Saturday, March 31, 2007

Company with babies

Jacy is getting a work-out holding Malachi, and running after Lillian. At two months Malachi weighs over 16 pounds! (I think Lillian was about that size the last time we saw her.) We're enjoying Sarah and Israel and the children this week. Steve and Israel have plans to golf Monday, and maybe Tuesday, and we're all going out to the lake on Tuesday afternoon.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Second square done - Dancing Crayons

I feel like Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann - you know, how they dug those corners for the new town hall neat and square? Well, I have two squares of the Dancing Crayons completed with neat corners, how's that?

Last night Steve and I watched most of the BBC production of Bleak House (Diana Rigg stars - how could we pass it up?)...

... and I knitted the second square, and cast on for the third. It's a very long movie - so long that we didn't finish it. We plan to finish it today, so I hope to make good progress on the third square.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

The days ahead

Tomorrow we have friends coming from Virginia to stay for five days.

Next Wednesday the Virginia friends leave, and we have the relatives from Idaho coming to eat dinner and stay one night.

Next Thursday Steve, Joan, and Marley leave for Virginia to pick up Marley's puppy, and I go to Atlanta to get Tom from the airport.

Next Friday Tom has an all-day orientation seminar at Auburn, Steve goes to D.C., and friends from North Carolina come to stay for a week.

Next Saturday Steve, Joan, and Marley - and a puppy - come home, and I drive Tom to Atlanta to fly back to Virginia.

On the following Wednesday Steve and I pack.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another work day at the lake

David helped his grandfather outside:

Sam tested the waters again and played on the beach:

I found a bumper sticker I thought about saving for Tom, but then decided to go ahead and put it on the van:

And just before we quit for the day, Mom and I started going through a box of Grandmother's papers on the porch and found a letter dated December 8, 1865, stating that E.E. Wilson, a private in H Company, 2nd Regiment, Massachusetts Heavy Artillery died in a "Rebel Prison" in Charleston, South Carolina in September 1864. Edward E. Wilson was my great-great-great grandfather, and his daughter, Laura, was 15 when he died. On the back of the letter, written in pencil Great-great Grandmother Laura had written: "Notice of Father's death in the army. Keep."


Lake work

Yesterday the children and I went out to the lake to help Mom and Dad do some housework and yardwork. Relatives from Idaho are arriving next week to spend a few days, and we're looking forward to their visit and want everything to sparkle and shine for them.

Joan, David, Marley, and Sam worked outside transplanting shrubs, cutting away dead ferns, raking the flowerbeds (and the beach) - and Marley and Sam tested the lake (still chilly) for us.

Sarah and I worked inside with Mom. I found several books of mine they'd borrowed, which was nice. It sounds silly to say this, but Mom and Dad have too many books. (Yes, I know the acorn didn't fall far from the tree - in fact, this acorn may be worse than the parental oak, however...). The bookshelves are filled and every horizontal surface has teetering stacks of more books. The measly five books I took away with me made no difference at all to the book problem.

We're going back today to work some more. The company's good and the weather is delightful - should be a good day.
(Marley is holding flowers from a honeysuckle azalea here - the flowers smell so sweet!)


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Chai oatmeal

I saw this recipe for chai oatmeal last weekend and decided I had to make it. Because I did not have the cardamom pods, and because I don't cook my oatmeal in milk, I modified the recipe slightly, using ground spices instead of whole ones.

Chai Oatmeal
1 c. water
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. cloves
a dash of nutmeg
a dash of salt
1 T. honey
1/2 c. oats

In small saucepan bring water, spices, honey and salt to a boil. Add oats and lower heat. Cook until desired consistency. Makes 1 serving.

I made this for breakfast for the last two days using quick oats, but I'd like to try it with the steel cut oats sometime. It was delicious and satisfied my chai cravings, but I'm sure the original recipe tastes even better.

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More sewing

When I was looking for those quilt squares (which I still have not found) I found this fabric with blue and purple hydrangeas on it. I have no idea what I bought it for, but with the unbleached muslin as a backing, I thought it would make serviceable curtains for our back door. I love the light that the window in the door lets in, but Steve hates it because he says everyone can look straight through the house when they come to the door.

