Sappy Days

So, you may have noticed that Knut likes to cross country ski.  The owners of the local ski gaard have become good friends, and as the snow is gone, they’ve been collecting sap in their woods for the year.  We brought the kids out there once before in a non-snowy season, not for sap collecting, but for hot pancakes and fresh syrup cooking over a fire in the woods.  That was a couple of years ago.  

Well, they were wondering if our kids would like to help them collect sap one day.  This is by no means their “sap collecting day” as they collect sap daily over quite a period.  It was just a good day on the weekend for the kids to come.  Another ski family who are our friends were coming out, and we thought we’d roast some hot dogs over a fire when we were done.

The kids loved seeing all of their favorite trails without snow.  It was strange to them to see their favorite woods naked like that, but the ski trails made for a wide path for us to follow, and the kids knew where they were, only everything looked very different.

Ingrid kept asking Daddy to “open the tree” so she could get the syrup.

I had remembered from a trip to the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center that some insects lay their eggs on the back of leaves in the fall, and I started searching around the dried leaves to find some to show to the kids as the collection took place.

I didn’t find any insect eggs, but I did lift up a leaf and see some green.  It’s the first green I’ve seen growing out of the ground this year, and I called all the kids over and they all jumped up and down.  Green.  Spring is indeed here.

The sap will be boiled for about 40 hours they said.  Our day’s collection as seen above will boil down to 1 gallon of maple syrup.  We each got to taste the sap, and it was lightly sweet and surprisingly refreshing.

A good time was had by all.


These boys make me smile.  Especially when they are like this.  The other day, David rushed to finish his schoolwork so that he could go ski with Elias in the yard before Elias’ nap time.  He helped Elias get on his snow pants and skis and off they went.

This is Elias’ first year of “real skiing” as last year he just got the skis on, and Knut had to hold/drag him along.  He wants so badly to keep up with David, who skis like a fish swims.  David has been giving him “lessons” and teaching him tricks of keeping his balance.

Then David got it in his head that they needed to shovel the driveway for Daddy while he was at work.  They’re learning that the more they help out, the more time we have to play with them.

Elias shouted to David that he needed his skis off to shovel, and David ran to his rescue.

David got to work…

And Elias found a hill to climb instead.

It was good fun.  I love these boys so much.  They are growing up crazy-fast.

Slide Show of Real and Pretend

Over the weekend, I got a few good pictures, but unfortunately there were many I missed.  The ones I feel most badly about missing were the ones that I wanted to take while we were driving, but to stop the car would have easily woken Solveig at a time when I really, really wanted her to sleep.  So I’ll fill in the blanks with the ones that are not here, and try your best to imagine them.

Picture #1: Amish buggy.  Knut wanted to go off our normal route in typical spontaneous fashion.  We took some winding southern roads, and went through some very small Amish areas.  I’ve always wanted to go to Pennsylvania to see some of the “touristy” Amish sights there such as quilts.  I didn’t realize, though, that Knut was driving me through a small Amish area of our own state until we had to drive around a horse and buggy that was all boarded up tight to keep the wind out in winter.    I nearly jumped out of my skin and it was a small thrill for me.

Picture #2: Old men at garage.  I was too shy to take their pictures, but I thought these guys were a hoot.  Our car broke down about 3 hours into our 5 hour trip.  After we stopped for lunch, our van wouldn’t start.  Well, it fired, turned over, and then died…over and over again.  So Knut called a couple of mechanics upon recommendation of the fine Dairy Queen staff and finally found one with time to look at our car just then. 

An old guy came to tow us behind his truck, and we were brought into this nice little garage.  There, 3 guys who have probably worked together for 30 years looked over our van while communicating to each other with little more than grunts and occasional yells to start or stop the engine.  They took turns staring at the car with folded arms resting on their bellies and grunted at each other some more. 

One took rolled under the van and they repeated the whole grunting/yelling symphony, until he emerged saying it was the fuel pump.  I asked how he knew and he said he felt all the different parts of the fuel line from beginning to end, and that was the part that felt off.  Surprisingly, I trusted that guys feel for what was wrong way more than any computer.  I like guys who figure it out old school.  Here they started the van, and the whole thing was vibrating and he knew what each part should vibrate like, and that one was vibrating incorrectly.  I’m just going to take a moment and acknowledge that dying art form.

