Sunday, December 20, 2009

Backtrack to a Birthday

Back in August we had a birthday. We had a simple and very fun backyard party here in our very own backyard. As you can see, the birthday boy wore his superhero costume. Above, he has just opened what turned out to be the specialest present of all, a little paper mache box shaped like a cat, containing three guitar picks. Guitar picks are very special things to Ezra. He carries them around and benevolently dispenses them. He loves having this sweet box that looks like "his cat" to keep his picks in.
We had a puppet show, totally kid-run.
It was a costume party. I believe Gibbie was a pirate, Gabe a lion, Helen a queen, Natalie and Janine fairies, and Kaleb wore a dazzling white suit. Friends, neighbors, family, and cousin Fiona were also in attendance. Above we see the duck pond. Kids fished for plastic ducks with a net to win a cookie.

One of the real treats of Ezra's birthday was having our friend Kaleb with us. He knows Ezra well and gave him a special present which Ezra is opening in the last picture here. You can also see the hand-decorated birthday signage and wrapping paper.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cupping at Bull Run

Yesterday I had the opportunity to do some cupping at the new Bull Run / Rustica shop in Minneapolis. Some of my coffee friends have been heavily involved in the launching of this venture and it's exciting that good coffee has made it across the river to Minneapolis.

I'm trying to do as much cupping as possible these days because I will soon be a roaster! Amore Coffee is working on our new location in West St. Paul that has a roaster. I have a lot of learning to do about the craft of roasting, but I also want to get as much experience as I can tasting coffee so that I can keep evaluating the beans I select and the roasting I do. Yesterday we cupped coffees from Bull Run, Black Sheep, Stumptown, and one from Dunn Brothers. The selection from Dunn Brothers was so bad that we removed it from the cupping table. I, however, was excited to get to taste it because I want to know what different roasting defects taste like. My fellow cuppers thought I was crazy for lingering over the "bad" one!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I've been Yelped

I don't make a point of looking at online review sites very much, mostly because I don't trust them. (There are so many ways that a review can be biased: anything from ignorance to conflict of interest to personal vendetta, etc.) That being said, it's always nice to get a compliment.

My boss Cathy showed me this review today on that included the comment, "Paul, their groovy super-barista was working, and he does a great job. Coffee was really great today. I appreciate they have constantly tried to improve and it's obvious that they have put thought and consciousness into their product."

Thanks, Guya I., whoever you are.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

YouTube Star

I'm sure there are many of you who understand the mysteries of YouTube much better than I do. For some reason, this video I took a long time ago of Gibbie and Ezra climbing up a slide has gotten over 36,000 views. I have a little suspicion that some unfortunate misconstruing of the title may have generated some of the hits... but who knows. I guess it's kind of cute anyway.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Full Cup Strikes Back

It's been a long time, I know, but The Full Cup is back and ready to take over. Our family took over an abandoned (foreclosed) house across the street from our former residence and have been working hard since May to make it livable. Now that the house has a fully functional kitchen, working plumbing (one out of two bathrooms isn't too bad), and a new furnace, we're ready to tell the tale.

To go with the title of this post, here's Gibbie getting as close to watching Star Wars has he's ever been. Gibbie and Ezra are quite enthralled with Star Wars, but have only second-hand information and this vintage soundtrack LP to go by. Gibbie loves to sit like this with the jacket propped open looking at pictures of the movie and imagining Star Wars as he listens to the score. We'll often hear him walking around the house humming "dun dun da-dun, dun da-dun, dun da-dun" and talking about Dart Vader (misspelling intentional).

