Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Settling in--and a whole grain bread recipe

Well, we're settling in here for the long (LONG...did I say long?) winter season.  I think I'm still not over last year's winter, it was the worst in 118 years of recorded temperatures in Winnipeg.

 It was -11F (-23C) when I last looked at the temperature this morning, with a windchill of -25F (-31C).  Last night, as our professor was driving home through rush hour, we had a little snowfall.  Only around 2 cm, less than an inch, but enough to make driving home in the dark more of an adventure.

This morning as we got the boys out to the car for preschool, one of the dudes insisted on playing with snow with his mitts on.  I just instituted the "double mitts" one needs for this weather (one handknit mitt inside of another one, on each hand) and of course, they aren't used to getting them on and off.  Imagine wearing a coat with a liner--you put the whole thing on at once and do not peel off the liner each time...there, that's a double mitt!  Of course, said twin has not learned yet that snow play will make your hand colder, particularly if your mitt comes off. (insert kid screaming "PUT MY MITT BACK ON! Help me with my mitt! COLD! COLD!" for the third time, which means a parent has to take her mitt off to fix the problem again.) Sigh.  It's a learning process.

A while back I promised my bread machine whole grain bread recipe.  I'll offer it (with variation) below.  My whole thrust is to produce a healthy homemade bread without extraneous preservatives or other "stuff" in it--and have it be as time efficient as possible, so I can manage to make it consistently as our "house bread."  Making homemade bread tastes better, saves lots of money, and is probably better for you, but it does take time.  This new bread machine system takes all the joy of hand kneading and "making the bread" away, which I miss, but it reaches all the other goals, so for now, it's the machine..

Whole Wheat/Whole Grain (mostly) bread in the bread machine (2 lb loaf)

Put the ingredients into the bread machine pan in this order:
1 2/3 cup water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups white flour
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour *** (see below for variation)
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast

Use the whole wheat setting (#2 on my bread machine and it takes 3 hrs and 45 min)
Set it on Medium crust

NOTES: If you like a really crusty loaf, set it on Dark crust, and if that is not crusty enough, preheat your oven (Convection Oven, if you have it) at 425F.  When the bread comes out of the bread machine, pop it out onto a cookie sheet and put it in the oven for 15 minutes.

VARIATION FOR 3 YEAR OLDS! 
The above recipe was "too dark" and "too crusty" to be really popular among twins in our household, despite the white flour.  I was annoyed; the grown-ups liked it!  Here's the variation--still lots of whole grain, still good for you.
Whole Wheat/Whole Grain (mostly) bread in the bread machine (2 lb loaf)

Put the ingredients into the bread machine pan in this order:
1 2/3 cup water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour *** (note variation)
1/2 cup spelt flour***
1/4 cup quick oats***
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast

Use the whole wheat setting (#2 on my bread machine and it takes 3 hrs and 45 min)
Set it on Medium crust (skip the oven step mentioned above)

---I'm still having some tummy problems, so I mostly eat spelt bread, which I make differently.  I will save that recipe for another time. 

Anyway, after having some fresh warm bread, I've been curling up to knit.  I started a new shawl-scarf thing for myself on Monday, and I'm finding the designing to be addictive.  Here's a taste with this night time photo...I knit before bed.  (I hope a new design will be coming soon.)

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Monday, November 17, 2014

mitten fashion shoot

It's full-on winter here.  Windchills of -20C (-4F) and blowing snow.  Yup.  Happened pretty fast, actually.  We've all got a virus, complete with sniffles and coughing and general sore grouchiness, so we weren't outside this weekend.  We skipped our dance class and mostly played in the basement.

Every year I try to produce at least one pair of fancy mitts in colors that my twins want to wear. To clarify, every kid has to have at least 2 pair of mitts, so one set can dry out, if necessary, or when it is really cold, so we can double up the mitts.  Until this year, we had some wool handknit sock/mitts which we just rotated onto feet and hands as necessary, but the boys are beginning to get why we have thumbs in mittens, so that won't last much longer!

This year I was running a bit late.  I finished my second pair yesterday and we had our photo session.  Both boys got their cameras out to shoot photos, and we were off to the races!
 
Note in the first photo--we were checking out the inside of one of the mitts, as it's just as colorful and "beautiful" as the outside.  (that multicolor yarn is Mountain Colors Twizzle and it meets the requirements of the twin who wanted blue, purple, red, yellow, green...etc.)  Contrast colors are the leftovers of blue yarn I used for  the Wrap-Around Cardigan design and some lovely plain old natural yarn from Catherine Friend's farm.

