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Toadstools sprouting up around here

The girls’ interest in all things “fairy” as of late has sparked an ongoing exploration of toadstools (afterall, they do make up fairy rings!).  We’ve discussed various types of fungi, their physiology, their purpose as decomposers, etc.  It’s been a really fun topic!

Firecracker’s birthday is coming up on Halloween (Reformation Day), and I wanted to make her some little felted toadstools for her nature table.  At the local thrift store last week,  the design took a slight turn – I found 3 vintage paper and wax toadstools for $0.65, and knew they would be perfect.  While Firecracker was on a walk with Daddy, Little Hen felted them (with supervision!) into some white roving and scraps of wool yarn to make 2 mini play mats.  I think Firecracker is going to love them, and so will her little Play Mobil dolls and wool fairies!

MayaMade  and Little Seedlings have also been crafting up good shroomy-themed things lately. Check them out!

Sweet, Spicy Goodness of Fall

Earlier this week, I got around to making my Caramel Spice Pear Butter with some of the pears from our Hood River trip.  I’ve been fiddling with the recipe for years, and think i finally got it perfect this year – the right balance of homemade caramel, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.  One batch uses 22 pears, so our stash is significantly reduced.  The rest will be eaten fresh, go into vanilla pear pie or pear-gingerbread cake (This recipe is so scrumptious, and I make it for Thanksgiving especially, but can’t take the credit for it, it’s all Martha) .

 

I love the luminosity of pear butter.  It has a glow that you don’t get from apple butter.  Not to mention the wonderfully slightly grainy texture that I like so much.  As soon as we’d finished canning the jars and they cooled, we popped one open and had gobs on fresh banana bread.   It’s also delicious between gingersnaps, on pumpkin bread, or to glaze a roast chicken or pork roast. 

Hope you have a peaceful, blessed Sunday.

Not too much

I spent the day sick in bed, snuggled up with Tum-Tum, but Hubby and the girls went out to rake leaves and pine needles in the autumn sunshine, and then buy pumpkins for pumpkin butter  and more fall baking later this week. 

DawnatHome and SouleMama had autumn poetry on their minds the past few days, and so have we at our little home school. The girls have especially loved having me read this one over and over:

How the Leaves Came Down

by Susan Coolidge

“I’ll tell you how the leaves came down,”
The great tree to his children said,
“You’re getting sleepy, Yellow and Brown,
Yes, very sleepy, little Red.
It is quite time to go to bed.”

“Ah!” begged each silly, pouting leaf,
“Let us a little longer stay;
Dear Father Tree, behold our grief;
Tis such a very pleasant day
We do not want to go away.”

So, for just one more merry day
To the great tree the leaflets clung,
Frolicked and danced, and had their way,
Upon the autumn breezes swung,
Whispering all their sports among,–

“Perhaps the great tree will forget,
And let us stay until the spring,
If we all beg, and coax, and fret.”
But the great tree did no such thing;
He smiled to hear their whispering.

“Come, children, all to bed,” he cried;
And ere the leaves could urge their prayer,
He shook his head, and far and wide,
Fluttering and rustling everywhere,
Down sped the leaflets through the air.

I saw them; on the ground they lay,
Golden and red, a huddled swarm,
Waiting till one from far away,
White bedclothes heaped upon her arm,
Should come to wrap them safe and warm.

The great bare tree looked down and smiled,
“Good-night, dear little leaves,” he said.
And from below each sleepy child
Replied, “Good-night,” and murmured,
“It is so nice to go to bed!”

 

Oh, and Grosgrain is having a wonderful giveaway of yet another beautifully crafted girl’s fancy dress.  The contest is here if your’e interested.  Firecracker would LOVE this outfit, so fingers crossed.

Garlic Planting

 

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Little Hen with Spanish Roja garlic clove (left) and Elephant garlic clove (right)

Little Hen with Spanish Roja garlic clove (left) and Elephant garlic clove (right)

Space is limited at our little house, so we have quite a small garden right now.  I’m glad the heat wave a while back killed the potatoes, because now I have some place to plant the garlic! I know I won’t be able to enjoy them until at least next July, but I love the ritual of breaking apart and planting the cloves, covering them with hay, and then the waiting, waiting, waiting, until the little green shoots appear between the thick hay next spring. 

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(My apologies for the font size issue.  WordPress is being wonky, and I don’t have the energy to delete and re-write the post. )

 

Garlic Shopping

 

I love autumn.  Yes, the crispness in the air, the pear and apple harvest, pulling out the fall linens and changing the nature table, not to mention Firecracker’s birthday – all of these are wonderful things.  However, if I was to be perfectly honest, the fall ritual I most look forward to is planting my garlic and shallots for the coming year. Besides onion, garlic is my favorite veggie, whether the gloves or the scapes.   So, the other day  we went here to try out some new varieties – I was like a kid in a candy store.  Tomorrow, we plant!

shallots

shallots

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Please check out this wonderful wooden giveaway here.  It’s a pregnant mama with interchangeable belly pieces, that can grow as the baby grows inside! very creative!

