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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Enjoying the View

Winter has been fairly mild here so far, but that being said for some reason I am looking forward to Spring more so than I have in previous years.   I need to be patient because our true winter weather usually comes just before spring.


We have been having gorgeous sunsets lately and I would love to capture them all.  They are such a vibrant display of color.  On these drab winter days, I never tire of the beautiful colors of the sunrise and sunset.   They only last a short while but are a spectacular show of God's handiwork! They are a special treat for a few moments each day.
Another sight I never tire of seeing, is our little flock of Chickens!  This is part of our flock.  These girls and our Rooster always  bring a smile to my face.  I love watching them out the window and their silliness during the day.  They free range around our house, and when we go out to feed they race us to their coop.  They all stick together for the most part and every so often they all make a mad dash together across the yard to the safety of their little fenced in area if they hear something they don't like.  One by one they come back out when the coast is clear.  Our Mallard has no idea that he is a duck and when I count our chickens each day, he is just one of the flock.
This past weekend we were blessed with amazing warm weather.  Though I have plenty here to do, I chose to go exploring with my daughter and it was time well spent.  The chores will be here at home for the rest of my life, but our children will not.  We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon together soaking up the warmth of the sun, laughing, talking, exploring, and making  memories.  I couldn't ask for a better day!

Friday, January 30, 2015

The three R's; Romance, Remodel, Reality


There are three R's that are a constant in my life.  They are in no particular order, ok well yes they are.  Romance, two people madly in love, with a dream.  Remodeling to create a culmination of ideas into an amazing dream house.  Reality as it all sinks in after starting the remodel!!!

We chose through happenstance and frustration to take a much needed break from remodeling our far from finished house.  Do not even lightly underestimate my wording, far-from-finished! We needed the break physically, and most importantly mentally.  This is definitely not our first house to remodel but is absolutely our most extensive.  We have agreed that new construction would have been easier, and quicker.  However... hindsight is always 20/20.  If we had it to do again would we?  Yes, I know we would because this is what we do!  I have always dreamed of walking into a new home, everything finished, sparkly and clean nothing to remodel, no painting, scraping, mudding or building.  Then I start to think about what I would see that needs improved upon and realized I'm a re-modeler,  I can't help it.  I could never buy a new house.  I walk into a home and immediately see a vision of the full potential and eagerly anticipate the transformation.  It culminates when I compare my sketches to the finished house and the full realization of a vision.  It is amazing and so rewarding to live in a space you have designed and crafted.  Once it gets in your blood you are hooked!  New construction is out as you search for the home that may not look like your vision at first glance but as with this home, has the bones about it to be our dream home. 

The moment I saw our property I didn't care what the house looked like inside!  Yes, those are the thoughts from people that remodel, crazy and seemingly irrational but real.  Baring structural foundation issues, once you realize that everything you see inside will change anyway, it no longer matters what the inside looks like as long as the structure will allow for the changes you want to make, or you know how to make structural changes.  If the foundation is solid, anything goes.  I am usually the one that looks at a house and my vision spills into many sketches of ideas while my husband take a very deep breath.  I am a visual person, my space affects me,  I have to have balance, structure, organization, and most importantly a space that inspires! I even dream in color!  That is my artistic side effecting my daily life.

This house was unlike any other before.  This time, completely unaware to me, my husband was looking at this house with a vision.  The property was right.  I was tired, and just needed  breathing room to garden, grow, and regain my health mentally, physically and emotionally. I wanted to change a few things, paint and make it move in ready for us, move, then sell our house and start our adventures in the country.  The scenario was seemingly perfect. My husband had another plan.  A romantic plan.  You see all these years I have had this list of ideas for a "dream" house.   This amazing man with an incredible memory had been filing them away for "the" house.  When we closed on our house and walked around he started telling me about all the changes that were going to happen and the more things he told me the more I was amazed.  "Oh, I've always loved that", "That is perfect how did you know?" "Oh my gosh you remembered!" kept tumbling out as he laid out his vision, my dream home.  He had remembered everything I loved from different homes and design ideas so he could create the perfect house for me!!!  His plan sounded so much better!  I had always dreamed of that move in ready house, this was our chance!!! It was all falling into place.  The long term vision thanks to my amazingly loving, thoughtful, and romantic husband.

