Yarn Along

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I’m making some good progress on my Oaklet Shawl. I started the lace portion yesterday and so far no major hiccups. There is one little funky part at the beginning of the lace that I’m sure only I would notice if I looked closely enough. I do have a love-hate relationship with knitting lace. I find I just cannot manage it when the kids are around. But when I have a little time to myself I can easily get into the rhythm of the pattern. This pattern is easy enough so I might brave it today while in the yard with the kids. Hope I don’t have to eat my words.

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I started reading Charlotte’s Web out loud before bed the other night thinking Sarah was ready for a chapter book. She mostly is and the sweet pictures help. Daniel can’t resist a good story, even if he’s read it many times before. So every night we’ve been gathering in Sarah’s room for a little story time. I make it sound like it’s a quiet, beautiful moment in our family…so far it’s been a lot jealousy and yelling. Sarah wants alone time with me before bed and Daniel just wants her to be quiet so he can hear the story. I can empathize with the emotion from both children and I’m left feeling pretty frustrated. I want them to be able to share a story read out loud, but I understand Sarah’s need for a little mommy-daughter cuddle time. She does still get this after the story is read and Daniel leaves the room. It seems like everything these days turns into an opportunity for sibling rivalry and I’m left not knowing if it’s an issue I should press or leave alone. I have a feeling most of the emotions between my kids has to do with it being summer and that we are literally with each other all of the time. Somehow we’ve fallen out of our summer groove and I need to refocus to help them foster a little more compassion towards one another…or I will slowly go insane. But today is a new day. A clean slate.

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Dyeing Wool – An Experiment

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I told you last week I finally made my way out to Oakland to visit A Verb for Keeping Warm. Beside the lovely little selection of yarn and fabric, they also teach a bunch of classes. The one I’m most interested in is dyeing with natural, plant based materials. There is a small patio behind the store where they grow the plants for dyeing…they also have a cute Angora rabbit hopping around. So while I was poking around out back I saw a shelf lined with canning jars displaying the various material. I immediately spotted what I know now to be called oak galls or oak apples. I’ve always just called them oak balls and I have a ton of them in my yard. I was so exited to learn you can dye with them, I went home and boiled up some the next day.

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After spending time researching how to actually dye the yarn, I had a plan. The process is simple enough, a lot of soaking, simmering, and waiting. The one thing I will definitely do differently in the future is use alum as a mordant or dye fixative. I used vinegar which did produce a beautiful result, but also stunk up the house for hours. Boiling wool with vinegar is definitely smelly.  But look at the soft golden color the oak galls produced. So beautiful. It reminds me of the hills around here, which incidentally are home to thousands of oak trees. I was so excited to see that it actually worked, I walked around the yard to see what else I could use as a dye. Turns out my over grown eucalyptus tree can be use, too. I made a dye out of the leaves and another from the bark. I’m going to hopefully have time buy some yarn today and get busy dyeing again tonight.

The other skein of yarn is made with Kool-Aid. This process was a snap. I used some Cascade Eco Wool in Beige Taupe Twist so the purple and blue are slightly more tame. The sweet Kool-Aid also helped rid the house of the vinegar smell. Win, win.  Definitely a fun way to spend a few hours.

Linking up with Keep Calm Craft On

 

Little Farm

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What can be better than children exploring a farm? Not much. Yesterday we headed to Berkeley to the Little Farm at Tilden Park, tucked in just over the hill from us. Feeding and getting up close with the animals is always fun and full of laughter. Check out the cow tongues! There was also a small garden that somehow I’ve missed every time we’ve been before. Every inch of space was bursting with plants all in the full bloom of summer. It made me really wish I had a garden…maybe a project for next year.  The afternoon was completed with a ride on the 103 year old merry-go-round…and ice cream!

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Backyard Summer Camp Series – Bubble Science

We are just about half way through summer vacation…and instead of feeling blue and mopey about this sad fact, I’ve decided to throw a backyard summer camp. Now granted it’s just a camp for me and the kids, but we’ll be doing a lot of the classic crafts and activities I remember from my many summers at the YMCA and sleep away camp. I have Pinterest boards dedicated to general crafts, crafts for kids, summer crafts, etc. and now is the time to get off the sofa and go have some fun outside. I’m hoping to post one or two activities per week through the end of summer in hopes of inspiring a summer to remember.

A few weeks ago I found this super cool tutorial for making bubble wands. The science behind these 3 dimensional shaped wands is pretty interesting, but definitely not so much for Sarah. She had fun helping me making the pyramid and cube but then decided she wanted to make her own wand.  We had fun trying out the different wands and seeing the structures inside…the real magic started when Sarah started twirling around with her own wand. Definitely a great activity for a warm summer day.

