Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Puttin' on the Ritz!

Look what I found this morning!  Yep, after the storms we were graced with a rainbow on the way to work!  If that can't make a dreary drive better I simply don't know what else can.  It was the perfect start to a busy, crazy day!

I love when day's are as topsy turvy as this one, when the small things add up to the perfect day.  And when a day like today ends up with an unexpected trip to Dierbergs, it simply has to be something that makes me smile.

I grew up in Europe.  Germany is almost more of a home to me than the US... for no other reason than I simply grew up there, I know it., it is familiar. So, needless to say there are a few things that I consider myself to be a snob about.  And food is one of them!  And Dierberg's definitely flames the passions of my inner foodie!

I personally believe that American's have weight issues because we have never learned to savor the wonderful taste of good food.  Quantity is not the issue, we have so much food, everywhere, but quality, that is another story.  Now I am not saying that the Oreo doesn't occasionally have a place in everyone's life, especially when dipped in milk, ask my hubby or Gator.  But I am here to tell you that nothing can compare with the taste and flavor of a meal devoid of chemicals and artificial ingredients.  I do not believe that any bread should last more than a day or two.  And we are not even going to discuss the difference in ice creams or creams that are pure and natural.

So when hubby said he needed to pick up a cake for tomorrow and the only bakery we could think of  that would have the kind the boss wanted at 6:30 pm was Dierbergs, I knew we were in trouble.  I don't usually go to Dierbergs, because I could absolutely end up broke if I shopped there all the time.  I love fresh, real food.  I love quality over all else where food is concerned, one of the reason's I grow a garden.  But off to Dierbergs we went... oh my...

Neither of us had eaten since lunch and I hadn't planned dinner, so it was probably a mistake to go, but luckily they have the greatest "deli" I have ever been to, and their meat counter would make any butcher proud. It took far longer than it should have to make a decision, or two or three about what dinner was going to entail... and what an odd dinner it ended up being.

I am a huge fan  of sushi and veggie wraps, hubby is okay with them, but he is not a huge fan. Honestly, how can you not love that?   Thankfully, he was really okay with my decision to enjoy sushi and veggie wraps, while he shared, but added a nice juicy applewood bacon cheddar burger as his main dish.

We enjoyed our main dishes, savoring the flavors and chatting about the day.  Laughing that the dogs were seriously trying to enjoy Dad's burger, not so sure about Mom's meal though.  Funny, who would have thought dogs would turn their noses up at seaweed?

The snob in me raised it's head again as I thought about dessert.  I mean what on earth do you serve with a meal like the one we just ate? Neither of us are big sugary food fans, and the older I get the more of a savory taste is to my liking.  And both of us love cheese and fruit for dessert.  Did I mention that Dierbergs has a huge selection of quality cheeses, no I don't mean Kraft American cheese (that really isn't cheese, you know that right?).  I will forgive them the displays of Provel, again not really a cheese, but something folks in this area are passionate about. So after pondering what cheeses to try, we finally agreed on two of them.  One was a beautiful cheddar marbled through with a rich porter, a nibble said that was a great choice and it is being saved for tomorrow's meal.  But the winner tonight was an amazing Rasberry Bellavitano with pistachios and Godiva milk chocolate.  Who would have thought those flavors could even remotely go together? Now it might have been better with a dark chocolate (preferably with a sprinkling of sea salt), but hubby is not a dark chocolate fan and I can compromise on some things. All I can say is WOW!
Now before everyone goes thinking that I completely let the food snob that I am rule the day... I want to assure you that there are some things in the Mid West that can't be beat, and the only thing that would have made the last part of the meal any better was if I had remembered to pick up some schnaps... but here's a toast to Breeze, Illinois and the most wonderful soda in the world... Ski in a glass bottle...

Did anyone else notice that hubby is not as snobby as me?  He enjoyed his Ruffles and Brooks Ketchup with his burger (you know the giant Brooks Ketchup water tower is only a few miles from our home - how could we have any other kind?)... I am working on converting him, and I am doing a darn good job of it also!

Was it a dinner that made any sense at all... nope, but did it hit the very heart of my "comfort" food zone - absolutely!  And tomorrow I will enjoy a few more of those treasures I found, savoring true flavors and kicking back with my hubby. Tomorrow will include a nice local wine and that cheddar, to me and my European raised heart that is true comfort food.

So tonight while the wind howled and the flurries tried to fly, we enjoyed a bit of the good life.

Storms brewing...

When you wake up at 4 am and the weather is dark and ominous, the wind is blowing hard enough to make all the wind chimes sound like a symphony, it's January, 68 degrees and humid, you know that the day is going to get progressively worse. Rarely do you think that life will imitate nature.

All day the sky was brewing and twisting and turning. The air was oppressive and heavy.  Each glance out the window a promise of worse to come. Doors being slammed shut by the wind, barely missing fingers and various other body parts. The fear of another January tornado rushing through the area with such destructive force on everyone's mind.

Over laid on top of the external chaos was internal chaos at work all day!  Yikes!  The first phone call started the ball rolling down hill so fast that the work day promised to be what exploded in thunder before the sky outside.

I have an amazingly wonderful staff person.  She has a heart of pure gold and is so kind and giving.  Unfortunately, she is also easily distracted and one minor thing will quickly lead to the next and before you know it the entire department is in chaos and tempers were rising quicker inside than the storm was brewing outside. 

It was simply the kind of day that didn't promise to end well.

As the storm front moved in outside and the tempers flared inside, the discomfort all around was starting to get overwhelming.  Pressures outside were balancing the frustration inside when the first lightening bolt split the sky.
I finally had another supervisor watch my section so I could try to bring to bring things back into focus just before the storm broke. Thirty minutes later, the internal storm was under control, as the external storm was raging to life.

That crack immediately followed by those huge rain drops, the kind that drench you in seconds, seemed to change the entire day.  Usually a huge storm means things at work almost come to a screeching halt, most folks don't feel the need to go out when it is just plain gross outside. Yesterday was no exception to that rule.  As we worked with the few brave souls that had come out  you could feel the tension drain out of the day.  Laughter had started to replace tension and the day was improving.

I was looking forward to the evening.  Our youngest girls were coming for the evening, we don't see them much anymore and we had dinner cooking in the crock pot.  What I was not looking forward to was the drive home, folks around here are not fun to spend quality commuting time with when it storms.  And it was storming! Hubby was kind enough to get the car so that I didn't have to get drenched walking out to it, even so, that five foot walk was enough to soak me and let me know it Mother Nature was pretty intent on refilling the Mississippi all in one night.