So the improvement idea of paint and move in turned into a full fledged remodel as we started taking sheet rock off the walls, then taking out the walls, wiring, and plumbing and before I knew it we were up to our necks and bringing in the roll off carts.  When all the dust settled we were literally standing in a shell, which had the siding off too!  This is the point where we started questioning remodeling verses new construction which admittedly would have been easier and possibly cheaper but we love the property and like I said were neck in.  Like most who are on this scale of remodeling the day we completely removed the bathroom, there was no turning back we were all in.  Yes a functioning bathroom means that much!!!   We moved our camper to our property and dug in.  As the time went on, and the reality of the scale of the project we were taking on set in, so did the exhaustion and frustrations.  One day we realized we were not going to beat winter and our hopes of moving into a finished house dwindled as we set up inside and winterized our three seasons camper. 

The reality; learning our limitations.  Can we finish this house?  Absolutely with complete confidence I know it will get finished in our lifetime! :) That being said, gutting an entire house is far different from remodeling a room at a time.  Loosing my precious dad changed our crew from a three person to a two person crew and that was a huge blow all the way around.  I wasn't prepared for the emotional and mental exhaustion that construction without him would bring.  There were days when I would reach for a tool, one of his, and burst into uncontrollable sobs.  My husband and my dad made a great team as well and not having dads years of experience, encouragement, and insight and company was extremely difficult for my husband.  We have had family emergencies, schedule conflicts and several delays.  There were a lot we weren't prepared for, so many things, but isn't that life?  It is, we learn along the way, we grow, we change, and we take those experiences and build on them.  So looking back over this past year on the month this journey began, we are now living in reality, our new temporary normal though ironically remodeling is our normal!  We are emotionally and mentally, putting the pieces back together.  Physically rested, and with reality check in hand let the remodeling begin... again!  I couldn't be happier or more excited.  I know this year has so many good things in store for us and I look forward to all that we will experience on our little homestead.

Remember reality is often much harder than our dreams, but keep going and working for those dreams and goals because the true reality is, it is worth it!!!!  Blessings


Friday, January 23, 2015

Moments in Time

I always seem to find joy in how I spend time during my day.  However there are a few moments of time that are especially enjoyable. Nothing is so important that I can't take a moment and enjoying a beautiful sunrise.  It only takes a brief moment, however it is nothing short of spectacular.  I am not a morning person by any means, but it is hard not to appreciate being awake when I get to enjoy a sight like this. 

As I stand outside I  hear the rooster crowing and the chickens clucking, slowly making their way out of their coop.  The dog is sleepily stretching.  The kittens are playing while the older cats lay lazily watching them frolic about the yard.  I can hear my children quietly getting ready for school inside.  Everyone is awake around me and calmly starting their day.  I savor the gentle start to the day.  It seems once the sun peeks above the horizon, the sounds of the day intensify with the light of the sun.  The once gentle morning breaks way to the busy pace of a day in full motion.
Then evening arrives, quicker now during winter.  I walk around our property doing chores, talking to the animals, watching and listening.  The chickens are quietly roosting in their coop, the pony is contentedly eating, the cats are finding a soft cozy spot to sleep, and the dog is following me around investigating every snap of a twig.  The Cardinals have stopped their chirping and as I stand in the wooded area, I can hear the sound of their wings as they fly from the brush up into their nests in the trees.  They softly chirp one last time while settling in as the sun slips down below the horizon in a beautiful display of color.  Once again everything is quiet, still, gentle, and calm.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cooking with Cast Iron

I absolutely love cooking with cast iron!  To me, there is nothing more enjoyable than using a well seasoned cast iron pan to cook dinner for my family.  Tonight I used my flat bottomed dutch oven to make stew on the stove.  I have shared this delicious recipe with you before on a previous post titled Prospectors Stew where you can find the recipe.


