30.7.12

Preserve


Talk of jams and preserves has been frequent in these last few weeks. Perhaps it is my evolving sense of seasonal rhythms, or maybe the upcoming changes for our family in the next few months that is driving me. (more on that later) My birthday brought a lovely book on canning, Canning for a New Generation. It is a pretty book, with lots of mouthwatering photos with simple directions and recipes. 


While spending the weekend in Detroit to celebrate the union of two dear old friends, I was able to learn a little about the jam making process from my Momma. A friend of hers picked some raspberries from a family farm over the day before and was kind enough to share them with us for my first try at preserves. The raspberries were so sweet and perfectly tart, and I knew I had to do something special with them. The recipe for Raspberry Jam with Lavender & Mint was one that had caught my eye while first flipping through the canning book, it was meant to be! 


Maybe when I get better at it, I can share more of the process in this space. It was fairly simple, and really fun to do. I am excited to say that a jar of this jam is on its way to Uganda, to be given to my dear friend Betty, who I have spoken of often here. Making a small batch (1/2 the recipe in the book) yielded 6 of these little jars of jam. I actually enjoy that we made a smaller batch, it makes it more special, a treat, for some delicious bread, or to be shared with friends for brunch over pan cakes. It makes a simple jam "an affordable luxury". 

Do you have a favorite jam? It's funny how most of my memories involving jam are from childhood, and usually involve peanut butter. What about you? 

Thanks for reading,
-K 

26.7.12

Urban Treasure


Look at all these thrifty goodies. 
Seriously, I have no idea why people let go of so many amazing things.
I'll take them, but I think you are crazy.





In order top to bottom:

 1. Cotton crochet doilies. I have about 100 of them now.
Im sure they will come in handy for some of that mending I talked about in my last post.
2. Pasta maker. I can finally make that kale and ricotta ravioli I've been dreaming about.
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3. Ladle. You'd think for such a soup obsessed family we would have a ladle. This is our first ladle.
4. Apple Slicer. Im just waiting to use this for some pies this fall. 
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5. Adorable Tiny Forks. I can not help myself, tiny utensils always get me. 
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6. Canning Tongs. Oh just you wait, plenty of that to come. 
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7. Adorable tiny human.
 He wasn't thrifted, but he is definitely a treasure. (Sorry, I had to) 
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love, 

25.7.12

Current Inspirations: Give. Mend. Do.


This week has been busy. I feel like I am always, for some reason, surprised by this. None the less, I have been drowning in some seriously inspirational things, when I have not been toddler chasing, dinner making and apartment reorganizing. (I beat the hell out of my kitchen last night, and came to terms with that giant "green thing" that holds our dishes and cups, which came with our apartment)


Give.
I find it much easier for my mind to consider different creative ideas when there is peace and organization in my home. This is a mark of maturity for me, I haven't always been that way. My friend Aiyana, from YAWNI TIGER has been talking about simplifying things in her life, which has really resonated with me. Keep what you need, give what you don't. This is a theme that can be carried into most aspects of life, and I hope to further explore them in those places. Meaningless emotional, physical and spiritual clutter doesn't help anyone.

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Mend.
I have these cotton lounge type pants that have travelled with me so many places, across oceans and continents, heart break and new found love, a pregnancy and plenty of late nights with baby. I don't even know where I got them, or when, I think they were given to me as a hand me down from a friend, which makes them even more special. They are deemed "the card board pants" because they are literally the color of cardboard, have pretty much no shape and are not flattering in any way. I don't really care that they aren't fancy or "pretty", they are soft in a way only beloved, well worn garments can be. I feel like "me" in these pants. They have been slapped against rocks in the wash, and spun in the dryer and hung on a line, crumpled in a suitcase and stretched to the limit the last few days of my pregnancy with Julian. They have just begun to fall apart, but I can not bear to part with them. Thus brings me to my next bit of inspiration.




