Monday, August 31

Buttons

I finally found my stash of buttons. Unfortunately, it was after Rosi spilled a bottle of nail polish all over them. I'm trying to see how many can be salvaged. Meanwhile, I'd gone to Walmart the other night and I saw just the buttons I was looking for to finish up my new baby's new sweater.

Since I got it all done, I figured I could share another scan. I don't know that this one is any better quality than the last, but I'm pretending it looks a little better, anyway.

I also finished up another crochet project yesterday, but I have to save that one for another day because I need to give it to the recipient first! Soon, however, you'll get a chance to see a new crocheted set of ... something ... and a pattern for the cutest little ... items.

Friday, August 28

We Have a Winner

After a long morning of discussions, my daughter and I have come to an agreement. I won't call her Khalil, but I do have a new name for her to share with Blogland.

I would like to introduce you to my daughter, Rosi.

If I had my camera fixed, I'd post a lovely picture of the back of her head, where you'd have a great view of her new haircut. Since we don't have a working camera, Rosi would like to offer this self portrait for your enjoyment.

Now we just need to figure out what to call the new baby--both in the virtual world and in real life. Adam and I have been working our way through a couple of name-your-baby books, but so far all we've come up with is a growing list of names that will need to be narrowed down considerably.

Meanwhile, anybody want to suggest a name to choose or avoid?

Tuesday, August 25

My Very First Sweater

You may remember my asking for suggestions about what to make first for the baby. I decided on a sweater. I found a pattern that looked really interesting, where the sweater is actually crocheted in two pieces, both hexagons. Since I dislike finishing my work (that is, having to do more stuff after the crocheting is done), it seemed like a good idea. Only, I found it boring to work on. The entire sweater is made up of double crochets. I mostly completed a test version that is now clothing my daughter's teddy bear. I decided not to work one up for the baby.

On a whim the other day, I picked up The Big Book of Weekend Crochet at the library. Although most of the patterns didn't really appeal to me, I love the sweater shown on the front cover. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, providentially) the pattern didn't include a newborn size. So I made up my own. I altered the pattern stitch a bit to better fit the yarn I had available and I made my very own baby Fisherman's Sweater.

Sadly, with our camera still busted, I couldn't take a photograph of it. This poor-quality substitute will have to do (it's what happened when I put the sweater into my scanner). The orange bow is not meant to stay, but is keeping the shoulder flap together until I get around to sewing the buttons in place. That will be sometime after I find my button stash, or I break down and buy some more. While I wish I had a better photo to share with you, at least this does show off the stitch pattern pretty well. You'll have to use your imagination for the rest of it. You can click on the image to see a bigger version.

EDITED TO ADD: You can see the finished sweater with buttons here.

Of course, I didn't write down all the changes I was making to the pattern as I went along. Sorry about that. I can share the adapted stitch pattern I used, though.

Ch 18
Row 1 (wrong side): Sc in second ch from hook, dc in next ch, *slst in next ch, dc in next ch. Repeat from * 6 times. Sc in final ch. Ch 1 and turn.
Row 2 (right side): Sc in each st across. Ch 1 and turn.
Row 3: Sc in first sc, slst in next sc, *dc in next sc, slst in next sc. Repeat from * 6 times. Sc in final sc. Ch 1 and turn.
Row 4: Repeat Row 2.
Row 5: Sc in first sc, dc in next sc, *slst in next sc, dc in next sc. Repeat from * 6 times. Sc in final sc. Ch 1 and turn.

Repeat rows 2-5 until piece reaches the length you desire.

Now that I have finished the baby's sweater, my daughter has been begging for one of her own. I have a feeling hers will take a little longer than two days to complete. She's a bit bigger now than she was as a newborn.

Monday, August 24

Peach Crepes

Peach season has arrived. Even if you don't live in Georgia, you can find fresh, ripe peaches this time of year at a very reasonable price. The question is, once you have the bushel basket on your counter, what are you going to do with all of them?

I had a few about ready to go the other morning and I decided they'd make a yummy crepe filling. My daughter enjoyed them so much, she ate four, then asked for more! Adam ate his for dessert that night after dinner.

