Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dueling Spiders

Spark noticed these two spiders fighting when he was out feeding the cat tonight. 

We thought the big spider had a dinner wrapped up ready to eat and the other spider was trying to get it for himself.  But when we came in, down loaded the pictures and cropped them, we saw that it was it's body.  A big furry body.  Eeeewwwww.

I hope they stay up in the corner of the porch and don't crawl into the house!  Double eeeewwwww.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Slowly we are coming to terms with this

That we have to start school soon.  Math has been going on for a while so that doesn't really count, one subject, we can be done in less than an hour and get on with our day. 

This morning Spark and I were up early and went for a walk in an attempt to start getting our morning off to an earlier start.  Nothing too radical, 7:45.  This year, it seems, we have a few things that are going to be in the morning making us need to adjust our internal clocks a little bit.  We have to work to get somewhere by 10:00 a.m. so this change is necessary of us to fit into the schedule that most Americans keep.

Next step closer to reality was cleaning out and organizing the homeschool cabinet.  The cabinet sits in our dining room and we use it to stuff things in to get them off the table when company is coming.  We pulled out all the books we aren't going to be using this year and brought them downstairs to the bookshelves, found some to bring to bring to the food shelf (a lot of the other families that help also homeschool), and threw a couple of bags of old papers and books away.  Then all the new books got lined up neatly, we will see how long that lasts, for the new year. 

We also found 26 partially used notebooks.  Dancer now has no fear that she is going to run out of paper to figure out her math problems on.  She tries to do four and five step problems in her head which is impossible to keep track of and still get the right answer.   I remember in math class the teacher saying "show your work," which they wanted down the littlest detail.  Now I know why, as I hear myself saying over and over, "show your work."  I always assure her that if we run out of the paper for that purpose that I will happily buy more.  It will be one of those things Dancer will grow up and say "My mom always said... and it drove me nuts!"

Another find was a ruler, a simple 12 inch ruler.  I don't know where they go, but somewhere in our house there has to be a huge pile of rulers.   Maybe they are with the flashlights we can never find when the lights go out.

The announcement for the YMCA gym class came through today which completes all the extra activities we will be doing for this fall.  Both of the kids will be in Awana, there is a church by us that goes up to 9th grade, gym classes at the YMCA, and 4-H.  Dancer will also be in a tap dance class and her book club.  Spark is going to be involved in another gym class, this is one of those morning ones, and flag football.

Will we be able to make a true start next Tuesday?  I don't know, we will see how the weather is.  If it is nice out maybe we will just do math and go for a bike ride! 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

New car

Here it is, our new to us car.  We didn't want a new car, but we were starting to wonder if we were going to make it to where we were going in the old one.   In fact, next week when we need to go to the state fair, we were wondering if we should rent something to be sure we got there and back.  New to us too will be car payments, 60 of them.  We haven't had those for a few years and enjoy it that way.  Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.  We all loved our old car.  I loved the interior, it was comfortable and familiar.   We have lots of good memories associated with that car.  Spark actually cried that we were leaving our old car at the dealer.  He had to touch her license plate one more time before we could drive off.

On to the good parts of a new car.  It starts right away when the key is turned without complaining first.  The steering doesn't make any noise when you turn the wheel.  There is no clunking as we drive down the road.  The air works all the time.  It gets better gas mileage.  It has about 80,000 miles less than our old one.  I am sure we will be sad when it is time to trade this one as well.

A lot had changed since we got the last car.  When we were looking at cars then, we were looking for something Spark's car seat would fit into.  This time we are looking for one with enough leg room in the back so that as he gets taller he will fix comfortably.  We lived in a different house.  I was still running a child care.   And thousand of other details has changed.  Now I wonder what changes will take place in our lives when we own this one.  Dancer will probably be in college, Spark in high school.  We could get something new and this would become one of their cars.  Hopefully we aren't grandparents but I suppose it could happen.  What ever changes come our way I hope we are healthy and happy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

She makes her needs known

Every night when we come out of the house with the milker to go to the barn to milk the goats, Vidalia springs into action.  While we are milking she waits outside the side barn door, for some reason she doesn't like to go in the barn.  When we come out with the bucket she starts meowing, meowing, meowing and running around our legs all the way back to the house.  While we are straining the milk, she stands at the slider door and meows, meows, meows.  She keeps this meowing up until she gets her bowl of fresh, warm milk.  She knows what she wants and she isn't shy about asking for it.

I may never understand boys

I watched all this through the bathroom window while the kids were going out to do chores and I was washing my hands to getting ready to go out to milk.  Spark runs through the clothes hanging in rows on the clothes line.  His hat gets caught on a shirt and falls off on his way through.  He acts as though he is coming to a screeching halt, turns around, spies his hat on the ground and like a football player who has the ball, runs back to the clothes line.  Just before he gets to his hat he dives on the ground for it.  On top of his hat he starts wrestling with it like it is alive and dramatically slams it back on his head.  He then gets up, turns and runs off towards the barn like nothing happened.  Girls don't do that sort of thing, at least Dancer and I don't.

