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Oh how frustrating… I had written about 2/3 of my post when I tried to insert a photo and WordPress locked up, making me have to close my browser, losing everything! Argh. Let’s try this again, without the oops.

Things got a bit out of hand before the trip to Chicago. I haven’t written anything in a while, because I was swamped. Such is my life, what else is new? But now that university is done for the summer, and college will be finishing on Saturday (YAY!), I should have more time on my hands. Time to organize, time to clean, time to knit, time to spin, time to cook, time to consider, time to connect, time to share, time to stop, and time to breathe. I’m looking forward to just being able to sit back and enjoy, or get my hands dirty, or whatever we feel like doing!

On June 27th, the kids and I packed up the car and headed for Chicago. We had a fantastic time! We went to the zoo, we swam (they swam), we cooked (I cooked), we rode trains, we rode bikes, we walked, we saw family and friends, we missed others (sorry!), we got to attend a lovely service at Rob’s mom’s temple (BJBE in Deerfield, IL), we shopped, we laughed and we enjoyed each others’ company immensely. My daughter proved herself to be fearless, and my son proved to be adept at juggling. Rob’s freezer is now full to bursting with chili, spaghetti sauce, seafood rosee sauce and lasagna. His cupboard is packed with cherry jam. This makes him happy, because it makes cooking real food easier and makes eating healthier a bit more likely. We came home with tans and mosquito bites and clothes for the school year. We were miraculously spared from any of the tornadoes that visited both homes (Rob’s and ours). The only sour spot to the trip was the little bit of heartbreak that always comes with saying goodbye and heading home. It gets harder and harder as time goes by, but we look forward to a day when we won’t have to anymore.

I did get some knitting done as well. The French Cancan shawl by Mademoiselle C is finished! Well, the ends are woven in. It hasn’t been blocked yet. I made it in time for the Summer Shawl KAL/CAL we had going on at Two Tangled Skeins! I’m so psyched with this pattern – I love it! I can see now how my friend Krystal has managed to knit five of these. It’s addictive! Once you get out of the garter-stitch hell portion, anyway. Two of my friends have had babies since I last wrote, so now I need to get moving on the baby blanket front. I also need to produce a few sweaters for babies I missed!

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Before I left for Chicago, I managed to finish the “54” hat by Julie Mellor that had been on my needles since just before Stitches Midwest last year. I kind of misplaced the hat for a while, and recently found it, so it got finished too. The trick now is going to be if I can pick up Zachary’s Flax sweater by Tincan Knits without having to rip back to figure out where I am!

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Just before I left, I visited the Orleans Fruit Farm and picked up four gallon baskets of strawberries! I knew I wasn’t going to have time to make that much jam, so we headed to my mom’s house with some large Ziploc freezer bags in hand, and processed them all. With the bounty from my mom’s rhubarb patch, we managed to prepare enough fruit for three batches of strawberry-rhubarb jam and four batches of whatever other strawberry jam catches my fancy – I want to make at least one batch of strawberry balsamic jam, and we found a little shop in Kenosha called Elsie Mae’s Canning and Pies that had strawberry mojito jam! I want to try my hand at that one too. That means I have seven bags of prepped strawberries in my freezer, ready to go now that I’m home and have a bit more time. I did miss out on getting any Pomona’s pectin while I was stateside, but I’m still hoping I can get my hands on some at home. (AND BONUS! I just found out that Herb and Spice, a local health food store, carries it! Ottawa canning friends, take note!)

This weekend’s plan is to go raspberry picking at the fruit farm, if they’re out yet. I’ve always wanted to take my kids berry-picking, and never done it. My fondest memories as a child involved trekking into the woods at the farm to pick raspberries, choke cherries, currants, blackberries and blueberries! We did find a small patch of wild raspberries while walking around Lake Andrea last week, but we only grabbed a couple, since they weren’t quite ripe and we wanted to leave some for other walkers.

One of our outings early in the trip was to the Milwaukee County Zoo. I’m always torn when I visit a zoo. On the one hand, I love seeing the animals up close, and photographing them. The Milwaukee zoo has the added advantage that they have a narrow-gauge railroad that goes in a big loop around the zoo (Rob’s a train fanatic). On the other hand, the animals are in cramped quarters and can’t possibly be as happy as they would in the wild. We saw some big cats that were just pacing in their enclosures, over and over again, and looked miserable. The elephants looked downright depressed. I can’t reconcile the joy people get from visiting the animals with the misery the animals endure for our privilege. It’s a paradox I’m not sure how to resolve. And I feel both happiness and guilt when I leave. My daughter, however, had some grand adventures at the zoo. I have to admit, I would not have been so brave. She went zip-lining, which involved climbing a rather imposing wood-and-rope structure with not much more than a tether for security, and whizzing over the heads of all the zoo patrons below. She also rode a camel!!! The camel was kind of amazing. Dude POSED for us when they walked by so we could get a picture of him. I’m not kidding…. he stopped, turned his head, and I swear he smiled, and then held that pose so I could get a picture.

IMG_4194 IMG_4223IMG_4224And that’s what we did on our summer vacation… 😉

 

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