, perhaps that need no longer exists.

My blogging has changed, too. I don't post as frequently, nor do I feel the need to post memes or fillers. I care much less about writing for a specific audience and just write about what I am excited about or thinking about. Maybe, because my potential audience was far more varied than I had expected. Maybe because I worry less about what other people think about me and my blog. I wanted my blog to be special in the eyes of my readers, and now I just want it to be special to me. I've even had a couple of bloggy awards that I haven't posted yet, not that I don't appreciate the nominations (thanks guys!), but I just don't worry about that stuff anymore.

I don't visit blogs as much, either. I have been a bad bloggy friend! My time seems to be full of other things now. For good or bad. I keep a monthly to do list on my computer, just in a basic word document. As I worked on planning November, I went back and read my to do list from Nov 2006. I was amazed at how much more I was expecting to get done now than I did then. Maybe I expected a lot more back then than actually happened. Maybe life is just getting busier with another child, and kids that are getting older and having more intense activities and homework.

But, change is good. It shows we are growing, progressing. Just hopefully in the right direction! It will be interesting to see how both my blogging, and blogging in general progress in the next couple years. Which will fly by much faster than I am ready for!

(And in case you were wondering, I'm not going to full disclosure on my blog. Call me paranoid, but I feel like I have pretty valid reasoning not to.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's Here!

Guess what arrived...

Thank you everyone for your suggestions! I've owned a hand crank mill for several years now. Even though I have had almost no wheat stored. That one would be great if we ever were to be without electricity. But, I think this one will be perfect for my everyday use! It is much bigger than I expected it to be, but it still fits where I planned on storing it. Is it weird to be excited about grinding flour? I just need my wheat shipment to arrive!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ghosts in the Yard!

Dh was fooling around again with low light photography one night and came up with this:

Cool, huh?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Bread Quest: Or I Changed My Header

There is a panic in the air. Food prices are up. Food shortages have lead to rationing at church food storage centers and at food warehouses like Costco. Grain mill purchases are up and on back order. And now the economy seems to be bottoming out. Of course, I am no authority on all this. I don't know how much of it is hype or how much of it is self perpetuating panic. I do know that its finally been time to build up our food storage and learn to bake my own bread. If only because it was one of my new year's resolutions and the year is speeding by.

Not just bread, but whole wheat (or mostly whole wheat) bread. The kind you make from flour you grind yourself. We've never stored wheat, because I didn't want to buy something and not know how to use it or not be using it to rotate through it. But, now I think I am ready. It's not that I haven't made bread before. I have. It's just not great stuff that we want to have as our mainstay for toast and sandwich making. I've put it off, wanting the perfect recipe. One that is light, quick and easy to execute, using just a few inexpensive ingredients. So many wheat recipes have extra "stuff". Vital wheat gluten, Vitamin C tablets, Lecithin. Stuff I would need to store in addition in order to be able to make bread out of all that wheat. Ideally, I'd like a recipe that required no yeast even. One based on a reusable starter like the pioneer women would have used.

There is a recipe for just that in the Deseret Recipes cookbook published by the church. It is called Everlasting Yeast. I tried it for our Pioneer Days bread using the wheat bread recipe in the same book. I even did the kneading by hand. A friend, Nadine, makes wonderful bread from that recipe, and it turned out pretty good using the starter, although not as good as hers. I like knowing I have this way of bread baking should I ever need to bake bread with a limited or diminishing yeast supply. But, maintaining a starter doesn't fit my current lifestyle, so I decided to pass on using it as my main bread recipe.

I also tried a recipe demonstrated at Because it is FAST. As in bread ready to bake in 45 minutes, including wheat grinding time. I didn't have the highly promoted equipment described, but it still turned out pretty good. And was fast. But, it seemed to lack something to me.

I've also learned a lot from and tried the recipes of two friends. But, still hadn't found the recipe that fit me. I finally found "the one". The Light Wheat recipe from this book:

Because Peter Reinhart is a bread making master and knows what he is talking about. I got this book for my dh for Christmas and he has had a lot of fun learning the art of artisan bread making from it. The french bread, raisin bread, pugliese and sticky bun recipes have all been amazing. Even though the light wheat recipe does not follow the slow ferment method that is the focus of the book, it turned out exactly the way that I wanted. Not heavy, good flavor, tender crust, soft and not crumbly. Perfect for sandwiches. I love that it uses room temperature water, as getting the temp right to not kill yeast has been a challenge in my past. And I used all purpose flour instead of bread flour without any problem. No gluten flour, vitamin c tablets or heating stuff on the stove. Nice and simple. I double it and make 3 loaves instead of 2. I did find that using the exact ingredients made a dough too dry. So now I hold out putting in all the flour at the first and add just enough at the end. I aim to have the dough just slightly sticky in the bottom of the bowl, remembering that it gets drier with kneading. Then I knead it till it gets all stretchy, about 6-8 minutes in my kitchen aid. Our favorite sandwhich bread recipe in the book is anadama bread. It has a wonderful flavor from cornmeal and molasses. But, it is an overnighter and slow riser, so I'm sticking to the light wheat as our main bread.

