Yarn Along

Hello! Joining Ginny today for the monthly Yarn Along. I have been knitting a lot this winter. Not really finishing much at the moment but I am enjoying the time sitting in front of the fire watching snowflakes fall. Still winter here in Maine and it will be for some time. Good think I like it.

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I did finish some dishrags. We really needed them and so one weekend I just decided to whip them up. I like them on the small side because they fit into cups and glasses better that way. I have so much cotton in my stash that it was nice to have some color choices.

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I read “Plain and Simple”. It was a nice read. I have always loved reading about the Amish. I don’t think I would want to live that simply, but the peacefulness that it conveys does appeal to me.

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I am working on a sweater from the magazine “Making”. It is called Canvas Cardigan. It is out of the Making No. 3 Dots. I am enjoying the knit and learning something new. Set in sleeves with short rows.

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I have also been reading all the Making magazines that I have so far. My husband got me the subscription for my birthday. I love looking at all the ideas. Not just knitting, but sewing and cooking too!

We are getting yet another snow storm. Much needed in fact because right now we have mostly hard icy snow that isn’t all that fun to ski and snowshoe on. Enjoy your day what ever it brings!

 

 

 

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Don’t Boil the Soup!

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I make a lot of soup for my family. Especially in the winter time. It is a meal that can be made ahead of time and put on the stove to simmer until it is time to eat. Great for those days you want to be outside snowshoeing or skiing. It is also nice if someone you love is fighting a flu or cold.

Over the years the soups I make have evolved into works of art. I know it sounds like I am bragging, but I don’t mean to. The soups I used to make were dull, bland, and too salty. Somewhere along the way I learned how to make a great pot of soup. The one secret I feel is the key is to not boil it! Boiling it makes the veggies mushy and tasteless and it makes the meat tough. Plus it makes the soup too hot to eat!

The soup above is a throw together soup made mostly from leftovers. Hamburger and black beans from our tacos. Lentils and rice that we had last week. Green beans that were from our Monday meal. Beef broth, and a package of frozen mixed veggies were the only thing not ‘left over’.

Lots of my soups are born from leftovers but many are made intentionally. It seems like there are many steps but really it isn’t too bad. I start with a broth. Is it a beef, poultry or veggie soup? If it is chicken or turkey then use the carcass if you have one and make the broth from that. I already made a post about that here. Store bought broth is just fine too. The second thing I do is prepare the veggies. I saute them in a pot or pan. Don’t cook them all the way, just until slightly tender. I don’t usually saute spinach or kale or other greens, they get thrown in later.

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After the veggies are done I put them in the broth. At this point the broth should be hot, but not boiling. Now you can add in any other things that are wanted in the soup but making sure that everything is cooked like beans, tomatoes or rice. Barley can be added now uncooked because it will cook while the soup simmers. Sometimes uncooked white rice can be added depending on how long the soup simmers.

Now I would saute any meat. The leftover soup had hamburger that was already cooked so I just threw it in but when you make a soup with carcass meat or boneless meats you want to wait until the end to add the meats. I saute up any raw meat in a pan with oil or butter (or both). Add salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then I add the meat close to serving time. I let it simmer for just enough time to be cooked but not overcooked.

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The last thing to add is any pastas and greens, and herbs. I never add pasta to the actual soup. I cook it up separate and add to the bowls afterwards. If you add them directly to the hot soup they are always there through all the second helpings and leftovers and pasta cooks fast and gets mushy. Leftover soups with pasta already in the soup are never that good.

So it is pretty easy but just has extra steps.  Broth, veggies and other additions, meat, then greens and pasta. Season to taste and enjoy. Just remember; most ingredients get cooked separate then added to the broth. Just don’t boil the soup!

 

 

Public, Private, Charter, Home?

My oldest daughter is 14. She has been homeschooling all her life. It is getting time to think about formal education of some sort. If not for the education then for the social opportunities. Rural Maine living makes it very hard to meet other kids and it is even harder when you homeschool. Where we live right now the choices for teen socialization is very limited.

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My daughter tried Jr. High school at the public school last September but realized it just wasn’t what she wanted. Maybe it was culture shock, maybe it was the work load. Maybe it was a combination. She is currently attending a democratic style private school program that meets twice a week. It is about 45 minutes away. She spends the night with a friend that is also attending the program. Normally it would be pretty expensive (for us) but they offered her a full scholarship because they are just starting out and want to attract other students. It is working for now.

