What We’ve Been Up To

 

After the first round

Last week we saw snow. Lots of snow. It started a week ago Monday and kept coming. All in all we ended up with something like 15 inches or so.  I’m not sure how many years it’s been since we’ve seen this much snow but it’s been awhile.  I’ve really missed having snow like this and I’m enjoying it while it’s here. It covers all the drab browns with a beautiful blanket of white. It softens all the hard edges. It’s beautiful!

On Friday after Joe got done clearning the driveway he pulled Drew around on his sled behind the 4-wheeler. Unfortunately this ended up with Drew falling off the sled and planting his head in the driveway. He came in the house crying and with blood running. He banged his head up pretty good but he’s tough. After an hour of cuddling he was up and running around loving his war wounds and planning how to make sure he doesn’t fall off the sled tomorrow!

 

By Saturday we were needing groceries and needing to get out of the house so we headed to Oskaloosa. First we took Drew to the mall to see a model train set up that’s there.  He is fascinated with model trains. We all enjoyed this set up and best of all – it was free! Then onto Fareway to stock up on some meat and Hy-Vee for some sale items. On the way home Dad called and asked if Joe could run over and help him fix his tractor so when we got home Joe and Drew headed over there while I stayed behind to put groceries away, bag up meat for the freezer and clean the chicken coop.

Joe and Drew built a fort on Sunday after Joe got done cleaning out the driveway. Snow – free entertainment for adults and kids alike! Then we headed to Fairfield to visit Aunt Konnie. She had been in the hospital with pneumonia and is now in a care facility for a week or two for some additional help before she goes home.  She was looking good and seems to be on the road to recovery. Later Dad and Mom came over for supper and to play games. A nice ending to the weekend.

Nothing much went on throughout the week. A nice quiet week for once. I got my hair cut on Thursday – the first haircut I’ve had in over a year. Joe likes it long but it was just getting to be too much for me and it was time to shorten it up. I worked at the school on Friday and yesterday we met Joe’s brother and sister-in-law for supper in Des Moines. Something we’ve talked about doing and finally did. It was a nice evening. We decided we needed to try and do that more often. Hopefully we will make it happen.

Our meals the past few days:

Saturday: Comfort Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes – recipes from The Pinoneer Lady

Sunday: Crockpot Beef Stew, bread and butter and cheese.

Monday – Cheeseburger Quesadillas – recipe from Sunny Simple Life. I hadn’t made these before but was hoping we would like them. Something fairly quick and easy to make for those busy nights that pop up now and then. We all loved them!

Tuesday: Pancake supper with Dad and Mom at the Sigourney Christian Church.

Wednesday: Spaghetti with both red sauce and alfredo sauce, strawberry Jell-O with bananas and marshmallows, homemade rolls,  Mississippi Mud Cake. And Valentine’s chocolates!

Thursday: Leftovers. I love leftover nights!

Friday: Crockpot Taco Chicken Bowls

Saturday: Famous Dave’s – we met Joe’s brother and sister-in-law in Des Moines for supper. A spur of the moment decision – and a fun evening out with family.

What I’ve done to be frugal:  Stitched the flower back on my headband that Drew had been wearing around. That kid likes to wear my headgear for some reason.

Fixed my winter chore hat. Drew had worn it to school and brought it home with a broken clasp. I cut the clasp off and attached iron on Velcro. I’ve had that Velcro stashed away for years and never used it. There was a time when I would have simply stuffed the hat into the back of the closet and bought a new one. And yet now, after my frugal fix, it stays snugger than ever and is better than new!

Repurposed an empty plastic coffee container. I hate throwing those away and yet you can only store so many for later use. But, we are now using one for leftovers to go to the cats. I keep it in the refrigerator and when it’s full out to the cats it goes. Then I wash it and start all over. I’m saving the container from the landfill and saving on cat food too. On the days the cats get leftovers they don’t get dry cat food – and they love leftovers!

Joe started cleaning out his office and shredded tons of paper – will be used for bedding in the chicken coop.

I’ve gotten a lot of stitching done while watching the Olympics in the evenings with Drew. We really enjoy the Winter Olympics. Anybody else enjoying the competitions?

