A Worrier Justified

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

 M. and I had a fantastic time away while our children learned the value of having an unpaid slave about the house who does 90% of the house work without being asked… yeah it feels great to have your 16 year old admit she is so glad your back because being Mom is not as easy as it looks!

I would like to say that my worrying was totally justified!  I am not kidding that I got 2 out of 5… almost:  First of all a man DID break down and knock at our door while we were away… fortunately he wasn’t a psychopath… he just wanted to call AAA… unfortunately K. E. and J. didn’t do the things we had prearranged in case a random stranger showed up at the door.  SIGH.

And second: one of our chickens was taken.  We don’t know when but we suspect it was at night as one of the Delaware hens was particularly stupid (for a chicken): she would sit on the roosting bar all day and then get stuck outside the hutch when the automatic door closed at night.  The girls forgot to check and didn’t do a count in the evening… anyhow we found a mess of feather’s outside the hutch door and a path to where the varmint dug under the enclosure leaving some of it’s fur behind on the barbed wire.  So one stupid hen down and one coyote/fox/raccoon/bobcat well fed.

On the bright side we came home to find the baby rabbits had opened their eyes  and are so adorable!

New Zealand Rabbit kit, 14 days old @ Sweet Little Wood

They are starting to get out of their nest which makes Champagne a very grumpy Mamma Rabbit!

New Zealand Rabbit kits, 14 days old @ Sweet Little Wood

Sleepy Bunnies. So sweet!

M. and I went to Chico.  Its a beautiful town (in the middle) and a bog standard San Joaquin town on the outskirts.  M. and I were pretty happy to enjoy the time we had and explore some of the green (and sometimes not green) spaces.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Lower Bidwell Park. Bidwell is the largest municipal park in CA.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

The only proof I have that I was even there!

 

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

A potentially grungy Highway 99 underpass painted to look like a forest was unexpectedly charming.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Little Owl. x

Sadly Bidwell Mansion was not open when I was there but I enjoyed looking around the grounds none the less.

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Afterwards we drove out to Oroville and visited the lake and dam.  The situation in Lake Oroville is pretty horrifying: so little water! So take note LA county… your water supply is low… stop watering those darn lawns!

Lake Oroville, California

Look at the huge swathe of dry bank… at the end of winter with a 6% snow pack in the Sierras!!

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En-route home we stopped of at an awesome little flea-market where I picked up a collection of  Spode Fairy Dell china:  $20.  I am so thrilled!

Spode, Copeland, Fairy Dell chin

Spode, Copeland, Fairy Dell chin

I was happy to be home and in my own bed but I do miss being away  just a little:  the hotel room had the most enormous bath in the main bedroom suite without any children knocking to use the restroom, and I didn’t have to think about feeding anyone for awhile.  Oh well, back to being the unpaid house slave.

xx Joanna

Bread Part 2: Naan Bread

Like many British men M. has a fixation with Curry.  Hotter is better.

Naan Bread for curry, soups and pitta

M. spent the first 10 years of his career in food safety and built up amazing relationships with many of the restaurateurs he dealt with.  So slowly over time M. started to learn how to make his own curry.  Eventually he made his own recipe up from what he learned and called it “Hubby Curry.”  Hubby Curry nights meant Momma had enough and had quit for the night so dinner was not on the table and the Husband was on duty.  Their were periods of time when Hubby Curry nights happened a lot. 

Naan bread (a must for curry aficionado) were always problematic.  Store bought Naan were never quite right.  Even the nice supermarket Naan were just O.K…. ish.  So M. started to learn to make Naan.  Its quite a process to do right and kinda complicated.  So he landed on what was a totally easy and delicious alternative to REAL Naan… simple home made dough patted into oblong egg shapes fried on a very  hot dry pan. 

These days M. rarely makes Hubby Curry and it is usually pre-planned when he does.  I however cook Indian dishes pretty frequently.  I am totally in awe of The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon its totally thorough and really delicious!

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Easy Naan Bread:

Start with simple 2 Hour Bread dough which has risen for 1 hour. Put a heavy frying pan (M. likes to use cast iron) on a medium-high heat. Do not grease the pan or season it.  Divide the dough into 12 balls for large Naan or 24 balls for small Naan.  Pat out the balls into Naan shapes and fry on the pan turning it when the first side is a bit browned.  Enjoy with Curry or soups!  They also make good pitta breads!

xx Jo

Castle Pockets and Other Wonders- Yarn Along

I’ve had a very productive knitting run since I last joined in with Ginny’s Yarn Along.  There is nothing quite so wonderful as pulling a finished piece of craft off its final pins and letting it get on with its purpose for existing!Kitty's Green Dream- Christmas Morning SweaterK.’s Green Dream is done and being worn nearly daily!

Esther's Pollen Collectors- Honey's Pollen Collectors Leg WarmersE’s Pollen Collectors were finished in the nick of time for this flash of colder (for California) weather we are having.

