Sunday, April 29, 2012

There Is Hope

Okay, even I can do this.  And by the way, this is a great homeschooler's garden project.  When you've  cut off your last stalk of celery, stick the base in a pot of dirt and water it.  Now you can grow your next bunch.  :)  

I think you're supposed to blanch celery... but I haven't gotten that far, yet. Anybody know?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sewing Gussets or Godets -- Kwik Sew #3108

Certainly there must be one poor seamstress out there desperately Googling "how to sew in skirt gussets" (after all, that would have been me yesterday), and this tutorial is for you. 

I admit it, I am a rebel at heart, which is the reason why I  desperately needed a Saviour.  I still have trouble with this congenital drive to do a thing my OWN way, and sometimes at the most inconvenient times -- in this case, sewing.  I can NEVER just follow the instructions and leave a sewing pattern alone.  I have to either lengthen it, add a frill that wasn't in the pattern, alter the neckline, or use some sort of fabric other than what the pattern company suggests for that particular design.  

In this case I was making a skirt for Amy. I used a pattern that calls for something lightweight, like linen or rayon, and I had to use denim. So I made it a size bigger just in case thicker fabric in eight seams messed up the size calculations. I lengthened it 3", because she likes her skirts really long.  And I did NOT follow the instructions for the gussets! The last time I made this skirt it was for Betz. The gussets were a huge headache. I needed a fix. And for once, striking out on my own resulted in success!   

Here's the pattern I used. It's lovely! I made view B, the green one, for my 6'2" daughter.  It has eight gores with gussets at the bottom to make it fuller at the hem. I love the way this skirt appears to hang in the picture.  It's feminine and modest and pretty.

Kwik Sew only allows 1/4" for seams. That does not allow much room for error!  And, even if you had the usual 5/8" seams, cutting 1/8" wider, or making a 1/8" error sewing each piece of an eight-gore skirt will make it up to 2" bigger or smaller than you planned on. So cut carefully.  And, be sure to mark the dots accurately where the side seams and gussets match up!

The instructions for this pattern tell you to first sew one triangular gusset to each rectangular skirt piece (there are eight of each), then to sew each of those pieces together.  It should have worked, after all, it sounds simple enough.  But it wasn't. I ended up with bubbles at the tips of the gussets and stretched pieces that ended up not fitting together right.

Here's a gusset.  At the point I should have photo-shopped the dot in.  It's 1/4"  from each side seam, at the point, but here you can't see it.

Rather than following the pattern instructions, I sewed two side panels together from the top to the dot, and reinforced at the dot with a back-stitch.  The gusset goes here, between these two long pieces:

Working with the gusset on the underside, pin it right sides together to one of the rectangular pieces.

Boy, this isn't easy to see ...but sew the gusset to the side panel with gusset on the underside, starting with a backstitch right at the dot where you ended the previous stitching (two photos up). The side panel that is NOT being sewn should be folded back out of the way. Feel with your fingers for the fold. The dot should be right at the fold.  This view is the underside of what you are sewing.
Match the dots up!

Now, holding the point of the gusset, turn it to line up with the edge of the other side panel. Open out the seam of the side panels to keep the top one out of the way, and beginning right at the dot, sew the gusset to the remaining side panel.

 Here's how your seam looks now (below). Clip one side seam just above the gusset piece.

And voila!  A perfectly smooth point. Now repeat this whole process seven times.  If your fabric is ravelly you will want to finish the seams.  A zig-zag is good, or you can overlock.  Then press your side seams all in one direction, and press the gusset seams flat.  Finish the skirt as directed, like a good girl.

For Amy I top-stitched everything for a store-bought look.  She is very happy with the outcome, but next time I will move the dots up 3" and alter the gusset to be 3" taller, while keeping the same width across the bottom.  That will give her more width at the knees for activity.