I am so moved and inspired by the notion of the "mend and make do" movement of WW2. Although the saying was born out of a very dark era in the history of our world, the relevance has not lessened. How lovely is it that something I think is considered an worthy of being called an art form can also serve as something so practical. I am excited to start mending, darning and repairing some of my favorite well worn items, starting with the card board pants.



This elbow repair is so pretty, you would think it was supposed to be this way. This also inspires me to keep knitting and sewing my own clothes, and clothes for the ones I love. So many people ask me what the point of putting so much effort into hand knit garment is, when it could fall apart in a few seasons. Adding and repairing could only exaggerate the beauty and sentimentality of such things. A memory sewn in with a patch, woven in to a hole that was created sledding down a hill or caught on a apple tree branch last fall. Another theme which can lend itself to other places in our lives, mine especially. Changing life seasons can wear holes in the deepest and dearest relationships, taking time to mend the relationships we cherish is something we, or maybe just I, should consider. 

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Do.
I keep hearing about the drought in the mid west this year. I live in the midwest, so you would think such things would genuinely effect my daily life, especially something as drastic as a draught. I have honesty not felt the economic repercussions of this so far, but I am sure the cost of food will go up soon, and only rise on through winter. The cost of conventionally farmed meat products and packaged edibles will probably have the greatest increase in price, considering the crops that are suffering the most are corn and wheat. Economically speaking, our family doesn't have to necessarily fret over the idea of food costs rising, because we can always take from this part of the budget, or that, for something like food. But was interests me is the idea that we should take this into consideration, even if there are more convenient options. Just because we don't HAVE to do something, doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. Our garden is exploding with kale, chard and beans, and I am determined to preserve them, to save the excess for winter, because it is simply a wise thing to do. Sure, I could go to the grocery come January and buy myself some strawberries from Chili, but I just feel like popping the lid on a jar of strawberry basil jam made just for this dreary day would be better. My friend Melissa and I talked about starting up a canning guild. So far we have nothing set in stone, but a few other women have shown interest. My hope is to get enough people (maybe five or six) to chip in for the supplies and possibly a pressure canner, and meet monthly to share abundant garden spoils, recipes and encouragements, while canning some tomato sauce and maybe some of that strawberry basil jam. Yet again, storing up and recording good things when they are in abundance in my life, weather it be affections from my husband and son, or feelings of peace and thankfulness, can help bring the spirits up in times of need and sadness. "Consider the ant, look at it's ways and be wise." 



These are the things currently inspiring me, what about you?







18.7.12

Charles' Figgy Mittens




Say hello to Charles's Figgy Man Mittens.



These handsome mittens were made for my dear friend Charles for his birthday, last winter hah. He has just now gotten around to unpacking his new apartment and found the time to snap a few photos of them, for me to share here! I always have so much trouble finding patterns that I feel are truly masculine with out being overly simple. A good pattern for a sturdy, to the point, but also beautiful man-ccessory is the one I used for these mittens, Jane Richmond's Red is Best


The fiber is none other than the always beloved, Madelinetosh Vintage, in the Fig color way. Isn't it so handsome? I think that is what really takes them over the top. 


For some reason I find that most men love those flip top mittens. I suppose maybe because you don't have to fiddle with them too much, or maybe because they serve as a two in one type thing. I will probably have to start planning out a few more pairs for Christmas (?!?!) and winter birthdays. Come to think of it, I should probably just keep a few made and on hand to give away for last minutes gifts, since I haven't ventured into socks just yet. (If you have a favorite sock pattern please share it with me!) 

Thanks for reading!
-K 

15.7.12

Weekend Eats / Focus

Sometimes I forget that I am a working mother. Most days, Julian and I spend playing with the darling little Omi, at her house while her parents are working. It works out well for everyone involved for the most part. The little ones are so close, they give hugs and kisses in the morning when we arrive and sweet little hand waves when we leave. I am so thankful to have a way to bring income into our home, while still spending every moment I can with Julian. But sometimes, I forget that I am indeed, working.

