Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Christmas isn't the same every year, but over the last 12 winters that hubby and I have shared, some patterns and traditions have emerged.  There's always lots of family and sugary sweets.  Below we are sharing some of memories and traditions.

    The weekend after Thanksgiving is our big Christmas season kickoff.  We start playing Christmas tunes in the car, in the house, outside... wherever we are.  We also head to Silveyville Christmas tree farm.  Sometimes the day after Thanksgiving, sometimes a few days later.  We sip hot apple cider, eat popcorn by the outdoor fireplace, ride in Santa's sleigh, take photos under the measuring stick and of course, pick out a beautiful Christmas tree (usually for my parents).  There is even an adorable "Charlie Brown Lot" filled with small, but still perfectly awesome trees.
    We have a large extended family spread not only across California, but in several other states including Nevada.  Each year that we spend Christmas at home, we make a trip to Reno beforehand to visit family, play in the snow, go sledding and bake cookies.  Nana Shirley always makes sure the kids have fun new Christmas Eve jammies and Grandpa helps the kids gather fresh snow for slushies (but never the yellow stuff).
    Under the tree we keep a box of Christmas books. When mommy reads the Christmas Story to the kids, we talk about how little they had and how special it was to have the three wise men bring gifts. We also talk about how fortunate we are and how some kids don't get any gifts. Just as baby Jesus received three gifts when he was born, we have limited the kids gifts to three from Mommy & Daddy and three from Santa Claus. This really helps us from going overboard, both in the number of gifts and in finances.
    But of course the kids like to buy gifts too.  We take them to buy one gift for each sibling and one for each parent.  The Davis Art Center has an awesome weekend-long craft show with a Children's Store.  No adults allowed!  Each child is escorted by their own helper that keeps track of the list and makes sure the kids spend within their budget.  They have so much fun and love having something to put under the tree that is a secret from mommy and daddy.
    You simply can't talk about Christmas without talking about all the movies!  My dad is all about "N.L. Christmas Vacation" and "Elf", stepdad is a fan of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" and hubby loves some old school claymation like "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer."  I am particular to "It's a Wonderful Life", but my kids would rather watch animated specials.  "Harry Potter", "The Santa Clause" (with Tim Allen) and "The Polar Express" are all magical movies that we watch as a family during this season.  We all agree that The Polar Express is not only an awesome book and movie, but if you can get a real life Polar Express experience on a train, that can hardly be beat!
    All of this leads up to Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.  The Christmas Eve service at church is always packed - with people who regularly attend, people visiting from out of town, people looking for meaning during the holidays.  Children rarely sit still and listen and sometimes run around (um... particularly my social butterflies!).  It is always beautiful and friendly and capping the service off with Silent Night sung in the candlelight is amazing.  After church we always rush to Uncle Bud's house because who wants to be late when Aunt Maria is cooking paella?!  The chicken and rice are tender, the garlic fought over and the octopus make the kids laugh.  The food and company are wonderful and we look forward to the after dinner gift exchange.  It might be secret santa this year or maybe a story where you pass gifts left to right a million times or maybe you're stealing the present from under grandma's nose, hoping no one steals it back, but its always hilarious.
    Christmas Day arrives and we are dashing out the door for breakfast at my brother-in-laws.  The kids are probably tired from being up too late at the gift exchange, sleeping in the living room and waking to find Santa has visited the house, but you wouldn't know it with all their energy.  They run and jump, talk and shout, giggle and play.  We're off to Nana and Papa's house now and Christmas dinner is a blur with cousins and aunts and uncles.  With 11 kids under age 15, it's like a scene from Whoville with all the noise, noise, noise!  When we put the kids in the car at the end of the evening, they are sure to fall asleep, so mommy puts their jammies on while daddy loads presents in the car.
This year we are celebrating Christmas at the farm, just the six of us.  We've watched Polar Express, baked cookies, made candy, played in the snow and decorated the tree just like in Christmases past.  But with snow coming again this evening and hubby working his first ever Christmas Eve, we won't be singing in church tonight and we won't be rushing to get the best serving of paella.  In the morning we will be eating coffee cake just like Aunt Mia makes, at our little formica table looking out at the fields covered in snow.  We will open presents and listen to Christmas tunes, but will there be all that noise, noise, noise?  (Well actually, probably since my kids are soooooo loud!).  We will bake a ham and mash some potatoes, we will eat chocolate pie, but most of all we will miss our friends and family!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thanksgiving Recap

