knitting and a road trip!

I've been knitting……

We're headed to cool Alaskan summer weather in a few weeks and new hats are in order 🙂

First up is the super cute Stature hat I found over at Petite Purls. Knit with Brown Sheep cotton fleece yarn.

stature
 

My big two kids are going on a solo adventure…. no parents…. no family…. to a Fine Arts Camp. TWO weeks without their mom, whatever will they do?? 

Yes, I know, they'll have an amazing time. And while honestly it really kills me a little to know I won't see the end of camp performance…. I am so happy that they get to enjoy this amazing opportunity.

But, they certainly needed hand knits to keep their heads warm…. to look cool…. and to take a little piece of mama love with them…. (okay maybe that last one was what I needed)

The Eldest's seed stitch hat from Luxury Yarn One Skein Wonders knit up in a superwash merino yarn he picked out from the Net Loft. (Cascade Yarns)

seed stitch 1
    

seed stitch 2 

  

A funky bulky beret for my artsy girl. It's a tam/beret sort of hat. Super quick and easy and my girl has been twisting her hair up into a bun and tucking it under that hat and looking far to grown up…. this one was knit up with two strands of Pure Wool Giotto uruguay single ply. (pattern here) My changes can be found in my Ravelry notes.

bulky beret 1 

  

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And right now I'd better get moving….. there's a huuuuuuuuge list of "to-do's" staring at me to get ready for our weekend road trip camping extravaganza. An eight hour drive to Texas to go to the Kerville Folk Festival. The Indigo girls are playing, along with a ton of other super talented folks that I can't wait to listen to. Four full days of sun and music and food….. yeah-hoo!!

kerrville folk fest

See you next week!

     

Monday Bites ~ Fresh Spring Rolls

edamame monster
 

Another summer favorite….. we eat these year round but they are even more satisfying when it’s too darn hot to turn the oven on. 

This is one of those kind of sort of recipes…. I hope you don’t mind.

The idea is to be able to whip these up with random veggies in your fridge…. 

Dip them in some peanut sauce and serve with steamed rice or edamame. Even our little guy gobbles these up. The texture of the rice wraps is sort of funny…. like a giant rice stick noodle…. but we love it. And we pretend we can’t hear the Eldest (aka food critic) ask “don’t you think octopus skin would be stretchy like this.” Ahhh yes, the dynamics of cautious preschool eaters and sarcastic teenage eaters was not considered when designing this family (!)

So if you’ve eaten these in a restaurant or if you’re brave enough to try them even after reading my son’s lovely comment, we would love to know what you think.

Good fresh raw food, perfect for summer eating.

     

Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

1 package of rice paper wraps, they look like hard funny tortillas

2 or more types cabbage 

green onions sliced into bits

carrots and/or broccoli stems julienned (3 or 4 of each)

a good asian salad dressing (just a tiny bit)


*optional goodies* 

sesame seeds

cilantro (about half a bunch chopped a bit)

bean sprouts

finely diced tofu

grated ginger


Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup water

Bragg Amino (or soy sauce to taste)

garlic & ginger to taste (fresh or powdered spices both work well)

1 TBSP lime juice (or to taste)

1 tsp honey

asian chili sauce or cayenne powder if you like some spice


I like to use red/purple cabbage and green cabbage in my rolls. I am sure you could add crunchy lettuces as well. Napa cabbage & bok choy are also yummy. You’ll need to cut up at least 1/2 each of the two cabbages. Toss it in a big mixing bowl that measures the volume. 1 cup of veggies = 4 spring rolls. They aren’t that great the next day so just make as many as you’ll eat right away. My kids will eat about 4 or 5 of these when served with edamame. About half that when served with rice. The big kids and adults can easily polish of 8 or 10. 

Julienne the carrots & broccoli, slice the cabbage up real thin and chop the onions. I make a few onion free ones for my littlest guy. If you like Thai food, don’t skip the cilantro…. it is my favorite part of these! Add the dressing a tablespoon at time to the chopped veggies until you like the flavor. It should be very lightly flavored, not soggy with dressing. Add the bean sprouts and sesame seeds and whatever else you like in here.

Now is the fun part. You take a pan of luke warm water and soak the wraps until they are just pliable. Lay the rice wrap on the counter and put a generous scoop (1/4 cup ish) of cabbage in the middle. Fold the sides inward. Fold the top down and then securely wrap the bottom around as tightly as you can without ripping the wrap. I found a good video here to show how to roll these up.

This is more fun with help!

