Back to Cooking

It’s been nice feeling inspired to cook again and get creative with our food. I’ve even started doing a little bit of yoga again. Food and fitness go hand in hand for me. If my food is not on track, I can’t get my exercise done. It helps when I find produce that inspires me. Hearty fresh fruits and vegetables, mostly from local farmers is the best for getting my creative juices flowing. I’m going to have to take the girls to farmer’s markets again.

This is a treat for me. No one else in the family really seems to like these cheese and cracker combinations I do. This honey is so sweet and perfect with the brie. The quince paste is definitely dessert quality. I used a nice smear of cheese and then a tiny dab of either the honey or the paste on the toasted bread chips. I was absolutely delighted.

Store bought rotisserie, boiled corn on the cob, and pan roasted potatoes. The girls were so excited for corn on the cob! I used my usual mix of spices, plus a bit of ginger on the potatoes.

Breakfast the next day. I used the rest of the potatoes and some sausage roasted in the oven. Then I sautéed some zucchini until it was soft and added eggs. I melted provolone cheese on most of the eggs. Yummy!

This as my first attempt at ratatouille. My eggplant did not survive my cooking and I had to leave it out. I have only ever cooked it once before. I cooked the pasta in salty basil water and the zucchini was sautéed in oil with garlic and a bit of salt. Since I am not a big fan of cooked tomatoes, those and the red peppers were lightly heated in oil and a bit of salt and basil. Then I mixed all the veggies together and put them over the pasta and some of that rotisserie chicken we had left. It was delicious. I’m excited for my next attempt.

Packing and Unpacking

Over the years I’ve learned a few things about how to make a vacation as beneficial as possible. Working right up until we leave- bad idea. Going back to work almost as soon as we get back-bad idea. Expecting to come home and feel refreshed and energized- that’s really funny.

When you travel as a family with small children, vacation is a lot of work. There are a lot of supplies that are better to bring with than to buy later. Awkward, large items. When we would go to the camp grounds that I’ve been going to since I was a kid with our own babies, we had a pack ‘n’ play, a stroller, toys, nursing towels, pads for me, enough diapers to last at least a few days, wipes that we used for everything, … I definitely feel like I’m forgetting half the list of baby supplies.

When they get older, you think maybe there will be less stuff to pack. There isn’t. Their clothes just get bigger. They still need spares of everything for how dirty they get. Then they have their own books, toys, and crafts they want to bring. And they want to pack it themselves. How dare I check to make sure they bring more than two pairs of underwear and three shirts, or make them put back two of the four pajamas, three of the eight skirts, and five of the nine books they packed! Or, heaven forbid I make them pack any socks and shoes at all! I mean, it’s not like we go trekking through muck and on difficult terrain on these trips. It’s not like we’re the rustic type or anything. (Just in case there was any confusion, we are the rustic type).

And it’s not just the packing before a trip. It’s eating leftovers and striving for the fridge to be barren before we go. It’s keeping up with the dishes and ensuring there is no place for mold to colonize in our absence. Sweeping and vacuuming until you are sure not to convince rodents that you are leaving them a buffet. It’s keeping the kids from sending themselves or each other to the hospital in their excitement for our trip. And trying to figure out how to get them to fall asleep in the two weeks leading up to your trip. I gave up the last several days this time.

It’s chaos. It’s beautiful. And it’s exhausting- before we even leave. I start with big lists of everything that’s going to get done to get ready, then finish with a much smaller list of things that absolutely have to get done and the rest can wait until whenever. We all get really excited and anxious. We all have trouble settling down to sleep. I’m always in awe of those times I’m reminded we are a family. A unit. A team.

I’m a lot more relaxed about packing to get home. Usually the day before, I start weeding out all the things that can be buried deep in the car; dirty laundry, finished crafts, extra toys and activities, anything not being used. I really feel like we’ve got it all under control when I go to sleep on the last night.

Then I wake up and it takes twice as long to get everyone moving and ready. Everything seems to have exploded again, and there are all kinds of bits left that I hadn’t planned for. My OCD gets mad and frantic, then my anxiety kicks in because I feel like I’m losing control. Then it all gets done and the drive home is lovely because I can start relaxing again.

When we get home, I go through bursts of unpacking, laundry, dishes, and cooking, with spells of sitting and knitting or staring off into my thoughts. By the time I head back to work I feel more acquainted with reality once more. The kids seem to enjoy the extra time with me too.

