Which Christmas card style do you prefer?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Christmas Giving

cookies for the neighbor
I want my son to be raised thinking of Christmas as a time for giving and not just receiving. But Christmas to a little one can certainly seem like a time for getting. The magical month of December when presents are being given to you left and right; We have a Christmas party this weekend. Little Abe will receive a few gifts there. We will be going to another Christmas party next weekend and he'll get a few more. The weekend after that he'll open a few presents at a Christmas Eve party, even more on Christmas morning, and more still when we go to my in-law's house Christmas afternoon. My dad's family's Christmas party is not happening this year but you can generally add that to the regular list of gift stops.

I honestly don't remember Christmas being like this when I was little but we also didn't live near extended family. It seems crazy to me. I love how excited he is at every gift. I love how truly amazing the whole month of December is for him. I love to see that playing with his cousins is just as much fun for him as receiving new gifts but back to where I started, I'm trying my hardest to remind him that Christmas is a time for giving too.

We've certainly been talking about giving and talking about the gift that God gave us. The reason we celebrate Christmas, the gift of Jesus's birth. This whole month we've been finding little ways to give. Last week we went through all of Little Abe's books and picked five to donate to the little free library at the elementary school near our house. The little free library is just a box, kind of like a mailbox in front of the school where people can leave books for others to read, or take books to look at themselves. We've borrowed books from the library box before. We return them when we're done with them but this is the first time we've given books of our own to it. Little Abe really enjoyed giving away books for other kids to read.


A few days ago he made an adorable card to mail to someone, a Christmas card from specifically him. He's planning on making a few more. He'll probably send a card to each of his cousins. I think he is realizing that making a card for someone and then getting to mail it to them is a pretty fun way to give something small to someone else.

We also went through his room and took out many, many toys that he no longer plays with, toys he's grown out of. He likes the idea of giving them away to other kids who will enjoy playing with them. I just have to figure out the best way to donate them or who we know that might like some of them.

We've made cookies twice and both times planned to bring them to our neighbor. The first time I wasn't happy with how they turned out. Go figure right, the time you plan on giving them away they don't turn out well. The second batch was very involved. We made cut out cookies from my Grandmother's recipe box. They are the same cookies I made each year as a kid with my mom. Abe helped the whole time, mixing, rolling, cutting, and sprinkling. We brought them over to our neighbor's house today. I think that was the first time this year either of us said Merry Christmas to anyone. 

making peanut butter balls
There are some really fun lists online of giving ideas, things I would have never thought of. We plan to put many of the ideas to use this month. One of my favorites (something I can't imagine I would ever in a million years think of on my own) is to leave a note at houses with really great Christmas lights thanking the homeowners for putting up such beautiful lights/ decorations for everyone to see. I think that's such a neat idea. Two of our neighbors across the street have lights up that little Abe really likes so hopefully we'll stop a note over at their homes this week.

Of course there will be more cookie making, more Christmas card crafting, and more brainstorming but Christmas this year will be a time for giving and something about that just makes me so much more excited for Christmas. It is better to give then to receive.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Confession

I am a jumbled mess.

Over the years the main lesson I've learned from this blog is that everything in life runs smoother with a plan. Don't get me wrong, at heart I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-artistic-turn-life-into-a-giant-collage type person. But planning things; having a spending plan (not just a budget), having a weekly meal plan, having a plan for numerous different tasks makes each task run more smoothly AND having such plans does ease a good deal of stress. BUT planning takes work and sometimes the initial work can make the benefits appear small and insignificant.

Ever since the job change about six months ago I've been really frazzled. My husband and I really like our new jobs but it took a decent amount of time for all three us to adjust to the schedule, routine, and all over changes in life. I think all planning fell through the cracks six months ago but I've still yet to pick it back up.

Essentially, I'm driving myself crazy. I can't tell you how often I rush out of work while needing to pick up three things and leaving the store with fifteen things or more. This means way overspending. And we're constantly out of one or more fixins for a dinner even so. My mind is always racing about something I'm trying to get done very last minute because I didn't have an initial game plan. It's madness!!!

It's time to regain control of my life. This blog post is my motivation to buckle down and get back to it. Christmas is coming and any planning I'm attempting seems geared towards that. Christmas will be great and we're going to make the most of this month of holiday festivities but gosh darn it I am off work tomorrow and:

I WILL 
make a meal plan
go over the budget
write out a spending plan for this week
post real December goals
and finalize Christmas spending


Okay, self motivational speech done.
I hope everyone is having a great week thus far.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

His name is Frank the snowman

He looks super grouchy, I know.
But his name is Frank the snowman and we sure had fun making him.