A new bible

My bible is falling apart, right in the middle of 2 Corinthians the pages are coming out of the binding.  In it's defense it is over 13 years old and I do open it at least once every day.  Often it gets opened more than once a day because it is the bible we usually use for family reading and studying.  I am not surprised that it broke in the New Testament as that is where I enjoy reading the most. 

I had a hard time giving up using this bible, even though it is now hard to read in bed with the pages sagging below the cover.  For one thing, it was the bible I got new when Dancer was a baby.  I like to write thoughts in the margins, underline passages and stuff it with little clippings, book marks, etc. that inspire me or people have given to me.  I had hoped that it would make it through the 22 years I will be doing hands-on parenting so I could look back through it after the kids were grown and see what encouraged or spoke to me during this season in life.  I also loved that it was purple.  The cover was purple and the book names and chapters were in purple.  In fact, one of the reason I chose the bible was because it was purple.  It also had a few extra details I liked.  It had devotions for moms and list of things to pray for for your children.  I also loved that it was broken in just for me.  It opened right up to Proverbs, my favorite Psalms, and other spots I read most.

The last few weeks I have been bible shopping.  At first I would look at all the bibles and then decide mine would make it a little longer.  Then when I decided, no, I need a new one unless I want to resort to putting a rubber band around mine and having it be loose leafed.  What  I didn't expect was how hard it would be to pick a one out.  First off, I couldn't find a purple one.  The bible I have is still printed but it has a new cover and a new color scheme.   

From here my search got more complicated as I realized  how many bibles there are available.  There are bibles for every kind of devotion you might want intermingled in it's pages.  There are bibles that have a schedule in them to get them read in 90 days, or a year, or what ever time frame you want to read it in.  Famous t.v. religious personalities have put out bibles with their names on them.  There are Catholic bibles, student bibles, teen bibles, kids bibles, recovery bibles, and so on.  I even found a bible for sportsmen that was waterproof.  That was a heavy bible, I would never had been able to hold it up to read it in bed.  I guess if I were a sportsman I would be stronger?  Maybe sportsmen only read sitting up?

A new consideration I have this time looking for a bible, that I didn't have last time, is that I have over 40 year old eyes.  Any bible with little print goes right back on the shelf.  Thin pages you can see through, right back on the shelf.  A font that has thin letters, right back on the shelf.  I need big bold letters with pages you can't see through or else I need bifocal glasses, I am trying to put off getting the bifocal glasses.  I know there are large print bibles but I also want to put that off until bifocal glasses are no longer the answer.

I ended up choosing a plain brown bible with all black print in the same font and non see through pages as my beloved purple bible.  It even has the same footnotes.  I have noticed though, after using it for one night, that the passages are not in the same spots.  I didn't realize I even knew what sides of the pages verses were on or how many words were each of the lines, but I guess I do.

I am sure in time this one will start to feel familiar in my hands.  If not, I can always go get those bifocals.   

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pajamas - The hottest new trend in homeschool fashion

There has been a ad running on t.v. for an online college where a girl is spouting how great the college is because she gets to "go" to class in her pajamas.  This is the selling point the ad is using to entice people to apply to this college.  Hopefully that isn't the best thing about the college, but that is neither here nor there.  Homeschool kids, at least mine, have been doing school in their pajamas since Kindergarten.  My kids will even get dressed to go out and do barn chores, then come back in and put their pajamas back on.  Maybe the next time I am asked why we homeschool I will simply answer, "Pajamas." 

Dancer is in the newspaper

Dancer's picture, which was taken during our field trip yesterday, was chosen to be in the Humane Society article in the paper.  We saw it on-line so now we will have to run into town and pick up a few papers.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

All the puppies are clean

We went on a tour of the area Humane Society this afternoon with some wonderful homeschool friends. 

The kids got to hold kittens, and of course, right away they thought they need one.  The Humane Society just happen to be having a 2 for 1 sale on cats, how convenient was that?  We did not, however, get another cat.  The newspaper was there taking pictures to do a story on the over flowing cat population they have at the moment and Dancer had her picture taken playing with one of the kittens so maybe she will get in the article.  A couple of other kids had their pictures taken too so we will see who they pick to put in the story.

On to the puppy room.  They got to take a dog out to go potty and for a walk.  They were so excited about it.  Why don't they fight over who gets to take the dog out at home?  Sometimes I have to threaten them to get them to do it.  Sheesh.  They also got to bathe a few of the dogs.  Spark said they told his group that they give them a bath everyday.  It seems kind of excessive but maybe that is the only way to keep it smelling half way decent.  They have a lot of animals in and out of there everyday so maybe the new ones get a bath too.  For instance, yesterday they had nine adoptions and 12 surrenders.  They normally have about 100 animals at a time so that is a lot of turn over from day to day and a lot to clean up after.  The dogs all have big kennels that are half inside and half outside, and they sleep on little camping cots so that must help keep the animals clean.  There were also big industrial side washer and driers running so they must wash all the blankets every day, each dog had their own blanket on their cots or the cats in their cages.