Strangely the commute was pretty mild, most folks seemed to be feeling that same release of stress the start of the storm had created.  We were able to make the commute in less than 30 minutes and only saw one accident, and that looked like someone hydroplaned off the ramp.  I guess the storm really was releasing a lot of tension and stress the entire area had been under.

Hubby drove across the street to grab neighbors who were joining us for dinner, the twins arrived safely, if not late due to shopping (teens...) and dinner was such a wonderful time.  We laughed, teased, talked and simply enjoyed an okay dinner.  I cooked it and I am still prepared to say it was simply okay.

The tense crackling air that had lingered for a week, the dryness that was causing everyone to be shocked every time they touched anything, the pressure of the air that had lingered in these few days of beauty all disappeared.  Tension and pressure washed away.

Today feels fresh and new, the rain is still falling, the breeze is normal, and having my window open in late January feels amazing!  I love the release a beautiful storm brings, the washing away of all the bad and the restoring of the good.  Just wish my old dog did, he has had a less than restful night... Looking forward to the glory of the coming day... maybe we will see a rainbow!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Fuzzy at the Edges

I am not focused.  My brain is flitting around, my emotions are all mixed up and I am struggling to accomplish anything.  It isn't for lack of trying or not wanting to or anything like that. 

I wonder if it is worry.  Worry tends to paralyze me.  I guess it is a character flaw, and I wish I could make it go away.  Or maybe I don't. 

My worry is about my old dog.  I am not of the school of thought that a dog is a pet.  I am of the school of heart that a dog is just a four legged kid.  And Gator is feeling under the weather.  The rational side of my brain says, stop worrying - he is going to live for years yet and you are wasting time with worry.  But when those big brown sad eyes look up at me I melt!

Admit it... melting...

So while I am trying to focus on that silly to do list, planning ahead and finally getting some stuff done, I keep having an overwhelming urge to walk down the hall and check on him.  Mind you his laying in bed all day snoozing is not something new, in fact if he were running around the house that would be greater cause for concern, because he is the ultimate lazy boy.  Heck even the big dog is crashed out snoozing, this is the norm for them.

I also wonder if it isn't another tactic in my mind, to stall.  I know the things I want to accomplish need me to be organized and goal centered.  I am fairly sure we have already established the fact that I am neither of those things. 

I am not a fan of number crunching, ewww math! And organization screams conformity in my twisted little house on the prairie mind.  And I am really having trouble forcing myself to get with the program. 

Focus... that has to be my mantra for awhile, I can't only focus on the fun, artistic, soul healing things I love or that is going to be where I am stuck.  I need to focus on the nitty gritty... I don't want to spend my life working for someone else, making their goal mine.  I am discovering that really isn't how I function best, and it makes me unhappy.

Hubby and I got the chores done yesterday, so today could be clear to tackle the big projects before going to work.  And worrying about a sleeping old dog (that is doing what he always does, the same thing his younger brother is doing) or wondering if I forgot to take care of other issues is not moving me forward on the path ahead.  They are simply stalling tactics, did I mention I am the queen of procrastinating?

I need to do the taxes, hubby and I have discussed it and we might put a portion of our return towards a long arm machine for me, am I afraid of that next step?  All these things that I am stalling over are the very things that will give me the freedom to chase dreams.  I can't seriously doubt my abilities that much... Can I?

Pencils are sharpened, notebook is ready, calculator is at hand... I guess it is time to gather up those stacks of papers and get busy... The best future is waiting for me to take action... Better brew up another pot of coffee...

Saturday, January 26, 2013


 That pretty much sums up today.  Hubby and I took the boys and decided to make a day of it in the country, it's been awhile since we've been down there and we were sure excited to go and check on things and just soak up the peacefulness of our little piece of paradise.

The Boys are ready for their roadtrip!

We stopped on the way down and looked at some modular and mobile homes.  Trying to decide if  something like that would work on our pretty little piece of land.  We spent a couple of hours daydreaming and measuring what would look best in that little nook at the end of the cul de sac, over looking that peaceful little lake that most everyone else has forgotten exists. We found several that had us imagining how beautiful they would look tucked away back there.

The boys were pretty excited about going down, they seem to always know.  They start pacing and looking out the windows as we get closer.  Their noses leaving little smudge marks and tails wagging.

As we turned down Glen Arbor something didn't feel right... it wasn't the beauty, it wasn't noticeable right away... until we saw the ruts in our dirt/rock road.  It looked like a big truck had been down the road, a really big truck.  As we got closer to the end, where we should have seen the tangle of brush and branches that marked the of the road, we saw it... no brush or trees on one side for that matter.  Someone had cleared a path, dozed it out, leveled off a huge section of what we were told was common land that would never be developed. I am sure eventually it will be nice, but right now it looks garish and harsh.  It looks intrusive.

Gator is not liking the looks of things

The main reason we bought that particular piece of property is because it's secluded, quiet, peaceful and remote.  When we were told that the opposing property was common ground and wouldn't be developed it sealed the deal.  It isn't that we don't like people, okay hubby doesn't, but with all the insanity that we have around us daily, we needed the quiet. The front of our house is a main road here in town, we listen to cars and people non-stop.  Our weeks down there have been heavenly.

Those days are gone now, the privacy that made it special is completely history, now we need to think about whether or not it still has value to us. 

Ironically, we had already driven pass the building that I have been dreaming about making my place.  It's still for sale, waiting.  We both love the people and town that it is located in.  The town square, the gazebo by the train tracks, the slower pace. 

Now here is the bittersweet part, both of us loved the place on Glen Arbor, but for reasons neither of us could quite place our finger on we have stalled on moving forward with even preparing it for a house some day.  We go down and enjoy camping, fishing, relaxing, we just haven't started preparing it.  I am sure some of it is the year round residents there tend to be very cliquey, or maybe it is the fact that they don't really stick to the rules about keeping things neat and clean, or maybe it was something neither of us could grasp.  Today I am 99.9% sure we decided that if we even keep our place it will forever be a weekend get away.

It's not a bad thing, it's not a good thing... but somehow I feel like we lost something we treasured.  I don't know, maybe the new neighbors are super nice, I just don't feel the need to find out.  I don't go there to socialize, I go there to hide.