Today was the first real snowfall this winter. I mean, snow has fallen a few times, maybe three but it hasn't really stuck. This evening it began falling. The big wet sticky kind of snowflakes that are perfect for making snowmen and snowballs and snow forts. We call it snowman snow. It was after dark by the time a good few inches had collected but we headed out for the event my son has been waiting months for. One hour, one snow man, too many snowballs to count, and two very, very, wet and rosy cheeked individuals later our first snowy day is in the books.



Today has been really great. I spent a TON of time working on this year's Christmas card (it involved taking the dog to the beach to get a few photos). I'm just stoked that I finally decided on what to do for the card. Our old man Bozzy had a wonderful time running around on the shore with little Abe. I'm glad we got there before the snow! Our snowy shenanigans this evening were memory making. Of course hot cocoa with mini marshmallows was enjoyed after. And now I have a very tired grouchy boy. I think I may have "overworked" him (little Abe that is). Haha, I guess you can't win em' all.

Time for bed!

OH, and remember to take a sec and vote in the Christmas card poll above.
Thank-you

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Looking for your opinion concerning Christmas cards

I've posted a poll at the top of this page.
Please take a moment to vote.
Thanks!!!

For years I've been wondering if there's an overall preferred style of Christmas card. Extremely trivial, I know. But it's a pondering I often stop at. I've noticed that the family photo postcard style of card has gained in popularity. I personally love seeing photos of people's families and their children. But when it comes to Christmas cards I think I still prefer a traditional greeting card. I've turned a photo of a pet into a greeting card for several different Christmases (before baby Abe came along). Once I used a photo of our cat snuggled under our bedspread. Once I used a photo of our dogs (one being a new puppy) with Christmas wrapping as a backdrop. But on both occasions I adhered the photos to folded card stock to create a card I was then able to write in.



I know a few people that display the family photo cards in their homes at Christmas and basically dispose of the regular holiday greeting cards they receive. I know a few people who honestly dislike the family photo postcards at Christmastime. I eagerly welcome every card we get, family photo or traditional card. Each is hung on the wall next to our entryway book case. The cards on the wall are one of my favorite holiday decorations. I wish everyone sent Christmas cards. But alas, fewer and fewer people actually do.

Do you have any thoughts on the subject?
Do you have a preference?
Feel free to leave a comment and vote in the poll. I'm really curious, even if you have the slightest little preference what your thoughts are on the subject.
AND do you send out holiday cards?


Last year I turned little Abe's artwork into our card. I don't think I posted about it. This year I'm still on the fence about what to do. But I think I'm going to go the same route as last year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Jimmy

An acquaintance only
With but a few handfuls of shared laughs
Even less of those connecting moments that beget friends
Work; mutual employment constructed connected paths

Plants knew you as a beloved friend
Constantly rescuing shriveled green messes like a gnomely saint
Cycling thru sunshine, snow, and rain (truck parked at home)
No one quite understood your eccentric ways

The news broke today...
Only days left...
Cancer, the devil's killer had come
And would be stealing you away

So many other lives gone too soon
So many other souls snatched from this earthly realm
Friends crying, loved ones shattered
Its power cripples the strongest bodies
Its terror inconspicuously clenches in darkness
And steals healthy lives away

As if standing atop the highest peak
Laughing with pride, another mark in its ledger
One more life ending, one more smile smudged away
Cancer has won another battle, goes on to fight another day

But to cancer I say
what power have you really?

A torch he carried, offering warmth, light, a healing smile
Everyone he came in contact with experienced a better day
A pure joy
A rare warmth
A soul emitting radiant beauty in a world that can be so cold and ugly
A real smile that will be forever remember

To cancer I say, you stole nothing
You've won no war; no battle song may you sing
He gave it all away
Sharing his life with the world and living, truly living each day

For each one our time will come
All days are numbered
Every eye will blink its last
Laid to rest but I see him smiling his brightest smile yet

Saturday, November 26, 2016

My Bi-Polar Thanksgiving

After 14 years of marriage I'm too much of a realist to not expect the actual day of Thanksgiving to be ruined by any number of relatives and crazy weird drama. This is why I refuse to host Thanksgiving and also why a few years ago I started to make a Thanksgiving feast to be enjoyed by just my little family.

Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidays. I do love the feast but I also love the overall spirit of Thanksgiving. I love getting together with family not to exchange gifts, and the little traditions I've started with my family revolving around giving thanks all month, and I like to send out thank-you notes each year to tell people how thankful I am for them. In my eyes Thanksgiving is just a beautiful holiday and I refuse to let anyone ruin it for me (any longer).