I think this speaks to the power of media in our lives, the power of a story, and the power of imagination. I wonder what it will be like when they're older and watch the real Star Wars movies. Will it be an opening of a whole imaginative world to them, or a pale shadow of the book version in their heads?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"I have some cake here," said Mma Potokwane, reaching for the bag she had placed at her feet. "I thought that you might like a piece."
She opened the bag and took out a large parcel of cake, carefully wrapped in grease-proof paper. Mma Ramotswe watched intently as her visitor sliced the slab into two generous portions and laid them on the table, two pieces of paper acting as plates.
"That's very kind of you, Mma," said Mma Ramotswe, "But I think that I'm going to have to say no thank you. You see, I am on a diet now."
It was said without conviction, and her words faded away at the end of the sentence. But Mma Potokwane had heard, and looked up sharply, "Mma Ramotswe!" she exclaimed. "if you go on a diet, then what are the rest of us to do? What will all the other traditionally built ladies think if they hear about this? How can you be so unkind?"
"Unkind?" asked Mma Ramotswe. "I do not see how this is unkind."
"But it is," protested Mma Polokwane. Traditionally built people are always being told by other people to eat less. Their lives are often a misery. You are a well-known traditionally built person. If you go on a diet, then everybody else will feel guilty. They will feel that they have to go on a diet too, and that ill spoil their lives."
Mma Polokwane pushed one of the pieces of cake over to Mma Ramotswe. "You must take this, Mma," she said. "I shall be eating my piece. I am traditionally built too, and we traditionally built people must stick together. We really must."
Mma Potokwane picked up her piece of cake and took a large bite out of it. "it is very good, Mma," she mumbled though a mouth full of fruit cake. "It is very good cake."
For a moment Mma Ramotswe was undecided. Do I really want to change the way I am? She asked herself. Or should I just be myself, which is a traditionally build tady who likes bush tea and who likes to sit on her verandah and think?
She sighed. There were many good intentions which would never be seen to their implementation. This, she decided, was one of them.
"I think my diet is over now," she said to Mma Potokwane.
They sat there for some time, talking in the way of old friends, licking the crumbs of cake off their fingers. Mma Ramotswe told Mma Potokwante about her stressful week, and Mma Potokwane sympathised with her. "You must take more care of yourself," she said. "We are not born to work, work, work all the time."
"You're right," said Mma Ramotswe. "It is important just to be able to sit and think."
Mma Potokwane agreed with that. "I often tell the orphans not to spend all their time working," she said. "It is quite unnatural to work like that. There should be some time for work and some for play."
"And some for sitting and watching the sun go up and down," said Mma Ramotswe. "And some time for listening to the cattle bells in the bush."
-from Blue Shoes and Happiness, by Alexander McCall Smith

Thursday, July 9, 2009

We Resist Change

"Parents can be delighted and enthused at the new things their kids can do and simultaneously feel the loss of their child's younger self." (Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser)
The book quoted above is just right for me right now. In general, I bullishly resist most changes, and kids are changing all the time! I do look forward to their new accomplishments, and try to celebrate them. It's hard for me to welcome change. As they grow I see the baby self, that little boy self, leaving, slipping away. I let him go. I must, to love and support the new self as he grows. Always, it is the present child I must love, not the boy of yesterday. Yesterday's Gibbie or Ezra is a figment. Today's child is the one in front of me, the only one who asks for me now, and needs full engagement, the child who is.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Sometimes I wish I wasn't one of the adults in my famiy. My friend Maggie said she sometimes says to herself, "who's the adult in this situation? Oh no, it's me!"
It's hard to have the presence of mind to pray throughout the day with demanding little ones. Too often, I don't find the time to get alone to pray, and can't seem to spend my day being with God as I go along either. It's then I find myself not my best with my kids, with my husband, friends, with anyone, and even worse inside my head.

But that moment after a child falls asleep is a great time to pray. I brood over the child.
I don't know why, but on days when I can't muster patience, just after his eyes close, love rushes in again. I see him more clearly. I can look back on the day and see it more clearly.

I pray for sweet dreams, for health and safety, for this growing heart, for the trials of the day. Then I can ask for wisdom, bring to my God all my questions, the patterns I can't get out of, my worries and fears and tightly held hopes. Let go of stuff. Grab onto better stuff. Listen. Thank God for this child.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Art of Picnicing