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“For now” are the key words. I always have to have my eye on what is next. I won’t be able to pay for the tuition next year. Unless they offer another scholarship I really don’t see her going there again. Also, two days is kind of a disruption in a way. She does some math and reading here at home and a couple of subjects at the school but I am not sure she is really delving into anything deeply. Maybe she doesn’t need to.

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We just heard about a new charter high school that may be opening up. It is a bit closer and would be free because my state recognizes charter schools and my town would pay the tuition. I haven’t been to a meeting yet but I imagine it would be every day. I would need to drive her there and then pick her up.

There is always public High School. My daughter didn’t like the Jr. High but maybe high school is different. She would be able to continue being in the orchestra program.

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I have been a parent long enough to know that this has to be what is best for her. I am a little worried that at her age she may only be thinking about sociability. I am not worried about college. If that is what she wants then it will be possible even if she stayed home through high school. I want her to make an informed decision about education. Where will she have the most opportunity to learn new things. Find her passion. All at the same time as making quality, lasting friendships.

I guess I’ll keep you posted.

I Want a Warm Quilt!

Sometime in the beginnings of winter my daughter told me she loved the quilt I made her and it was really pretty and all but that it just wasn’t all that warm. She felt because it was quilted quite heavily that all the holes in it was making it not warm. She may have a point there but it was probably that it had cotton batting in it. She asked if I would make her a warm quilt. Music to a quilter’s ears!

I decided to make both daughters warm quilts for Christmas. Simple quilts, tied, and with wool, high loft batting. I also used flannel on the backs. They came out very nice and both of my daughters love them.

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I had the girls choose two colors they liked at the fabric store and then I built on that. I used a simple brick pattern. All the blocks are the same shape and size then sewn in brick layer pattern. It was very easy and quick to make. Good thing since I didn’t really start until a week before Christmas. It is amazing what you can get done when you push through it. The only thing I didn’t do before wrapping them was attach the binding to the other side of the quilts. But doing that after Christmas kept me warm in the sub-freezing temps we have had here in Maine.

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And now they are finished and on the beds and declared ‘very warm and cozy’! Success. Did you make any of your Christmas gifts this year?

First and Full

I woke up early this morning. Before 5. I was rested and couldn’t sleep anymore so I got up. It was clear and cold and bright as day but of course the sun had not come up yet. The moon was full.  The first full moon on the first of the year. That is pretty special. It was so pretty I had to go outside. I could see every tree, every shadow of every tree. It was beautiful. What a way to start a morning.

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I am back to CurlyCueCreates after a bit of a break. I haven’t been blogging for a couple of months. I haven’t been reading many blogs either. Truth be known I find myself on my phone more these days. I am not happy about it and mean to change it. In all fairness to myself, I have been pretty busy getting ready and enjoying the holidays.

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Like many people I do use this time of year to reflect and resolve. I don’t have any big resolutions this year. I did some new things last year. Went outside my comfort zone so to speak and I am happy with that. This year I resolve to get better at what is working and do better at what is not. How is that? Enough for me.

Since I was last here it did get considerably colder. I wrote how it had been such a warm fall and that I didn’t think we would get winter. Well, of course we have. We have almost two feet of snow and the temperatures have been very, very cold. Over a week now of single and negative digit temps. Brrrr! We decided to go a bit south after Christmas. Only to Boston. The temps were a bit warmer but still quite nippy. We went to Frog Pond to skate and visited Little Italy for supper. It was so fun!

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I have been knitting and quilting! Lots of sewing and creating. I made my sons pillowcases and bought them new pillows for Christmas. My husband and I put together many home made food items for them too. Granola, salsa, and apple rings. This year I made my daughters new winter quilts.

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I will post more about the quilts but for now just snippets. I am still sewing the bindings on. I wrapped the quilts with the bindings on but not sewn to the backside. I just ran out of time! But they loved them and thought they were beautiful. They are very warm because I used wool batting. As I sew on the binding I am covered up in the quilts and now I really want one for me! Something to cover up with on these very cold nights.

Today my husband returns to work after a long vacation. The girls and I are not getting right back into our full schedule. Music lessons start up as does ballet. Cross country ski-ing does too. I think some baking, reading, games and crafts are still in order for a while before we get back into our real schedule.

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Enjoy the New Year!!

Bringing it Inside

Today is warm-ish. It is 58 degrees on a November morning. The house is warm without a fire. The weatherman says that November reality will hit tomorrow. I am ready!

I harvested the last (maybe) of the spinach, arugula, and lettuce yesterday. I picked raspberry leaves to dry for tea. I picked the last of the flowers that were blooming and made a nice bouquet.  I dug up two pepper plants that were still flowering and re-potted them. I am hoping for some winter peppers. It felt good walking around and realizing that soon everything will be covered in snow. Hopefully. I like snow.