Knitting in Nature

I had big plans for shawls during my time in the woods. I was going to complete a section on both shawls every day. I should have known better. I’m not upset I couldn’t keep up- just amused. It’s my nature to have big dreams and yet be utterly happy with reality.

I was pleasantly surprised by my sister’s reaction. I’ve always had the impression that she prefers my gifts to be a surprise. She’s also very willing to tell me what she would prefer (which I appreciate). This time, she was happy to see what I was creating. She indulged my “knit talk” even though no one in my family really understands what I mean. This was also my way of making sure she liked the colors.

See my sister and I have had quite the journey together and in our own lives. She was always so needy to me, when we were kids, and I was often busy being self-involved, or dealing with our older brother’s nearly constant crisis mode. I’m a very strange individual to most people, when they get to know me, and it made me self-conscious in many ways, while strengthening my character in other ways.

My sister also holds people to really high standards. She’s eased up a bit and learned to be a little more patient, understanding, and forgiving than when she was younger, as have I. I have also learned that I need to just be myself and not worry so much about annoying my sister. Her honesty no longer hurts like it use to. Our family can be brutally honest, but it’s all from a place of love. I am a dork. I’m good with that. Secretly, she is too.

This idea formed pretty much on its own. I have suddenly taken to shawls for the Summer months. This heat is too much for sweaters. I kept coming across the Road Trip Shawl on Ravelry and I really loved the idea of telling a story through knitting. Two of my favorite things! Then, I thought how wonderful it would be to have a shawl to remember this camping trip during the pandemic. To remember our bond and feel connected as sisters even with miles between us.

Top one is my sister’s and the bottom, mine.

Now I’m working on them at home. I’m still on vacation for a few more days, so we’ll see how much I can get done. I’m excited to see what I do with them! It’s going to be a surprise for me too.

More Camping

So. The thing about camping in the woods where the internet is spotty is keeping up with my posts becomes difficult. My phone is too full for my Bluetooth to send pictures to my iPad and they weren’t downloading from my email address either. Then, half of one of my posts didn’t save, so I decided to put it aside and just enjoy myself.

We had kind of a set rhythm to our days. Coffee/breakfast. Rest. Then the beach, which was wonderfully not crowded. Lots of space for us all to enjoy. Then lunch back at the campsite and some more rest. Someone would go to the store for dinner and we would cook it over the fire. Then a hike down to the lake and a snack when we came back. Then we would all head to our own campsites and settle in for the night. Absolute heaven.

We did have one night of light rain and missed the beach because of the rain, but I loved it. We never got around to putting the rain tarp on the tent, so I’m glad it was mild. Especially since it was the only night my husband and youngest stayed the night in the tent. Of course.

It was a wonderful week. I learned a few new skills and am excited for us to try this again. I did my best to soak up every moment. By the end of the week I was ok with going home. I desperately needed a shower and all the sun was wearing me out.

Second Night of Camping

Tonight was a bit different. Our oldest spent the night with her Oma (who has been taking all the necessary precautions to be able to do this trip, just like we have been doing). Our youngest went home with daddy again. It seems to be the best way to make this work so far. So my middle one and I hung out by the fire together and then went to bed. It was a really good nights sleep.

Our day started slowly. My sister and her husband are always up early and do their thing for a few hours. I like to get up and enjoy some alone time before everyone else starts to wake. Then my mom texts me when the coffee is done and I wake my sleepy head to join me for breakfast at Oma and grandpa’s trailer. A nice slow morning. My favorite.

Then we start getting ready for the beach. Load up, and enjoy a couple hours there. As it starts to get busy, we leave. Have lunch at camp. Relax. My mom pulls out the activities and they just figure out ways to keep themselves busy. I knit. I‘m doing less and yet more of that than I thought I would be able to. My husband and I got some alone time going to the store to shop for dinner. The fire was going by the time we got back and my husband cooked the burgers. They were amazing!

After dinner we went for a hike down to the lake. It was a fun adventure. Our middle one fussed the whole way, but she had fun down at the water. I really enjoyed the view.

Of course we had s’mores and relaxed for a bit before we all settled in for the night. My oldest went with her grandparents while my husband got a fire going for me and our middle one before he headed home with our youngest. I listened to my daughter read to me by the fire while I knit until she began to fall asleep. It was a wonderful day in the woods.