 

All Caught Up

These came today and I’m now all caught up! Yeah!!! I love these books and I love the writer. She lived in my small town when she was younger and I remember her well. She is now a great author, has a fun blog and is on Facebook. Check her out! I started out getting her book on the Kindle. Remember – an agreement I had with Joe was no books if I got a Kindle. Well ………. I decided these were books I needed to own. I mean really – look at those beautiful covers. Diane’s husband takes the pictures for the covers. And one of the pictures on one of the books is of the office where I worked for years. (I have the coffee mug with that book cover too!) And they are books – you just have to have a few actual books right? We have all kinds of kids books. After four kids who love to read you have to have books. But I’m slowly buying books again here and there. I just think a house needs to have books! Now to get caught up on reading them. That’s what I’ve been reading while I’m sitting in line to pick Drew up from school – I get a good half hour of reading in! I’m on book 17 and there’s 20 so far in the series.  A new book comes out every three months.

And bookmarks. You have to have bookmarks. You just can’t dog ear a book. But, I tend to lose bookmarks and so I usually just use a scrap piece of paper or a piece of junk mail. But I follow Susan Branch’s blog and get her Willard newsletter and she has the cutest bookmarks that she offers for free. This is the latest one I’ve downloaded, printed and run through the  laminator. It’s just the cutest. Of course it is meant to be used as a nametag to use at her picnic but since I won’t be going to the UK anytime soon – I’ll just use it as a bookmark. And it has a lamb on it. I love, love, love anything with a lamb on it!

This came in the mail today too. We were given this exact knife as a wedding gift oh so many years ago. It hasn’t seen a lot of use. Mostly to cut up a watermelon and Joe would use it to cut up his deer meat. Which is what he was doing this year when it snapped in two. There was a time when I would have thrown it away and bought a new one but now that I’m not working we need to be way more frugal with our money. (Something we should have always done I know) So, I went  online and discovered that Chicago Cutlery has a lifetime guarantee. I emailed them a quick message and they responded quickly and before I knew it – a brand new knife! Isn’t that wonderful??!!

 

Another way I’ve been saving money and being frugal and trying to make things easier around here is freezing leftovers. I have two of these containers filled with beef stew in the freezer. I work at the school again tomorrow and Friday and instead of paying for a lunch there I’ve pulled out one container to thaw and that will be my lunch for the next two days. Perfect. No fuss, no worries. I’ll peel an orange in the morning and throw it in my bag along with my beef stew and a bottle of water and I’ll be all set. And I have another container of beef stew and one of veggie soup in the freezer for the next time I’m subbing at the school!

The next few days will be busy. Two days at school. Then Saturday I’m thinking we may visit my aunt who is in Iowa city in the hospitalwith pneumonia. We’ll have to see if she’s up to visitors yet.  Then Sunday we’re meeting Joe’s siblings in Des Moines for lunch and to sign some papers and make some decisions. Then home to watch the Super Bowl I’m assuming. Joe doesn’t seem to be too into it this year so who knows. I have never been into the whole football thing. I’d rather watch a good episode of Little House on the Prairie!

Baby Steps

In an effort to try and make some changes around here I’m trying to get Drew to eat healthier. He loves oatmeal for breakfast on cold mornings but I know those little packets of instant oatmeal just aren’t healthy. Are those little pieces of fruit even fruit? I’m not so sure. I found this recipe for homemade instant oatmeal in my Little House Living book and thought I’d give it a try. It took some trial and error. He didn’t like it plain even though there’s brown sugar in it. So next we tried dried fruit. That was a no go. So onto frozen fruit because that’s what I had in the house. Blueberries first – he decided he doesn’t like blueberries. Then strawberries – he didn’t like those because I warmed them up in the microwave along with the oatmeal. He refused to try them again without warming them up. So, then I tried a little bit of sugar and cinnamon. Bingo! Now I need to mix up larger batches of this stuff at a time because he loves it. He even wanted oatmeal for supper last night! He’s been eating two bowls every morning before school. This is a huge plus for me – a nice warm filling bowl of oatmeal makes me feel like he’s starting his day off on the right foot! And I’m loving the oatmeal too – might have to start buying it in bulk! So baby steps – we’re starting slow – one little step at a time!

