birthday hats for the snow

Since I have tried to write this blog three time already and haven't got past a few words I will make this short and sweet. My brothers birthday was last week and a I knit him the best men's hat ever. I have knit almost every man in the family one. They're warm, easy and fit everyone I'll add the pattern another time. Well, Happy Birthday D! What better time to take a winter hat's picture then in the snow, which doesn't happen here too often. And yes we have been having our fare share of fun in the snow!

Who needs a sled.

Ready to hit the slopes!

Our palm tree in the back yard looks even more strange with snow on it.


Chicken pot pie

Comfort food here I come. I am into comfort food this fall, more then usual. It just make you feel warm and cozy, you can't help but cook more! I have been trying to cook at least one meal a week where I make two or three extra, entree sized, portions to freeze. It has been working out really well, except for our limited freezer space. With so little space it means we have to go through the frozen dinners pretty quick, which is not a problem when there is a delicious chicken pot pie in there. I made a whole chicken, chicken pot pie that was part experiment and part recipe with help from alrecipces.com, it was their highly rated Chicken Pot Pie IX recipe. I had a whole organic chicken and I guessed that would be enough for three pies, my family doesn't eat lot of meat and when you add a bunch of veggies you never notice it might be light on the chicken. The recipe called for chicken stock, actually it tells you to boil chicken and veggies and then toss out the water and add chicken stock, this didn't make any sense to me, so I boiled a whole chicken and the veggies and herbs in  a large pot and in the end had made the chicken stock while cooking the other stuff. I also added potatoes (I just couldn't see a good pot pie with out them), green beans, collards and kale. I think corn would be excellent in this too, any veggies you have handy could be thrown in and it makes it that much more filling. Next time I would add more collards and kale, they were great and added some different texture. I made the crust with whole wheat pastry flour and butter for the flavor, I didn't really care that it wouldn't be flaky (it was great!). "T" ate at least half the pie for dinner. I didn't get around to making the other two pies until the next day and you know that made it really easy to have the different parts (filling and gravy) already made and then make the crust when I was ready to put it all together. It is a bit labor intensive, but so worth it and it freezes great!


Halloween Eve

It's been a slow and puttzy (word?) kind of day today. T is out till morning and the boys and I have been enjoying a cozy afternoon inside. The rain has been coming down and the fire place has been keeping us toasty. I love fall days! I had plenty to do, but I was a slow mover today. I had a bunch of recipes to make and freeze, but needed one or two ingredients from the store and was just too lazy to get the boys in the car and head down the road a mile. Instead I made chicken stock. It really drives me crazy when I have to pay $10 for 2 32oz. containers of organic chicken stock (and that's on sale). Especially when I use it in recipes I often use two or three, that's 10 bucks I just added to the cost of that meal. It's sad really because it's stupidly easy to make stock. On days I know I'm home I throw the chicken carcass from the night before or when I buy whole organic chicken (which is the only way I buy chicken now) I cut up the chicken and freeze the pieces. I put the wings in a bag and after two or three chickens I have enough to make stock. I throw in s&p, carrots and celery (maybe those slightly sad ones is the fridge), parsley if I have it, thyme and rosemary. I let it go in a big pot all day, it goes between boiling and simmering (keep a lid on it or it will disappear). Then I strain it into freezer containers (Ziplock makes BPA free containers!). I love it because you use the pieces of chicken you would normally just throw away. All day the house smells like the most delicious soup (it reminds me of  Thanksgiving). I tried to satisfy my hunger all day but never could get it right because there was never anything to actually eat. So I snacked on yummy roasted pumpkin seeds from our jack-o-lanterns (they are full of zinc, great for a cold!). Now lets hope I can get the finishing touches on the boys Halloween costumes. Show you next time, Happy Halloween!


one potato, two potato, 100 potatoes more!

Yes, it has been an exceptionally long silence, but I have a feeling it's over now. I think I'll start off slowly so I don't hurt myself or chase anyone away, a simple post about a monster.

  During our terrible fall storm of 2010 this last weekend (boy, was that over exaggerated or what!) T and I were out in the garden putting it to bed for winter. Taking down the bean tepee and bean fencing, pulling the spent squash, pumpkin, and cauliflower plants (the goats were happy to get the treat). Digging up our potatoes was a really fun. We planted them mid May this year because we had moved into a new house and that's when we got the garden going. I would normally plant them in March or even February if the weather was right, but our garden was ready in May and I didn't want to lose my seed potatoes (they wouldn't make till next year). All I was hoping for was to increase the 22 seed potatoes to a few more for next year. We cut the plants back on 16 hills and waited a week for the skins to toughen a bit so they store better, we dug a surprising amount of potatoes, now I know a 5 gallon bucket is no world record, but I was certainly surprised. And then we dug the funniest monster of a potato I have ever seen (it reminds me of some kind of crystal in the way it has grown, don't you think?). Most of these are Rose Finn Fingerling with a few Ozette Fingerling here and there. I switched to the Rose Finns after growing Ozettes for a while. The Ozettes are a little dry and hard to clean because of all their eyes, the Rose Finns are a little more creamy and don't have as deep of eyes to hold the dirt. They both store well. After digging potatoes we replanted garlic in the space. I can't wait for homegrown garlic. Well, here's to the start of  a great winter garden!