First Up:
I cooked and cleaned all day Wednesday. My VERY kind sister volunteered to stay that night at my house to watch little Abe the next day. My husband and I both had to work very early on Thanksgiving (as we're in retail and it's one of the biggest sale days of the year). Once the house was clean and the meal was almost ready it was the most wonderfully warm cozy feeling to have a feast in my kitchen and to know I'd be sharing it with my family in our (not generally as tidy) little home.

We don't normally eat at the dining room table but on this occasion the three of us and my sister sat down together for the feast. Little Abe had really been looking forward to Thanksgiving and honestly he was thrilled to be eating in the dining room as a family. He was the one who insisted we all hold hands to say grace and he said the blessing for our food. It was pretty adorable since he forgot to actually say thanks for the food. We dined on a pretty great turkey if I do say so myself, mashed potatoes with gravy from scratch, corn, stuffing, and rolls. I added mashed sweet potato to the potatoes and I would have made green bean casserole but the store was sold out of the cream of mushroom soup without the MSG in it. 

All three of us had smiles, enjoyed the meal and had to wait a bit for dessert as we were thoroughly stuffed. I honestly went to bed (later than I'd hoped) with a smile on my face. I felt so full of warmth, happiness, and gratitude.

First Down:
I was out of bed by 3am for work. I was honestly still in a great mood and not the least bit whiny about having to work on the holiday. I'd be out by noon and we'd have dinner at the in laws that evening. But when I got in the store I saw the line of customers waiting for the 6am sales to roll out and something inside of me just ached. I know that black Friday shopping is really fun for a lot of people. I know that the savings are GREAT and even though, no thank-you not for me, I get it. But Thanksgiving... I don't really have words to explain it but seeing the long line of people waiting for TV's on Thanksgiving day made me really sad. I literally started crying (yeah, I may not have gotten enough sleep the night before).

Up:
After work I headed home (exhausted) to as quickly as I could make baked mac'n'chesse and a pie for dinner at my in laws. Little Abe was happy to see me. My sister said he'd been really good and it looked as thought they'd had fun. I was happy to be home, ready for the three day weekend, and honestly I love to cook. The baked mac'n'cheese is a beloved family recipe passed down by my grandma who is no longer here. In a way I feel close to her every time I make it. As soon as my contribution to the meal was ready we left for my in laws house.

Down:
It's always the same and I'm not going to get into it but I left the evening of Thanksgiving festivities very upset, very, very tired and very upset. I went to sleep angry, hurt, annoyed... it's honestly always the same. I woke up the next day mad at the world and also angry that "sleeping it off" didn't work quite as I'd hoped.

Up:
Friday morning while in my mad woman, angry face, not speaking to my husband, horrible mood I decided I should take a time out and read. Needing a time out before the day has even started and before having even talked to anyone in my household is pretty extreme, right? I picked out one of my very favorite books from the bookcase in the living room and sat down in a violent grump.

Reading from Erich Fromm's, "To have or to be," there were bits about happiness not being the main goal in life and I had a tiny epiphany. I suddenly had to ask myself why I get so incredibly upset around these certain people and at these holiday gatherings. Granted I think my frustration in these situations is natural but I came to the conclusion that it all boils down to my not agreeing with them (about virtually every thing ever about anything) and vice versa.

The long and short of it is that my not agreeing with anyone and their not agreeing with me (I'm REALLY boiling it down right now) should not control my happiness. I know, huge epiphany right? Okay, so maybe this should be common knowledge but apparently it's a lesson that I need to learn. What can I say? I'm really stubborn. Just because I have the desire for us to agree and get along does not mean we have to agree and get along. I don't need to be so uncomfortable because of them when I can truly be comfortable with me, and others, and not let them have so much power over me. Granted this is something I'm going to have to figure out and work on but it's something I honestly hadn't seen before this past Thursday.

I will add a footnote to say that the disagreements have nothing to do with politics, and it's not that we're arguing back and forth each time we get together we just live very different lifestyles and... tension, drama between other family members (I try to avoid drama)... I just don't have fun. But I think it could be less uncomfortable if I stop letting all the crap bother me as much. What is it they say in that one song from that one super popular movie... "let it go, let it go..."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Holiday Stuff

Working in retail for the past thirteen years has not made me go all bah humbug about the holidays like many a seasoned retail worker. I absolutely love the holidays and see no end in sight for my holiday spirit.

