Lynn's blog

I had a stroke!

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On November 13th, at 2:30 in the morning, we ran for our lives from my home of 27 years.

We had a garden this year, for the first time in many. I planted two tomatoes, both of which I was assured did not need staking. Foolish me.

I've never liked my upper arms. I've always tried to camoflage them, and sleeves were a must. This year, I'm changing it up, and here's why.

The garden was finished about a month ago. I have been outside more in that brief time than I had perhaps the two years previous, entire.

I walk the place every morning, making sure the blackberries understand they're no longer welcome here. I'm finding fewer and fewer attempts to recolonize, so perhaps they're getting the message. (I'm not slacking, though. I Am Become Death, Slayer of Blackberries.)

I may actually get grapes this year. Apparently I got them last year, but the blackberries were so thick I didn't know they were there.

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I am a news junkie. Perhaps it comes of my former career as a journalist, but it's probably the other way round. I've always had an interest in news. I like to know what's going on, especially in politics and science.

But I also have anxiety. Anxiety and news do not always get along well.

You may note it looks a little different around here.

I am not knitting these days. Or spinning. I am Embroidering All the Things.

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This is Josie. The former 18-month-old. Remember when the site started and she was that little? Yeah, I barely can, either.

Our current favorite video is "Ten Bullets." It's a training film for Tom Sachs' industrial arts/video/coolness studio in NYC, and it's rather inspired us. JJ has taken to "knolling" his desk during conference calls, and I've knolled my own desk and my bedside table. And the kitchen. And maybe a couple of other spaces. We'll see how long it lasts. It is January, after all.

John and I were going over the year last night, as one begins to do come Thanksgiving. Our assessment: nothing horrible happened. The roof is still over our heads. John got a small raise. My surgery went very well. Jo's college experience is tough but good--and boy has she grown as a person. And Lou is coming out of the turbulent years into something mellower. We'll call it good.

I hope your year has gone at least as well. I'm thankful for everyone who visits here. :)

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It's dinner time, and once again I discover myself a little unprepared. No worries. I have a pot of stock on the stove and some leftover chicken; I'll just make soup. I always have vegetables around for soup.

Except when I open up the fridge I remember I forgot to order groceries at our co-op last week. The only thing I have in the fridge besides the chicken is two-thirds of a head of celery and a single stalk of broccoli. I don't even have frozens or leftovers I can throw in. Oops.

Going out for dinner is not an option. What am I going to do?

As I was growing up, my mom was the mistress of making "something" out of "nothing"--pulling together meals seemingly out of thin air. I've inherited her uncanny ability, which comes down to an intelligently stocked larder and a good understanding of tastes.

I had broth, celery, broccoli and leftover chicken. With such a limited ingredient list, what could I cook?

One of my favorites is clear Asian soup; there are hundreds of different varieties, from Vietnamese pho to Japanese dashi. When I was pregnant with Josie, one of my cravings was for Chinese chicken noodle soup at a particular dim sum place in Old Town: clear golden broth, chunks of chicken, thin, firm egg noodles and a variety of barely-cooked Chinese greens. A little garlicky, very gingery, entirely soul-satisfying.

I can't eat there any more; those noodles are wheat, and the soy sauce has wheat, too, but I recreate that soup gluten free all the time. That's the taste profile I decided to go for, and the broth made it easier--when I'd chucked everything in the pot with the chicken carcass I'd thrown in a big piece of ginger that was about to go bad.

After a quick reconnoiter, I found Asian rice noodles (not pasta) in the back pantry and yellow onions in the potato drawer. I strained the broth and put it back in the pot with the chopped celery and broccoli, thin-sliced half-rounds of onion and the diced chicken.

While the veggies were heating through, I boiled some water in the tea kettle; when it was ready, I put the rice noodles in a big bowl and poured the hot water over them. In about ten minutes they were soft and it was time to eat. I put the noodles in soup bowls and ladled the broth, chicken and vegetables over the top.

It was delicious, as good as if I'd planned the whole thing! And in a way, I had. I'd paid attention to my mom and put her method to work. I didn't learn how to make this particular set of ingredients work from her, but knowing what flavors work together and keeping a variety of unperishables at the ready just in case? That's what I learned from her. She'll be pleased to know I was paying attention. :)

Every day I read at least one item that reminds me why we chose to homeschool our girls. Here's today's: A teacher’s troubling account of giving a 106-question standardized test to 11 year olds:

Question No. 12 put me over the top. But I continued my outward calm, even as I watched the kids squirm, and as some began to lose their focus and their positive demeanor.

