Saturday, April 28, 2007


With all the talk lately of declining and disappearing bee colonies, I've been keeping a watchful eye on my yard to see if I could find any. Despite many flowers, I hadn't seen any bees....until today. We have a huge Spanish lavender plant out in front that evidently is bee heaven when the flowers are in bloom. I counted at least a dozen bees flying busily from purple flower to purple flower. Such a lovely sight. I'll have to plant more Spanish lavender out back. Wonder if I can get cuttings to grow?

Wee bit of knitting

I haven't been knitting much at all in the past few weeks. This puts me behind schedule on my sister's shawl, but there's not much to be done about it. My hands have been shaking recently and it's just hard to do things that take a lot of fine motor skill, so gardening has been getting a lot more attention. No worries - I went to a Neurologist last Friday and hopefully will be getting some answers and in the meantime the shaking is getting a bit better, so all is well. Here is the center and just a bit of the first edging for my *almost* Cobweb Crepe Shawl. I picked up stitches all the way around and am using two long circular needles to continue on in the round. Keeping track of where I am in all of this is surprisingly hard to do so I copied the chart and am marking off each row as I go along. It's starting to look lace-like - see? Hard to see much of anything without blocking, but it's coming along.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Doing thing differently

I've been doing a lot of gardening lately. Took this picture after realizing that perhaps I use slightly different tools for the job. The basket of seeds is pretty self explanatory. The paper to the right is a garden plan drawn on grid paper so I know where everything should go. The L square is handy when measuring out square foot increments. I'm using biointensive gardening methods since I have such a small garden plot (8 x 8 feet, plus the smaller raised beds by the house). Planting involved tracing out each square foot, then filling each with whatever each block was supposed to have in it. I did a good bit of reading on companion planting so there's a stab at having plant "friends" close together (corn and pole beans, lettuce in the shade of cucumbers, etc.). I'm also trying to entice as many bees and beneficial insects as possible, so there are a goodly number of flowers, onions and garlic planted in and around the edges of the plot.

The hippity hop? Well, it makes a really nice seat, much better than a step stool or chair. Comfy, easy to lug around, and the rounded bottom doesn't poke holes in the ground.

I'm sure these aren't standard gardening tools, but I like them!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Weekend gardening

So much clearing, weeding, cultivating, amending, and planting this weekend. Dan is my new hero, the man with the pickaxe and a shovel ever-ready to haul rocks and dirt. Managed to clear out and 8 by 8 foot garden plot out in back and add in compost and peat moss to lighten up the soil a bit. I had already planted some peas there - added sugar snap peas, pole beans, and "Rocky" cucumbers (wee, bite sized seedless wonders) along the back fence as well. No other planting in the big clearing yet, since that got finished towards the end of the day and I was completely beat by then.

I did get tomatoes in: one Pik Red, one Oregon Spring, and two Brandywine. Planted some calendula out in front of them, and some butterfly mix to the side. My square foot garden plots from last year are all filled out now with basil, parsley (which is huge and taking over the right side there), oregano, thyme, cilantro, arugula, corn salad, butterhead lettuce, baby lettuce mix, green onions, radishes (plain and "Easter Egg" mix), teeny baby carrots, and some bush beans. Doesn't look like much yet, but give it a month and there'll be a lot of green.

We also pulled out a ton of stuff out in front of the house. Red lava rocks...oh, how I hate the stuff. It's everywhere, including down into the clay soil. Lovely. We filled bucket after bucket with rocks, then amended the soil a bit. Dan pried out the brick edging strips along the curb (they just made one more spot weeds could hide), then I planted a bunch of sweet alyssum and hostas. Also tossed out some "bee and butterfly" mix in the open area where our bush used to be - we'll plant something else there soon, but for now filler will have to do.

It was so nice to finally be able to plant and really get working on the yards. This is one of the things I have been looking forward to the most since hurting my ankle - getting out and gardening.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Once a month baking

Did a bit of easy baking today. Needed something to take along with us to Game Club - a local Asperger's support group event that happens once a month. The boys really look forward to going, and I don't blame them! Board games, video games, card games, snacks and pizza, and a showing of a new DVD on a big screen complete with popcorn are all great, but having a group of other kids who are all at a similar social skills level is even better. Most kids with Asperger's have a difficult time making friends due to problems picking up on social cues, added to the fact that many of these kids do a lot of things that seem a bit odd as well. So a night like this means pretty much guaranteed success, which is huge. Parents get to hang out and talk and generally get a very well deserved break, so everyone wins. Each family brings a snack (hence the baking) and a $5 donation that helps go towards games and upkeep. Well worth it.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
makes 24 - 36 bars

These may look like just another ho-hum cookie bar recipe, but give them a try - they're quite addictive. You can play with it quite a bit, too - add other extras, leave some of mine out, it's all good. The whole wheat flour is mainly there so I can delude myself into thinking that these are marginally healthful, so feel free to leave it out and use all regular flour instead.