Now, It's peculiar to me how during the holidays shoppers can't seem to find anything. I'm not complaining because I really enjoy helping customers but it's like a phenomenon. The holidays are here = no one knows where anything in the store is. Walking customers all over the store to find this and that combined with the fact that my job does not have me confined to a singular department means I'm seeing sale after sale item, deal after deal, holiday display after holiday display hundreds of times during each eight hour shift. During a time of year when everyone is buying gifts for each other, and you're focusing on buying gifts for everyone I struggle with the onslaught of sale, sale, sale signs. I think we all do in a way but each of us processes it differently. I process it with increased anxiety and frustration.

To add to the visual over stimulation dilemma at the store, my mother in law and sometimes my dad give cash for Christmas. This means that me, someone who does not enjoy shopping or even buying things for that matter, someone who takes a bit of pride in using worn out items, getting by without, and reminding myself daily that, "no, that's a luxury and I don't need it," has metaphorically a window opened before my eyes displaying all these millions of "neat" things I could buy. Honestly I completely prefer putting Christmas money towards debt, or bills, or savings, or spending it on little Abe. As far as my dad is concerned, "go to town, it's your money do whatever you want with it." But my mother in law wants me to buy something I really want. I get it but holy wow it stresses me out.

I write all this (for probably the fifth or sixth year in a row) because at Thanksgiving time I am celebrating a season of gratitude, of being thankful for every little joy and every little blessing. Thanksgiving time isn't about excess as the fabulous traditional Thanksgiving feast would imply but about being thankful for all the simplest daily blessings. At Christmastime I celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Christ child was born in a stable and placed on a bed of hay. Materialistically, his birth couldn't have been any less. The holiday season is not about stuff. But as I walk through the store everything, and I mean everything stimulating all of my senses tells me that the holiday season is about stuff. A battle wages within me that wears me down.

I know some of you reading this completely understand what I'm saying. Some of you reading this think I'm at least slightly insane and way too intense. But in all honesty I live in a country, exist within a society, was raised in a culture that's accustomed to excess, luxury items, and having way, way more than any person truly needs. I don't want the holidays to be about stuff. I want the holiday season to be about love, peace, family, blessing, gratitude, tradition, everything wonderful in life that money cannot buy. But boy is it a struggle!

Abe's holiday craft last year

Don't worry, I'm not sad as this felt reindeer might imply, it just seemed fitting for this post and really it was too cute for me to not share again.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

I am Organized!!!

The first snowflakes of this winter have just, moments ago begun to fall. We're less than a week out from Thanksgiving now and Christmas is rapidly approaching. The Christmas sections started to go up in the stores shortly BEFORE Halloween but the Christmas music just started playing in the store where I work this week. I love Christmas but merchandise before Halloween is a bit absurd. Christmas music the week before Thanksgiving however seems like great timing to me.

The first day I heard Christmas tunes playing in the store was this past Thursday. That evening after signing out of my e-mail I saw a Reader's Digest article titled:

7 Things organized people do every holiday season that you don't

I was cheerfully curious to read what these smart tips might be. Anything to make the chaotic holidays more organized, right. I can't tell you how disappointed I was at the list that follows.
  1. They schedule a visit with Santa
  2. They send holiday cards
  3. They make handmade holiday gifts
  4. They buy gifts early
  5. They bake holiday goodies
  6. They use a holiday calendar
  7. They say no
Apart from the first thing, scheduling a visit with Santa BECAUSE we don't celebrate Santa at Christmas time, I absolutely do everything on this list. What a let down. What a waste of three minutes clicking on a link and reading about what these "organized people do that I don't." 

Wait! Does this mean I'm organized?!?! I mean, I used the backside of a spoon to butter the bread for grilled cheese sandwiches the other night because almost all of the silverware was dirty and I didn't want to stop and wash a butter knife. At the same time there wasn't a clear spot of counter-top anywhere in the kitchen big enough to place a cup (as all the other dishes were dirty as well). There are weeks when I grocery shop every single day because, "shoot I forgot the toilet paper... darn it, we're out of milk already... for real did you guys use all the ketchup?" and two very important people in my life who I purposed in January to send birthday cards to this year had birthdays in October and their cards are still sitting on my dining room table unsent. Talk about belated birthday! 

I certainly don't consider myself organized and I've even been accused of "barely celebrating Christmas," but according to Readers Digest I'm on top things! Woohoo! Maybe that three minutes wasn't such a waste of time after all. I mean, the chances that I stumbled across a really lame article that was poorly thought out and that I shouldn't have wasted my time on are high but rather I'm going to use this poorly thought out article to tell myself all Christmas season that I am very organized. Me and my little pep talks... never ending I tell ya! 