OK, contestant #2 for the photo shoot was just not in the mood.  Very sniffley and grouchy, and dressed in his "train conductor" uniform.  (The sweater shirt has a small train emblem on it and he felt the cannonball style hat was part of the uniform, of course.)  Anyhow, his mitts were also the first finished, so he has been wearing them for a few weeks at preschool recess and cannot figure why we were putting them on in the basement.  (I know, that crazy knitting mommy) 

These mitts are special for different reasons.  I dyed the green wool myself from beast roving, which is a wool/mohair blend that is reclaimed from the machines that produce Brown Sheep yarn in Nebraska.  All the yarn for these mittens was produced on spindles, plied on spindles, and then knit up--while chasing twins.  So, all this past summer, when I was standing around in the yard while we played at the sandbox, I was spindling.  I made mitts to order.  Green, to match this kid's coat, with a gray natural colored Shetland stripe from our friend Margaret's (& Linda, but he doesn't remember Linda's) sheep.  I threw in a white stripe of some random handspun I had, which he does not seem to mind, but having Margaret's Shetland wool in the mitts was deemed very important to this kid.

It takes me forever to make anything these days but making kids' mitts (size 4, in case you want to do a pair or two for us!?) is very quick.  We have these two pair, and a couple pair our Didi made with matching winter hats (Didi = my mom) and we're very nearly set for real winter.  We've got something like 10 or 11 handknit sweaters that currently fit us, so between my needles and my mom's, I think we've got that covered.  Yes, it gets cold here.  I cope with my obsessive worries about being warm enough for winter...by knitting more. 

Sadly, it is now too cold for me to knit in the parking lot before preschool pick up, though!
Enjoy the photo shoot!  As soon as we stop sniffling, (come spring?!) we might want to smile again, too.

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Monday, November 03, 2014

DIY Winnipeg?



Here's my latest article (note: I do not choose the titles!):
DIY Winnipeg: coming together to fix the city's problems

I'm really proud to have an opinion piece up at the CBC!  It was posted online late Friday afternoon, so not many people saw it before it just became part of another news cycle.  What I meant about gaining grassroots involvement in Winnipeg is not that everybody go out and fix the potholes themselves. However, my hope is that educated and intelligent people try to help fix city problems by offering city officials suggestions, help and expertise rather than throw up their hands after electing these folks to political office.

(We've got a long winter ahead--so maybe we can use the time to come up with better ways to fix infrastructure?!)

Stay warm...it's woolly weather now.  For all my knitting, weaving, spinning,crocheting (etc) readers, check out this cool website, Wovember, for more warmth and fibery goodness this month. 

Last but not least, if you're feeling cold now that frost has settled in here in Manitoba, remember, you can always knit yourself a sweater! :)

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Apples, cider and beyond

In past years, I have rhapsodized about fall and apples....my first real date with the professor was to go apple picking in upstate New York.  We make a habit of trying to pick apples every fall.  For the last three years, that has involved helping pick a neighbor's tree.  She lives a block away, and the first year after the boys were born, I raced back and forth between two car seats, popping one boy into a sling to nurse, and then the other.  We're now, at age three, up to the point where they can sometimes pick low hanging fruit themselves, but mostly spend their time chasing windfalls and testing apples with one bite out of several apples...each!

So, apple picking is not quite as romantic as it used to be.  We are visiting family in Virginia for a few days, and the professor surprised me with two lovely gifts.One was Apples of Uncommon Character: Heirlooms, Modern Classics, and Little-Known Wonders, a gorgeous copy of a book that is like a love song to apples.  The other was a 6 pack of hard cider, locally made.  I was able to bring some of that cider to share with a friend...and saved one bottle of it, so I got to drink peacefully by myself, as I read this fabulous new book.  Well worth the purchase of a hardcover, just to enjoy a cider while looking at the luscious full page photos.

Happy fall!  I am really enjoying the warmth of a sunny fall holiday at "home" in Virginia.  Back to Winnipeg, and cooler temperatures, soon enough!