The mumbling had begun. The sentence I read to the class said something like “she realized she could store her belongings in the bureau.” “Bureau.” There were four pictures to choose from. One was a building that looked like a public “bureau” of the government to me, but I doubted my students would think of that. One was of a tractor. Scratch that. But I looked at my students whose families speak Spanish at home. And I looked at the burro in picture “C.”

Then I looked at the picture of what my family calls a chest-of-drawers. And I thought about how we have never used that word, “bureau,” for a piece of furniture. And I have never heard that word in the homes of my students’ families. And I thought, how crude, how cruel, how ignorant, how disrespectful of these children. What a set-up. Who would do that to kids?...

By the end of the Vocabulary section these children had been through 57 of the 106 questions. They were more than half way done. But the double period was almost over. They were about to go home, having entered the classroom feeling strong and ready to learn, about to leave feeling, in their words, “stupid.” They had lost two full periods of real teaching/learning. What had they gained? Really, what?…

Like them, I left for the weekend feeling defeated. What happens when our beautiful children face this kind of situation over, and over, and over again. The phrase, “first do no harm,” consumed me. I was leaving school for the weekend on the wrong side of that admonition.

What had they gained? A better question: what had they lost? One person didn't lose, and that's for sure: somewhere out in Educationland a testing company is pocketing a nice chunk of change.

The fetishization of standardized testing must end. You want to know why kids don't like to read? Read that whole article. And then think back on your own schooling. The younger you are, the more likely you are to relate to the kids in that teacher's classroom. We're taking this country's kids down the wrong track, and profit is a big reason why.

I'm on a finishing kick! i just wove in the thousands of ends (or so they seemed) of a pair of gloves for Jo. And for me: Just in time to sit in a drafty room for several hours, here is a moebius scarf, knit in mistake rib of my own handspun yarn:

Here's the original yarn. I inherited a friend's stash and there were a lot of little bits and bobs of fiber; I took a bunch of my own bits and bobs and threw it all on the drum carder. Then I spun it into a super bulky yarn, totally not my usual:

The batt contained mohair locks, silk, soy silk, and a while bunch of different wool tail ends of dyed rovings, undyed top, and fleece. There are a dozen different blues,purples, greens, whites, blacks and a little bit of rose.

This was a really fast, fun project. The spinning went lightning quick, the knitting too. It would've been finished a lot sooner if I'd just sat down and grafted the darn thing, but I couldn't figure out how to graft mixed knit and purl. I finally found a good mnemonic: same off, opposite on. You work each stitch twice, the first time in the opposite way the stitch was worked--purlwise for knit, knitwise for purl--and then work knit for knit, purl for purl the second time when you take the stitch off the needle. I'll never forget again!

I made three batches of pickled cukes this summer. Two of them did not survive the week they were packed into the fridge; LouLou the pickle fiend made short work of them. The last batch? I still have some left. I think Lou ate her fill of pickles and then some.

Above is the last batch, in the crock. I don't put dill in mine; I prefer garlicky to dilly. Below, this is how I weight them--plastic ziplocks filled with brine:

It's been so long since I've been able to do much preserving that I forgot to put a plate underneath the bags, but it worked anyway.

I'm not done pickling, but with the advent of the rainy season I won't have access to pickling cukes. I'll look to pickle other stuff, notably cabbage. Lou and I are the pickle fiends, but three of the four of us--Jo is the hold out--love sauerkraut.

It had to happen some time. Josie (who's just turned 16 if you can believe it) is in college. She's been accepted into a scholarship program at the local community college that allows kids to earn their high school diplomas (not GEDs) and earn college credits at the same time.

It's a little traumatic for her; she's never been in "real" school a day in her life, and the testing process was completely alien. But the program has a lot of academic coaching, including a class on how to take tests. (Yes, this is why we homeschooled. :P )

So here, finally, is her first day of school photo, age 16, wearing a polar bear hat, as one does. She's the only homeschooler in the group and is already in this first week known as "Josie, that homeschooled kid in the bear hat." Today, the bear is wearing goggles.

Geez, I love that kid.

First the good part. Louisa has found her tribe: the cosplayers. Cosplay, in case you don't know and why would you, is short for "costume play." Cosplayers dress up as their favorite characters from TV, movies, comics, books, games--whatever they love--and then they get together and revel in their creativity.

The biggest one locally is Kumoricon, a celebration of all things Japanese but mainly anime and manga. Both Lou and Jo, and to a lesser extent myself, love anime and manga, but Lou...Lou LOVES it, and LOVES cosplay. The picture is her dressed as China, a character from the anime Hetalia.

We spent Saturday and Sunday at Kumoricon, and Lou was so happy she cried half the weekend in joy. She's come back with a fervent desire to learn how to sew properly, and I'm going to do my best to teach her.