Crepes
2 eggs
¾ c milk
½ c water
1 c flour
3 T oil

Filling
4 ripe peaches, pitted, peeled, and sliced
1/3 c brown sugar
¼ c water
1 t cinnamon
½ t nutmeg
  1. Beat all crepe ingredients together until thoroughly blended.
  2. Let stand 10 minutes or while preparing the filling.
  3. Combine filling ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  4. Simmer, stirring occasionally until syrup has thickened enough to leave a trail when scraping a spoon across the bottom of the pan.
  5. Pour by generous 1/8 cupful (2 T) into a small frying pan.
  6. Tip pan to spread batter to the edges.
  7. Cook on first side until no liquid is left on top.
  8. Lift pan, allowing crepe to slide halfway out; flip crepe over.
  9. Cook another 30 seconds.
  10. Divide filling among crepes, roll, and serve warm.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 3 filled crepes (289 g)
Serving per Recipe 4½
Amount per Serving
Calories 289 Calories from Fat 115

% DV
Total Fat 13.0g
Saturated Fat 2.5g
Monounsaturated Fat 8.0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5g
Cholesterol 111mg
Sodium 48mg
Total Carbohydrates 36.5g
Dietary Fiber 3.2g
Sugars 13.5g
Protein 8.5g
20%
13%


37%
2%
12%
17%

Saturday, August 22

Food Funnies

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I enjoy cooking and I like to get creative with my food. There are times, however, I think folks get a little too creative as they are trying to come up with new recipes.

Adam and I belong to an electricity cooperative. I'm not sure exactly what that means, except it seems to make our electric bill lower. The co-op sends out a monthly magazine describing what's going on around the area, how to make the most of your membership, safety tips, and, of course, seasonal recipes.

Month after month, we've looked forward to the arrival of our magazine for a look at these recipes. We've never made one. That's not the point. These dishes are singularly unappetizing. Reading through the list of ingredients is like passing a horrific traffic accident: You hope that everybody's okay, but you can't take your eyes off the mangled car parts.

Being the generous man he is, Adam thought he should share these recipes with the rest of the world. If you, too, would like to read about some truly spectacular kitchen disasters, check out his new blog, Dishes to Die From. Not only does he offer atrocious recipes, but amusing commentary on just what makes them so unpalatable.

For those whose stomachs are easily upset, you might want to make sure to schedule your visit far away from meal times. Just in case.

Friday, August 21

Help, My Baby Is Missing!

For the last month or so, the newest little Gray has been hanging out in a transverse position, that is, his head pointed toward one hip and his bum on the other. I'd gotten used to bumping into him whenever I leaned over the sink or tried to reach for something in the upper cupboards. On either side of my belly, I could feel a hard little skull or rear end. Periodically, I'd even give him a shove when it felt like he was trying to burrow out through my hip socket.

Earlier this week I went for a visit to my chiropractor. I hadn't had an adjustment in several weeks and I was starting to feel a little ... well, maladjusted, so to speak. I wasn't in too bad shape, but I figured I'd nip it in the bud before the discomfort I was feeling moved up to full-on pain.

The next morning, I suddenly realized I wasn't bumping into the baby very much. I poked around at my belly and found no little head on my hip. He seems to have turned himself vertex (or perhaps breech). He takes up so much less space this way, it's like he's just vanished!

I know there is still a baby in there, since he's wiggling and kicking, but I can't even tell which end is up anymore. I realize I have more belly than is strictly necessary, but, really, I didn't think there was enough extra space in there for a whole baby to hide!

Thursday, August 20

Climbing Out of Debt

As I have alluded in previous posts, Adam and I accumulated quite a bit of consumer debt while he was out of work for a year and a half. We are finally poised to actually start paying some of it off, rather than just making minimum payments to each account.

Being the analytical person I am, I wasn't content to simply follow a single strategy because some financial expert or another recommends it. I need to do things the hard way and find out for myself why they work (or don't). I'm beginning to realize just now how challenging that single trait must have been to my parents, since my daughter is exactly the same way, but that's a post for another day.

In any case, I had two basic theories to test. I have read debt-repayment plans that suggest paying off credit cards and loans based on both the interest rate (paying off high-rate loans and working your way down to lower-rate ones) and debt size (eliminating the smallest debts first so you can increase payments to your larger loans more quickly). For some, these may be the same--their lowest interest loans may be the largest. Unfortunately, that isn't the case for us.

So, I spent an hour or so gathering up all my interest rates and minimum payment numbers, then entered everything in a spreadsheet for comparison. Calculating both the interest-based repayment and debt-size repayment options, I discovered something which surprised me. While the interest-based strategy does pay off slightly faster, the total repayment difference between the them was just two months out of a five-year plan or about 3% over the life of the loans.

Depending on how your own debt is organized, you might find some differences in the exact numbers, but I honestly have to say that either repayment plan is a good one. Using the high-interest strategy, you may save a few dollars, but if your debt is poorly arranged (like ours), you end up paying off multiple lenders for a much longer time. By paying off the smaller debts first, you can eliminate several debts more quickly, which has a great motivational effect, but it may end up costing a little more money overall.

For those of you who may not enjoy long division in your spare time, but would like to see how these numbers actually work for your own debts, let me share the formula I used to figure out how long it would take to repay each loan. If anyone is interested, I can make this formula available in Excel so you can plug in your own numbers. Just send me an e-mail or leave me a comment to that effect. You can download a sample spreadsheet in Excel to plug in your own set of numbers.