In A Jam

I feel as though I am up to my eye balls in jam and in fact I almost am. For the last several days my sister and I have been smashing, stirring and steaming; strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries and cherries into a sweet decoration for our morning toast. I tried my first batch of freezer jams and it turn out great! I followed the SureGel pectin directions and can't wait to try it. Because the fruit and berry season is at hand, many of preserving supplies are on sale, I found the freezer containers for $2 for 5, not bad. The nice thing about freezer jams is you don't have to process the fruit as mush so the flavor and color hold up much better, the down side is I don't have a lot of freezer space, give and take. My sweet cherry recipe didn't turn out as well, it looks more like cherry syrup. It is so sad when your jam doesn't set, but you know it still taste the same. It usually means you didn't use enough pectin/sugar ratio or you didn't let it stay at a roiling biol long enough. I love to give jam away as gifts and detest buying it at the store and now I have made enough to satisfy both.


yummy snack

Saturday 3pm, three hungry boys (one being the husband), quick what's in the fridge? We had been playing and working outside all day. Lunch and food was forgotten in the beautiful sun and new slip 'n slide. The oldest announces he is hungry and the little one repeats "hungy!". I ran into the kitten chopped up some Kalamata olives (we always have some) mixed it with our goat cheese and sliced a baguette. It took 5 minutes and then you have a wonderful snack or great hors d'oeuvre to take to an event.
Traci's Goat Cheese Spread
      8 oz. Chevre
      1/3 cup Kalamata olives diced        
      2 T olive oil
      2 clove garlic diced
      salt and pepper to taste
mix all ingredients together and serve!
We have a lot of goat cheese because it is the easiest to make (milk goat's in the backyard). A friend came over and showed us this simple spread that her mom makes, we have taken it every where and it always gets great reviews.


A Step Up

I love this project so much, I know I am way more excited about it then anyone else will be. It is just so cool to have something go from being thrown out to being an original piece in your home. This was a foot stool that was in my grandparents home, it is some where between 35-50 years old, one of those items that hung around for no important reason. I took it home when my grandmother past away a year and a half ago with the plans to repaint it, it was a flaking  bright orange color. It took me awhile, but I did it. I wanted something the boys could carry, and I didn't want it to look like I bought it at a store, I think I hit the mark. With all the extra paint we had from our recent mini remodel, I had all the parts right at home. Stenciling the boys feet didn't work out as well as I had envisioned, but I am happy with the finished project. I drilled two hole in the top for some rope, as a handle, and voila!


Fresh & Clean

I finally got around to making laundry soap yesterday. One of those things that I have wanted to do for years , but never actually did it. I can't figure out what took me so long, it was so easy! I guess I was finally sick of spending over $15 a gallon at Costco for "natural soap" that I don't really know what's in it. The hardest part was choosing a recipe and finding Washing soda (apparently not the same as baking soda). In Washington state the best place to find washing soda is Fred Meyer. I also needed to find a container to hold the 2+ gallons of liquid laundry soap, and old laundry soap bucket with lid worked well. I had a junior high decorating moment, mostly to keep T from throwing my bucket out or using it for something else. I found many recipes for liquid laundry soap, almost all contained washing soda and borax. I used a recipe off  Tipnut.com. After I use up this batch I plan to try a different mix, but so far I really like this one.
Recipe #1 Liquid Laundry Soap

1 quart Water (boiling)
2 cups Bar soap (grated)
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. You can keep on low heat until soap is melted.
Pour the soap water into a large, clean pail and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
Add 2 gallons of water, stir until well mixed.
Cover pail and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry. Stir the soap each time you use it (will gel).

