Mom

Growing up I never had a very good relationship with my mother.  She was a pretty stern, no nonsense kind of mother.  I was soft and timid, so she scared me.  I learned to keep my distance from her to avoid conflict.  Well, turns out this is bad for developing any kind of relationship or really even getting to know each other.  By the time I was a teenager she started to change and tried to do better so that we could have a relationship.  I knew that she was trying, but I still had a lot of anger from so many years built up inside that I didn’t give much back.

Over the years we have slowly grown closer.  I’m trying to be myself and let her see the real me that I’ve hidden for so long for fear of judgement.  She has softened and has even opened up to me about what goes on with her.  It wasn’t until recently that I finally understood why she was the way she was.  Her mother was a full-time working mother- stern, no nonsense.  My mom was just being the kind of mother that she was taught to be (only better).

Even though she didn’t spend much time with us kids, she taught us a lot of valuable life lessons.  She taught us to take care of ourselves, how to use tools, and that a woman can accomplish anything (even traditional man’s work).  I bug her with phone calls all the time with questions about canning, cooking and fixing things and like a good mother she always has the answers.

She has come a long way.  I see her try so hard, I see how thoughtful she is and she always means well.  It’s been a long road for us, but it’s no longer a dead end.  I’m trying to forgive and forget and realize that we can keep moving forward and make up for lost time.

Mom, thank you for everything that you do and have done for me, even if I didn’t seem to care then, I do now.  I love you.

p.s. this is your mother’s day card

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Before you mow the lawn, make dinner

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Ever since I was a little girl I thought that dandelions were beautiful.  I used to tie them together to make head dresses, necklaces, and bracelets.  As an adult, I asked my husband not to mow them down so quickly.  He told me I was crazy.

This little yellow weed was our dinner the other night.  I was almost out of romaine, so I went out back and picked some dandelion leaves.  I also found a recipe for dandelion fritters.  It’s just the flower part battered and fried.  Let me tell you, from just the unmown strip between the yard and the field, I’ve got months worth of dinners!

We had a wonderful Wisconsin dinner that night.  Grass fed pork from the local food co-op, grilled and drizzled with home jarred honey, dandelion fritters, and dandelion greens topped with hard boiled eggs from my chickens.  And to wash it down, homemade lemonade that the kids helped me make.  The kids loved dinner.  When my husband came home I fed him his dinner without telling him what he was eating.  (He already thinks I’m crazy remember?)  He chowed down on the salad and instantly knew that the little bits of fried goodness came from the backyard.  He ate them though.  His favorite was the salad.  He gave me a hard time for foraging from the back yard, but in the end he thought it was pretty cool.  Thanks to Billy Joe Tatum’s Wild Foods Cookbook dinner was a success.

Note: If you want to try this, please consider that it may not be safe to eat weeds from your lawn if it’s treated with fertilizers and chemicals ;p

Family day on the river

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A day on the river is good therapy from a busy life.  My husband thought it was a good day for all of us to take the boat down to the river.  We packed some snacks, grabbed some bait and to the water we went.  It was so nice to just sit and relax with a fishing pole, staring at the water, the clouds, taking it all in.  It’s also a great learning experience for the kids.  We get to watch the eagles mend their nests, and see ducks and geese coming home from the south, landing in the water for a rest.

We stopped on the sand bar for a while and let the kids treasure hunt.  We found striped rocks, skipper rocks and clam shells.  The kids filled my pockets with their treasures and back home we went.

Of course there was a lot of work waiting for us at home, but work can wait.  This was way better.  We didn’t catch any keepers, but it was still a great day together.  Days like this are good to remind us to try to take life a little slower and enjoy it.

What’s a country girl like me doing in a Las Vegas nightclub?

Also in March, the kids and I took a drive south to visit relatives.  Then, I left the kids with my family for the weekend so that I could fly to Vegas to meet one of my best friends from childhood.  We had not spent time together in 10 years, so we had a girl’s weekend to re-connect.  It was a blast, but I was definitely out of my element.

My view from the 25th floor of the fanciest hotel I've ever stayed in

For starters we hit up a nightclub.  I’ve never been to one before.  I don’t think we even have those here.  So, in a borrowed dress, borrowed undergarments, borrowed jewelry, and the first pair of glittery shoes I’ve ever owned, I braved the club.  I’ve never felt more out of place in my life, but once I loosened up I realized that everybody else were vacationers also and nobody knows that I don’t dress in sequins and glitter all the time.  I realized that it was impossible to feel out of place because everyone is out of place!  It was a long night in platform heels and boy was I paying for it.  I’ve always said that I’m a boots or bare feet kinda girl.  I was right.  I don’t get enough chances to dress up and practice the whole high heels thing.  So, I came home from Vegas with my 2 big toes bandaged only to keep the nails from falling off in public.  I’m still nursing them back to health.