The amount you owe
+ The finance charge (APR ÷ 12 x the amount you owe)
- Your monthly payment

That will tell you your new balance due after one month. Repeat the same formula for the second month, but make sure you change the amount you owe to indicate the new monthly balance.

When working with multiple debts, remember when one is paid off, you then adjust the monthly payment to your next highest interest rate (or smallest balance due) to include the additional payment amount available from the debt that has been eliminated.

Tuesday, August 18

Frankly, I'd Prefer the Noise

Clearly I wasn't listening to the quiet well enough. I was taking my daily "alone time with God" this morning. Well, actually, I was checking my e-mail (God didn't send me one), but I was planning to read my Bible and stuff right after that. My daughter was in the living room watching a DVD on my computer. I thought that would be enough to keep her out of trouble.

I was wrong.

When the sound of silence finally penetrated my concentration, I realized I needed to go investigate. Sure enough, all was not well in the state of South Dakota. Specifically, as I left my room, I saw that my little darling had pulled the piano bench away from the piano and into the kitchen to allow her greater access to the upper cabinets.

Hoping she'd only wanted a cup, or something equally benign, I continued on to the computer table. There she sat, happily mixing half a jar of turmeric with what was left of a container of powdered egg whites (after she'd dumped the rest of them across the keyboard and mouse).

I admit it. I screamed. Loudly. Multiple times. Then I sent her to her bedroom. Where she's stayed ... mostly ... for the last half hour.

Thankfully, cleanup was not as difficult as I had imagined. I'd figured my keyboard was a goner for sure. Again. I've lost count, actually, but this is keyboard number six or seven since we got this computer in 2006. That means our rate of consumption is approximately two keyboards per year. I don't even want to think about the rate at which I have to replace my spices.

It's a darn good thing she's cute.

Monday, August 10

School

Ever since she went to VBS a few weeks ago, my daughter has been begging to go to school. I'd already been planning to start a low-key unschooling preschool program with her in the fall, but her incessant, "Can we please, PLEASE have school today?" pushed the start up about a month.

Since we're starting earlier than I was planning, I haven't really done all the research I was hoping to do. I don't know all the buzzwords and I can't spout off the benefits of various educational philosophies. On the one hand, I think that's okay. I am a well-educated person who really enjoys learning new things. My daughter picks things up very quickly and gets a kick out of having "school" in her bedroom. Besides that ... she's only 4. If I were planning to send her to public school, she wouldn't be starting kindergarten for another full year anyway.

The anxious mother in me, though, doesn't quite agree. If I haven't fully researched all my educational methods, she tells me, I have no business trying to teach anything. What will I do, she wonders, when I get into bad habits this year because I haven't fully committed myself to one philosophy?

For my own piece of mind, I've decided to write down what we do every day that might be considered school stuff. I figure this way I can at least see what we've covered and what areas maybe need some more work.

Today's list says:
  • language arts
    • practiced capital letter formation by tracing A-Z and writing a shopping list
    • practiced lowercase letter formation by tracing a-z
    • read aloud Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish and Fritz Siebel
  • religion
    • read aloud James 1:19-25 (paraphrase)
    • discussed what it means to listen first before talking
  • physical education
    • visited the park and played on the slide, swings, and climbing equipment
    • reviewed basic ballet positions and practiced foot and arm placement
  • science
    • discussed body parts of a spider
    • labeled picture with appropriate parts
  • art
    • colored picture of a spider
    • identified shapes and traced around them
I'm trying to save all the things she makes (completed worksheets, art projects, etc.) to round out my records. I figure that's enough for my first week. Maybe next week I can actually plan a lesson or two in advance. Or maybe not.

Saturday, August 8

Because I Was Getting Tired of Pink

If you catch up with my posts by e-mail or using a reader, please come by the site and check out the new changes!

Now, for all of you who are here--what do you think? The pink was just getting on my nerves a bit and I wanted to try something different without a complete overhaul.

So ... you like?

Friday, August 7

A New Old Idea

A while ago, I asked for your ideas about devotional guides. I didn't get many takers. Maybe I scared you all off by the linking lesson. Or maybe you have been as baffled as I when it comes to studying the Bible. In any case, I was left primarily to my own devices in reading God's word.

For a while, I was following the SOAP method. The acronym stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. Basically, I'd read a passage, choose a verse that stood out to me, paraphrase it, write down what I thought God was asking me to do with it in my life, and then pray. Though the blog concept never got off the ground, you can see a few of the studies I did using this plan at Bible Study Couple. While the method is a really great overall idea, I found myself getting bored with it after a few weeks, which meant I would put off reading my Bible. And, in the end, any study I'm not doing really isn't working for me.