Thanksgiving was bittersweet this year.  Although we spent much of the week sick, we were grateful that my mom, stepdad and youngest brother and sister were here.  We had fun playing card games and board games.  The kids made snowballs and forts.  Us moms made pies while the dads braved the freezing temperatures to check out the siding project that was temporarily on hold.  And we celebrated Sean's third birthday with the neighbors.

Turkey being injected

On Thanksgiving day, two turkeys were stuffed and injected, sweet potatoes and green beans baked, rolls toasted and cranberries boiled.  It was during these preparations that a landmine, as a friend of mine calls them, exploded (don't worry, small explosion!).  Landmines are these thoughts, emotions and memories that sneak out of seemingly nowhere, relating to the loss of a loved one.  While putting together casseroles, I had a tiny thought that crept into my head as I realized that this was the first thanksgiving we spent on the farm since Grandma's last thanksgiving.  

In 2006, after grandma had finished her chemo and was temporarily a little healthier, we flew back to Iowa with my sister, niece, nephew and (at the time, only) daughter.  We visited family, explored the farm with the kiddos, cooked yummy food and took family photos.  It was also the last time I saw my grandma.

Thanksgiving 2006

But at the forefront of my mind this year, is that it had just been a year since Grandpa was gone, and for my cousin's family who joined us for dinner, just several weeks since the passing of his daughter.  These losses were evident and raw.  Not an unexpected landmine waiting in an old recipe card.  So, even though we have countless blessings to be thankful for, sometimes the holidays are just bittersweet. 

Yep, there's kids somewhere under that blanket fort

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Holiday Gifts

There has not been a holiday season that hubby and I haven't spent hours in the kitchen making goodies to give as Christmas gifts.  We've made jams and jellies, apple butter, English toffee, fudge, truffles and pies. Our handiwork doesn't stop at the kitchen though.  I've been known to pull out the sewing machine, stay up late cropping photos for scrapbooks or going to bed with paint under my nails.  Hubby, ever the good sport in my crafting adventures, has spent lunch hours and early mornings drilling and nailing, measuring and cutting, gluing and painting along my side.

When it comes to holidays though, sometimes you just have to buy some gifts.  Don't get me wrong, I love shopping.  I even love that crazy, chaotic energy in the mall right before Christmas.  Everything is decorated with twinkling lights, colorful trees and snowflakes.  Cheerful music plays in every store and the weather is perfect for a peppermint hot cocoa. 

This year, I am encouraging you to rethink your holiday shopping.  Sure, head to the mall for that crazy chaotic rush and that photo with Santa if you want.  But instead of spending money at those big box stores, try supporting a local farmer, an unknown artist or a small business.  We're hoping to be one of those local farmers at the market next year...