Hubby and I were talking on the drive down there today, wondering if eventually finding a place that we could commute to by bike or walking wouldn't be better.  Debating on whether or not we could ultimately live in that gated community that often had some very closed minded people.  We spent a lot of time today daydreaming, plotting and planning.  We never came up with a coherent final thought, maybe that was the cosmos telling us to slow down and wait...

The end result is that we are still in search of our dream place, and who knows, maybe it is right where we are... I guess time will tell...

Dad and Neeko were having quite a discussion

On the flip side the boys had a great ride, got to smell lots of wonderful new scents, caught a glimpse of the pretty Lucy that I think they would fight each other for, and we managed to meet up with the wonderful Karen that makes the incredible smoked dog bones that they both love so much.  They were full of kisses and wagging tails for her, so much so they sweet talked her into a special treat just for being adorable.  They got to traipse down the hill and sniff out all the goodness that the country brings.  Neeko got to run around looking for turtles, silly boy - it's winter, and Gator just hung out with Mom.  He's slowing down and wasn't so interested in running anywhere, he was ready for a soft bed and yummy treat.  We even stopped in town at the local grocery for some fried chicken, Gator has a passion for chicken.

Gator is watching the moonrise too
 Driving home we got to watch the most beautiful moon rise, I tried as hard as I could to take a picture, but it simply wasn't meant to be.  It was so beautiful though, rising slowly up, starting out so pale almost invisible against the soft pale blue of the evening sky.  By the time we pulled in the driveway it was shining like a giant glimmering globe in the deep navy sky, beckoning you to linger and stare at it through the leafless branches of the maple, full of hope and promise.

Bittersweet day... but one that I wouldn't trade away for anything...

Slow down...

I cannot be the only person that savors a slow lazy start to a Saturday morning, I mean who doesn't want to kick back and unwind as those glorious two days called the weekend start?  I was awake at 4 am, but I was not willing to start the weekend at such an early hour.  For a change I told my brain to shut up and snuggled a little closer to my Gator boy, evidently Hubby got up really early.  More space for Gator and I to stretch out.  Those extra two hours were wonderful!

Gator is okay with staying in bed and cuddling!

I know I have to revise that to do list, but for a few more minutes (maybe hours) I am going to enjoy the peace and quiet with my steaming hot coffee. I am debating on a couple slices of toast to go with it, and if I want to watch a show and do a bit of knitting while Hubby sleeps a bit more. 

The past week was a short long week and I feel a bit worn out from it, I am sure the extra sleep is helping me want to unwind a bit before I race into the day.  The cold weather outside and knowing we are expecting some yucky weather later this weekend isn't very motivating either.  Good thing we never got around to putting in that fireplace or all hope would be lost!  Seriously, can't you picture that?  A roaring fire, a comfy chair, flannel jammies, warm hand knit socks to keep the toes warm and hot coffee... Knitting bag comes out and that day is gone! But how inspiring is that?  I am fairly sure that I would be able to make a serious dent in my knitting if that were the kind of space and day I were having.

This day is actually going to go a lot different than that.  I will make my to do list shortly, it will have the usual mundane tasks like laundry and ironing (although most of the laundry is done so that is kind of a gimme) it will also have things like picking up the stray branches in the yard and making sure everything is ready for the yucky weather that might hit us.  It is also going to have a couple of spots to create some new "to do" lists. 

One is budgetary, my goal this year is to manage to start b'longa'b's and I don't want to go into debt to make that happen.  So I am going to put together a financial plan to get there, I want to use the principles of Dave Ramsey's snowball  to create a path. Hubby is looking into the building we want and all the stuff associated with it, and I am looking at the rest of the picture - between the two of us, we are going to make this happen.

Another one is focused on clearing out the clutter.  I am sure I already told you that I have a nasty habit of putting off doing things I don't want to do, yes I admit it I am a procrastinator.  I will completely put off doing something tedious in order to have time to create, that will win out every time!  So I have decided to make a list to help me de-clutter  my world, to clear out the external chaos so I can focus on the important things that make me and hubby happy.  I have rooms full of things that either need sold, donated or trashed.  And when I get to my crafting room, it is going to be insanity for anyone lucky enough to be around. 

I have tons of things that will be going on Craig's list or put aside for a yard sale hosted by my talented daughter.  Some of the items are waiting to be repurposed and put aside for when that talented daughter finally get's her store opened.  I cannot wait to start sending things to her shop, that is going to be an exciting day - but that is not my story to tell. 

I am leaning towards a plan that will require me to clear out one space per month.  That could reasonably take me about a year, but it would make it easier to squeeze into my daily life without stress.  I know I will want to put aside a lot of stuff for donation to Strange Folks UpCycle.  My other thought is to focus on removing a certain amount of stuff per month.  I will have to have a serious conversation with hubby before moving forward with this list.

It's time to start planning for the garden.  I have some things I want to do different this year and I am hoping hubby and I will have time to build my greenhouse this year.  We've had most of the supplies for a few years now, yet we always delay, for a variety of reasons.  I think it's time to move forward.  I have also seen a few frames and raised beds that I want to plan to add to the garden this year.  I  am a firm believer in planting food not lawns.  I cannot wait for my Baker's Creek Farm catalog to arrive.  I am hoping to go down to the spring festival they have this year, last year it was pretty much flooded out.  I love an adventure, but I am not willing to drive 4 hours each way to tromp through the mud and muck and to get drenched in downpours. That in my book is not an adventure, but a nightmare.  Last year I discovered some really awesome new heirlooms and had great success despite the drought, who knows what will happen this year.

Then I need to put together my calendar, timeline and plan for b'longa'b.  Amazing right?  I don't know why I am so slow to decide to follow my own dreams, but better late than never.  My next step is an Etsy shop, yikes!!  Yep, I know, seriously get some self confidence you silly woman... hard to believe I am a Leo isn't it??   Right now I sell quite a bit by word of mouth, and by commission. If I want to have an Etsy shop and be successful, I know that I will need to have some inventory on hand so that people don't have to wait too long.  I also know that with my current work schedule if I don't have that safety net there, unless I give up sleep I will quickly fail.

My cousin came up with a great idea to help me stay more accountable and focused and I want to take time to chat with her this weekend also, one more plan to put into place.