Getting Started

I don’t buy books much anymore. That’s what my Kindle is for. My house is so small and I had sooo many books and it was driving Joe crazy. So in order for me to get a Kindle to use to read from I agreed to downsize on my books. I did really really well at first. I got rid of all but my most loved books and most of them have been put in storage. But as time has gone by I have bought a book or two here or there. There’s just something about an actual book and holding it in your hands and smelling it and thumbing through it. Nothing compares.

And cookbooks and self help books just don’t work for me on the Kindle. I have to be able to thumb through and find a page I need and bookmark it and even write notes if need be. So at the beginning of the year I ordered a few books to help get me started on my plan to save time, save money and eat healthier around here. I’m loving these books. I already had Little House Living and have read it multiple times and have used some of her ideas. She has a wonderful blog too with so much great information on it. I’ve gone through it and written down so many recipes and ideas that I want to get started on.

Then there’s Homestead Kitchen. I almost didn’t order it because I didn’t know if it would really help me out much.  I ordered it more for a treat to myself because I’m loving watching Alaska The Last Frontier  and I wanted to learn more about Eiven and Eve and the Kilchers. But I’m glad I’ve got it now. I’ve read it from cover to cover. It’s amazing how much reading you can get done on long road trips! I love this book. I love all the personal stories and there are so many recipes I want to try. Now it’s just a matter of slowing down around here and taking the time to try something new now and again.

These last two I want to really spend time going through and I just haven’t had the time yet. I have browsed through them and think they are going to be full of great information and be very helpful. The bread recipe I tried out the other day came from The Made From Scratch Life. So much of what you read in these books is common sense and really, I just need a reminder now and then to get back to the basics. Many things are things I have wanted to do or try but just wasn’t sure how. Now I have no excuse – I just have to get up and do it!

Monday

Today is a cold windy Monday at 1 degree and the wind makes it feel even colder! I just came in from cleaning out the chickens. They are happy campers now. Clean coop, fresh water, feed bowl filled and banana peels for a treat. As happy as they can be I guess being cooped up in the coop. They sure don’t like the snow and cold. The kitties have fresh water too and a bowl full of food and a nice warm insulated doghouse full of straw.

Today has been busy. A two hour delay at school due to the cold and wind. That means keeping Drew entertained and yet ready to go to school when it’s time. He doesn’t sleep in and he gets all settled in at home when there’s a delay and then it can be a fight to get him out the door. Today we played with legos and talked about school. I think that helped.I made chocolate chip cookies when I got home from delivering Drew. Eric goes back to Iowa today and I wanted to send him off with something yummy from home! Then I spent some time on the phone with my mom who is trying to help my aunt learn how to use her new iPhone. Mom doesn’t have an iPhone so it’s quite comical trying to get her to understand over the phone so she can explain to Aunt Konnie over the phone what to do. I think we might be running to Konnie’s house tomorrow afternoon. It’ much easier to explain in person than doing it this way.

 

I did manage to squeeze in a frugal pantry craft though. Am I the only person who will buy a product at the grocery store just for the pretty label? I loved this label on the store brand flour at our local grocery store. Now, in this instance I would have bought this brand anyway due to it being the cheapest. When you shop at the local grocery store in a small town, you tend to buy the store brand. It still many times is more expensive than anything you can buy at the bigger name brand store. But sometimes it’s just cheaper and much less time consuming to run to town which is seven miles away than it is to run to the closest Fareway or Hy-Vee which are 30 miles away.

I was in need of flour and when I saw this label on the flour bag I fell in love. It’s blue for one thing and I love the old time feel!  I thought it would be perfect glued to my flour jar. Now to find similar labels for my other jars – sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, powdered milk, rice, macaroni noodles, etc. I’m not sure that will happen at the store so maybe I can find something on Pinterest I like that will coordinate. I like the how cheery this looks sitting on my cupboard and would like to have all my jars look pretty. And I used wheat paste so if I need or want to I can take this off and replace it with something else down the road.