  1. Society 6  The images on Society 6 are created by thousands of artists across the globe.  You can buy prints, iphone covers, pillows, notecards and more. 
  2. Etsy  Etsy is a marketplace where 30 million people connect to buy and sell handmade and vintage items or craft supplies.  I have made some pretty awesome purchases on Etsy.  For example, a set of four handmade wooden guitar picks - each carved from a different type of wood.   
  3. The Grommet  The Grommet is a product launch platform, which means they find awesome new products that you haven't heard of and gives them a chance to succeed.  They promote businesses built on strong values, with a story to share.
  4. The Davis Farmers Market  In 2008 the Davis Farmers Market was voted #1 large market during an American Farmland Trust competition.  The Davis Farmers Market regularly boasts upwards of 60 vendors any given Saturday morning or Wednesday afternoon.  You can buy local honey, nuts, produce and beef or handmade blankets, baby clothes and candles.  While shopping at this market isn't an option for all, you can find a farmers market close to you here 
  5. Persnickety Prints When I finally gave into digital photography, I tested all the popular websites for printing my photos.  I was relatively happy with Shutterfly, until I discovered Persnickety Prints.  The shop is located in Utah, but you can order prints online from anywhere.  They use actual photo sensitive paper and chemicals instead of ink printed on paper.  The quality is amazing and the prices are really reasonable.  Plus they have a huge range of sizes and papers.  I had a landscape photo enlarged and then I framed it for my step-mom two Christmases ago.  It was beautiful.
  6. People you know and follow (your friends, your family, bloggers, yourself).  Who better to support than someone you love?  Are there bloggers you follow that are graphic designers, crafters or bakers?  Chances are they have shops linked to their blog or an etsy store of their own. Your money will be supporting a real person, not a corporation, and you will have purchased a unique, handmade gift.
  7. Downtown.  If you live in a city with a downtown, there are bound to be some local small businesses like family owned restaurants, clothing stores, art galleries and toy stores.  Local shops are neat in that they offer products that are not mainstream.  You know that if you buy your niece that awesome t-shirt, twenty other girls won't have received the same one for Christmas this year, as may happen when buying at a big box store.  Many local shops also offer gift certificates.  This is like two gifts in one!  The receiver gets to have a special shopping experience and pick out something they want.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Movie Night

Moving to Iowa gave me the opportunity to go from a working-outside-the-home mom to a working-at-home mom.  (By the way, I'm pretty sure staying home with the kiddos, even without trying to restore the farm, is way harder than going to work every day.  But I digress...).  I am beyond thrilled to be able to spend all day with the boys, attempting to do some sort of homeschool preschool, hanging out and playing with them.  On the other hand, the girls are gone most of the day.  They get on the school bus at 7:04am and don't return until about 4:15pm.  They are not overloaded with homework, thank goodness, but there is the nightly reading, weekly gymnastics and girl scouts, household chores and we've got squeeze in some play time!

This school year we established Friday nights as "family movie night."  I get to spend some time with the kids, not feeling like I have chores or projects that need to be done.  The kids take turns picking a movie, I pop some popcorn in the air popper and everyone convenes in the living room (Tucker sits still for about 10 minutes, then wanders around playing, snacking and climbing all over everyone.  But who can blame him? He's only 17 months old).

Another thing we love is celebrating holidays and seasons, so this month our movie nights are taking on the Halloween/ghosts & ghouls theme.  We are watching some classics and trying out some movies we haven't seen before.  Check out this list of family friendly Halloween movies we've compiled.  Do you have any favorites you would add?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hey good lookin, whatcha got cookin

Hubby and I have always enjoyed spending time in the kitchen - cooking, baking, canning and making candy. Making food from scratch ensures I know exactly what is in it and most of the time, it's less expensive than pre-made or restaurant prepared.  In California, we were extremely fortunate to live downtown, within walking distance of so many things.  We were just blocks from the food co-op and the farmer's market.  

Now that we live on the farm, we are about 12 miles from a grocery store.  What used to be a quick stroll to the store, now takes a minimum 45 minutes to pick up one or two things, and much longer for weekly grocery shopping.  The most practical thing is to keep inventory of the fridge, freezer and pantry so that each week when I am planning meals, I can easily add items to the grocery list.  If I forget to buy something, I know I'm not making a quick trip to the store, so being right the first time is pretty much my only option!  Download my grocery list and learn the art of checking off items as you run out.

That being said, sometimes a craving pops up.  Like on a cold rainy day, you might want to bake.  Or you open up the bread box to find that not only did he kids eat all the banana muffins, but there's no bread either. And you can't always predict when a batch of chocolate chip cookies are necessary.  (I like to keep at least a couple bags of chocolate chips on hand for this reason!)

When I bake, the first thing I like to do is gather all the ingredients in one spot on the counter.  Hubby used to be notorious for starting something and realizing we were out of one or two ingredients.  He would set out for the store, usually with a stroller and at least a couple kids, and be back in a few to finish his masterpiece.  Gathering all my ingredients first ensures that I'm not stuck in the middle of a creation, only to find I'm out I don't have all the necessary components.  This has become especially important now.  