The bad part: The line to get in was three-plus hours long, much in full sun and all in the heat. I lasted a little over two before I almost collapsed of heat exhaustion and was carted off to the hospital with poor Lou sobbing in the ambulance with me. I'm all right, but I'm still sore; I brought a camp stool with me and it resulted in essentially my doing a series of squats, over and over. My thighs still ache! We went back the next day and Lou spent it in absolute bliss. I'm so happy for her. :)

I came across this recipe a couple of days ago. Now, I'm always trying to find things everyone here will or can eat. Jo is lactose-intolerant and we're all gluten-free (except Lou--she eats it sometimes but not here). We try to limit our grains and sugars, though we're hardly saints. I'm especially trying to find high-energy foods Jo will eat; she's not anorexic--thinks she looks just fine, thanks--but she does have trouble eating sometimes. Long story.

Anyway, when I saw this I knew I had to try it. I love lemon anything, and this is raw, no-bake, grain-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and egg-free. (We don't have trouble with eggs, but you might.) The main problem you might have with this recipe is that it's based on almond meal, and some folks have trouble with tree nuts. It has honey in it, so it's not vegan, but you can probably add your own favorite sweetener.

Verdict: Fast! Delicious! Pretty (see picture)! Lou hates coconut, so they don't work for her, but otherwise, we have a hit. The recipe is from the petite kitchen, which is new to me and has lots of goodies to peruse.

I'm recovering well from my heart surgery of the 19th. They ended up replacing the whole shooting match, so I'm all brand new in there--ICD unit, wires and everything. I stayed in hospital one night longer than anticipated and came home Sunday to wonderful friends and family who've cared for me since. Many brought dinner, and one friend essentially stayed with us most of last week while John returned to work.

Today is my first day alone with the girls. So far, so good. I took my first walk yesterday down the street, and I've got my pain medication down to Tylenol. I see the surgeon this afternoon and I don't expect to hear anything other than good things. Thanks for all the good wishes!

I'm going in for heart surgery this Friday the 19th, a procedure I've been dreading the better part of a year. It's minor as heart surgery goes. They're not opening my chest, for instance. But they are mucking about with it, and given my history I'm rather more than nervous.

Did you know? The banking industry is trying to kill off the credit union system. There is legislation in Congress to tax the member-owned, non-profit CUs, which would effectively end them.

For years here I've advocated that families move their money from banks to their local CUs. They offer lower rates on loans and higher rates on savings, checking accounts and CDs. Why? They're not for profit. By opening an account, you own a share of the credit union. They're about people, not profits.

The credit unions are fighting back, and I'm helping them. You should too. This is the letter I sent my legislators via Don't Tax My Credit Union:

I am a member of [credit union redacted]. I have been since the mid-80s. They're a fantastic institution. They know me and care about me.

One reason might be because I'm a shareholder. Everyone who banks here is a shareholder. But, like all credit unions, it's also a non-profit. Credit unions care about their members, not profit.

Taxing credit unions destroys them, and that's the point, isn't it? This entire proposal is a ploy to force people like me into banks--or our mattresses. Quite frankly, I trust my Tempurpedic more than I trust Bank of America.

If we should tax non-profit credit unions, why should we not also tax Habitat for Humanity? The World Wildlife Federation? Oxfam? Local food banks? The Humane Society? How about churches? That would lower the deficit faster than just taxing credit unions.

But we all know this is NOT about deficit reduction. This is about ending the credit union system.

As your constituent, I urge you to vote AGAINST taxing credit unions.Thank you for your time.

And I urge you to check out your local credit union and get on board with the campaign against this crap piece of legislation aimed at forcing you into the high-fee, low-service, privatize-the-profit, socialize-the-risk world of for-profit banks. Congress should not be dictating my--or your--freedom of choice.

Fred Rogers may be the closest thing our secular society has to a saint. He was awesome, by every report of anyone who had anything to do with him exactly as he appeared on television. Even gorillas loved him, and he loved everybody.

Consequently, I am 100% behind making March 20th, his birthday, a national holiday.

Okay, it's not likely we'll get a real live federal holiday. But we don't need one. No, if we can celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day, by golly, we can celebrate Mr. Rogers Day. We are the Internet. No one tells us what to do, unless we are China, in which case we just use proxy servers.

I intend to celebrate Mr. Rogers Day this March 20th by being extra kind and patient, especially on the Internet, and by putting my shoes and sweaters away when I take them off. No, in all seriousness, I intend to emulate Fred Rogers as much as possible. Maybe it'll rub off enough that I can do it more days of the year than just Mr. Rogers Day.

About three weeks ago, someone tried to use my debit card to buy something at an appliance store--a $500 something. Would have wiped my account out. Luckily, I have a super-vigilant card company; they declined the charge and called me immediately. I racked my brain trying to figure out where they could have gotten the number.