A Sunday Visit

We went for an afternoon visit today to see Uncle Jerry and Aunt Konnie. I was thankful I wasn’t driving – I don’t do well in these conditions! It snowed all the way to their place and it was so pretty. I just love the snow! Here’s the highway leading to Rubio, the little tiny almost non-existent town they live just outside of.

And I love gravel roads covered in snow (although this isn’t a whole lot of snow). That bend in the road – it takes you to one of the prettiest places in Iowa! I shared pictures of Uncle Jerry and Aunt Konnie’s place last summer and it’s just as pretty in the winter. The only difference is it was so cold out and I didn’t wear my boots so I only took a few pictures from the truck as we were moving so I didn’t get the best pictures.

Off to the right, a few of Uncle Jerry’s horses with their backs to the wind. Uncle Jerry has always had horses and at one time he raised mules. On past these horses there were goats and llamas. I didn’t get any pictures – next time maybe. Uncle Jerry said he had just bought some new goats yesterday and they were due to give birth at any time. If it had been a warmer day and I had been dressed more appropriately I would have gone out with him to check on the mamas. Baby goats – how sweet. When I was growing up we would have been getting ready for lambing season. I loved the baby lambs!

And to the left I the old farmhouse and barn. Up the road and around the bend and you’re there. The house on the left and the most beautiful view to the right.  A big old farmhouse and room to roam. Lots of memories here and they’re all good. My older kids always enjoyed visiting and now Drew does too. It’s almost like time slows down when I’m visiting Uncle Jerry and Aunt Konnie.

 

Winter Is Back

After being in a record breaking deep freeze for a couple of weeks after Christmas we had almost Spring like weather earlier this week. The temps were in the 40’s yesterday. That feels downright balmy after below zero temperatures! And then today came and winter came right along with it! Freezing rain and snow, a huge drop in temperature and high winds. It’s supposed to get as low as 6 tonight with a high of 16 tomorrow. Winter is definitely back and it looks to be staying put for awhile. And I sure wouldn’t mind it near as much if I hadn’t had to work at the school today and again tomorrow. At least I don’t have recess duty! Although with weather like this recess is inside.  Usually I hibernate during times like this. I light candles, do some baking and cook soups and casseroles, dig out my warmest sweatshirts and pile on the quilts. I love it! And there’s no better sleep than sleeping in the winter in a cold room with warm comfy jammies on, fleece sheets on the bed and lots of quilts piled on top. It’s wonderful!

Another plan for this year is to find more “projects” to do with Drew. He calls them projects and has so much fun doing them. This was a fun one and so in expensive. We dug out some jars and made a wheat paste out of flour and water. Then we brushed the paste onto the jars to look like icicles, sprinkled salt on the paste and let it dry. Poured some salt in the jars and added tea lights. Pretty wintery candle holders. Drew loved being able to tell Daddy he made the centerpiece on the table. We also brushed some of the paste onto pinecones from our yard and dipped them in salt. A fun, easy craft and the best part is the paste will wash right off with soap and water so we can reuse the jars for future projects! I got the instructions from sewhistorically.com.

Back To Basics

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I know me and I know I just won’t keep them. But I have been doing a lot of thinking and researching lately on getting back to the basics. I really want to slow things down around here. Do a lot less running and spend more time at home. I want to cut down on our grocery spending.  I want to do more from scratch cooking and yet  I want to keep it simple too. I’m going to slowly work on stocking my pantry and my freezer with items to make spending time in the kitchen fun and yet quicker and easier so I have more time for other things. I also want to eat more wholesome foods and a lot less processed foods. I don’t really have a plan but I have picked up a few books to start reading and I’ve gotten some great ideas from blogs I like to follow.

I want to try new things in the kitchen. And so the other day I tried my hand at homemade bread. Have you ever read the ingredients in store bought bread? It’s scary. I had never made bread before but I took the plunge. And it was fun! And it filled the house with a delicious aroma! And my loaves looked beautiful (to me anyway)! And they tasted great! But, I didn’t let them cook long enough. They were a little doughy. On the bright side – a friend of mine stated she likes them that way – they toast up great in the toaster! So, I will put baking homemade bread down as a win for me and something I want to keep experiment with and do more often!