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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Transitions



(thanks to Didi and Bop, grandparents, for this photo...)
We're in the midst of a big transition over here.At the beginning of September, our three year olds started to go to preschool for a much longer time...nearly matching a regular school day.  It has been both wonderful and exhausting for us.  On one hand, I will never forget the Wednesday after Labor Day this year.  It was the longest time I'd been by myself, in my own house, without the boys, since they were born.  It was both a huge relief...and a shock.  I almost didn't know what to do with myself!
Maybe that's a lie.  I've been working myself into a frenzy, trying to clean up 3 years of messes...both in the household and in my work life, which has mostly been on "pause" for a long time.  It is both exhilarating and hard!  I've submitted a grant application, articles and ideas and even sent off my resume to one (very long shot) editor job.  It's been exciting. 
Part of that blitz was re-issuing this pattern for sale: Wrap-Around Cardigan 
 
I'm excited to say it is now again available!  It was briefly a Knit Picks exclusive pattern, but copyright returned to me...many moons ago. 
 
The other hand--going back to the metaphor above--is the hard part.  We are all still very tired out here.  It's hard to learn to nap at school (and my boys are not great sleepers still, being exhausted during the day doesn't mean we sleep through the night!).  When the dudes come home, they are exhausted and fussy, and I don't blame them.  I too am out of sorts, trying to juggle some sort of new/old work life, the household, and two three year olds in transition.  In a sense, we're all navigating one of those overgrown late summer/fall gardens.  The flowers are over our heads.  We're trying to find our way....and the bees are busy, the flowers fragrant (all good things) but we're a bit lost still.
 
On that note, I wanted to make sure to wish my readers a happy Rosh Hashanah--happy 5775!  Happy New Year.  May it be a sweet, productive, happy, healthy and fulfilling one.
Wishing you all good things,
Joanne

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dog days

I want to thank everyone who left a comment or mentioned to me that they still read my blog.  Thank you...I clearly needed to know that this was still worth doing.  As a thanks to the knitter folk who have hung in here with me, I wanted to let you know that have a 20% off pattern sale for the dog days of August going on until the end of the month…this applies only to the patterns available on Ravelry.
The Ravelry coupon code is:
dogdays2014

This is a good deal on some of these downloadable patterns!

  In order to honor one comment, most of the photos of this post feature Sally, my pointer-mix.  She came to us at around 8 months-1 year in 2005, which makes her 10 this year.

Remarkable. 

Sally has always been hard to photograph.  She is a very bright, skittish, high energy and loving dog.  Since my boys were born, the dogs get less time to laze about outside...because if the dogs get to barking at people beyond the fence, neighbors could complain.  So, we call them in quickly most of the time.  (and juggling 2 3 year olds and 2 dogs in August, by myself, has sometimes been tricky.)
Sally likes to sunbathe, and she likes to roll in the grass or snow to clean herself.  She comes in smelling good, either way, and watching her relax and roll is a real pleasure for those who know her.  (She's wary of ever being caught in a submissive pose.)

Most of the time, she is "on guard."  When my boys were infants, she would act as a dog nanny, guarding them.  She'd also rush over to their diapered bottoms and bark when they needed changing.  This wasn't ideal; it sometimes woke the boys up, but mostly it alarmed anyone who was trying to help me with the babies.  Sally did not really trust the nervous, non-dog people who tried to help, and she let them know she was worried about her babies.

Sally had to be taught a new command--"upstairs"--so she would have a way to be off duty and rest on my bed while others were over.  This summer, both boys have been home alone with me a lot, or with one or two other people Sally trusts.  As a result, she's often right near by these days, and I feel like she's back where she belongs, resting on a rug in the living room or patrolling the yard as we play.

Although I am really worn out from being on constant "mom" patrol with few breaks, I did have a couple of surprises.  One is that when there is no one to help, I HAVE to sit around with the boys in the playroom or in the yard.  I have to be the one who takes them to the park or the wading pool.  As a result, I've had more time both outdoors and sitting down--time to "rest" as compared to rushing about behind the scenes to get things done for the household or my work.  I often bring my spindle out to the yard to spin...and it can be surprising to see how much yarn gets made while they play in the sand box.  (nothing sweater-worthy, but better than nothing!)

In other news, we are in the midst of transitioning to "big boy beds."  These are really toddler beds, but the amount of chaos twin boys can cause when loose in their bedroom, alone, is unreal.  We have created a sleep time chart (color coded for boys who don't read!) and they get stickers and prizes when they settle down to sleep quickly and quietly.  That means--no yelling or sitting on or hurting your brother, no taking apart the furniture or destroying your bedding...you get the picture.  Naptimes go smoothly, most of the time.  We're still working on bed time.  As always, sleep is still a challenge here.  I am still up with somebody 1-4 times a night.