Sometimes I start to gather ingredients and realize that I am out brown sugar.  Has this ever happened to you?  It can change your sunny attitude into a tailspin quick if you're looking forward to a tasty treat.  Here's where knowing how to make your own an really come in handy!  The last couple months more than ever, we have relied on these skills in the kitchen.  Hubby and I have made our own brown sugar, powdered sugar, buttermilk, tortillas, sandwich bread, pasta and refried beans.

Powdered sugar is probably the easiest to whip up in your home kitchen.  All you need is white sugar and a blender.  (If you won't be using all the powdered sugar immediately, blending with cornstarch will keep it from clumping.)  Simply measure the amount of sugar you need for a recipe and blend until it becomes a fine powdered consistency. 

Just as simple is brown sugar.  It only takes two ingredients!  Check out my photos and recipe below. 
Homemade Brown Sugar
-2 tablespoons molasses (if you're trying to make dark brown sugar, add more molasses)
-2 cups white sugar
Molasses is really sticky, so I love using the back of a little rubber spatula to mash the sugar.  It takes a little elbow grease, but comes together pretty quickly.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Purple Sparkles

Remember those free-range kids we're raising?  They are energetic, free-spirited, outgoing and adventurous, each in their own way.  We encourage the kids to run, jump and climb.  We sign them up for sports, dance and other activities as an outlet for all that youthful energy.  Each kid has started gymnastics before their second birthday.  And you should see the faces of the other parents when they see my kids climbing and jumping!

Along with all the benefits, such as learning independence, I knew that allowing the children to do gymnastics, to climb and jump, could potentially cause injury.  I can't tell you how many times I sprained an ankle or fell down while doing gymnastics and playing softball, so I'm actually a little surprised with how few injuries my children have sustained.  And up until now, only one of those injuries was kind of serious.  

Now raising kids free range does not mean we have no rules or limits.  For example, no gymnastics in the house.  This is one of the most frequently broken rules.  That brings us to last night.  All the kids love doing cartwheels in the house, especially while I'm distracted making dinner or doing laundry.  Last night our oldest (who will be 8 on Saturday) decided to take her cartwheel to a whole new level.  She stood on top of the coffee table, leaned over to place her hands on the ground... And that's when I heard the screech.  She was crying in pain.

This morning I spent 5 1/2 hours driving to and waiting at the doctor's office, driving to a specialist in Des Moines, waiting on X-rays.  The conclusion?  Lily broke her elbow, but didn't need surgery.  She will be in a cast at least 4 weeks.  It's been less than seven hours since her cast was placed and she feels less pain, but is uncomfortable because it itches.  And it's already been an adjustment for the siblings.  Little sister Addy was surprised that Lily won't be able to jump on the trampoline for several weeks.  Baby brother Tucker wanted to be picked up and snuggled by his big sister.  And little brother Sean wanted to sit on Lily's lap to play on computer.  Lily said this might be the hardest six weeks of her life.

Bright side?  Lily picked a purple cast and the tech even sprinkled glitter on it for her!  So she will be wearing purple sparkles for her birthday party.

first layer

purple cast!

it sparkles!

Little brother signing cast

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fresh n Fruity dessert

Sometimes after the kids go to bed, I need a little sweet treat.  Since the cave is full of apples we picked and the neighbor brought us some amazing peaches a couple weeks ago, I decided something fruity was in order. But I didn't want to spend a lot of time making pie, so i decided to throw together a crumb topping and bake the fruit.  Check out how I did this!

Baked Fruit Crisp
4 apples/peaches (8 halves)
4 Tblsp soft butter
4 Tblsp brown sugar
8 Tblsp rolled oats

Core apples.  Slice each peach and/or apple in half.  Combine butter, brown sugar and rolled oats.  Mix until combined.  Place fruit halves, skin side down, on baking sheet.  Top each half with a heaping Tblsp of crumb topping.  Bake at 375* for about 20 minutes, or until fruit is tender.  Serve warm with ice cream.