Most likely because Solveig flashed her serious blue eyes at them, they pushed aside all other projects and worked on our van so we could get on our way right away. 

#3 The Finish Line:

The Birkie finish line is quite a sight.  (Pardon my dirty lens.)  They move snow in to fill up the whole street of downtown Hayward, WI and people line up on the sidewalks and crowd and push against the fence holding them back.  To the right of the picture, you see the guy in red is skiing the “classic” style.  Think “Nordic Track.”  (That’s not Knut.)  There are 2 tracks set up on the finish line for those skiing the race the classic style.  To the left of the picture is where the “skate” skiers come.  This looks a lot like ice skating or roller-blading with skis on.  Their surface is smooth and packed.  (That’s not Knut either.)

This wasn’t the winners, this was just some skiers finishing.  The race is big…about 10,000 skiers in these combined techniques.  The skate technique is much more popular, probably because it’s faster.  Sometimes the finishers would come in bunches, and sometimes they would come in by themselves.  Regardless, they finish with a crowd yelling and waving their cow bells loudly.

Knut didn’t do nearly as well as last year.  He thinks that besides hardly having any training time because of our lack of snow, his skis’ wax was a bit off.  Waxing skis is a fine art, it seems.  He was heavier this year than last year too (which might relate to his lack of training time) and so the range of his kick wax was probably off.  Most of you have no idea what that means, but just nod your head and move on…

Knut wanted to finish within 3 hours, but said he probably wouldn’t.  Just in case, Solveig and I arrived at the finish line 2:45 minutes after his wave started.  He ended up having a finishing time of 3 hours and 48 minutes, so we were waiting for awhile.  I was chit-chatting with the people around me, and one grandma shared her doughnut with Solveig.  Like I said, she gets people to do stuff.

So the lady next to me was laughing when I finally saw Knut come up, Solveig was holding onto the strap of my camera and I couldn’t get it lifted up enough to bring it to my eye, so I just blindly shot at him as [the lady next to me] yelled “You’re just taking pictures of his butt!!”

Actually, I got one decent one.

Picture #4:

He’s “double poling” at the end, which is an enormous ab workout and tough to do when you’re exhausted.  It’s like his one last sprint.

This is my 3rd year of not missing seeing him at the finish line, which Knut is pretty impressed with because you have to be staring the whole time and not wandering off into the little bakeries and Nordic gift shops lining downtown. 

Last year, which was one of the coldest years ever for the Birkie, I remember saying to the lady next to me, “Well, that old guy has the same racing suit as my husband!”  It turned out that the “old guy” was actually Knut with ice trailing from his goatee a few inches. 

This year it wasn’t quite as long.
Picture #5:

I will say, he did feel much better after the race this year because last year he forgot his sport drink solution at home along with his “gu” they call it.  He picked up what he could the night before the race last year, but you can imagine what selection was left at the one ski shop in town with 10,000 skiers picking up last minute forgotten items at home.  The look on his face last year scared me, and the nurses at the finish line gave him several looks before they sent him to the soup tent to rest.  This year he did not make that mistake and his face looked invigorated and alive at the finish line.

So I’m going to be really mean and not show you the pictures of yarn that I bought just after the Birkie on our way back to the cabin.  Solveig had fallen asleep in the van, so Knut decided to take a little nap as well as I shopped around.  There are very few yarn shops I go to, but the one just by the race is a favorite, and I’m actually getting to know the ladies in there.  I guess I just talk to much about yarn.

Picture #6: Ice houses on Mill Lacs Lake.  It’s a huge lake we passed on the way home the next day.  It was snowing and the whole sky was white, and the whole lake was white, and there were little boxes of ice huts all across the lake.  It was the most amazing sight, and I wish I would have pulled over to capture it.  (Again, Solveig sleeping issue.) 

It would have been a picture of solid white, with the only way to tell where the horizon was was those little black boxes in the middle filled with, I’m sure, grumpy old men watching their little televisions and drinking beer around their little holes cut into the lake, and just waiting for the little flag to go up to say they caught a fish.  As you might guess, the concept of ice fishing amuses me.