The kids picked up the newsletter and inside were some funny dog dictionary words, I will share a few of them.

Leash:  A strap that attaches to your collar, enabling you to lead your person where you want him/her to go.

Sniff:  A social custom to use when you greet other dogs until your person makes you stop.

Bicycles:  Two-wheeled exercise machines invented for dogs to control body fat.  To get maximum aerobic benefits, you must hide behind a bush and dash out, bark loudly and run alongside for a few yards; the person then swerves and falls into the bushes, and you complete the exercise by prancing away. 

Thunder: A signal that the world is coming to an end.  Humans remain amazingly calm during thunderstorms, so it is necessary to warn them of the danger by trembling uncontrollably panting, peeing on the rug, rolling your eyes wildly and following at their heels.

Bath:  A process by which the humans drench the floor, walls, and themselves.  You can help by shaking vigorously and frequently.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Help yourself

I mentioned the other day that is really wet here and we had to let the chickens out of the coop because there was no way to make it dry and they were standing in mud.  They have been making their way around the yard, pecking here and there, enjoying the bugs and what the garden has to offer.  They have been so busy we haven't hardly even seen them.  They did make one appearance.  I was in the bedroom, which shares a wall with the front porch, and I hear all this clucking.  I assumed that they must have found something good because when one of them does they call to the others so I didn't give it much thought.  We were getting ready to leave and when we opened the front door here is what we saw.

They found something alright, the cat food.  They had the container tipped over and we were really going after it.  Once we came out they ran off, I think they know I don't like them on the front step, but it was too late, the container was empty and they had full crops.

Golfing or shopping, shopping or golfing

When Dad was young he lived to golf,  36 holes a day was the norm for him.  In high school, in the spring and summer, we never went out until after 8:00 p.m., at the earliest, because he was golfing.  I think I spent more time waiting for him to get done golfing than I actually did with him.  I tried to love golfing since my boyfriend loved it but I just don't.  I would get out to the course and see people coming in and think, look at those lucky buggers, they are done and get to go home and I have 9 holes to go.  I would rather wait for him to get done than go with.  He was good enough to get on the golf team when he was in college.  Then a terrible thing happened.  He was hitting a 3 wood off the fairway and his shoulder just fell out of the socket.  He was a freshman and the season hadn't even started yet, they were still in preseason practice.  His golfing career was done before it ever got started.  He did however, have the honor of being the only golf injury the university has ever had.  His shoulder still falls out every once in a while, sometimes even from rolling over in bed.  He just twists his shoulder  and puts it back in, no sling or going to the doctor anymore.   Turns out his shoulder socket isn't as big or deep as it should be and the only way to fix it is surgery.  Not being really interested in that option he resorted to being a recreational golfer, then when Dancer was born he pretty much just stopped because of time constraints of being a dad. 

Fastforward 13 plus years to next week, his unit at the  hospital is having a golf tournament and he got put on a team.  His parents live in a place where they have a free private golf course.  He ventured way to the back of the garage and came out his dusty, grimy clubs and went down to his parents today to practice.  He said he did pretty good.  The funny thing about golfers is they never think they play good enough,  how is this a fun game? 

Since Dad was golfing with Grandpa, the kids and I picked up Grandma and went shopping in the Twin Cities.  There is a reason I don't like to go there and I really don't like to go there on the weekend.  I must have forgotten that today, we saw so many near misses with cars and also almost had two crashes ourselves.  To add to the frustration it is hard to drive in the traffic and look for the stores we wanted to go to.  I don't go there often enough to know exactly where things are, thankfully the kids have great memories and they know their way around better than I do.  I was never so happy to pull into Grandma and Grandpa's driveway in one piece. To make it even more sweet, Dad and Grandpa had dinner all ready and waiting for us, brats on the grill, and the kids took a swim in the pool until the mosquitos drove us out. All in all, a bad day shopping is better than a good day golfing.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Houston, we have a rhythmic breather

Last year at swimming lesson during homeschool gym at the YMCA, Spark was unable to pass his level because of rhythmic breathing.  We decided to pull him out of swim lessons because there is no where to practice rhythmic breathing in the winter.  Our thought was we could work on it this summer and he could try again in the fall.  Well, fall is fast approaching and we hadn't done any work this area, so the last couple of days we have been hitting the beach for him to get some practice in.

We went early this morning, 9:30 a.m. but that's early enough, and this was the beautiful scene we saw when we pulled up in the car.   It was so humid the sun hadn't burned through the fog from the night yet.  We were the only ones there so it was like our own private beach.  A lot of times if we go before noon we have the place to ourselves.

