Monday, January 31, 2011

On the bookshelf: February

Well we haven't been to the library in a long time!  I think it's been at least since late November that we walked in those doors and checked out new books.  So we were, ahem... "overdue" for a trip there.  <smirk>

So George and I set a date for Friday, and headed on over as soon as we dropped off Johann at his preschool.

I love our town library so much, it is such a bright and cheerful place.  And the boys love it too.  What is not to love?  There are 2 model train sets that depict our town around the turn of the century, if you push the button the train behind the glass case starts going around the track and under the tunnel.   The younger boys and girls can usually be found there, elbowing each other (politely) out of the way so that they can have a turn at pushing that button!  Right next to the train sets is the "sale boat" - a large pirate-type looking ship filled with books/movies/and tapes for 25 cents a piece.  (This is MY favorite section - I usually come away from a trip to the library with a couple of "new" books for our shelves and if we're lucky some new audio tapes or CD's for the boys' players.  And boy, was I lucky this week!  We came home with 4 new CD's of the hottest toddler dance tunes and audio-stories.   I am always so happy to bring home new tapes and CD's, because I am guaranteed some quiet time for myself if the boys are happily listening to their new music and stories in their rooms.  (I take whatever I can get!!)  And that new music really brought about some new and interesting dance moves, I have to say!  The boys were really boogy-ing on down this weekend :)

After hitting the "sale" boat, we went in to pick out our books for the week. 
We got a small stack of astronaut and space ship books for Johann (his latest interest), and then chose a couple of books for George.

The hands-down favorite turned out to be: Where's Waldo?

I can't tell you how much the boys loved this book!  Every time I heard an uneasy silence (every silence is uneasy when you have a 3 and a 4 year old boy alone together somewhere in the house), I would be sure to find them under a table somewhere looking for Waldo.  Or quietly next to the windows in the living room, still searching.

Here's Johann, still looking!!

I didn't do so well for myself, however.  Everything I was hoping to pick up was already picked up by somebody else.  Maybe next week I'll do better.   In the mean time, I chose a couple off of our shelves already at home that I want to read: 
I'm embarassed to say I have never read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, though I was/am a huge fan of the show.  So I finally started that series  this weekend and am really enjoying it. 

I'm also reading this... 

because another knitter told me too.  And I'm thankful for that!   I love Elizabeth Zimmerman's writing style, and her patterns.  So far, so great! 

And lastly, I'm still making my way through this book about parenting youngsters and creating a Waldorf home-life.  I am learning a lot from this book about creating better daily rhythms as a family.   Rhythm is such a tricky thing, when everyone in the family seems to have their own unique idea of what should happen and when it should happen.  Especially when George thinks everything should happen "NOW!!"

So - what's on your bookshelf this month??

Friday, January 28, 2011

:: this moment ::

{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.

seeing icicles...

... and remembering summer.

If you’re inspired to do the same,
leave a link to your ‘moment’ over at SouleMama for all to find and see.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pretend they're not yours

Last night I found a bit of parenting "gold" and put it in my pocket.  Just "pretend they're not yours," was the sage advice from Johann's future Kindergarten teacher.  The snow was falling, but the parent workshop was continuing anyway inside our son's cheerful and (thankfully) warm pre-school yesterday evening.  We had finished the workshop part of the night, and had moved into a more informal question and answer period.

One of the parent's asked "how do I remain calm when I'm really at my limit and I've already tried all of the tricks in my bag?"  A super good question, in my opinion.  

Michael and I had discussed this same topic just the other morning.  I said to him over our morning coffee something about "Remember when we were teaching, and parents would say, - Boy, you have a lot of patience."  And we would think, "Do I?  Yes, I guess I do." 

And then we had our own children.

And we realized, "Nope.  We don't."     We laughed, and then started talking about why that is.  Why we could teach 40 children a day without ever truly reaching our "limit" (although often getting darned close to it).   How I can sit and knit for hours and hours on end, one stitch after one stitch, thousands upon thousands of little stitches to make a sweater...  How he can practice the same notes on his guitar over and over and over and over and never tire... the patience "well" just keeps putting forth water....

and then came our own children. 

And within an hour of knowing us, these children, our children, just knew to the inch how deep that "well" was.  They knew

My children have me figured out and calculated to a degree that would boggle the greatest scientific minds of our time.   They work me over until I'm at my wits end.  My well's end.  (and I have a deep well.)

And then I explode.  I do.  I explode.   Followed by a bout of tremendous guilt.   (And then I apologize, because at least I have learned that most important of lessons.)  and we move on.

And I have come to think "I guess I'm not a patient mother after all".  My teacher training, and my musician training, and my knitting hobby did not prepare me for the reserves of patience I would need to be a good mother.  I am frequently dismayed.

But then - parent workshop night.

And Sue (wise wise woman) says simply, with a shrug of her shoulders... "You just pretend they're not yours."

