Monday, August 29, 2016

She Never Holds Still

 I realized I was deleting a lot of blurry photos of Phoebe.  She's a very busy little person these days.  She climbs into her stroller with a pal to read books sometimes.

 When she's confined in her high chair or sitting on a lap for a book, I have a better chance of a clear shot.
 Adorable girl - we are having so much fun with her!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ben With His Cart and Cans

Ben made a go-cart with his dad.  They scavenged the wheels from a broken stroller and a rusty wire shopping cart and used boards and odds and ends in the basement.  Ben was patient, but persistent  with his daddy's busy schedule until the go-cart was done.

Ben rides it almost every day with great joy and pride.  He's gotten several comments from the oldsters on the park benches who remember "building carts" when they were boys and thought youngsters didn't do that anymore.

Then Ben wanted to make himself stilts and raided my coffee-can stash in the basement.  There are metal cans down there, but he chose the plastic ones and was enamored with the way the drill melted the plastic when he made holes.  And Genevieve got into the can stash, too, to make a pulley system of cans from the balcony to pass messages back and forth.

None of these things were suggested or explained by me or my husband - I love how timeless children's play can be!

And then, to cap off his summer, Ben won a watermelon-eating contest at our block party.  His prize was a whole watermelon (ignore the tootsie-pops) which suited our family fine: a kid bringing home legitimate food!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Pickled Peppers

I guess I never thought beyond the tongue-twister ("Peter Piper picked a peck. . . ") to consider pickled peppers a real food.  My friend Naomi not only gave me a bag of banana peppers from her garden, she also gave me a little jar of pickled peppers and advised me to eat them on sandwiches.  So good!  And so easy.  

These are fridge pickles, meant to be kept in the fridge only and not canned.  As long as you use a clean utensil to dip into them, they should keep well for weeks.

Pickled Peppers
2 cups white vinegar
6 Tbsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
 6 Tbsp. water
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
sliced, seeded peppers

Use time/mixing or some heat to dissolve the salt in the vinegar.  If you use heat, allow mixture to cool before adding the rest of the ingredients.  Use a mixture of hot or sweet peppers as you prefer and make sure the brine covers them; Naomi and I used banana peppers which are mostly mild, a little spicy here and there.  Store in the fridge in a covered container.

What else would you do with pickled peppers besides sandwiches?  I'm all ears.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

What My Big Kids Did This Summer

They each got their own library card and became responsible for their own accounts. Such excellent training in due dates, fines, and talking to adults to get information about their accounts and check out books.  When you forget your library card, you can't check out the movie!  When you return an empty movie case to the library, you have to remember to get the movie out of the player at home and bring it back!  

I looked for these kinds of learning opportunities with money, too.  Both Genevieve and Ben looked after pets and plants for various neighbors on vacation for some cash.  I could see them deciding to commit to something and learning to stick with it after the charm of someone else's house wore off. 


Every day except Sunday, Genevieve and Ben have chores.  In the morning, I write up a chore list and it lays around until every item is crossed off.  I want them to do their chores in the morning and definitely before any fun activities (this is a great motivator if something fun is scheduled for the day!).  On Fridays, they dust and vacuum the downstairs and steps.  On Saturdays, they clean the bathroom.  Every day they need to practice piano and when there is a basket of clean laundry in their room, they need to fold and put away their laundry.  Monday through Thursday, I assign chores based on what work needs to be done around the house.  This could be various cleaning jobs not covered by Friday and Saturday's house cleaning, or outside jobs such as sweeping sidewalks and mowing grass.  Phoebe's care is not part of the chore list, by the way.

 New this summer, they also take turns washing the supper dishes.  Now they understand firsthand why I always made them clean their plates - the food scraps must go in their mouths or the compost buckets because they are not welcome in the dishwashing sink!  My husband and I have been training them to see the smears and bits of food on poorly washed dishes.  I had to work with Ben to hold his hands and the dishes down in the basin - he tended to hold the dishes in front of his chest with rivers of dishwater on his arms and the cabinets.  They had to learn how to stack the dishdrainer so the dishes could drain.

They also went to camps this summer.  Ben loves overnight camp at a Church of the Brethren camp with family history.  Genevieve tried overnight camp last summer and prefers day camps.  She did a survival camp in our local park, as well as a book-making camp at a local museum.  They loved these opportunities for meeting new people, learning new skills and jokes, and getting out of chores for a week!

This post has been invaluable reflection for me as a parent, to realize how Genevieve and Ben have matured and how much I have enjoyed watching them develop.  I'm so proud of them!  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Lavender Soap This Time

Four years ago, I made soap.  It was good soap and not as difficult as I thought it would be.  So I accumulated more fat in the freezer and finally, just before back-to-back vacations and in the middle of summer canning, I became obsessed with making soap.  I briefly argued with myself about the timing, but the heart wants what the heart wants.  

Because I had waited four years, I had to study up on soapmaking all over again. The most helpful instructions came from an article by Amber Moss Ek in the Song issue of Taproot.  

The recipe I used came from a library book whose name I have purged from my memory because it recommended adding water to the lye which is dangerously, explosively wrong (I corrected the book in pen in the margin, but still).  Here's a useful mnemonic for this part of soapmaking:  snow falls softly on the pond (slowly add lye to water, never never never the other way around).  

I had to wait a while for the lye solution to cool down, so I snapped some other photos, too.

The big kids were strictly warned away from the soap-making area and the baby was napping.  I myself made sure to wear glasses, gloves, and old clothes.  All went well, especially the part where I explained to the big kids what a chemical burn would do to their skin if they got too close to the lye.

The fat that I had collected was mostly tallow, but also some random globs from other meat.  I found instructions from Esther Shank in Mennonite Country-Style on how to clean fat that has cooking contaminents in it that may prevent the soap from setting properly.  I added the fat to an equivalent amount of water in a large pot and boiled them together for about 10 minutes.  Then I cooled the mixture, refrigerated it, and scooped the cleaned, hardened fat off the top of the "dirty" liquid on the bottom.  It must have worked, because my soap set up beautifully.

I tried using a plastic tub as a soap mold; unfortunately, I broke it in the process of getting the cake of soap out.  I will do more research about soap molds before I make more soap.  

Nineteenth-Century Soap
22 oz. tallow
15 oz. olive oil
14 oz. lard
7 oz. lye
22.5 oz. water
1/4 cup dried lavender flowers

I added the lavendar per Amber Moss Ek's instructions.  I ground up the lavender in my spice grinder, an old coffee grinder set aside for non-coffee jobs. After the soap had thickened ("achieved trace"), I stirred in the powdered lavender.  I had more lavender flowers than I needed, so I made some sachets on the spot.  

And now the soap will cure for 6 weeks in the top shelf of Phoebe's closet.  I'm excited to try it out! 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Genevieve is a Sewing Teacher

When her friend came over, Genevieve offered to teach her to sew.  I lurked around to listen and then finally asked if I could snap some photos.  It was so precious and hilarious to hear Genevieve passing on sewing information - she is entirely self-taught, despite my no-strings-attached offers to teach her what I know about sewing.  

 I even made a Pinterest board a few years ago, with high hopes of having lessons such as piano lessons. Genevieve generally uses tape, the stapler, and hair ties to force her fabric into what she has in mind.  This time, she showed her friend how to hand sew with needle and thread.

  The best way to learn anything is to teach it to someone else!