New Babies = Baking Time!

Two friends recently had babies (both big healthy boys 9lb 9oz, and 10 lb 14 oz!) and I signed up to bring them dinners.  Wednesday was a marathon of baking – black bean and carrot stew with brown rice for both, beer bread and ginger chew cookies with plum jam filling for one family, and olive oil bread and apple crumble pie for the other (one family had an egg allergy, so i had to make no-egg bread and dessert for them)

 I forgot to soak the beans overnight, so I did a quick soak at 8 am, and was cooking all day until i left to deliver dinners at 5:15pm!  Needless to say, the next night I made spaghetti, opened a jar of homemade sauce, and a jar of homemade applesauce, and that was dinner!

SouleMama,  Domesticali, Big and Little, Little Faces Looking Up, Rose Garden, Smitten KitchenPleasantViewSchoolhouse, and Red Dirt Mother have also been baking yummy things with apples recently. In case you’d like it, here’s my apple pie recipe (makes two 8-inch pies):

Angelas Apple Crumble Pie

2 crust pie dough, rolled out, and put in the pie tins, and returned to the fridge to chill. (I use 2 cups flour, 2/3 cups lard, 1tsp salt, and enough ice water to make a nice dough.  You could use butter or shortening to make it veggie or vegan, respectively, but lard makes the flakiest, best crust)

10 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thinly

1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar (if apples are less tart, you can reduce this amount)

for the crumble:

1 cup oats

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 cup flour

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg (I use Penzey’s East Indian, which is quite strong, so you may want more if you use another brand)

1/8 tsp cloves, ground

1 stick butter, cold, and cut into small cubes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Toss the apples with the 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar.  Set aside.  In a medium size bowl, combine the oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, spices, and butter, using hands to cut the butter into the mixture until small pea sized pieces.

Divide the apples in half, putting half into each pie shell. Next, divide the crumble mixture in half and packed into the top of each pie. Bake in preheated oven until top is browned and apples are soft, about 40-50 minutes (you may need to cover the crumble with foil at the end to prevent over-browning.)

Little Hen’s Cafe – Tutorial

This morning Little Hen was up early, all excited about her idea – she was asking if she could create “a cafe with a menu and everything” for homeschool today.  We don’t eat out much, and I’m not sure of the source of her inspiration, but what a great idea!

She had very specific ideas about what she wanted – the cafe must 1)serve autumn food 2) have a tri-fold menu in fall colors and 3)offer appetizers, drinks, entrees and desserts and 4) she would be the waitress, I would be the customer, and Firecracker would be the chef.

Here’s how we made it:

Little Hen writing the title page.

and decorating with fall stamps

Then we made the inside pages.  Little Hen wrote the titles and asked me to write in the dishes (She is only 5, and gets tired writing so much, she explained).  She and Firecracker decided on what dishes the cafe would serve – all things they felt were reflective of the fall season. 

Don’t you love how she spells “entree” (at the top of the picture)?  So adorable.

Then we glued two pieces of construction paper together, glued a coordinating piece on top, and glued our three menu panels over it all:

After folding it into thirds, we spent the morning play Cafe – the girls took my order and served me playfood.  After I “ate” my entree, Firecracker said, “Now, who has room for dessert? We have a lovely selection.”  Too cute - she sounded just like a waitress!

Prairie Girls at the Farmers Market

The prairie girls make another appearance – at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market.  This time, they went for a more bohemian look, and were determined to sling their babies in some Indian scarves. 

We grow most of our own veggies, especially fall ones (kale, beets, broccoli, chard, rutabega, peas, potatoes, turnips, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots…you get the picture), but we do run to the farmer’s market for fruit and things I haven’t managed to put in the garden.  This trip was for butternut and acorn squash, and the last of the peaches for the year. 

Nature Table – Autumn

We have slowly been making and collecting items for our fall nature table.  I know that many more things will be added as the season progresses, but for now here’s what the girls and I have assembled.

also, check out a giveaway of homespun yarny goodness here

On the drive – also giveaways

Some spinning I was working on as we drove to Hood River this past weekend.  It’s 100% Oregon wool that I bought while volunteering with my guild at the Spin-In when we lived on the coast.  The roving looked so pretty, but I was a new and inexperienced spinner, and I realize now that there were too many colors in it – burgundy, purple, forest green, grey, orange, and a little yellow –  and it looks muddy when spun up.  I think it’ll make okay baby booties or an edging on a baby sweater.  Overall, I’m not too impressed, but I feel like I have to finish it before I can start the gorgeous fawn alpaca top I bought in Hood River.

