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Monday, November 29, 2010

5!


My firstborn had a birthday today.
 



Happy Birthday, Isaiah!
We love you so much!

Just after you were born.

Mommy & baby Isaiah, 5 days old.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Raclette

Did you have a nice Thanksgiving?

We sure did.  My parents and my little bro (he's actually a big guy, but he'll always be my little brother) drove down from Nebraska to visit me.  Instead of your regular turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, we had a traditional Swiss meal, called Raclette, which is also the name of the cheese that you melt in the raclette grill and put over your steamed potatoes with lots of other yummy things, like so:


My little bro took these food pics with my new fancy cam.

 

This is Nüsslisalat from my mom's garden.  It's called "Lambs Lettuce" or "Mache Lettuce" in English.  Here's a little more about this hard to find lettuce.  
 I can't even look at these pictures without getting incredibly hungry.  I'm very thankful that there are some Swiss guys up in Wisconsin who make Swiss raclette cheese and send it down to me for a very reasonable price.
 
If you want to get your own raclette grill, you can find one at Roberts European Imports.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Shiny Old Things

The beautiful watch my husband gave me six and a half years ago stopped working.  The jewelry store that replaced the battery said I should "trash it, it's broken".  I am Swiss.  I don't trash watches.  Someone should be able to fix it.  So I haven't made the phone calls yet, but I'm determined that someone out there still knows how to fix a broken watch.  In the mean time, look what I'm wearing?


This is an old wind up watch that was either my grandmother's, or her identical twin sister's.  I have to wind it about every day or so for it to keep going.  It is so pretty and it's amazing that it keeps on ticking, as long as someone winds it.  If only this watch could tell me its life story...that would be fascinating.


This is my other new shiny old thing.  I've been trying to get my jewelry more organized.  I have a jewelry box (that the earring holder is standing on), but there is no place for earrings, unless you throw them in a drawer where they get tangled.  So for about a month now I've been keeping my eyes open for a nice earring storage option.  I found this beautiful heavy silver earring holder for $3 at the thrift shop.  I've never seen anything like it and I love how it just stands there, on top of the jewelry box on my dresser, casting shiny shadows across the room.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

He Surprised Me

Today was my mother's sabbath.  Andrew had long days at the range all week and an event on Friday night.  The kids were sick, so we cancelled everything and stayed home to take it easy.  By the time Friday bedtime rolled around and the kids were in bed, I was so exhausted.  

I got up early (I have to get up anyways to eat) with the kids and then around eight-thirty, when Andrew woke up, I took my nice long shower and got ready for my mother's sabbath.  Andrew and I have an SOP (military lingo for Standard Operating Procedure) regarding the cars: The person who doesn't have the kids has to take the Accord so the other person with the kids has the van with the car seats in case of an emergency.  The minivan has a big engine, is a gas guzzler, and I feel like I'm driving a big tank.  But baby number three is on the way, and there was no way we were going to be able to keep going with just the one small car (plus the minivan makes traveling pretty awesome).

So anyways, back to the topic, when I go somewhere alone, I take the manual Accord, which after driving the minivan, feels like a race car!  It is fun.  I put on my favorite mix on the iPOD (today it was DC Talk from the good old days) and I go wherever I want for however long I need.

Today I visited the craft store and enjoyed not feeling rushed and not having to holler at my children for running up and down the aisles (that word will bug me for as long as I live. I think it should be "isles" or something more like that).  Then I got coffee (forgot to ask for decaf) so I only drank half before going to adoration.  Finally.  I haven't been to adoration in forever.

Andrew called me around 11:30am and we decided to meet up at a new burger joint, which was SUPER yummy (reminded me of In & Out a little).  We had a coupon.  (Those buy 1 get 1 coupons are always what get us in the door.)

Ok, anyways, boring story...here's the important part:

  When we get home, I walk into the kitchen and guess what I see on the table???

