Monday, January 24, 2011

Helena and sweaters

So, I think I mentioned a few months back that I became an aunt. Unfortunately, my sister lives in Germany so I don't get to meet my little niece Helena until she is 10 months old. I have to survive through skype and lots of emailed pictures. And knitting.

I've knit her two sweaters so far, the only two I've every completed actually! The first one was really fun and quick to knit. It was a newborn size, and she was a bit of a large baby, so she couldn't wear it for long.

The second one I made her for Christmas, and it took forever!! I was using tiny tiny yarn in garter stitch, and it just took a really long time! But it still turned out cute. I dyed it with Early Grey tea.

I am still just a little bit surprised that I actually created a wearable piece of clothing!

Oh, and by the way, isn't Helena just adorable??

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

I realize that some of you might think I'm a little late posting this recipe. But really I've always thought that pumpkins and cranberries should be enjoyed throughout the fall and winter - not just at Thanksgiving or Christmas. I roasted a gigantic Cinderella pumpkin in the fall and ended up freezing about four quarts of puree, so I am still enjoying cooking and baking with pumpkin into the new year.

This recipe was given to me by an old friend in a cookbook she put together for me when I went off to college. I never got around to making it til this holiday season, but it is so good I know I will come back to it again and again. It baked up dense and moist and flavorful. A delicious Christmas morning breakfast. The basic recipe is quite simple, so I tweaked it a bit: adding more cranberries, some nuts, decreasing the sugar a bit, and exchanging half the white sugar for brown. In the future I would like to try some other spices as well. I think ginger and cloves would both be delicious in this bread. The recipe also called for baking in a bundt pan. I used one bread pan instead. It was a large pan, and ended up being pretty full.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Powdered sugar, for topping

Grease bread pan and preheat oven to 350. Combine first four ingredients and set aside. In another bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Beat in sugar, oil and pumpkin until well blended. Add to dry ingredients. Stir til just moistened. Gently fold in cranberries. Bake for about 75 minutes. In the bread pan, this was so dense that it took quite a while to bake. Unfortunately, I can't remember exactly how long. I had to put it back several times. I would check it at an hour, but plan on up to an hour and a half. After the cake has cooled, dust the top with powdered sugar and enjoy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

In case you've ever wondered if keeping chickens is awesome...

Our hens slowed their egg production waaaay down this fall as the light decreased and many of them were molting. We were averaging an egg a day. But now that we are past solstice they are back to laying with a vengeance. It's been months since I've seen any of the pale blue eggs our Araucanas lay, but this past week there they were in the nest. They tend to be long eggs anyway, but one of them looked just like a torpedo, it was so long and thin.

And then there was this brown beauty. 
Our hens lay pretty large eggs, and I just had to pair this one with a store bought egg for comparison. The white egg on the left is a "large" egg from an organic free range hen.
The eggs speak for themselves.

It doesn't even come close to fitting in a large sized egg carton.
In a jumbo carton, it at least fits in the egg compartment, but you can't close the lid! Yeah, I'd say there are definite benefits to chicken husbandry.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Pac Man

Did I ever mention that I am engaged to Mr. Pac Man?

Yep, that's him - eating ghosts and stuff.
Yesterday, Nathan decided to entertain himself by making a gingerbread pac man game. It was very cute.

The artist at work.

All set up. 
Yeah, I'm pretty sure I have the cutest fiance ever.
I enjoyed dipping the ghosts in spicy hot chocolate before eating.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

January 2011 One Small Change

Happy New Year! Here's how my fiance and I spent the afternoon - hiking in Forest Park (with a bit of snow!):

I am so excited to announce my January One Small Change!! It is a great way to kick off 2011.

As I've mentioned before, I am serving my second term with Americorps here in Portland. As part of my term of service, I have the opportunity to design a Community Action Project - basically I have free reign to do whatever I can dream up that will have a positive impact on the community. Last year I installed a children's library in the office of the non-profit I work for. The office is in a low-income apartment complex, and the neighborhood children are constantly coming in to play with toys or the computers, but we had no books for them to read. So I built a bookshelf and got several hundred books donated, and it has been a huge hit with the kids.

This year, I'm planning something a little more involved. I will be partnering with another Americorps member to form a Community Action Book Club! I had the idea for this book club several years ago - I was standing in a bookstore, feeling inspired and overwhelmed by all the selections on the shelf. I am a big reader and I like to read books about environmental and social justice issues. I usually feel fired up after reading, but then don't really know what to do with my energy. As I stood there, I thought it would be so great to get a group of people together to read these books, and then work together to plan a project or do something to actually take action on the issue. To share each other's inspiration, and to hold one another accountable.

The idea of the Community Action Book Club is that for each topic, we will complete some sort of service or learning project, and/or personal challenges (much like the One Small Change model). We will spend two months on each topic. The first month we will meet to discuss the readings. Then the second month we will meet for the service, or to check in on our personal challenges. The co-leader and I will be posting flyers around Portland in bookstores and coffee shops to recruit members. We could easily fill the group with our own friends, but we really want to form a group diverse in age, interests, skills, etc.

 We will select the first month's topic, and then the group members will each have a chance to choose a topic of interest to them. The first month's theme will be "Stuff," which seemed appropriate following the holidays. We will be watching Annie Leonard's great video "The Story of Stuff" for the first meeting, to keep it simpler than having to read a whole book before the group begins. This is a great topic to inspire personal changes, but we haven't decided on the service/learning aspect of it yet... Perhaps we could get a tour or help sort at a recycling facility?? Do you have any ideas? I'd love suggestions!