Glitter and sequins- a big change from denim and flannel

After the exhausting Vegas weekend and a couple more days with my family we made the long trip back home to Wisconsin.  We pulled a 17 hour day, anxious to get home to our cozy home, and my husband.  I was so relieved to finally exit off of the interstate only to have to travel through 4 more little towns before I could reach my town.  Finally, just before midnight as I entered my territory I was greeted by the smell of fresh manure on the fields.  Wisconsin sweet Wisconsin!

As March flew by

I know I haven’t posted in a while.  Life’s been busy and a slow internet connection out here in the boonies doesn’t help me much.  Most days I just don’t have time to sit here and watch my media slowly download… or is that upload?  I don’t know.  I’ll catch you up with things…..

Our unseasonably warm winter turned into an early spring.  2 months early.  Kinda stinks, because I like the cold and snow, but I also get excited for the garden and spring chicks.  Of course getting excited about the garden doesn’t mean planting it.  This is still Wisconsin and it could still snow, so I’m not getting too gung-ho on that stuff quite yet.  However, to celebrate our early spring we had family night outside around the campfire.  Normally our first campfire of the season would be Memorial weekend.  This is March.  So weird to be outside enjoying summer treats this early in the season.  My little boy wanted hot dogs, so we cooked our dogs and roasted marshmallows over the fire, under the stars, in March.  Family night doesn’t get much better than that.

More new stuff- I cut gluten out of my diet for certain health reasons.  I’ve been without it for 2 1/2 months now.  It was really hard because I like carbs and I’m a bread girl.  Gluten is present in wheat, barley and rye.  Due to my poor self control I have not been baking.  How can I put so much work into my food and not even be able to enjoy it myself?  My usual favorites like homemade biscuits, fresh country white bread, chicken and dumpling soup, pancakes?  I found some gluten free sorghum bread from the local food coop downtown.  It’s tollerable, but I would never make my family eat it.  Now, when I do ingest gluten I feel absolutely miserable and sick, so it’s becoming easier for me to turn it down.  I’m ready to start baking for my family again.  I did get my

My first gluten free pancake

first pancakes in about a month.  Pancakes are my little boy’s favorite, so when he requested them for dinner I cringed, knowing I couldn’t have them but they sounded so good!  So, I made the usual yummy homemade pancakes for the kids and I had gluten free cakes made with Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour.  They were actually pretty good.  Definitely different, but they didn’t taste like health food.  Easy to make too!

Gluten free pancakes

1…2…3…4…5…………

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Several months ago when my little boy was struggling with counting, I had to get creative.  Kids love treats, so why not incorporate that into learning their numbers?  I did this for my kids and they love it and call it ‘the candy game.’  We do it every once in a while to make sure that they retain what they’ve learned and can also start learning to count higher.

goodies in egg cartons

All you need is a muffin tin, egg carton or ice cube tray.  Fill half of the compartments with little treats.  Use whatever you have on hand like mini marshmallows, raisins, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.  Count different amounts of each treat into the tray.  The kids have to count the treats into the next compartment and when they count it correctly they get to eat it.  Then they move on to the next treat with a higher count.  The kids love it even though they’re actually getting more than just candy.

Valentine’s Day

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I always used to get hyped up for V-day.  Go shopping for cheesy v-day gifts, Get girlied up, go out for a nice dinner….that was before kids.  Now it just seems like all that stuff doesn’t matter.  I can’t stand the commercialization of it all.  They basically make it a woman’s holiday, implying that if a man doesn’t buy his girl jewelry, flowers or chocolates he’ll be in the dog house.  I don’t want that stuff because a holiday made him think he had to, I’d want it because he wanted to give it on his own.  He’s lucky I’m not a jewelry and roses kind of girl anyway (although the chocolates wouldn’t be bad)  I’m more practical and would rather just have the time together more than anything.  We love each other all year round and don’t  need a holiday to remind us.  I do still think that Valentine’s Day is fun, but shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

My little boy was having his first valentine exchange at school and needed 21 valentines.  Of course, we used what we already had around the house and made them.  I figured all the other kids would show up with store bought, tear apart, licensed character valentines, but we weren’t planning a trip to the store and it was good for my little boy to take pride in something that he took the time and effort to do himself.  Since 21 cards is a lot for a 4 yr old, I helped by cutting the cards and the hearts.  He glued on the heart and centered it quite nicely, then used his rubber stamp set and put an animal on the heart, colored it in and signed his name on the inside.  I had these mini paper bags in the closet perfect for the cards.  He put in the card, added a sucker, stamped the bag and that’s it.  He made 4 more for his cousins, grandpa and himself.  That’s 25 valentines in all!  That’s a lot for a 4 yr old to do himself.  I was so proud of him and he was so proud of himself.