The first time I use a recipe I follow it close to get the correct feel and then play with the ingredients and amounts the next time around. I used Fels-Napths this time, but I think I will use one of my own homemade goat milk soaps next go 'round. It smells like what ever ground soap you use, so keep that in mind when choosing one, I think I might try some drops of essential oils next time too. Make sure and use a large pot to melt the soap on the stove, it will bubble up a lot. I tried to put it all in an old liquid soap pour container, this doesn't work as the soap almost instantly gels after you mix all the ingredients, I haven't figured out the best solution yet. Also, I haven't done the exact math, but I think for 2+ gallons, it cost less than 4 dollars, wow who could pass that savings up! My other laundry savings tip is to hang dry clothes, I only  use my dryer one in every 5 or 6 loads, that's a lot of energy savings and it's as easy as hanging up a shirt. You save more than money and energy, you save wear on your dryer and clothes and you're much less likely to shrink your favorite shirt. Rain or shine I move a folding rack on the deck or into the garage (next to the washer).Well, now on to dish soap.
And, more done on the sweater, one sleeve down one to go!



It does happen to be the solstice, but you wouldn't be able to tell by the weather we have been having around here. This is the wettest and coldest spring I can remember. I have to remind myself it is June because it sure does not feel like it. Regardless if it feels like, IT IS SUMMER!!! I love summer, I  think it is my favorite season, as a kid it was because my birthday is in July (not the motivating factor so much any more). I love the heat (when we get it) the family outings, the gardening and playing in the water. I believe the solstice is a special day and should be treated as a holiday (I know it is in other areas of the world, sadly not here) unfortunately for me today I feel under the weather, I guess so does the sun it seems. So, no bonfires or outdoor dancing for me today, I will be celebrating summer in spirit.On another note, you may have noticed I have been revamping my blog, blogspot had mad it so much easier. Due to this my blog had been getting whip lashed from my day to day whims, hope you don't. I know I will settle on the color and spacing I like soon, until then please be patient, I will be back with many improvements and awesome posts and projects. Do you like the new header picture, can you guess who's dirty feet those are? Well, lets all go and celebrate the growing season!!! P.S I have been working on my latest sweater. I can't remember what day I'm on, but I don't think this one will thake 6 plus months to finish.


2 rows forward, 10 rows back

 Well, it only took a day to loose my momentum. I had great progress to show you all and I even had the pictures to prove it. But, as I mulled over the the photos I saw a mistake, so I left the sweater and busied myself with something else. I haven't decided if I gave the sweater the cold shoulder in hopes it would fix itself or just to get used to the fact I had to pull most of it out (so sad). I did and it was fine, like I knew it would be, I mean it wasn't that many inches anyway (even though your body is screaming "No!" the whole time). So I won't go into how far I was before the confusion, now I'm at...
Day Three~ 1&1/4 inches and Row 12


Ready, Set, Go!

I am trying our a new motivational trick. I am going to blog my way through my next knitting project. I am going to knit my neice a sweater for this fall. I hope to document each day's progress in the attempt to expedite the project. The last baby sweater took over 6 months, lets not have that happen again. So here I go. I started the sweater yesterday waiting in the ferry line, thanks to an extra long ferry back up, I got further than expected The tiny tea leaves cardi by Melissa LaBarre, is a simple and very sweet top down sweater. The yarn is as local as you can get, it's called Moclips and is 25% mohair and 75% Coopworth lamb's wool, it actually comes from my shearing mentor (I thought this was too cool because my sister picked out the yarn). The only strange part about this pattern is how often you switch between needle sized, this is to get the puckered effect in the yoke. I am knitting size 2 for C, it will be large on her, but I am a very tight knitter so we will see. I did go up in needle sizes to account for my tension.
Day 1: sweater measurement to date~ 2 inches and on Row 16


another sweet hat

Baby hats are just the easiest thing to give as a gift at a shower. They don't take very long or very much yarn and who doesn't melt when you see a tiny sweet baby sporting a hand knit hat (ok, maybe not all hats). I try to have some knit in advance so all I have to do is pick the right one, right, in my dreams. A co-worker of T's is due in a couple of weeks and I always like to find new hat pattern or make one up as I go. This one is a little bit of both, it is a pattern from Hats Mittens and Scarves. It is kind of a cool book, well it's not a book at all, it's a box with a collection of patterns each on their own card, it makes it really easy to carry about. The hat is called a baby aviator hat, but after I finished it the top looked like it was missing something. So, I added a pompom and that's what made it look like it belonged in L.L. Bean's winter catalog. Yes I do know that we are going in into summer and being June already this hat might look a little silly. After it was blocked it loosened up some and I think it will fit this winter, of course that all depends on baby. Congrats A, you are in for the most wonderful times of your life! And of course Teddy was the only model who the hat would fit and the only one who would sit still for a photo shoot.