And I tried my hand at making homemade vanilla extract.  I had no idea how vanilla extract was made. I knew about the vanilla beans of course but had no idea it was just vanilla beans and extract. How easy. And the way they smell all ready – oh my! The hardest part is waiting the two months or more to see how it turned out! I have six bottles sitting in the back of a kitchen cupboard. I’m hoping to keep some and use others as gifts. I got my instructions and the beautiful labels from natashaskitchen.com. I used label paper I had here at home to print the labels onto and cut them out. Again, super easy! I plan to try my hand at making lemon and orange extract too.  And again – no extra, unnecessary ingredients. Just plain and simple and fresh!

Today and Friday I get to sub as an Associate at the elementary school. Something else I’m trying – I said get, not have to. It’s more fun to get to do something than to have to do something. It’s amazing how just changing the way you say something can change your outlook! So I get to sub at the school. Now, I do enjoy subbing and especially for the Associate I’m subbing for the next two days. I get to attend PE class with the preschoolers and library with them too. And I get to spend the majority of my day with different groups of children helping them with their reading skills. Of course, I love to read so reading with the students is just plain fun. I even get to spend a class period doing just that – reading. I oversee the class as they have quiet reading time and so I read too! It’s fun to get out and something different and rewarding once in awhile. And I get to see Drew throughout the day so that’s a plus too!

Linen and Needle and Thread

I’ve stitched for so many years I’ve lost count. My aunt taught me when I was a young girl and I’m so grateful to her for taking the time to teach me. I stitched on and off over the years and then for some reason I stopped for a few years. I just had no desire to pick up the needle. I did lots of other crafts and did lots and lots of scrapbooking for a time. I never thought I would get tired of scrapbooking but for some reason the desire just slowly went away. I have some beautiful books and we love to pull them out and look through them but now I hardly ever even print a picture.  I have so many pictures of Abby and even Aaron. Not as many of Eric but I still have way too many. And then Drew comes along and I had stopped taking and printing pictures. I started taking pictures again but I just don’t print them like I should.

Anyway, back to stitching. I picked up my needle again a few years ago and discovered stitching on linens and developed a love for the primitive patterns and the designers that are out there. Good bye Aida cloth and bright colors and cute designs. But along with this new love and more time to stitch again now that I only have Drew at home, I have run out of room for my creations. And I’m a pack rat and feel the need to keep everything so of course I can’t get rid of any of my creations!

Then I started following some primitive and country decorating pages on Facebook which led me to some primitive selling pages and I took the plunge. Joe has been pushing me for years to try and sell what I stitch but if it wasn’t for Facebook I don’t think I would ever have even tried. And low and behold – my creations sell! I’m not going to get rich by any means doing this but I can at least justify my stitching now. I’m not filling the house with unneeded creations and it’s not costing me anything to make what I do because I’m selling what I make. And now when I sit and stitch at night not only am I enjoying myself immensely I’m making others happy too! It’s a win win right??!!

Stitching is a form of therapy for me. To just sit quietly and pull thread through linen. The feel of it, the sound of it, and the creating process.  The beautiful colors of the threads and putting those threads together to make beautiful designs. And there’s something about the primitive designs that just tug on my soul. Their simplicity and dark muted colors. And then dying them in a coffee bath when I’m done stitching to make them even more muted. Picking out the perfect baking fabric – Civil War reproduction fabric is my fabric of choice. Just one more thing to draw me to the past just like these little pillow tucks, cupboard keeps, whatever you want to call them do. I like to think that even back in days gone by, even when our ancestors didn’t have much and they had to sew by hand out of necessity that they would stitch a little pin tuck and put a little primitive design on it to make it pretty to help lighten their load and have something pretty to adorn their home.  My stitching draws me to the past and gives me something pretty to adorn my home too – a little pillow tucked into a little bowl or the corner of a shelf. Just a little something to brighten the day!

Try Again

I’m going to try this again. I’m not sure why I stopped posting. It just happened. I stopped posting and I stopped reading all of my favorite blogs. I just stopped. I’ve been slowly following my favorite blogs again and I’m going to try this again. So here goes!