I worried that I wouldn't have time to be making all of our bread. But, despite our crazy fall schedule I haven't had to buy bread since before school started! So, I just placed our first big order for wheat: 450 lbs. Its all red wheat, but I'm hoping to get the remainder of our wheat as white wheat after the harvest next summer. Now, I just need to order a wheat grinder! Any suggestions?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blooming in My Garden Right Now

Having a daughter into photography often leads to surprise photos on your camera. Sometimes they are just odd, but often they are fun surprises. Here are a couple I found recently.

Some blooming sedum from the garden:

And someone seems to be finding time to enjoy our fall leaves:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nature Study Class

A friend and I exchange taught our daughters again this summer. She taught them sewing (and they made some darling things!) and I taught a nature study class. I had never formally taught a class on it before, but we've been learning a lot informally over the past year, so I thought it would be fun to expand on it. We tried lots of fun things like pressing flowers, pounding flowers and leaves, mounting insects and making a mollusk collection from shells we gathered at the Cape. We also live in a beautiful part of the country and tried to spend quite a bit of time enjoying the nature around where we live. I wish I had taken my camera more, but here are a few photos showing what we did:

Bookmarks made from the pressed flowers:

We had a class on butterflies when the butterfly bush was in the heighth of its bloom. We saw three types of butterflies that day. A silver spotted skipper enjoying raspberry blooms:

An Eastern Swallowtail:

Later that day we went to a park near the lake and discovered an injured Tiger Swallowtail. There was quite a bit of damage, but the girl's wanted to try to bring it home and nurture it the best they could. Bringing it home was a bit of a trick, but it seemed to like holding onto one of our dd's friend's shirt. The girl's called her "the butterfly ambulance." When we got home we gave it water (in sand) and a blossom for nectar. Unfortunately, it passed away the next day. It was a great opportunity to carefully examine a living butterfly up close. Their tongues are amazing to watch how they roll them up. (It's actually a tube called a proboscis.)

On one of our jaunts into the local nature, we visited the botanical gardens and traipsed through a wooded area that had a myriad of mushrooms and fungi, and tree stumps and logs with holes in them. We called them fairy houses and pretended the mushrooms were their furniture. So, later we thought it would be fun to try building a fairy house of our own in the woods in our neighborhood:

Building the swimming pool:

Elsie and Cyrus enjoyed tagging along. This is Cyrus asking for a hand through a rough patch of ground:

And my own little woodland fairy:

It is fun how nature is so appealing, no matter how old you are. Cyrus is so funny. He gets so excited whenever he sees insects and makes this loud, joyful belly laugh. We always know when he has found something exciting.

To help me plan for the class I used The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock online. I really want a copy of my own! There is also a blog that posts nature challenges that go along with this book and her family's experiences in following them.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Second Annual Pioneer Days

The girls enjoyed our Pioneer Days last summer so much that we decided to do them again this year. This time we did it on Pioneer Day, July 24th, and invited a couple of friends over to do it with us. The boys weren't gone on the trek this year and didn't really want to participate, so we limited it to 2 days and only 1 night. We did many of the same things we did last year, but also did some things new, like making corn husk dolls and playing traditional yard games. I did make sure that we spent some time reading some family histories of our pioneer ancestors to them. By candlelight, of course! It was very tiring and I'm thinking every other year might be easier and maintain the specialness of the whole thing.

Relief from the serious photos...

Making butter...

The bathroom facilities...

One of the best things was the food. The pie and bread were tasty, but none of us were to impressed with fried green tomatoes. And, yes, those are Little House on The Prairie Books for reference!

Corn husk dolls. I used to make these when I was a kid. Its funny how you don't forget how to do things sometimes, even when it is decades later before your try again.

An old fashioned sing around the piano.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Low Light Exposure

While we were at the Cape, DH experimented with long, low exposure photos. First, on the flats at night. It created kind of a fun effect, some of the images looked as if they were taken during the day, but the stars are showing.

Then, we decided to head over to the cemetery at night to take some pictures. Yes, that is a little spooky sounding. But, I didn't mind because I had my brave, strong dh with me and I really like cemeteries. I was just slightly nervous when he asked me to take the light meter halfway up this road on my own so he could get a reading.

But, what really got me was when the bats started swooping past our heads. Random swooshing past our ears. The feeling that at any moment one was about to roost on our heads. Aack! I'd rather have the dead bodies, thank you! We headed back to the beach after that.

