Saturday, January 25, 2014

On the Affordable Healthcare Act and Art - all in a day

"I am sorry, I can't help", she says sliding my tax forms across the table.
I don't remember if she wore glasses, but if she, did she would have been looking at me above the rims. "What is it that you do again?"

I wince and opt to believe that the condescending tone was only in my imagination.

Sylvan is sitting on my lap.
"I am a mom", I say embarrassed.  Was I blushing?  I scrape a bit of dried clay off of my fleece, " I do lots of things."

I am between day one and two of three days in the kindergarten classrooms at my daughter's elementary school.  I had spent the last two nights in the studio rolling out clay slabs until the wee hours of the morning.
What do I do?

I am a non-entity on a tax return.  I don't exist.  I am invisible.
I do things. The thoughts run through my head. I am productive. I consider myself a valued member of my community.  Really.

I smile. "Well.  Thanks for taking time out of your day to meet with me." I gather up my papers, slide them back in my purse, scoop up Sylvan, talk knitting with the secretary on my way out and get in the car.

I stare at the clock on the dashboard.  That went faster than I thought it would.
We don't qualify for the Affordable Healthcare Act. Period. The end.
I turn the key, I have a few extra hours and Sylvan and I go to the library.

Ivory has one art class once every five or six weeks.  She has never once mentioned her art class at home.  Has she had an art class?  I can't figure out where the divisions between art, beauty, function and learning are in my daily life and I can't fathom the lack of "art education" in kindergarten.  Isn't all day, every day art in kindergarten?  Isn't life art in kindergarten?  Isn't art learning?  Isn't learning art? Isn't math all pattern and science beautiful and reading away of giving pictures words?

I hold up my example of a plate made on a slump mold.

We go over the steps.  We talk about shape, color and texture.

And soon I am carrying twenty plates to the car to be bisqued, glazed, fired and brought back to school before the winter break so each one of these students has something surprising and lasting and all of their own they can take home.

What do I do?
It echoes in my head and I'm angry.
I do lots of things and these things have value.

I spend another late night in the studio. I wash brushes. I cut twenty-some slabs into squares and stack them up in a cooler to be taken back to the school. I make sure all my supplies are packed.

I had been looking forward to enrolling in the Affordable Care Act.  I rescheduled my meeting for weeks hoping for a day that the enrollment system was functioning.  It hadn't occurred to me that we were the "poorest of the poor" that Amy Goodman had been speaking about on Democracy Now - those people that were excluded from the Affordable Care Act because the their state legislatures voted against Medicaid expansion.  We fall into what our local NPR reporters more kindly call the coverage gap.  We belong to a group of people that are at once invisible and faceless and yet defined and redefined, batted from once side of the isle to the other - an euphemism at the center of arguments over fiscal policy.

The labeling and bickering and legislative decision making that has no impact on those deciding - the raised eyebrows looking over rims of glasses - What is it that do you do again?

I am one of 40,000 Montanans who remains uninsured.
I do lots of things.
I am a mom.

Christmas Show Backdrop - FINALLY!!!

An Empty Gym. 

Gallon jugs of tempera paint.
Rolls of colored paper.  
Scissors. Glue. 
A closet of voting booths lined with canvas.
Satin Banners. 

A few busy kiddo's after school and busy mama's that stayed on for late nights and 
Ready. Set. Go. 

The backdrop for the Lowell Elementary Christmas show:

All the windows line up for one continuous scene. 

Notice the snow flakes?  
Snow flake crystals are formed on multiples of three... thee pointed stars, six pointed, nine, twelve etc...  I think it has something to do with the angle of the water molecules.  So,  I folded them on 30 or 60 degree angle resulting in stars that have either 6 or 12 points. 

A super late school night for Ivory and Sylvan who patiently looked at Christmas books while Adam picked up our new stacked washer...  My coordinating skills are lacking sometimes - but then I thought that this back drop would be long finished.  

The fireplace is a folder that can hold all the windows so everything can be reused in the future. 

One last look at the whole thing.  

A short list of things to bring in the morning: a few replacement bulbs for the garland, stockings for the fire place and we were ready to go. 

The next morning gym was packed.  The kids filed in with mouse ears and reindeer antlers, they sang and danced and the show was fantastic.

See Ivory?

I snapped this one picture.  Decided I would just accept the fact that our camera does not operate well in doors, in low light and zoomed in.  I stuck it back in my bag and enjoyed the show.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

One Knitting Project I Did Not Get Done for Christmas (DIY: Scalloped Edge Knitted Little Girl Legwarmers)

I turned the pages of every knitting book I own.
I looked through half a dozen knitting books from the library.
I scrolled through pages of free patterns on the internet.

I wasted time.

Ivory had picked out purple grey yarn weeks before at the store.
 I was planning to knit her socks.
"Mama can you knit me legwarmers?"  She asked one evening.
Of course.  Legwarmers made perfect sense.
They would span the distance between the ends of all those size four leggings that fit her waist but come nowhere close to her ankles.

No pattern for legwarmers.
No more wasting time.
I just started knitting: guessing here and there and finally coming up with a pattern that features a scallop on the top edge, super stretchy ribbing on the leg and a super stretch (new to me) bind off.

