Monday, June 23, 2014

Sweet Little Wood has a new home

 So to go with a lot of big changes round here Sweet Little Wood has moved to a new home.
I love Blogger but I wanted something a little different and it just wouldn't flex with me sooo...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Remember This Moment

Both and E. and J. want to go to school. Since the move we know no children their own age. Well... no children at all really not for many many many miles.  And J. (my sweet little M. replica) is a very highly social child.  She is an extrovert.  I don't always understand her need for people and noisiness but I do understand that despite being with her best friend every single day she wants more.  And E. my sweet little highly sensitive child will go to school because she doesn't want to be alone and enjoys a bit of gentle competition.

So this moment right here. I'd like to keep hold of it make it last till high school at least but my kiddos have their own ideas and dreams and hearing J. tell the orthodontic assistant the homeschool can be kinda lonely nearly broke my heart.

xx Jo

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Yarn Along in pajamas

It has been a looong time since I did the knit along. Mostly because I haven't been able to sit (curse you back troubles) so my knitting has been on GOOOOOO SLOOOOOOOWWWW.  Now I'm way more mobile its going faster.

This project is the tail end of something experimental.  I am making sleeve, leg and tummy extensions for E's favorite pajamas.  I am not normally ambitious enough to bother with this sort of thing because E.'s clothes go right to J. as hand me downs and everyone is happy. 

These particular pajamas are for E. the best-est pajamas ever created on the face of the planet. They are boy's pajamas (eg nice and comfortably baggy) we bought in the UK before we moved and they have guitars and other rock/music equipment on the shirt.  I am lengthening them only because when I told E. they were getting too short and she had to hand them on her eyes teared up and J. started jumping around crowing because E.'s precious "Coolest PJs on the Planet" would soon be hers!  

So here I find myself... doing the thing that seems totally futile for the sake of a pajama obsession that is probably quite unhealthy... 

I will post pics next week with a how-I-did-it-and-if-you-are-a-masochist-or-cheapskate-so-can-you!!

I'm reading Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore.  It is a fantasy novel which has two others in a sort of paralell series. I've found it  interesting and I love the world the author created but the book is slow and pushes hard against some moral issues that I feel quite strongly about so I have found it occasionally uncomfortable enough to skip some reading. I would read it again if it weren't for a lot of (gentle) references to said moral/sexual issues which this is not the forum for discussion.  It has a villain I find very very repulsive and A LOT of victims. So I dunno. Thumbs sideways I guess.

You can see E is re-reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Excitement for the The Desolation of Smaug is reaching fever pitch in our house as the girls all know it opens the day after M.'s birthday and I've already bought us tickets at our local cinema (surprisingly good for a small town) as a surprise for him (he LOVES The Hobbit).

Happy kitting!

xx Jo

California's Pilgrims

E. and J. have just finished their fall homeschool history project. JUST in time.

The girls tend to work from books for all their main classwork but for history we always make it a little more exciting with a topic project three or four times a year. We have made a medieval newspaper, had Roman feast for M.'s birthday and traveled the world with craft paper passports which get a "stamp" once a culture has been "visited".   Having just moved back to the states from a town on the south coast of England (only a little way away from Plymouth)  we have been studying the pilgrims and the Mayflower. To most Americans the idea of being completely ignorant of Pilgrim history probably seems incomprehensible but my kids were. 

Completely. Ignorant.

They have had such a great time researching and writing these diary. For example their characters existed and survived the first year in the New World when most of the immigrants died in the terrible conditions. Also E. and J. know where their characters settled married and how many children they had.  I had nothing to do with the research and writing (other than book buying/spotting and insisting on a minimum of ten diary entries) just the physical leather manufacture of their amazing Pilgrim Diaries.

We used regular printer paper aged and stained with coffee but not crumpled up a la fake treasure maps.  They wrote their diary entries leaving a good size margin on each page so that there was space to trim the paper down to fit leather sheet covers.  Which we punched with a bradawl tool and they stitched their diary up using leather thong.  They then wanted to mark the initials of the character on the cover. E. was Remember Allerton, and J. Mary Allerton. I didn't have the right tools but my girls really didn't care. A screwdriver did the job nicely.

The leather is rather expensive for a faux diary cover and only comes in one size from Michael's or Beverly's by us but a bigger one might have more options.  Having said that the work the girls put into writing up each entry, spell checking the lot and then by hand carefully re-writing them onto diary paper deserved a more noble finish than a fake leather or felt cover so I caved and bought the more expensive stuff.  In retrospect it was the very best thing I could have done. Children put value in the things their parents value.  By covering their work in leather I told them (inadvertently) that their work was worth something more than throwing away.  They are so proud and excited.  Just in time to share them with the family at Thanksgiving.

xx  Jo

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

In which I give away the secret to growing tasty sweet tomatoes...