So with assurances from Steve that he would take care of attaching the hardware for the curtain rod to the door, I measured the window...

measured the material, cut, pinned, sewed, ironed, and hung the curtains:

Now people coming to the back door can't see us. (And we can't see them either, unless we do the Gladys Kravitz curtain-twitch thing.)


Monday, March 26, 2007

Dancing Crayons

This is one of the projects Penny encouraged me to start while she was here. The ball of yarn beside the mitered square is Fiesta La Boheme yarn in the Taos colorway that I used as my inspiration for finding yarns to knit the Dancing Crayons pattern by Chris Bylsma.
All the yarns for the shawl (poncho? ponchette? shawloncho?) were bought from the various yarn stores Meg, Penny and I visited in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York on our way to the NY Sheep and Wool Festival at Rheinbeck last fall.
I finished the first square last night and am ready to cast on for square #2. (Thanks, Meg for the pointers and help with the instructions!) Only four squares in all, so it should be a quick project. (Except for the fact that I'm knitting on four other projects, too. Oh well, hurrah for a bit of mess and disorder!)


A Perfect Mess

While she was here, I told Penny she should read A Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman because it is entertaining and interesting.

Steve told me I do not need to learn how to be messy. I told him this book is not to encourage messiness or disorder, but to point out that extreme neatness and organization are not always beneficial.

When we first married, Steve and I both worked and I did all the housework and most of the cooking, but our home was always neat, clean and organized. And the cleaning and straightening and meal preparations never took more than six hours out of a week. The advantage of being neat and organized was not outweighed by the cost.

Twenty-four years, nine children, a work-at-home husband, and seventeen years of homeschooling later the cost of neatness and organization is much greater. I can keep my home spotless, have everything in its place at all times, make tolerable meals, have the laundry done, and every piece of correspondence/paperwork addressed each and every day, but if I do I will not be homeschooling my children, reading (to myself or anyone else), knitting, sewing, running errands for anyone, taking children to music or sports' practice, or spending an evening watching a movie or conversing with Steve.

We've had to make a choice: strive to keep super-tidy and neat, as though we were a childless couple, or a family whose children attended a conventional school; or accept a certain amount of disorder and mess and enjoy the family and the circumstances God has given us.

I confess to struggling with a misplaced admiration of neatness. I saw myself in some of the types of neat people Abrahamson and Freedman describe. For example, my children would agree that I can be an "order terrorist" who always demands that they put away all toys before leaving a room or before bedtime (yeah, that can be a real joy-killer when a child has been making a super set-up with Playmobil toys or Legos, has to go to bed, but would like to play with the set-up the next day...) and an "orderly procrastinator" who spends more time picking up toys, books, shoes, etc., than playing with my children. (They write of the orderly procrastinator: "Avoids real accomplishment by endlessly reneatening and reordering." Ugh! That's me!)

The bottom line is that I need to realize that some types of mess and clutter are useful and helpful. I also need to remember that my children have personalities and traits that God gave them, and they aren't going to be cookie-cutter images of me. And I know that some day Steve and I will again be alone in the house, and the house will be neat, clean, orderly - and boring, and silent, and calm.

Better enjoy the mess, the clutter, the disorder and slack organization while it lasts...


Now I'm Penny-less

Penny flew in last Thursday, stayed through the weekend, and left yesterday. I enjoyed her visit immensely, and realize (and am grateful) that God has blessed me with a wonderful friend.

While Penny was here, we knitted a lot (she got me started on two new projects, and kindly and patiently showed me how to properly yarn-over purlwise - and didn't laugh hysterically at the sad little wonky purl-wise yarn-overs I'd already done on my Cabaret Raglan - AND she threw out lots of ideas on how I might be able to fix the mess that was/is my autumn boucle wrap ), talked a lot, walked some, shopped at the thrift store and the library book sale, and went to the museum and the re-enactment at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.

While Penny was here, David had his long-delayed birthday party, and Penny was gracious and understanding, saying that all the boys running around made her feel right at home. We took the boys (and Sarah, Joan, Marley, and Sam) with us to the re-enactment, but they went off on their own, leaving Penny and me to wander about and enjoy the people and exhibits.