Let the holidays begin!


Friday, November 18, 2016

One Hundred and Fifty Six Books

Over the past year and a half little Abe and I kept track of all the books we read together in a book log from our local library. The log was supplied through a program called "1000 Books Before Kindergarten." I love reading to him (even though it takes carving out time to do). He loves books, discovering new books, and re-reading over, and over, and over all of his favorites. The book log was a fun exercise for many reasons but I really believe that keeping track of the books we read encouraged us to read more often.

I picked up a little journal from the dollar store after the "1000 books" log was filled. So I'm still recording all the books we read together. Some days we read upwards of ten. Some days we only read one story, a book before bed. I record each chapter we read from any chapter book as a single book since reading a single chapter takes considerably longer than reading a child's picture book.

On days that we've read only one or two books I always feel like such a slacker. Somewhere in the back of my mind I feel like we should be reading books all day long. I'm not sure how my mind sees that as a possibility since I do work, have to take care of our home, make meals, schedule play times for little Abe with friends, make sure he gets outside to play, let him watch television while he plays with toys, ect; Yeah, unrealistic mind of mine reading books all day long makes perfect sense!

While that little voice in the back of my mind is telling me that I've dropped the ball and we aren't reading nearly as much as we should our book log tells me that we've read 156 books in the past month. That averages out to almost 2000 books (or chapters read) in a year. Okay, so here's what I have to say to the unrealistic voice in my head saying "we need to be reading all the time," little voice, "We are rocking it. 156 books read in a month is better than 100, or 50, or 10, and I'll take it! I'll take it and I'm proud of it."

This past year, while I've dropped the ball in recording the daily spending, and I haven't been reading books to my kid every minute of every day, and I don't take the dog's for a walk every day as I'd like to... yeah, I could go on and on... I've also grown a lot in that I've started talking back to that voice of failure. My best, even if my best is far from perfection, my best is enough. I think I've been trying to tell myself  this for a very long time but the failure voice has always been louder. This year I've really started to believe that I'm doing good enough. I am not perfect. I can't do it all. There will always be huge short comings but I keep striving, I keep trying harder, I keep setting goals I can't actually reach AND my best is enough. 156 books was last month's best and I think we rocked it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Anxiety knocks; No one is home

I've sat down at my blog several times over the past few months and my fingers remained motionless.

I find great joy in documenting my life, my little accomplishments, my goals and dreams, little adventures with my son, and sharing with the blogoshere my financial journey. I really like you guys. I've missed being here and still each time I've sat before this screen my fingers have sat as well.

Things here have been pretty great. Money is super tight but what's new. My husband and I both love our job changes. The new position for him and new job for me have afforded us a much better work schedule. We're both infinitely happier, nicer to each other, and more productive at home. All in all things have been pretty wonderful at the $12 a day home. (I've already gotten a raise and am making more then I was at my last job)

But the anxieties, the anxieties running rampant within the world wide web, on the news, in all of our hearts here in the great US of A; I think these anxieties are mostly what have kept me away, what have kept my lips sealed and my fingers still. The anxieties have kept my blog quiet. I've been seeking out calm, a silence of sort, a silence that comes from inward reflection, pushing away outside distractions. I very rarely post anything political here. I don't want to. I care. I care a lot but there's enough being said. I want my voice to be used for something else. None the less I've been upset about this election. I severely disliked both of the front runners. I didn't vote for either of them. I voted but not for them. I spent weeks not listening to the news, not listening to the radio, deactivated my facebook account, all in order to calm my mind, calm my heart, and seek peace.

I've found it. The election is over. The people have spoken. What is, is. And now we move on. None of us agree. Heck, no one in my family agrees. But we must have respect. We must follow laws. We must be a people of hope, of diligence, of conviction and love. I have peace. I will focus on living my life by my convictions, raising my son the way my heart and my God leads. I will live my life my way no matter who is "in charge." And I will have peace. Maybe that means continuing to avoid facebook, leaving the news broadcasters to talk at themselves, and listening to the birds or falling snowflakes instead of all the talking heads. Whatever it means I refuse to let anxiety knock any longer at my door, no one is home. I've gone to the woods...

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms" 
-Thoreau


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Feeling Thankful

I love this time of year; the beautiful fall colors, hot drinks, apple and pumpkin everywhere, the chill in the air, and thoughts of thankfulness. It's not so cold that we feel like hibernating yet, it's just cozy and kind of wonderful.