As we were swimming this loon came about 20 feet from us and put on a little show flexing his wings and just being graciously stunning and beautiful.  Of course, by the time I tried to inconspicuously wade back to shore the get the camera with the hopes of getting some close up shots of him, he dove back down under the water.  Dad was able to get this one from shore to show how close he was to us.

And then the real reason we were there, Spark made some serious progress on learning how to rhythmic breath!    A few more times and he should be good to go for lessons this fall.

Peanut butter tomato toast

Peanut butter tomato toast is one of our favorite ways to eat tomatoes.  The moistness of the tomato blends perfectly with the melty peanut butter.  Mmmmm, summer at it's finest. 

This was a regular breakfast at my house growing up and I thought the whole world ate tomatoes and toast this way.  I was surprised to find out they didn't.  After all, I grew up in a neighborhood where one of the old guys ate radish sandwiches and drank thick buttermilk by the glassful (ewww), so we were the normal eaters in the neighborhood.  Now when I mention it though people give me the sideways look......that is until they try it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wet, wet, wet, damp, damp, damp

It is wet here and what isn't wet is damp.  It reminds me a camping trip where rains everyday and you know how it feels in the tent.  It feels blech.

Another storm rumbled through last night and had us in the basement at 1:00 a.m. hoping the roof wouldn't fly off.  The roof stayed on but the storm dropped over an inch of rain on us.   That inch doesn't count the amount we have gotten slowly since the storm last Friday.  Yesterday there was four inches in the gauge and today another one and a half.  We had no damage last night that I know of and the lights stayed on so that is a blessing.

When it isn't raining the humidity is insane.  We were out the other night, it was 66 degrees but we were sweating from the humidity.  It shouldn't feel hot at 66 degrees!  The deck boards never dry, the gutters never stop dripping, the grass is always wet and my hair is always twanging.  There are a few spots in the basement where there are spots of mold starting.  The dehumidifier can't keep up.  The trees, fence posts, and other surfaces have a layer of green growing on them.  The yard is full of mushrooms.  The yard is so wet we hope the septic system holds up and the drain field works.  It is impossible to keep the animals pens dry.  The chickens we are just going to let out to free range, even if they eat the rest of the garden, because we just can't keep their open coop dry enough where they aren't standing in mud.  We have a year worth of hay we just bought, hopefully it doesn't mold.  The flies are thick, they seem to thrive in this weather.  There is also a weird smell outside, everywhere not just in our yard.  It smells like dead worms and swamp.  There are a lot of wet lands around us for miles so perhaps they have to much water and it is changing their natural state.  We have also notice odd behavior in wild animals.  Last night when the kids and I were coming home from town there were a couple raccoons on the side of the road that didn't run off as we got close.  I had to swerve to miss them and only one of them looked up at the car.  This morning Dad said when he drove home there was an odd mist, again from the wetlands we drive through, and there were deer standing in the road that didn't move, at one point he had to stop.  I wonder if their normal woodland habitat is too wet for them.  Can they find no where to lay down or does it make their hooves to soft to be wet all the time and they hurt.  I know the goats hooves get soft if they are out even in the dew because before we trim hooves we put them out in the morning so we can cut them easier.

More rain is forecasted today and then the next four show a happy, little sun, I sure hope that is right.  I am going to start humming "Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, Please shine down on me" as a mantra and see if that has any effect.  If nothing else it should put me a happy mood.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The history of bowler hats

Sitting here tonight I said, What did we do today that I should write about?"  "How about the history of bowler hats," says Spark who was hanging upside down over the side of the couch.  Okay, I will.  He is now laughing like a crazy fiend that I would actually write about that so lets see what I can find.

The Bowler Hat, or Derby, as it is known in the U.S. was first created at 6 St James’s Street, London,in  1850 by St. James Street hatters George and James Lock. The hat was created initially as a hard hat, custom made for an aristocrat-cum-game warden by the name of William Coke II (who was later to become the Earl of Leicester) , to give his game wardens to wear when patrolling their employer’s estate on horseback.  He wanted a hat that was close-fitting and low-crowned to protect his gamekeepers' heads from low-hanging branches. The keepers had previously worn top hats, which were easily knocked off and damaged. It was also hoped that the new style of hat would protect the keepers if they were attacked by poachers. 

 The story goes that when Coke was first presented with the hat at the Locks’ premises, he threw it to the floor and stamped on it to test its hardiness, before ramming it down on his head and leaving the shop, evidently satisfied. It had cost him 12 shillings and he returned home carrying what would become the most important hat in modern history.

The Locks referred to their design as a Coke hat, after the client for whom it was designed, but it was the manufacturers whose name became associated with it ever since.  The actual manufacture of the first prototype 'bowler hat' was handled by another London-based hatter named William Bowler. Due to the fact the hat was also bowl shaped, and manufactured by the William Bowler, the term 'bowler hat' soon replaced 'coke hat'.