I like using cast iron for a few reasons.  A well cared for cast iron pan will last you your lifetime, and can easily be passed down to future generations.  They are very durable when treated well, and easy to care for.  I wish I had known the value of cast iron when we were first married.  I would have sought out cast iron and bought nothing else.  They are a pan to last a lifetime.  We have gone through several sets of inferior quality pans in the past twenty years.  We have tried expensive pans and nothing has held up even in the most gentle of use to cast iron.  The final straw came for me a few years back when I saw a piece of nylon coating from a skillet in our food that was cooking in the pan!  The nylon coating was breaking down from use and flaking off into our food.  I do not want chemicals in our food and was deeply concerned about the chemicals leaching into our food from a heated plastic surface.  This began my journey of slowly replacing inferior pans with cast iron.  I do have a very nice set of stainless non coated sauce pans that I will continue to use which I foresee lasting many years.  Until cast iron I had yet to find a skillet that would hold up to continued use.  Cast iron not only holds up, but gets better with age.  The more you cook with it, the more seasoning it has and it has a better non stick surface that any brand I have tried.

Cast iron is very easy to find here, I find pieces in antique malls and flea markets.  I recently picked up four pans of various sizes that I reconditioned and will soon post on how to clean and re-season cast iron.  The four pans I picked up cost me around $20.00 and they will far outlast any new pan for that amount!

As our dinner simmered away on the stove, my husband mixed up a batch of his famous Chocolate Chip Cookie dough. (secret family recipe)  I baked Chocolate Chip Cookies in one of my newly re-seasoned pans. 

Did I mention that Cast iron is also versatile?  They can be used on the stove top,  open fire, hot coals, or oven with no problems.  It all depends on your cooking style and methods.
 Yum!  Look at those delicious cookies fresh out of the oven!  They lifted right out of the pan.  Another great thing about cast iron is that they retain their heat and cook with a nice even temperature.  I cook on a fairly low heat with my pans because once they heat up they stay hot and do not require a very high temperature to maintain.  They heat so evenly, that I prefer to bake my bread in a large cast iron dutch oven.  The bread is delicious each and every time!

Before I used cast iron, I wasn't sure about how to care for my pans.  I had heard they were "high maintenance" and hard to use.  I assure you they are not.  I will soon write a post on the cleaning and care of cast iron.  I want to rid you of any concerns that might make you apprehensive about joining the growing list of cast iron lovers who are discovering what cooks have known for hundreds of years  about the durability and versatility of cast iron.

In our home, when I need to replace things, I am looking for things that I can obtain that will not wear out.  I would rather buy something second hand, save the money and never have to replace that item again.  I am not as concerned with fashion as I am concerned with quality.  My goal on our homestead is to be self sufficient and purchase as few things over time as possible.  Using cast iron fits these goals perfectly because it is a one purchase item.  With proper use and care, I will never be replacing my cast iron and never have to worry about replacing a cheap or inexpensive nylon coated pan that will go into the trash dump.  Cast iron is a win/win in my book!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Follow us on Facebook

You can now follow Prairie Harmony on Facebook!!!  Posts made here on Blogger, and other thoughts and comments will be posted for your convenience.  Just click on the link below.  I'm looking forward to seeing you there!

https://www.facebook.com/prairieharmony


Let's Talk about Layers!

Brrrrr it has been very cold here!  Last night it was a toasty 4*, and tonight will not be much warmer.  Every region is different but for us, that's cold!  

Since moving here, one major difference has been that we use propane to fuel our central heat system.  To get the best fuel rates here, you purchase the amount you think you will use that season up front.  Not having gone through a full winter here in this house, and having a new heat system in place, we had no idea how much fuel to expect to use so we intentionally bought more than we hoped we would need.  At the same time in keeping with our goal of living simply and intentionally using less, we have kept our thermostat on the cooler side.  Using less propane and more layers.  For some this might be an obvious choice, but many people adjust their thermostats up and down according to their comfort level on a day by day basis.  I have known many people that walk around the house in shorts, T-shirt, and bare footed in the winter with the thermostat cranked up so they are comfortable!  I know several that have taken it one step further and have even opened windows because they are too warm from the heater being turned up too high!   We decided to make a change and adjust our layers instead of our thermostat based on our comfort level.  Big difference!  We are saving both resources and money.  The change has worked out better than we had hoped.

We are all used to the house being a little cooler now and dress both ourselves and our beds accordingly!  They key is layers.  