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This is the season for apples! Pie making is in full swing and I peeled, cored, and sliced many apples to dry. My kids love dried apples. They are so sweet. I will need to do another batch though, since they get eaten so fast. They are great in oatmeal, granola, or just eaten like chips. Healthy chips!

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Even though it is warm, it is rainy and it feels as though we should be inside. So here we are, tucked in. The birds are at the feeder, girls are doing their thing, and I am ready to make some soup! How are you getting ready for winter?

 

Oh, My Golly!

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Don’t you hate hearing people say “I’ve been sooo busy!” ? I do, but I find myself saying it. I’ve read articles on how to not be so busy or at least to think about the busyness in a different way.  Like finding joy along the way. Like how we saw a beautiful rainbow on our way to orchestra class last Friday. My busy times have been good ones so it isn’t a negative thing. I do regret not really having time to sit and blog. ‘They’ say it’s all about making the time. So, hear I go!

I finally stopped itching! We are still having summer here in Maine so at least I get to enjoy some of it! I was out in the garden yesterday. I thinned beets while my daughter harvested zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and a few small cukes. The garden is still producing and it is middle of September! I am thinking of ordering some chicks. They would be laying by Spring. The only thing stopping me is my inability to make a decision. I am worried it will be too cold. The chicken FB site says it will be fine. I really should just do it. I have a beautiful, large and safe coop that has gone unused for a year. It is time.

I have been knitting, and sewing. I made a dress ( A Washi ) and I have been doing some alterations for a friend. I am knitting a shawlette for a wedding I may be going to. (I say may because I still have not settled childcare for the girls yet) I am also working on socks. I am finding my groove again. Even making up menus and baking bread again. Routines work so well for me.

Speaking of routines we have a brand new one this year. My oldest daughter is going to school. Eighth grade! I am at home with just one child. That hasn’t happened since 1991! My youngest daughter and I have started Bullet Journals together. So far it is very fun. We are taking our ‘school’ year pretty slow. Planning what we want to do. I know it will have sewing and art. Yes, a little math too. We even put in a rest and relaxation (knitting) time in our schedule. That I love.

I missed the boat in blogging about all our camping trips, the girls’ camps, and some landscaping project that we have been working on all summer. I am looking forward to my 50th birthday! Wow, Oh my Golly, 50! I can’t decide what I want to do. I am torn between going away by myself for some quiet and pampering or a get together with our family here at home. Maybe I will have to do both!

I hope you all are in your fall groove. It feels good!

 

August First!

For the first time in a long while, if not ever, the summer is going by too fast. It is August first. Already! Slow down please. Maybe it is us. Maybe we are going too fast. Not having enough time spent just sitting. Just being home. It just isn’t that kind of summer I guess. We have been on the move quite a bit.

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We went to visit Dean’s sister that was staying in Maine. She rented a log cabin on a high hill and it had the most beautiful views. We just returned home yesterday from a three day camping trip to the coast. We biked some trails in Portland and visited with two of our sons. We had lobster! We celebrated our 27th year being married too!

We have had our share of home days but they just seem to be busy this year. The girls have been working for friends and neighbors to earn money for the school program they want to attend. It is pretty pricey, at least for us it is. They are very good workers and they are getting a nice amount saved up.

My redone flower garden is looking good. Makes all the heartache and work worth it. The vegetable garden is coming along as well. It was a late start to warmth this year in Maine and the garden is a little behind but doing okay.

We did have a hot spell or two and we stayed inside with the shades drawn. I was cleaned out and organized all my seeds. I had seed packets from five years ago! This week I need to go plant some fall veggies. Beets, carrots and kale. Spinach too but not for a few more weeks. It bolts so fast in this weather. So far my broccoli is doing okay this year but I have decided to not plant it again. I have been trying for years and really it isn’t worth all the time and money for netting, soap for the flea beetles, and all the extra time it takes to care for it. I can’t plant enough for storage in the freezer and it takes up valuable space that I could grow things I can store. Like beets or cabbage. So next year no broccoli. I can get it at the farmers market.

The blueberries and raspberries are really coming now. And just yesterday my daughter showed me some blackberries that are ripening. It is a great time of year for berries.

The girls have been working on crocheting. Sometimes we do a lesson together using YouTube lessons. But a lot of times they just sit and do their own thing. It is fun. I finished a hat for a baby shower gift. I still need to knit up the booties. I want to do a sweater but I am running out of time. We’ll see.