Reflection of moon in the wet sand.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sandwich Glass Museum

Sandwich is one of the prettiest towns on the Cape and I've always wanted to visit the glass museum there. At one time Sandwich was the site of one of the most well known glass making manufacturers in the world. Innovators in the industry, they created the method of glass making called pressed glass. This method suddenly made glass making much more efficient and affordable. The Glass works is no longer in operation, but a museum is there to share its history and show off its beautiful glass creations. At the museum we were able to see a glass making demonstration. The girls got to help operate the press and were rewarded at the end with their own hand made glass swan each.

They had a temporary exhibit there of glass paperweight art. It was very beautiful.

We also witnessed the opening of a new exhibit that demonstrated a table set in colonial times with all the glassware laid out, complete with a talking "hologram" to explain it all.

It was created to help visualize how all of the special glass items we no longer use would have been used on a traditional table. Items like celery jars and salts. A light inside would light up each one as it was talked about. In addition, the creator of the exhibit was still there tweaking it and willingly answered our questions about how it was all done and showed us the control panel. He even told us that the cat that breathes on a chair in the corner was a purchase off of eBay.

After the museum we headed over to the pond and saw some geese. There were supposed to be swans, too. But, we didn't see any of them. The kids still thought the geese were fun.

Notice the girls keeping their feet up. The ground was quite goose poopy!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cemeteries and Sailing Ladies

Over the weekend we got back from our vacation to Cape Cod. It was a fun trip and we did a lot of fun things, some traditional favorites, and some new adventures.

Cyrus is an early riser, often awakening at 5:30 am. So, to let the rest of the family sleep, I started taking him on morning walks, often with one or more of the girls along. We walked along the beach, of course, but also through one of my favorite places, the Brewster Cemetery. It is a huge cemetery full of mostly very old headstones, many of which belong to sailing captains and their families. I love to walk through them and read the names, dates and verses and imagine what they were like.

Last year, Grandpa Tony let me read his copy of "Sail Away Ladies" by Jim Coogan, a book about women who sailed during the great age of sail. It is a fun and fascinating read. A couple of the ladies in the book are laid to rest in the Brewster Cemetery and I was able to find their headstones. One was named Bethia Knowles Mayo Sears.

The daughter of a farmer, at the age of 19, Bethia married Elisha Freeman Sears of Brewster, MA, newly captain of the clipper "Wild Ranger". They set out a month later from Boston for her first sea voyage on a journey to San Francisco and India. The trip held the usual hardships common on sailing vessels at that time: sea sickness, toothaches, sunburn, storms, oppressive heat, frigid cold, hail, water rationing, doldrums (lack of wind)and a sailor going overboard. (He was saved, luckily, as most sailors could not swim.) In spite of the hardships they were a happily married couple and enjoyed pieces of their wedding cake at holiday celebrations, visiting exotic China and India and teaching each other. He taught her to navigate, and she taught him to knit and embroider. She made him molasses candy.

Unfortunately, she became ill as they neared India, and her weakened condition caused her to fall prey to a tropical illness while visiting there, possibly cholera. After languishing for nearly 2 months, she passed away in her husbands arms, just 20 days past their first anniversary. His words are so sad:

"My poor wifey is dead and gone. She laid her head on my shoulder like a child going to sleep and died. Oh, yes, she died. I would not have believed it, no not when they took her away from me cold and stiff in death. Oh, if a mother could have been with her to close her eyes, or a sister to have wept with me- What a comfort it would have been- but no, I was all alone...Oh why did she die- why has she been taken from me-Oh God have mercy."

He transported her body back to Brewster for burial, and he now lays to rest between her and his eventual second wife, with whom he would have 3 children, one of whom would die in infancy.

And we look for and visit her grave.

The idea of sailing on those ships is a romantic one and I've often thought it would have been fun to experience it. But, in reality it was a hard life and I probably wouldn't have liked living it as much as I like reading about it.

(P.S. I now have my own autographed copy of "Sail Away Ladies". Thank you, Tony!)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Easy Peasy Skirt Tutorial


These instructions will make a gathered skirt, using a minimum of fabric. The instructions are long and detailed, not because they are hard to do, but to make them very clear. The fullness of the skirt will vary depending on the waist measurement, but all skirts will follow the standard guideline of 1 1/2 to 2 times of fabric for fullness.

Step 1: Measure:

You need two measurements

1. The waist at where the waistband of the skirt will sit.
2. The desired finished length of the skirt.

Step 2: Calculate yardage and buy fabric.

I usually use 2 different fabrics, but you could combine yardage to make a skirt all one fabric. Be sure to use standard 44-45” wide fabric. Woven cottons are easiest to work with.