Because the bowler hat was initially created to be used as a hard hat for horse-riding people such as William Coke II, its use soon came to be standard for such horse riding events as the derby. One hatter from the United States duly noted the fact the hat was been used among those taking part in Derby's, therefore the term Derby hat took hold in the United States before the original - and still the traditional term in the United Kingdom - bowler hat term could.

Prior to the advent of the bowler, hats were easily readable markers of social distinction. Members of the gentry wore top hats, while the working man traditionally wore a flat cap. The bowler hat changed all that. Precisely because it had been designed as a working hat, it became the adopted business uniform of a whole number of different trades. The image of the city gent going to work at the bank, with rolled umbrella, carnation buttonhole and bowler, is a familiar one to us still, but what has been lost to collective memory is the extent of bowler-wearing among the working classes.  Throughout most of England it was associated with professional servants, "e.g." butlers, and so upon seeing a man wearing a bowler in a pub or on the street, it was fairly safe to assume he was a "gentleman's gentleman," meaning a valet, manservant or butler; in London itself, however, it was associated with professionals, and so a man wearing a bowler in the city could safely be assumed to be a lawyer, stockbroker, banker or government official.  Street-traders, omnibus drivers, wet fish sellers, shipyard workers, knife-grinders, and others all sported them as uniform and protective headgear.

Englishmen stopped wearing hats as a matter of course in the 1960s, and most young English people in the 21st century have never seen a bowler hat worn as part of normal dress. It is, however, still commonly seen worn at some formal public events, such as by town councillors at Armistice Day ceremonies. It is also traditionally worn by members of the Orange Order in Northern Ireland during their 12 July annual parades.

Outside England, the only culture in the world that still prizes the bowler hat as an essential item of everyday wear are the Aymara women of the Bolivian and Peruvian highlands where is is called a bombin.  The Aymara women believe the hats enhance fertility.

A small bowler hat worn at an angle is typically referred to as a "gruff hat" or "pickle hat".

In Germany, the hat is known as Melone (melon), due to its shape. In France it is known as "chapeau melon".

Famous people who have worn bowler hats:

  • Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost, a fixture in comic books
  • Aviation pioneers, Americans Orville & Wilbur Wright, and pioneering French aviators Alberto Santos-Dumont and Louis Blériot
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Lou Costello wore one occasionally in films, but was always seen in a too-small derby on television’s “The Abbott and Costello Show”.
  • Malcolm McDowell‘s character Alex wears a bowler hat in “A Clockwork Orange”
  • “Superman” villain Mr. Mxyzptlk
  • John Cleese in the infamous Ministry of Silly Walks
  • Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
  • Dominic Monaghan, actor of “Lord of the Rings” and “Lost”
  • Winston Churchill
  • “Batman” villain The Riddler
  • Mr. Potato Head
  • The Three Stooges
  • John Bonham
So there you have it, more than you probably ever wanted, or will ever need, to know about the bowler hat.  However, if your curiosity has been peaked and you just need to know more about this hat check out the book, The Man in the Bowler Hat: His History and Iconography, by Fred Miller Robinson.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Beautiful Award!

We were awarded a blog award a few weeks ago but I am just getting to posting on it now.  I love to get the awards, they are like getting a shiny gold star on a paper.  Thank you Home Spun Juggling! This award came with the instructions to tell seven things about yourself.  Since it is a beautiful blogger award I will tell you seven beautiful things.

1.  I love to hear my kids sing when they are busy with another task and the song is coming out of their heart.
2.  My husband regularly buys us flowers for us to enjoy at the table.  He brought us home some this morning!
3.  I love to look at my kids when they are sleeping.  Once in a while I get a little glimpse of how they looked when they were younger.  I don't know if it is because their faces are totally relaxed or what, but I love it.
4.  I love the smell of vanilla.  It would be great if the whole world smelled like vanilla.
5.  Group hugs.  Every night before Dad goes to work all four of us do a big four person hug.
6.  Warm goodies out of the oven.  No one is ever in a bad mood when they are eating warm bread or cookies.
7.  Where we live.  There is just so much beauty here, I feel blessed that we are able to live in a rural farming community.

Now to pass it on.  
7.  You - If you are reading this consider yourself awarded.  I read a lot more beautiful blogs, these are the ones I have book marked, many more are on my dashboard, but I don't want to leave anyone out and I am up to seven!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spark's Imagination

Spark is pretty creative with ordinary household items and stuff he finds in the yard or shed.  Here are some examples I saw this Sunday.
I got up and went to get a drink of water and saw a vegetable brush with eyes and a smile looking at me.  In this picture Spark has posed them how he likes them.  The brush has a friend, a dish soap dispenser (it's missing an eye), it's important to have the Aloe Vera behind to make arms.