You can use any crumb/crisp topping that you like.  It would be great with chopped pecans or a little cinnamon!  And I'll bet it would be great with other fruits like plums and pears.  If you are making a single serving, you can bake this in a toaster oven.

I promise to work on my food photography skills...

but believe me, this is delish!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Every move/new adventure has its mishaps.  Things get broken or lost.  Nothing is on schedule or goes according to plan.  Lucky for us, we only ran one day behind our estimated departure date and only a few things showed up broken.

But that does not mean the move has been entirely smooth.   

Aside from "losing" our 2 year old Sean in the corn, battling ticks and cleaning out the cave, we have encountered a few other harrowing experiences this summer.  You may have heard about the long and unusually moist spring in the Midwest this year.  The rain extended much into June, washing away many crops and overflowing some rivers in northern Iowa.  Here is southern Iowa, we received much of the same rain and humidity, causing a host of problems in planting summer crops.  And mildew.  This was a biggie for us, as many of the boxes we moved from California were stacked up in the workshop, waiting to be unpacked.  Stroller and car seat covers had to be washed, furniture and appliances wiped down.  Can you imagine your child asking for some toast, so you grab the toaster box, then lo and behold when you pull it out, it's covered in mildew?  Thank goodness for soap! 


Next comes the runaway fire.  Hubby and I took some old siding down to the burn pit and he used a bit of gasoline to get the fire started.  Everything was nice and contained.  Until the gas can, that was apparently a little too close to the burn pit, overheated and caught fire.  We were unprepared for this.  There was no hose attached to the hydrant, but several ice cream buckets strewn about from the kids' water play would have to suffice.  I began running back and forth filling buckets with water, all the while thinking, I'm going to have to call mom and tell her we caught grandpa's farm on fire.  Fortunately, we were able to contain the fire, with only a bit of singed grass and a melted gas can left in it's wake.

burn pit

singed grass

hydrant and buckets

A couple weeks ago we bought a whole hog from hubby's coworker and had it butchered at a local shop (no we're not ready to butcher out own yet!).  The kids were super excited, they love pork.  The stand up freezer was cleaned, mostly cleared out and super cold.  Hubby and I picked up the meat - pork chops, bacon, cottage bacon, sausage, whole hams, hocks, pork belly and more!  The freezer was practically full of all this deliciousness.  Of course we had pork chops and collard greens cooked with bacon that night for dinner.  they were amazing.

Two days later the kids went to the freezer to get otter pops.  They came running up the stairs excitedly, yelling.  The otter pops were not frozen!  Immediately hubby and I jumped up to check the freezer.  The meat was mostly frozen, though thawing quickly. I grabbed a basket and started filling it with the precious cargo to fill the kitchen freezer.  A sigh of relief that the kitchen freezer only contained some ice cream, frozen fruit and a few enchiladas.  We tossed all the ice into a cooler and made as much room as we could for the pork.  I threw a nearly empty bucket of ice cream at the kids and maybe yelled eat it.  There was just enough room for all the meat, except some sausage, which we threw in the cooler.  After some investigation, we are pretty sure a little person gathering otter pops slammed the large freezer door causing it to bounce open, thus thawing our food.  It was a close call, but we managed to save all the pork.  It's a very good thing, because have you seen how much my four little kids eat?!

Summer is pretty much over, but I am sure the excitement isn't over yet.  I wonder how many more unfortunate events will cross our path?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I love California

I love California.  It is beautiful with its hundreds of state parks and beaches, cold coastal waters and tide-pools filled with wildlife, mountains, rivers and lakes.  There are theme parks to explore, slopes to ski, vineyards to visit and so much in between.  But... I am so glad we moved to Iowa.  Sure I miss my friends, family and the wonderful diversity that lies in California.  I wonder if we will ever go back to our favorite patisserie in Pacific Grove or if my mom can send some of my favorite foods that can only be purchased locally at the Davis Food Co-op or Farmer's Market.