The weekends are devoted to our little family of three. We have a pretty constant routine, always coffee, sometimes we even go to two different shops on a Saturday or Sunday, just to see what they are offering. Some weekends we go thrifting, or to the bookstore, where the little one plays with the train table with the other children and I flip through cookbooks, knitting books or now, sewing books (in the air conditioning). I usually get some time to sit down and knit, after the house is cleaned, the laundry is done (ok sometimes this doesn't happen...not completely done.), the meals are planned and the baby is sleeping. This weekend was a little different, and I could feel the weight of the demands of my time. Im not complaining, no, I'm just having a little bit of a revelation, that maybe I should take a little more time to focus, simplify, consolidate, and maybe sit once and a while. I was able to meet with a dear friend this week who reminded me that I do not have to be supper mother/wife/woman/person. No one is expecting that out of me, so to put that pressure on myself only hurts the ones I am trying to care for. I also read this quote today, "Great is the enemy of Good".  Sometimes when I try to do too much, nothing gets done, or everything is done poorly.

I am thankful that I was able to make this yummy pesto yesterday for that reason. I made a silly amount of pesto, that will top pasta and sandwiches and maybe find its way into a frittata by next weekend. This is something that will help to simplify our time at home this week. You already know how much I love kale, so it should be no surprise to you that I've switched out the basil for peppery dino kale, from the garden. I used this and this as references but sort of went at it on my own, with what I had, but honestly, I cant really claim any sort of ownership over any pesto recipe...its pretty basic. Quickly blanched kale, garlic, lemon, pine nuts, parmesan, salt, pepper, oil, that is it. 



We have already had two dishes with this pesto since yesterday, and they were both delicious, Xavier went back for seconds, and the little one willingly ate kale...a win in my book. I am hoping to use it on his turkey sandwiches for lunch. It was relatively quick to prepare as well, a good 20 minutes from garden to jar. Maybe I should make a batch of this every week or so, and change up the ingredients just a bit, play with the ratios and flavors. I think adding a little crushed red pepper would be yummy too. This is also something that can easily be frozen in preparation for winter, when something bright and fresh tasting is a welcome indulgence. 

And there my mind goes, preparing for winter. I am thinking of canning, and tomato sauces, jams, and pickled things. Pickles, then I think of a birthday that is coming up, which I plan to celebrate a gift of garden dilly beans, oh and a hat needs knitting. Celebrate, there is a wedding coming, travel plans must be made, as well as a gift, and a dress needs to be chosen. Dress, I still have that other skirt pattern I want to try. See what I mean....I can only laugh at myself, really. Ever feel the same?

Thanks for reading. 
-K 

13.7.12

Tukula Give Away Winner!


Sorry this is so late in the day, but it still counts! 
Using Random.org, the winner is:

Comment #5
Angela Hunt! 

Congratulations! Send an email to:
KALANAGKNITS@gmail.com
 redeem your lovely prize! 


p.s. tomorrow I have a fun little addition to my face to talk about. 


See you then!
-K 



12.7.12

Ode to Greek Yogurt


When Julian was still pretty little, he came down with a bad case of thrush. Instead of having it in his mouth, he had it in the diaper area, and it was terrible. The rash was huge, raised, bright red and scaly at some parts, especially in the folds of his little chubby legs. I battled the rash on the surface for about two weeks, sunning the cloth diapers, washing them over and over, making about five different kinds of home made baby bum balms, and even let him air out and roll around naked for most of the day. Nothing would help, I felt guilty and helpless. I took him to the doctor several times and all they would recomend was a prescription steroid cream, which made me really uncomfortable. 

I read and read and read. Thankfully, there were plenty of articles and advise from other mothers (particularly those who are in the "cloth" community) who had dealt with similar issues. I discovered that, because Julian was breast fed elusively, the thrush was being continuously passed back and forth between us, giving neither of us a change to fight it off. I came to the conclusion that I had to seriously change my diet, to kill off any excessive yeast that was in my system, therefor reducing the amount of yeast in diet as well. I had to fight it internally. 