Okay, we are such picnic-ers we find ways to picnic in the winter even: on a blanket in the snow, for school lunch, a meal after church, on any friendly floor--but the real fun starts when we can have outdoor picnics!
Now that it's really summer, we pack a picnic everywhere we go.This lovely basket, pictured late last fall, was a gift that came filled with small metal dishes and cups as a child's toy set, but we've put it to hard real use. Most often I leave all the dishes at home, pack it with whatever foods we have on hand, and toss in a few of our everyday cloth napkins, maybe a knife to cut up fruit, or a spoon if needed for serving. We bring along a big water bottle or two, and make sure they're full before lunch for drinking and washing up. For our picnic, we use the napkins as plate, tablecloth, napkin, and towel all in one. When biking, the picnic blanket can double as a pillow for the kids, or be snugged around them if it's chilly.
For us, this is a great alternative to the waste of fast food and the expense of a restaurant. It takes little time to put together in the morning, but this small forethought saves us from ending an otherwise nice morning with tears and distress from tired hungry little ones, creating instead a little island of rest and nourishment in our busy day.
Ideas to fill a lunch basket, pail, or bag:
-any kind of leftovers, in a screw-top jar, with a spoon or fork. Paul found tiny wood sporks for a couple bucks apiece at our co-op.
-hummus mix: we get it in bulk at our coop. Stir in the water at the picnic spot.
-dried fruit
-powdered drink mixes: I also keep a few in a corner of our bag always, just in case we get stuck somewhere hungry and need a hold-over to stave off falling apart till a meal.
-cheese, salami, hard vegetables.
-sandwiches. Peanut butter and honey is a family favorite. At one time in my life, I ate tortillas filled with cheese and sprouts every day for a year.
-hard boiled eggs (don't forget the salt shaker or egg slicer!)
-a small jar of soup or yogurt. Hot soup, cider or cocoa can go in the classic thermos, or try a coffee travel mug if you have a convenient holster for it on car, bike, or backpack!
-ants on a log (celery spread with peanut butter, dotted with raisins. kids like to help make)

For more picnic ideas read the fabulous Best Friends for Francis by Russell Hoban.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Very very very fine house, Before

People keep telling us we should take lots of pictures as we work on the house. Honestly, we don't have many; we're busy working. These are from when we first got the house. They don't really convey how it felt to be in the house because you can't smell them, if you know what I mean. There was some grime. It's funny how someone else's dirt feels different from your own. If we moved out without cleaning, there would be some dirt. But we live with it, and it's cozy because it's our dirt. I know what it's from. It's the result of lives well-lived. Someone else's dirt feels icky just because it's not ours. We've known and appreciated several families who lived in this house before it came to us and we are thankful to them, for caring for it, for contributing to it's peace. Peace was the first thing I noticed about the house. You can't see it in the pictures, but it suprised me how peaceful it felt.
Also, the house had been unoccupied for a time, with some plumbing issues that led to damp and mildew, and some vermin issues; these may have contributed to the mustiness.Just a few things I like about this house: space, possibilities, freedom, a sense of peace, good light, oldness, the chance to make it our own, our neighbors.
Ahhh--what a gift!
I realize how great having a house to call our own is, in light of how many people have no home at all tonight or tomorrow or maybe ever, in this life. I hope ours can somehow become a haven for the harried, a refuge for the weary.
Thanks abounding to all the beautiful people who have helped already in its transformation.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

take two

Because I had about four minutes to write that last post, I never got around to addressing it's title. This spring Paul mentioned that he read G.K. Chesterton writing about how we treat Easter as the climax of Lent, when really Lent is just supposed to be the prelude to the real show, Easter, which is a celebration of our great joy and hope. Therefore, he says we should be drinking champagne for breakfast. The thought inspired a much longer and freer and funner celebration of Easter at our house this year.
I love this picture of my mom, "Oma" to the kids, leading Gibbie, cousin Fiona, and Ezra in a little song and skit they put together for our family.

And then we have two little bears finding easter eggs their big cousins hid around the yard for them. Costumes are some of the best playthings; they get so much wear and delight out of them. What, you don't dress like bears for Easter?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Champagne for breakfast

It's been a while, so I'll pick up where we left off. These are breads I made for Easter. If I do say so myself, the cheesy one turned out garlickalicious!
I roasted garlic till it was all sweet and soft, then mixed it into my dough the day before I baked. Then I kneaded in big cubes of cheese and I think also roasted potatoes. It seemed that putting the garlic in earlier in the process deeply infused the flavors. Oh, and generous with the salt.
We've been absent because we've, by the unbounded and unearned gift of god, bought a house! We're pretending we're busy beavers and repairing it diligently, with the help of many friends and families. Oh bright skies ahead!
If you'd like to be one of those friends, let us know--a little help goes a long way!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Long Live Black and White

Back when I used a real camera, I shot black and white exclusively. This wasn't just because I could develop it myself. I've done color developing at home before, but it's not as fun or easily flexible. I love the look of a hand-crafted black and white print.

I hope to get back into the darkroom someday, but have been only shooting digital for now. I've not thought much of black and white in the context of digital photography. My camera doesn't have a black and white mode and more than that, the concept of "digital black and white" seems almost sacrilegious to my old safelight sensibilities.

