Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Knitting notions

There was a Michaels flyer in with the newspaper this week with a 40% off coupon so I decided to pop in there and pick up a few things. I was hoping to find some aesthetically pleasing bamboo double pointed needles, but they only had a couple of sizes and of course they weren't the ones I wanted. I ended up getting two more 4mm sets of the pink aluminum needles, just like those I already use for all my sock knitting, so now I'll be able to have more than one sock on the go at a time.

I bought a couple of row counters - I probably don't really need two, but they were sold together for using with different needle thicknesses. I rarely use straight needles but quickly worked out that I could attach one to my cast-on yarn tail and keep track without a pen and pad.

And the final item was a ball of Vanna's Choice acrylic yarn from Lion Brand. I haven't seen this before, but it feels very soft, and I thought it would be useful for making a baby cardigan, the instructions for which are in Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti.

At first glance, this book (which I have borrowed from my local library) looks a little unexciting - it has no colourful pictures inside and I thought maybe it would be a little basic for me. However, I read it all - it's written by a knitting teacher who really knows her stuff - and even though I have been knitting for years, I did learn something new. I am intrigued by the class projects that she uses with her students - a "dumb baby cardigan", a "stupid baby bonnet" and some booties. If one makes these items, one will learn many of the techniques explained in the book. I had suggested to my friends that we all make one of the baby cardigans and learn how to knit a raglan sweater from the neck down, perhaps in preparation for making an adult sweater one day. However (sorry girls) I am too impatient and with yarn in hand I couldn't resist casting on for the baby cardigan tonight.

It's interesting that, even though the instructions for the cardigan are written out in simple English and abbreviated terms, I have found anomalies in the pattern in the first inch of knitting! I think once I have finished the project, I may be writing to the author to suggest some editing in the next printing!!!

Vegan Pal

Heard about a Vegan Pal swap today. You can go here to check it out. You have until the end of August to sign up. You don't have to be vegan to participate but you do have to follow the rules about sending vegan stuff.

When you find out who your Pal is, you send them a couple of balls of yarn (at least one of which has to be a Magic Ball) and some other goodies and you will receive back a mystery package from your Pal.

You need to sign up for Swap-Bot - it's all on that first page I linked to.

It'll be fun - go do it!

Spinning wheel

This is what showed up at our house this morning. I have been wanting one of these, I put the word out and (yipee) here one is.(love how that seems to work) Now we just have to figure out how to get it to work. I think we will need to fashion some kind of belt to get the two wheels spinning and some kind of something or other to attach the foot pedal to the big wheel. Help!! I might have to go to the spinners and weavers club and ask them for help. I also have two big bags of fleece from someone's pet sheep. We are going to have some fun with that. I better start collecting more of my plants for dyeing. I am supposed to be getting ready for our next trip but I think I might get a little distracted now.

Summer Skirt and Top

Yesterday was errand day for me and I wanted something comfortable to wear in the summer heat. I decided to wear this recently sewn top and skirt. This is an outfit that went together so easily and happily, it fit just right. Love it when that happens - sometimes the first time I use a pattern I end up making adjustments to it before I'm happy but this was one of the rare occasions when all went well without my tinkering. ;o)

I've included a close-up of the linen that I made the skirt from. Very girly with the embroidery and pink tie dye. The halter style top is made from white eyelet that I got from Nicola months ago. At the time, I didn't know what I would make from it, but it is well suited to the top I made from it. (Proof that it's always good to add to your fabric stash.... hee hee).
I bought the pink linen during one of my thrift store adventures. I paid $2 for 3metres on sale day. A very good deal. Besides sewing this skirt from the yardage I have a dress cut out waiting to be sewn and I still have fabric left over to make something else out of. I guess I should really make some sort of bag to match my summer togs.... time to go search the stash for ideas.

More gardening.

The boys and I spent most of the last four days at home or at the local beach. I got lots done in the garden this weekend. Here are some pics of flowers that I love. Here is a pic of just one of the watermelons that E is growing. I have never been able to grow these well but his seem to be doing just fine.

One night Samantha's family had dinner with us. This Disappearing Zucchini orzo seemed to go down well, Samantha ate quite a few bowl of it. ;-)

And what was my husband doing while we were at home working on the yard? He was hanging out here with these guys. So I ended up tearing out more grass on the side of the house...he really should know better than to leave me at home by myself with no one to try to talk me out of my "bright ideas". :-O Although I did restrain myself from ripping out our manky old bedroom carpet so I thought I did quite well really.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Home-made toothpaste and moisturizer

Since reading Ecoholic, I've been thinking of ways to get away from commercial products, partly to cut down on packaging but primarily to avoid parabens and other questionable chemicals.