Making food in August has been hard.  With no summer camp and only a mother's helper some afternoons, it is difficult to find 20 minutes to make a meal.  I have developed a loving relationship with my slow cookers and Stephanie O'Dea's books...
365 Slow Cooker Suppers and

 Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking
These two books have enabled me to throw together a lot of dinners in a hurry, and everyone seems to like them.

Last but not least, I succumbed to something I swore I would never do.  I started baking bread as a 12 or 13 year old, and when I went to college, my mom bought a bread machine "to replace me."  I really love the process of baking bread and miss it dearly.  However, it is really hard to manage rising times and a hot oven between the competing needs of two very different preschoolers and two dogs while by myself.  Also, flour is very cheap in Manitoba (on sale, I can get 22.5 lbs of white flour for $6.50 CAD, and whole wheat is not much more), but decent wholegrain bread with no preservatives is expensive by comparison.  So, I got this bread machine on sale, and it has been churning out 2 or 3 loaves a week for us.  I was lucky; my bread baking experience meant I concocted my own whole grain recipe straight away and have been innovating since.  Sometime when I have more time, I will post some of those recipes.

I posted this marathon blog entry on a rainy Sunday morning while the Professor took the boys out to visit with the turtles and fish at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory.  This is the first time I have been alone, without twins, for any length of time, in 16 days.  I shared it with you.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

The sleepy sweaters

Time is short...the boys have summer camp in the mornings in July, but it's all me and twin three year olds every afternoon.  In August, our mother's helper will be back to help  a bit(she's away this month), but there's no camp and no preschool in August...just me, filling up the play time as best I can.  That means there's very little time for blog posts, no time for, say, complicated cooking or vacuuming up the copious amounts of dog fluff (honestly, it could be a new breed of dog!) on the floors. 

When I do have spare moments, I am mostly trying to fill them up with things that keep the household afloat, are enjoyable for someone or give us pleasure in the long run.  More on that in another post, I think...but in this one, I present:

the sleepy sweaters

Yes.  Even in summer here, we wear sweaters to bed with some frequency.  With the windows open, it can get chilly at night, and both boys throw off their covers with some frequency.  In an effort to get more sleep by helping them sleep through the night occasionally, I came up with these. 

This starts with either felted wool sweaters (from the thrift store) or cashmere ones that I bought to make into wool soakers or longies.  (Wool is very absorbent and ideal for cloth diaper covers; it is what my boys have been wearing at night for most of their lives.)  My mom helped out by making the first soakers and wool pants when the boys were born.  Some of the soakers are handknits but most are made from felted, repurposed sweaters.  The wool pants, (also called longies) worn over their clothes, were great for winter time warmth when going outside and a lot easier than getting a couple of infants into snow suits.

Over time, I got a stock pile of beautiful sweaters felted or washed and ready to go.  The professor really likes the thrift store sweater hunt!  The sleepy sweaters in my house come in two styles:

1) a long sleeveless one, sort of like a sleeveless tunic.  This goes over a short or long sleeved tee-shirt and a pair of pajama pants at bedtime.  (and underneath those pjs, we are still wearing cloth diapers and wool soakers at night.)

2) When it is really cold, in the winter, we wear long sleeve sleepy sweaters.  I repurpose felted adult sweaters or cashmere ones by hemming up the bottoms and sleeves so they fit my (still pretty small) three year olds. 

Recently, the purple cashmere sleeveless sleepy sweater was deemed the "ballet sweater."  Leo, the older twin, is a great fan of dancing.  He particularly enjoys twirling and stomping in his sleepy sweater before bed.

I began to get worried because this particular sleepy sweater was looking a bit ragged. When would I fix it and where would I find another perfect purple (CASHMERE!|) sleepy sweater?

I had a very lucky helper.  My friend Rachel, who owns Wolseley Wardrobe, a local consignment shop, kept her eye out for the perfect sweater.  The stars aligned and we just landed a second, long sleeved cashmere purple BALLET sleepy sweater.  Hurray! 

I get enormous pleasure out of seeing my guys cozy and ready for sleep, outfitted in woollies made or repurposed just for them.  It is time well-spent because sometimes, just sometimes, I get to sleep 5-6 hours in a row when they both are warm and comfy enough to sleep through the night at the same time.

I took advantage of a sunny morning to air these out and I wanted to share it with you.  Hope you can imagine the twin ballet dancers twirling here. 
PS: I am wondering if the blog is something I should keep doing? If you are reading, why do you read?  Are you a longtime reader?  Would you like me to post something different?  I just read this article and wonder if I've missed the boat on blogging.  Should I have made mine into something money making?  Is it time to let it go completely, as I cannot update it weekly anymore?

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