I was inspired, however, after looking at the first few photos on K-Saki's flickr page. They're beautiful black and whites, and completely digital. Even the "film grain" effect is purely from the low light exposure mode.

I decided to try a little myself and have been pleased with the results. I little contrast tweaking with gimp and I think Mary looks much better in black and white. Specifically, the distracting background is much tamed and I love the dark tones of her shirt.

I can almost smell the Dektol. Maybe doing a little digital black and white will spur me on to start doing the real thing again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Downtown Treasure

I love downtown St. Paul. I got to know it when I worked at the big public library there several years ago. The skyway system is such a wonderful mixture of new, old, vacant, and glorious.

Walking through one building in a abandoned restaurant exterior you look up and see this:

Anyone know what building this is?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Goodbye Conti. Hello La Marzocco.

Though I wouldn't put the art of espresso on quite the same level as that of music performance, there are some similarities. One is in the area of equipment. I can be an accomplished pianist, but if I'm playing on an out of tune spinet piano, there's only so much I can do. I'd like to think that after close to a decade of experience I'm a fairly accomplished barista. The old Conti espresso machine I've been playing on for the last six years (never a Steinway in the first place) has gone very out of tune lately. It was loosing steaming pressure big time and my drinks were coming out flat no matter what I did...

Enough with the musical puns. This week Amore acquired the real Steinway of the espresso machines: a La Marzocco. Ours is a refurbished 3 grouphead Linea, which was the flagship machine of just a few years ago.
Here are Blair and I the day it arrived. We carried it across Grand Ave. with the help of a few regular customers. Waiting for the installation was grueling.
Here's our old Conti about to be carted away.
A look under the hood.
Here are the Roastery 7 guys finishing the installation.
The Amore employees decided that I should get to make the first drink.
I guess it was also my job to drink the first drink.
Here's the first shot served to a customer. He's gotten an American double espresso practically every day since I've been around. I'm glad he was served the first shot.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

First Spring Day

Yesterday was our first Monday off that was warm enough to play outside. Here are some pictures from our wonderful soggy time in Marydale Park.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Living peacefully with your Four-Year-Old

I find in parenting I need to keep using what I learned during birth. In labor, when a new phase came, it took a while to figure out how to deal with it. I would be laboring, coping with contractions, and then it felt like they suddenly changed. They became unbearable, and nothing I was doing helped at all.

Now, in parenting, I find that when we develop patterns of whining and misbehaviour, (or parental frustration and anger) when our usual strategies stop working and we just can't seem to catch our rhythm or get along, it often means we're growing! It takes observing ourselves and one another, praying for wisdom and cooperating to figure out how to live together as we grow.
Recently, we were having fits of aggravating the younger brother, misuse of tools, snitching things and denying it, total lack of cooperation in basic things like getting dressed; you know what I'm talking about?

My normal avenues of eliciting cooperation, as well as discipline tactics just weren't working the way they had. Things felt off.
I told Paul and a few friends that something was up and I couldn't figure it out. I wasn't sure if he needed better-set boundaries, or more attention, or it was just a phase, or what? (it's so helpful to know that sometimes things are just hard and there's not way around it.) When we're having troubles I am reminded to pray, to ask for help. I like to make sure the kids know how much we love them in times of conflict; we need extra assurance of love when we're rubbing wrong against one another.

The breakthrough came when Paul commented to me that he noticed misbehavior seemed to happen when our Little Bear had an idea for something he wanted to do. He would do his plan, but not in a sanctioned way; like by taking something he had been told not to, and doing something he wasn't supposed to do with it. Frequently with scissors. I have learned from Montessori that when children disobey, they need more freedom. This does not mean that we don't expect good behavior, but that often lack of freedom drives misbehavior, so Paul's comment really rang a bell. I spent a day observing myself and Little Bear as I pondered this.

Then I talked about it with Little Bear. He agreed that he was bored and had a lot of ideas, and also that things hadn't been going very well lately and that we'd been having a hard time listening and getting along. I shared with him that I do expect him to listen to me, but also that I want to listen to him. And I told him he was ready for his Own Scissors. We worked together to find a place for the scissors where he could get them, but his little brother couldn't. We discussed some very concrete rules for use of the scissors. We discussed consequences for not following those rules. Then I helped him make a special box to keep them in, and signs saying that they were just for him. Ooh, was this fun! He spent all day doing projects with the scissors, and put them away after each use. He had a lot of things he had been waiting to do with them!