Hope you are enjoying your summer!

 

 

Daytrippers

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At this point in time I can honestly say this has been the best summer weather wise that I can ever remember. We have had a nice mixture of sun, rain, a little heat, and nice cool breezy nights. Perfection. This morning I read that we are going to get some hazy, hot, and humid weather this week. I will try and remember that the summer has been glorious so far.

We biked on Swan Island here in Maine. It was beautiful and quiet. We took a ferry out to it with our bikes and a picnic. The total distance was 9 miles. I felt it towards the end. I was very glad I did it though. Endorphins were coursing through my body! The girls did a good job too. We did rest along the way and took in the sites. At the tip of the island we had a picnic. It overlooked the river. Another day we took a trip to Sebago Lake. We have not camped yet this year. We are daytrippers!

We picked strawberries twice and froze a bunch. I also made 11 pints of strawberry jam! I gave a few away but most will go in the pantry. I also cut and froze some garlic scapes. The garden is starting to produce. We have eaten lots of lettuce, and snow peas. I see a little head of broccoli in there and some tiny squash. I even have a pepper and the tomatoes are getting bigger too. Slow start to gardening this year but it is coming along. This week I need to plant some fall beets, and maybe some more greens. Probably after this week of heat.

I finally got around to seasoning my new wok. We had a colorful stir fry the other day. I cooked it on the side burner outside. I have electric stove tops inside and I thought the gas would be better with the wok. The veggies kept their color and were still a little crisp just the way I like them.

I moved a little table we had outside to the back deck. Not sure why I never thought to do it before. It is perfect for a cup of tea and my knitting or my notebook for planning. I have been spending mornings out there listening to the birds and watching the sun get higher in the sky. I can keep an eye on the deer that are trying to eat my raspberries too. I am working on a sock as you can see. I used double points for the very top and for the heel and gusset and am trying out a size 9 circular for the leg and foot. So far so good.

I hope you are having a lovely summer wherever you are!

Just Time

We didn’t do any big celebration for Summer Solstice this year. It was in the middle of the week. Dad had to work the next day. It has been really wet. Too wet to try and light a fire. It is fine though, we have lots of things planned for the summer. We also have lots of un-planned time as well. I think that is what summer is for! Each girl has a week of camp. We ‘sort’ of have a camping trip planned for some time this summer in the eastern part of the state.  There will be a 4th of July party. I have a loose plan to take the girls to an island, on a ferry, with bikes. We have plans to visit all the boys at some point too. But for the most part it will be a free, uncluttered calendar, kind of summer. I am very happy about that.

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There has been time. Just that. Time. In this first full week without lessons, or plans, or driving, there has been time for sitting, knitting, baking, and playing. It is amazing to watch how the girls transform back into their playful, relaxed, and thoughtful selves. I sometimes wonder if it would be boring to always have so much time. It wouldn’t for me but I wonder about the girls. For now though I know they are enjoying all this unstructured time.

I made myself an apron. With a friend, we each made one. It is a wrap around apron and I absolutely love it. It is so comfortable. It has two deep pockets. I can easily wear it all day if I needed to. No ties around the waist. I can’t say enough about it. I made the first pie of the season. Yes, the season, in my opinion, starts now. It is now that all the fresh fruits start to ripen. This pie is a Strawberry-Rhubarb. Both in season right now. My daughter decorated the pie for Father’s day. We both talked about doing a year of pies. This being the first we wondered what July would be. Blueberry? We are working on what each pie would be. Twelve Pies! Can you imagine? Stay tuned.

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There was an afternoon when we sat outside being silly. My daughter taught my how to take a selfie. It isn’t as easy as you would think. It must come naturally for her at her young age of thirteen. After too many shots to count we did get one, maybe two, that were acceptable. Not great, but acceptable. Yes, I am still wearing the apron.

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The moths are stuck to the screens in the morning. That is always fun to play with them and identify them. I have started the sleeves on my angora sweater. It has a Moorish Lattice on the yoke. This sweater is the softest thing. I wish you could feel it. I tried to do the sleeves two at a time with a magic loop. I learned the technique and felt comfortable with it but my yarn is so fine and stretchy that where the loops were being pulled the sweater was getting stretched and holey. So I switched to a 16 inch circular and it looks much better. I am glad I learned magic loop though!

Today it is rainy. The girls are playing with a castle that one of them made out of foam board. She made it in two days. It is huge. This is what passing the time is all about. I am looking forward to more of it.

I hope you are enjoying your summer so far.