The Nikon D90 DSLR and the 50mm 1.8 lens I've been wishing for, with a beautiful card and SURPRISE written on it.  I've been wanting this camera for a while now.  I'm the kind of person who loves referrals on everything.  I will ask everyone about a product and do a lot of research before I buy it.  Ginny has this camera and recommended it (Thanks Ginny!).

Andrew really wanted to surprise me, and since our anniversary is the due date of our baby right around Christmas time, I really wanted it before Christmas.  I didn't know when he would get it and he really did surprise me, because he's a big talker and was acting like he was never going to get it.

So here are my first two pictures with it.  Two things I bought today.

$1 socks at Target.
Fabric!
 I'm a complete beginner when it comes to using a DSLR, but I wanted a good camera I could grow with and I don't ever want to have to buy another one.  In a few years, when I've mastered everything there is to know about my camera and the lens, then I can upgrade to another lens.  My brother is coming for Thanksgiving and will show me the basics.  

I'm so very happy that I can take an indoor picture now without it being completely dark and blurry.

Isn't my husband the best?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

They Love To Paint









Isaiah was mixing colors and naming them.  He was making a lot of "army-green" and "chartreuse".  I didn't even know what color chartreuse was until he showed me.

I finally got over my fear of letting the two year old paint.  After all, it is just water colors and they wash out, but so far we haven't even had to do that.  I would like to make them both little art smocks, but I don't know if I'll ever get around to that.  So far, a bib and apron are working just fine.  Although I let Isaiah paint in his race car costume this time.  He was wearing it daily for about a week after Halloween.  I keep it out now in a dress up bin, where we also keep the hats.

We made little Fredericks from Frederick by Leo Lionni.

 When they are done painting for the day, I hang the pictures on our art wall in the play area.  The next time they want to paint, I let them keep working on some of the paintings that aren't very colorful yet.  After all, the great artist doesn't finish his masterpiece in one sitting.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yarn Along {Three}

After seeing the cute little lion that Anushka made, I had to get the Itty-Bitty Toys book.  This book has loads of fun little things to knit for children.  As soon as the cardigan is finished, I will find a fun pattern to work on.

Three books and a cardigan-to-be atop my knitting box.
The cardigan is coming along well.  After I made this mistake and asked you all whether I should fix it or not, I decided I should.  The mistake wasn't going to go away, I was going to have to keep making the mistake at the end of every row, and I didn't want to do that.  So I backwards-knitted.  I know there's an easier way to do this, but I knew that if I made too many mistakes while mistake-fixing, I'd get discouraged and give up.  So I did it the only way I knew how, knitting backwards, and I was able to fix it!  YAY!

I'm still reading Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life, but I've been craving an easy, entertaining read.  So I started The Midnight Dancers: A Fairy Tale Retold by Regina Doman.  Have you read her books?  They are for teenagers...but whatever, I love fairy tales, and I love how she retells them in a modern setting.  I always wonder how she will pull it off.  I read the first three and wanted to wait a while to begin this one, so I don't "run out" of books.  I don't know how she manages to write, especially since she just had baby number eight, (then again...we all find time to blog!) but I'm so glad that she does.  There is a serious lack of Catholic fiction for teens, so I love supporting her work.

The other book I'm trying to read daily is 365 Saints: Your Daily Guide to the Wisdom and Wonder of Their Lives.  I found it on my bookshelf and thought it would be a great way to become better acquainted with the Saints, especially now that I'm homeschooling and want to be able to tell my children about the Saint of the day. 

That is all for my yarn along this week.  Don't forget to visit Ginny and see what everyone else is knitting and reading.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sweet Potato Bread & Breadstick Recipes

Both my children are sick.  They've had fevers and colds for a couple of days, so today, I made the pullout couch into a bed and let them watch movies while the oven warmed the house, and I enjoyed listening to George Winston Radio on Pandora.
 
I am a big fan of sweet potato puree, (maybe because I tend to overcook the potatoes).  I use the puree in muffins, pancakes, waffles, and breads and the taste reminds me a little of pumpkins.  I like using using sweet potato puree instead of pumpkin in just about any recipe (except maybe pumpkin pie).  