Until today.

Those of you who belong to Ravelry, log in. There you'll see a pages-long thread full of crafters who all got their cards hacked thanks to a data breach at Knitpicks. Guess where I buy most of my yarn? And guess what else? KP claims they notified everyone affected. They lied.

So if you're a Knitpicks customer, watch your card or cancel it and get a new one. Don't know when I'm going to buy from them again, which pisses me off even more. There's a sock yarn sale, darn it!

Every year my husband's family goes on a snow day. Except me. My sister-in-law never did go; she hates snow. I hate being outside for long periods in the snow--I chill easily, and it's really not good for me. (I like snow when I'm inside and cozy--it's snowing today here in Portland, though not sticking.) I tried to be a good mom and wife anyway. A couple years ago, I gave up the pretense. :D

Anyway, I thought I'd take a snow day moment to show you longtime readers just what my girls look like these days. Remember Josie? Eighteen months old when we started?

Fifteen. Taller than me. And Louisa? Born when this website was about two years old?

Eleven and a half. Taller than Jo!

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I am always looking for ways to use up leftovers, especially fish. Getting leftover fish into my family is nigh-on impossible.

Except this way.

These are salmon fritters. They're gluten-, dairy- and soy-free, though not corn- or egg-free. I want to give you a recipe, but the problem is, I'm a dibby dabby cook. So I'm going to give you close equivalents with some pictures to help.

Leftover fish like salmon, cod or tuna--canned will do
Sweet pickle relish (optional)
Masa harina (corn tortilla flour)
Green onion
Fat for frying--I used olive oil, but coconut oil or bacon drippings would also work

Everything depends on how much fish you have, or how much you want to pad out the fish. I'm going to give equivalents.

In a bowl, flake the fish. I just squish it with my hands until it's in small pieces. You don't want a paste, but you don't want huge chunks either. Chop one or two green onions, including both the white and green parts; add to the fish. Add a dollop of relish, pretty much to taste. If you like it, put in lots, if you don't, you can leave it out altogether. I like it. You can add grated vegetables to this, too, like zucchini or carrots. In the pictures, these have two grated zucchini. If you want that, put it in now.

I had a piece of grilled salmon fillet about the size of my hand, fingertips to base of my palm--maybe a little smaller. I used two green onions and about a tablespoon of relish. I broke four eggs into it and squished it together with my hands like I was making meatloaf. Then I added masa harina until it made a fairly stiff batter. The picture to the left should give you an idea; it's not a dry batter, but it's certainly not liquid. It holds its shape. I added salt and pepper to taste, a couple of shakes of each.

Heat your fat in a skillet. I like cast iron myself. It can be any size skillet; if you don't have much fat, use a smaller one and cook the fritters one or two at a time. The picture to the right should give you an idea how deep the fat should be. I guesstimate this is about a quarter-inch, but that's probably overstating it. Fry the fritters until golden brown on both sides, drain on paper towels or newsprint or your favorite blotter, whatever it is.

Serve with ketchup, cocktail sauce (boy I wish I'd had some), lemon, mayo, tartar sauce, whatever you like on fried stuff with fish in it. And I hope your family likes them as much as mine does!

A video tutorial from meeee! If you can't see the YouTube video below (for instance, Chrome isn't displaying it correctly), here's a direct link.

When you unschool, you take your educational opportunities where you can find them, and usually they're everywhere. Sometimes they're lessons learned the semi-hard way.

This morning, Louisa (just turned 11) announced she WAS going to have a lemonade stand. We'd discussed this before--you have to get lemons or Koolaid, ice, cups and so on. "I'll ride down to the store, Mom, if you give me the money." So off she went.

She came back with pre-made foo-foo lemonade--$1 per 16 oz bottle--and expensive gluten-free cookies. A nice touch, but at $5/bag for about 40 cookies, not so economical. And she forgot the ice. Luckily we have some in the freezer downstairs. She spent all the money I had in my wallet--$15. *headdesk*

The lesson commenced. How much per serving was this going to cost? After a few demonstrations, we figured out that a serving would cost 25 cents if she were generous with the ice, and that she'd have to charge 50 cents to make a profit. Two small cookies would also be 50 cents retail.

And then, before I could stop or help her, she had the stand set up. Again, no ice, no cooler, no change, no water for herself, and no shade. I decided I'd just be late for my appointment, got a cooler and ice, made her get her parasol and her water bottle. She's out there bravely hawking her wares:

So far I think she's made four bucks, but school's not out and the evening bike commute hasn't commenced. She may fare better after four. Either way, she's learned more about supply, demand, retail/wholesale and measurements than she knew she was in for, and that's priceless.


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