In the spring I planted 40 square feet of vegetables in out back acre. We have been swimming in tomatoes, squash, white corn, watermelon and onions. Still there are little watermelons on the vines (which may never amount to much now the cold seems set) the pumpkins are ripe and hardening on the vine, and our butter nut squash have my mouth watering just looking at them all smooth and skin-peach colored


The problem is the TOMATOES.
Not a problem perhaps just so many.  I had planted a lot with the intention of canning and using them for sauces. Three weeks ago I spent hours and hours processing a big pail of them only to finally get out at the end about three cups of tomato for canning. It was so disheartening. 

When I talked with friends about it they kept telling me: don't skin them just throw them in the sauce and puree the skins down.  Well... I have found that too is a faulty plan  for a couple of reasons:

1: My Uncle Tom who is the most wise and thoughtful person I know on this planet has been growing tomatoes as a farmer for over half a century and has a reputation both locally and further afield for raising the most delicious and sweet tomatoes.  His advice is to water starve your tomatoes if you want them sweet.  Our tomatoes are exceptionally sweet because I followed Uncle Tom's advice and hardly ever water them. They look like they are dying (they aren't- tomatoes are like weeds) but we have mountains of gorgeous red sweet tomatoes with  firm skins (another sign of water stressed tomatoes). 
2: Salt or sugar in sauces causes tomato skins to harden and become little strips of tomato leather over the heating time. Not nice. And salt or sugar are kinda necessary for preserving food. That's why your tin tomatoes always come skinned.

So thoroughly disheartened and  now completely incapable of standing for several hours let alone canning anything I spoke to my Auntie (Uncle Tom's wife) about what she does with theirs and she (being very practical) said:

 "I just bag them and throw them in the freezer we pull them out and wizz them into soup all winter long!"


So that's what I did. We pulled a bag out the other day for M. to make curry with and...  Voila! It works beautifully. The skins are "wizzable" or  (because I am removing the stalk before bagging) you can squeeze the tomato out of it's skin after defrosting which is MUCH faster than peeling them fresh. It also has the added benefit that if you need something thicker than a tomato puree you can strain the defrosted skinned tomatoes and a huge amount of their water gets separated leaving behind a much thicker paste great for ragu.

So here are my trade secrets:
Water starve your tomatoes- only water them when they start to wilt. (Also works with Watermelon BTW- stop watering them for a week before harvest and they will be super super sweet).
And freeze the blighters!

xx Jo

Monday, September 30, 2013

The sharpest crafting implement

So recently (before the crippling back took over my life) we went to our local fair where we were delighted to discover that there is an annual wool and fiber festival. It was so amazing. I could hardly manage to restrain myself from blowing an entire months rent on wool. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me, it was truly drool worthy.  Additionally I was reminded of my plan to learn tatting by a lovely woman selling beautiful filigree shuttles silver plated.

Ohhhhh tatting how I love you!

I've had these books for awhile, I can't remember where I got them only that they came with me from the UK. Learn to Tat by Connie Ellison and Tatted Jewelry by Lyn Morton.  Learn to Tat comes with a instructional DVD which I have to admit to not using as of yet, probably I should have as I absolutely had to access online video tutorials to  get it all to work properly. I have this feeling that it is one of those skills best learned sitting at the foot of your grandmother!!
And then I visited Pintrest (oh man- just look up tatted jewelry!!!) and some other blogs etc. There are some beautiful designs at Le Blog de Frivole

Its brilliant when laying in bed and I read that traditionally it was a craft taught to people recovering from illnesses. It is so suiting I find the whole situation slightly embarrassing.

So now my head is spinning with ideas and designs. It is sparing me the absolute soul destroying level of boredom I could be hunkering under.

However Tatting shuttles are the sharpest craft implements I have ever had the misfortune of partially laying on in bed!! They have a horrific little sharp point on one end which is entirely useful and practical until you loose it!


As an aside Autumn has set in here in an amazing way with breezes, crispy mornings and rain showers.
I don't remember ever having rain before the end of September when I was growing up in Mariposa. We are closer to the coast here but it has still taken me by surprise and it is so cold in our house. 
My poor little homeschoolers are working in scarves and hats and mittens!

Last week the thermometer was recording overnight lows of 34 F and it felt it. Today the rain is falling in earnest so it is a little warmer.  In the UK there is a quiet battle of  hardiness and pride in how late into the year one can last before turning on the heating... well its not yet October and we are having morning fires.  Guess that means I loose.

Isn't it beautiful? Almost worth waking up with frostbite!

xx Jo