I had to cut out just about everything, anything starchy, sugary and or treated with pesticides and antibiotics. I was already eating a 100% organic, non processed diet, so that was not a difficult issue to deal with. Not eating any carbs was difficult, no fruit, except berries, which actually helped to reduce the amount of yeast in the tummy. I started taking probiotics as well. " So, what did you eat? " you ask. I pretty much lived on greek yogurt with strawberries, almonds, and spinach or kale, and that is where my obsession began. If you don't already know how awesome greek yogurt is, I suggest you use the google machine and see for yourself. Greek yogurt is also a great option for babies who are struggling to gain weight, considering the fat, and protein content. Seriously, in less than a week the rash was gone! I had also lost about 6 pounds, but that might have been because I was also drinking an obscene amount of water and had no bread, pasta, etc.

Since then, I have tried to sneak this stuff into anything I can, when I am not just eating is out of the container. My favorite brand (and I have tried pretty much all of them) is hands down Fage. It has way more protein than most of the other brands, less sodium and less cholesterol. It does have a higher fat content, but I am not totally afraid of fats, you need a bit of them anyway. The texture of this stuff is so rich and decadent, the flavor is tart but slightly sweet and creamy. Oh dear, I could replace cheesecake with Fage Total (the higher fat option) for the rest of my life and never complain. I still think it is best with strawberries, almonds and a little honey, in the morning.

Here are a two ways that switched out the less
 nutritious options with greek yogurt in our meals this week:


Egg Salad with Thyme and Greek Yogurt.



This is one of Xavier and my favorite weekend lunch, the bebes actually really love it too. We usually have some crusty bread to smoosh it on to and it really hits the spot. The ingredients are simple. I just replace the mayo (side point, I seriously hate mayo) with the greek yogurt. I think it tastes cleaner, and you don't loose any of the creaminess. 

Four hard boilded eggs
a few sprigs of thyme
squirt of lemon juice
greek yogurt
s&p

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Carrot Cupcakes with Greek Yogurt Vanilla Icing


If I am going to make the kids some sort of treat, I try to have it be a veggie or fruit based. Carrot cake is a great option, especially if you use whole wheat pastry flour and apple sauce in place of the oil. I really do love cream cheese frosting that usually tops this treat but this is a really good alternative. Because greek yogurt has that natural sweetness, it doesn't need much to make it good enough for a cupcake, with a little fruit on top for garnish. It certainly does not have the same texture as a normal "frosting" especially with butter, cream cheese and so much sugar, but I thought it was a nice switch. The ingredients for this are really simple as well:

1 c greek yogurt
squirt of lemon juice
1 tsp of vanilla bean paste
a little less than 1/4 c caster sugar. 

Thats it! When I served it to the bebes with the little berries on top it was met with an excited and enthusiastic "Ooooooh!!". I think they might have liked the frosting more than the cake, but that seems pretty normal. I also felt better about giving them cup cakes...haha. I think next time I might try it with orange juice and almond, or what about coconut milk and lime?! The options are endless!
So, if you aren't already obsessed with greek yogurt like I am, I highly suggest you try it.

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Thanks for reading,
-K 

11.7.12

Progress

I have been know to be one of those people who looks at the learning process as a means to an end. I am only doing this or that because I want to get good enough to this or that. This whole sewing thing is no different. I have tried a couple of projects that were a bit far off for a sewing novice like myself. One of them was something along the lines of this gorgeous summer skirt, but in a simple, grey linen slub.

Yawni Tiger 
Well, I will spare you the gorey details but lets just say this linen slub and I did not get along well.  Upon my deflated consignation to failure, I found this seemingly simple tutorial. Of course, I had to make a few adjustments here and there (I always do that! Oh, just a little change here wont hurt?! Um, its called a pattern for a reason, you are supposed to follow it) because I thought I was so clever. Thankfully, an hour and a half later I had a pretty (I think) new linen skirt to wear with my favorite little yellow cardigan. I just wish I would have thought to put pockets into it.