I came up with my "new" idea just this week. The first inkling came several years ago while I made plans for Advent. I revisited it a few weeks back while I was working on the liturgies for morning and evening prayer, rewriting the words of confession and thanksgiving to make sense for the whole family. I also realized that my daughter really was having trouble understanding the Bible passages we would read to her in the mornings. I haven't liked most of the children's versions of the Bible that I've seen--particularly the fact that they focus on just a few stories and leave out so much of the substance. I'd been trying to read from The Message paraphrase, only Eugene Peterson uses a lot of words and ideas that are still far too advanced for my 4 year old.

This week, I started writing my own paraphrases. I had just begun reading through the book of James for myself and I thought, why not have my daughter learn what I'm learning? Let me tell you, having to take the verses I'm reading and write them in a way she can grasp--it really motivates me to understand what the passage is actually saying! I've been consulting various commentaries, cross referencing, and basically doing all sorts of stuff I almost never do for myself. And because I have a chance to help someone else learn and discover (something I love to do), this is FUN for me.

Now, I recognize that not everybody gets as excited about teaching as I do. We all have different gifts and passions that make the world an exciting place. So, to make this new discovery of mine a little more useful to those of you who wouldn't appreciate paraphrasing text, I thought I'd offer a few ideas that might strike your fancy a bit more.
  • Draw, paint, or sculpt a piece of art which uses the main theme of the passage you are studying
  • Stitch or scribe a bookmark or wall hanging that includes a verse you are trying to memorize
  • Sing a hymn or praise song based on the passage you have read, or write your own
  • Make a meal using fruits, grains, or other ingredients referenced in the passage
  • Learn to sign a verse or passage in American Sign Language (or the sign language of your country)
  • Design a scrapbook page for the verses, or create a whole scrapbook based on the book of the Bible or theme you are studying
  • Choreograph a dance expressing the ideas in the passage

Tuesday, August 4

Back-to-School Giveaway

Well, okay, it's not MY giveaway, because nobody's offered me anything this cool. However, if you go visit Mary at Owlhaven, you'll see she's giving away a laptop. All for the low, low price of telling her how your back-to-school rituals with your kids vary from those you had as a child.

On that ... we don't really have any rituals here. This is the first year I'm trying to do anything schooly, so we don't really have any traditions about it yet. Ooh, although, I do plan to watch the sale fliers next summer and see when all the really cheap prices are on school stuff in the coming years. I accidentally stumbled upon the big sale at Walmart this year and stocked up on 15¢ notebooks, 20¢ crayons, and 50¢ pencils. Now all I need is discount computer paper and printer ink. Sadly, that wasn't on sale last week.

When I was a kid, I don't really remember much about back-to-school doings. We'd do some clothes shopping and pick out some folders, or during my late elementary years the spiffy new "Trapper Keepers" (and if that sentence right there doesn't date me, I don't know what does). We never had the huge lists of supplies that schools put out now. Our school provided crayons and purple-printed mimeograph sheets. We didn't start having to start buying our own supplies until about third grade, and by then, it was just some notebooks and folders--whatever kind we wanted, no colors specified.

Now that I've bored you with my memories, go share your own and see if one of us can win this way-cool prize!

Monday, August 3

A New Breed

It's days like these I really miss our camera. You'll just have to imagine there's a picture here of little hands holding a white stuffed critter with a red nose and blue antlers, all dressed for winter weather.

My daughter came up to me holding a small stuffed animal she'd pulled out of a box in the closet.

"See this bear?" She asked.

"Actually, he's a reindeer," I told her.

"Reindeer?" She uncertainly repeated.

"See the antlers?" I pointed them out to her. "Those make him a reindeer."

She takes a moment to stare at the animal before making a pronouncement of her own, "I think he's a snow deer. He's wearing a scarf and mittens. He's a snow deer."

Saturday, August 1

How Does God Do It?

God has a lot of rebellious kids. I ought to know, since I'm one of them often enough. As a parent of a spirited (or strong-willed, or disobedient, or high needs, take your pick) child, I lose my temper. While I'm not exactly known for my calm, unflappable demeanor most of the time, but my daughter seems to have been born with this innate ability to push all of my buttons, often all at once.

Many times, or lately, many times a day, I'm amazed once again at how patient and gracious God really is to His kids. We fuss and fight Him, complain that He's not letting us have our own way, no matter that He knows what's best for us. When things do go wrong (that is, not the way we wanted them to), we cry to all the world like He's not taking care of us, not a good Daddy, neglecting us, even.

So, considering that I have such problems with just one child ... what must it be like to deal with six billion of them? It's a wonder God hasn't just given up on all of us and started over again in another star system. The fact that He hasn't is just one more way for me to behold Him with awe and wonder. Because, frankly, as a mom, I'm just doing a teeny-tiny little piece of His job, and it's hard. And I don't even come close to treating my daughter as well as He treats me.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
Psalm 145:8

Did you know that same sentence appears in the Old Testament seven different times? Do you suppose that means it's something God wants His kids to understand?