No such thing…

No such thing as too many baby chick photos, right? We’re really loving having baby peeps again. M and I could spend all day playing with them, but we only take them out of their house when F is napping. Too many ways for it to all go wrong if a baby human is in the mix! They’re pretty active little chicks and are still nothing but robust. I can’t get enough of their chubby cheek floofs. Beatrice (the dark one I’m holding in my hand and also in the last photo) is the biggest chick, with the biggest cheeks. I haven’t yet gotten a photo that does her justice — she’s like a cartoon bird!

New Chicks!

The new babies are here! I ordered Easter Eggers from Cackle Hatchery — they hatched on Wednesday (the 15th) and arrived yesterday morning (the 17th). Our Buff Orpingtons were ordered through our local ag center during their chick days, so I didn’t really have to think about them being sent through the post (I’m not sure if they were, or if they were hatched more locally — but they came with a LOT of other chicks, either way). I was so nervous about these little guys going through the mail, but they arrived in perfect shape, looking very robust.

Including an extra girl, we got six female chicks (Sally, Beatrice, Poppy, Jellybean, Tofu, and Veggie Bite) and one male chick (Eddie). You can guess which ones M named. “Veggie bites” are what we call soy “chicken” nuggets, but of course she doesn’t know that they’re chicken substitutes. So Veggie Bite (and Tofu) are extra hilarious as chicken names.

Easter Eggers are basically mutts, so they come in lots of different colors. We have four light chicks and three dark (with variation among them), but you can’t really guess what adult feathering will look like, so that’ll be a fun surprise. M and I have been enjoying watching these little peeps, and once they’re a bit more settled in and less stressed from their travels (not that they appear stressed at all), we’ll be able to start playing with them!

Indoor Gardening

Let’s see, it’s the middle of March, which means only two more months or so until real gardening can begin! Right now, we’re making do with our little indoor garden (which I rearranged onto a different shelf after taking this photo). There’s my geranium, which will be two years old this summer — I cut it way back a few weeks ago, and it seems to be filling in nicely from the bottom now. It’s quite a trooper! We have our mini bulb garden that was super cheap at the grocery store, but which has the biggest hyacinth I think I’ve ever seen. There’s M’s potato plant; we planted a chunk of baking potato that had sprouted a while back. It’s growing pretty nicely right now (in the green watering can planter), but having grown potatoes outside, I’m not sure A) how long we can sustain a full-grown potato plant indoors and B) whether any potatoes will grow in our smallish container. We’ll see! We also have a couple of pineapple tops that I planted ages ago, which seem reluctant to commit to either dying or growing. (There are lots of other indoor plants, but they’re not part of our “garden”.)

And we’ve (I’ve) got our summer gardening dreams! I’ve ordered a bunch of strawberry plants, and I want to build a sort of enclosed bed for them, so the critters can’t eat all our berries. I’m thinking I might put clear plastic on the sides (to maybe lengthen the growing season a little?) and hardware cloth on the (hinged) top, to let in bees. I’d like to do sometimes similar for the blueberry bushes I’ve ordered, but since they’ll get taller, that might be harder.

I’m going to overhaul the layout of the garden this year; I still haven’t settled on something I like enough to keep the same season after season. But I’m thinking long rows, covered with landscape fabric to keep the weeds down. Mainly, I’m excited because M is really old enough to “get it” now. She has ideas about what she wants to grow in the garden (good luck with those bananas, M), and she might actually be a help (more than just cute “helping”) this year. Gardening has been hit or miss over the past five years — misses on the years I’ve been too pregnant or busy with babies to get properly organized. But I think this year might be a hit!

Sunday Fun

I took a break from screens yesterday, in order to knock out a few projects I’d been wanting to do. (The active part of our device detox starts today! Go back a couple of posts to read about it and get the PDF, if you’d like.)

I had already cut out pieces to make M a new pair of slippers (using this pattern), so it didn’t take too long to sew those up. When I’d asked M what color fabric (from my stash) she wanted, she’d said, “Pink… and brown. And red and orange.” And I was sure I did NOT have anything like that — but look what I found! She’s pretty happy with the colors. I just wish I would have gone up a couple of sizes. I made a 10, which is what I’d buy for her in shoes, but these slippers just barely fit, and I wanted them to be roomy. Ah well. I was probably a little too generous in my seam widths.