I am so excited to get better at sewing, now that I have this under my belt, particularly my own clothes. It is so difficult for me to find clothes that really fit, and I am sure every single one of you can relate to that. Being petite poses it's own challenges, but adding on something I like to call the "cookie pouch" (yep, from various delicious cookies, and that massive baby that used to live in there) does not help in the whole "finding flattering clothes" initiative. I am rarely in jeans these days. Skirts, well, dresses more accurately, seem to be a better bang for my buck, a whole outfit vs. half. Wearing a skirt or dress everyday also just helps me feel more feminine and pretty when I am running around chasing toddlers, cleaning spitup, cooking and so on.  The only downside to wearing a dress while I am caring for the bebes is that unless the dress is a modest length, any attempt to sit on the ground and read to them or play is floundered by awkward tugging and rearranging of fabric. Add on my textile snobbery and I am in a difficult predicament. All I want are some simple, flattering and modest dresses and skirts that are made out of natural materials, and maybe have pockets for goodies, but that is a bonus. Don't get me wrong, I certainly do not want to be walking around looking like I just walked out of "Home on the Prairie", but you see how I can be so frustrated with retail.  I simply can not afford the quality or materials that I want (ahem, anthropologie, ahem), it probably doesn't fit me well anyway, and I don't even want to get started on my issues with the textile manufacturing/clothing industry evils. 

With all of that said, I understand that if I am going to really pursue this route, it is going to take a lot of effort, and a lot of change in the way I view myself, my body and how I want to present myself. I feel a bit liberated though, because if I really do commit to this, I can actually have the clothes that I think are beautiful, fit me well, and do not further marginalize already vulnerable people. 

I picked up this book last weekend, for inspiration (and the patterns that come with it). I believe it was originally released in Japan, and then translated into English. The cover photo doesn't really do the book justice, I personally think that top looks really frumpy but the really great thing is that the book includes ways that you can modify the patterns to fit and look exactly how you want. In the photo is a simple cross over top, but the variation I like makes it into a wrap dress with a three quarter length sleeve, which is very flattering on my figure. It has 8 different patterns all together, and several variations of those patterns give you plenty of options to choose from. There is even a pair of "petty coat" lounge pants made out of cotton that I think are hilarious and adorable. I also picked out some gorgeous tobacco colored cotton/linen blend, that I intend for that dress I mentioned above. I hope to get started on that this weekend, and If I have success I will share it with you immediately! What do you think? Do you find yourself having the same issues? Do you think I am a little crazy (its fine if you do, I think I am a little crazy)? 

If you have any advise for me, or can point me in the right direction as far as patterns, materials or even insight into the issues mentioned above, please comment, Id love to hear what you think. As always, thanks for reading.


-K

9.7.12

Mustardy Feather Cardigan



I finished this sweet cardigan a while back, but haven't gotten a chance to share it with you. I truly love it so much, and wear it at the first inkling of a cooler summer day. Today certainly was not cool but I had to throw it into a little photo shoot with my dear friend Aiyana who blogs at YawniTiger, just to show you! She is one of the only people who I think can take a decent photo of me, and its been wonderful to see her photography skills improve over the years. 


The pattern for this cardigan is from the genius queen of drape, Hanna Fetig and the pattern is called Feather Weight Cardigan. The only modification I made was to knit a 1x1 rib instead of the stockinette collar that was called for, Im not into the whole rolling collar thing. This color is so gorgeous and goes with my mostly neutral wardrobe. I love knitting with colors I would not usually wear for that reason exactly, it adds a little something special. The yarn I used for this was Malabrigo Sock in Ochre. Working with Malabrigo yarn is wonderful for a couple of reasons, first, they are working towards their fair trade certification, (which is so important to me) secondly, they are working towards being as environmentally conscious as possible, (read this) and thirdly it is hand dyed in small batches, no one skien is exactly the same. The pattern calls for a lighter gauge, lace weight yarn, but I am happy with the results of the sock weight, it still has a good amount of drape, and I actually still have to block it! I would love to do another one in either Loft in home made jam, or Madelinetosh TML in Tern. A dream fiber for this cardigan would be Lorna's Laces in Grand Street Ink. What do you think? 