Here's my sweet Amy in the finished product:

This is a RARE photo of Amy.  She is usually behind the camera, not in front of it. But she has clicked her new shutter at me so many times in the past few days, that she admittedly owed me this. :)

She seeketh wool, and flax [and denim], and worketh willingly with her hands.
Proverbs 31:13

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our community garden opens on May 1st, and we have a 10x10' plot to grow salad in.  The other day I picked up a wonderfully fragrant lime basil. I would plant it in my garden for the summer, then I would pot it and try to keep it alive in the house next winter.

The little basil was a bit limp and appeared as though it was possibly root-bound already, so I thought I would do it a good deed.  I re-potted it last night... and left it outside for some fresh air.  

The girls are shaking their heads and laughing at me, asserting that I am all thumbs where growing things are concerned. (And not GREEN thumbs, mind you.)

I hope this isn't a sign of things to come...

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, 
neither shall fruit be in the vines; 
the labour of the olive shall fail, 
and the fields shall yield no meat; 
the flock shall be cut off from the fold, 
and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, 
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Habakkuk 3:17,18

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stuff Going On (Marathon Post)

Welcome back to my blahg.  I really do need to make it worth your while and post something interesting... You know how it is when you feel like you're just taking up space on the planet?  Well, that's me lately, but I know God made me for a better purpose than to merely take up space. So, let's see if I can make a worthwhile contribution to life today.

Our little mission church is steady at about eighteen when everyone's there, and we have started a Sunday School class. I totally understand one of the the challenges of a pastor's job, in feeding the mature sheep as well as the babies.  In my Sunday school class I have Emily, who has lived in a Bible-loving pastor's home all her life, and who reads her own Bible daily, and three children who hardly know "Jesus Loves Me".  One precious "old" sheep and three precious little "lambs".   :)

While we are not big on age-segregated church, I look at a Sunday School class as a way to bless parents who want to and need to be able to attend to the preaching of God's word without distraction, and without their child being a distraction to others.  Before the kids can be trained to sit still, the moms and dads have to be trained to do the training. We are so far gone from the days when both adults AND children could pay attention for an hour; it won't ever come back in a general sense. This generation is visually oriented and dependent on activity to hold our attention. But children can still be trained to sit quietly and to listen, and even to take something home with them from the preaching. This can't be accomplished by a Sunday School teacher, though. Their parents have to work with them at home.  That's another blog post.

But Sunday School is not a baby-sitting service.  I want my sweet little students to see themselves as God sees them (either in Christ or without him), to learn to love Jesus and his word, and to desire to do right and go God's way when they are faced with decisions.  We sing a few songs, including "I'm In the Lord's Army" (because the kids love it and it's good for getting rid of wiggles), work on memorizing a practical Bible verse together, and have a Bible lesson.  I am not good at doing this while having to interrupt myself a dozen times with, "Sit down," or "Come back here," and "Don't touch that," but God will equip me. He has probably equipped me already for every challenge; I just need to take a good inward look at my God-given talents and instincts to see what's still useable, and dust those tools off.  I also need to put away, some of my non-useable clutter, such as impatience and rigid expectations.

You know we have a graduate. Yay! The other academic students, well... that end-of-the-year initiative has disappeared into thin air.  I was hoping to be finished with school before we go to Family Camp, but that is just not going to happen.  It's my fault -- I have about as much motivation as the girls do.  Algebra fell by the wayside along about last February.  Integrated circuits are not holding our interest in the least.  Spelling is too easy.  And English... arghh! English! Why can't we just learn to speak properly, and forget about sentence patterns, voice, and direct objects???  Is there a curriculum that focuses just on usage????? It will be a big challenge to find the right fit for next year.  That will require some prayer.

Betz is planning to self-publish the novella that she wrote for the 2011 NaNoWriMo, and the editing is my job.  It's the perfect way to see if our kids have a handle on English grammar.  I see we need to work on quotes -- where the commas go, how to avoid a splice, etc.  How much better it is to learn these things as we use them. Writing works great.  I have a deadline... must get that finished soon.

