Monthly Archives: February 2011

Art About Face

This weekend work, fun, family time and school all came together for a really enjoyable afternoon at the Minnetonka Art Center. A family friend had a piece in the gallery show “About Face” running this month there. I was also writing about the show for Hmong Times.

We had planned on the whole family going but Proeun wasn’t feeling well and Two stayed with him. So the girls all came with me. I had planned on just working and having the girls come for company but I was happy to discover a really awesome teaching opportunity.

The museum had set up a learning activity for the children. They were all given clip boards and asked to notice the different eye, nose, mouth and chin shapes on the portraits in the exhibit.

Avril took her work very seriously, carefully recording the shapes she liked.

Then they could pick from one of 3 different heads and put their faces together on it.

Mavis even got into it with a little help.

Another activity we worked on was guessing what media (camera, paint, charcoal and pastels or digital) were used to make the pictures.

I couldn’t resist getting an art book with prompts for 365 Things to Draw and Paint, The children have really enjoyed it and it helps mommy out coming up with ideas.

Peanut Butter from Champions

A few years ago my mother invested in a Champion juicer. We really enjoyed the amazing juices from it for a long time like celery, carrot and apple juice. But in time we began making juices less and less. About this time I discovered it made wonderful peanut butter and lately that has been its main purpose. It gives me a good excuse (not that I need one) to go over to my mother’s house.

However the flu has struke at their house, coinciding with the last bit of peanut butter in the jar. Finally I decided I would just borrow their juicer. So yesterday the children enjoyed helping me make peanut butter at home.

It’s really quite simple. I start with a 5 pound bag of roasted peanuts without salt. I buy mine at Country Life Natural Foods. If you are near a delivery route (they are from Michigan) I really recommend looking into ordering through them. Anyway I digress.

Start with a bag of peanuts and pour them into the hopper at the top.

Use the plunger thingie to help them along and you end up with this

Really amazing peanut butter. Four pounds gives you about 2 quart jars. Unlike natural peanut butter you buy in the store it doesn’t separate. I suppose when you factor in the cost of the juicer whose soul purpose currently in making peanut butter it is a pretty expensive spread. But try it on a piece of good brown bread and it is wonderful.

My aunt told me you can also use the juicer to make almond butter from almond meal. I haven’t tried that yet though. I have also made peanut butter with similar results in a vitamix. I highly recommend it. Whenever I am feeling down about the children’s eating habits I think about the whole wheat bread I make from scratch  and the peanut butter from actual peanuts they seem to live on at times and I feel quite a bit better.

We just got the book In the Garden with Dr. Carver. In the book a group of children receive a visit from a very special guest, Dr. George Washington Carver. Dr. Carver shows them how to revitalize the soil using compost and grow foods. He then prepares a meal of “luxury items” like, “sweet-potato-flour bread, ‘chicken’ made from peanuts, and a salad of strange wild weeks. And for dessert–peanut ice cream and cake!” If they haven’t already they really should publish some of his recipes in a book.

Knitting in Shalom

This weekend I finished my first sweater in a long time Shalom by Meghan McFarlane. I was inspired to do the sweater after reading Soule Mama. Finding good patterns has always been an issue. By good I mean easy, fun and attractive. This one fit the bill. I added sleeves and took out the shaping so it is more similar to Soule Mama’s version.

I love, love, love it. Handknits are perfect for this time of year. My goal is to finish the sleeves on Avril’s sweater and make one for Two before our first camping trip the middle of April. I may even have time to get something for Effie in if I pick the right pattern.

The flu is working its way through our family so now we are still bunkered down. At least I have some quiet knitting to do so I don’t feel like I am wasting the day.

Azariah Acres Farm

As we continue our farming journey we decided it would be great fun this year to visit more farms. Also it helps us make connections and purchase more of our food from other farmers, something we have been meaning to do for quite awhile. So this Saturday we journeyed to Azariah Acres farm.

We looked forward to it all week. This is a meat farm with a large variety of animals including yaks, pigs, cattle, sheep, ducks, chickens and goats.


Young yak


Baby goats, can you guess the favorite of the children?

We had a great time visiting with farmer Suzanne Peterson and learning about her animals. We left with many pounds of meat–chicken, beef, a duck and some yak and goat to try.

