Ok, I recognize that this week was the official start of the summer season (and the solstice is a month away), but we have had the weather and the vacation already, so I am going to share.
The family and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and take some much needed time away by camping out at the beautiful Lake Ouachita. The particular campground we chose is my absolute favorite place to camp. And I must add that this was the best camping trip I've had in years. So good, in fact, that it didn't bother me in the least when no one remembered Mother's Day.
Part of the reason it was such a good trip is due to my hubby. This sweet man decided that since camping trips have traditionally been a lot of extra work - and hence no vacation - for me, he was going to make sure everyone pitched in and did their fair share. And he succeeded fabulously.
I can't think of a better place to have morning devotions. Prayer takes on a whole new atmosphere, Bible study becomes deeper and more meaningful, and God feels so much closer when you are surrounded by creation. And the object lessons are out of this world.
While Hubby and the children did a lot of canoeing and swimming (cold, too cold!), I mostly enjoyed the scenery and the weather - which was absolutely gorgeous (with one exception, but that was timed perfectly, since the rain was overnight and while we were at church and didn't mar our outside time at all). I walked a bit, canoed a bit, rode my bike a bit - and knit a lot. I was on a deadline to finish a shawl for a friend's graduation. I chose Troy's Folly because it is beautiful and had a lot of simple stockinette to balance out the lace, which isn't my favorite thing to knit. (And it was the right size and yardage for the yarn I wanted to use.)
My sister, who is also the designer, blocked it for me when she came to visit (more about that in a bit). The yarn was hand dyed by me on a KnitPicks base. The colorway was totally an accident, the dye broke during the process, but oh, what a lovely result.
When I wasn't knitting, we went hiking together as a family. We found a previously unexplored (by us) trail with beautiful, huge trees and plenty of lovely scenery to admire. And as is usual in Arkansas, the relatively short trail meandered through several different biomes, each with its own unique and wonderful characteristics - so it was not only a thoroughly enjoyable hike, it was an interesting learning experience.
My son was afraid people would think he was hugging the tree. While he is a lover of the outdoors, I assured him that I would assure you it wasn't so. He is simply demonstrating the size of the tree.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (ok, baby fowl do not qualify as a ranch, but I digress), our new babies were thriving under the care of our neighbors. Just before we left, we acquired a rather large number (for vegans with no use for chickens) of pullets, six baby ducks, and a turkey. Don't ask why, I can only say that I am not to be trusted in a feed store in the spring. I love them all. (While pullets aren't terribly expensive, building a coop with an attached run to protect them from foxes, stray dogs, and owls is. I scavenged as much as possible, but, um, whoa.)
Today was liberation day for them, the first time they were allowed to free range during the daytime. All went well, and all went peacefully to bed in the pen to be locked in for the night. Whew. (No comment on the nine tiny guineas currently residing in a box in the dining room. Not to be trusted, I tell you.)
After we returned, we helped out with some meetings and then the real fun began. My sister came to visit! I hadn't seen her in a year and we tried to squeeze as much as possible into the week she was able to stay.
The thing we were looking forward to the most was dyeing. Usually we dye yarn, but this time we focused on silk scarves and shawls. We tried wax resist, tie-dyeing, and anything else we could think of.
It was so much fun, and so addictive I think I could happily do it for a living (and I may try that someday). After all was said and done, my sister took most of the finished scarves home with her (only fair since she paid for them, and I don't really wear scarves). My daughter and I kept our favorites, though.
Did I mention how much I love dyeing things?
Another thing we always do when she visits is go craft store hopping. It was a great opportunity for me to pick up some stitch marker supplies, and as a result I have added several new items to my Etsy shop. My absolute favorites are these:
Knitting mood markers! Each set of two beads comes with a fun chart to help you determine your knitting mood. Feeling stressed? Garter stitch scarves. Relaxed? Lace shawls. Plus other great suggestions. They are a bit pricier than my other items, but totally worth it.
I hope your summer vacation is as fun and fulfilling as mine was, and that you encounter many wonderful object lessons from the Lord.