The time Penny spent here wasn't nearly long enough for me, but I'm glad her family could spare her as long as they did.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Two knitting books

One-skein Wonders arrived last week, just in time for me to enjoy it over the week-end. The patterns are quick, easy, and definitely not fudging with that one skein.

However, many of the patterns are ones I already have in some variation or another, or are items I wouldn't make (an ipod pouch, a collar, a head band, etc.). I think this would have been great for me a few years ago when, as a novice knitter, a large project seemed overwhelmingly difficult. Now I think it'll make a good reference for my daughters who knit, and I'm sure I'll try one or two of the sock or hat patterns, and some of the shawls. I'm also glad to have it to recommend to friends and neighbors who are looking for something to knit without using a lot of $$$. (Now I'm re-thinking that collar... one skein of silk for $7 would fit the bill for that, but if I wanted to knit a shawl or a shell with silk, it could be pretty pricey!)

I finally received my copy of No Sheep for You by Amy Singer. (I think I'm the last knitter on the planet to get mine, and it's been pre-ordered since December - but I'm not bitter, or anything.) This is my new favorite knitting book. Amy uses the first part of the book to tell all about the different natural non-wool fibers: what they are, how they are made, what their cellular construction is and how that affects how they feel and wear. I love all the information, both scientific and historical, that she includes. That, alone, makes it worth the money.

Of course, she doesn't stop there. Amy also includes great patterns to knit using those non-wool fibers. (And they're modeled by real people who look as though they eat every day - not humans teetering on the brink of starvation.) This is going to be wonderful for me now that I'm living in Alabama where wool is comfortable for only a few months of the year.

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Behold, Here's Poison

Behold, Here's Poison is the first mystery by Georgette Heyer that I've read. Now I want to find more. The title puzzled me - it sounds so contrived and archaic - but then I discovered that it's a quote from Shakespeare's Pericles, Prince of Tyre. (I haven't read it yet, but I will now. Even if the quote that furnished the title for Heyer's book has no discernable relation to the mystery, I'm now curious about this play, one of the few romances by Shakespeare... .)
Mr. Gregory Matthews is discovered dead one morning. His family - two sisters, one sister-in-law, a niece and two nephews - assume he has died of a heart attack. But one of the sisters demands that a postmortem be done. The postmortem reveals death by nicotine poisoning. Scotland Yard comes in, and the family tries to discover the murderer as well.
The story moved so quickly and was so deliberately sophisticated, that I was completely surprised by the ending. For the first half of the book, I couldn't identify even one character as sympathetic or likeable, but Heyer managed to change my outlook as the story continued. And why was Mr. Matthews poisoned? That is explained convincingly, as well.
My only complaint is that it has been difficult for me to find Georgette Heyer's mysteries. I wish someone would re-issue them all.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Flight Path

Dad dropped off this biography of Frank Barker, Jr. , the founding pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, because he thought Steve would enjoy it. I saw it and read it last night. Now it's on my "must-have-a-copy-of-my-own" list. I'd also love to get several copies to give to my sons.

Flight Path is written from Frank Barker's point of view. In fact, reading it is like listening to him speak. (I've only heard him once - last summer he came to our church and spoke to the adults one evening during vacation Bible school.) And it mainly covers his life from high school until he retired from Briarwood. But what a life! He was a drunken, carousing, hard-living Navy pilot (and Auburn grad - War Eagle!) when he felt like he should go to seminary to live a better life, be a good man, and appease God. He went through seminary - or at least half-way through it - and was preaching at a church in Oxford, Alabama for two years before he became a Christian! Mr. Barker recounts how God brought him around and saved him, and how he saw God's goodness and provision through out the years in his family and in the church.

He tells how amazed he was when he realized that salvation was a gift from God, not something one could earn:

"I wondered why no one had told me that salvation was a gift. Then I thought, 'Isn't it strange that Martin Luther didn't know that.' The reason I thought about Luther was that I had just read his commentary on Galatians for a course I was taking. If Luther had known that salvation is a gift, he would have brought it out in the book! I wanted to see how he had missed it, so I pulled the commentary off the shelf and reread it. To my amazement it was on every page!"