Our other problems dissolved. The scissors were the key that unlocked the door to our new phase. Our Little Bear has a lot of good ideas and needs the freedom to do them on his own. He was bored!
Along with the scissors, I found there were lots of areas where I was underestimating him, doing for him what he could do for himself, expecting too little, not too much, and controlling rather than equipping him to handle new levels of responsibility. For, with freedom comes responsibility. Along with the scissors came some new chores and a renewal of our expectations of one another. I hadn't meant to be controlling him, he'd just grown into some things he couldn't have handled and didn't need to a few months ago. Along with greater understanding came new tactics and peace.

I must note that not all of the scissor rules were followed. A few days after the debut of his Very Own Scissors, I found a little brother with a new albeit minor haircut and a new spool of ribbon cut to pieces. There were consequences, kind of big ones, and a lot of tears. Not getting to use his Very Own Scissors for Four Whole Days was rather agonizing, but he accepted it as just, though sad, and has lived up to the new responsibility even better since then. The brief reprisal of privileges didn't undo our new mutual esteem or the advance of four-year-old liberty in our house a bit.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Amore in the Media

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed for a review of Amore Coffee by the local online Magazine The Heavy Table. It's great to have our coffee shop reviewed by someone who actually knows a lot about coffee.

On the other hand, Amore tied with Kopplin's for third in Minnesota Monthly's Readers Choice Awards... just after Caribou and Dunn Brothers.

Funny, no?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Unschooling Our Four Year Old or Backstage with Little Bear

Putting on Birthday Soup for Gibbie's birthday party is such a great example of our learning process that I want to explain how it all came to pass. Gibbie loves pretending. We're always making up a story, or acting out a favorite book. Gibbie lives for the days when we go to our neighbor's house and the kids all put on costumes and do a little "show." (the show is usually mostly Gibbie announcing that the show is going to start in three minutes! a loose string of "tricks" or one well-used story about a lion and a Chinese person and a baby putting out a fire)
I don't know who's idea it was, but we started talking about doing a show for his birthday party. Lots of enthusiasm. I suggested we pick one of his favorite books as the story. We looked at his bookshelf and discussed the possibilities. He picked Little Bear's Birthday Soup. That was maybe a month before his party.
Gradually, the plan developed. I started a page in my planner for his party, and as he had ideas for it, wrote them down. It was my idea to make real curtains for the "stage" and I went and bought an old sheet for the fabric, but it was his idea that they would open by pulling a string. I sewed the curtains while he danced around excitedly one afternoon.
We read the book a lot. We discussed his costume. He and I both made drawings and discussed the features. I found out what he considered the essential features of little bear. He listened to my suggestions too. We tried out various plans for costumes for the other characters, and face paints for everyone. We ran our ideas by Paul and shared excitement with Ezra and friends and family.
We discussed the invitations; what they needed to say, what he wanted them to look like. We started making some by hand. He did drawings of little bear and told me what to write. We worked together, but he became very frustrated that they weren't turning out all the same, and it was taking a long time. I ended up making invitations/playbills by cutting and pasting from photocopies of the book's title page, and copying them. He folded them up and hand-delivered them.
He had a longer list of people who he wanted to come than could fit in our house. We talked about how this could work and decided that the kids who were going to be in the show would come first, get ready, and practice, and the grown-ups and little kids would come later. The little kids would sit on cushions in the front. He had definite ideas about all kinds of specific decorations, activities, and foods. Some he made happen on his own, some I did for him, a lot we worked together on, and some were eventually forgotten or rejected. He helped me clean the whole house for the party, bake the cake, prep the food, set up the props, make decorations and party favors. He designed valentine name tags and tickets for popcorn. The popcorn tickets were a feature he was most proud of. As per his instruction, I carved stamps out of rubber erasers that said, "popcorn!" and "recycle me!" He cut out tickets, stamped them, and planned how they would be used for the guests to order popcorn for the show. For a long time beforehand he dictated little signs advertising the show which he cut out and taped up everywhere.