I baked a loaf of bread in the morning — or, well, I put the ingredients into the bread machine and told IT to bake a loaf of bread. Then I made a small loaf of gingerbread after lunch. I halved the recipe from How to Eat Supper and baked it in a loaf pan instead of an 8×8″ cake pan. I let the chickens outside shortly after the gingerbread finished baking, and when I came back in, the house smelled like freshly baked bread AND gingerbread — can’t fit that into a candle!

M and I also made some daffodils for the window, a project I saw on Pinterest the other day. We’ve done a few sun catcher projects using clear contact paper and tissue paper squares in the past. (You lay down one piece of contact paper, sticky-side-up, the child helps you stick the tissue paper squares on (and possibly dumps a large amount of glitter on top), then you sandwich it under another piece of contact paper.) It was the cupcake liner center that sold me on these! So cute. And, luckily, one of the daffodils from our indoor bulb garden bloomed yesterday, so M was able to see exactly what we were making.

Piano Girl

M recently started playing piano. I started by putting colored dots on some of the keys, just so they’d stand out to her. Then I realized I could write out some simple music by coloring the notes to match the dots. She took right to it!

I’ve been marveling at what a perfect activity this is for her age. There’s obvious preschool skills at work, like matching the colors and counting how many times a note is repeated — practicing stuff she’s already perfectly good at. But there are also pre-reading skills that didn’t occur to me until I was watching her at work. Learning to read left to right and starting on the first line before going on to the second, etc. And sort of subtle stuff, like being able to mentally keep her place in the music when she looks down at the keys.

She’s loving knowing this “secret code” (which is also just like reading!). She keeps asking me what other songs we can write down — or suggesting them, which is why she now has the first several bars of the Paw Patrol theme song. I’ve been reading back through the Happiness is here blog, and this post was up next this morning: The Importance of Sharing Your Passions. Perfect timing!

New Boots

I took the girls down to the outlet stores on Monday, mainly to look for new pajamas for F. She’s wearing a lot of 18mos size clothing now (she turns 9mos this week, though!), and now that we’re getting into M’s old toddler clothes, they haven’t held up as well as the baby stuff. M just wore her clothes a lot longer as a toddler (i.e., didn’t outgrow them as quickly), plus she dropped food on them, PLUS she played outside in the dirt. So much for saving a ton of money by having two girls and not needing new clothes! Oh well, I love shopping for kid clothes, and at least the outlet shops have good deals. Although I forgot until we got home that Carter’s pajama bottoms have huge waistbands — with the elastic sewn in, so you can’t easily fix it. Gah!

Anyway, I was just going to mention that I found M a new pair of rain boots on clearance, in just the right size. I hesitated a moment to stray from her signature yellow rain boots, but she loves these “buggy” ones. And they do match her fleece coat perfectly! We love our rubber boots around here and wear them basically whenever there’s no snow on the ground. So getting this year’s boots gives me a sense of relief, like, whew, spring really WILL come again!

The other photo is M’s portrait of F (drawn on her Boogie Board), although she decided it was Henny a few moments later. You can do that when all the faces you draw look the same! I was still quite surprised when she started drawing these faces a few days ago. She doesn’t draw very much, and usually I have to coach her a bit to get her to draw a THING rather than just scribbling. But clearly her hand-eye coordination is improving, and the wiring in her brain is all coming together right now. I especially love how she does the big circle for the eyes, with the little pupil/iris in the middle. That’s not something I showed her! She’s getting better and better at writing her name, too. It’s incredible how stuff just “clicks” at this age!

Device Detox

This past month, a few friends and I have been working through the 30-day tech “detox” from Nancy Colier’s book The Power of Off. While it’s definitely helped start us down the right track, now that we’re nearing the end, we’re still not where we’d like to be, so we decided we’d create a detox program of our very own. Something with a bit more “oomph” — and something that was more closely tailored to our lives. (Though we actually lead quite different lives from one another, we’re all single mothers by choice! So being a parent and having limited free time are recurring themes.)

Since Lent is coming up, we decided to create a 45-day program that we can start this Wednesday and that will take us right up until Easter weekend. I haven’t “done Lent” in years and years, but I know so many people do — AND so many people want to get their internet use under control. So I gussied up our plan into a nice little PDF, and now you can join along, too!

If people seem interested, I’ll post some of my detox musings and lists here as we go along, and I’d totally love to hear from anybody else who decides to give it a try. My friends and I have really enjoyed swapping stories about our previous detox experience.