Such a pretty little thing!

The last couple of months of 2017 were very eventful. Our beautiful baby granddaughter whose due date was December 6th was born November 10th – on my mom’s birthday! Her mama’s health was not going well due to preeclampsia and the doctor decided to bring baby Bayah Lynn into the world early.  Thankfully after a two week stay in the hospital Bayah and mommy came home and are healthy and doing great. Bayah weighed 4 lbs. 3 oz. when she was born and she’s now over 6 lbs. She’s the prettiest little thing and is just perfect. And big brother Braxton is so in love with his baby sister. We are truly blessed. Braxton celebrated his 4th birthday at the hospital in the waiting room and he thought that was so much fun. He said it was the best birthday ever! Just goes to show kids don’t need big parties. He was just happy to have all his family, a cake and presents to open!

Then December came along. We lost my father-in-law the week before Christmas. He was 93 and doing great and then he came down with pneumonia and before we knew it he was gone. It happened so quickly and yet most of December was spent with my husband making the three hour drive to his hometown not knowing if his dad was going to make it or not. He would drive nights and spend nights there and drive back and forth. It was so hard to lose Albert but everyone was thankful he didn’t suffer and he was ready.

Sweet baby Babah – so little!

And then the flu hit. Poor Drew got sick at Grandpa’s visitation. Thankfully my dad and mom were there and were able to take Drew home with them. He missed Grandpa’s funeral but he just couldn’t have been there. Then I got sick, and Joe got sick, and Eric got sick, and Aaron got. Braxton was sick and Jeremy too. We postponed Christmas from Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve Day. Then my dad and mom got sick. Mom ended up sick on New Year’s Eve Day and couldn’t celebrate with us but thankfully we had FaceTime and she was able to still be part of the fun.

 

Then the following week my sister got sick, her daughter Diamond got sick, my Abby got sick. Whew – it pretty much hit all of us except for baby Bayah. Thank goodness. Andrew and I went to Abby’s house on the coldest day of the winter so far, it was -17 out that morning, to watch the kiddos when she was sick. Iowa was the coldest area in the country that day and we broke a 100 year record with the cold. Normally I wouldn’t have stepped  a foot out of the house that day but when your baby needs help and you can provide it – off you go no matter what! I hated Abby being sick but it was fun to watch Uncle Drew and Braxton have fun and get to cuddle and love on Bayah all day!

Uncle Eric and baby Bayah

We are now all on the mend and ready to take on the new year! We’ve had bitterly cold weather and beautiful snow and a heat wave of 38 degrees today! My poor chickens are so glad to be out and about in the yard today. No eggs of course but that’s to be expected. Drew has been going stir crazy stuck in the house and then no recess at school due to the cold. Yesterday they had recess and he was actually tired and ready for bed last night! I’ve started a few projects around here and have plans to get a lot more done. I’ve been stitching and selling my cupboard tucks which has been so much fun. Joe went hunting over the weekend and had a great time. His nephew Mike came down and hunted and spent the night Friday night. That was a lot of fun. They hunted with our son-in-law Jeremy, Jeremy’s dad and Jeremy’s brother-in-law. Joe and Mike didn’t get deer but they had fun. That’s the main reason for hunting I think. To get out and spend the day walking the timbers and being together. A deer is great and I appreciate the meat too but I’m glad the guys get to do this together every year.

Drew reading to big brother Aaron

Then last night after work Joe went over to Dad and Mom’s and hunted. Still no deer but Mom fixed chili for supper and Drew and I went over for that. After supper we played games with Drew and dad gave me a box of goodies. He’s been doing this lately. Giving me things now and then that he knows I will treasure and love. Earlier he sent me home with his first toolbox.  No tools of course – he still needs those and I sure don’t – but I love this tool box. It’s the one I remember him using when I was growing up. It’s beat up and rusty and chippy and perfect. I love it! I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my box of treasures yet. A few things I’ll display, the rest I’ll store away. And hopefully I’ll be able to keep Drew out of it as he loves to sort through boxes of anything!

Hi Drew!