I made this "toothpaste" as an experiment - a tablespoon of seasalt, a tablespoon of baking soda, 10 drops of peppermint oil and a little water. It's really salty but seems to work OK.

I found a very simple recipe on this site for a moisturizer - one part vegetable glycerin, four parts aloe vera gel. I put it in a jar and shook it to mix. I will be trying it on my face and seeing how it feels - aloe vera on its own usually feels too dry for me, but the addition of the glycerin will hopefully do the trick without making me break out.

Watching movies and stars

Yesterday evening, we went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I know, we were slow getting there, but as the movie was launched the day after I had my surgery we decided to wait until we were all able to go together. We went with two adult friends who have read all of the books and seen all the movies and wanted to watch this movie with our kids.

The general opinion was that we all enjoyed it but it was over too soon! The Harry Potter books are so long, convoluted and detailed that there's no way they could include everything, but we wished that we could have seen the swamp that Fred and George created at Hogwarts when they decided to leave (although their fireworks were great). The confrontation between the Death Eaters and Harry and his friends was shortened considerably and as that was the high point of the film we thought it should have been longer. A couple of small things were changed, which was a little irritating...though not as irritating as having to listen to the person behind me crunch their popcorn (one downside of having to sit in a theatre is .... the other people)! If only I had the whole place to myself!

Afterwards, we drove to our friends' house and had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours looking at the night sky. The moon was full, which cuts down on what you can see with the naked eye, but with N's 18 inch Dobsonian telescope (picture of similar here) we could see plenty. It took a while to set up the telescope, which is about 6 feet long, but it was worth it. We saw stars (Vega, Polaris, Arcturus), a close up of the surface of the full moon (and very dazzled we were by it), Jupiter and its moons, constellations (Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia), globular clusters (which look like wisps of smoke), open clusters, the Andromeda galaxy.

The more observant of you may have noticed that I mentioned a couple of names in there which appear in the Harry Potter books. In fact, before we went out to look at the sky, N was telling the boys which astronomical bodies appear in JK Rowling's writing - Sirius (which of course is in the Canis Major constellation - it's no coincidence that in the books, Sirius turns into a dog), Sirius' brother's name is Regulus Arcturus, Draco (the dragon) is a constellation, Andromeda is Narcissa and Bellatrix' sister and Tonks' mother, Vela is a constellation (Fleur is a Veela) as is Lupus (the wolf) after whom Lupin was named.

I am amazed by the amount of thought that has gone into the Harry Potter books, whether it is in naming the characters, the meaning of the names of spells, or the plot.

We headed home at about 1am, and even though we were tired we had some toast and tea before going to bed at around 2am! Just as well we didn't have to go anywhere Sunday morning.


Here are some pictures of the garden this morning, things are growing like crazy. I planted a squash in one of my compost bins and now it has decided that it should be able to take over the entire back corner of the garden. The pumpkin plants are trying to overrun the tomato plants and the grapes just want to rule the world. I often feel as if you can almost see that things (especially viney things) have grown overnight. Gardening, to me, really is a special kind of magic, and I have to admit that I sometimes think of non-gardeners as sort of muggles, in a fond way, really, not in a mean way. I do feel that someone who has never grown anything from seed, someone who has never gotten to perform that magic on their own, is missing out on something special though. First tomato is nearly ripe. I think I will sit out in the garden tomorrow and eat the whole thing myself. :-) We are growing our apples and pears organically, which is no easy feat where I live. You have to convince the SIR team that you are doing your utmost to combat nasty coddling moths. They have the power to make you strip your trees of all fruit (which I have had to do for the last 3 years) or even to cut down your trees(which is what they prefer). I have really had to keep on top of our trees, it is a lot of work and it makes me feel that whatever price growers are asking for organic apples and pear is a bargain.Yesterday I thought I would have a nice relaxing day. I wanted to pick some of our apricots, do a bit of gardening and then finish reading this book.
When I got to the ground cover section I realized that I already had some of the plants mentioned and that I could easily take out some more grass along our side shade area. We have planned to do this for years but never quite get around to it with everything else we have to do. Well, I ended up spending a good part of yesterday working on it

You can see along the sides I have planted tons of violets, they make a great groundcover and grow quickly. I need to decide if I want to do a flagstone path or just a pine needle path. In another month or so when the violets and moss that I planted start to take off I will rip out more of the grass.