In the school of life, things are going great.  Alison and Amy and I signed up for our town's first annual Citizens Academy.  We are learning all the ins and outs of local government, and it has been very fun and informative.  Last week we learned about our little police department.  I am happy to say we are under-patrolled, as there seems to be a correlation between the number of policemen and the number of crimes, and it's not what you might think.  When the police force grows, the crimes increase, as was the case in a different small town where we lived in the early 90's.
Traffic Stop Scenario
 An "alarm" has gone off, and an outside door is open.
Cute Mrs. S. conducts a building search, with some tips from the officer.
We have also learned about the tax levy and how it is determined and spent, other ways the city makes money, what all the administrative people do, what the planning committee does,  how the waste water treatment plant works (that is actually quite fascinating!)... and how all these departments work together. Our assignments are to find a way to reduce the levy by ten percent and to design a master twenty-year plan. We graduate in two weeks and will get a polo shirt for our perfect attendance, along with our mugs in the local paper.

Also in life school, Amy is just as determined as ever to hone her skills as a future photographer.  Having a camera is now helping tremendously! Knowing how to do photography without using a camera is a little bit like reading up on how to play the piano, and saying you can play. Amy diligently saved her "mom's helper" money and did TONS of research (good skill, that one!), and she finally bought a very nice DSLR -- too much camera for me.  I just need a little point-and-shoot for memories' sake. You know, so I can store all those photos on the computer somewhere and never look at them.  The old 35mm cameras did have their advantages.

Furthermore, the man of the house enrolled in Nathan Maxwell's ITonRamp Computer Essentials course. Alison and I are also participating by watching the weekly webinars and doing the assignments. Between the three of us, certainly we will have enough know-how to fix our own computers when this course is over, and maybe we'll even be able to fix other people's computers. That's the goal, anyway.  One of us will get A+ certification, and hopefully that will open a door to generate some extra income and to be a blessing to others.  We certainly have been blessed by other people's techie knowledge; it would be a thrill to be able to pass that along.

*     *     *     *     *

Certainly most important of our recent goings-on is the Lord's working in our hearts.  I am thrilled when I see my girls growing in the Lord.  This is evidenced to me mostly by their continued interest in the preaching of God's word and in their willingness to provide the special music for church, and also by their kindnesses to others.  I, too, have had the Lord working on me (he's never finished, though!), drawing me ever closer to him, drawing me away from my own pride and selfishness one millimeter at a time.  I do so wish I could "lay aside the weight which doth so easily beset [me]" by the miles, rather than in millimeters. I think that's probably what God intended... my immediate and generous obedience.  Funny how the lessons we try to teach our children come back and get us, isn't it? Today I finished reading aloud to Emily, The Quest for Thunder Mountain, by Ed Dunlop, our of our family's favorite authors. See my old post. The theme of the story is the joy of finding God's will for one's life, and all the angst that can also come with that. I probably benefited from it more than Em did. I could greatly identify with the character who feared the king's will for his life might be something dreadful.  :)

*     *     *     *     *

One more thing:  Rob Robin has been awfully territorial lately, chasing our other bird visitors from the feeder.  As it turns out, Rob is really Robynne Robin, the mother of several babes still in their eggs in a nest under the deck!  She has been protecting her treasure.  I wonder if this is the same pair we had last year?  Do robins return to the same nest?

*     *     *     *     *

Thank you all for staying with me, if you are still with me.  Wow, I haven't talked this much at one time in ages.

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise:
and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. 
Proverbs 17:28 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rob Robin here, so named by Emily, faces a quandary. As it turned out, he let the grass go for a bite of nutty suet, and the grass all blew away. He probably looked around and decided there was plenty more where that came from!

The suet feeder has been a fun diversion from school, Bible reading, emailing, and any other activity that takes place in front of the window. Our birds are very timid, and they wait two weeks to come around again after anyone goes out to the deck. The peanut butter suet attracted only robins, and that after six months of aging. The suet disappeared quickly when the robins finally found it, much to our delight. 

The new suet, with nuts and berries, is now giving us a good show.  We have seen house and field sparrows, of course (who doesn't have sparrows?), a few house finches, and lately, a very skittish yellow-rumped warbler couple, who won't sit still for a photo. I have assigned Amy a chair by the window in hopes of a quick candid shot through the glass with her new camera. ...Here comes the male! Quick, Amy! Get him! This warbler's range must have expanded since 1980; that's when my field guide was published, and east central Minnesota was not in it.  Isn't he pretty?!

