Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The new normal

A small sample of our day to day existence...

Why oh why can't all books be a vailable on Kindle? This is "A Child's History of the World".  I remind myself that I feared that he would never read, and that I was told that he would have to learn Braille.  He is doing so well, and most of the time we use e-books, but sometimes my heart aches when he cannot just take a book and curl up on his bed.

This Sunday Pastor Cassidy preached about Bartimaeus, the blind man who called out "Son of David, have mercy on me!"  It was a beautiful sermon. I suppose on some emotional level I will always struggle with that passage, and Jean will calmly tell me: "But I am not blind.  Blind people cannot see."  Which is true, I suppose, 20/200 is a lot better than nothing.

Here Jacques is building a model ship, and Martinus is completely absorbed.

 The late afternoon sunlight in this kitchen is so beautiful.  The owners of this kitchen have told us that they are planning on moving back into their home in May 2013, so we will have to start looking for a new place to live.  Three months (yikes) till we leave to visit home for 8 weeks, and when we come back it will be February.  It is almost impossible to think that I am going to do all that - pack, leave for 2 months, come back, pack, look for a house, buy a house, pack and move.  On top of everything that happens anyway, every day. But we have survived worse. Much worse.  (Despite all that packing, I am sure that we will not be done by the time the movers arrive.)

For everyone that wondered what the twins do while we homeschool.  They clean, of course.

 This is Jean drawing a car for a change, he usually only draws dinosaurs.  He wanted to add color, so I sorted the pencils into colors and wrote the names of the colors on the paper.  I studied four years to become an Occupational Therapist, and not for nothing!

Apart from clever adaptations in and around the house, my children also have very good three point pincer grips on their pens and markers. 

Melva took a break from knitting and baked an amazing cheesecake this weekend, from one of the Cook's Illustrated cookbooks.  The only thing marginally "healthy" about it was that the eight eggs were all organic...

(Before moving to Texas, I had this vague notion that I should be able to make something that Americans would like, and I baked a cheesecake from Jamie Oliver's cookbooks on several occations to ensure that I could whip it up as soon as we have our first guests over.  Then I could not find any digestive biscuits for the crust when we arrived here.  It turns out that they like brownies much better, I have not seen them eat cheesecake except when we serve it.)

That is it, more or less.  Just a little glimps. Very different, and yet the same.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

i love finished objects

It is interesting to see how much time I have to knit when we homeschool!  It feels so good to finish a sweater.

He will have to wear it with a long sleeved shirt, since the yarn scratches.  That means it will have to be even colder when he wears it...  (I have a friend here who keeps on telling me that there is no point in knitting in Texas, it just never gets cold enough for a wool sweater.  I will just ignore her and keep on pretending that this year and the previous two were outliers.)

I wish I could pick up a book with a story and just read it, but my mind wanders when I try to do that.  Melva wanted another one of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's books, and I read it too.  I can read her books while knitting. Reading about knitting too much while you should perhaps be doing something else, while you are knitting and should actually be doing something else (like sleeping...)  It is a vicious cycle.

Melva has been going from strength to strength:

She finished the first sock, and is now knitting the second, while fitting other, smaller projects in-between:

In one of her books Stephanie Pearl-McPhee writes that she once visited with a woman who had knit for 65 years.  She thought that this woman would be a mentor, would be the ultimate expert who could answer her questions.  Instead, she knew only one way to cast on and only one way to bind off, and could only knit certain types of patterns (I am paraphrasing, of course).  It turned out that she was not an expert, she could do the few thing she did very well, but she was not an expert knitter.

Melva is the opposite.  She is 11 and has been knitting for about a year.  She investigates all the options energetically, she does not have to memorize the advantages to different methods of casting on, they are so relevant to her that she just remembers them.  She sits and calculates gauge for half an hour before she starts to knit a dishcloth that she could knit in an hour.  Her attention to detail is impeccable.  She can fix a cable that was turned the wrong way around three rows ago. (We do not unschool - she does math and Latin and history etc too :)

Apart from buying far too many books on knitting, I had very little to do with this.    Given time and access to information, and a nudge in the right direction (even something a simple as reading about Ginny's boys and what they can do), now and again, can work what appears to be miracles.

And that is just another reason I love Wednesdays, and Ginny' yarn along :)  Cannot wait to see what everyone else is knitting, and I might even spot a book - fiction, not knitting or cooking or organizing - that could hold my attention!

Ravelry notes: here

Thursday, August 9, 2012

So big, already...

Sometimes you capture them looking the way they will when they are big - a good friend once took a photo of  Melva, and we all could see that it was a fleeting glimpse of the future. In this frame, I caught the baby in the boy that is now almost five.

I was trying on his new sweater, and he was being as compliant as he could be.

I think the yarn is itchy... 

See the pavers in the background?  They were left over after the owners of the house decided to extend the patio behind the house.  (It is always slightly unnerving when the house you lease is suddenly improved - are they planning on selling?  I do not really care, I just do not like not knowing.) Those paving stones have been rockets, mountains, battleships, airplanes ... and of course, towers.  They are the best toys we have had in a long time.  And they fit right in with our current theme for our back yard, along with the random pieces of driftwood and wooden palettes.

School has been good, we are sticking to the schedule, and I love the Institute for Excellence in Writing curriculum that we bought.