My family has recently returned from our annual trip to Oklahoma Family Camp Meeting. Five fun-filled, Spirit-filled, friend-filled days spent with each other - it has become our favorite holiday and best vacation tradition. We attend every year, and I must say - wow! what a blessing, it gets better each year.
Put on by Restoration International and hosted by our friends Mike and Connie, Family Camp is one of the reasons my husband and I are still going strong and our children love the Lord. There are inspiring, timely, helpful messages interspersed with lots of great music, yummy food, wonderful friends, and uplifting conversation. Plus, plenty of time in the beautiful outdoors - canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, and playing family freeze tag.
You should attend. Your spouse, your children, your soul will thank you. And it doesn't matter your age, your marital status, or whether you have children in the home, out of the home, even no children - Family Camp is for you. If you belong to God, you belong at Family Camp.
I've included some pictures, just a taste. Enjoy. And come with us next year.
My daughter's decorations were a great hit.
We are always one of the first families to register (and the last to leave). Don't want to miss a moment.
While the children and I set up camp...
Hubby took care of some last minute "transportation issues".
There was plenty of time to spend in God's beautiful creation.
On Sabbath afternoon, there was free popcorn and watermelon (from south Texas - in April - yum!). This year I was in charge of making the popcorn - 400 bags! - it was a wonderful opportunity to get to know the family that helped us.
Family Camp is by far the best way to make new lifetime friends - who also love the Lord.
Recently, I've been on a "Do it Healthier, Do it Cheaper, Do it Yourself" kick. I've begun making my own toiletries, my own cleaning products, my own bath soap (I totally recommend the bath soap, but I warn you, making soap can be addictive). I've always loved making things from scratch, but ease is sometimes... too easy.
However, I've really begun to desire health - lasting, God-honoring health - and so I've taken a step back from ease and gotten a good look at the chemicals that my family slathers on or ingests on a daily basis. I looked them up, every ingredient. (My children sometimes think the internet is a curse. As in, "Don't click it, we don't want to know what that's made of and how bad it is for us! Oh, no, now we've got to give that up, too.")
Of course, there is also the fact that the price of everything is going up. (Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the prices of healthier, whole foods rise the fastest, and the most often?) The non-GMO, organic soy milk I bought last week is a dollar more this week. I can no longer find inexpensive, no additive whole wheat bread in my local grocery store, so I have to drive 40 miles and buy the tiny loaf with the huge price tag. That sort of thing.
Actually, I've been making my own bread for years (it tastes better, and I can make English muffins, pizza crust, pita pockets, bagels, and loaves all out of the same batch - how's that for economy?) However, the soy milk and the tofu - well, I've made them before - but there's that ease thing again. Then, as I mentioned, the prices started going up (and up) at about the same rate my teens' food intake started going up (and up, and... well, you get the picture).
We are strict vegetarians (vegans) in our family, and tofu is a genuine staple around here. We put it in sandwiches, in pasta, in "cheeses", in "mayonnaise", etc. Thus it became expedient that I make my own. And my lovely sister suggested that I share with you a tutorial on how it's done. (I think she wants to try it herself and figured out a way to convince me to "show" her how, even though she lives thousands of miles away.)
So, after that long introduction:
How To Make Tofu:
Soak the soybeans overnight in plenty of fresh, cool water. I used one pound of soybeans for this batch. Usually I don't bother measuring but I wanted to know how much I was saving by making it myself.
Drain and rinse the soybeans. Place one cup of soaked soybeans in a blender with 4 cups of cold water and blend until smooth. I don't recommend doing this while your husband watches the news. For some reason mine wanted to hear what he was watching. Oops.
Pour the soybean/water mixture through a thin cotton towel and into a large, deep kettle. My set up includes a thin cotton cloth placed in a steamer basket (or colander) inside the kettle. Then I can just keep pouring and draining without moving anything. (Please ignore the very old, well-used, thin cotton towel. Pretend it is pristine and new, if you'd like.)
Continue with steps two and three until all of the soybeans are used up, maintaining the 1:4 ratio. Keep an eye on what's going on under the towel. You wouldn't want it to overflow. Liquefied soybean waterfalls can be sticky.