(my father handmade me this lovely maple spindle, btw.  It spins smoothly and evenly and produces a nice worsted weight yarn.  He’s also made me one of oak and one of walnut that are great for sport and fingering weights)

also,  i stumbled upon a huge number of giveaways today (what’s up with that?)-

Grosgrain is giving away a cute red ridinghood jacket – check it out.

BeckyKnitsToo requested cute halloween costume ideas and a linkback for her contest – my favorite was when Firecracker was a bumble bee for her 4th halloween (which also happened to be her third birthday).  She wore black a leotard and tights, black and yellow leggings i had knit, wings, antennae and a black and yellow striped stinger that was safety pinned to her bum.  She ran around “buzzing” all day.  The best part was when a kid at preschool bumped into her, and immediately leapt backward and shouted in surprise, “ACK! … Hh, whew.  For a second I thought I was going to get stung!”

really great baby sling giveaway at here.

soap giveaway at Sweet Figments.

also a giveaway at Noodles and Milk

cute birdie letter set giveaway here.

Orchard Country

This past weekend we took our annual day trip to Hood River, OR with my sister.  Reading Grace and Denise and Abby and Blue Yonder had me eagerly anticipating this trip.  The day met and surpassed all my expectations. 

 

Above – Little Hen, Auntie, Firecracker, Me holding Tum Tum

We were blessed with warm, sunny weather, pears to pick, apples to eat, alpacas to pet and fiber to purchase.

 

Now to the pear butter, apple butter, apple sauce, apple pies, spinning, and knitting that are waiting to be created!

A Little Beading

My sister-in-law just had her birthday, so I thought i’d whip up some earrings for her.  I spent 15 minutes making two pairs of earrings, and then the girls spent about half an hour quietly playing at the table with the beads – stringing them for a while, then acting out little scenes with various beads as characters in their stories. 

Little Hen Beading

Little Hen Beading

I love homeschooling and the freedom it provides the girls to craft and free play without the pressure to produce a finished product. 

The girls playing with beads

The girls playing with beads

My son is an addict.

Tum Tum is the sweetest, easiet baby I could ever ask for.  If all babies were like him, everyone would want 15 kids!  Unfortunately, as of late, he seems to be developing a bad bad bad habit. 

Now, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was a thumb sucker, and my parents had a terrible time breaking me of the habit.  The girls never sucked their thumbs, their fingers, a pacifier, or had a security blanket.  I’m not sure how to handle Mr. Happy Finger Sucker.  Any advice?

Busy Days, Simple Dinners

Stirring Carrots into Black Bean Stew

Stirring Carrots into Black Bean Stew

For homeschool, we are exploring the letter “B” this week and butterfly crafts, blowing bubbles, beekeeping books, and butter making abound.   Little Hen suggested that we bake Banana Bread this morning.  I thought a simple dinner of the bread served next to Black Beans with carrots and Brown rice would round out the B theme nicely.  I love the nutty, rich smell of black beans cooking on the stove. 

Simple Banana Bread

Simple Banana Bread by Larksong

2 large bananas, mashed

3/4 C sugar

2 large eggs

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 C unbleached flour

1/2 C whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions:

Butter a 9×5 loaf pan and preheat oven to 350F

Beat bananas, sugar, butter, eggs in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Gentle stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients, being careful not to overmix.  Pour into prepared pan and bake until knife inserted into the middle comes out clean (about 55 minutes).  Invert and let cool on a rack.  Serve with Black bean stew for dinner, or with peanut butter for a snack!

Grape Harvest

The few precious grapes from our grapevine were finally ready today (not sure of the variety, but they are very flavorful).  I snapped this shot as quickly as I could – because, well, as you can see below, they didn’t last long!

Another Fab Grosgrain Giveaway

Grosgrain’s offering another gorgeous girl’s frock giveaway here – this one an adorable blue and white check.

Also, I’m loving these blogs’ posts this week –

Little Red Caboose

Blue Yonder

Mom in Madison

Five Reds

Wool Windings

And now for some actual knitting

Lamb's Pride Baby Sweater in progress

Lamb's Pride baby sweater in progress

A friend is having a baby boy this winter, and I’ve been busy working on a super easy, but super cute kimono-style sweater for her little one.  I’ve adapted an old pattern to use Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride in Mallard.  With three little ones to chase, a sweater that used to take me a weekend is now taking 3 weeks!   I find I don’t have the time or concentration to give to something more complicated right now, but I am still deriving an immense amount of satisfaction from finishing a project, even if it’s not such a challenge.