Looks like it is going to be a really full weekend, and hubby wants to squeeze in a trip to the country.  Really should go and check on our property, maybe even take a walk, although it is a bit cold and while Neeko will enjoy the romp, Gator will want to curl up on the sofa with the heat on. 
Are we there yet? 

But... I think I have time for one more cup of coffee, I have decided multi-grain toast with homemade jam sounds wonderful, and I think I will put 2 more rows of garter on mom's gift and start on the lace... I think I am going to enjoy my slow start until 10 am... anyone want to join me??

Friday, January 25, 2013

Organizationally Challenged?? Me????

Do you ever feel frozen?  Like your to do list is insurmountable and you simply cannot figure out where to start to accomplish everything that is begging for your attention?  That is me... actually that is me most days.  It's not a rare thing, for me it is an everyday occurrence.  In fact it is the first thing on my New Years Resolution list, every year!

It isn't for lack of desire, I crave organization.  I just seem to be missing that gene from my DNA.  Both of my children are super organized and orderly, something they must have inherited from their father and also something they must have grown into as adults, because I remember them when they were young.  I envy people that can make a to do list daily and actually see it to the end, the ones that always know exactly what is in the pantry and have menu plans ready for the week.  Folks that don't wake up at night in terror over what they might have forgotten to accomplish that was critical, or so it seemed at two am.

It also isn't for lack of trying.  I have calendars - paper and electronic - thank you very much.  I carry a notebook with my to do lists in them.  I have filing systems in place.  And I am always running a mile behind trying to keep things orderly.

And the worst thing is I feel like I am getting more organizationally challenged each year. Or is it simply all the things that I feel I need to do and keep putting into the "I will get to it pile" is creating an "I will get to it - landfill" and I can't seem to get organized enough to tackle it? 

I fear that because I was a military brat/spouse for most of my life and I was always faced with the upcoming move, I had a natural forced point that I had to get organized by.  I couldn't just carry it to the basement and plan to deal with it later.  Later always came in the form of a shipping box and over weight limit charges back then.  Now that I live in a stable home, going on 10 years now, I don't feel that overwhelming force and making myself do it simply because it is driving me nuts does not seem to have the same effect as that old moving van did.

I have all the standard excuses, they are pretty much the same ones you would use to describe the multitude of reasons not to exercise.  You know the ones, I'm too busy, I have to work, I am exhausted, I don't have time, no one to help me, no support, no energy... wow, that is a well rehearsed list isn't it?

Some of those things are true for a variety of reasons, most are simply excuses. I do work a lot of hours, sadly I am as organizationally challenged there as I am at home and that just makes me feel more frozen in place.  To be disorganized on all fronts is rather daunting!  At work I am in the process of trying to accomplish several huge and critical tasks at the same time and the feeling of disorganization is at the moment insurmountable. 

Today I am feeling an overpowering need to focus on tying up loose ends and creating a plan. I am facing a weekend that doesn't have anything attached to it, no requirement to go to work, no trips to see children, no events that need my participation.  All those factors are telling me that it is time to face the music and get with it.

I get easily distracted from my path, I would far rather be creating something and even when I have the best of intentions a fiber, paint, wood, garden, lye, fabric... oh my see what I mean?  The distraction that comes from creating is hard for me to overcome...

I think this weekend will be a great time for me to start chasing away the cobwebs, to getting more organized, to start thawing out the insanity in my head so that I can focus on the great things that I have already decided are in store for me in 2013.  It's time to roll up the sleeves and make that serious to do list, the one that is always being filled up with fluff to make it easier to feel a sense of accomplishment, on both the home and work fronts. 

They say you can eat an elephant one bite at a time... Now that thought alone is enough to return me to being a vegetarian, but I like the premise.  Maybe I should look at it from a different perspective, maybe I should remember that you can move a lot of compost one shovel at a time. And the end result is so rewarding.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Call me a little kid, but my northern roots always override the adult that has to deal with it.  I love snow, and every time I hear the slightest hint of it being talked about on the news my ears perk up.  I want to know how much and most importantly how soon!

I moved to the mid-west just about 10 years ago, my family moved here long before that, but our home is now and will always be Pennsylvania.  I get snow envy every winter, when the Facebook pictures start popping up with huge snow drifts on the porch and the stories of enormous fluffy white snowflakes drifting gently down.  I admit it I am just down right jealous.  I've seen pictures of it here in the mid-west, and we've had some pretty good snow's over the years, but it is an exception not the rule.

It's been a couple of years since we've had that wonderful deep drift, stay at home curled up at the window with a steaming cup of hot cocoa watching the peaceful still it brings has happened.  To me that is the perfect peace.  Snow seems to have the ability to stop everyone, to make them slow down.  And I personally believe that is something we really need in our world today.

If I thought for a second that my sweet hubby wouldn't have me committed for insanity I would be pushing really hard to move further north when we finally move.  Unfortunately, I am also in the minority where snow is concerned.  Seems most folks aren't big fans of the cold stuff, hubby is no exception.

 Nothing makes me want to take a walk so bad as fresh fallen snow on a bright winter night, especially if there are still big fluffy flakes falling all around me.  I want to savor it and soak up the special glow that the world takes on at that moment, when everything has a shimmery blue hue and is all sparkly. 

My old guy Gator used to love to frolic in the snow, now he might agree more with the hubby now.  But if the snow wants to return our Neeko will be happy to go romping in the white stuff with Mommy.  He rushes out to chase the slightest flakes, bouncing across the yard.  Gator strolls out to take care of business then returns to shelter to watch the "young fool" act silly.  If dogs could roll their eyes I am fairly sure that is what Gator is doing. 

Ahhh... well... if we do get a few flurries today, I am sure that is all it will be.  There might be a slight dusting maybe an inch if we are lucky. I cannot wait for this weather cycle to change and snow to return to the mid-west.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Homesteading, Survivalist, Prepper, Environmentalist... just a name...

It seems like those names are bounced around a lot now-a-days.  Everyone has an image in their mind about them.  And frankly I find it hysterical... I guess it depends on who's definition you are going by as to where I fall and honestly I am not sure any of them really apply.

When I put up my canning after a great growing season does it make me a prepper?  Because my family will have food that I have grown and carefully preserved to insure they are fed healthy food.  I didn't do it because I am worried about the stores running out of groceries or anything else.  I do it because I love to garden and I hate waste!  I mean why would I waste my time growing a garden to just toss it in the compost pile.  And I love to share with my friends and family.  I believe that is how a community is built.