Thanks for reading, dearest readers. 
-K 

7.7.12

Pretty and Fair: Tukula Interview & Give Away


I want to start this post of with a throw back photo from my time in Uganda, with a wonderful young woman I met and lived with while I was there. Her name is Melissa, and she was such a blessing to me in such a time of change, inspiration and healing. She is the one who gave me my first set of knitting needles, introduced me to M. Ward and one of my favorite books of all time, Walking on Water, by Madeline L'Engle. So many of my wonderful memories of Uganda involve Melissa. One of my favorites was the time we met this amazing man named Samuel, who had escaped the LRA as a child. He took us all the way out into the Northern Ugandan bush to look for a tiny village, where we would try to find Betty's grand mother, on the back of a very tiny motorcycle. That was one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring moment of my life, riding on the back of that motorcycle, going so fast through such tall grass, Melissa holding on to me and me holding on to Samuel for dear life. 


Here she is in the home of one of the ladies we worked with, rolling and sorting beads. Melissa is one of those people whose love is tangible. I could see intensity in which loved these Ugandan women by how much time she would spend simply being with them, quietly enjoying the presence of another person, having a sense of silent camaraderie. Melissa stayed in Uganda for quite some time after I left, more than a year. Her now husband, Joe, came to join her, and they were later married over looking the Nile river. She and Joe are now leading up their own endeavorers empowering Ugandan women to support themselves and their families through crafting gorgeous hand made accessories. I am so proud of what she is doing, and inspired beyond words. 



I am so excited to share with you, new readers, this Pretty and Fair post. Tukula (meaning we grow in Luganda) is a cause-driven business invested in giving local Ugandan entrepreneurs an opportunity to grow above poverty. Tukula does this by giving artisans an above average wage for quality handmade products, an encouraging work environment, medical care and access to international markets. They are then able to provide themselves and their families with homes, food, education, and hope for the future. Through working with Tukula, these ladies are gaining confidence, joy, and the opportunity to empower others. 


I would love for you to check out Tukula, their story, their gorgeous shop, and most importantly, the ladies that make the whole thing worth it. Get to know Melissa a little bit better through this little interview:


K: When did fair trade become important to you? How did that effect
your life and the way you viewed your purchasing power? 




M: Fair Trade became important to me after my first trip to Uganda in 2007. I saw people working so hard to make enough money to barely get by each month. After realizing this I started researching different groups that were making fair trade items that I would usually buy from a big chain store. I started feeling better about my purchases and hoped that this would help me be a better steward of my resources.





K: How did that evolve into starting a business empowering women in Uganda?




M: After my second trip to Uganda it really became clear to me that there was a huge need for young women to receive jobs. Especially young women who were going to school for tailoring. The tailoring market in Jinja, Uganda is completely saturated - which means recent tailoring school graduates were unable to get enough work to provide for their families let alone help them have the opportunity to grow in their work environment. I began forming relationships with these young women and their families and it was obvious that I had to do something.





K: What are your dreams for Tukula, where do you want it to go?




M: I love the small family group we have with the Ladies in Uganda I would love to grow it but to also connect other small family groups of women around the world. My dream is to work with about 40 women from different countries - connecting them with each other and also with international markets so that they can provide for themselves and their families. I get really excited when I think about Sally (tukula tailor) connecting with a lady in Thailand who may also make bags. I think connecting the consumer with the artisan who makes their product is so important but connecting artisans around the globe... I can't stop smiling about that.





K: How has developing relationships with the Tukula artisans impacted you?




M: I can't imagine life without Bennah, Esther, Sally, Susan, Lydia, and their families. They have taught me a lot about courage, determination, and joy - which I hope to pass on to others





K: Is your favorite Ugandan dish still "Small Fish".  I could not bear to eat it while I was there but I think I might enjoy it now...