Some weeks before the party, he stopped wanting to play Little Bear and was reluctant to practice acting it out. I got a little worried, because he had so much invested in this idea. We talked about the need to practice, and kept reading the story. He seemed nervous about being watched and wouldn't even repeat the lines. I resolved to abandon the show and just have games and cake if it looked like it was going to be too stressful. A few days before the show, he practiced it with me in costume, and had practically all his lines down word for word! After that, he wanted to practice every chance he got. We went over it with some of his friends when we could. We worked out some staging, talked about talking loudly and facing the audience. It seems he worked through his nervousness all on his own, and had been getting ready inside-- until he was ready to do it with others.

Of course, not everything worked out. There were some timing and logistical issues, things we would do differently next time. There were some nerves before and after the show, but what actor or host hasn't experienced those? I'm not going to detail the academic skills practiced here, or knowledge gained but I do want to highlight our process: how much it was driven by Gibbie's vision and ideas, how that vision led him to gain new skills, seek out resources, and solve problems; how he was externally supported but also internally motivated; how each step led to new ideas and spurred him on to try new things; how naturally social and interdisciplinary the process was; how much fun we had, and what a thrill of accomplishment!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Elise Mittens

I have sold my first pair of mittens.
They were commissioned by the lovely and talented Elise, a coworker of Paul's. Making them was such fun.
I knit them in a "cashmerino", which is a rather luxe baby-soft blend of wool and cashmere. They were really fun to do. The request was for pretty, feminine, and delicate pale lavender/periwinkle mittens. I wanted to do cables in a bulky Lamb's Pride, but realized this would not turn out delicate. So I thought of lace. But lacy mitts don't make for warm fingers.
After flipping through a few pattern books and finding nothing like what I wanted, I turned to Barbara Walker's wonderful treasuries of stitch patterns. I found a lovely tulip bud edging, which made a chain of leaves. From this I extrapolated the pattern for a single knitted leaf.

One of the first things my mother showed me how to knit was mittens without a pattern. (It's funny, she says she doesn't like designing!)
Knitting Details For knitting-types:
Freestyle Mittens
-In the round, on double-points: Knit a ribbed cuff. I like K
2, P1
-Knit around plain 3-4 rows. Increase a bit for hand width.
-Make a gore for the thumb: Increase the first stitch of one needle. Place a marker and Increase again. I like to increase here by knitting into the front and back of the stitch, which makes nary a hole. Wrap the fabric around thumb to determine number of thumb stitches. Con
tinue increases (first stitch of the same needle, first stitch after the marker) until gore has enough stitches.
-Knit around until mitten reaches webbing of thumb comfort
ably when tried on.
-Now I like to knit the thumb. I do this because it's easier and prettier than making a hole for the thumb and trying to pick up the stitches around it later. Put hand stitches on holder, (everything except the gore) knit around for length of thumb, decrease quickly, and sew in tail.
-Pick up hand stitches and join thread in by knitting a stitch, and then knitting with two strands until the tail is used up. It doesn't show.
-Knit around until mitten is as tall as the index finger when tried on. Decrease quickly and sew in end of yarn. Voila!

In my early mitten-making days, after a few rounds making three mittens in search of two alike, I learned a few mitten-making tricks for patternless rogues:
-Either write down what I'm doing as I do it, or be prepared to count stitches and rows on the first mitten many times over.
-Make the ribbing around the wrist long enough--snow and cold like to get in between the coat sleeve and mitten!
-I like to increase three or four stitches right above the cuff and two stitches in the hand right above the thumb gore for good fit. These increases can be nicely hidden by the ribbing or gore.
-Check to make sure the thumb gore is wide enough and long enough--this makes for the perfect fit.

In the Elise Mittens, the leaf is appliqued on, and the curlicues are embroidered in a chain stitch. This would look nice in contrasting colors on the right mitten, but I wanted it to look knitterly and subtle.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mmm...library pleasures

I love coming home from the library with a stack of lovely books. It's like having a box of chocolates and knowing I'll get to savor each one slowly over the next week, tasting the various delights inside. Yum!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Little Bear!