And while I am talking about gardening, is that a homesteader trait or an environmentalist?  Because when I garden in my raised beds I am very cautious about what I put in the soil and I use compost that is organic. I buy non-gmo seeds and usually only plant heirloom varieties.  Do I do this for an environmental reason?  No... I do it for my taste buds and my conscience.  The heirloom varieties have a flavor that man's meddling cannot compete with and when I don't try to grow things that shouldn't be grown where I live, they grow so much better. I simply don't want my veggies to be genetically altered, kind of a God's way kind of gal.

I am fairly sure that enjoying making my own wash cloths and soap doesn't make me a homesteader, although I could be.  I enjoy knowing that my soap is not full of things I cannot pronounce and that my skin is softer and feels great.  As for washcloths... nothing better than the feel of soft cotton and I don't have to worry about the quality.

I remember back when my daughter was born, I insisted on cloth diapers, mostly because I am not a trusting soul and I will admit it, I AM CHEAP!  I don't want to pay more for sub-quality or to worry and wonder.  I know that my time has value, and I know that it is more convenient to just go shopping.  I also know that I enjoy creating the things that make life better.  I know those cloth diapers that often dried on a line provided my baby's bum with softness and no chemicals against her skin, it saved me money (have you priced those things) and I knew in my heart I was doing good by her.

Back then I searched for like minded souls, people that believed in doing the same things that get you labeled now.  There were very few, the internet hadn't grown up and we hadn't found each other yet.  Now more than a few years down the road we are all connected.  Some go by labels, some not so much... me... I am still just me.

Sometimes I am prepping for a the winter months when my garden is sleeping but we are craving fresh green beans or wanting to remember the flavor of those crisp pears. Sometimes I am protecting my environment when I am cutting up cotton fabric scraps to put into my compost bins so nothing goes to waste and I have rich soil to fill my garden beds.  Maybe I am creating my homestead when I make my dish cloths, wash cloths, soaps, detergents, cooking a dinner from scratch, or making my animals treats.  And just maybe through it all I am a survivalist, because in doing all the things that make me feel valuable and allow me to care for my family, in a small way I am insuring just a bit of the bad stuff that greed and carelessness can create does not come near my family or my fur babies.  Who knows... I do know I am not a big fan of being labeled... I am who I am... and it's okay.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Wow, who would have thought that a fairly simply oral surgery could result in insomnia and jitters a full twelve hours later?  Not me, that's who!

Here it 14 hours after I came home yesterday and I am still awake. Spoke with the doc and he said it was highly likely that I would be a little buzzy from all the shots with adrenaline in them, but he did not tell me that my face would still be numb and I would not be able to sleep.

Oh well, being me... what do you do with an extra 12+ hours in your day? After seriously failing to drift off to sleep, even with the precautionary pain pill he told me to take (the kind that usually knock me out for the full count).  I tried turning on the news and watching the ticker at the bottom for HOURS - usually I don't make it through the first cycle - have you ever read that, unbelievably boring! I switched to playing bingo on my Nook - another sure fire sleep inducer. 
Still no luck.  Curled up with my pups, tossed and turned, listened to hubby snore, counted alpaca (sheep are simply not my thing)... nothing worked.

So I gave up! Around 2 I just got up and started working my way through the most boring things on my to do list - the kind that would normally have me yawning and drifting off to sleep, you guessed it no luck!

Surfed the web and managed to find several new dog treats I want to try, I am getting very paranoid about what is going on with pet food and treats lately.  My dogs are not animals, they are my fur-babies and I don't want anything to hurt them.  Maybe this weekend I will try the 'peanut butter woofies' I found, if I do I will definitely be taking pictures and documenting the success/failure of the project.

Baked a birthday cake for one of the girls on my staff team. Hope she likes it, as I won't be there to give it to her.  Hubby said he would drop it off, one of the best things about working in the same building.

Peanut Butter Cake from scratch cooling

Dark Chocolate Icing

Also found time to work on mom's gift, a bit hard to knit when your hands are shaking, but figured the clicking of the needles would help me unwind and get some sleep. Made my to do list, I've always read that getting everything off your mind will help you fall asleep.  Evidently that is without outside influences...

Here the world is waking up, I can hear the cars zipping past out front and hubby's TV down in the man-cave, and I can finally feel myself unwinding... I think I will go iron hubby's work clothes, pack his lunch, sign a birthday card, finish frosting a cake, feed the lizard and turtle, and curl back up in my nice toasty bed.  Maybe the fact that it is peaceful, 14 chilly degrees and this darn adrenaline is wearing off will lead to some zzzz's

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake!! Yum

Monday, January 21, 2013

Urbana Time

I will truly miss Urbana time... This spring my son graduates and moves on to grad school. I know I will hate it!  Not that I don't want him to go and experience his dreams and discover new challenges and people.  Those are things that I truly want for him.  He is so smart and understands things that I can barely grasp - though not for lack of trying.  But it will mean the end of those day trips to Urbana. I treasure those trips!!

I never sleep well the night before we head up.  I always want to make sure I haven't forgotten anything and I am so excited for those few hours that I get to be part of his world.  It's like Christmas  morning for mom's... a present waiting to be ripped open and the joy of being a "needed" mom for a few hours is amazing!!

Luckily, Hubby sleeps good, because he is my driver.  That is only slightly a joke, I always use that three hour trip as creating time.  It controls my inner child that is rattling around my brain chanting "are we there yet, are we there yet??".

Yesterday's project was the start of mom's birthday present, she doesn't read this and I am pretty sure my sisters won't rat me out, but I managed to get 4 inches of  her sweater done.  The color and texture is out of this world!  Soft, cozy, so feminine and appropriately named "February Lady Sweater", the camera does not do it justice, it is a rich lavender not blue.

But I digress... we've arrived...  It always starts the same way, a quick text message, "here", followed quickly by an "ok"... that minute it takes for him to come down the stairs is the longest ever. Santa coming on Christmas eve arrives so much quicker!  I guess that is simply the mom in me that misses my youngest being around all the time, but each time - after even a week - he seems older and more grown.  Which only makes the fact that I am bringing him a collection of  Final Fantasy Amigurumi that I have made for his birthday seem that much more ironic.