You can download the PDF right here. Please right-click and download it! And if you’d like to put a link to it on your own blog (or wherever), it would be great if you could link to this post rather than the file itself. I may have to eventually change the location of the file, but this blog post URL should stay as-is.

Take a look! Please join in! I’m super proud of what we’ve created here, and I can’t wait to try it.

New Hat

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My hat! I needed a new hat, which was a great excuse for a knitting project. And the PERFECT excuse to finally splurge and buy a skein of Madeline Tosh wool. I’ve been wanting some for ages, but it’s definitely out of my typical price range, especially for a multi-skein project. But a hat only takes one. I wound up choosing Hosta Blue in a chunky weight. And I fell in love with this pattern, even though I wasn’t sure the yarn and the pattern would work together. You’re supposed to use worsted (= smaller than chunky), but when I knitted a swatch, it actually came up smaller than the gauge listed (I think I got 20 stitches over 4″ on size 8 needles, vs the 18 stitches in the pattern). So I just shrugged my shoulders and decided to see what happened.

Luckily, it fits! It feels just right, actually. The pattern seems pretty flawless to me, although I’ll be happy if I never see another k-tbl (knit through the back loop) again. It’s what makes the columns of stitches inside the “medallions” stand out so well, but — ugh — it slowed me down. I’m no expert knitter (just good at following directions), so “tbl” required a bit too much attention. That said, I managed to knit all these lovely cables with no mistakes — or none that I didn’t immediately catch and fix — even with M and F wanting my attention every row, more or less. Whew!

Yogurt

It recently came to my attention that there are yogurts with >4% milk fat. I think 4% is pretty generally considered to be “whole milk” yogurt, and of course whole milk yogurt is 100x better than low- or non-fat yogurt — so how awesome must this fabled 8-10% yogurt be? In our small town, it’s really lucky to find 4% yogurt, never mind stuff that’s also gelatin-free AND in a flavor you actually want to eat (I’m looking at you, coffee-flavored Greek yogurt). AND organic? Keep dreaming!

So I pulled out my two 1970s Salton yogurt makers and got to work. I used five cups of whole milk and two cups of whipping cream, and I’m not certain I’m doing the math right, but I think that works out to ~12% milk fat. Yes, please! Making yogurt is a bit of a process, but not that complicated — you have to heat the milk up to 190˚F to re-pasteurize it, then cool it back down to 110˚F, stir in the starter culture (I always just use a small container of plain yogurt from the store, or ~6oz from a previous batch of homemade), then put it in the yogurt maker for 6-8hrs.

M “helped” me make this batch (i.e., she stirred the milk on the stove until she realized it wasn’t going to turn into yogurt RIGHT NOW), and she really likes “the yogurt WE made”. It’s delicious. I stir in a spoonful of strawberry jam, so it’s creamy and just sweet enough. When we tried the first cup, M declared it “really good” (after every bite), and F actually started crying when it was gone. Kid and baby approved!

Pre-Spring Thaw

How lovely to get a mid-February reprieve, in the form of a few warm days. M is sick, but not so sick that she didn’t want to play outside in the nice weather! We went for a walk down our big path — as far as we could before the snow stopped me from pushing the stroller. What a sky today!

The springy weather (which is a lie — spring is still a long time away for us Minnesotans) got me thinking about our next crop of chicks, so I ordered them today. They won’t arrive for about another month. We’re getting Easter Eggers this time. They lay blue/green eggs, and even more exciting to me is that they come in quite a variety of colors themselves. I hope we get a few different colors to spice up the flock!

I’m thinking of using that middle evergreen in the photo above for our Christmas tree this year. What do you think? I feel like they’re planted too closely together for all three to stay healthy as they grow. Any tree-sages have an opinion on that? My first choice would be to just leave them alone, but if culling the middle one would be better for the other two, then Christmas tree it is! We’ve got the same issue elsewhere (we weren’t the ones who planted these trees), so we could be set for a few Christmases.

I paid our shack a visit, too. I really want it to be salvageable, but I don’t think it is. It was moved to its current location and is sitting on two 12×12 beams — and is majorly sagging in the middle. The previous owners used it as a little barn, and it’s been home to pigeons since then. Trust me, it looks far less ramshackle/deadly in the photo than it is in real life. There’s a lot of lumber in there that probably IS salvageable, but the labor would be intense (or expensive). If only they’d put it on a proper foundation… then it could have been stripped down and rebuilt. I’ll just have to keep thinking about this one!