1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or use all regular flour, or 1/2 cup whole wheat and 1 cup all purpose)
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup coconut, unsweetened
1/3 cup quick oats
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1 Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan. If the pan is glass or Pyrex, turn the oven heat down to 300.
2 Mix butter, sugar and eggs together well. Add salt, flours and baking powder and stir until thoroughly mixed. Add coconut, oats, and nuts and mix to distribute evenly. Spread over the bottom of buttered pan (the batter is really thick). Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Bake for around 25 - 30 minutes, or until dry on top and almost firm to the touch. Let cool until chocolate chips are solid again, then cut into small squares.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Ryan lost his first tooth today. I think he's officially the oldest kid in his school to lose a tooth at a few months past eight, but he's alway run on his own personal timetable. I can't get over how different he looks! The tooth is in an envelope inside his favorite jacket, which he lost today, so the Tooth Fairy is waiting a day for him to search (which coincidentally gives us time to find a dollar coin to pop under his pillow tomorrow night). I've already showed him how to slip a straw into the gap, but I haven't showed him how to squirt water through. Some things are better figured out on your own.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

I'm a bit in between on celebrating anything religious today - still figuring out where I am and what I believe. But today feels like Spring and renewal and life, and that I'm happy to celebrate to the hilt, regardless of anything else on top of it. Today the boys woke up to Easter baskets filled with colored foam sheets, water balloons, bubbles, glow in the dark bracelets, pinwheels, ceremonial chocolate bunnies (must bite off the ears first), and tiny wooden birdhouses. We all had pancakes with berries and yogurt for breakfast, then spent the morning baking a humongous beehive bread. We all had fun rolling out strips of dough, twisting them together, then wrapping them around a pyrex bowl to bake. The boys attacked the loaf less than a moment after I took this picture, and I don't blame them! It was delicious. It was a beautiful, sunny day today - perfect for watching the boys run through the breeze laughing and chasing each other. They had their fair share of fighting today as well, but I savored those perfect moments of sunshine, flowers, and innocence.

I got several requests for the Beehive Bread recipe, so here 'tis. The bread is sweet and rich with just a touch of lemon and goes really well with just a dab of sweet butter.

Beehive Bread

adapted from "Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads"

5 1/2 to 6 cups bread flour (I used unbleached all purpose flour)
1 package dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk, warmed
1 Tb grated lemon peel
5 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg, beaten, mixed with 1 tsp milk

1 baking sheet
ovenproof glass or metal mixing bowl - 9" wide by 4" deep

Mix 2 cups flour, yeast, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the milk and lemon peel. Beat until mixture is smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing after each is added. Stir in the butter.

Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough can be lifted from the bowl easily (you may have flour remaining).

Knead the dough about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Cover top of bowl with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let dough rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Take dough out of the bowl and knead for 2-3 minutes. Put back in the bowl, cover, and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Shaping - the fun part!

Turn bowl over and cover with aluminum foil, pressing down to smooth the surface. Rub generously with butter and place on top of a baking dish without sides.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator. It'll be cold and pretty hard, so work it with your hands for a little while to get it moving well again. Roll dough into a thick snake and cut into 20 pieces. Roll each piece into ropes about 18 - 20 inches long and about 3/8" thick with narrowed ends. Take two ropes, pinch the ends together, and twist them together.

Wrap each twist around the bowl, starting from the bottom rim. As you add another twist, pinch the ends and overlap them a little to blend them in. Keep wrapping until you run out of dough. You might not get all the way to the top, which still looks great. If you need to have a solid bottom start from the center top and spiral around from there and down.

Cover with a cloth and let rise for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Carefully brush the bread all over with the egg mixture. Bake until golden brown all over, 25-30 minutes. You may need to turn the bread around once to get all sides evenly golden. Put the bowl on a cooling rack and let cool.

When the bread is at room temperature you can either leave it on the bowl (I did), take out the bowl and crumple up some foil to hold up the center, or flip the bread over to use as a basket. If you want a basket you may want to bake it flipped side up for another 5 minutes or so to firm up the inside edges a little.

Place bread in a conspicuous location and bask, then tear off a bit to enjoy.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Spring has sprung

Pink Bleeding Hearts, out in our front yard:
White Bleeding Hearts:
Wild fringed Bleeding Hearts, which have taken over a large patch out in front:
Blooming tree:
I love this time of year :-)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

...and cast off!

On Friday I hobbled into the doctor's office, more than ready to get this blasted cast off my foot. Out came the big, scary saw. You know, the one that doesn't cut skin but looks lethal. That one. After a lot of careful cutting my doctor admits why she's extra cautious with this thing: it used to be a bone saw. Images from assorted horror movies are at this point dancing through my head. Then, halleluia, no more cast. On went the ol' walking boot, and off I went into the sunset. Walking still hurts a bit so I'm taking things very easy, but I'm a lot more mobile now so life is good.

Speaking of good things, look what I got in the mail today. Yarn! I won Lorette's knitting tip contest (random drawing, but still!) yesterday. Got the yarn today. That lady is lightning fast. The Opal Lollipop 1009 will most likely end up as socks for the boys - they both loved all the colors. Now the Cherry Tree Hill Glitter Alpaca is just beautiful. It's full of purples, deep greens, and a bit of bright pink here and there shot through with tiny winks of shine all over. So soft and light. Haven't a clue what I'll do with it, but I think knitting it up will be my reward for finishing up my sister's wedding shawl. Thanks again, Lorette!
Also finished up Ryan's socks, made from the yarn I dyed over at Abundant Yarn. He loves them and will not take them off. I'm taking this as a good sign.