Our third annual Thanksgiving tree went up today (a few days late). It's now hanging on the dining room wall. We'll add one leaf to it each day this month displaying something we're thankful for.


I'm loving this tradition! I love that we walk through the neighborhood collecting beautiful and different leaves together. My husband was with us for the collecting this year. I love that each year so far our tree has looked very different. I love the way it looks on the wall. It's fun looking back at what went on our tree in years past. This year I made a potato stamp so that little Abe could stamp bark on our tree. I think it turned out great and he loved the potato stamp craft.


Granted, it looks better once it's filled with leaves but I'm extremely happy with this year's masterpiece. We are thankful!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Happy Birthday Maggie Honey


Our middle child (this furry princess) turned ten today. She received two gifts (picked out by little Abe), a bone and a (50% off) dog bed. She also got a bath, a good brushing, and a little extra attention.

Her little brother insisted that she needed a birthday hat thus the one pictured above that he made for her. I'm not so sure she was thrilled about the hat but it does look really cute on her and little Abe is rather proud of it.

Happy tenth birthday Maggie Honey!

I feel like the one whose been given the greatest gift.
My family is beyond priceless.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Us

I started a fun project this year that I'm exuberant about.
Mid January I decided to attempt chronicling our year with one photo each day. This meant bringing my camera with us even if just going for a walk or remembering to snap a photo of something even if we'd never left the house. Each day I'd copy and paste one photo to a folder on our computer titled "Our Year."

I absolutely love the photos showing who we hung out with on certain days or reminding us of the places we visited throughout the year: the zoo, a farm, a museum, the beach, ect;

One simple snapshot from each holiday and different birthdays is certainly difficult to choose for the purpose of putting in "Our Year" folder but the challenge in itself is highly enjoyable.

It's neat to scroll through the photos in chronological order (I have them all numbered and titled by date) and see the seasons change and hair cuts happen and then how quickly hair grows back.

Most of all I cherish the simple photos, photos of little Abe playing with his toys. An act he does for hours a day but something I wouldn't have normally taken so many photos of. To see him with our dogs or just playing in the dirt in our back yard. I have so many photos from this year that I would have never taken if it weren't for this project. I don't have a cell phone and I make a very conscious effort to not live behind my lens. I do not appreciate how often we find ourselves in today's culture documenting everything and even while there, living life through a lens or screen. I never want to spend my time trying to record, trying to document, trying to remember all the while forgetting to be where I am and enjoy the now. But making sure to get one simple photo just to add to the folder for "Our Year" has been priceless.

Possibly the biggest gift I've been given through this project has been in the area of personal growth I'd never expected. I've always, since around the age of ten hated my photo being taken. When I started this project I told myself to buck it up and make sure to take photos of myself with my kid. I knew that my avoiding the camera would come back to haunt me and I needed to grow up. Since January we've used many a "uh oh, I haven't taken a photo today," to take a quick selfie together and I'm so thankful we have. I love our time together and the simple moments we share throughout each and ever day and I now love our photos together too.

I've posted very few photos of myself to this blog so here are the most photos any of you have ever seen of me.


Us










Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Quick Hello


Speedy little check in just to say hi.
We've been having a lovely fall.
The garden is now tore up, apart from the green bean plants still on the fence.
My little Abe is growing like a weed.
I've been purposefully avoiding the computer to enrich time.
Thus I've not been by many blogs over the past month nor posted here.
I've also not been keeping great track of spending and have nothing to report in that arena.


I hope all is well with each and every one of you!
All is certainly well here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

September is a time to be outside

The nights have finally started to get cold and the days are rapidly growing shorter. I'm sorry if you're of the camp that laments cold nights and dark mornings towards the end of summer. The changing of the seasons is always really exciting to me.

This is the time of year when my father in law brings over very fresh goose meat. The goose stew has already been made, highly enjoyed, and shared. Like any once a year event I've begun to really look forward to goose season.

This is the time of year when apple orchards are filled with almost ripe fruit and dare I say it's just about cider and pie season. Fresh hot apple cider... ooh, need I say more!

It feels too early still some leaves have begun their color change already. I'm sure there will be several hot days left in the year but I think Autumn is upon us. Little Abe and I are ready to head back outside more often. The mosquitoes should start to dwindle here soon. I think our thick Michigan humidity is just about to break (or at least the cool temperatures will make it bearable). The wasps should slow and yellow jacket season should about be over. Sweatshirt weather is my absolute favorite weather and it's just about here.