M: Haha oh small fish! It definitely doesn't taste as horrible as it smells...but yes I would say that it is one of my favorite ugandan dishes as long as it is served in g-nut sauce!


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Melissa has generously giving one of those gorgeous hand made, Shami bags for grabs. I have a similar bag that a sweet Ugandan friend made for me, and I am constantly stopped and get comments on how beautiful it is. I use it as a grocery bag, a diaper bag, and a knitting project bag too! I am so jealous that I can not enter this myself! This particular bag is extra special because it is literally one of a kind, Melissa let me know that the entire shipment of the rest of the bags in this print was lost in transit, so this really is one of a kind!  


To enter:

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You must be a follower of Kalanag through GFC &/or Bloglovin.

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1. Check out the shop and come back to comment on your favorite item.
2. Like Tukula on facebook.
3. Like Kalanag on facebook. 
4. Share this give away on either Facebook or in a tweet.

Please make sure to comment with each entry. A winner will be picked at random by next Friday. Good luck! And Thanks again to Melissa and the ladies of Tukula. 

thanks for reading,
-K  





4.7.12

Happy Birthday America

Right now, about 9 pm, I have just put my little Julian to sleep pretty late. He usually goes down for the night around 7:30 or 8, but tonight, all the commotion was keeping him awake and a little frightened. Someone is blasting off what Xavier called a "potato gun", and other slightly louder "legal" explosives in the middle of the street. I don't like the idea of potatoes being wasted (come on people! lets make a soup out of those potatoes with some kale and parmesan cheese!...maybe there are actually no potatoes in this whole affair...but none the less..) and I certainly do not enjoy the idea of any sort of gun going off out side of my window. My first response is to march my little self out there and tell those hoodlums to knock it off, but on second thought, it is, after all, America's birthday, and birthdays allow for certain special bending of the rules. 


I am usually pretty cynical about the current "American Culture". there are just a few things that are common that are hard for me to justify, or understand, or even try free myself from. All the talk about health care, the war (s), retirement, education, marriage rights, the list could go on, it worries me and confuses me. I am not a political person at all, but sometimes I just wonder if the current state of our country is really what all of the founding fathers had in mind. I am not excusing myself to be ignorant of current affairs, I am just being honest. So, naturally, a day like today causes me to look inward and reflect on things that I am very thankful for, and cause me to be proud to be a native of our country. With that said, here are a few little stories with the freedom we have as Americans, to chose, as the heroine.

Celebratory red shoes

When we found out we were pregnant with Julian, we were both essentially and unexpectedly job-less. We applied for state help, and prenatal care, and got it with in days. My entire pregnancy with Julian was covered, and although the care was not the best, it was better than what we could afford, which was nothing. Julian was born in one of the top teaching hospitals in the country, safe and healthy and beautiful, again, we paid nothing. When I asked someone else who delivered there, I was astounded at the price of just the co pay. When we were finally able to get health insurance for ourselves, I realized what an incredible blessing it was to have had the help. A few months after he was born there was a special on CBS about how so many mothers and babies in developing countries that die during childbirth, they don't have a choice to go to a hospital, or to do a home birth or a water birth, or have an epidural, or nothing. They have no choice. Their only option is to give birth alone, or with a poorly educated helper. I can not even imagine how terrible of an experience that could be, giving birth alone with no help. I had the choice, and the help and my country had the means to give me that freedom to choose. Although, recently there has been much debate over the freedom of choosing to have health insurance...

A friend of my husband is an immigrant from Eastern Europe. He fled his country in a time of war and came to the States with almost nothing. In just a few short, albeit, difficult  years he has been able to learn English, gain citizenship, work to support himself and then, open a successful business. How incredible is that?! I am thankful that we are a country that opens it's heart and homes, and allows for people to try to better themselves. We can take for granted the fact that we have certain opportunities here. In the same breath I often find it hard to justify though, that so many people in certain parts of my own city are limited in those opportunities, by lack of education and other social aspects. It's a difficult thing to try to understand, but I am thankful for the choices that, at least some, can make. 