Gibbie's birthday, clearly, was a big big event in our house. Ezra, throughout the day, sings to himself, "Happy Birthday, dear Little Bear..." (see "the show" for the reference.) We also had a special birthday visit from our dear Grammers, pictured above.
And here is Gibbie, showing off the new light he received as a much-appreciated gift from his Grandpa Bill. He is planning to use it to "look for the dark slugs in my garden, at night." With a few tantalizing garden gifts, plans for the garden are kicking into high gear. I'm putting together my seed order. Gibbie is planning a garden of his own. It will be, according to plan thus far, a new garden, in the grass, with logs around it, painted black. He has made signs to label his plants and four useful warning signs which each read, "no dogs out loud." So much fun.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Making Knipfle

A favorite dinner of ours is Knipfle. It's German for noodles, though I just know it from my Gramma Loretta, who says, "ki-NIP-fla". I only know this word orally but poking around online, I found spellings Kinipffla, and Knepfla. She and my Grampa Bob grew up speaking low German in a small town in North Dakota and foods like this are one of the only remaining elements in the family of our German roots.
Knipfle are chewy noodles, filling and unctuous. They're cheap, and made only with things that tend to be in the house anyway (handy when one's run out of meat and fresh veg and fruit, and pulling together dinner!) Ezra calls them "sticky noodles". It may be the love of my teeth sinking into knipfle that has driven my love of chewy foods.
for an actual recipe, look it up as "German egg noodles" in the Joy of Cooking, but here's how I make them:
in a small mixing bowl, stir together with a fork
several handfuls of flour
two generous pinches of salt
a dash of parsley
and a dash of nutmeg. (I've had questions about this: a dash is when your spice jar has a top with holes on it and you shake it once )
dig a hole in the center of the pile of flour.
break an egg or three in this hole
beat the egg up with a fork. as I beat, flour will be incorporated into the egg; let it. Mix until a soft dough forms. I usually add extra water; if too wet extra flour could be added instead. Knead for a few minutes. It's often quite sticky, and requires generous flouring, especially for children.
Now I usually drop a puddle of olive oil in my mixing bowl and roll the dough in it so it doesn't dry out while I work on some other thing for a bit. If I'll be a while, I've found it's best to put the noodle dough in a plastic bag in the fridge.
When I come back to it, I knead it until it feels stretchy. It gets smooth and feels quite like skin!
I take this elastic dough, cut it into a few pieces and begin to roll them out into ropes about the thickness of my finger. When a piece of dough gets too long for my bread board, I cut it in half so I can roll it comfortably.
Knipfle can be cooked in plain water, or it's great in chicken soup or broth. When the broth or water is boiling vigorously, I take a snake of dough and cut it into pieces maybe the length of the first joint of my finger. Gramma Loretta says, "you cut them as small as you can." I cut these straight into the boiling pot. Usually the kids like to cut some too, over a bread board, and I put these in as well.
Kids can make these start to finish with a little direction; scooping handfuls of flour, pinching salt, stirring the dry ingredients, beating the egg, kneading, rolling, and cutting dough. Both our two year old and our four year old can cut knipfle.
If your kids are anything like mine, they will enjoy also the eating! Mine like their knipfle in broth, or plain with ketchup. They are good with sour cream and salt or baked with cheese and buttered bread crumbs. Also would make a nice side for kraut and sausage, or roasted veg or meat, in stew or with gravy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Twa bonnie wee Ring Bearers

Here are some more pictures of our bonnie lads. In our dear friends' wedding this past December. Remember all those kilts we made? This was the occasion: the marriage of our dearest, and one of my longest-standing friends, Pat. Or Uncle Otter, or Patter, as the kids call him. Paul was the best man and they entrusted our bairns with the rings.
But losh, man! Dinna they leuk fine?

Ezra looked as if he were'nt going to venture up the aisle. Gibbie had set himself to it. But at the last minute, a tear still tracking down his cheek, I put a ring in Ezra's little fist and his other hand in Gibbie's, and they walked right up, with all those eyes on them! Ezra had a whole outfit, but he has some sort of internal promise he's made never to wear a vest, and enough tears were shed over putting on the kilt, I was happy just that he was wearing the kilt, socks, shoes, and any shirt. Angela, the lovely bride, understandably requested that he wear a shirt, if possible. If you look closely in the picture of Ezra and Gibbie starting down the aisle, you can see the glimmer of the ring in his hand. After the ceremony, Ezra offered no objections to any of his clothing, and played like a broonie.

(Gibbie's cooperation and spirited enthusiasm is fitting, as he is named after Sir Gilbert Galbraith, the sometime broonie, sometime hero of a highland romance writ by our beloved George MacDonald, one of the very first books my beloved and I read together! A good man will go to the trouble of learning to speak a brogue to read a book with the woman he loves!)
Gibbie, who was sooo happy about his outfit and his role in the day, "I just can't wait for the wedding, Mama. I'm so exciting for it!" just "danced his heart out" for the rest of the night.