Instead of just throwing things together, like I do every now and then, I decided to follow a recipe.  I'm so glad I did, because this sweet potato bread recipe is sooo delicious.


 Tonight for dinner we are having tomato soup with breadsticks.  I like my pizza dough recipe, but I decided to find a "real" recipe for breadsticks.  The breadstick recipe from Our Best Bites is fantastic.  This one is going on my favorites list.

To make menu planning easier I keep a folder in my bookmarks called "FOOD".  Inside that folder, I have other folders specifically for recipes.  These folders are called "Breads", "Breakfasts", "Chicken", "Desserts/Baked", "Soups", "Rice/Beans/Pasta", and "Thanksgiving/Christmas".  Whenever I've tried another recipe I like, I will put it in a folder, or create a new one, to make it easy to find.  I keep only recipes I've actually tried, or am going to try in the next week.  This keeps my favorite food list uncluttered and useful.

Breadsticks - I just sprinkled a little table salt over the butter because our butter is unsalted.
I've also got a pot of chicken stock going.  Chicken noodle soup for dinner tomorrow.  Yes, we're having soup a lot, mainly because I looooove soup, especially when the weather begins to cool, but also because the kids are sick and they still need to eat something even though they don't feel like it.  

I made the breadsticks in hopes that the boys would eat a little more if they had a fun way to eat their soup. I can hardly wait!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wooden Tree Swing

I never liked those plastic swings that squish your...body...when you're swinging.  My brothers and I thought they were so weird when we first saw them.  In Switzerland they have wooden swings and I've always liked those best.


We have this big tree in our back yard and it dosen't have too many great branches, but we really thought it needed a swing.  Andrew bought a board, drilled four holes in it, sanded it and sprayed it with water sealant.


We bought some nilon straps and two caribiners.  We shopped at home for the rope.  I found the strongest yarn I could and sewed loops at both ends of each nilon strap.  We wrapped them around the tree to keep the rope from cutting into the branch.


We tied the yellow rope to the caribiner using a running bowline knot (I think - we looked at a lot of knots until we found a good one).  We looped one rope through the two holes on one side of the swing and then used a double bowline knot and a few extra made up knots (just to be sure).  It's not in the picture, but we taped thick canvas fabric around the rope so it's a bit easier for the kids to hold on while swinging, especially since our rope is a bit thin.  After Andrew and I each took it for a few test swings, we let the kids give it a shot.


Yep.  They love it.

=)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Help! Knitting Mistake, Fix it or Leave it?

After about four rows of knitting, something was not right.  Take a close look at the seed stitch on the edge here, near the buttonhole.


It looks like I must have made a mistake when I made the buttonhole (easily done for me, this was my first time doing the yarn over for the buttonhole).


 Do you see it?

The seed stitch edge is going in an extra stitch.  It's taking over the cardigan.  I think when I did the yarn over for the buttonhole, I might have forgotten to loop the yarn to make the extra stitch, leaving me with one stitch too less.  Does that make sense?

Ok, so the question is...should I go back and fix it?  I think I should.  I mean, obviously nobody really cares in the end, and it's just a practice cardigan, and baby Jacob won't mind...but since I noticed it, maybe I should fix it. 

I'm fairly decent at backwards knitting.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yarn Along {Two}

Good morning!  Thanks to daylight savings time, my children and up and ready to get dressed by 6:05am.  They used to get up around 6:30am, so it's really not that much earlier, but it's so much darker outside now.  It gives me a little extra time to do my morning prayer while they quietly play. Today was Psalm 23.  I love that psalm.  Some of my other favorite prayers are the morning offering and the anima christi.  I used to have both of these memorized, but once I started having babies (11 months after being married), my prayer life was put on the back burner.  Now, I'm finally making it a priority again and I'm really enjoying it.

My "new" knitting box.  I was using this box for my seasonal picture books, and had my knitting in a basket.  The yarn kept getting snagged on the basket, so I switched the two.  Now I have a knitting box and a book basket.  I made that box in gradeschool in Switzerland.
 