Now we have a new life in Iowa that I am falling in love with too.  One of the things that I love the most is our home.  Now this is not the house I would have designed and I wouldn't call it my dream home.  It doesn't have a gourmet kitchen or a hidden passage.  It doesn't have rustic wooden beams across the ceiling or gorgeous hardwood floors.  But it was built by hand by my grandfather.  Literally. 

For more than a decade after moving to the farm, my grandparents and their four children lived in the old farmhouse.  I heard stories about grandpa wrapping the house in plastic each winter to keep the cold winds and snow from creeping in.  I can only vaguely remember the black wood stove in the living room, the steep stairs to the second floor and sitting around the kitchen table eating grilled cheese and tomato soup. 

 I opened a drawer the other day and inside is a file labeled "house plans."  In the file is a hand drawn picture with labels written in pencil.  My grandpa was not an architect or engineer.  He was not a contractor or carpenter.  But he so loved my grandma and wanted to build her this home that didn't have snow creeping in, that he learned how to do it by reading books about plumbing, electrical and everything else. 

When construction began, I remember the fluffy pink insulation was so inviting, but forbidden.  My aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and neighbors were all on deck digging the basement, pouring concrete and framing the house.  There were wires and pipes to install, walls to sheet-rock and paint.  A roof to shingle.

And now it is our turn.  It is our turn to take care of the home built both physically and emotionally by my grandparents.  There's no lack of projects to keep us busy and there are reminders in unexpected drawers.  But that is what I am loving about our move to Iowa.

Future basement

Pouring concrete walls

Everyone pitching in

Grandpa smoothing the concrete.

Look at me helping build the house.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Groundhog Day

I'll bet you're thinking Groundhog Day is in February.  Right now we are in August, so what gives?  It seems to be groundhog day everyday in our yard.    We have what the kids call "the creature" (aka groundhog or woodchuck) living under our shop, burrowing in the yard and making appearances in the barn.  Sean wouldn't go out in the yard for a several days because he was worried about being bitten by the creature. 

We tried trapping the groundhog, but apparently they don't go for cat food like the neighbor thought.  Hubby tried shooting the thing, but is pretty sure he missed and the puppies have even chased him, all to no avail.  Although not the same animal, it's starting to feel like we are precariously close to a scene from Caddyshack...

Bill Murray, Caddyshack 1980

Caddyshack, 1980

Each morning, the kids like to point out the freshly dug mounds of soil in the yard.  They even like to stomp on the mounds.  Well we've been doing some research and are now prepared to trap the creature, enticing him into the cage with all his favorite foods.  If that doesn't work, there's always dynamite :)   

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Cave

We have a cave.  Ok really, it's a root cellar underneath the meat shed.  But my grandparents always called it a cave and that sounds way more awesome, so I am going to keep calling it the cave.  The cave was built by my grandfather in the late 70's to hold pickles, jam, other canned goods and homemade wine. 

When we arrived here this summer, after an unusually wet season, the cave was musty, dusty and full of water.  I decided that cleaning out this building was going to require some extreme measures.  I was going to have to take off my flip flops and put on some boots!

And so that is what I did.  It took several hours of me working in the cave while the kids "helped" their daddy upstairs in the meat shed, but now it is all ready to be restocked.  Canning is something the hubby and I have enjoyed for years, so we are looking forward to trying out all those new recipes and methods that Pinterest has introduced to us.

Here's me not wearing flip flops.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Free range

A couple months ago, while watching the kids climb at my parents' house, my uncle turned to me and asked "have you ever heard of free range parenting?"  I laughed and said "I think we invented it."  I think my kids are smart and capable and that they need a chance to be independent and figure things out without us grown-ups hovering.  Now that we are on the farm, they have even more space in which to run around and explore.

One day, the kids were outside doing what they do best.  Playing.  Running.  Exploring.  Building.  And I was focusing on unpacking or cleaning or something boring.  At some point, I realized it had been a while since I heard Sean, so I thought I'd better check on him.  I checked on the porch.  I looked in the back yard.  I checked inside the workshop, around the workshop and in the barn.  And the garage.  And basement.  Even the chicken house and the front yard.  I asked the girls if they knew where he was.  I asked my youngest brother who finally told me Sean had followed him out past the apple trees into the corn field.  So I walked up and down the entire edge of the corn field yelling Sean's name.  I didn't hear a response.