Around 5:30 I realised that I better get busy on dinner as I had promised the boys I would make them springrolls as a treat. Urgh! I didn't feel like cooking so the boys pitched in. E learned the saying "many hands make light work" and after commenting that we should have 100 people helping us because it would go so fast, I also told him the saying "too many cooks spoil the broth." :-)

To me, there is nothing better than a day spent outside, it doesn't matter if it is at the beach, in the garden or up on the mountains as long as it is outside.

Saturday, 28 July 2007


"Oh good, we're having pesto." That's what W said as he ran into the kitchen for a drink of water yesterday afternoon. He loves pesto and I made our first batch of this year yesterday. I just use basil ( I always plant loads), walnuts (we have two walnut trees and are always looking for ways to use walnuts up), olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Those who want it add romano cheese. I froze the leftovers in little blobs so that I will have some to add to tomato, spinach and white bean soup, adding pesto makes the flavour of the soup incredible.
We also had some green beans that I stir fried with tomatoes, onions and garlic. At the last minute I decided to add some Patak's curry and they were delicious. Of course we also had some zucchini (are you starting to see a pattern?) and, since there was some pesto love going on, I put some pesto on the zucchini as well. Yum!

Friday, 27 July 2007

Pizza Mexicana!

Friday night is usually pizza night here and I decided to be a little more adventurous. (For anyone who thought you couldn't make pizza without meat and cheese, here are ten bowls that prove you wrong!)

There's chopped onion, sundried tomatoes, sliced black olives, corn, tomato sauce, sliced red bell pepper, canned pineapple, canned kidney beans, fresh tomatoes and grated VeganRella ("cheese" type product made from rice and oat milk).

The boys went for their usual toppings, but R and I had a rather tasty Italian/Mexican fusion gourmet pizza! The dough was made with organic kamut flour. Once the sauce, beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers and "cheese" were layered, I sprinkled it all with a hot mix of spices.

It was pretty good!

Shawl pins have arrived

My long-awaited shawl pins have arrived! I ordered these from Leslie Wind (what a great name) a few weeks ago. Her website isn't complete yet, but that didn't matter as I was googling shawl pins and that page of her site showed me what I was looking for. She also makes other jewellery, and she was very helpful when it came to ordering. Just email her with what you want.

Aren' t they pretty? They're both silver - the spiral one just hooks into the knitting at each end, the other one has a pin. I can now mail the shawl and spiral pin to my mum as a surprise gift. It's not her birthday or anything - I never seem to get organized enough to send things for specific occasions.

Now I feel that I should knit my dad something - possibly some socks.

Thrifting find

I couldn't resist this item at the thrift store. It is meant to be a shoe holder but it may end up holding crafting or gardening supplies instead, not sure yet. I love the fabric and wish there had been a bit more as I could have possibly fashioned a skirt from it, that wasn't meant to be though so I will enjoy it as is.

First decent cuke of the year from the garden. I used it for Greek salad last night. Unfortunately I had to use store bought tomatoes but I see one of mine in the garden is turning pinkish so it won't be long before I can enjoy my own. Homegrown tomatoes are pretty much the raison d'etre for my garden. We love them and can never get enough of them. Must be patient...not long now.

Life really is a beach around here.

I'll let the pictures tell the story.
This is a typical activity that seems to happen when a group of our kids get together. It's funny too how it seems to always attract the attention of other beach goers, sometimes other kids join in and are not too happy when their parents say that they have to leave. I love days like this, when the kids are not only having fun, being kids, getting grubby (this is all pretty much the usual around here) but doing all this with their friends as well.


Love them or hate them, most of us have neighbours. Neighbours are a mixed blessing - they can be our friends, or someone to call on in an emergency, or there to babysit our kids or lend us a garden tool we need. On the other hand, they can be hostile, noisy, inconsiderate or even threatening.

Most of the neighbours on my street are great. We don’t tread on each other’s toes, we chat when we see each other on the street, the lots are big enough that we’re not overcrowded, and we keep an eye on things when people are away.

Not so the neighbours whose backyard adjoins ours.