Picture #7: Also around that big lake, we drove past a race in action.  This was an actual track set up on the lake for race cars.  The cars were racing on the ice, spinning and fish tailing like crazy with a crowd cheering on.  O, the things we do to amuse ourselves in the winter.

And for good measure, here’s the little girl who tagged along for the whole thing.
Picture #8:

Oh my…those cheeks!

Yarn Along

At the risk of being redundant, here I go.  I love this book that Silje and I are reading and I’m sneaking ahead at night after she goes to bed…again.  It brings me back to when I was a little girl and used to write chapters of novels and dream of getting published.  (The story is about a little girl who is a writer and wants to publish a book.)  I’m loving it.  Silje’s liking it.  I think in about a year or two she’ll love it.

Since our deal is that she cannot read a designated school book until it is assigned to her, and of course once we’re done with it it’s free game, I’m sure she’ll read it many more times.  At this point she re-reads her assigned books about 3 times after we’re done.  Some more, some less.

I got the variation to the Little Pearl Vest done.  It’s just a little sampler fair isle on the body.  I made it a size too big for Solveig, but let her wear it to church last Sunday even though the shoulders were big.  Actually, after considering the “flair” in the shoulders as the size goes up, I’m adjusting my pattern slightly in the increase area so it will be more hugging the shoulders and less flaring, and am checking my adjustments with a vest for Silje.  I haven’t made anything for her in awhile. 

The yarn I’m using for Silje’s Little Pearl Vest is actually from a project I’ve been meaning to frog for awhile, but haven’t had a chance.  So without the messy winding up the yarn business, I’m just knitting straight from the unraveling sweater on the left.

I’ve hit a bit of a wall when it comes to designing.  I finished the editing for the Buttercup pattern, and that got sent out to the testers.  I have one more edit, and as I faced this next pattern for Little Pearl coming up, I went ahead and got a tech editor so the stress about checking my numbers 15 times for each size would fall off my shoulders.

Although I feel very professional getting a tech editor for my patterns, and I am relieved that I have the necessary help for them, I find I’m still coming up against a hard place when it comes to designing.  It’s not that I don’t have more ideas.  It’s that figuring out how to execute each idea requires so much measuring and planning and math, math, math, math.

I was talking to Knut about it the other night.  I love designing patterns.  I feel so creative and it gets my brain going and I think it’s so important that as adults we continue to learn and think and not just coast for years on end.  I was wondering out loud why on earth I’m making myself do something so difficult?  Maybe it’s easier for other designers (although I doubt it).

Still there’s that little voice inside me wondering if I’m cut out for it.  I wonder if I’m just wasting my time.  If I could even describe the butterflies I get in my stomach when I’m getting near the end of a pattern.  I have 3 new patterns that will be done by the end of this month if all goes well!  That’s a lot of butterflies.  What if they’re bad?  What if I start getting floods of emails telling me the patterns don’t make any sense, they came out the wrong size, I wasted their time and money…etc.

Knut lovingly told me that #1: if anyone should be stressed it should be him.  His biggest cross country ski race of the year is this weekend. I did note that. 😉  #2: Don’t quit something because it’s hard.  Maybe it’s fine to quit if it’s best for the family.  Maybe it’s fine to quit if you hate it.  Sometimes you quit if you feel no desire for it or you have no time to give to it.  It’s not fine to quit because it’s hard.  If it’s hard, it’s worth doing.  He encouraged me to show my kids what following a dream looks like.  I shouldn’t stop because it’s scary or because the work is hard. 

He’s right.  We try to tell our kids not to be afraid of hard work.  O, I love my husband.  He never ever thinks my dreams are stupid.  I hope I can always do the same for him.  I’m looking forward to be standing at the finish line this weekend with my cow bell ringing loudly as he finishes this 50 kilometer race for his 3rd year.  He’s earned his spot into wave 1 (out of 8 waves of starters in the classic style) this year, so he’ll get to be right behind the elites.  It’s a massive race with thousands of skiers.  At that point it won’t matter that he’s barely had snow to train in…he’ll be skiing with the fast people so he’ll have to go fast.