Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bowls & Buttons

Pieter first coconut experience was in Mexico while we spent Christmas 2012 with Oma and Opa. Ben pulled down lots of nuts and we drank coconut milk and had the most wonderful shredded, toasted coconut for Juliana's first birthday. Yesterday, Ben brought home some coconuts and disappeared with Pieter for a bit while I was packing. Pieter came racing back inside with a handful of coconut buttons for me! They still need to be sorted by size and holes drilled, but aren't they beautiful? I think Pieter may have a little side business of button making for my knitting friends when we are in Puerto Rico!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Kites and Cacti

{Plains pricklypear, Opuntia tolyacantha}

{Spikemoss, Selaginella}
Sunday afternoon we headed out to Crow Peak Bench. Ben needed to collect some cacti for another researcher and this arid land was the perfect place. Ever since Pieter flew kites on Lummi he is always wanting to fly some more. These wide open fields were just right for Pieter to run back and forth with the kite. Amazingly enough, he didn't get any spines through his boots. And he only dropped the line twice and the handle, thankfully, got caught in some scraggly bushes. We are really looking forward to our move to Puerto Rico, but it is so nice to visit these spots one more time to see such beautiful views of the landscape. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Collecting Sap

Ben is tapping the Silver Maple trees on campus as part of his botany laboratories this spring. He has been busy collecting sap and boiling it during lab. And the syrup is great!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Little Red Coat

Juliana has been wearing this darling red coat and hat quite a bit this winter. Finally, at the end of the season, I managed to get a photo. It is one that I wore as a child, along with my cousins. There is nothing like a quality wool coat to last through the generations. It also has snow pants to go with it. 

Reading with Daddy

Reading this morning with Daddy

Friday, March 21, 2014

Celebrating the Spring Equinox

Life is what you make of it. Oh, we've heard that before, but it is so true. As our family has grown and developed, it has been special to create memories and traditions. Some days pass by without celebrations or memories because of being focused on the here and now or being just plain, old tired. But when I take the time to do something or make something, the kids are noticing. There are many things that I do that are new to me, traditions that I never had in my life before, and somehow they are becoming traditions in our family. Like making Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday. As our days have lengthened and we move through Lent, Pieter keeps asking about making them. He remembers and knows that this tasty treat is coming soon. 

My cousin Emily sent me some ideas for celebrating the Spring Equinox. We so enjoyed celebrating the Winter Solstice with her family in December that I decided we definitely need to have more active family celebrations that are thoughtful and special (here is a great list of reasons to celebrate). I spent some time looking for more ideas and found that celebrating the lengthening days of the sun is a center point of many spring celebrations, as well as the rebirth and renewal that is happening in the natural world. These celebrations of the Equinoxes and Solstices, that happened over so many centuries, were incorporated into many of our present day Christian celebrations. It seems to me that we are missing out by combining these, rather than celebrating them independently. How fun is it to celebrate the Spring Equinox, the rebirth of our world, with bunnies, chicks, and flowering bulbs and then to celebrate Easter in a few more weeks, with a sacred focus on the Risen Christ.  

Family traditions and celebrations grow and mature over the years. Rachel Probert says it just right: "I think the secret is to just plan something, anything, just to get out there and make the day memorable." While I may not have had something all set up, we talked about the Spring Equinox, that we had equal sunlight and darkness yesterday. And we celebrated the wonderful egg by eating egg crepes with sautéed asparagus for dinner. The day was beautiful, sunny, and 60 degrees. We found new tulip and daffodil bulbs coming up in the yard and found a few spring things for our table at the thrift store - a sweet spring linen with Bambi and Thumper embroidered on it and an egg candle. When we woke up this morning and saw more snow coming down, I declared that we would celebrate spring all weekend, no matter what the weather would be. Today we made spring cupcakes (red velvet cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting) using Papa's maple syrup and celebrated with them this afternoon.

Here are several ideas for celebrating the Spring Equinox as a family:
Light a candle at the dinner table. Each person should peel off the white shell, symbolizing the shedding of winter's hold on the land. Eat the egg white first, contemplating and being thankful for winter's role in our lives and in nature (a time of rest, hibernation and renewal). Hold up the egg yolk, symbolizing the sun and say:
The Sun is coming back,
And now that he is armed,
And now that he is strong,
He will chase away the cold,
He will bring us spring,
And summer is sure to follow.
Ceisiwr Serith

Creator God, forgive our moments of ingratitude,
the spiritual blindness that prevents us
from appreciating the wonder that is this world,
the endless cycle of nature,
of life and death and rebirth.
Forgive us for taking without giving
reaping without sowing.
Open our eyes to see
our lips to praise
our hands to share
and may our feet tread lightly on the road.
For the cycle of life
Which brings death and rebirth
A. We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For lengthening days
And sunlight's warmth upon the soil
A. We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For a snowdrop's beauty
Reflecting its Creator's artistry
A. We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For new born lambs
Their joy and exuberance
A. We rejoice in the promise of Spring

For all of creation
And the majesty of its Creator
A. We rejoice in the promise of Spring
~John Birch

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Remembering the Buffalo

Pattern: Kinsale, Size 4T
YarnCascade 220 Heathers, Celery
Needles: US 7

While making Juliana's Springtime sweater and looking for buttons for it, I found these buffalo nickel buttons in my button box. I knew I needed to make something with them right now for Pieter before we leave these beautiful plains that the American bison used to rule. We are so fortunate that these amazing animals were saved from extinction after the massive slaughter in the 1800s. One of our favorite adventures is visiting Custer State Park to see the herds of buffalo there. We still need to squeeze in another visit and now Pieter has a great sweater to wear. It is just the right sweater to remember our times in the Black Hills and to not forget the history of this amazing animal.