I hope to pack in all the most beautiful things I can think of during these next few months of Autumn: listening to bird and bug sounds while enjoying the cool breeze or a hot evening fire. Star gazing. Leaf watching. Adventurous and non-adventurous walks together, hiking, and leaf collecting. Outside adventures with friends like apple picking, farm visiting (we're doing that today), and fishing. Summer was spectacular this year. Now I'm ready for fall.


This little dude went fishing with his Papa a few days ago.
Here's the first fish he ever caught. The fun never stops!
 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Guess What Happened This Week

One melon.
One perfectly ripe, fully developed, Bidwell Casaba melon.


We're so proud of our one lonely fruit.

And for a completely honest review (after all the many posts I put into this one melon) it does not taste like heavenly orange sherbet as it was reviewed in a melon publication. It does in fact, as I'd slightly suspected taste just like what I remember cantaloupe tasting like as a child. The reason I say, "as a child" is because I don't like cantaloupe. I may have distorted memories of the situation but I feel as though my mom tried to get me to like it all throughout childhood. It seems like it always showed up in fruit salad or as the fruit side at dinner and for some reason I always gave it a taste with unchanging results. Yuck!

Well to my long gone cousin, John Bidwell leader of the first wagon train to California, founder of Chico California, Senator, General, Mr. Bidwell you have accomplished a task that my very own mother was continually unable. I really, really enjoyed this cantaloupe type melon, this Bidwell Casaba, truly and completely enjoyed it. Not only did I enjoy the story, not only did I enjoy the family connection, the history growing in my very own backyard, and sharing my adventures with the bloggosphere, but I enjoyed a melon that I've never once liked. Thank-you.


I of course scooped out all the seeds and am saving them for future gardening endevours. Maybe one day I'll find a better spot in my yard or figure out how to clean up the soil that I suspect is awful in the bed behind the garage where I grew this lonely fruit (and it's neighboring lonely pie pumpkin). Whatever the case, I now have a plethora of seeds (still many of the ones I purchases this year and now all of the (viable) seeds from this guy) so I shouldn't ever have to purchase more.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The what happened to August, wait, it's actually September??? Update

July was pretty great and seemed really long.
August was very busy but not in as much of a memorable way as July and woosh, it's gone.
Apparently now it's September? Not sure when that happened.

On the financial front, I cannot seem to keep on top of tracking spending when I'm really busy. I haven't even looked at August's number's yet (seeing as I just realized it was over) and I really don't want to. Sigh.

We're still enjoying the great outdoors and it's been staying really warm here but we haven't been out nearly as much since it's (as we call it) yellow jacket season now. Those darn wasps are out in full force. Luckily little Abe hasn't been stung this year (and he is far past the bee phobia) but I was stung a few weeks back. Darn that thing hurt for like 12 hours.

We really enjoyed summer this year. The sun, warmth, water, and gardening just to name of few of the joys were fabulous but I'm giddy about autumn's rapid approach. Fall is my favorite time of year. I missed both strawberry picking and blueberry picking season this year but I am bound and determined to take little Abe to an apple orchard now that apple season is upon us. It's been a few years since we went and he doesn't remember ever going. This year we must go!

Back to the crazy that is our awesome life!
Hopefully I'll check back sooner than later.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Peter Rabbit

I'm purposefully on a mission as of late to check out classic children's books from our library to share with little Abe. They are especially fun since many of them I've either never read myself or haven't read since I was young.

Today we came home from the library with a wonderful stack of books. His favorite song right now (apart from the Star Wars theme song that he hums non-stop) is the Ittsy bittsy spider. We brought home a book today that taught us both an additional, I think it is, six more verses. What a delight!

We also brought home the VERY classic Peter Rabbit. This is a story I haven't read in decades but remember vividly. It's rather official that I think he has received it the same as I did. The copy is so small. I held it in my hands as he sat on my lap and he leaned over it the entire time I read to look at the illustrations more closely. He was in such suspense about what would happen to the little naughty rabbit that he just kept asking me question after question. He'd hardly let me go on. His attention was peaked, completely drawn in and hooked. He just needed to know if the rabbit would escape or if the farmer would kill him.

Since I've recently taken up gardening, only three years in now, and little Abe is my garden helper, and might I add our yard is over run with rabbits the story was really very relate-able for a little boy who certainly finds a bit of a thrill in trying to work around not doing certain things his mother has asked of him and a little boy who has a backyard garden of his own. I can't do this post justice in explaining what sheer joy came for both of us sharing in that story together tonight but I thought I'd attempt to make a note of it anyhow.