And it clicked.  And I felt like the Grinch, on the day his heart grows two sizes.  Of course!!  If these were the neighbors kids, and not mine, (and I frequently do wish they were the neighbors kids, or that I could just nonchalantly drop them off at the neighbors and let them have a go at it for a couple of days)  I would be different.  I would handle it differently.  After all, I know this works, because I was a teacher.    And I was patient.   Infinitely patient. 


they were not my children.  I had an emotional distance.  And that is the gold that I put in my pocket.

From now on, when they drive me to the edge,

when I am staring into the abyss,

when I am clenching my fists and feel the lava rise...

I will say  

"Who are these children?   What do I need to do here for these strange children who have come into my house to ransack, to destroy, to all but set it on fire  - for they are most certainly not my children and yet this must be dealt with."     and I will find my well of patience not dry, but still a little bit deeper then it had been before.

***  and it works.  I tried it last night when I found Johann in bed at 9:00, wide awake, with a pair of scissors, calmly cutting out all of the pages in a book as if he were clipping coupons at the breakfast table.  ***

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

the "winner" is...

Today, I thought I should tell you which sweater won the honor of being my next project...

and this will come as NO surprise to those of you who know me well.

I chose...


(sort of)

As I said before, I am really entirely incapable of choosing between two goods, or two evils.  I'm a "both" and "neither" kind of person.   A "let's compromise" kind of person.  A "more is more" kind of person.  I do appreciate your input, those of you who did cast a vote (thank you Edna!!).  And the rest of you, who did not vote, I can only assume that you either (1) have much more important things to do than cast votes on some yarn geeks next self-imposed project, or (2) you just don't care which sweater I make next.  Either way, that's cool.  You and me - we're still friends. 

But I am sending a thank you gift to my one brave commenter.  Edna, thank you for bravely casting a vote! - these are for you - May you be able to decide a creative destiny for this lovely yarn faster than I was able to.  They have been in my stash for longer than I care to admit, just waiting for me to make them into something more than a pile of unfinished project.

Now - back to the sweaters.

I made it to my yarn store this weekend, and bought 2 bundles of Cascade Ecological wool. 

This wool will someday be my "owls" sweater.  I'm coming along nicely already, thanks to the bulk of the yarn.  I "flew" through the ribbing and am making my way already up the body of the sweater.  I love bulky yarn for this.  Much faster gratification than a worsted weight.  :)

I liked how my circular needles sort of fell into a "heart" shape here, so I snapped a quick foto.

And as for the "peasy" sweater...

I cast on for that first, actually - (even though I secretly like the "owls" sweater better) because I had the scottish tweed in my stash already, so it was right there.  You know?  It was right there!!!  So I cast on, and then found a little while into it that my gauge was way too big. 

So, in a move typical to me, rather than fish around for needles in a different size, in an attempt to correct my incorrect gauge  (this would have been the next logical step, if I was a logical person at all.) I fished around for a new project entirely, and came up with a new sweater pattern - which is knit to the gauge I had already achieved!  I think this is genius!! 

You may disagree.

So now, my second sweater is going to be this!    Which I like equally as well.    And, actually, while I'm on the subject (what subject am I on anymore?  It's so hard to tell...) I really like all of the knitwear designs I see from this designer.   If you're on Ravelry, look her up - Heidi Kirrmaier.  I may end up making almost all of her sweaters.  Her taste and mine sync up really too well.  :)

So here's the beginning of my raglan V neck:

(That's the back obviously, if you're thinking "that doesn't look like a V neck"...  I love knitting this so far.   Bela seems to approve as well.

Ok, off to do some work now before my boss tells me not to bother showing up anymore.

Happy Tuesday to you all!
 Have some flowers.

Monday, January 24, 2011

at the piano

This turned out to be a special weekend for me.  I had the chance to catch up with a very dear friend, my piano.  

We haven't spoken in some time.  Too long.  But like a very dear old friend would,  I was instantly forgiven and welcomed back.

** disclaimer: my other friend - the piano tuner, has not been to visit in a very long time either, so be warned, those of you with perfect pitch... you may want to sit this performance out.  (snobs)

We talked about many things.  How a single day can sometimes feel so long, and yet a year can pass in an instant.  Who we were together 15 years ago, when we were spending almost every waking hour together.  Who we thought we might be 15 years from then, and who we actually are today.  What defines us and our success together.  Why we love each other still, and how to move forward peacefully from here.

I think all in all it was a positive, if tentative, reunion.  Who knows?

Maybe we will chat again next weekend.  :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

{this moment}

{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.

If you’re inspired to do the same,
leave a link to your ‘moment’ over at SouleMama for all to find and see.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Feed the birds

Hello feathery winter friends!     Most of what I know I've learned from my favorite childhood movies.   Thanks to Mary Poppins, I know that it's a nice thing to do to feed the birds.  So -

because we want you to be well fed during this cold season, here's what we're serving up today for you at Chez Junkins:

For the main course: 

A lovely peanut butter suet cake, with chopped sunflower seeds.

and for dessert:

 Freshly made pinecone tartlets with, yes, more birdseed and peanut butter.