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Oaklet Shawl

Over the weekend I finally visited A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, Ca. They offer a small but beautiful selection of yarn and I quickly spotted this gorgeous Madelintosh in Espadrilles. The name alone will be sure to bring back warm memories of summer during the long, gray days of winter. I’ve casted on for the Oaklet Shawl and right now it’s perfect for the mindless, stress-relieving knitting one needs while home with the kids all summer!

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I’m in the middle of book three of the Outlander series and still loving it…though I think I’ll take a break after finishing this book. We wouldn’t want Jamie Fraser fatigue would we?!

Linking up with KCCO and Yarn Along

The Perfect Summer Cake – Lemon Blueberry Bundt

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Last weekend my mom made a really delicious lemon blueberry cake with cream cheese frosting. It was for a picnic but she let me and Sarah sneak a slice before she left and let me tell you, it was scrumptious. It also had me craving more…I didn’t want to deal with making frosting so I went for a lemon blueberry bundt cake. I love a good bundt. They are easy, moist, and it looks like you spent far more time making it than you actually did. Remember that Rice Krispy Treats commercial from the 80s where the mom pretends she’s slaving away in the kitchen while actually ready a romance novel? Not quite what was happening in my house, but nonetheless, it was easy. The hardest part is waiting for the cake to cool. Which I did not and burned my tongue on a blueberry. A hazard of the job.

I thought I’d share the recipe I used. I first found it on Brown Eyed Baker but then as I read through the whole recipe I found out she got the recipe The Smitten Kitchen…of course! That woman makes some great food! She used mixed berries and made a simple frosting which looks great but I omitted. The cake is so moist, a frosting I don’t think is really necessary. Anyway, I hope you make it and use up all those beautiful blueberries in the markets right now.

Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously grease the bundt pan.

In a bowl mix together the 2 1/2 cups of flour, baking power, and salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer cream the butter, sugar, and lemon zest. Beat for 2-3 minutes. Make sure you scrap the bowl a few times. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well before adding the next. Add vanilla. Then take the flour and buttermilk and add alternating, half the flour, half the buttermilk until it’s all incorporated. In a separate bowl mix the blueberries with the 2 tablespoons flour. Then add blueberries to the batter using a spatula. Careful not the break apart the berries.

Pour into pan, smoothing the top and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool for about 30 minutes before turning out onto serving platter.

Enjoy!

 

Adult Friendship Bracelets and Giveaway

 

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The Rainbow Loom is making a strong reappearance at our house again this summer. Every morning before I even get up, Daniel creeps out to the living room to get busy looming. It’s a great creative outlet for him and I’m happy he has something to occupy himself in the wee hours of the morning!

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I thought I should get in on the fun, but in a slightly more grown up way. The other day in the car I noticed how golden my arms look, perfectly sun-kissed and screaming out for some adornment. When I got home I rummaged through my yarn stash, found my beads, and got to work. There were a number of trial and errors since I’ve never crochet with beads before, but I think in the end I created a wonderful little bracelet for these warm summer days.

I’ve seen this type of bracelet on Pinterest before, but usually made with embroidery floss. I did try this, but the thread split so easily and I found it really frustrating. Not the kind of crafting experience I was looking for. I ended up having great results with an old skein of Berroco NaturLin (discontinued). The goldish color gives it a bit more sophistication while still holding onto the relax, hippy look. Do you know what I mean? Anyway, I’m going a bit crochet crazy here making these bracelets and I certainly don’t need more than 2 or 3 so I’m going to add the rest to my etsy shop this week.

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And for one lucky lady just leave a comment with what bracelet is your favorite. They are all fully adjustable so unless you have an extremely odd sized wrist, I’m sure it will fit you.  Daniel says he’s in charge of randomly picking a winner this Friday. Good luck!

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Linking up with KCCO and Yarn Along. Go check out what others are working on this week.

Coq au Vin

Chicken and wine go hand in hand, it’s a classic. And I’d like to think that the first cook to ever make coq au vin had his first inspiration while tending to his vineyard trying in vain to shoo his flock of chickens away from eating all the fruit. He became so frustrated by this process that he stamped down his foot and said, “fine, you love grapes so much?I’m going to cook you up with wine!” And voila, coq au vin was born.

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I have one thriving, invasive, creeping all the way up the oak tree grapevine in my yard. Every year I think it’s going to be it’s last, it looks so pathetic in the winter months, but every summer almost over night realize that it’s gone crazy and is crawling anywhere it can. And I now know when the fruit is ripe thanks to my chickens. They cannot stay away from the vines and I will often look over to find them hopping up to peck at the clusters. Yesterday I found Sarah helping the chickens in their quest. So sweet and quite hilarious to watch a chicken jump for what she so desperately wants.

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 If you were in fact expecting a recipe, here’s a link to Julia Child preparing coq au vin and chicken fricassee. Just watch the first few minutes. I love that woman!

http://www.wgbh.org/articles/The-French-Chef-Coq-au-Vin-6970