Thursday, October 6, 2011

Up Where the Air Is Clear

I saw this video a while ago, but I still think it's cool. A father and son attached an iPhone to a weather balloon and released it with the video rolling. Once it descended, they located it with the GPS in the iPhone. Awesome. We are learning about gravity this week, and so it came to mind. Enjoy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Knitted Scarf: A Project of Firsts

I was waiting to post about this project until I took some better pictures, but I completed this weeks ago and have yet to take any more pictures (surprise! surprise!), so I thought I should just go ahead and write about it anyway.

I had a sort of joke with myself about the fact that I have been knitting for more than a year and have never made a scarf, because that is usually everyone's first knitting project (either that or a wash cloth, which I have also yet to make). This is just one of my little quirks. After about six months I decided to wait and see how long I could go before I broke down and made one. I held out for over a year, but after fine-gauge project after fine-gauge project, I wanted  to relax with some chunky knitting, and decided a scarf was just the sort of quick project I needed. There was never any question about which scarf would be my first: Braided by Susan B. Anderson was the project that I saw over a year ago and said to myself, "I must make that some day." It was the project that pushed me over the edge, from longing to knit, to bravely picking up my needles and knitting.

Here is the link to the Ravelry project page for Braided (note: you have to sign up for Ravelry to see it. It's a free site that is basically Facebook for the fiber-obsessed.)

Here is the link to the free pattern on the Spud Says! blog.

You can see that on the ride side, the ribbing and braid are looser and sloppier than the left side.

I love this project so much that I bought the Spud and Chloe Outer yarn in the Soapstone colorway for it ages ago and have just been waiting for the right time and cooler weather to inspire me to get going. I seriously thought that it would be a cinch to knit and would look fantastic (I mean, I'm now venturing into sweater knitting, for Pete's sake!), but oh, was I mistaken. I completely underestimated my ability to screw up a project. I found the US size 17 needles to be clunky and awkward at first, evenly tensioning the super-bulky yarn was a challenge, and for some reason I could not get the braid right. I finally got it all together about halfway through my scarf.

This is the "better" end.

My tip on this project is to weave in the ends as you go (which I've found is a good idea for any project) so that it's not an over-whelming task at the very end. Ask me how I know that.

I experimented with knitting the tail yarn and working yarn at the same time, and it's held fast and looks okay, but I'm not convinced it's any better than weaving in the ends with a tapestry needle.

However, despite everything, I'm extremely proud of my first chunky scarf. It is deliciously soft and fluffy, and I know it will be so cozy and warm when we finally get our cold weather in January and February. All the mistakes are little reminders that it was made by my hands. Others may make a scarf from the same pattern with the same yarn, but no one botched it up exactly like I did, and that makes it uniquely mine. ;-)

Happy Monday!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Oatmeal: A Busy Mom's Best Friend

I want to take a few moments to wax poetic about one of our favorite foods: humble oatmeal. Not the sugary-instant-processed-packages (which I do not allow in the house), but the good ol' rolled oat variety. How do you like your oatmeal? Our preferred texture is not runny and not thick, but nice and creamy. I make it in the microwave in around three minutes with minimal clean-up. We liven it up with our favorite toppings: real maple syrup or real local honey, real cream, fresh fruits and nuts, or our favorite trick: frozen blueberries. The hot oatmeal melts the blueberries and makes them soft and juicy, while the cold blueberries immediately cool down the piping hot oatmeal to the perfect temperature for immediate consumption. The oatmeal even turns one of the girls' favorite color: purple. We've tried it with other frozen berries, too. Sliced frozen strawberries are best, the whole variety are just too big, or frozen blackberries and raspberries, and all are delicious, but the blueberries are our favorites. Other favorite combos are fresh sliced bananas and walnuts; warm cinnamon apples; and fresh berries and cream in the spring and summer.

I like to add either honey or real maple syrup for sweetener that brings more than empty calories. The roots of the maple trees reach deep down into the earth, pulling up trace minerals that are not commonly found in other foods. While calorie-wise, maple syrup is close to sugar, at least maple syrup contains a little bit of zinc, manganese, and calcium! Pick brands, such as Coombs Family Farms, which do not use formaldehyde in the refining process. Raw honey is a good choice, too, because it contains amylases and enzymes to digest carbohydrates and grains, which are hard on the tummy. According to Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon,  honey also does not spike the bloodsugar as severely as table sugar. I always have to keep in mind, though, that a sweetener is a sweetener, and no sugar is "good for you", so I try to restrain myself when adding one, even the goods ones like honey and maple syrup.

Even though oatmeal is a complex carb, it will still get broken down into simple sugars, and according to Diana Scharzbein in The Schwarzbein Principle, it's best to eat all carbs in combination with protein and real fat (not trans fats, which are man-made). That's why we always add real cream to ours, and the kids usually eat it in combination with some kind of protein, usually a scrambled egg.
But enough nutrition talk! Here's how I make it:

Super-Easy Oatmeal

I usually make 1 cup of dried oatmeal at a time, but you can make any amount you want, just cook it for more or less time. Just remember that however much oatmeal you have, you will use twice as much water. Cooking times may vary depending on how many watts your microwave is. I believe ours is pretty high powered, at least 1100 watts. The trick about microwaving oatmeal is to break up the cooking time into smaller increments so that the oats don't boil over and make a huge mess. Play with your toppings and find your favorites.

1 cup rolled oats (not quick cook)
2 cups water

In microwave safe bowl, combine oats and water.
Oats and water before cooking

Microwave on high in 1-minute increments, stirring between each increment, until you reach desired doneness, about 3 minutes.
The cooked oatmeal with honey and cream. Not too thick, not too thin. Delicious!

 If it still needs to cook longer than three minutes, switch to 30-second increments. Sometimes I have to add a bit of extra water to get the consistency the way we like it. Be careful when you take the bowl out of the microwave! It will be hot!

Toppings (the best part!)

3-4 tablespoons real cream
1-2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
2 large handfuls frozen blueberries
Frozen blueberries are our favorite topping
The girls love how the blueberries turn the oatmeal purple.

Darling had the bowls all ready

Other topping ideas:
sliced fresh bananas, maple syrup, chopped walnuts, and cream
stewed apricots and figs with honey
stewed apples with cinnamon
fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cream, real maple sugar