Oh, give me a little cabin on the back forty somewhere.  I could sit in front of a bird feeder all day.

O LORD, how manifold are thy works!
in wisdom hast thou made them all:
the earth is full of thy riches.
Psalm 104:24

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Nutty Experiment

Emily asked me to buy peanuts in the shell at the grocery store yesterday, which led to a natural question -- how is peanut butter is made?  I told her you just put peanuts in the blender and turn it on!  She had to see that, and right now.  

It wasn't quite that simple, but almost! First, Emily had to shell a cup's worth of peanuts.  That kept her busy for a while. :)  I had bought the roasted and salted variety, so that's what we used.  We didn't bother to blow the skins away, so they got mixed in.

The online instructions for making peanut butter call for peanut oil or vegetable oil, but I had the wise idea to use coconut oil.  Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so maybe that would prevent the oils separating like they do with natural peanut butter?  And maybe I could store this in the cupboard, rather than in the fridge? And maybe the strong peanut flavor would mask the flavor of the coconut oil?  Let's find out.  I melted a tablespoon or so, and poured it into the blender, over the peanuts.

In my attempt at multi-tasking a camera and a small bowl, I didn't notice that the oil was dribbling down the underside of the bowl and onto the kitchen counter.  Fixed that with another blob of coconut oil.

Emily operated my dying blender.  Where's the Blendtec when you need one?  At my neighbor's.  Next time I'll use hers!

A taste test revealed to us that you should not make peanut butter with salted peanuts. Waaay too salty!  We decided to distract our taste buds from the saltiness by adding a little squeeze of honey.

Blend some more.

And now, peeeanut butter!

It's very tasty. It does NOT taste like coconut. And the oil is not separating too badly. I'd say our nutty experiment was a success!

Three of my girls are on a sugar fast this month, so if I discover that making your own peanut butter is more cost effective than buying natural, we'll do it again. (At my neighbor's!) Now. Who has a good, cheap source for unsalted peanuts in bulk?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Our Graduate

(Thanks for letting me steal a photo, Amy!)

No, we are not graduating a chess piece, but the lovely girl in the background.  So far this is as good as I can get for a graduation photo.  Our daughter has left the school of academics but she is continuing in the schools of wisdom, character, and domesticity. Many homeschooling families do not separate these from the academics.  One of the wonderful things about homeschooling is that life IS school.  If you have been reading my blog for several years, you know that my own teaching philosophy, at least in practice, has wavered between radical unschooling and the commonly accepted, safe ideas of what "school" means.  We do the academics.  We have textbooks.  But we don't take all that too seriously.  Once a child can read and write and figure, she can learn to do anything she puts her mind to.

Talents and interests and God-given gifts are important. They tell us that the intelligence of our children can and should be measured by something much broader than a SAT test. You've heard the old saying of Albert Einstein, "If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."  I've just wanted to encourage my fish to be the best swimmers or splashers or divers that they could be, for the glory of God, and never mind the trees.  Trees are for monkeys and squirrels and birds, all of whom have their own gifts.