First Night of Camping

We made it. I have officially spent a night in a tent. And it was without my husband or my youngest. Which wound up being for the best. The girls’ air mattress deflated in the night so my other two crawled in with me.

We had the usual mad rush to try to and get the house in shape before we left. It was a short drive to the middle of the woods and the beginning of our vacation. We were all a bit grumpy. We were all excited and we were all eager to set things up.

Before it got too dark, my step-dad showed me how to set-up the tent he gave us. I have never set-up a tent before. I tell him as much as I can how much I appreciate him showing/teaching me by letting me do most of the work. We had to get a few extra spikes from his other kit and my husband finished putting the last steaks in and evening some of the tent out. He’s pretty handy.

One of the things I love so much about my husband is that he too treats me like a capable adult. I so often have been told I can’t do things, or others have just taken the lead, but not with my husband. He just expects me to be able to take care of these things because he knows I can and how much I love doing them. Like sleeping in a tent with my kids without him. And tending the dying fire until it was out.

Our youngest just wouldn’t settle last night and my husband was getting anxious for an interview that he had the next day. (He got laid off recently because of Covid). So he took her home with him for a good night’s sleep. We’re also a little nervous with our youngest because she is wild and will do dangerous things just to see what will happen. With it being just me and our older two, we were able to get some sleep.

For the Love of Knitting

I’m a little surprised by how ready for this vacation I am. A lot of it does have to do with how much my kids need it. How much we all need to escape reality for a bit and enjoy just a few of our loved ones (who have also been being careful). But I am surprised by how much I already need a break from work.

I absolutely love my job. It’s the job I’ve been dreaming of and more. I love my clients and I have a fairly limited schedule to be able to be with my family more. I have so much respect for every therapist I work with and can’t express how much I appreciate what the owner does and what our front desk staff does for us. Honestly, there is not a thing I really care to complain about because I really can’t find anything.

That being said, what I do for a living requires frequent breaks and lots of self-care. Two things that take time for us to learn how to do. Well, most massage therapists I’ve met, anyway. It also becomes more important the longer you’re at it. If you don’t take care of your tools, your tools will not stand the test of time. I’ve been doing this for over a decade now and really intensely for the last 5ish years. Maybe almost 6 now. Time is strange… So I’m about halfway through a long career.

I also learned something about myself during this quarantine. I already knew I loved knitting and crafting. I always thought of it as a hobby. It has always been and will always be a source of great stress relief and artistic expression for me. But I’ve come to learn that it is more than a hobby and I want it to be a bigger part of my life. I’m playing around with some different ideas and since I have time right now to do so, I am.

I learned so many new things in knitting during our several months of stay-at-home orders and my imagination is just running wild with what I can do. (I’ve got a whole lot of ideas for my sewing machine too, but that’s for another time).

Reclaiming My Voice, with kids

Let’s talk about trying to write when you have kids and a husband. And there’s dinner…

I get an idea, I ponder over it while busy with life, then I find a moment where everything is calm, sit down with my iPad, get a few lines in- a story just taking shape…

No, you can’t have ice cream. Stop kicking your sister. Can we talk about this in, like, 10 minutes?

So, as I was saying,…

It has been absolutely marvelous to find I do still have things to say that people want to hear. We writers understand, that while it takes a lot of hard work, it is not really something you choose. At least it wasn’t for me. It has called and beckoned me my whole life. Even before I knew how to write words, I was writing on anything I could. Long, scrawling loops of imaginary cursive (always my favorite).

My mom enrolled me in this summer writing program one year. It was a week of lectures and readings and such. I was in heaven. Learning from successful writers and other kids of all ages who loved to write, like me, was one of the greatest memories of my childhood (that is all mine). From then on, I always carried pen and paper. I have so many notebooks filled with, mostly garbage, but there are a few gems hidden amongst all the muck. But that’s how it works, isn’t it?

Oh, yeah. Pizza. Kids. Kids who need to eat and go to bed. Which will begin the nightly two hour battle. It’s a wild time to be alive!

I journaled almost everyday for most of my youth. I kept at it through college, and when I dropped out (not enough money), and when I moved back in with my parents. Then I met my husband and I was too busy being enamored. I jotted things down here and there. I still used it as a therapy tool, but I didn’t have the same flow. Then kids came and that was all consuming. Most of my interests were put on hold and being a mom was it. Which was wonderful and rewarding, and not something I ever planned on loving so much.