table top jungle

What a difference I couple of weeks makes. I was feeling stressed about not having the garden ready to plant yet so I relived it with some improvised seed starting. Even though we still have stacks of boxes and our living room looks like a storage locker, that all can wait (yes I know I sound a bit nuts), but the summer garden calls the shots in this house. The boxes are not going to sprout in a week when the weather gets sunny, although it does seem like they are multiplying, but my beets and cauliflower will. Before I could get into the garden I started some seeds on a table by the window so I wouldn't be too far behind. Zucchini, winter squash, crookneck squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatillos and basil and dill. It's really easy to start seed on the table, you need to remember squash and cucumbers do not like to have their roots disturbed, so that's why I used the peat pots, you plant the seedling and pot in the ground together. There is no need to spend the money on those pots for other seeds. I use the large trays with small individual seed cells year after year for herbs, cold crops, and anything that isn't too sensitive. A window will start your seeds just fine (assuming your house is warm enough, 65-70 degrees), you may find your plants getting "leggy" long and skinny. Most of the time they grow out of it, if they don't they will not be able to hold up the weight of their own fruit. They best thing for indoor starts is a grow light. Keep the light an inch above the plants, as the plants grow move the light up. The small, standing, shelf green houses are great, inexpensive and for most people plenty of room for all the starts you want. I bought my tomatoes this year, I bought small plants, you usually get three for $2ish, I replanted them into larger pots and put them in the window (it's too early here to put them out). Remember when repotting tomatoes and tomatillos to pull off the bottom leaves and plant as far up the stem as you can, leaving three or four leaves on the top. It will help make strong thick stalks. In two weeks you have a whole garden that cost a lot less then buying all those starts, not to mention family and friends love the left overs! Did you catch the little garden helper in the pics? My boys are excellent garden helper, we will see if I say the same when all the garden goodies disappear before making it to the table.
P.S when using basil off a grown plant snip a whole stalk off, cut the stem right above the bud above the dirt. Your plant will spout many more stalks off this cutting. If you your plant starting to go to seed (flower columns coming off the top) snip these off.


Cotton Tail

These long breaks really put a dent in blogging. I know I'll get a pattern down sooner or later and maybe get some regular readers. For now presenting... yet another oh so cute baby hat from Itty Bitty Hats by Susan B. Anderson, who it turns out, while I was writing this blog I discovered, has her own blog on blogspot http://susanbanderson.blogspot.com/, how cool! I totally plan on becoming a faithful reader because if her blogs are half as good as her books then we are in for a treat. For Bunny Hat, as my brother-in-law would say I went shopping in my stash and came up with this soft, multi-color (pink, white and brown) DK yarn and held a strand of white Kid Silk Haze with it to add a soft "halo" effect. It turned out very sweet, I would use white ribbon for the bows next time, but in the move I still have not unpacked that box and have no idea where it might be residing. This was a very belated gift for little Mikalya (spelling?) to wear this coming winter.


Love and Logic

I don't have any fun projects to show you today, none that are done anyway. I am always working on a few here and there, it's just the type "A" in me that won't let myself share them when they're not finished. So I decided to share a parenting gem. Jim Fay and his son Dr. Charles Fay are parenting gurus and use a very simple, loving and logical manner to empower yourself, kids and family to live peacefully. It's called Love and Logic http://www.loveandlogic.com/ and it's used not only in homes but through out the education systems in schools. It is for all age ranges and is easy to pick and choose what works for you and apply it to any situation. They have books on tape and DVDs along with books concerning all age ranges and issues. I grew up on love and logic and now we use it to the best of our ability in our house.


Great Idea

You never know where each day or weekend is going to take you. You make your plans and to do lists, but if you're anything like us, you rarely stick to them. We are always flying by the seat of our pants, where ever the wind blows!
On Friday evening we cut the garden space and berry beds out of the lawn with a sod cutter, which worked great by the way! Anyway, Saturday morning we had a surprise visit from a couple of friends and after feeding them and chatting a bit about what to do with all that sod someone had an epiphany. Who am I kidding, I'm not going to be modest in the least, that incredibly creative idea came from yours truly (only I was half joking when I said it). I was teasing when I said lets make a play house for the boys out of it. Boy, did that get the ball rolling, the ideas just came pouring out (not just mine anymore). After we make a house, let make the three section compost bin I've always wanted (thanks Alan!) and then lets make the goat shelter out of sod and... Now I don't think we have enough sod to cover all those project, but doesn't it all sound cool. As we cut, hauled and stared to build the boys' play house someone said " you know, this is just what the settlers did" minus the gas powered sod cutter, the truck to haul the sod and the rebar to hold it up. We did have lots of sod, dirt and help,which I am sure is the way the settlers did it, thanks guys!
You know I just love the idea more and more, a living structure could be so much more beautiful and inconspicuous in our backyard. By no means are we finished yet so we will have to let you know how it all turns out (keep your fingers crossed). Here's to shelters growing every bit!

Inspirational Growing Quotes

"Gardening requires lots of water-most of it in the form of perspiration."
~ Lou Erickson, www.quotegarden.com