Since we have not followed the state-mandated requirements for a high school diploma, I decided that any home-made diploma that I would issue really would hold no weight in a situation that required something official. Such as admission to the junior college, so that Alison could play in the orchestra. So after she satisfied my requirements for graduation we went the route of the GED. She neatly jumped through all the required hoops for underage test-takers (age 19 in Minnesota), including an online test prep class.  Her teacher was impressed with Alison's scores and said that she was scoring higher than any of her other students.  I do hope so. The other students are adults who dropped out of school years ago. Alie was very worried about the essay portion of the test, but I showed her an entry from her own blog, and I assured her that she could write a good essay.  If this is a typical sample of freshman college students' writing  (below, from The American Thinker), and these kids are getting into college, she would have no trouble. (Read that carefully -- this is NOT a sample of my daughter's writing!)
Why don't I agree with their reason well yes they are in debit and therefore there is a need in saving money but there is other ways.  For insists in this solar panel really saving money or it just bring down the coast of utilities bills? Well in the reading "In order to start this solar panel system we need land and not just feet but acres according to California's law that was now mandated 78,490 acres was needed" Now think about it is it free? What was on the land before?  Will this really save us from the economical crisis or will it just cause a economical downfall?
[The author] asserts that the places where the solar panel generators were being put on not just in empty space but are being put on "farms, parks and etc".  So indeed it is not only bringing our bills lower but bringing up a cost for these generators.  Why should we destroy agriculture and farms were most of our veggies and fruits grow just because the state mandates.  Isn't it still bringing the economy to spend money because of the acres being bought?
Sure enough, Alison passed with flying colors and all is well.  So... now what?  Do we have a graduation party?  An open house?  (I never heard of having a grad open house until I came to college here in 1981!) What if we don't know enough people to have a big hooplah?  How about dessert with just family?  What if Alison doesn't even want to be recognized in that way?  I bought the ingredients for her favorite cake, chocolate with raspberries, and I'm waiting to decide what to do with them.

Now that I have a graduate living here, I also have a domestic helper. Of late I have been a lady of leisure, reading and eating bonbons while my daughter does all the housework. This was not my idea, but hers.  Alison follows several worthwhile blogs about homemaking and being a good wife. She is preparing herself to be a blessed helpmeet to Mark Right -- Mark the perfect man, the Bible says.  He will be Mr. Right.  All of our girls will be marrying a Mark Right.   :)

One of the things I love about this child is that when she sees shortcomings in her character, she makes efforts to improve it.  Alison is much like her dad in that way.  Her own introspection has made her a more patient, gentle, and responsible young person. She has also taken her fears by the ears, so to speak, in some practical areas. In the past few months, as a result of being a mother's helper to a mom of six, Alie has learned to cook by the seat of her proverbial pants, wipe counters, mop floors, organize huge grocery expeditions, and scrutinize young children for dirty faces.  She has learned to encourage reluctant workers in their school work and chores, surprise a tired mother with a spotlessly clean house, and cheerfully handle snot, poop, and vomit, and some of it simultaneously. She can fold cloth diapers, navigate Sam's Club, Aldi, and Wal*Mart all on the same day peacefully with six small children... come to think of it, she's doing better than a lot of wives and mothers. :)  I love her new found confidence in all matters domestic!

When she's not helping moms (I being one of them), my graduate is growing her violin teaching business, practicing the piano and violin, managing the special music at church, and sweetly teaching her little sister, Emily, how to be a responsible resident of this house. She is still learning conversational Hebrew via, listening to Israeli talk radio, and filling her family in on Middle East relations while we enjoy the supper that she cooked for us.

You didn't ask, but these are the answers to the question that is looming, now that Alison is finished with high school:  If you aren't going to college, what are you doing? Recently an older woman asked her this question. Alison briefly told this stranger that she wants to be a stay-at-home mom and have lots of children and keep a happy home. The woman, in her 80's, felt Alison is making a big mistake by not going to college.  "What if you get divorced? I am divorced, and so are three of my five daughters," she said. "You really need something to fall back on."  Alison graciously told her she feels she can achieve her goals without college. After giving more pointed advice, the woman walked away.  A older man who had been standing by and listening to this exchange placed his hand on my daughter's shoulder, and he told her, "Don't let anyone discourage you. You just do what you dream of doing."  :)  How I appreciated that man's encouragement.

When we decided against college I was concerned that my girls would feel like their time between high school and marriage (Lord willing) would be a time of treading water, thumb-twiddling, painful waiting and boredom.  Au contraire.  It is proving to be a time of self-improvement, of learning life skills, and of service to others, all wonderful preparation for a life given to loving and serving a family.

Alison, we are very proud of you (if pride can ever be a good thing!) and we love you so much.  You are a joy and crown to your parents.  God bless you!!

...but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
Proverbs 31:30

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