I'm still reading Full of Grace by Johnnette Benkovic and doing the book study.  I'm about half way through.  I'd like to just read it all the way through, but I'm doing it with a group study, so I can't rush it. =)

I can rush my knitting though!  I have been working diligently on the baby cardigan.  I think it will be too big for a newborn, and I wish I had picked darker, autumn or Christmas colors, but it doesn't matter.  This was my "practice" cardigan, because when I look at a pattern of something I've never knitted before, it looks kind of complicated and intimidating.  I had a few sweet ladies help me get started and now it's easy!  I love knitting.

Can't wait to see what everyone else is reading and knitting over at Ginny's Yarn Along.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Saying Yes to My Children

I had to say "no" today.  Have you practiced saying "no" lately?  When the children are little, we are constantly teaching them to say "yes", but I've learned that the older you get, the more you have to practice saying "no", because in today's world, everybody is in need of something or wants something from you.

Even before I ever met my husband, I knew I'd want to be a stay-at-home mom.  It was probably largely due to the example of my own mother, who was always home for us.  I just didn't see the logic in having children, only to send them off to be cared for by someone else.  This is another reason why I homeschool.  Why send my children away during the best hours of their day?


I know not everybody has the luxury of staying home with their children, as I do.  I really am so thankful that even though I may gripe about my husband's (military) job every now and then, I am so fortunate to not have to work outside the home.  Of course, no matter what my husband's job situation, I would gladly give up my cell phone, my netflix, heck, I'd even give up the internet and blogging, if it meant I could stay home with my children, instead of going off to work.

I have always been a "homebody".  I enjoy the day to day activites of a stay-at-home mother.  I like cooking, folding laundry, and keeping my house clean and tidy.  I like not having to drive my car more than a couple times a week.  It's too bad our cities are built with the homes in one section and the groceries in another section.  When I was young in Switzerland, I loved being able to walk with my brothers to the little dairy shop, where we picked up four liters (a tiny bit more than a gallon) of milk, which we then hauled home.  I loved being able to drive our bikes to church on Sunday, even though it took us a good twenty minutes, at least.  What I liked most of all, was crossing the street and heading into the woods to explore with my brothers. 


My children are not so lucky.  They are confined to the fenced in back yard.  I don't even know where there is a forest around here, but I do need to find one we can visit.  There are some tiny little woods behind our house, but we don't explore them because we are told there are rattlesnakes in them.  We make the best of it though.  We walk to the park, study the big tree in our back yard, and the boys dig in the dirt.  We probably lead a slower paced life than most people in our same situation.

Our days, now that Isaiah is homeschooling, are so nice a calm.  We wake up (never at the sound of an alarm), eat breakfast (like homemade peach oatmeal today), and then we get dressed and ready for the day.  Isaiah does a few workbook activities and Luke almost always draws (scribbles) something.  He is learning his colors now.  A couple weeks ago he thought green and blue were the same or kept mixing them up.  Now he knows blue, green, pink, and black.  I didn't even really teach him, he just learned this from everyday conversation and picking out colored pencils (although I'm pretty sure I've heard Isaiah correcting Luke on his colors more than a time or two).  After the school work is done, we go outside and play.  Then there's lunch, naps, and more outdoor play.  Occasionally we have an errand.

This simple routine, which seems to fit our family perfectly, is why I had to say "no".  It is what got me thinking and writing today.  I was asked to volunteer.  Not me, specifically, but I went to a meeting, where a speaker came and told us of the place where she works and how she needs volunteers.  Of course, I really wanted to help.  I even signed up, saying I would love to help, I just didn't know when yet.  So that is why I came home and started thinking about our family schedule, my vocation, and whether volunteering is something that fits into our family's life right now.

I decided it doesn't.  Right now, in this season in my life, I feel that I am called to be home for my children.  It seems quite counter-cultural, because there are so many activities available (at least, here, on this military base) that encourage the mother to take time for herself, while she leaves the children in the, often free, child-care.  I would definitely use this more if my husband were deployed.  But since he is home, I can make it a priority to take every other Saturday morning for myself, while the boys get some quality time with their daddy.  I'd probably need more of a break if I wasn't so lucky to see my husband almost every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Living close to my husband's work was a priority for us, for exactly this reason.