We have a small faucet in the kitchen that bypasses the water softener so we can enjoy tasty, mineral laden drinking water.  The faucet sometimes has a slow drip.  Spark devised this "viaduct" to capture the leaking water.  It is made of bending drink straws.

A support to hold up the longest run of pipe

A shot glass (actually a small measuring cup) to catch the errant liquid.  By the way, the little receptacle did not hold all the water that dripped out while we went to church and grocery shopping.  There was a puddle on the counter and floor to clean up.  There are many other odd creations we see every day, the acorn and cork combination he calls the genderless super hero (a topic for another post), for example.  I don't know what he will do when he grows up but I hope it is something creative.

Crochet Halloween Boo Ghosts

Just finished these up, they are quite easy.  The pattern can be found here.  I changed the pattern a little bit.  The pattern was to make each round separate by single crocheting at the beginning of each round and joining at the end, I just made them one large spiral and skipped individual rounds.  I think it looks neater if there isn't  that extra stitch in there.  I also positioned them a little different to my liking.  I had these done in a couple of nights.  If you had time to sit down you could probably have them done in about 3 hours give or take. 

Whipped up this pumpkin to with the ghosts although it is quite large compared to them.  If they were fun size ghosts it would be perfect, he can be made smaller by decreasing the number of stitches in the beginning chain.  The pattern for him can be found here.  Dad was using the computer when I was ready to make the stem so I couldn't look at the pattern.  I just made up my own stem, which is a longer so it can bend over and a leaf to go on as well.  When I sewed the stem to the pumpkin I made large stitches to give him the sides of the stems since pumpkins don't have neat little stems that come out the top like an apple, they are splayed over the top.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Putting Up Some Corn - How to pressure can corn

Cut the raw corn off the cob. 

Put the corn in the prepared jars, run them through the dishwasher to sanatize them, leaving one inch at the top of the jar.  The canning funnel is not essential but it does make the job a lot easier.  I plan about two cobs of corn per pint.

Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each pint jar.

Add boiling water up to one inch from the top.

Wipe off the edge of the jar so that there is nothing on the rim.  If there is anything on the rim, even a drop of water, the jar may not seal. 

Put the lid and a ring on and lightly tighten the ring.  The ring should be "finger tight" not "wrench tight" or "Uncle Brutus tight"   Place the jars in the pressure canner, vegetables need to be pressure canned.  We get 10 small mouth jars per batch in the pressure cooker.

We do the canning outside on the driveway.  The pressure canner is really loud and creates a lot of humidity.  Not a pleasant thing to have in the house.  The canning is done at 15 pounds (10 pounds if your elevation is less than 1000 feet) pressure for 55 minutes.

After 55 minutes turn off the heat, let the pressure dissipate on its own--about 20 minutes.  Then open the canner.  Remove the jars with a jar lifter or folded up dish towel.  Careful, they are hot!!

Set the newly canned corn on a thick towel to cool.  Listen for the "pops" as each jar seals.  Leave the jars sit for 24 hours.  Store in a cool dry place and enjoy a little summer in the winter.

Friday, August 13, 2010


My mom and dad came for lunch and when we said good-bye to them at about 2:00 p.m. it was hot and sunny out.  At 2:30 it was dark as night and we were headed in the basement because the rain was coming down in buckets and the wind was blowing it sideways.  We never go in the basement as I like to be watching from the porch or out the slider windows when there is a storm.  I figure the house has been her for about 40 years what are the chances it is going to get blown over.  This afternoon though we changed our tune and headed downstairs.  I did sit by the window though and could hardly see anything outside because the rain was so heavy.  The picture above is after it started to lighten up.  There was about an inch of water on everything, the patio, the drive way, the rocks around the house, every place water shouldn't be able to stand.  We didn't know if we were in a tornado watch or not as the electricity went out before the rain even started.  The whole thing lasted about 30 minutes.  I wanted to see if my parents got home safety but without electricity I needed to use the cell phone.  We don't have good cell phone coverage at our house because we live in a low spot and the signal goes over our house.  To use the phone we get in the car and drive up to the closest hill and call.  When I finally did get a hold of them they said they had to sit on the side of the highway for the 30 minutes it took for the storm to blow through because they couldn't see.  They said that up and down the sides of the highway people were parked.  That is when you know that the weather is bad when everyone pulls over.  I can just imagine how confusing that had to be for my mom.

On the way out of the driveway we saw that we now had water front property. 

We also saw that our beautiful big oak tree at the corner had been blown over and took the power line with it.    It is hard to see on here but that is our power line dangling from the pole.  Normally we don't call the power company when the electricity goes out assuming that someone else will have already alerted them but a line in our yard certainly warranted a called.  Add them to our call list when we get to the top of the hill.  Further down the road there was also a tree laying on a power line but the line wasn't broken like ours.  A little further and there was a line that was sagging over the road, it was so low that a big truck wouldn't have been able to get under it.  Good thing the power was our or there would have been live power lines much to close for my comfort.