If waist size is less than 22”

Skirt body: length of skirt – 2” = length of fabric needed

Waist and hem sections: ¼ yard

If waist size is greater than 22”

Skirt body: 2 x (length of skirt – 2”) = length of fabric needed

Waist and hem sections: 1/3 yd

You will also need a piece of ¾” non-roll elastic as long as the waist measurement and matching sewing thread.

Step 4: Prewash and Iron

Prewash and dry fabric at the temperature at which you intend to wash the finished skirt. Then fold fabric lengthwise, selvage to selvage and press. The pressed fold will help guide your sewing later.

Step 5: Cut Pieces

You will need 3 rectangular pieces if the waist is less than 22”, 5 rectangular pieces if it is greater than 22”. Keep the fabric folded lengthwise, selvage to selvage while you make your cuts.

Skirt Body: (desired skirt length – 3”) x fabric width

Hem section: 3.5” x fabric width

Waist section: (waist + 4”) x 4” To cut this, cut a 4" wide strip of fabric the width of the fabric. Then divide the length in half and cut it on the fold.

If the waist size is greater than 22”, cut out two of the skirt body and hem sections. A rotary cutter, grid ruler and mat make quick work of cutting the pieces and making sure they are square. Unless the selvage will show through the finished skirt, leave it on. It will save you time finishing seams later. Not the "proper" way of doing things, but, hey, it works!

Because fabric widths can vary slightly, and especially if you do trim off any selvage, you need to make sure that the skirt body and hem pieces are the same length (length of the rectangle shape, not length of the skirt) Stack them on top of each other, folded edges together, and trim the longer of the two, if necessary.

These are your three pieces. Note that the top piece is the waist piece, unfolded. The other two pieces are shown still folded. This was a smaller skirt, so I didn't need two hem and body pieces. The selvages didn't show with these fabrics and didn't need to be trimmed off, so the entire skirt was cut out with just 4 straight cuts!


Another Option: Feeling creative? The dimensions above create a finished 1” wide hem edge. If you want to change that, follow this formula: For every inch of width you want to increase of the finished hem edge, subtract one inch from the skirt body length and add two inches to the hem piece.

Here's an example:


Step 6: Sew Skirt Hem Piece to Skirt.

Use a ½” seam allowance for all seams. With right sides together, sew hem piece(s) to skirt piece(s).

Press seam allowance towards hem piece.


Step 7: Sew skirt’s side seam(s).

A smaller skirt will only have one seam to sew. Press seam open. If you did not cut the selvage edges, the seam(s) will not need anything more done. If you have cut edges, you will want to finish them to prevent raveling. Do this by sewing a zig zag stitch along the raw edges, or, and this is my favorite way, by cutting them with pinking shears.


Step 8: Finish bottom skirt edge.

Bend over and press edge of hem piece ¼”.


Fold pressed edge over to meet stitched line and press.

Pin folded edge in place. (The more you pin it the easier it will be to stitch this one.) Stitch along fold, about 1/8” of an inch from pressed edge. Viola, your skirt is hemmed and the hem piece is top stitched!


Step 9: Gather skirt and attach waist piece.

Increase the length of your stitch and sew a gathering thread 1/4” from skirt top, starting and stopping thread at each side of side seam. (If you are doing a bigger skirt with two side seams, you will sew two gathering threads. One from one seam to the next on the front of the skirt and another one on the back.)


Shorten your stitch length again. (I always forget to do this!) Then, with right sides together, sew short edges of waist piece together. Finish raw edges. (Don’t the pinked edges look cute?)


Turn waist piece right side out, slip it into the top of the skirt piece. Pull gathering threads and gather skirt to fit waist piece, lining up seam(s) and pressed folds. Pin in place.


Stitch ½” from edge.


Finish raw edges. Using pinking shears doesn’t work well on a gathered edge like this, so I zig zag all the edges together. It isn’t a pretty edge when you’re done, but if the wind ever flips your skirt high enough that it shows, you didn’t make your skirt long enough!


Step 10: Sew elastic waistband.

Press over ¼” of waist edge and press.

Fold over 1” and press again.

Stitch along edge of fold, leaving an opening at one seam for the insertion of elastic.


Cut elastic to waist measurement in length. Pin safety pin to one end and use to thread through elastic casing, making sure other end of elastic doesn’t go all the way into the skirt casing after it.


Overlap ends of elastic about an inch and sew across.


Slip elastic all the way into casing, then stitch casing opening closed.

Clip loose threads, if you didn’t do it as you went along. (I always seem to miss some!)

And you are done!



To see more skirts I made this way, look here.

If, after using this tutorial, you find any parts that are not clear, please let me know so I can try to improve it!