One area this knowledge affected his life was in giving:

"Now that I understood salvation was a gift, I wanted to express my gratitude for God's amazing grace; but I didn't know how. The idea occurred to me to express my gratitude by increasing the percent I tithed each year...." (Every year he and his wife upped the percentage of their tithes until he retired - at that point they were giving away 75% of their income.)

It also made him desire to tell everyone what he had learned - he was excited about it. He told his parents, who were Christians and had been praying for him for years. They smiled and told him that yes, they knew salvation was a gift from God. He asked them why they never told him that and they replied that they had, God just hadn't opened Frank's eyes until that point, and they were so thankful that He had! He called his sister and shared with her. He wrote his girlfriend, Barbara, who later married him, and told her the gospel. He told friends, acquaintances, old drinking buddies - anyone he could get to listen - about Christ.

I'm not able to give this the book the review it deserves. Words fail me. Suffice it to say, I really liked this book. It had me laughing aloud many times, and crying at other times. Mr. Barker doesn't hesitate to confess his sins and his shortcomings. Janie Buck and Mary Lou Davis have done a marvelous job of capturing Frank Barker, Jr. Now if he would read it aloud for an audiobook!



After waiting over a year, I now have a clothesline! The forecast is for sunny days with highs in the 70's, so I'll be hanging out clean laundry to dry on my new line this next week. (I love the smell of line-dried clothes and linens!)


Monday, March 19, 2007

Finished the tablecloth

On Saturday I pinned and sewed and had a tablecloth (with napkins!) to use on Sunday.


Cherry tree pictures for Wool Winder

I think our tree is in full bloom now. At least the bees are staying busy.


Joan's art

Joan looked at this corner...

And painted a picture of it for me.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Two quick, enjoyable mysteries

M.C. Beaton's Death of a Maid is a good one-night-read mystery. I found it at the library last week and read it while volunteering at the museum Thursday morning (we had no visitors).

If I'd never read a Hamish Macbeth mystery before, I think I'd still find this one enjoyable and easy to follow. Thankfully, the story really does center on solving the murder of an unlikeable cleaning woman - one who didn't clean very well, yet was still able to continue to work for her employers - and not much on Hamish's personal life. The identity of the killer surprised me, but perhaps I wasn't paying close attention to the clues. It was still a pleasant entertainment while knitting and waiting for museum patrons.

Last night I enjoyed another one-night-read, The Body in the Ivy by Katherine Hall Page. I love Page's mysteries. In the delectable, mouth-watering tradition of Virginia Rich and Diane Mott Davidson, Page has written a series of mysteries with caterer Faith Fairchild as sleuth. Faith's married to a minister, has two children, and she's a normal woman with a talent for cooking and baking. And for stumbling on bodies and solving mysteries.

This mystery deliberately echoes Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None , which made it even more delightful. Ten people come to Bishop's Island, also known as Indian Island, to spend a week together. There is one man: Brent Justice, handyman and caretaker; and nine women: Barbara Bailey Bishop, successful writer, owner of the island, and hostess for the gathering; Faith Fairchild, caterer; and seven of Barbara's former classmates at Pelham, a women's college. They are there to solve the murder of another classmate, Helene Prince.

Recipes for food served in the book are included. (I want to try "Asian Noodles with Crabmeat" and "Boeuf Bourguignon.")


Friday, March 16, 2007

Found fabric

Donna has been quilting lately and her lovely work reminded me that I cut fabric almost two years ago to make quilts for each of the children. When we moved I packed all the fabric up and haven't seen it since.
Yesterday I started opening bins and looking for the cut pieces of material. I didn't find them, but I did find some other projects.
The red fabric with the leaves and berries was to be a tablecloth. I'd already sewn the pieces together and it just has to be hemmed. The fabric with the simple child's prayer on it was to be napkins. I'd forgotten them! They were already finished - ten napkins cut and hemmed and ready to use, just folded up and put with the unfinished tablecloth, because I probably thought I'd get settled quickly after moving and pick up where I left off. I remember when I bought the material I thought I'd have the tablecloth and napkins in use for Thanksgiving dinner - 2005. But I packed it all up right before Thanksgiving, and we moved right before Christmas.
It's okay. I love finding a surprise right under my nose. I'll fold and pin and hem and have a new tablecloth and napkins to use now. "Thank You, God, for everything!"