His name is scrambled but he got all the right letters!

When he came home from school he had a bag full of valentines and candy which we dumped out on the carpet, which of course excited his little sister.  I asked if he could share a piece of candy with her and he started grabbing candy and stickers, throwing them at her saying “You can have this one, you can have this one and this and this and this…”  He gave away at least half of his stash!  I was once again so proud of him.  That is one thing that I have always loved about my kids is that they are always willing to share like that.  You can pick the best, biggest candy bar from their halloween bucket and they would let you have it.  If they have fruit snacks and you ask for the last one in the pouch they would give it to you.  I have always praised them for their sharing so they have learned how good it is on their part.  I love them for their sweetness.

We ended Valentine’s Day with a special dinner.  My husband and I, the kids and finger food.  I made mini heart shaped pancakes ( a baster works awesome for squirting the pancake batter into shapes) and we dipped them in real maple syrup.  That was our fancy V-day date!

What would you do without Mom? part 3

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The main priority while my mom was here was to finish off the living room.  Last spring my husband, brother and I decided to rip out all of the old lathe and plaster and put up sheetrock.  Well, we got that much done, but all this time it has been sitting without trim.  No baseboard- exposing insulation, no window & door casing or trim, and our beautiful tin ceiling with crown moulding was still disconnected from the wall.

My mom did all measuring and cutting while I nailed things into place.  (I got the easy job)  We anchored down the crown moulding which wasn’t as easy as we thought it was going to be.  (Nothing ever is)  My husband was more than willing to do the painstaking job of flattening out the metal and driving a bunch more tiny nails to finish it off.  Here you can see how beautiful the original tin ceiling is and understand why we wouldn’t consider tearing it out.My mom did a great job on the windows.  Of course I had to make it more difficult by requesting deep window sills, which she carefully measured, cut and notched just right.  I just think the little details like these look good in old houses, even though it’s nothing but simple 1″ boards.

I got a pair of wood blinds from a garage sale for $10, which have been waiting for 2 years to go on these windows.  Here I have installed one set, which are a perfect fit.  The dark wood is a nice contrast to the painted windows.Today I cut the quarter round to be added to the baseboard.  All the nail holes have been puttied, everything touched up with paint, and it’s almost done.  Final pics will be coming soon once the room is put back together.  I’m not gonna lie-this place looks like a tornado blew through it.  But, it’s getting better, one little bit at a time.

p.s.  The cubby lockers are almost finished.  I just need a few more scrap boards and some vintage coat hooks.  Pics coming soon!

What would you do without Mom? part 2

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I’ve had it in my head for over a year now to make storage lockers for the entry way.  I realized that my two hands weren’t going to get them up very quickly if at all.  Once again, mom to the rescue.  On her last night here we stayed up until 1:00 am to get them started.  We got the difficult, heavy part done.  Finishing them off and adding shelves I can do on my own.  Thanks mom for the help.  I wouldn’t have these for a long, long time yet if it weren’t for her!

Here they are started.  We used old paneled doors which my mom cut lengthwise down the middle.  I found a couple of them here on the property that used to be in the house.  One of the doors I purchased at a thrift sale years ago for $5 which was a headboard in our first rental house.  The doors remind me of the conveyer full of doors in that movie Monster’s Inc.  I was originally planning to paint everything one color, but I thought the doors look kind of neat leaving them as they were.  There’s more character and the colors are soft enough I don’t think it will be too busy. 

We opted to leave the doorknobs on and arranged the doors so that each cubby has a knob to hang stuff on.

What would you do without Mom?

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Recently my mom came to Wisconsin for a week-long visit.  She got cheap tickets and thought it the perfect opportunity to help us with our unfinished renovations.  Due to my husband’s busy, growing business he has little time at home.  When he is home he is consumed by outdoor work-fixing up the garage, maintaining vehicles and making wood.  Luckily my mom has quite a bit of experience in home DIY and she and I work well together.  We both know how to use power tools and we don’t mind the piddly, details.