Margaret Dashwood Shawl

And I am back to Margaret Dashwood’s Shawl which is a dream to knit and soooooooo easy to modify for size etc. I’m reading Sylvia’s Farm (recommended by Ginny a few weeks ago on the Yarn Along).  Its very inspirationally written but also a little frustrating.  She uses descriptions that defy common use.  I have to wheedle out from her words her meaning and I don’t feel at all like I’m certain I’ve gotten it right!

J. has continued with her shawl and it is coming on beautifully but on top of that she also finished and gifted a project of her own design: J’s Castle pockets!Grimm SatchelJ. made K. a laptop bag for her 16th birthday and had the ingenious idea of a fairy tale theme.  She wanted it to look very simple and mature from the outside but open up to the enchanting world of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (a long time fascination for K. who could easily write a dissertation on the repetitive female characters in the Grimm’s tales).  The bag was sized off a little shopper bag M. was given by the local water district which is the most perfect size for almost any thing you can imagine… I am definitely making myself one of these soon!

Grimm Satchel So she chose a fabric from Heather Ross’s Far Far Away range, an old moth eaten felt army blanket which had a delicious mossy color but needed some selective cutting, leather, hardware, and her own sewing and knitting prowess (with a little help from Mommy)!

J. sewsThese castle pockets were knitted specifically to fit pencils and K’s cell phone after felting.  J. followed some excellent advice I gleaned from the forums and wonderfully friendly knitters over at the Tiny Owl Knits Ravelry group  as she winged the pre-felted knitting.Grimm Satchel

J. knitted the castle pockets in garter stitch from Knit Pick’s Pallete in Gosling which felted into a sturdily dense fabric.  I gave her a hand with the rambling rose embroidery as her time was running very short!  I think I might have to add castle pockets to some of my dresses because I want to look at them all the time.Grimm SatchelHave a wonderful Wednesday and a happy Yarn Along snoop through everyone’s WIP!

xx Jo

Sweet

K. is celebrating her 16th birthday today.

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And we are all celebrating the beautiful wonderful girl that she is!  K. is not an extrovert and is not particularly fond of being in the lime light so I will leave it at this:

She is one of the nicest people I know.  Discerning but fiercely devoted to fairness.

Happy Birthday my darling.

xx

Mommy

An Introduction to Les Trois Soeurs

 I have three  local (ish) cousins. The three daughters of my mother’s sister.  The youngest of these three remarkable women was my very best friend growing up.  She and her partner developed a wonderful line of jewelry which they sell…  A LOT.  Over time both her sister’s have also gotten into the jewelry business.  So here in rural Northern California in little homes and big homes and art studios scattered around these talented wonderful sweeties are hand making wearable art and shipping it to sell in shops and boutiques all over the country.

Now its our turn.Les Trois Souers

My three talented and wonderful daughters are being helped by my cousin and dear friend to create their own line of jewelry…

Les Trois Soeurs

Les Trois Souers

The Three Sisters.

I’m focusing on getting the business off the ground and we are only selling wholesale at the moment but out of the next run of earrings I intend to set aside a batch for sale in my Etsy shop.  Our hope is that by M. and I putting in the effort now we will be able to eventually hand the business over to the girls to grow, fund their college years and set up a nice nest egg for the future.  Currently we sell in Williams, Arizona off Route 66 in a fantastic little western wear store called “Western Outfitters”.  Soon we will be in Santa Barbara and Bodega Bay in Northern California.

Les Trois Souers

I wanted to offer you my lovely readers a pair of earrings. Comment below with your choice of color.  (There are about 50 color, pattern and shape variations… so don’t be shy!)

Next Friday I will draw a name out of a hat and contact the lovely lucky reader for an address.

Les Trois Souers

xx

Jo

Mommy And Daughter Knit Along- Yarn Along

Margaret Dashwood Shawl @ Sweet Little WoodBeing a Bear of Very Little Attention Span I am officially bored with the green knitted thing which I am having to tell constant half-truths about to hide its true destination. Uggg… too much subterfuge.  I might just come out with it and tell her soon and put myself out of my misery.

So naturally in my boredom I cast on three different projects. None of them were in my Ravelry queue.  I cannot seem to stop myself from doing this… even as I am looping on a foundation row I’m thinking “STOP IT!  Just get on with something else!”  So I have frogged two of them because I realized they were poorly thought out and likely to end in disaster but I have kept on my needles Margaret Dashwood Shawl from The Best Of Jane Austen Knits.  Partially because I am so in love with knitting it but mostly because of this:

Jessica's Margaret Dashwood Shawl @ Sweet Little Wood

J. has be knitting simple scarf shapes for dolls etc intermittently for awhile but she recently got a taste for designing by making something special for K.’s upcoming 16th birthday.  She really wanted to try a real pattern and I happened to have the Margaret Dashwood Shawl pattern photocopied already.  She has been working so dedicatedly she was nearly caught up with me on her first day.  Sadly for her I knit all day while she goes to school so I have outstripped her by far.  But we are knitting (at different paces) this shawl together.

Jessica's Margaret Dashwood Shawl @ Sweet Little Wood

That’s my girl!