Mix the peanut sauce ingredients together. If I am using fresh garlic and ginger I use a food processor to blend the garlic up. Start with one clove of garlic and one tsp fresh grated ginger and add more to your liking. If using dried spices start with a 1/2 tsp of each. My Bragg is in a squirt bottle and I start with 3 or 4 squirts. Add more or less depending on how salty you want it to be. Also, I like to everything but the peanut butter & Bragg(soy sauce) to the water and mix it up and then add the peanut butter. When the mixture is smooth I add a few squirts of Bragg and taste test to find the right saltiness flavor. I make the whole recipe and then split in half, making one spicy for us hot food lovers. The sauce keeps for a few days in the fridge (at least a week) and is also quite yummy over rice. Or eaten with a spoon.

I hope this recipe isn’t to vague. This easily becomes one of those toss random things into it sort of recipes.

Enjoy!

*ps ~ if you make a veggie filling saves well for about 2 days. 

     

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more bugs….

Guess What?

We found another bug no one likes 🙂

These are Salt Marsh Caterpillars and they are known for wreaking havoc on crops and in the swamp. These huge fuzzy caterpillars are everywhere at our favorite outdoor place to visit. The kids had great fun playing with them. Well, except for the white ones which seems to have stinging hairs on them…… that one was promptly dropped…. lesson learned. Fortunately the sting wasn't bad….. the longer we live here the more amazed I am by all the bugs!

caterpillar one
     

caterpillar two
     

caterpillar fun
     

stinging caterpillar
     

caterpillar four
     

spider
This is a banana spider….. they get HUGE!!      

  

By far my favorite thing to take pictures of is my kids out there exploring nature. Watching them look at each little creepy crawlie and plant and bird and whatever else is on their path. I'm sure many of you have heard of or read Last Child in the Woods. The book talks about all the things kids miss out on in a nature deprived childhood and how important it is for kids to develop a relationship with nature. So many kids are spending so little time outside. How can we teach our kids to save the world if they don't know it? If they don't know the smell of the earth and the feel of a slippery frog. The noise of different sized rocks splashing into the water. The excitement of watching a huge bird glide over the water to catch a fish. 

Nature seems to be an extension of my children…. like another finger or toe! Something they are in every day. And while we may not live in the most ideal situation…. you know the farm with 20 acres and apple trees to climb in… the kids don't complain… they just play outside for hours. Digging up dirt. Rescuing dragonflies that make their way into the patio. Munching herbs in the garden and finding bugs. So many bugs. 

And as I watch them run down a gravel path looking for caterpillars and shrieking with excitement and carefully hop or pause so as not to step on one…. noticing that itsy bitsy caterpillar beneath their rumbling feet… my heart swells up a bit. Because you know, it's not about the bugs. It's about that level of awareness and empathy for all the little creatures…. to see even the smallest of things. These kids will no doubt do great things one day…. and I'm sure that many of you that stop by here have got a few in your house that are just as amazing.

  

Happy Weekend Friends 🙂

   

{ps ~ gypsy forest bags were featured over at Free Spirit Knits…. take a peek….. thank you Shannon!}

false ladybugs

I mistakenly thought these little beetles were ladybugs, but upon researching found that they were not.

They do eat aphids and don't seem to bother my plants, but they are the not so much appreciated Asian Beetle.

Some people even squish these little guys they dislike them so much….

Like or dislike though, we've been intrigued by their reproduction cycle and all the amazing changes their bodies go through. We thought you might like to see it…. no worries…. it's rated G. And narrated by my little Miss Seven….

  

  

  

Asian Beetles ~ By Miss Seven

(false ladybugs)

  

larvae 

This is a larvae Asian Beetle. The mama beetle lays her eggs under a leaf. At first the larvae is small and black, then it gets bigger and starts to turn orange. They eat aphids. This one is on an eggplant leaf.

        

pupa
 This is a pupa. The larvae sticks itself to the leaf and its outside gets hard. Inside it turns into a a false ladybug. They don't move when they're in this stage.  When they're done changing some of the shell stays on the leaf, but it's empty. One time I found one like this. The grown up beetle comes out of the back part.

     

asian beetle 

This is an adult false ladybug (Asian Beetle) . They sometimes eat ladybugs and they eat bad bugs and sometimes their own kind too. That makes them cannibals! But they don't hurt the plants in our garden. They stink when they get squished. I don't really squish them, I just let them crawl on me and then I flick them off.

(I asked her) How can you tell if it is a false ladybug or a ladybug?

Ladybugs always have seven dots and false beetles can have more or less than seven.

Ladybugs have a black head and false ladybugs have white and black heads.

Ladybugs are red and false ladybugs are orange.

   

And that's the story of false ladybugs.