I could barely stand waiting to see his face,in fact I didn't wait. He knew the Black Mage was coming and that smile of his is just as contagious now as it was when he was a little bug. What he didn't know is that I had finished his Tonberry too, now that smile... WOW!! Mission accomplished!  Score one for Mom!

Then it is off to a great little bbq place for lunch, when your child is a physic's major lunch conversation is never dull and I always learn so much! Tesla (my choice of conversation - as I have been learning a bit about it), Faraday (we both have input there) and then on to Newton (and no the cookie isn't named after him!)... Hubby and I always learn a few new things over bbq.

Next stop... groceries!  Every college kid needs restocked monthly and the mundane chore is so fun when your kiddo is in 'I need to slow down" mode.  Hubby usually finds a reason to disappear by the time we've arrived here.  Both of my kids talk quite softly and it's hard for him to hear them is what he tells me. I also think it has a bit to do with giving me some quality mommy time - I always try to do that for him when the girls are around.  Yesterday was slow down mode, as we wandered aisle after aisle making sure we planned enough meals to get him through the month, we got to talk about so many things.  I cherish that time.  My boy and I have always had that kind of relationship and I can remember some really amazing conversations that have happened in the quiet ordinary daily things.  The conversations are more adult now, about grown up issues, hopes and dreams, but conversations with him have never been boring!

Once we arrive back at the apartment is when I really get my mommy cup filled.  I cherish spoiling my kids, I guess I am just a nurturer, and who better to nurture than my loved ones! After Hubby and I have helped him carry up the groceries and put everything away, it's always schnitzel time.  I can always tell if he's in a relaxed mood or rushed then, because if he's in a hurry he will sit at the bar and work on homework while I cook explaining the problem he is working on.  But when he's relaxed it is perfect.  Yesterday he worked on doing dishes while I cooked his stash of schnitzel, as any mom knows you worry that your baby isn't eating well - even if they are 22. I feel so reassured when  I get to make him a big container to heat up over the week. And we talked, nothing earth shattering, just mom and son chatting while doing the normal daily stuff.

My sweet Hubby knows that I crave this, because he just sits there fidgeting with his phone or fixing little things around the apartment grinning at me.  He is just as guilty because he always finds a reason to check on the car and make sure all the lights are burning.

We all stall for more time, I will need to clean his bathroom and help him fold the laundry or sweep the floor and run the vacuum, anything to stretch out that few hours.  A bit more face time, a few more minutes of conversation.  Yes, I know that he is perfectly capable of doing that himself and that he does it himself 3 or 4 weeks out of every month, but for that little bit of time my baby still needs his mommy.... right????

All too soon it's time to drive home, I get as many hugs, kisses and I love you's as I can get, I always insist on at least one picture of the two of us... they never change much, but they are my record of his years at school.  Yesterday we took a few minutes to take some pictures of his growing Amigurumi collection, and to chatter a bit more, before it was time to leave and time for him to head off to workout with his friends.

That drive home is getting harder each time.

Urbana time is coming to an end only 3 more trips like that.  The one in May will be so different, May will start a brand new chapter.  Only one of the grad schools is close, the rest are significantly further away.  There won't be monthly trips to be mommy,  he will no longer come home for a week or two each summer and Christmas, and I will truly know how it feels to have my youngest leave the nest completely.  Hubby's youngest still haven't gone to college, but I am sure their mommy would have a bit of a problem with me scooping them up.

For now... I am going to treasure Urbana time, enjoy each moment... Grad school can wait a few more months!

Saturday, January 19, 2013


It's been a wonderful Saturday!  I didn't get much house work done, and that darn Christmas tree is still up, but my soul is full! I spent the entire day doing what I wanted to do, in a purely selfish manner. 

Curled up in my big comfy overstuffed chair, in my warm flannel jammies with a steaming cup of hot black coffee - pure perfection!  Top it off with two projects that I wanted to finish and a full week of shows to catch up with on my laptop, and you have the makings of nirvana - at least for someone like me.

It was only by early afternoon, with watching one of the shows about how we are allowing electronics to control our lives and me sitting there thinking "I don't think so", that reality dawned on me.  I might say that I am perfectly comfortable in a cabin in the woods with all my old world (as one adult at a conference I was at recently described my hobbies) projects. The truth is I am as addicted as the next person.

First thing this morning I answered a message from one of my sisters about a recipe for hard candy immediately followed by a serious IM session with another sister reminding me that we are very much alike and her texting me a picture of an incredibly wonderful looking loaf of fresh bread.  Seriously I could smell it from here... what's a few hundred miles? While enjoying that conversation, I had opened my Nook and continued working on my most recent crochet project (photo's will be coming). 

The irony of the day still had not sunk in. 

My sister and I shared ideas on gardening, canning, how to control ants and a few other topics, including what mom might like for her upcoming birthday - note to self - no electronics! All the while I was still rhythmically working that hook through the yarn and thinking how much I was enjoying the day.

Fast forward a couple of hours I have finished a couple loads of laundry, and started dinner in the good old crock-pot.  Anyone else starting to get suspicious here? Hubby quickly microwaves himself a bowl of soup leftover from last night and joins me while I continue working on my project at hand, I was determined to finish it.

My show is playing, my needle is flying through the fabrics I am creating when that sweet ding of a message sounds. It's one of my best friends from Georgia talking with me about soap making and different calculators, she is making a baby soap. I simply cannot wait to hear the outcome.  During this conversation I manage to finish up one project just in time to serve dinner and enjoy a bit of time with hubby.

Here it is the end of the day, I have two projects finished, I have caught up with 3 days worth of shows, touched base with my dear friend in Georgia and two of my sisters in Arkansas... and I created all my old world stuff surrounded by all my new world magic. 

Life is easier with all my "modern day" stuff, I love my Nook and that I can get immediate pictures from far away on my phone.  I love that "slaving over a hot stove" isn't always needed to have a wonderful filling dinner.  I enjoy greatly that the network that I watch on my laptop is archived so when I have a quiet day at home I can enjoy watching while I focus on other things.  I love that while my kids aren't right here at home, I can talk to them whenever, bridging a distance that often seems too far.

If I only had the modern in my world I would be a very unhappy person, I need my old world connections.  I need to feel the cool metal crotchet hook and the smooth silky feeling of my beautiful wooden knitting needles.  I need the fibers moving through my fingers and something made with love being the end result. 