I can get free child-care if I volunteer.  As much as I'd like to help people out, my family comes first.  My children are only little for a while.  I can't even believe my firstborn will be five years old by the end of this year.  I've heard more than a few mothers exclaim at the end of the summer: "Thank goodness!! Back to school!!"  I, for one, actually like spending time with my children, and I'm pretty sure they like spending time with me too.  I can tell by the way they shout "MOOOMMY!!!" after I've been out on an errand, and by the way they squeeze my neck and give me kisses, and in the tone of their voice when they beg me to read another story.  I wouldn't trade these moments for anything, and I can't get enough of them, because one day, they will be all grown up, going off to college, getting married, or traveling the world.

 For now, I have no problem saying "no" to others, while saying "yes" to my children.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lots of Firsts


We had a crazy, busy morning today.  Today was actually my mother's sabbath, a day I take twice a month, but I was so tired yesterday afternoon that I took it early.  I escaped upstairs to a hot bath, a good book, and...candy.  I really had to laugh at myself.  I don't even like candy American candy bars very much.  I like twix the best, but we ran out of that a few days after Halloween. =)  I tried liking crunch, snickers, and milky-way, but I don't like any of them.  Nothing compares to the good old Swiss chocolate I grew up on.

So this morning I was going to just relax at home, let Andrew do the grocery shopping, and enjoy the afternoon.  However, I, for some odd reason, thought I'd be up for a family grocery trip, and suggested we all go.  We headed out a bit late and then made it home a little past Luke's naptime, which he didn't handle very well.  But, nap he did, leaving Andrew and Isaiah to figure out the possible, future, swing situation.

 
I grabbed my coffee, my knitting, and headed outside.  It was so nice and cool this afternoon.


I'm super excited about this cardigan, because it's actually beginning to look like a piece of clothing.  I have no idea whether it will fit the baby, but it doesn't matter, because I'm learning a lot by making myself do this pattern.  I'm pretty stubborn.  Maybe that is why I have not quit knitting.  I just love the way the stitches look.  They are like hundreds of little hearts, created with love, to keep somebody warm.

 This is my first time knitting real clothing!  I've only knitted a blanket, scarf, hat, and wrist warmers, (okay, I also made slippers, but those were super easy and fast).


It's my first time knitting the seed stitch.  I messed it up a few times in the beginning, but now it's easy.


It's my first time making a buttonhole, see?

 

Two buttonholes!  Now hopefully I can keep up with where to put them...the pattern just tells you to put them in every 17 rows, so I had to write up a little checklist to keep track of which row I'm on.

Some more firsts:

~First time working with a circular needle, how I love it!

~First time "carrying yarn" - easy, got it.

~First time using three balls of yarn...creating a nice jumbled up mess while I knit, but I straighten it out eventually.   

If there is some trick I don't know about on how to keep the yarn from getting all tangled when you're knitting with a circular needle, please enlighten me.

I can't wait to see how much I have done by the next Yarn Along on Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yarn Along {One}


It's cool, wet, and gray today.  I don't mind it one bit.  This weather is perfect for crafts, pumpkin scented candles, reading, and knitting.  I'm working on a cardigan for baby Jacob...slowly but surely.  This is my first time making a piece of clothing.  I'm enjoying reading the books in our autumn basket.  This one is called 

Hans Müllermann by Bernadette.

It's about a miller who is very lonely.  A caterpillar comes to visit him, but the miller ignores it, annoyed.  When the season is over, he goes away, in search of a friend.  He travels far throughout the seasons and asks flowers, foxes, and the wind, to be his friend.  They are all too busy to be his friend.  So he goes back home to the windwill and finds it full of cobwebs.  He remembers the caterpillar and wishes that he had been its friend back when he had the chance.  Then he notices a beautiful butterfly who is happy to see him.  He realizes that the caterpillar always wanted to be his friend, but he wouldn't let him.  Now he asks if the butterfly will still be his friend.  The butterfly says "yes" and the miller continued his work at the mill with the butterfly resting on the rim of his hat. 