Leaf Box Craft

The last few days Little Hen has been collecting fall leaves and saving them in her pockets.  Needless to say, this doesn’t preserve them too well, and they have been ending up in the laundry instead of the nature table.  So, today we made her a little box in which she can collect her leaves.

Materials - paper bag, old candy box, glue stick, scissors
Materials – paper bag, old candy box, glue stick, scissors
Firecracker uses bird hole punch, fall color construction paper

Firecracker uses bird hole punch, fall color construction paper

Firecracker's finished birds

Firecracker's finished birds Little Hen Glueing the paper to the box

 

Little Hen finishes glueing the paper

Little Hen finishes glueing the paper

 

Firecracker anf Little Hen glue the birds

Firecracker and Little Hen glue the birds

 

Finishing the box - let's go find more leaves!

Finishing the box - let's go collect more leaves!

Brady Street Potato Dig

 

 

 

I am a huge fan of Penzey’s Spices, and find that their spices add so much to the simple, mostly vegetarian, dinners we cook around here. Their Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle is awesome mixed with sour cream and tossed over garden veggies.

 We had a heat wave last week that sent our potatoes over the edge a few weeks early, so two days ago we dug up the baby potatoes and tonight we’re enjoying the creamy new potatoes with the first of our fall shell peas in Brady Street sour cream sauce.  So yummy and so very easy.

What to do with all those tomatoes??

Here in Pacific Nortwest, our tomatoes aren’t usually ready until September.  I’ve been reading other ladies’ blogs with so much envy as they enjoy salsa, tomato salad, panzanella, fresh pasta sauce.  Now my beefsteaks are ready, and I’ve been enjoying fresh tomato salad almost every day.  I have Better Boys and Brandywines from my own garden, and Green Zebras and Black Krim’s from a fried.  Throw in a few yellow beefsteaks from my sister and some cherry tomatoes, and i’m in heaven.

Easy Tomato Salad

Handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

5 large beefsteak tomatoes, cubed

1/4 lb mozarella, cubed

Handful of kalamata olives ( pits removed)

Italian salad dressing to coat.

Toss together and enjoy immediately.

Hoarding Tea Cups

I have a weakness for worn old tea cups that no one else wants, especially those with fading designs or teensy chips in the rim.  When i have a cup of tea in one of those cups, I think about what conversations they must have overheard or the comfort they brought on a chilly afternoon.  There’s a special beauty in their aged state and imperfection.

 Last week i scored some great tea cups at my local thrift store.  The tea cups were each 50 cents and their mix-n-match saucers were a quarter each!  They’ll enjoy a nice new life at my house – they won’t be forgotten here just because they’re well-loved.

Prairie Girls

 

 

Firecracker and Little Hen’s fascination with pioneers and prairie girls began last year when our homeschool group learned about the Oregon Trail for our Oregon History Days.  But lately, their interest in the subject has really blossomed as we read the Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Firecracker wears her bonnet everywhere, and Little Hen is begging me to sew a big, twirly calico prairie skirt. 

I forgot how wonderful the Little House books are.  How much they define an important part of childhood, especially for little girls who want to step into Laura’s life.  It’s even more magical reading them this time, enjoying the stories and examining the history with my girls.  Thank you, Marcela from unschooling group, for recommending them!

Grosgrain’s Giveaway

Check out Grosgrain’s giveaway here – it’s an uber-cute cowgirl outfit.  Firecracker’s “what i want to be when i grow up” of the moment is a horsefarmer/cowgirl.  Her birthday is on Halloween, and she would love love love to unwrap this little goodie and wear it trick-or-treating!  Fingers crossed!

Simple Sequin Craft

Hmm…It’s a grey, dreary day, and I need a cheer up.  The girls are asking for a “sparkly craft”.  Solution?  A 39 cent bag of sequins from my favorite thrift store down the street, some glue, colored pencils and scrap paper.

Sequin Flower Garden

Momma's Flower Garden

Momma’s Flower Garden

Firecracker's Flower Garden (age 3)

Firecracker’s Flower Garden (age 3)

Inspiring Unschoolers

Our Nature Table - Summer 2008

Our Nature Table - Summer 2008

I am so inspired by unschoolers, like Amanda, but find that I still need a little bit more structure to feel that my kids are learning what they’re “supposed to learn”.  About two-thirds of our day is spent in free play, crafts, and books of their choosing, and I weave lessons into their interests.  However, I just can’t let go of those set lesson plans for some writing and math.

Nature Table Closeup Summer 2008

Nature Table Closeup Summer 2008

I continue to draw inspiration from mamas like Grace, Sara, Denise, Shelley.  Thank you, ladies.

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