I intend to lay this issue to rest as much as possible once I’ve got this off my chest, but the main problem at first was the 9 year old kid dirtbiking in their backyard. This is a residential subdivision. When we moved in, all the houses and yards around us were presentable - we all kept up a certain level of maintenance and things looked good. The dirtbiking was a problem - it was noisy, it drove me crazy with the buzzing of the motor, and their yard turned into a weedy track with bumps for jumps. One day, this same 9 year old started riding around the block on a small roadbike - it was a Sunday afternoon, I wanted to enjoy sitting out on my deck on a peaceful day, and anyway I had doubts about the legality of a kid that age riding a vehicle on a public road. I went out there, stopped him and told him I didn’t want him to continue riding past my house. I have to confess I lost my temper. He went home and next thing I know his mother is over here tearing me off a strip for upsetting her son.

I checked with the RCMP and they confirmed that this boy should definitely not be riding on the road. He was subsequently caught in the act by the police and escorted home.

So, things were tense for a while. I still had to go down to the clothesline to hang out the laundry, which is not far from the fence dividing our properties. I was hoping that things would settle down and that we wouldn’t have any more problems.

However this 9 year child started messing about with the large rocks at the top of my yard. He started setting fires, one close to our fence. He has thankfully not been riding his dirtbike in the backyard any more, but he still takes his roadbike out onto the public road and rides it around. Recently, he and some friends were playing with paintball guns in their backyard and a couple of paintballs came over the fence, hitting my tree and my van.

The paintball thing was the last straw. I realised that perhaps the mother didn’t know what her child was doing and so I wrote a very polite letter expressing my concern for my family’s and my property’s safety. (I am way better with writing things down; I didn’t want another confrontation.)

I received a written reply yesterday, about 6 weeks after I wrote my letter. To summarize, this boy’s mother thinks it’s none of my business whether her son rides his motorbike on the road, she has said that the paintball guns were being used by a number of kids in her backyard so it may not have been her son who “accidentally” shot them into my yard, she says that he denies rolling rocks in my yard and she believes him (even though we have seen him do it and I said so in my letter), she has blamed another child for setting the fire, and ends up accusing me of harassing him.

We did take some photos of her son to back up our complaints to the RCMP and the municipality, and this is what she calls our harassment, though we haven’t done this recently and we didn’t even keep the photos.

I can see that even though this mother has discussed my letter with her son, she obviously thinks he is perfect and would never lie to her. Everything I mentioned in my letter to her, which I saw with my own eyes, she has blamed on other people’s kids. I can’t help but think that this child is growing up in an atmosphere of “you can do anything you like, honey” and “don’t pay any attention to those stupid laws or the nasty neighbours”!

One of my other neighbours agrees with me that this child is a nutcase. She has seen him driving a car around the neighbourhood (!), mooning her house because she complained about his behaviour, and when she called to talk to his mother about the fires he was setting, the woman had the cheek to blame the other’s son for providing the lighter to start the fire!

This boy’s mother says he is learning every day right from wrong. I worry that with the sort of blind adoration she seems to have for him, he will not be receiving any consequences for his anti-social behaviour at home, and one day his actions will have more serious consequences that will put him up against the RCMP. Better to have learned right from wrong from your parents, when the mistakes are likely to be small and relatively insignificant, I would think. What is it going to be like to be around this boy when he’s a teenager?

She tells me that how she raises her child is her business, which is true, however I hope that my family doesn’t have to suffer from her parenting methods.

Dangerous! Good Reading

In case you haven't been made aware of this book (I've seen it praised on other blogs), I thought I let you know first hand what a great book this is. I picked it up for my guys after briefly thumbing through it, but little did I know just how popular it would be with them. My husband has been quite impressed with the variety of information contained within its pages and has been sharing aloud in the evening - everything from how to tie knots to true adventure stories. I also like the pages containing Latin phrases "every boy should know" along with the speaking in code and even the essential items every boy should have (traditional male items such as a penknife, fish hook, matches, magnifying glass etc. and then surprisingly a sewing needle and thread... hmmm... good! Boys should know how to sew!) There's lots of fun ideas, activities and good information covering a scope of topics (from astronomy to the declaration of independence). All in all, a good purchase, a fun read and something that is getting a lot of attention in our household this summer.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Family Matters

This book is so incredibly good, so completely in tune with my own thoughts and feelings on a number of subjects, that I can't even begin to describe it properly. Our library bought it when I requested it and now that I have spent my free time today and yesterday reading it, I almost wish that I had bought it myself. I am not a highlighter of lines in books (never! ) but I really don't think I could have helped myself with this one. There would likely be vast blocks of yellow highlighter marks all over it, marking all the bits that seem especially profound to me, then whenever anyone asked me about why my kids don't go to school I would just lend them the book. It seems to me that would be much easier than my trying to articulate the many heartfelt reasons why my kids don't go to school in the minutes ( and scant real interest) usually given for an answer to these sort of questions. I love this book and will be asking my own parents to read it so that they may gain a greater understanding into our lives and the depth of my feelings on this issue. I was going choose just one chapter that I liked best to write about but actually, thinking back, I love them all ( except chapter 4) because they each tell an important part of the many reasons that we choose not to send our boys to school. I can't resist including some quotes.