     

Mango Mint Margaritas

mango mint margaritas
 

  

I had planned to share these next week for a long overdue Monday Bites recipe…..

But somehow these margaritas just seem more like a weekend sort of thing….

so even though it probably isn't hot & muggy at your place…. it is at ours.

So pretend it's summer and enjoy…..

mmmmmm……

     

Mango Mint Margaritas

2-3 shots Tequila

1 shot Triple Sec

1/4 cup lime-aid (the frozen concentrate)

a splash or two of lime juice (optional, but worth it!)

1 ripe mango peeled & de-seeded

1 big hand full of garden fresh mint (1-2 big sprigs of it)

ice to top off blender

Toss everything in the blender. Blend. Add a bit of water if the margaritas are too stiff. Makes a blender full.  Maybe with enough mint it could even count as a green smoothie?? Okay, maybe not….

I served mine to the hubby in a salted mason jar…. it seemed somehow fitting for southern margaritas.

Don't you think?

Happy Weekend my friends 😉

  

mason jar
 

a busy bunch

open mouth…

bite off huge chunk….

attempt to chew.

Yep, that's the way it goes sometimes.  And this is just one of those times. Lots going on. All good stuff mind you, but lots none the less. As I look back over the last several summers I notice I do this every year before going to visit my mom. Re-organize. Clean. Sew. Knit. Re-organize some more. 

And truthfully, part of it is the heat that is looking us square in the eyes. When we get home in July it will be inside weather and I want the house to be ready for us. 

So the craft closet has been reorganized….. and my closet…. and my sewing stash…. and my knitting stash… and the rather droll list goes on and on…..

but today I wanted to share some the fabulous beeswax creations made by the girls…. you see when you clean out the craft cupboard you find things that were hiding….. 

modeling
  

little wax figures
   

mama & baby
  

peapod baby gnome
  

Did you notice the mama with the beehive hairdo carrying her baby on her back….. love it! That last one is a "baby peapod gnome". The girls were busy for quite sometime modeling. Note to self :: Modeling is more fun in warm weather when the wax is easily pliable, as opposed to winter in WI. Who knew?

As for me I've been sewing clothes, repairing our camp chairs…. and I picked up two road side chairs that I plan to fix for our patio. Anyone else pick up other people's garbage? Fortunately my husband is a good sport about my hobby…. and better still my hurky teenage son is happy to help lug the stuff to the car…

So, have you ever repaired those fold up camp chairs? Ours had holes and one a giant rip….. every time you sat it got a little bigger…. so I figure I could sort of put a giant patch over them…. 

Step one, disassemble…

disassemble
  

there are usually screws hiding under the arms and on the back…. this chair had 4 total…

remove here
  

then you need to zigzag stitch over every little rip, tear and  campfire burn….

patch it

most importantly while still in the process of fixing the above chairs, you must find at least two road side chairs in need of new seats…. 

road side find

and last, but not least, let your teenage son sew scraps or nothingness with the serger while you sew a dress. I know, I was repairing chairs… but I got distracted…. those teenagers are really, truly a funny bunch….. somehow strangely familiarly to me… hmmmm…..

teenager
  

slightly sarcastic candid shot by dad, optional. And yes, my boy is really dwarfing me as this photo shows… he's at least 6 or 7 inches taller than his mama. (5 foot 9 Grandma!)

Stay tuned for finished chair projects!! 

    

field trip (sort of)

Years ago when we decided to start homeschooling I asked a seasoned friend for some advice…..

this last week I realized the importance of one piece of that advice :

"When everything is going wrong, drop everything and get out of the house. Call it a field trip if necessary, but pack everyone up and go."

We recently had one of those days. Nothing was going right. Despite my best of intentions, by 9:30 I really only liked the Eldest and that's because he was still asleep. Loved all of them, mind you. But like, well sometimes like is tough. 

That little tidbit of advice magically made it to my brain…… and even more magically still, my brain decided it was the best course of action. And so, I woke up the Eldest. Wrangled the other lovelies to the car. And set off with my camera and a big cup of coffee. If I could take pictures while driving you could all see the looks on my children's faces as we pulled into the donut shop. Oh yes. Donuts. Some sort of ultra-refined soaked in hydrogenated oil sort of food I'm sure. But our town has a rockin' little mom & pop's sort of place that sells fresh homemade donuts. Only until 10 a.m. We walked in at 9:55 and they were still smiling at customers. Each kid picked a donut and we set of to the beach. Nutritionally speaking, I had completely voided the green smoothies I had fed them for breakfast…. but at least they had some room to run off all that sugar.