The next day the snow storm rolled in. So today we are bunkered down with an amazing piece of roast beef, yum.

A little pick me up

So I don’t know if it was the warmer weather to blame, that tempted us outdoors not properly clad for February in Minnesota or if it was the January/February “doldrums” Blue Collar Daughter was talking about but it has been a tough week. Maybe it’s the flu that has us all dragging our feet (by all I mean mom and dad while the children bounce off the walls). Oh well, one more day till the weekend.

On days like today I have a new anthem. A little pick me up I heard on the radio. The new single by Francesca Battistelli “This is the stuff.” If you are having one of those days I hope you enjoy it, if you are not having one of those days it’s still a fun song.

The Center of Hospitality

Traditionally the home was the center of industry and productivity. When you think about it so much of our culture developed in the home. I am a total home body so I really dig the home centered lifestyle. Just to give you an idea Valentine’s day was celebrated at home with homemade eggrolls, sparkling Lingon berry juice and movies.

In addition to industry and productivity the home was also the center of hospitality. I have lately been trying to work on this. When we moved into our current home nearly 7 years ago we had visions of the dinner parties and gathering we would throw at our house, but other then children’s birthday parties we haven’t really followed through with the dream.

Now that the children are older it is so much fun to include them and so for a couple months now we have been preparing for our first hospitality event.

We invited several of the older ladies (Heather you are not included in that title) over to the house for “baby time” and a Valentine’s tea.

The morning of I was starting to freak out at every little mess and wondering if we would be ready and how it would go but it went swimmingly. Kind of like that first scratch on a new car the first is done and I am planning other events.

We had a great time visiting and getting to know each other. One lady had done foster care for 12 years taking new born babies 2 at a time for 3-6 weeks until they could be placed in more permanent homes. Talk about challenging and rewarding work! One lady worked for 20 years at a nursing home and another is learning a new art form. Of course there was plenty of cuddling and baby holding and so much fun.

The girls really really enjoyed the tea and visiting–for most of the evening. Two enjoyed watching TV and retreating to his room.

Today the hospitality it of a more canine variety. This is Sammy, my sister’s dog, being investigated by Carrie our cat. Beth was having some routine maintenence done on her apartment today and Sammy needed a place to stay while Beth and her husband were at work and school. We are very happy to be able to spend the day with Sammy. The children love having him around and Hiro keeps trying to get Sammy to play with him.

Yes being home has so many benefits and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to be home most days. When we go for a walk in our neighborhood it seems like there are an awful lot of lonely houses, but the ones people live in are alive.

What ways do you like living at home?–I love it!

So I have really gotten into knitting again. I think I mentioned before how much I love the Soule Mama blog. I am really inspired and I love that she makes suggestions about patterns. So I picked out a pattern and went to our local yarn store, Knit’n from the Heart where I promptly fell in love with this pattern,

Admittedly I splurged a bit on the yarn, but after kntting it up (it was supposed to be one size fits all) I found it too short for me. So I knit another one adding a couple rows. So one skein gave me two bandanas.

So now Avril and i have matching ones. It is the “Bo Ho Bandana” I bought a printed pattern, and Misti Alpaca yarn. Now Mavis wants hers, but the yarn is gone.

I did fix Mavis’ sweater though and now she loves it. It was even warm enough this weekend that we were able to go for a want wearing a sweater only! As a brief aside we were taking Proeun to work today when Two yelled Mommy look grass, green grass!” Yes it is very exciting.

Another thing I have been really excited about is This is like a social networking site for kntters and crocheters but so much more. I signed up a year ago because of the patterns I didn’t realize until just recently you could search patterns from all over the world and receive suggestions from friends. So now i have added some projects, favorite patterns and am working on my knitting stash. If you would like to visit me over there here is my page. It’s a little addictive though. I am almost finished with my sweater though and then I hope to finish Avril’s and make one for Two this spring. Big plans.

Candles for Valentine’s

Friday is art day here at Angkorian School (named for Angkor Wat, the largest and oldest temple in Cambodia). I don’t really know if I am an artsy person. I love knitting, sewing, creating and such but I often use instructions and really depend on them. But heh what is motherhood if not a life long journey of expanded comfort zones.