This is the part where you build your upper body strength. Tie up the corners of the towel with string to keep from spilling everything over the top as you squeeze it. (We will not discuss the incredulous looks I get when I ask if there is any string in the house. Three of us knit/crochet. Teenagers will laugh at you every chance they get.) I also like to take advantage of the perfect height of my cabinet handles to help hold the weight so I can really squeeze all the "milk" out of those beans.
Squeeze. Don't worry about the sticky. Just squeeze until you get sick of it, then squeeze a bit more.
A note: Don't throw away the soybean pulp. You can add it to bread, cookies, sauces, soups, patties, etc. to up the fiber content/nutritional value. Just don't use too much (it can be overpowering) and cook it thoroughly. It also freezes well for later use. Or, if that isn't appealing, at least compost it.
Okara - soybean pulp
A second note: Don't try to skip the squeezing and make the tofu with the whole bean. You'll end up with crumbles instead of tofu. Ask me how I know.
Place the pot over medium high heat on the stove and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer, stirring frequently to avoid a skin forming, for 5 minutes.
What NOT to do:
Don't walk away and leave the pot unattended, especially right before it comes to a boil. It will boil over fast and messy. Like this:
Turn off the heat. Mix together 1/2 cup water with your coagulant of choice. I have used three different kinds with great success. (Not all together. Pick one.)
Your choice: 2 Tbsp Citric Acid OR 2 Tbsp Epsom Salt OR 1/4 cup lemon juice
The citric acid and Epsom salt both make a firm tofu with no funny aftertaste. The lemon juice will make a slightly softer tofu with a hint of lemon flavor. For authentic Asian tofu, you could purchase and use Nigari, a seaweed derivative. I find it prohibitively expensive. I suppose you could also experiment with vinegar, but we only use it for cleaning - we don't eat it.
Update: The citric acid will make a tofu with a sharper (though not unpleasant) taste than the much blander Epsom salts.
Continuing: Carefully stir your coagulant of choice into the pot with your soy milk. Don't over stir, just get it thoroughly incorporated. You should begin to immediately see little white chunks in the liquid.
Walk away for a couple of minutes to let the coagulant do it's thing. When you come back you should see a yellowish liquid on top and a bunch of white curds sunk down to the bottom.
While you are waiting, set up a drain system similar to the one you strained your soy milk into. I swapped out the steamer basket for a colander. You could use a fancy tofu press, but I don't have one. I do have all the supplies to make one, maybe that will be my next tutorial.
Carefully (it's still hot!) pour the contents of the pot into your strainer of choice.
Allow it to drain for a few minutes, then fold the cloth (or twist it, if you don't mind a dip in the tofu) over the top and pile a bunch of stuff on top to weigh it down. You will notice that my "tofu press" is very high tech.
Press the tofu for an hour or so (the longer it's pressed, the firmer it is). Remove from the cloth and store in water in the refrigerator. Note that my block has already been partially used to make mayonnaise. If you are interested, I'll share that recipe, too.
Be prepared to make tofu often, it goes quickly. Especially around here.
Above you will notice a picture of where I have spent much of the past few weeks. Yes, that is my couch. No, there is not normally a neatly placed throw pillow there. Usually throw pillows end up on the floor at my house. However, yarn can usually be found there, and not only mine. But I digress.
I found out much about myself during my illness (it started as strep throat, became the flu, and ended at last. I'm much better now, thanks for asking.). First, when I am sick I apparently have the attention span of a two year old, only with less ability to understand anything being said to me. Thankfully my family members are old enough to take care of themselves. Theoretically.
Which is where i-cord comes in. I purchased (years ago) a nifty little machine that was supposed to crank out i-cord by the mile quickly and effortlessly. It was intended to make the long, braided handle of my Noro purse a dream. In reality, Noro Silk Garden is much too loosely spun for the machine and kept breaking apart. Thus I spent many a long road trip cranking out miles (ok, maybe not miles, but it was for miles) of i-cord by hand. Good discipline, though for what I don't know. (Oops, sorry, I am the Queen if Digression (and parentheses). Maybe we should just accept that and go on.)