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Another pair of not-socks

This time I used some left-over Koigu yarn and five size 2 (US) needles. And here's the pattern:
Cast on 60 stitches. Join in the round and k2, p2 for 10 rounds. Knit 12 rounds. K2, p2 again for 10 rounds. Bind off.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Northern Lights

Someday I'd really like to see the northern lights. When we lived in upstate New York I kept hoping they would show in the sky, but they didn't.

In her book, The Northern Lights, Lucy Jago writes about the Norwegian scientist and inventor Kristian Birkeland. Jago concentrates on Birkeland's adult years, and the role he played in discovering what causes the northern lights phenomenon. She opens her narrative with his first expedition to a crude observatory on Haldde Mountain, in Finnmark, Norway, where he and several assistants spent the fall and winter of 1899-1900 observing the aurora borealis. The men endured horrible conditions to gather scientific data from the few instruments available to them at that time.

Birkeland continued his observations and experiments for the next fifteen years, always fighting for funds, and several times using knowledge he'd gained in his studies of the northern lights to make inventions used in other ways. (He was the primary scientist to figure out how to produce nitrogen for fertilizer using a furnace, and he had plans for an electromagnetic cannon to be used in war.) He appears to have been gifted with an extraordinarily active mind - always working and pondering and even when not purposely thinking about what he was studying, having solutions to other scientific problems jump into his head.

Birkeland also studied the Zodiacal Light (which I'd never heard of until I read this book), and spent several years in Egypt and the Sudan observing this particular light. He did not have very good health, and his poor eating and sleeping habits, combined in later years with alcohol and veronal use (for sleeping), made his health and mental acuity decline quite rapidly in the years of World War I. He died of an accidental overdose of veronal in 1919 - not yet 52 years old.

In the epilogue, Jago neatly brings Birkeland's discoveries forward in time to show the reader the significance of this man's work, and how many of his ideas and theories were proven true decades after his death.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Everyday life - housework, schoolwork with the children, church, etc. - has been keeping us all busy. I haven't had many opportunities to read or knit. But I did knit a couple of not-socks the other night. I needed something to keep my sandals from rubbing a blister on the top of my feet, but didn't want to wear socks.

I wore them yesterday and have no blisters today. Last night I started a second pair.


Monday, March 12, 2007


See the birthday cake Joan made for me!

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New office is up and running!

Finished, but without furniture:

After moving in the furniture:

Not bad for a space slightly less than 14 ft x 9 ft! (Steve no longer has a "man-cave;" he has a "man-cubby.")


Cherry tree - still blooming

Our cherry tree has more blossoms on it now, but is also starting to produce leaves. I don't think we'll get a big, showy profusion of pink loveliness. Our tree is like an elderly woman - not having that girlish beauty anymore, but still allowing observers a glimpse of what she looked like in her youth. I have no idea how old the tree is, but the woman who planted it lived and died many years ago. Her granddaughter died in 2003 at the age of 97. My best guess is that the tree was planted in the early 1900's or late 1800's.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Chicken soup for a spring cold

Sarah was sick last week with a fever, runny nose, and cough. She went to bed, took some ibuprofen and water, and ate Beth's chicken soup for supper. Beth didn't actually make this soup for Sarah, but it is her recipe, slightly modified.

Chicken Soup for a Cold

Chicken broth (Homemade is best, but canned will do in a pinch.)

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced


1/8 to 1/4 t. cayenne pepper

1 T. apple cider vinegar

salt to taste

In medium saucepan mix broth, onion, garlic, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer until onion is tender. Add noodles and vinegar and cook until noodles are soft. Add salt and serve. The combination of the vinegar and pepper makes stuffy noses un-stuffy.

Because I had no chicken broth on hand, I boiled two chicken breasts for the broth, and added the meat from one to the soup.

Sarah is well now, but Steve, Joan, David and Marley are not feeling well.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Cherry tree

Our cherry tree has started to blossom. Spring must be here!