Yesterday morning- like any normal Tuesday- was a school morning with all the alarm clocks and blurry bed heads normally involved with a Tuesday morning.  But we all slept through our alarms!  5 people all fast asleep when the bus left and work started and the home-school tutor was on his computer wondering where his students were!  K. and E. got up and got to work but M. J. and I decided to treat it like a windfall and had a wonderful lay in bed and knit morning.  That is to say: J. and I worked on our Margaret Dashwood Shawl and M. read a Terry Pratchet novel.  Our only excuse was Daylight Saving Time Sleep Defficiency (I made that up but we all know it should be diagnose-able).   It was glorious and so wonderfully relaxing I feel like I can face the rest of my chaotic week now.

Margaret Dashwood Shawl @ Sweet Little Wood

I’m linking up with Jenny over at Small Things for a Yarn Along!

xx

Jo

Wild Mushroom Hunting at Emerald Earth

Most of these photos are not of edible mushrooms- my hands were too full of mushrooms when we were picking the edible kinds to be bothered with my camera-  and PLEASE do not rely on my photos for identification of mushrooms in the field.   There are a few edible ones in here: like the Black Chanterelles  and the one that looks like a white beard.  We collected another five edibles that I didn’t get distinctive enough photos of because we were hiking on the north facing side of a mountain in dying winter light.  Quite a few of those I did photograph are very inedible.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Fly Agaric (or Amanita Moscaria): Not edible!

As a family we have always loved finding wild food.  K. was 8 when she became obsessed with a book by Ray Mears which had a large section on finding wild edibles.  She started by making refreshing spearmint pine-needle tea, progressed to battered dandelion greens and eventually lead to snacking on bulrush roots.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Setting out at Emerald Earth for a mushroom hike.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Coral Mushrooms- but not the edible kind.

Meanwhile M. and I began to become familiar with the mushrooms found around where we lived in England.  Our first wild mushroom was a Giant Puff Ball the size of M.’s head.  We were camping in a Featherdown Farm Tent at the time so the mushroom was cooked over a fire in copious amounts of oil with onions and organic free range eggs picked three minutes earlier from under the farmer’s hens.  It took us three days to finish that whole mushroom! We graduated onto other mushrooms but our crowning success was an untapped field of Parasol Mushrooms which provided us with several years of free delicious food before we moved to California.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Edible: Black Chanterelles. Little black trumpets near invisible against the terrain.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Some lessons in identifying features.

Since we landed here we have looked for mushrooms but seen nothing. Or at least nothing that we could definitively recognize as edible (besides one lonely bunch of Chicken of the Woods).  So months before M.’s birthday I started thinking about possibly going on a guided workshop for his gift to find out about California’s edible mushrooms and last July at the annual Boonville 4th of July Festival I met Tom Shaver.  Tom lives and works on a local sanctuary called Emerald Earth.  Its a lovely communal style place where the residents are the owners/managers and a regular source of information for the whole community about sustainable living.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Tom showing us common features of poisonous mushrooms.

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Polypores Polypores everywhere but not a fungi to eat.

 Tom runs a mushroom foraging course every December.  This year it conveniently landed the day after M.’s birthday but was not possible because M’s parents were over for the week: they are very fit for their age but the landscape (steep muddy hillside) and nature of the hiking (several hours on steep muddy hillsides) would have been totally unsuitable.  Tom was so gracious he asked if we could fit in at the last minute some time when the weather, mushrooms and his schedule would allow it.  We were able to go as a family and slip and stumble our way around the hills behind the totally unruffled Tom and glean an amazing number of mushrooms.  So many mushrooms that we have only just (two weeks later) finished off the last of them.  Best gift ever and a really amazing thing to get to do as a family!

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

The Comb Tooth (Hericium Coralloides) which looks weird but was absolutely delicious!

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

This is an awful photo but it gives you an idea of the size of the thing!

Genuinely: if you are ever up for a great day and some amazing food find a local guided mushrooming tour and learn something new!  Our girls who are pretty much “I will eat it if I don’t see it” mushroom haters were happily tasting (and helping to prepare) strangely beardy looking mushrooms fried in garlic batter (taste and texture of chicken nuggets), and an amazing seafood smelling  fungus that when sliced into wedges and battered could easily have passed for fried prawns!  We have eaten eggs and mountains of Black Chantrells which were M’s personal favorite as well as an delicious Oyster mushroom omelette.  Not to mention almost two entire meals prepared from the highly prized and delicately aromatic (supposedly aphrodisiac) Matsutake!

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

One of our baskets of gleanings and a little sneak preview at one of my knitted WIP…

Mushroom hunting at Emerald Earth @ Sweet Little Wood

Later when we were experimenting with our gleanings.

 Tom at Emerald Earth usually runs one session a year in December and spaces are always filled and no I haven’t been paid or remunerated for this post in any way shape or form… but if a few mushrooms showed up on my door step at some point… well… lets just say they wouldn’t go to waste!

xx Joanna