Anyway, back to my nifty little machine. I've included a picture of it (gratuitous spring pictures of my flowerbed are completely free). Recently my sister was lamenting that she had miles of i-cord (ok, ok, fifty feet - to the hand knitter it's all relative) to make for a hat. I mentioned my little machine (which had not been used since said Noro mishap) and we brokered a trade. I got a box (!) of sock yarn, and she got (or will get) 54-ish feet of brain-pink i-cord.
Normally, I would have collapsed from boredom somewhere around 10 feet (especially since one of the little hook things somehow got slightly damaged and must be manually worked every fourth stitch) except for my inability to think (and knit, and read, etc.) when I have the flu. Hence, I was saved from death by boredom (I am not a couch potato unless I have knitting or a good book, and often not even then) by i-cord. Elizabeth Zimmerman may have loved that. Except for the intimation that i-cord is boring, she may not have liked that part.
Well, now I'm healthy (praise the Lord, I was sick for six weeks and beginning to think I really would die, and not from boredom). And thus the problem rears its true and ugly head. For in that picture above (with the lovely daffodils, I'm shameless) you see... 27 feet of i-cord. Yep, I ran out of yarn and now wait for another skein (sadly, this time it will not include sock yarn) so I can finish the deal. Only I have to do this skein with my full (ha!) wits about me. True discipline, I tell you.
Especially since it's spring (baby tomatoes!) and I want to spend every waking moment outside. Sigh. Such is love and the power of a promise.
And speaking of promises, I found this one:
"I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer..."
(His flower garden is as pretty as mine, isn't it? Tiny wild violets)
P.S. There's new yarn in the shop! Some of which is perfect for spring. Colorways are limited though, just so you know. Thanks for peeking!
I spent a large portion of my teens and early twenties plastered to a television or stuck in a book. My favorites were the romantic comedies, the romantic action stories, the romantic.... you get the picture. I was enamored of the idea of Prince Charming and the Rescue from Drudgery or Persecution and the idea of Happily Ever After. I was even enamored with the idea of a less-than-perfect Prince Charming (because the writers of fiction would have us believe that Jerk=Charming).
Well, as I've grown (physically, mentally, and spiritually) I've stopped watching television and reading novels. Unfortunately, I haven't completely stopped looking for the Happily Ever After (and the Lack of Drudgery that is supposed to accompany it). And so I waste large portions of time wishing my life was "better" and complaining about my lack of "happiness" and my prince who is sometimes a jerk.
But I've discovered that the media has it all wrong. And so do I. I have fallen for the lie. Because what constitutes real happiness (true joy) is not a Castle and a Prince and a Life of Ease. True joy comes through service, through being a help and not a hindrance, a blessing rather than a curse. True joy is choosing to look at the bright side and seeing and encouraging the growth in grace of Prince Imperfect, the royal children, and every single other "jerk" I meet.
The King of the Universe chose a life of service rather than the riches and honor due Him. He stepped down from the throne to serve those who didn't love him, those who were often downright evil, those who eventually killed Him. He found His joy in leaving the castle, not staying in it.
I want to do that. I want to scrub the floor with a smile, listen to whining without losing my temper (or even my joy), and disagree with Prince Jerk (after all, am I not Mrs. Jerk more often than I care to admit?) without starting a war. I want to choose a Life of Service over a Life of Ease.
What does one say when she steps out on a new path in life? A new business, a new blog, a new step in uncharted territory. I've wanted to do this for some time, but fear kept me back. That, and a lack of a reason. Now I have a reason. A new business venture, doing something I love for a reason beyond money-making.
I've opened a shop on Etsy: Shear Joy Yarns. I love to dye yarn, but my stash is full, beyond full. I don't knit fast enough to use it all, but I still desperately want to dye yarn. Plus I make stitch markers, but really, how many does one woman need? And then there is the sewing. What's a girl to do?
Sell them. That way her husband quits giving her "the eye" because she owns enough yarn to open a store. That way her children stop teasing her (nicely, of course) for running around with multi-colored fingers.
And the reason? I want to go on a mission trip. I want to go back to school. I want to serve my Lord with my whole heart, and soul, and mind, and strength.