We like to give the kids space to play, but at this point I became a bit uneasy.  I wasn't worried about all those creepy things that happen on crime dramas on tv.  I was worried that Sean was walking along the gravel road to visit the neighbors and their horses.  I was worried he climbed up too high or in a hole.  I was worried that he was stuck in a place that only Sean could weasel himself into.  So I ditched the corn field and ran toward the road, with a baby on my hip.

I guess all the commotion of me yelling Sean's name over and over, running around looking for him brought the entire family out.  Since the corn field was the last place my brother saw him, he, along with my stepdad, hubby and the girls, went in after Sean.  Now the first thing my father taught me about corn is this old saying "knee high by the fourth of July."  Well this was the end of June and I do not know who fed the corn it's vitamins, but this corn was way taller than knee high!  And when you are 2 1/2 and only 34" tall, the corn is very tall indeed.  My little brother found Sean sitting on the dirt amongst the corn, crying.  He had heard me calling his name, but I did not hear him answer.  After one of the scariest half hours of both my and Sean's lives, Sean has vowed to never play in the corn again.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Have you seen the Cheerios commercial where the little boy is sitting with his mom eating breakfast and he asks her if Nana fed her Cheerios when she was little?  The mom says yes and the boys says, so when we eat Cheerios, it's kind of like we're eating breakfast with Nana.  The mom gets teary eyed and answers yes.  (see the video here).

After driving out with us cross country, my mom spent a couple weeks at the farm.  She and I spent hours going through each room, looking at the furniture, books and knick knacks; the accumulation from a combined 142 years on earth and nearly 50 years of marriage.  We were tasked with deciding what would stay and what would go.  Since we had left much of our furniture behind in California, keeping the couches and tables was an easy decision.  Family photos?  No brainer those are staying.  It's all the other things.

Standing at the kitchen sink I see the little ceramic frog that holds a yellow and red scrubby used for pans and things.  I wonder just how long my Grandma had the same scrubby.  Did she use the same red and yellow scrubby for thirty+ years or did she just keep buying ones that look the same?  It usually comes as a surprise - things you took for granted sitting on a shelf, in a drawer or hiding in a closet.  The things that just belong in that space because Grandma or Grandpa decided that's where it goes.  And now here I am, trying to fill that space with something new. I'm a slow unpacker already, (after 10 moves with the hubby I know this about myself!) and this makes me slower.  I hope hubby's patience last until I am done.

Each morning sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by these little things, drinking coffee and eating oatmeal, is sort of like having breakfast with Grandma and Grandpa.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Riding the mowers

When I was eight years old, my grandpa sent my cousins and I out to mow the grass. He had two riding lawn mowers, which was super exciting because I don't think we even had a push mower in California! It was my turn to mow, and I was doing great, going round the trees, up and down the backyard. Then something happened. My cousin yelled at me. I can't remember what it was about, but I do remember turning around to look at him so I could figure out why he was yelling. Number one rule of riding a lawn mower? Watch where you are going. Next thing I knew, the mower was leaning a bit sideways on a hill, heading straight for the pig pen. I got up a little embarrassed and with a big bruise on my leg.  I was pretty sure I did not want to ride the mower anymore.

Everyone helps mow on the farm.
1991 - cousins

1967 - Grandma and Great-Grandma
1981 - cousin

1980 - aunt

The never-ending chore!  With as much grass as we've got here, I don't have the option of not riding a lawn mower, and anyone with legs long enough to reach gets to help mow. We warned the kids that moving to the farm meant chores and true to our word, we weren't here a week when we put them to work mowing the front yard.

Since the kids did such a spectacular job, I thought maybe I could handle another go round. So back on the riding mower I climbed last week. I put on my flip flops, got a quick lesson from the hubby and off I went.

I came back a little dirty.  Maybe hubby is right, I shouldn't wear my flip flops for everything?  Nah...