I didn't get them done for Christmas, but I did get them done for the first day back to school.


1 Skein Premier Yarns, Serenity Sock Weight, 50% Superwash Merino 
wool, 25% Rayon made from Bamboo and 25% Nylon, Color: DN125-02 (Violas)

1 set of size 2 double pointed needles (gauge is 32 stitches by 42 rows for a 4 inch square on size 2 needles)

How to:

This pattern is worked in the round on double pointed needles...   like a sock with no heal or foot.  
  • cast on 49 stitches, distribute on 3 double pointed needles
  • round 1: purl, place stitch marker at end of row
Scalloped Edge:
  • round 2: *p2, yo, k1, sl 2 as if to k2tog, k1, p2sso, k1, yo; repeat from*
  • round 3: *p2, k5; repeat from *
  • repeat round 2 and 3 until the 8th round (this is a pattern row)
Ribbed Leg:
  • on round 9 switch to *p2, k2, p1, k2; repeat from *  
  • repeat this for an additional 74 rounds
  • reduce the pattern by *p2, k2, k2tog, k1; repeat until round is complete
  • for the next 9 rounds *p2, k4
Stretchy Bind-off (is a must!!!!)
And she promptly snagged them on the playground. 

Next time I think I will make these for her out of a chunkier, less dainty yarn...  (The pattern can be adjusted in multiples of seven to preserve that scallop edge). 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pretzel Roll Recipe (I Practiced Baking - Alot)

November and December flew past.

There were two craft fairs, an ambitious kindergarten wide art project and a Christmas show that needed a back drop. After these I scrambled to finish a few handmade gifts....  all of which were (or are) admittedly late. There was a lacy pair of knitted socks for my mom, a pair of legwarmers for Ivory I finished last night and sent her to school in this morning and a pair of socks for Adam that are at this moment only a few rows on a set of double pointed needles.  (More on all these projects coming soon.)

Through it all I have been on a mission: to bake a  pretzel roll.


The Lowell PTA was having a bake sale and I wanted to contribute something savory.

Sylvan and I practiced.

Sylvan, his little friends, and I practiced.

We tried all white flour and partially whole wheat pretzel rolls. (See the difference in the picture above?)  Rolls without butter and milk.  Rolls with butter and milk.  Rolls with pink Himalayan salt. Rolls with sea salt flakes.  Rolls baked for 30 minutes (too long) and rolls baked for 20 minutes and rotated once at 10 minutes (just right).  How to store them? Plastic bag? Paper bag?

The morning before the bake sale I carried a paper bag, (they definitely need to be stored in paper bags) filled with 60 pretzel rolls to Ivory's school.  They were all gone by the end of the sale.

And we kept baking.

We baked for our friends and neighbors.

We baked Pretzel Bagels for visiting family.

A fresh baked batch took an airplane ride to Oklahoma.

This is a recipe I will keep baking for the rest of the year.

I started with this recipe.

When I pulled the results out of the oven, I kicked myself.  I knew better than to let these bake for 30 minutes.  They were definitely over done, but not quite burned and wait? no salt in the dough?  too sweet?

After many,  many batches this these are the tweaks I have made to the recipe:

Pretzel Roll

1 1/3 Cup warm water (120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit)
add milk to make it 1 1/2 Cups liquid
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2 1/2 Teaspoons yeast
1/4 Cup unrefined sugar
1 Teaspoon salt 
4 1/2 Cups flour  (or 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 3 cups white flour) 

2 Quarts of water
1/2 Cup baking soda

Maldon sea salt flakes
  • combine the water, milk, butter, sugar, salt and yeast 
  • add flour (stir it in and then knead in the remainder until the dough is stretchy and not sticky), if you are using a mixer and dough hook, stir and add flour until it forms until a ball that doesn't stick to the sides.  I often finish adding the last little bit of flour by hand even if I started out using a mixer. 
  • let the dough sit 10 minutes
  • divide the dough into quarters and quarters again for a total of 16 pieces of dough
  • roll the dough into balls and dust with flour
  • let the dough rise 30 minutes
  • put water and baking soda into a large sauce pan and bring to a boil
  • drop 4 rolls at a time into boiling water, flip rolls once, 20 ish seconds on each side for a total of 40 seconds 
  • place on a kitchen towel to drain
  • repeat until all rolls are done
  • cut a cross on the top of each roll, sprinkle with Maldon salt flakes and press slightly
  • transfere to two buttered cookie sheets 
  • bake at 375 to 400 for 20 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets once after 10 minutes for eaven browning  (I thought I was cooking these at 425, but after getting an oven thermometer for Christmas I have discovered that my oven bakes much lower than the set temperature.) 
  • cool a few minutes before eating
  • store in a paper bag
  • best if reheated if not eaten fresh 
Alterations - Vegan Option

use 1 1/2 cups water and substitute oil for butter 
The result is slightly drier pretzel roll, although this is more apparent after they are stored for a day or two, not if eaten fresh.

Note on Multiple Batches - I usually make two batches in close succession, rather than doubling the recipe, since two cookie trays is all that fits in my oven...  I use the baking soda water for two batches and then change it if making more.