My dad worked outside a lot, and always had several jackets and shirts he would pile on finishing with a thick overcoat.  He always said layer up to stay warm.  It didn't really hit home for me until we moved out here and we have outside farm chores.  My husband often works outside and has used layers for years as well. 

I used to be of the mindset that one big heavy comforter is cozy and warm.  For years we used a feather bed and down comforter on our bed.  This was indeed warm because the feathers trapped a layer of air in them keeping us insulated and warm.  Later when these wore out I tried the big comfy comforter approach to no use.  I just wasn't warm enough.  This year with the thermostat cooler we keep snug and warm with just the right amount of layers on our bed.
 We have five layers and it's just right.  A sheet, a velour blanket that instantly warms to your body heat and feels like an electric blanket with out needing to be plugged in.  A thin down comforter, a regular cotton comforter, and a thin quilt.  Individually these blankets are not very warm, but by layering them there is air trapped between the layers and we are very comfortable and warm.  Everyone has layers of cozy blankets on their beds.  They keep us so warm in fact that when I turned up the heat last night a couple degrees thinking it would counter the extreme cold outside our children complained it was too warm.  Layers work!

The same concept applies to the clothing you wear.  It is easy to adjust to the temperature outside by adding or removing layers when you are working if you have several layers on.  If you are relying on one big heavy coat you can become too hot and if you remove it, may become to cold  and chilled. 

When in the house, we all wear sweat pants, lounge pants or warm but comfortable clothing.  We always wear socks and slippers when walking around.  We were never the family that opened the windows in the winter but we were guilty of adjusting our thermostat instead of our layers.  Those days, and ways are long gone and we couldn't be happier!  Blessings

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Fabric Softener Quarters

Since we are still fully involved with remodeling our home, there are many things still not in place that we were used to at our old house.  One of them being my very missed clothes lines.  However, it could be worse I could be driving to town to do laundry so I will not complain.  When it is cold and freezing like now, I used to use white vinegar in my rinse in place of fabric softener.  No matter how careful I am to not have any vinegar smell in our clothes my husband still cringes at the thought and potential smell. So... I am back to using diluted fabric softener instead.  I don't mind, admittedly it does smell good but I have many reasons for not liking it one being putting a wax or film on my clothes and towels.  I remembered reading a different method for using fabric softener when I was brain storming and have included a tutorial below.  It's the solution to vinegar I have came up with for now until I settle on a different option away from commercial softeners.
I purchased inexpensive household sponges in bulk and cut them into quarters.
I filled up an antique jar with the sponge quarters.
I filled the jar with diluted fabric softener.

After putting clothes in the dryer I simply grab a sponge and lightly squeeze it out into the jar and toss the sponge into the dryer with our clothes.  It is working very well, and admittedly the clothes smell wonderful.  The added benefit I discovered after about fifteen loads of laundry is that I have only used down to the first decorative line on the glass jar!  So even though I am using commercial softener I am obviously not only diluting it, but using far less!  Typically the amount of softener used in the tray in the washer is about 1/4 of a cup.  This method still keeps the static at bay and freshens the clothes and I do not feel any waxy or film on our clothes.  I am admittedly amazed and love that this method saves further on the laundry budget, using this method it is actually less expensive than vinegar!  Blessings

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome 2015!

Happy New Year!!!

As we welcome 2015 around the globe, I can't help but think of all the resolutions, dreams, and plans I have read about, and heard mentioned in conversation.  What an exciting time of new beginnings for everyone.  There is such wonderful energy in the air everywhere you go with so much anticipation!

I have thought about what this new year means to me, my own goals and ideas of what I would like to happen in my life.  I have actually thought about it quite a bit and decided for the first time I will not be writing down any resolution list this year. 

When I reflect back over previous New Year resolutions and lists I have made, the theme is always a variation of the same things touching on health, finances, and improvement.  In reality, they are actually a reflection of my daily goals, sometimes met, sometimes not, but each day just as each new year is a new beginning.  A chance to start fresh.  In reality each moment is a new chance to make a change and it doesn't have to wait until a certain marker in time like the next day, next week, or the next month.  If  you make a choice that you are unhappy with seize the next opportunity to make a different more satisfying decision, one that falls in line with your life goals and aspirations and go from there.  Easy as that, no more waiting. We are not guaranteed time in the future so don't write off precious moments that we will never see again, now instead seize the moment you are in, the time you have, and make the very most of it as we begin this fresh new year. 