I felt bad that we had little progress since her last visit due to busy lives, little kids, and not enough hands.  I was really feeling overwhelmed with everything that had to be done and of course the house was a wreck with unfinished projects.  So many of our possessions don’t really have a home yet and it’s a chain reaction.  Old farmhouses weren’t built with much storage or closets, so that’s been a big priority is making organized storage wherever we can.

last year we re-routed our steep, unsafe farmhouse stairs and were left with space underneath.  I can’t have any wasted space, so it became a little playhouse for the kids.  This is one thing my mom was able to help me finish off.  We added a little shelf for toys and trimmed out the corners with scrap moulding from the bargain building supply center.

My kids love it!  Now they have a place to play ‘kitchen’ and store some toys that don’t fit in the cupboard.

I will keep posting my progress as I finish up projects.  My mom helped to get most of the big stuff done while she was here, now I just have the finishing touches to put on things before they are considered completely done.

Cupcakes!

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Remember those cute star crayons that we made the other day?  Here they adorn the cupcakes made for my little boy to take to his classmates for his half-birthday.  For health reasons I wrapped the stars in cling wrap (since the crayons were used)I made homemade German chocolate cupcakes baked in ice cream cones.  Cream cheese frosting and a star on top!

How did I think of something like this for a birthday treat?  Whenever there is a birthday in my little boy’s class, he comes home with a stained mouth from the over dyed frosting and a plastic birthday ring used as decoration on the cupcakes.  By the end of the year he’ll probably have 15 of those same rings that are destined to be nothing more than garbage.  Hence, coming up with usable decoration.  This way he’s not the weird kid with the boring cupcakes.

Oh My Stars!

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If you have kids, you probably have several years worth of broken crayons. 
Let the kids help peel the papers off and get ready to turn them into something new.  We used a silicone baking mold with star shapes.  I found the best way to get good color mixes was to put the crayon pieces directly in the mold, then melt in the oven.  We put an even amount of pieces in each mold to make sure each star was similar thickness.  This is a good opportunity for the kids to count and sort colors.

melting

If you want one color stars, just melt similar color crayons in jars and pour the melted wax into the mold.

Cool, pop out of the mold and smooth the edges with your fingers or a piece of paper.We made something new from something old.  We are going to use these stars as decorations/favors on top of birthday cupcakes for my son’s class.  They will also make great gift sets for other little birthday boys & girls .

Too Much!

Now days we seem to think that babies and kids need so much stuff.  We need onesies, sleepers, piles of tiny little socks, extra pants shirts and sweaters, just in case a dozen of each isn’t enough.  Not to mention the toys, bouncers, bottles and bibs.

I keep my kids’ baby clothes stored in totes by size just in case I need them again.  It was time to sort through the pile again of my kids’ outgrown clothes and a few stray maternity items.  This is the ridiculous mess in the guest room that took me days to fold and sort.  This is maternity on up to 3T.  I cannot believe how many clothes these children have acquired.  I realize that we don’t need everything, so I tried to pull out the unnecessary items as I went.Here is something that I found to help me out since this past summer- Since my kids are past the spitting up and exploding diapers, I figure we can do with less outfits.  I went through their current size clothes and only kept the favorites.  It made for less to make room for in their closet and a smaller laundry pile.  I do laundry more often with less outfits, but things get better use and the laundry pile doesn’t turn into a laundry mountain any more.  This is one of the best things I’ve done to make this busy house less chaotic.  Simplify!

Paint, fabric, dirt & fun

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We had several birthdays in the family last week and needed some fun gifts.  As usual, I rummaged through the house for whatever I could find and the kids and I got crackin’ making gifts.  By the end of the day my dining room table was covered with paint, fabric and dirt.  What a great combination.

For my 2 year old neice I made a tu-tu from $4 worth of tulle netting and some elastic I already had.  She also got a fabric dog bone for when she pretends to be a puppy.  I made dog bones like this for my kids last Christmas and they were a big hit.  Every little kid loves to play puppy and these bones can get washed when needed.  Made from scrap fabric.To top it off I dug some scrap felt from the costume bin and made a crown.  I added elastic to the back to adjust for head size, then embellished it with vintage rickrack and buttons.  I was hoping these things could be multi-purpose for make-believe play, parties and costumes.  Better yet, none of it contains cheap plastic parts or any packaging.While I sewed at one end of the table, the kids were at the other end making a special gift for their Aunt Macky.  We found some pots in the shed, washed them up and the kids painted them.  When the paint dried we dug a couple of shoots from my aloe plant and they each planted one in their pots.  Aunt Macky loves plants and of course appreciates their hard work and thought.What a great day!  We made our gifts, the kids colored their own greeting cards, then into the bath to wash off the paint, markers and dirt.  We were together, the kids stayed busy and we had fun.