I have been buying more organic where I can, but I must say, many of the "healthy, natural recipes" are just the staples that I grew up with.  We are not really changing our diet that much, not because we do not want to, but because we have never been buying TV dinners.  I do not even think that I knew the phrase "from scratch" before moving here, but I may have just forgotten.  That is not because no one made anything from scratch, it is because we had no idea that there was another way to do it. I did make our own pizzas the other night (we usually buy pizzas, but my sister-in-law makes wonderful pizzas, as does my aunt); mine tasted suspiciously like bread with melted cheese on top.  I'll have to work on it.  The yogurt has been good, I have made a second batch, but I have also found a store that sells organic yogurt at 12c per ounce...  Not that much more than it costs me to make it myself.  I have mixed feeling about that.  I guess it is all about prioritizing.

I have been feeling energized and happy the last couple of weeks - could it be because somewhere it is almost spring?  I wonder if the Acacias are blooming yet, and if anyone notices.  Or is it because I know we will soon see our loved ones?  Either way, I am grateful for it.  The next thing I do might be to clean up the backyard!

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Last night, around midnight, I took the mason jars out of the cooler, and put them in the fridge.

This is what it looked like when I opened the lid.
Very creamy; mild, almost sweet.  This could become a habit. 

Cost breakdown:

1 Gallon Milk @ $5.99 - I only used 4.5 cups, so let's round it to $2.
Small cup of yogurt as starter: about $1.50, I think.
Produced:  36 fl oz @ roughly 10c / fl oz.

Organic yogurt in the store costs about 33c / fl oz.  That means it can flop twice before it becomes more expensive than to buy the yogurt. I also think it will be much easier to make if I do not have to take pictures all the time!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

How to make yogurt - or maybe how not to make yogurt...

I went with the Greek yogurt, as it was recommended in the recipe. The milk was only pasteurized, and not homogenized (I have no idea what that means), so I thought my chances of success were greater with it. $5,99 - at Sprouts.
I bought the thermometer, but that was the only new equipment I needed. 

I iced the pot to keep the milk from scalding.

Add 4.5 cups milk, heat to 180 degrees Fahrenheit over medium heat.

Cool to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add 1/2 cup of yogurt (starter) in a liquid measuring cup.

Add one cup of the warmed and cooled milk to the yogurt, whisk briefly.

Pour yogurt and milk mixture back int the pot, whisk.

Pour into mason jars.

Cover with lids, and put into a small ice box filled with hot tap water. (125 degrees Fahrenheit)

Leave, undisturbed, for 6-7 hours.  The longer you leave it, the tarter the yogurt.

Recipe from: 

The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making

It has not been 6 hours yet.  I will update tomorrow morning....

Friday, August 3, 2012

this moment

Inspired by Amanda - 

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

No really, what about lunch?

If there are two things that feel rather silly to do in Austin, in August, it is a) knitting a wool sweater and b) starting a fall garden in almost 100 degrees.  Especially since this year, the little of winter that we have will not be spent in this hemisphere.  Yet, I visited the local farmers' market today, and came back determined to do it myself, and do it better.  I know, that is incredibly arrogant.  However, I have (once) grown peppers that looked much better than theirs.  They sold mostly herbs, and I cannot believe people buy herbs at a farmers' market - it is the only thing I can keep alive two seasons in a row.

Last month I had money to buy the book, this month (I could not wait for the 1st!), I went and bought some Garrett Juice, and one or two other things Dr Garrett recommends to keep a garden healthy and organic.

I have also been reading One Bite at a Time, (all about organizing) which led me to read Whole Foods on a Budget (the link is to her blog, all about healthy eating), and I am now pretty organized, and hungry.

I must emphasize that I am not a foodie, and that no one has ever called me a hippie.  Also, please do not call me crunchy, because I will shock you moments later with the contents of my freezer... So I really do not want to complain, but I do feel that the food is different here (in the US, and I can only speak for Texas). Vegetables and fruit do not taste the way I remember.  Bread is something completely different from what I recall, and I bake most of our bread, now.  Unfortunately, the cost of escaping from what is readily available is prohibitive.  I cannot buy produce at Whole Foods for my family of 6.  I went to the farm today, and bought: 4 pork chops, two cucumbers, one jar of pickles, and one small tub of feta cheese.  $55.  Honestly, it cannot be that healthy.  Also, when the lady asked me if she should put the chops in a plastic bag, I said "no thanks, it is in a plastic bag", since it was vacuum packed.  She just glared at me, and said that she knew it was in a plastic bag. I think she was hungry too. I really did not mean anything, I just blurted out my thought process, so I felt slightly hurt that she took it so personally.

Well, long story short, that is why I have decided to get my fall garden started, and why I am dreaming about having our own little farm , where we will possibly have to be vegetarian. See, I cannot contemplate raising anything for food, and I definitely cannot see Jacques slaughtering a pig. (I am also paging through Back to Basics, where they describe in far too much detail what has to be done.)

The sweater is coming along nicely.  It is a Fisherman's Pullover, for Martinus, and this time I knit a gauge swatch or two. I like the yarn as well, and now that I know that wool stays warm even if it is wet, I understand why one should really not knit a fisherman's sweater in cotton.

I am joining Ginny again for the Wednesday yarn along, a wonderful inspiration to keep me knitting and reading!