Wishing you all the very best in all that you do on this 2015th year, as we make every moment count on this journey together in life.  Happy New Year!


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cooking Over an Open Fire


We are supposed to be remodeling our little farm, but often we find that when we are working there, we are so relaxed that we take breaks and sit and relax together as a family, enjoying nature and the beautiful spring weather we have been having.  I have no desire to spend time in this house in town, but must keep living here until the end of school for convenience, necessity, and function.  Then I will be camping full time until our farm is remodeled.  There is nothing I have enjoyed more in my life than being at our farm.  It is everything I hoped for and more.  It is work, non stop work, but the rewarding kind, the kind that you sit back at the end of the day and feel that you have just spent the day investing in your future not just working on "stuff".  That is an important difference.

I am naturally an impatient person, I have always had a hard time waiting for everything, I'm naturally excited about life and new adventures  At first I was in a hurry up mode in regard to working on the new house, but now I find when we are there, I am ok with taking things slow and working on projects one at a time and not working at a frantic pace just to get finished.  It is deeply satisfying to see the progress....outside! :)  Right now our focus has been to get our animal pens and habitats built.  When it becomes hot and miserable as it does in the mid-west we will head inside and work.

The other evening I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and the freedom to cook by an open fire.  My dh dug a fire pit and coal pit and I cooked dinner outside on wood coals.  It was rewarding and delicious.  There is no comparison to the joy and peace of living in the country.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Too Many Irons in the Fire

 Things in my life are really complicated right now.  I am always striving for calm and look forward to slowing down again, but times like these are the ebb and flow of life.

When life becomes too busy and seemingly overwhelming it is hard to keep things as organized, clean, and detailed as I would like because I am moving  quickly from one thing to another to what I feel needs my attention most.  We call it "too many irons in the fire".

I know this has happened by the condition of our home.  I am the one that primarily cleans and organizes our home and when things start looking less than nice, I know it's because I haven't been able to devote the time and and energy into things here at home that I would like.  I enjoy keeping a clean, well organized home.  When my surroundings are clean and organized I am at ease.  It's easy for myself and others to find what they are looking for and I don't feel stressed.  The way I feel is often times a direct reflection on how my home looks,not in a vain decorated way, but in a comfortable clean and organized way.  It's not an altogether uncommon feeling, as I have heard and discussed this with others.  I have often heard comments like, "The house and kitchen are such a mess, we just went out for dinner instead".  "I would have someone over, but it's been too messy, so we went out instead".  I feel like this too when I am too busy to keep the house and it is too messy.  I want to "get away" and go out as well.  It's not comfortable or relaxing.  This for me is not good, our home is our haven and of all places we should love and enjoy being in our homes.

 When I find myself in this position I have two options, drop what I have taken on that has left me feeling frustrated and too busy, or after assessing why and what I have going on, and how much longer it will remain so busy, keep pushing on until I can slow down again and bear the ebb and flow of life.  The later is true for me now.  I will be able to slow soon but at the moment I have no choice but to endure the busy.  When I find myself in this situation and I cannot organize and clean like I want.  I find myself cleaning small area's as they are needed.

Today as I was making dinner, I opened the spice cabinet and decided as I used and added seasoning I would fill and organize my spices.  It felt really good to get this small area in our kitchen cleaned out and in shape while I was making dinner.  When I was finished I had dinner in the oven and an organized spice cabinet.  It was just the pep in my step I needed in an otherwise stressful time period right now.  I felt happy to have accomplished something toward keeping our home clean and organized and it spurred  an energy boost to tackle another much needed task.

I see the calm just around the corner, and soon will be able to devote the time and energy into our home that I would like.  Until then, I am striving to keep life as simple as I can in my little corner of the world.  Enjoy your day :)


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Interesting Question

No photo's today, just thoughts, I want you to be able to visualize today....

Should my space dictate how much I keep?  I have been thinking about this question a lot this morning while sorting through things that are not junk, not trash, not clutter but objects we own that are nice.  

