"The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land."
-Abraham Lincoln

Post-Christmas Post

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas.  Things around here were pretty hard.  We lost our baby on Dec. 5th, buried him on the 13th, and then had to rush DH's grandmother to the emergency room three days later because of a pulmonary embolism.  She had just found out she had incurable cancer a few weeks earlier. The hospital treated her bloodclot but she had become so weak and sick from the cancer and the medicine for the bloodclot that she couldn't come home and went to a nursing home instead.  I spent Christmas morning at the cemetery and the afternoon at the nursing home.  She went to be with the Lord this morning, twelve days after walking into the hospital.  I spent nearly everyday with her for the last six years so it's definately a little surreal to know that she's gone. 

However, even though we've felt a little like Job lately, we've still had many blessings over this Christmas season.  We've had an outpouring of support from friends and family and we are incredibly blessed for that.  I've been reminded to lean on Jesus and not on myself, a lesson I seem to frequently forget.   Our kids had a modest Christmas compared to last year but they didn't seem to mind at all and have thoroughly enjoyed their Christmas.  My brother in law came home from out of state and it was really good to see him.  Just many blessings all around. 

This Christmas season has definately been a good reminder that God is good even though life isn't always great.  And even in hard times we can and should count our blessings. 

Monkey In The Middle

I just finished the monkey square for youngest's "monkey in the middle" knitted afghan.  The square is actually intended to be an 8"x8" dishcloth but I increased the size a bit by using a much larger needle (size 7 US) than what was called for in the pattern so my square ended up being about 10"x10". 
The square is super cute but the pattern, which you can find for free here, is not one for mindless knitting.  If you intend to make a square while watching some super exciting movie on TV then this is one you'll want to skip.  The stitches are easy, no lace or eyelets, just plain knit and purl stitches so if you have the time and quiet to be able to focus just on the knitting for awhile then this is definitely worth it.  It took me about 12 hours to complete the whole thing and that was with the usual distractions that come with three kids, although some things, like my sink full of dirty dishes, got pushed to the back burner for the sake of this monkey. 

The plan is for this to be the center square (hence the monkey in the middle moniker) surrounded by plain, solid squares in this blue and a complimentary green.  I'll have to make about 34 plain squares if my calculations are right but those should work up pretty fast since they are going to be just stockinette stitched squares with a popcorn border to match the monkey square.

P.S. In case anyone is wondering, the monkey is symbolic.  DH and I affectionately refer to each of our children as Monkey #1, Monkey #2, and Monkey #3 due to their climbing, jumping, running, and general tendency towards wreaking good natured havoc.

We've Been Decorating

Our homeschooling curriculum has been focused around a Christmas theme for the last week or so and as a result the kids have made a lot of Christmas projects and decorations. It's been a fun way to keep them busy while teaching them all about Christmas customs around the world, the history of some of the decorations we use,  as well as the Nativity story and other holiday gems like The Gift of the Magi.

Everything they worked on was created out of simple household items like paper plates, tissue paper, construction paper and direct from the printer coloring pages with the exception of the mug centerpiece which required a mug (obviously), some floral foam (the green foam), some wire, bits of evergreen branches, and miscellaneous Christmas beads.  Throw in some safety scissors and scotch tape and we had inexpensive projects for each day of the week.   The kids had great fun and ended up learning too, you can't beat that.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I made this cinnamon swirl bread for my father-in-law who really didn't believe that I knew how to make bread without a bread machine. He absolutely loved it though!   I ended up making four loaves, two for my in-laws and two for us.  The recipe is a basic egg based white bread except, instead of shaping it into loaves, you roll each divided half of dough into a 15x7" rectangle and sprinkle each with half a mixture of 1/2c. white sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon. Then roll it jelly roll style, pinch the seams and place them, seam side down, into two greased 9x5x3 loaf pans.  I glazed one loaf with a basic powdered sugar icing and left the other plain.  We actually like it better without the icing. 

Egg based white bread is the only kind of bread my grandmother would make but darn is it good! Egg based dough makes a bread with a softer crust and there is a bit more firmness to the loaf, it doesn't smoosh as easily as basic bread dough.  It also ends up with a richer flavor and a slightly yellow tint to it.  I usually only make one loaf into the cinnamon swirl bread and make the other into plain white bread because it saves me from having to make another two batches of bread dough for things like sandwiches, french toast, etc.