Please enjoy!  We sure did enjoy making them for you!

 (please ignore my messy kitchen.  i do.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fresh Baked: Apricot Oatmeal Cookies

Ok,  I've got the recipe, I've got the pictures, I'm ready to post!

These are the most bestest oatmeal cookies I have ever made.  I have baked oatmeal cookies from dozens of different recipes in my past dozen or so years, and these are by far the winner.     Crunchy and chewy at the same time, the way an oatmeal cookie is supposed to be (in my opinion)

Step #1: Go to your pantry and make sure you have oatmeal.  I forgot this step, and had to run all around my neighborhood looking for a friendly neighbor with oatmeal who was home.  I had to ring 3 doorbells and trudge through 3 foot snow banks.  I looked crazy.  I am crazy, but I have nice neighbors, and in the end I got my oatmeal -  (make sure you have 3 cups)

back to the baking,

Step #2:   Gather the rest of your ingredients:

2 eggs
1 cup dried apricots, chopped

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinammon

3 cups oatmeal (quick cooking or old fashioned, not instant)

Step #3: 

Beat eggs in small bowl and dump in chopped apricots.  Let them sit.  For a while.  I went out and did my grocery shopping with George, while the apricots sat in their bowl waiting.  Getting soft and squishy.

Step #4: 
Preheat your oven to 350.

Cream butter and sugars with mixer.

Combine your dry ingredients in a separate bowl : flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda.

Add your dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix well. 

Next add in the apricot, eggs, and your tbsp of vanilla.

Last, dump in your oatmeal and mix well. 

(I just keep mixing this with my mixer as I'm adding new ingredients, because it's easier and I'm lazy, but you can begin to mix by hand after your dry ingredients are incorporated well)

Step #5:
Form into balls on your cookie sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes, until golden but still soft (!!!)

Transfer carefully from cookie sheet onto wire rack and let cool.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.


Step #6:  Make yourself a cup of tea and eat as many as you can before George wakes up from his nap.  Hurry!  Here he comes!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sweater Poll: please vote!

I finished February Lady, but she is taking forever to dry!  So final photos will have to wait until later this week.  I also finished my Subway Hat over the weekend, but I'm having trouble taking a good picture of it.  So deal with this...

Despite the frighteningly bad picture, I actually really like this hat, and the quirky design of it.  It makes me feel like a Dutch maiden  :)   I ended up really horribly off with my gauge, so I threw it into the washing machine and let it felt for a while.  Now it's all shrunked up and soft and lovely!   In fact, it's a little too shrunked up to add the fleece lining that the pattern calls for, but it really doesn't need a lining, since it's now felted so nicely.

If you came by yesterday, you may have been returning today for an oatmeal cookie recipe (the best oatmeal cookie recipe actually) but

... you'll have to wait one more day.  Because friends, I have 2 computers, and while I am blogging this morning from one computer, all of the pictures of the cookies and cookie making process are on the other.  And I simply cannot, will not, post a cookie recipe without the accompanying pictures.  You understand.   It just won't do.

So today, instead, I will just ask you for some help.  Please do help, because I am quite indecisive this week.  As I said, I have finished my sweater, and so my fingers are itching to immediately begin another.  I cannot for the life of me decide which to choose.  So weigh in, please.  Leave a comment.  Go on, don't be shy.

Contestant #1:  She's a pretty little number, with a flock (?) of owls running the entire length of her yoke.  She's made in ecological wool, y'all, and a quick knit from the bottom up with almost no seaming.  She offers just enough knitting interest in her cute little cables to keep the adventurous knitter from falling asleep at the needles.

Contestant #2Peasy is her name, and green felted tweed is her game.  She comes complete with a front lace panel that is sure to peak this knitter's love of all things lace, and she's a lovely shade of green, that I simply adore!  You won't go wrong with this pretty little cardigan number as you step out in style!

So -  #1, or #2  ??

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happiness is... 0 degrees?

Good morning Monday.  You are 0 degrees outside this morning.  Brrr.   I'm pretty used to the cold now, but even for me, that's a bit rough.

Today I am considering my many blessings and reasons for being grateful and happy on such a bitterly cold winter morning...  and I'm taking you along for the ride.

Here we go.

Happiness is...

a warm bowl of cereal in the morning.

Happiness is...

the strange and wonderful creatures that are popping up all over our house.

Happiness is...

a clean sink.  (that almost never happens - so it must be documented and celebrated)

Happiness is...

my bela.

Happiness is...

a family walk through the backyard, finding fox tracks, and a huge tree we had never noticed before.

Happiness is...

finding some quiet moments to work on a couple of projects.

and finally -

Happiness is...

a fresh batch of warm apricot oatmeal cookies.  (Let's bake these together tomorrow! Come back for the recipe)

What is happiness for you this Monday morning?
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