I used to scratch out poems spontaneously all the time. As I got older, the words began to stick. My flow was getting dammed up…

Can I have a turn on your iPad? Mommy, when are you going to be done?! Please, don’t put that around my neck.

Right, poetry, dammed up. As the kids got older, there came some clearing of the fog in my brain. I began having ideas and opinions on issues people were talking about. I managed a few epic Facebook posts when the girls were napping, or sleeping, or I had somehow managed some alone time. I began keeping a notebook in my purse again. And not just for those random grocery items I thought of while out, or as something for my kids to doodle in when they were bored, but as a place to scratch out my ideas and save them for a later date. I’m not sure when that date is yet, but I think it’s coming soon.

As I continued to jot these things down, it was like the dam began to crack. Some days chunks broke off and I wrote as much as I could. Then it would slow down, until another crack began, and then another chunk of the dam gone, letting the ideas gush out.

It’s a wild ride trying to figure out what your voice is again. The essence of who I am has always remained constant with me, but I am not the same person I use to be when writing was all-consuming. I have a lot more to say and a whole lot more fear of sharing. But I also know that if I keep it all in and don’t try, I’ll be worse off. It’s one thing to take a break while raising babies and little ones, but entirely another to continue ignoring my voice when I am being presented time to give it a try.

Wonder Woman Wrap

This wrap has delighted me the whole way through. As I said before, I have always loved Wonder Woman. Her strength and conviction in the power of love, truth, and justice has kept me going in some of my harder times. Especially when there were/are those who would rather I conform to the narrative that people are inherently bad and should not be trusted. I have always found the opposite.

I also appreciate her femininity. Growing up in a time when you had to be the same as, or better than, the boys to get ahead, she proved being a feminine woman was a fierce thing to do. She was always true to herself and what she stood for. It gave me courage to be myself at different points in my life.

This wrap has also given me the opportunity to bond with my father. I don’t often make sense to him, try as he might to figure me out. We have had our difficulties, which I have been able to make peace with now that I am an adult with my own kids. Talking to him about my art and seeing the artist in him come out is really quite wonderful. Letting him know that he did, in fact, pass down a lot of his more lovable characteristics helps us both. (Basically, he’s the one that told me it should be blue at the bottom and red at the top. And he was absolutely right.)

Short rows are something I can do now. It’s always fun to learn a new knitting skill. Especially when it just clicks. I admit I watched a YouTube video. It’s rare that I can’t figure it out from pictures, so I am grateful to have those videos. I mean, I’m the only knitter I know.

It all felt so right in my hands. Making this wrap brought me so much joy. The child in me was tickled to be making something representing a character and a belief that I have had since I can remember. The nerd/geek in me began reading more comic history and Greek mythology while creating wearable fan gear. The knitter in me loved combining passions and creating something just for me. The woman in me loved thinking about all that she represents and what kind of a woman I really am.

Had to take a picture outside because no matter what I do, my house is just too dark.

And then I finished it. I couldn’t be happier. I thought my bind-off was too tight, but it actually helps the wrap stay in place. Which is good because this is definitely going to be getting some use!

A Little Impressed

I am actually pretty impressed with how much we accomplished around the house yesterday. Especially considering I didn’t wake up at all until eleven o’clock! Once I got out of bed, it did not take long for me to get motivated. My oldest has gotten really helpful with chores and took care of quite a bit. It feels really good.

We definitely have a lot of cleaning to do before we leave. It can feel fairly overwhelming, but I’m in energy mode right now, in spite of the heat. And, in spite of the usually overwhelming state of this country right now. So we all pulled together and we’re almost halfway done. I even had time to take a break and knit. And I blocked a wrap I finished a few days ago.

Today has been a little less productive. I’m ok with that. I did a few chores, packed my knitting bag, decided I was going to make a camping shawl for my sister, my mom, and for myself, packed some beach stuff, packed most of my clothes. Well, maybe I’ve done more than I thought.

I’ve also realized I’m going to have a lot of yarn to wind because I’m going to start each shawl in the car on the way there. I’m just trying to decide if I should make us all asymmetrical ones, or if I should make a different shape for each of us. Decisions. Decisions…