Maybe the tree will come down tomorrow - but I doubt it.  While talking to my hubby at lunch, telling him how much I wish we could go see "the boy" away at college, my computer made that sweet ding... I wonder if he heard me thinking about him, or maybe he misses me as much as I miss him... but tomorrow will be a road trip three hours each way to spend a few precious hours with my son!  Pretty sure he misses schnitzel, but I will take any excuse to spend time with him!

What a day full of ironies... what a simply rich day!

Friday, January 18, 2013

I wonder...

Do you ever stop and simply wonder where in your family tree you inherited something... anything?  A love a cooking, crafting, gardening, wood working... who in the past did you inherit those things from?  I sometimes feel like I am a melting pot of the people I love, and those I never met.  I have three sisters and none of us are the same.  You know we are a family, and we cherish one another, but we have very little in common, no let me correct that... I have very little in common with them. 

 We all share a love of animals, but they think I am nuts letting my old basset pit mix snuggle up with me at night.  And I think I am the only one with permanent soil stains under my nails come planting season.  I am fairly sure that I am just plain odd. So... where did it come from?  What genetic soup created me?  Why do I seem so convinced that this world is not the one I want to play in?  Why do I feel compelled to create what I want and need as opposed to rushing to the store.

Simply put I detest shopping as a general rule, but give me the opportunity to learn how something is made and how to make it safer and better for my family, I am all over it!  I like supporting local, I love wandering through a farmers market.  I can spend days searching for the right piece of lumber, particularly if the smell of sawdust fills the air.  I will admit to a fondness for any kind of craft store and I can be almost impossible to drag away from good alpaca roving, okay, okay maybe it doesn't even have to be good roving, simply workable and I am game.  But...Take me into Best Buy and I swear I can feel hives starting to develop!

My dad used to tease me when I was a kid, telling me I was "little house on the prairie" or maybe simply a hippie/gypsy.  I loved then as much as I do now, my long broomstick skirts and pheasant blouses or my jeans and sweatshirts,  I was never much into fashion.  I love my hair long - although I have been known to whack it all off if the mood hits me.  As a kid I loved my earth shoes, as an adult I discovered Birkenstocks and I have never looked back, although I do admit to still owning a pair or two of earth shoes.

Which ancestor did I get that crazy stuff from?  Who instilled the love of a garden in my heart, was it Papa?  Someone that I didn't even share a drop of blood with?  I loved his gardens, and still have the picture of the beautiful orange rose bush he planted for me shortly before his stroke. I don't know if it really was for me, but I cherish that story and picture!  I love orange roses, the depth and beauty never cease to take my breath away. I planted one outside my front door when I moved here to Illinois, into my first ever home.  Long before my sweet James discovered my need to connect with the earth and let me plant 13 more trees and built my raised beds, the first thing was the orange rose to keep my Papa close.

Who instilled in my very being the need to create?  The non-stop drive to always have my hands busy, to learn and persist at the things that still the restlessness of my spirit?  Was it my Grammie, my Great Gramma, Gramma A?  Was it even further back and more diverse than that?  What drove my teenaged self to need to learn to crochet?  Or the young mother I'd become to learn to sew and knit?  Was that inherent, or did I learn that while Debbie and I were trying to create beauty in Charleston on an airman's budget? Where did the drive to quilt, embroider and do needlework of any kind originate? Was it Mammas Manolis?  My amazing Greek landlady who was stunned that at 12 I had not created anything for my hope chest when her Maria had already filled her's by 11.  The thrill of creating and painting anything wood?  Did that come from family or my dear friend Michelle who taught me how to use a scroll saw in Germany?  My Kromski spinning wheel was a gift from my husband, after we discovered by accident at the farmers market that I seem to have an affinity for using a drop spindle, is that from a distant ancestor?  Where did the desire to make soap and the candies my Grammie sent me come from?

I didn't grow up near my relatives, so many of them are gone and the memories are getting so much dimmer, to the point that I don't know whether the stories I "remember" are real or a misty mixed up memories.  But I know that I have beautiful quilt blocks, flowers, crocheted treasures and a very strong need to keep those things alive.  I wonder, who shared their gifts with me... am I a conglomeration of  them all mixed up with a healthy dose of this wonderful life I have had the opportunity to live?

I am fairly certain I will never know, at least not until the end is done, but I am thankful to all my relatives that had so many talents.  And to the path that has taken me to where I am now.  I am so blessed to have a hubby that understands these irrational needs and supports me in my pursuit of my passions (when he'd really like to simply go fishing or watch a good movie). 

Do you ever wonder what created the person that you are?

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I considered staying home in bed today, it was one of those get up and go's, got up and gone kind of days.  Everything was making me growly this morning, my tooth hurt, I hadn't been able to sleep and I just felt yucky. Everything on the news was making me even crankier... what kind of day could this possibly turn out to be?

The drive across the bridge was annoying to say the least, the drive through the construction zones was particularly ugly as the sky was so over cast and dreary.  Dumped my purse on the floor of the car and spent an additional 15 minutes picking everything up.

Yep, it was going to be long, dreary day.

Fast forward an hour or two and I got a text from my sister... actually a series of texts.  It's funny how talking about making bread is the best way to cheer up the day.  The only thing better would have been actually making that bread myself!

By the time we'd finished text messaging each other, I had moved into a better place. My tooth still hurt, and I was still tired, but my soul was smelling fresh baked bread on a cold winter's day.  It was easier to focus and get things finished.

Amazing how little things can change the whole day...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

my "real" world...

There is an old country song that says “I was country when country wasn’t cool”, one of my all-time favorites.  Not because it is a great song – in my world it was, but because it speaks to my heart.   I don’t know if it was how I was raised, doubtful as I’m the only one of my sisters that seems to be ‘infected’, maybe the reincarnation theory is right, or maybe I am just too darn independent and strong willed for any other kind of out-come.

Those that know me know my heart is in a quieter time.  Where self-reliance ruled the day and you could trust those around you. Family bonds were deep and children were raised up.  If tomorrow all my dreams came true … how different my world would be.