I love Cascade 220 and this was a gift from Genevieve, who couldn't bare to finish her partly knit sweater after someone spilled their yogurt and grapenuts on it at a coffee shop. So, I was gifted with the yarn and have really enjoyed making several projects with it. I thought this colorway perfectly matches the green-yellow plains that the buffalo graze on.

I knit the largest size of the pattern (4T) and added length (1.5") to the arms and body. I thought by adding more length, it would be just a bit bigger than Pieter, but it fits my tall boy just right. Not bad since he only has three more months to wear it before we say goodbye to sweaters.  

The pattern was straightforward, but it does have an error in it: when starting the sweater at the neck and increasing for the shoulders, there is an error in rows 2 & 4. For the first section before the first marker, it should be: "p1tbl, k1 until the last two stitches, p1tbl, p1." As it is written now, that one raglan shoulder at marker one has purls along the center seam when it should only be a knit stitch. Of course I didn’t notice this until I was almost done with the shoulders and had to redo the entire shoulders again.

Buffalo Dusk

The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands and how they
   pawed the prairie sod into dust with their great hoofs,
   their great heads down pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.

~Carl Sandburg

Larrick Crosby, Nancy. Piping Down the Valleys Wild. 
New York: Delacorte Press, 1968. Print.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Moving to Puerto Rico

{Old San Juan}

{Cormorants on the west coast}

{south coast}

{near Cabo Rojo}

This past year has been long year of waiting to find out what the next step would be in our lives. Last April Ben went to the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez (UPRM) to interview for a job and we were both thrilled and dismayed to hear from UPRM in June that he was their top pick, but that all job hiring had been frozen at the university. Some things just have to be put on the back burner to simmer and not think about. So on with life we went and wondered occasionally what the future held for us. Finally, we heard that it was a go, and we could start thinking about what a big move like this entails. We put the house on the market in late February and are happy to already have it under contract and will be closing at the beginning of May.

It is a bit overwhelming of a move, so different than our previous big moves across the country. Some friends have asked us if we will get rid of everything and start over in Puerto Rico. We decided that bringing along our household items might help us adjust to living in a new culture ("us" meaning myself and the kids - for Ben it will be a bit like moving back home after his childhood in Yucatan, Mexico).  I've been reading a few blogs by people that have relocated from the mainland to Puerto Rico (Life Transplanet and CA2PR) and they have really helped to think ahead on what life will be like. It sounds like quality furniture is hard to find, so that is another reason to move our things. But really, we want to take our 17' long sea kayaks with us, so that means we already have a long container. Why not fill it? Instead of driving a truck ourselves, like we have in our previous moves, this time we will pack up a container, say goodbye to it in May and not see it until July. Since it will be out of our hands, I decided to work on a big task in inventorying our things for insurance. I'm using Home Inventory and really like how straightforward it is. Hopefully this is a good insurance policy that we won't have to use in the end.

The photos above are from a plant collecting trip that Ben went on in 2005 to Puerto Rico. The beauty of the island is amazing. I imagine that we will be exploring it for quite a while. Pieter has already demanded that we drive around the whole island. After a little hesitation, he is having so much fun thinking about all the things we will do. Lots of swimming and playing in the sand. Oh, and to have a zoo in the town that we live in! And on snowy days here in South Dakota (like yesterday), we get a little bit more excited about living permanently on a Caribbean island.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spring Storm

{Monday, 6PM}

{Tuesday, 10:30 AM}

Yesterday was a perfect spring day in the sixties. The forecast kept saying there was a storm coming, but I just couldn't believe it. After I got the kids in bed the hard rain began and it continued into the night. I woke up at midnight and it had turned to snow with two inches on the ground. This morning greeted us with about eight inches of heavy, wet snow. Perfect for snowballs and snowmen. Not so perfect for shoveling a driveway. Pieter has been out all morning playing and still is out there, refusing to come in, even though he is sopping wet. 

{our view of the mountains}

The Christmas Present

The fields are wrapped in sliver snow,
Tied tight with grey stone walls,
While cardinals flutter in the drifts
Like cherry Christmas balls.
   I wonder what the spring will shout
   When she unwraps the box,
   And finds to her extreme delight,
   A toad, a mole, a fox?

~Patricia Hubbell

Larrick Crosby, Nancy. Piping Down the Valleys Wild. 
New York: Delacorte Press, 1968. Print.
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