I couldn't find this beautiful book anywhere online.  It was given to me when I was little by my godmother.  It is in German.  I kept all my favorite German picture books.  I treasure them.  The children don't understand them, so sometimes I translate, other times I just read them in German.

***

Ginny is hosting the first ever Yarn Along, where you share one photo that shows what you're knitting/crocheting and reading.  Go on over and see what others are working on or to share your own photograph.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Redesigned Living Room


This is my new living room that I redesigned without spending a penny.  I'm sooo happy with it.

Here's what it used to look like:


Ahh!! Get me outta here!

What's wrong with it?
Well, according to the design ladies, I have made quite a few design mistakes.

For starters, most of the furniture is lined up against the wall.
The rug is floating.  There's only one piece of furniture on it, so it doesn't anchor the room.
There's not real focal point in this room.
This room has only one purpose: watching TV.

 Mistakes?  Why should it matter?  Well, I'm no expert, and I don't always live by the book (you ladies who have seen my wardrobe, know exactly what I'm talking about), but there is something refreshing about walking into a room that feels relaxing, isn't there?  And it doesn't mean you have to have the latest furniture from a certain lovely catalog we all wish we could afford, or the newest thing that was showcased in a home magazine (which I'm a little anti-reading, by the way).  It doesn't mean you have to spend any money at all.  Chances are, like me, you already have many things in your home that you love.

You gather all those things that you love, keep a few simple design rules in mind, and turn a blah room that annoys you every time you walk into it, into a little oasis.



Here's how I made it happen:

I took everything out of the room.

First, I set the couch over the edge of the rug and put the coffee table in front of it.  The couch is big and heavy, so I put it smack dab in the middle of my long living/formal dining area.  Placed here, it separates my walk area/formal diving room (which we use as our playroom) from the living room.  The living room is now its own space which invites you in to sit, relax, read a book, and recharge.  

I keep it tidy, and even though it's child proof (well, at least for another year or so, when I will have another little set of hands reaching for things, in which case I'll only have to move a couple things off my end table and set them up high on the shelf, where they still can be enjoyed by moi)

...anyways, 

even though it's child proof, the boys have their own playroom on the other end of this long space. 

In the background you can see some of the little art works, cards, and crafts we show off on the strings that hang along the wall.
The boys know that if they want to be all crazy, jumping around, hollering, and such, they need to do it in their play area, not in mommy's nice living room.  We all get to enjoy the living room when we have movie night, story time, or any other non-crazy-loud-rambunctious activity we do as a family.

Next, I moved the curio to the opposite side of the room and put the TV and stand angled into the corner.


I put the bookshelf next to it, with a seasonal box of books in between.

When sitting in my reading nook, the first thing I see when looking up is my pretty bookshelf and the trees beyond the large window.
The curio became the backdrop for my reading nook.  In my old living room, the reading nook was a corner of the couch next to a lamp and the overloaded bookshelf.  I don't know why I thought the bookshelf had to be next to my reading area.  I can only read one book at one time, so in my new living room, I put the bookcase clear across the room and shelved only the books I actually read.  A clean, uncrowded bookshelf is so pleasing to the eye.

And there's an added bonus: because it's tidy, I'm more likely to dust it.

The couch, coffee table, and ottoman, all sit on the rug and anchor the room.  No more floating rug!

The lamp in my reading nook is the task lighting.  The sconces on my walls and my yankee candle on the end table are my accent lighting.  I love enjoying my room in the evening with the candlelight in the sconces dancing shapes on the walls.

Because my walls are white, I added jewel tones to the room by using bright blue (think: lapis lazuli or blue sapphire) fabric to create "new" throw pillows and fabric wall art.


I love how these colors liven up the room.  (A future project is slipcovering that ottoman.)

That completes the tour of my redesigned living room.  Do tell me what you think!

The design tips I learned about can be found here.
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