I would be living down on my land in the country, that small plot of land has a very strong emotional pull for me.  Although, I would need to finally build a house there, something small and rustic with a wraparound porch, and I would still want it tucked slightly away from the road down the hill a bit.  This would drive my hubby crazy as he is the outgoing one in the family and loves to visit with the neighbors.  The ground would already be cleared for my raised bed garden, it’s too rocky for traditional farming, and my greenhouse would already be in place filled with veggies and herbs. My dogs would be roaming around my fenced yard at will, trotting down to the lake to bother the critters there.  Neeko would probably be getting scolded daily for bringing up a box turtle or two. Our personal haven from a world gone slightly mad…

b’longa’b would already be a community, because that is how I see it.  Kind of like the old-time general store, a place more transformational than transactional. 

 If I close my eyes I can see it perfectly clear, it’s a little old service station in a small town that has long since been gutted and all the hazards removed.  It has a big awning over the front when the pumps used to be, it is a requirement that folks have a place to just relax out front safe from the sun and rain.  There are places to sit among the herbs and flowers, places to learn and plants to buy if you need some for your garden at home. Tea and coffee are always available to encourage you to sit a spell.  Once you walk inside is where the magic is, b'longa’b will take you back in time. It’s a place where any crafts person can sell their creations, where the American dream can become a reality, a place where independence is rewarded.  Oh the wonders inside, I am not insane enough to believe that my two hands can create enough to fill a store, but I am determined enough to believe I am not the only person that believes that sometimes the old ways are the best ways.  

The old pie pantries filled with fresh jellies, jams and preserves of all types. Jars on shelves filled with candies that only contain real ingredients. In the other corner the beautiful rovings and yarns from the alpaca and sheep farms.  I can see and smell the handmade soaps, feel the dishcloths and washcloths.  Beautiful treasures to fill our everyday needs that someone took the time to lovingly create.  Knit, crochet, needlework, wood working, basketry, handspun, and quilted, those are just a few of the “lost arts” that meet our daily needs at b’longa’b.  And we must not forget the gardening section heirlooms only please and the idea sharing.  In the midst of it all, there will be community.  A place for people to gather, to converse, to disagree and meet in the middle, where ideas are shared, kids are enjoyed, where life slows back down to a comforting pace and we are all able to reconnect.
As I open my eyes again I know that dream can happen, heck just yesterday I sold two more bars of soap – because another person realized we don’t have to have the chemical laden mass produced junk that fill the multitude of stores surrounding us.  My ranch house in the city is full of parts of that dream, my garden beds are sleeping for the winter and my greenhouse is coming together in small pieces.  

I am not a fan of the world today, not that I even slightly begin to believe that the old days were a beautiful utopia.  It wasn’t.  It was hard, dirty work.  People didn’t live as long because of that life, but the respect for that life was greater.   And I don’t want to give up all my modern technology, although television could disappear now and I would truly be okay with it, but I would love to marry the best parts of now with a more Amish way of life.  I want running water, but I don’t want my world consumed by stuff. 

I want to be part of a world that discusses ideas and agrees to respect the others point of view. I want to be part of a rational world that doesn’t believe that you should just have something for nothing.  I want to be part of a world that looks out for one another, but at the same time holds each one of us accountable for the general good.  I want to be part of a community…
Now where did I put that apron?  It’s time to roll up my sleeves and get busy creating my dreams!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


It's the birthday of my youngest!!  A day that is a mix of pure happiness to celebrate such a wonderful young man and sadness that the celebration will be long distance.  For the first time in 22 years we are not together for this wonderful day.  Darn school schedules, don't they realize how important days like this are to mom's?

It is just another one of those small changes that make life unique I guess.  I am finally adjusting to a different kind of Christmas morning, without the anxious, excited little ones barely able to control their desire to open the presents that magically showed up while they slept.  The new traditions are slowly creeping in, the peaceful morning enjoying coffee and biscuits with our elderly neighbors who are also early risers while waiting for the kids to either wake up or show up.  Loading the car for the trip to our oldest child's home to celebrate with her and her kids. There are some positive sides to those changes though.  I have to admit that I enjoy the extra time I get to sleep on Christmas Eve!

I don't really have empty nest syndrome, I adjusted well to the silence in my house, but special days those are the ones I wish could've lasted forever.  I miss the little boy that was so joyous and loved the fact that he was pretty much guaranteed he would have his birthday off as he shares it with Martin Luther King Jr and a federal holiday.  Shoot he was in 5th grade before he got to enjoy that rite of passage of taking treats to his class for his special day.  I have always taken his birthday off, always saved a holiday or vacation day to spend the whole day with him... today... I will go to work and try not to mourn the passing of an era.

I started creating a collection of  Final Fantasy amigurumi for him for Christmas.  It started out as a funny gift to make him smile, ended up he loved it!!  When he went back to university last week he took the first two, Cactaur and Chocobo, with him, today I will finish two more to mail to him. I will also research a few more of the characters to complete his collection. Eventually there will be pictures...

Instead of spending the day with him, I will spend it creating something for him. And I am okay with that. 

Here's to celebrating my young man!  He is truly the answer to all the prayers I quietly prayed and I am so proud and blessed to be his mom!

Monday, January 14, 2013


Sunrise through the frost...
brrrrrr... so beautiful to see the January sunrise through a frosted window while enjoying a steaming hot cup of coffee. Monday's are always the day that I savor the morning.  Strange, I know, but it's my late night so I get to extend my weekend by just a few hours.  I get to ease into the work week.

I am not an organized person by nature, I create my own special chaos.  I excel at finding excuses to delay the things that cause me fear.  It's time to put all those excuses behind me, all those reasons to not step out of the box and do what I want.  Come on, admit it, I am not the only procrastinator out there! 

Its a powerful feeling to start the week after such productive weekend (yes, I know that is the Christmas tree still standing tall beside my chair).  I finished Dad's memory quilt, got my entire pile of mending done, started two more quilts, and worked on several crochet projects that I plan to wrap up today.  Even found the yarn I want to use for my niece's wristers. 

Wow, that list looks a bit overwhelming!  And yet I feel energized by it all, although I might need a white board to keep me from forgetting a project.   I have finally decided to take orders for custom projects and will eventually open an Etsy shop.

The final destination is a small place that hubby and I found last spring.  He has so much vision and he is fearless, the perfect foil for a person like me.  I can finally see it too.  This year the focus is the future, we will somehow manage to purchase that little spot and start building it into our dream. 

I heard this weekend that if you want something to happen you must speak it into existence... so... watch out world the dream is being born!

have you tried...

I am learning.   It's a late day for me and I am enjoying the solitude of the morning.  I am working on bringing some balance back ...