Lots of trees were down and blocking the roads.  By driving over the branches we were able to just get by this one. 

Here is how nasty the clouds looked after the storm.  They stayed like this until well into the evening and we kept expecting them to open up any minute and rain on us again.

This is the top to one of our fir trees, about 15 feet of it broke off.  We lost a lot of branches and many of them were stuck in the ground so hard we had to tug to get them out. 

The sad zucchini blown up against the fence.  We had some little hail too so it has holes in it's leaves.  The whole garden is tilted towards the east but it came through pretty well with no major damage.

There were lots of trees ripped out of the ground like this one, not in our yard thankfully. 

Water was standing in the corn fields.  This one looks good, many of the fields were laying flat.  It had been such a good year so far too, this is a shame.

The rain must have stirred up the bugs and worms because this flock of turkeys were scouring this field.

More not so friendly looking clouds.  They never did amount to anything else.

This is the worse damage we saw, a tree laying the roof.  From the road we couldn't see how much damage there was.  There is a man climbing up the tree like a monkey.  Don't think that is such a good idea.  The house is for sale, they are going to have to change the listing to a fixer upper!

Our area had the worst damage and our lines were fixed with the power was back on by 8:30 p.m. and our losses were minimal so we are thankful. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bring an extra sandwich

All summer Dancer has been a camp counselor at 4-H day camps.  Today was the last one and finally, finally, Sparks turn to go.  The camp he chose just happened to be the last one so he has been ever so patiently waiting to go. 

At every one of these camps it seems there has been someone who hasn't had any lunch, or a very sparse lunch, and Dancer has shared her lunch with them.  I don't know if they are kids that their families can afford to send lunch or they just weren't organized enough in the morning to get it together, but either way, they are lunchless.  At the first camp she gave away half her lunch so that someone else could have at least half a lunch.  Since then she has been packing an extra sandwich which has never gone uneaten.  One time she still ended up sharing her lunch even with the extra sandwich.

Last night, as she was getting her and Spark's lunch ready, she said, "and there is the extra sandwich" as she was wrapping them up and putting them in the fridge.  When she said that I started to think about where I should be bringing an "extra sandwich."   I don't often eat bag lunches with other's but I do have plenty of opportunity where I could bless someone with an extra something.  Even something so small as a piece of gum or a can of soda could make someones day.  Dancer, you have taught me well.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What will the harvest be?

We have lots of large gardens.  In the spring, these gardens are filled with grand dreams of so many vegetables growing in perfect rows that people will be lining up to buy them with money falling out of their pockets.  (Imagine a screeching sound here)  What isn't part of those dreams are all the hours of sweat it takes to get rows of perfect vegetables.  Hours of mulching, weeding, watering and tending to the plants.  Hours in the sweltering sun.  Hours with bugs flying around buzzing in ears.  Hours bent over with your back telling you that hunched over is not isn't preferred posture.  Hours of hard work.

I am not about to go out there anymore and do all the hard work, lug the produce to the farmers' market, sell it while the kids go off with the other market kids and play and then hand part of the money over to them because it how they make their spending cash.  They are too old for that kind of coddling any more.  Last year I started a garden behind the garage just for our consumption and have been doing a so so job at it, we can see the plants and veggies anyway kind of job.  This year I planted the family garden but for the most part I am not out working the market gardens.  I mow back by the market gardens and helped do some planting and mulching and the beginning of the year a little hoeing but that is as far as I am willing to go any more.

The kids planted rows of cucumbers, a huge garden of tomatoes, squash and beans.  The beginning of July I told them, how are you going to find any of your produce if it is covered in weeds?  Fine, we will weed they told me.  Whatever, it's your garden and your profits.  While needing to bite my tongue, I did not say any more about it and for the most part was able to let it go.

Over the last month I have been doing a little PR work for them so they can get a few customers lined up for their veggies.  This morning Dad came home from work with the good news that a co-worker wants tomatoes, cucumbers and beans.  Out they went to pick with dollar signs dancing in their heads.  In they came crying and panting that it was too weedy and too hot.  News flash here - veggies grow when it is hot and humid and picking in weeds up to your waist is the reason you weed during the early summer.

So what will their harvest be?  Maybe a few dollars.  What could their harvest be?  Well, hopefully they will learn that next year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Egyptian Eyes

We did these for Vacation Bible School and the Joseph theme we are doing this year.  All the workers are in Egyptian costumes, it has been quite fun!  The first night they had face makeup and it was heavy like a grease pen so the last two nights we have done our own makeup at home.  I am also not thrilled with sharing eye makeup with everyone, that is a little beyond my germ comfort zone.  Dancer added her false eyelashes from dance which really made her eyes stand out.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

4-H Beach Party

Our 4-H year end party was this afternoon.  We were at a lake cabin thankfully since the temps were in the 90's and the humidity was in the 80's.  This is a picture of the kids having their meeting.  It was taken with the camera right after it was taken out of the camera bag which must have been much cooler than the outside temp because the lens fogged up instantly.  The blurriness isn't from the camera not focused, it is dew.  We were sitting outside in the shade doing nothing and sweating.  I hate hot weather, my Scandinavian blood is much too thick for these temps.