"Ordinary people have always been teachers; it is only recently that teaching has become a salaried profession instead of a part of daily existence."

I love that, when did people stop knowing this?

"...a child should be educated not merely for future employment but as a human being, with senses fully alive and independence of thought fully developed, with nature as the ground of his learning and his education gently cultivated by thoughtful and sensitive adults."

You have to know that I love that one too.
And this one tickled my and Nicola's fancy. "Think of the economic tragedy that would result if schools taught critical thinking, " asks John Taylor Gatto. "Who would crave the mountains of junk our mass-production economy distributes? Who would eat the processed foods? Who would wear the plastic shoes?"

Ooh, there are so many things that make me feel wonderfully inspired in this book and also many parts that make me feel like crying with despair. I think I will read it, and enjoy it, again.

Roasted Zukes!

When reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I was looking forward to trying out some of the recipes from the book. This is the first one that I have tried, their grilled vegetable panini. It turned out well. I would suggest that if you are making it you may want to use a wider, somewhat flatter bread than I did, I just used a multigrain baguette. It is possible that on the narrower, more tippy bread that, after you get all the toppings put on just so, and are about to put it in the oven it might just tip over, spilling all the lovely toppings (so carefully arranged) onto the element in your oven. This might then make your house smell like burning onions and consequently set off your smoke alarm (aka, in our home, the pizza-is-done timer). If something like this were to happen then you might have to fish out the burning hot toppings so that they don't get stuck onto your element forever and damage it. All this is just conjecture of course...not saying that this is what happened to me or anything.I have been desperately waiting for some local corn, not allowing myself to be tempted by the U.S corn that has been showing up in our local stores. I am a huge corn fan. My mom likes to tell a story of a two year old me, hiding out beside the cooler on a family camping trip and gorging myself on all the cold, leftover corn. Fortunately I have grown up and that is not a problem anymore, there is simply never any leftover corn.
I also picked up some orzo today so that I can make the Disappearing Zucchini Orzo recipe too.

Views of the Okanagan

My teenager decided to bike up to the top of Mount Boucherie last night, though a large part of the climb was on foot, carrying his bike up steep rocks! It's not a very big mountain, but from the top one can enjoy great views of the area. I'm pleased he took the camera with him and here are some of the pictures he came back with.

The one above shows where our house is - lurking behind those trees dead centre, in a small subdivision surrounded by fields mostly planted with grapevines. This photo makes us look very close to the lake - what you can't see is the regional park that slopes down to the lake behind the street of houses and trees near the top of the picture .

Above...looking south towards Penticton
Below...looking north towards Vernon

Below...Okanagan Lake bridge with the new bridge being constructed alongside. The new one is way higher at one end than the current one, as there will be no lifting section to allow sailboats to go through - so once it's finished in 2008, sailors and motorists will be able to have unrestricted flow under and across the bridge - theoretically.

Below...looking east to Kelowna

As Katherine said the other day, when she posted her photos of her neighbourhood, it's heartening to see how much green surrounds us. We don't live in a "concrete wasteland" for which I am very grateful.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Beach day

Yesterday marked the two weeks "anniversary" of my hospital visit and I was determined to get out and meet my homelearning friends! Lots of people showed up (the picture shows just some of them), some husbands came too for supper and a swim, we had live musical entertainment laid on by the city, twin babies to hold and a good time was had by all.

Thinking back to two weeks ago, I am pleased that I have made such progress since then. Last Saturday, I walked the short distance to the Post Office. On Sunday, I did one sit-up, just to see how it felt (hurt a bit)! I took a 25 minute walk around the neighbourhood, which felt fine. Yesterday I managed five sit-ups and a sun salutation, but I think that the stretching involved in that made it difficult to do and I felt a bit shaky afterwards. What a comedown! Anyway, the drive to the beach was fine and I made sure the boys carried most of the stuff that we brought.

I stayed up late last night reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and all I'm going to say is that I'm mostly pleased with how things turned out!

This morning, my tummy hurts and I'm not going to do much of anything. I cancelled a dentist appointment because I didn't want to drive again today so it's easy to guess how the day will be spent - reading Harry Potter to the two younger boys.