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of tiny houses.  I have blogged about them before here Exploring Alternative Homes and we built a tiny house that was made to be a playhouse for our children.

When I think of moving to a tiny house, which we are not...my mind shifts in it's thinking and I immediately see right through the unnecessary things we own, and straight to what would be absolutely necessary, dual purpose, and beautiful.  I think about what would create a home that is cozy but uncrowded.  Could I do it?  Live in a tiny house?  Absolutely!  With my family too? hmmm, I don't know :) ....these guys are very used to creature comforts, however, given the right design I could see it.  We have discussed it, and yes if the circumstances had been different I'm sure instead of remodeling, we would be building a tiny house for our family or another form of alternative home. 

So, why when I think about moving to a house with a larger footprint, does the answer to my question change?  Why is it that when I think about moving to our new home do I contemplate keeping things until I know how much space we have?  Why can't I see right through everything to what is necessary and get rid of everything else whether I have room or not?  I find that I can rationally justify selling and donating everything I do not have room to bring if I were to move into a tiny house and be fine with my decision because it is backed by a solid reason, outwardly it makes perfect sense to reduce your belongings if you are moving into a smaller space.  People do it all the time when they downsize.

I am downsizing my belongings while moving up in house size.  This goes against the norm, reducing belongings no longer are justified because of space.  I am taking a stance against the stuff and things that have slowly came into our lives, I put my hands on my hips and look at it, and wonder where on earth it all came from.  I feel defiant, I don't want to sort through it, I don't want to decide what I truly want, yet I know beyond all doubts, I don't want this much and refuse to pack it and move it.  Two beautiful vases, I like them both, but do I really need both just in case one breaks?  Do I need all the other just in case things I have?  Or can I take on a different attitude and outlook and when an item that is used is  broken that cannot be repaired enjoy a new treasure hunt for a replacement?  If not the vases, what about all the other duplicate items?  How many pictures do we really need?  How many jackets? How many shoes?  How many plates and flatware, are we catering in that we need that many dishes?  My eyes rest on many many things.  When I really look, I wonder will I miss it?  When it comes down to it, am I really truly able to live minimally as I have always wanted, just simply enjoying open space and a few creature comforts, or do I find comfort in stuff?  

The answer in my heart is found in this quote by William Morris "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful"  So in the end, it is not a question of if I have room that I should be thinking, I should be asking myself why I am considering keeping something that I would be all too willing to get rid of if I didn't have the space? 

When I look around, I realize that honestly I'm willing to part with quite a lot.  If I close my eyes and envision what we own, there are really only a handful of pieces of furniture that I would never consider parting with and in fact would be designed into a tiny house if we did indeed build one, because they are that important.  When I think about my favorite room in my house, it is the rooms that are empty!  I love sitting in an empty room just before we bring all the furniture back in after we have done work, sitting quietly in the clear open space just enjoying the structure intself.  The lighting from the windows, the contrast of the trim color to the walls, the texture of the wood floors. I enjoy it so very much and dread dragging everything back in.  Our whole world is just full of things everywhere.  Our eyes and minds  are overloaded with signs, advertisements, and images.  We have very few places that are just spaces to rest without being bombarded by outward ideas of what we should do, and buy and eat.  Clear space is good, it allows creativity and imagination and individuality.  I guess that says a lot about how I feel about my own question.  

Should space dictate how much you keep? I would love to hear how my readers feel about this question when thinking about your own spaces and belongings.  Wishing you a good day :)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Knitting Calm

No matter what craziness is going on in my life and right now and there is plenty of it... it seems all I have to do is pick up my knitting needles and start  knitting even a few stitches and I immediately feel calm.
I ran into our bedroom for something in a huge rush and saw my knitting on my bed stand.  As I waited for my family to get their things to head out the door I decided to knit a few stitches while standing there waiting and it felt as though all of the stress just melted off of me.  It was an immediate difference that stuck with me.  It's no secret that hand work for years is known for something people do when they are relaxing, grandmothers, mothers, and daughters working on hand sewing, crocheting, and knitting while dinner simmers away, taking advantage of the lull in the day to relax and catch up on sewing and mending.  Perhaps, though it wasn't that they were working during a slow in their day that was relaxing, but the other way around.  During a slow time of the day they picked up their hand work and it caused the stress to melt away and they relaxed further and caught their breath before the hustle and bustle returned when everyone came home from work and school and their day once again became busy.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Reflections