The kids did play a few games.  This game is musical clothes.  There is a bag of clothes that gets passed around and when the music stops if you are holding the bag you have to pick out a piece of clothing and put it on.  Spark got caught with the bag twice.  He had quite the outfit!

Tossed eggs at each other.  When the parents played my partner and I were the winners!  It is amazing the abuse an egg can take before it breaks. 

They dug for buried treasures. 

There was kayaking, Dancer is in the kayak on the right.

And paddle boating. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Can you believe we ate that?

That was what Spark said when he found a picture today that had been taken at a motel with a free breakfast.  Back to the room came filled donuts, glasses of apple juice and the only saving grace, a hard boiled egg.  This picture was from probably about five years ago.   He didn't notice how cute they were or that they were at motel or that everyone was smiling, just the food that was sitting on the plates.

Dancer's food coloring allergy has changed a lot about how we eat.  We always, well better that the average family, ate what would be considered healthy meals.  I don't particularity care for prepackaged meals, having been served a boat load of them when I was young, and we like to cook.  The problem was, good meals to us meant sauces, cheeses, rich baked goods, homemade bread out of the oven with lots of drippy butter.  And to be honest we ate our share of junk food.  More importantly than cooking we like to eat so we had now, looking back, bigger portions than necessary.  We also did a lot of grazing during the day, where you aren't really eating but having a bite here and there that obviously added up. 

When we realized that food was the culprit to Dancer's eczema we started making changes.  First we switched to about a 30 - 40 percent organic food diet thinking perhaps it was the pesticides and fertilizers in food.  I saw 30 - 40 percent here because we eat a lot of our own food and we are not organic.  We grow organically but are not "organic" nor are our animals.  There was no change in her skin but the organic food, and I know people will argue this, tastes better than non organic.  However, organic doesn't mean healthy.  You can eat just as much fat, calories and sugar in organic food as you can in regular food.  Organic ice cream is still ice cream and an organic potato chip is still a potato chip.  Plus the organic ice cream is so much tastier than regular that it just slides right down.

When we realized that it was food coloring that was causing her problems we tighten up our diet except that we went with what we thought had food coloring in it by looking at it.  If it looked orange or red, it was bad, not orange or red, go ahead an eat it.  When she still didn't have much change, except her stomach problems went away for the most part, we though we were still doing sort of okay.  Then she started to get really bad and we really started to read food labels and realized how much we were still eating.  I have written in other posts where food coloring is lurking everywhere.

Along the way we looked into grains that have been genetically modified and decided that they are too much of an allergy risk, even though as of now we don't think Dancer, or any of us, have a problem with them.

Dancer's new diet restrictions have made us look at what we were really eating and we have cut a lot more foods off our diet radar.  None of us are thin or super healthy by any means, so over the past couple of years we have been making small changes by cutting out bad fats, a good amount of high  fructose corn syrup and in the last few weeks the majority of sugar.  We limit to one treat a week for the most part and have cut down on our snacking and portion sizes.  

While we are not militant in our eating by any means we have seen some changes.  We have all lost a few inches and I think we look and feel better than we did before.  But by far I think our biggest and most encouraging change was that Spark would be surprised and disgusted at what we were eating before.  I take that as a good sign that we are on the right path.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cross rocks, fairy rocks or staurolite crystals

We went to this dam to look for cross rocks or for their technical name staurolite crystals.

Out in the river is a good place to dig for them.

We just pick up handfuls of mud and sift through it to find one.

They are hard to find at first but once you get your eye trained for what to look for it seems they are every where.  It was very relaxing to and sift mud through our fingers.

The kids walked up on the railroad bridge that is now converted to a bike trail.

It was a long way up there.

We spent a lot of time just climbing around the river bank.

And the bottom of the dam.

A picture of Dad taken from up on the railroad bridge.

Great view of the river.

There was a lot of splashing going on.  Tennis shoes are a must for walking in the water because there is broken glass.  It seems that people like to party down there.

There were some talented graffi artist.  This door from a distance looks real.

This silvery mud is a great place to find the cross rocks.  The dam breaks the rocks, which are quite soft, apart and they turn into this mud and the cross rocks are free.

These are single cross rocks, they don't have the cross.  The one that looks like a cross is just two on top of each other.

These are the real finds, but they are far and few between to find one in the shape of a cross with both sides of the cross.  We found a few that would have one side of the cross arm.  People make these into jewelry or carry them in their pockets.