IMG_4329
     

donut 

     

mama fuel
  

swamp trees 

  

piggyback
 
  
 

And you know, somehow the change of scenery and the fresh outdoors made us all feel a little better. Of course if you ask my kids, they will tell you it was the donuts.

Happy Weekend Folks….. 

     

seeing green

water, water, weed, water…..

banana pepper 

 banana pepper

    

It's been the morning routine. Little blossoms have shown their faces and now we're starting to be extra nerdy around these parts….. by we I mean mostly me. This garden has become a near obsession. Every little bit of it gets checked over daily by many sets of eyes. Checking for bugs and anything else less that might damage our green little lovelies. Seriously, it is an obsession. I can tell you how many leaves are on each of the eggplants I nourished back to health. The approximate amount of days it takes for a flower on my roma tomato to show fruit. I have been watching ladybugs grow from larvae to pupa to adult. 

I'm loving it.

romas 

 roma tomatoes

    

IMG_4388

lemons

      

I have checked out nearly every book on gardening from my library. {And can I just say that I adore my library? It may not have the selection I was spoiled with in Duluth, but I can search for and request books online and have a pile of books waiting for me. I love it. And the ladies that work there are ever so sweet.} I just picked up a 1970's gardening book titled Grow It, and though I've just read the first few pages, I am definitely digging it. First of all, it's from the 70's….. which makes it awesome….. secondly the first few words both resonated with me and had me laughing out loud….

"Perhaps not since the fall of Babylon have so many city dwellers wanted to "return" to the country without ever having been there in the first place. For the first time, the new generation reverses youth's traditional flow toward the city in search of opportunity. A cry of "back to the soil, back to real life" leads the exodus."  ~Richard W. Langer, Grow It 1972

Does that sound a bit familiar to anyone else? I figure either I missed my era, which is likely, or there is possibly, hopefully, a resurgence of these people?? These back-to-the-land-ers. People happy to trade a Starbuck's latte for squishing aphids.  People wanting to clean a chicken coop. Or at least grow a ton of food in their own back yard. 

I mean, you are out there right? 'Cause darn it I'm going to need to find myself some good neighbors in a few short years! 

eggplant blossom

eggplant blossom

      

I love the science involved in mixing up dirt, foliar feeding, pinching off suckers, fertilizing…… good bugs…. bad bugs…. all of that. Watching that first eggplant blossom bloom and being awed at it's beautiful purple color….. I hadn't ever seen an eggplant in the garden! I love watching my wild three year old gently search for tomatoes among the leaves….. and then get his foliar spray bottle and shoot the plants. My girls are growing herbs to attract fairies and making up recipes for teas to try. The eldest plucking weeds and checking for bugs and reminding the mama to water. It's been such a great hobby for our family to take up. 

figs

more little figs are growing

      

So if it's just planting season now where you are, and you're sitting on the fence about giving it a try. Just do it. Buy some tomatoes & herbs. Some sort of fruit tree if you have room. Farmer's Markets often have organic seedlings to sell this time of year! Start small or jump in. But do it. You'll thank me later :) 

    

Monday Bites ~ Dinner Salads

Oh my…..

the heat has arrived…

or more accurately the humidity. We sadly moped towards all the open windows and shut them one by one and turned on the AC beast. With the exception of 2 days we made it until May 1st without turning the AC on…. and we've got it set at 78 during the day and 76 at night. So it still feels like summer inside. It's funny living somewhere that you shut the windows and eventually south facing blinds for several summer months out of the year. Something I am not quite sure I will ever adjust to. The first day of the sticky heat left none of us wanting a warm supper…. so I rummaged around in the fridge and came up with this. 

Dinner Salad. I know it isn't original, nor is it really a recipe, but it was wonderful!

I try to cook a batch of beans on a weekly basis and then store them in the fridge. This is such a cheap and healthy protein option. I highly suggest doing this for easy meals. We make tostadas, burritos, bean dip and throw them in salads. Some of us even toss them with a little vinaigrette and eat them by the bowl full.

For a dinner salad I think protein in the form of hard boiled eggs or beans is important. Home grown sprouts, cheese, olives, summer squash, something orange & red. Make it colorful! Add some fresh herbs and anything else you have in your garden. Let the kids chop up the veggies. I toss my lettuce & herb greens with a wee little bit dressing, caesar is our favorite, which weighs the salad down… which gets more greens onto the plates! (shhhhh) We also put all the different "toppings" in bowls so the kids can make their own salad creations. Serve it with a loaf of fresh whole grain bread and softened butter and you have a wonderful easy summer time meal. 

Enjoy 🙂

summer salad