I did not take this photo so I do not have a watermark on it.  If you know who took this please let me know so I can give proper credit to the photographer who's beautiful work this is...
I was reflecting today on many things, one of them is this photo.  I was thumbing through a magazine one day at my mom's house and I saw this photo.  It caused a stirring within me and I asked if she minded if I tear it out.  She's not a keeper of her magazines and offered the whole magazine instead.  Me being me, only wanted this photo.  There is no page number, or information about the magazine it was from so I have no way to identify any of that information.  What I can tell you is this.  This photo captured everything I wanted in my future in this one single shot.  Every goal I had was met here.  A home in the country, a big bar of hand made soap, fresh farm eggs, herbs at the window, a sink full of running dish water perhaps?  Or maybe fresh produce getting a wash from the garden.  All of these things were on my wish list and instead of making a traditional list, I hung this photo on the cabinet next to my computer as a visual reminder of the things I hold dear. 

It's not the physical act of gathering eggs, or making soaps, or working in the garden.  Its a lifestyle choice, a slower pace.  The individual components that made this complete picture when broken down, are things that take time, consideration, and require patience.  No rush and hustle, prodding and deadlines.  Just peace and calm and all things I have been striving for, a lifestyle I have been desperately seeking and living despite my location.  Today as I reflected on this photo I see the circle is now complete.  The location is now finally in place, and all the things that I have been looking forward to that were photographed and hung beside my desk are not just a  dream, but soon a very real reality.  This photo though no longer relevant in the near future once we move, will always hold a special place and I will hang it in my new home.  It is a reminder to never give up on your dreams, but also to live where you are and keep quietly working on that which is important to you, where you are, until the full picture is realized. 

Thank you to whomever you are for such a wonderful photo that perfectly captured that which I hold dear and spoke the unspoken for me for so many years until my dream was a reality.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Unlimited Possibilities

Today as I was returning to the home we are living in right now, I decided to check on the new house.  The snow outside is starting to melt and before long unless we get another snow, we will loose the clean tranquil look of a fresh snow and go back to the drab and dreary look of winter...without the snow which in my opinion just looks cold!
It was starting to drizzle by the time we arrived and I stopped to snap a quick photo.  Who knows if we will have a "real" snow again until next winter and I wanted a picture of it.  It had already significantly melted.  Just one road over I had gotten stuck in my truck in a three foot drift and the driveway was about six inches lower than the drift, so as you can see, it has melted quite a bit today.  Tomorrow I bet it will be mostly gone.

As I took a moment to look, I realized how many ideas, hopes, and dreams are at the end of that lane.  The possibilities are endless and just waiting, and I realized though I'm trying to fight it because we are in the very beginning stages of remodeling, that I am growing impatient to get the inside finished...because I am finally getting excited about being here.  I felt the return of a familiar feeling looking down that lane.

You see, today I have been struggling with missing my dad more than I have for a while.  I am making remodeling plans and this is something we did together, when I sat at the end of the lane, I discovered that the familiar feeling I was feeling was the return of happiness! I thought I would never again experience true happiness.  Not laughter necessarily, but the feeling that stays with you, that quiet feeling in your heart, the lightness of your chest.  That kind of happiness.  Only later tonight when my sister called did she ask me if I realized today was six months since dad had passed.  I had no idea.  All day today I have written the wrong date!  I don't dwell on it or count down the days, but the date had I been correct would have registered with me.   How fitting on the anniversary of a wonderful man who taught me all he knew about life, encouraged me to "live, go out there and live" I again discover the feeling of happiness.  If you were blessed to know my dad, you knew how happy and joyful he was, always a contagious smile.  He was deeply sentimental, loving, and passionate about life and his family.  I have seen him cry tears of sorrow, and tears of joy right along with me.  I feel his presence with me as I slowly learn to live life without him here, and remember what he thought about life and instilled in me.  He thought life was too short to be down and depressed that we should live, sing, be joyful, enjoy life, go outside, get some fresh air, enjoy nature, he couldn't stand to be "cooped up in the house" as he would say.  He would also say  "live for today", "all you can do is your best", "the Bible never says we are promised tomorrow."  As I slowly heal and allow myself to experience life and live for today, I know he would be happy too.  I know as well how important it is to experience life as fully as possible.