Ah, the little things!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

It was a double layer yellow cake that I'm pretty sure I overbaked

Sometimes (maybe often times) I feel as though I've grown old way before my time. Or I'm actually much older then I allow myself to realize. Possibly I was born in the wrong era, or maybe I'm just crazy? I truly love doing things the more difficult way, taking the longer route, the opposite of saving time. In my kitchen I have the most basic utensils. I don't have a food processor or a stand mixer. I don't have a bread maker or a coffee maker (I use a coffee press) or even a microwave. And I practically adore baking and cooking from scratch. I love the feel of fresh dough in my hands. I'm giddy at watching a few basic ingredients come together to make something spectacular. There's a sense of accomplishment so great when pulling a hot dish from the oven, knowing exactly what went into every component, realizing how much time and how many steps that I personally poured into it, and then getting to enjoy the final product, flaws and all.

Little Abe and I were reading books the other day. We came across one we've read many, MANY times because we've had it all his life and it's a really simple book, easily keeps the attention of babies and toddlers. It's called "It's My Birthday" (Helen Oxenbury). A little boy discretely asks all of his animal friends to bake a cake with him for his birthday and in the end they all eat it together. The last page of the book has a recipe for a birthday cake. Little Abe didn't even realize the recipe was there. But as we finished the book I showed him the recipe and asked if he wanted to bake a cake.

He's been baking with me since he was little. Just recently I've been letting him crack eggs all by himself. And instead of me filling each measuring cup and him getting to dump the ingredients in he's been able to fill the cups on his own. He's yet to make a cake "all by himself" thus he was thrilled at the suggestion. He did all of the scooping, dumping, pouring, and egg cracking by himself. He did some of the mixing and a lot of tasting. Then we waited.

It was a double layer yellow cake that I'm pretty sure I over baked. It was quite dense, quite dry, and we frosted it with a minuscule amount of glaze on top of each layer (basically it didn't have frosting). I was certain that he wouldn't like it. We paired it with ice cream (that's why I didn't frost it) and he scarfed it down. He said it was delicious and he seemed thrilled. I'm not under any delusions that he loves dense dry cake but he made it on his own. It was a work of his own hands and there is truly something delicious about that. I honestly believe that life is so much more vibrant when it's our own hands that have shaped it.

The other day a close friend and I were talking along these lines (although in no way about baking). Life is filled with heartache and hardship. Sometimes the most basic aspects of our lives are just crap, whether it's a hard patch in parenting, a bad sickness, or a crap time at work, a co-worker (or boss) you absolutely hate, or a patch in your marriage where you're not sure you even recognize your spouse let alone like them. We're living in a society that preaches happiness and comfort. I'm all for being happy but the truth is that a lot of things in life are going to be very hard and not happy and we can't get away from that. Trying to always get away would be like spending your entire life running away from home. I think more often then not we just need to dig in and power through. But it's the little things that make the crap bearable, like pulling a home made decadent (not dry) chocolate cake out of the oven and slathering it with rich chocolate mousse. Or going for an adventure around the block with your four year old. Little things like watching sunsets and letting yourself really enjoy how beautiful they are or realizing that it's the long wispy grass along the roads time of year and then smiling the entire ride home from work as you gaze at the overgrowth dancing in the wind.

Baking from scratch, taking the long route, and enduring a hard patch in something that's truly meaningful to you can seem like the crazy thing but as long as there's light along the path, bits of intense joy that you wouldn't have known if you weren't on that path to begin with, and you stop to notice all the roses among the thorns then I dare say you're just as crazy as I am and that you're really living life. Seeing my kiddo enjoying the fruits of his labor, I dare say, that will never get old!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Tomato Soup Day


We picked well over 30 pounds of tomatoes this week. They're not all pictured as I've been using them and giving them away but I couldn't resist the photo op even so. The tomatoes we picked on Tuesday alone weighed in at 22 pounds and we've picked considerably more since then.

I planned for most of the week to make a big batch of tomato soup to freeze but I had to make chicken broth for it first because my husband won't eat store bought. That was my sticking point. I finally made the broth on Wednesday. That allowed me to make a very big batch of tomato soup as well as chicken and dumplings yesterday. My kitchen is officially trashed but I'm thrilled to have accomplished my mission.


I LOVE these tomatoes. They are so juicy, so sweet, and so ugly. The tomato soup recipe I use is HERE. I really really like it. Although I don't add heavy whipping cream when ready to eat but instead use whole milk. And it says to go ahead and leave the skins on. It doesn't bother me in the least to do it this way but unless you have some sort of turbo blender the soup does end up with tiny flecks throughout it. Not as many as you might imagine but enough to notice.


Yes, we ate dino nuggets with our soup. It was a fabulous lunch!