Now that we have officially started homeschooling I really wanted to ramp up the creativity in useful ways. So for our Valentine’s Day craft we chose Roll up Candles from Hearth Song. I am just discovering the cool stuff this company has. The kids have been excited all week about the prospect of making candles for their friends. Then of course mommy had to come in with my notepad and planning hat to make sure we had enough. But soon enough it was time for the rolling.

We made round ones and tapers.

Then decorated them.

I was really surprised at some of the choices like pink for grandpa. But oh well. The hardest part was not micro managing them and wanting to make the candles look like the pictures. Also next time I will set aside more time for projects like this. Normally we have 1 hour set aside for Math and English in the morning, but that wasn’t nearly enough time and soon it was time to make lunch. Unfortunately I had to stop the creativity only to resume it in the afternoon. Some day I will make my own crafts but right now kits are such a good way to jump start.

My Knitting Bag

Have I mentioned I love knitting. Well probably not because I haven’t been making time to do it. My love began for very practical reasons, when I was working as a “living history interpreter” at Historic Fort Snelling. We were provided the basics of our “costumes” but things like hats, mittens and scarves we had to make. So I learned in a jiffy because I was cold while working in unheated buildings in Minnesota in October. I still love wool and wooden knitting needles, leftovers from my experience there.

Over the years I have made a lot of things. Lately it has been mostly diaper covers. Last year I made Mavis a sweater which she doesn’t wear, sigh. It was very disheartening and I still haven’t finished Avril’s matching sweater. A recent post from Soule Mama really inspired me though. Apparently this momma of 4, soon to be 5 had time last year to knit 14 sweaters not to mention hats and other things.

Now last week we had a long car trip planned and then a farm conference so I got busy setting up my

Knitting bag. My aunt Janice made me this great bag for Christmas, I loved the print and it definitely needed a great use, so knitting bag it is.

Currently it houses 3 projects. A purchased pattern called, “Bo Ho Bandana” in baby alpaca. I have one nearly complete but need to make on a little bit bigger for me. I am also making the Shalom sweater Soule Mama is wearing in gray Cascade Eco Wool. The pattern, baby alpaca yarn and eco wool are all from a great local shop called Knit’n from the Heart.

The pink is from Peace Fleece my all time favorite yarn and is going to be a hat, Felicity from knitology. So I am up to my ears in projects not to mention the sleeves for Avril’s sweater.

She has been wearing her socks every day since I finished them. Now Two is asking for gray socks. So I am starting my Christmas knitting now. Socks or mittens for the children and a hat for Effie. Can’t say what Proeun is getting because he might read it and a few diaper covers thrown in. Lots of fun.

6th Annual Minority and Immigrant Farming Conference

This weekend we had a real treat, the 6th Annual Minority and Immigrant Farming Conference. This is my 3rd year attending and each year it gets better. The Minnesota Food Association (MFA), our training organization, is one of the co-sponsors of the event. Glen Hill, executive director of MFA told me that the USDA told him this was the largest gathering of its kind in the country.

Glen Hill with Dr. Yang Dao. Dr. Yang spoke about the agricultural history of the Hmong people in China, Laos, French Guiana (South America), France and the US. The conference provides information to immigrant and beginning farmes alike and was translated into Hmong (ethnic group from Laos), Karen (ethnic group from Myanmar), Bhutanese, Somali and Spanish. It felt a little like the United Nations with all these head sets and translation going on.

Hmong participants visiting with an FSA (Farm Service Agency) representative.

Mhongpaj Lee, a good friend of ours and fellow farmer translated in Hmong. She shared that she works as a translator at Hennepin County Medical Center and while there she sees lots of people from immigrant cultures with good diets (a lot of fruits and vegetables) that still suffer from medical problems including diabetes. It was at work that she learned pesticides are “insulin suppressors.” When her grandmother passed away she knew she “wanted to save the world.” She felt the best way to do that was through farming. “When you feed them you feed their health.”

Mhonpaj translating.

Whenever I go to farming conferences it is totally inspiring and I am totally on fire to get out there and grow this year. We met so many cool people doing amazing and wonderful things with our food system. If you are in the area next year the first weekend in February you really should stop by and see us. It’s free for farmers.