In Uganda, (and in a lot of other countries) education is extremely expensive. I'm talking about primary education, you know, reading, writing, the basics, so all of you collage students with 250,000 dollar school loans with 79% interest rates can calm down. I have heard so many tired women tell me in broken English that they work three or four  jobs to "pay school fees". If they can not afford the fees, the children are turned away, left to struggle in a cycle of poverty. Although there is much controversy over  public schools, and private schools, and charter schools and home schooling, for the most part, I can choose. We can choose to cut costs here, and there, try to make it into to an area in the city with a nice school district and send Julian to a great public school. The neighborhood just a few blocks over from us has one of the best public school districts in the city! Or, we can choose to try and save up all we have to send him to an amazing private school. I can even choose to home school him, and bring him to a co op of other home schooled children, and take him to the zoo or aquarium as a school lesson. I have the choice. Some choices may be a little more difficult, and seem unattainable, but the option is still there. That is the point. 

I do not know anyone personally who has been put in jail, or killed, for following a certain belief system, or religion, at least I can not think of anyone off the top of my head. I have read plenty of these accounts from other people in countries that I have never visited, and I can not imagine being forced to deny my own beliefs. I am so thankful that I have the freedom to choose to be a Christian, and can attend church, and meet with people in my home to pray and sing together. I am also thankful that no can legally force this same faith on anyone else, I believe that doing so would disgrace the blood that was shed for freedom in the purest sense. This is a freedom that can be easily under appreciated, and I am taking time today to be thankful. 

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In celebration of all those choices, I chose to stay in and cook all day for some of my dearest friends and my little family. The menu included pulled bbq pork (this is my husband's love language...), I picked it up from the sweet couple that own Jake's Country Meats, at the farmers market. They are always so nice and warm, and willing to explain and talk about how they treat their animals, what they feed them and important things like that. If I buy pork, I buy it from them. I used a spice rub from a local spice shop called "Milwalkee Ave" named after a street that I have used on a daily basis since I have moved to Chicago. I slow braised it in my new red, ceramic glazed dutch oven, a gift from my boss S, for my birthday. 



I used her recipe for butternut squash mac and cheese, I will be sharing it with you soon, so don't you worry. There was some home made coslaw, and sauteed kale from the back yard. The finish was supposed to be a blue berry pie, but ended up as a crumble, deliciously full of saigon cinnamon and a bit of maple, a dark rye crust, and honey whipped cream to top it off. I think I might end this post there, and go dig in the refrigerator for a second helping of that crumble. Happy 4th of July, my fellow Americans, enjoy the night, but please don't fire off anymore potato guns, and don't drink too much either. 



love always, 

1.7.12

Beat the Heat


Alright, summer, maybe you're not THAT bad. 


We took Julian to a sweet little hidden beach today. I was skeptical at first, since I am usually not a huge fan of being sandy, getting sun burnt, or watching out for questionable floating bits of mystery in the water, oh, and sharks. I hate the idea of sharks, although shark fin soup makes me really sad. I know that I live by a lake, and not an ocean...but still...


 Julian, on the other hand, is delighted with this seemingly unending bathtub. The first few steps in the water were full of trepidation, lots of hand holding and squeezing and mutterings about the temperature.  
After a few minutes he could not  be convinced to leave! He was having so much fun splashing around, digging in the sand and sitting down in the water. I had to admit to myself that maybe this whole beach thing is (maybe) alright, the coolness of the water was helping to improve my general "it's hot" moodiness. I considered buying a swim suit, and sun hat, for just a second. A couple of times, I tried to hold his little hand and he would rip it away and say "no! mama!". He wanted to be a big boy and stand in the water all by himself. Oh, dear. Im not sure if I am ready for all this independence. 


Hope your weekend was lovely as well. 
-K