As you go about your day, I wish you all the happiness in life, and unlimited possibilities.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

At Long Last

This weekend we received the keys to our new home.  We agreed to purchase the home this fall, made the purchase before Christmas, and finally received the keys this weekend.  It was a long process, but we have been waiting even longer to find a home that was right for us, so it was worth the wait.

Like the home we live in now was when we first received the keys, the new house is a fixer upper and we started the evening we received the keys.  We would prefer to do the work ourselves though time consuming, expensive, and exhausting than to pay for someone else to fix up a home and not enjoy the quality of work or the finish choices but the cost of these would be passed to the buyer.  Instead we would prefer to do the work ourselves and know that the work is good quality and live with choices we like for finishing details.   Like this house at first, there were many things we didn't like once we started removing the layers of wall coverings that we will have to deal with.  More brainstorming needs to be done and adjustments to our original plans but our journey has began.  Like all journeys the path you take has twists and turns but you just keep walking forward and try to enjoy the view as you go, you will only pass over where you are once so you might as make the most of where you are, you will never again return to this point in your journey so enjoy the view.

Yesterday, our path led us to the "new" house and instead of working we spent a short while exploring in the bitter freezing cold along a small pond and our own tiny piece of woods at the end of our property.  We had fun following the trail of the neighbors dog for a while, the tracks of a rabbit, and the faint tracks of the birds in the cold winter snow.  We walked through the trees from one side of the property to the other and had a blast.  When we finished we walked to the house and made dinner in our make shift kitchen listening to music and enjoying the warmth of the house.  We didn't get any work done but we made memories and enjoyed time together which is more important than any work on the ever growing "to do" list.

Below are some winter berries that we discovered while on our walk.  They looked beautiful against the fresh white of the snow.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Enlightened

I have been struggling with some major decisions for a while now that have been rather distracting and exhausting.  After much deliberating and unrest I confided in very capable and knowledgeable friends who are very understanding.  With their sound loving advice and encouragement to follow my heart I did just that, made a decision, and have felt a peace like none other.

With all that has been going on in my life, unfortunately my plants were suffering.  Ok they were flat out laying down on the ground!  They were beautiful healthy plants I received when my father passed.  I moved them into our bathroom to soak in the tub and decided to easily nurture them back to health I would leave them there to enjoy regular soaks in the tub and the humid environment.  This morning while getting ready, feeling at peace and quite exhilarated about the decision I came to, knowing without a doubt it was the right decision, I found that the Peace Lilly I had been nurturing had a bloom on it for the first time since receiving the plant!  It made my heart a skip a beat and put a smile on my face.  I might be reading too much into it, but there was too much coincidence not to.  I thought I would share it with you as well.  Sometimes it's the little of things...  Wishing you a wonderful weekend.




Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year 2014


Happy New Year 2014!  

Wishing you the very best in the coming year.  Unexpected surprises when you least expect it. Like opening the door and seeing this silent snow in the middle of the night, and awakening to a magical new world in the morning!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sigh

I could avoid this post, I honestly do wish I could because I want to pretend it didn't happen.  I know I owe nobody the intimate details of my life.  However, I set out to document my life, my dreams, learn, share, and help others along the way with written word.  We were never promised an easy journey on our path of life.  I have definitely had my share of troubled times along my journey lately.  However, I never in my worst nightmare's would dream I would be sharing not only this with you, but the past two losses as well.

My maternal cousin Jason, just five months younger than I, passed early this month.  He passed on my father's birthday.   He was a talented musician.  He was working very hard on his dream.  He was a talented writer and had a beautiful voice.  He was truly blessed with the gift of music.  He was also my childhood friend.  We grew up very close by one another and our families spent our holidays and special occasions together.  We also just spent time at one another's homes going back and forth.  Our families had picnics and played at the park.  We had a lot of fun and played together often.  We experienced the joys and pains in growing up together.  We discussed life and our dreams and idea's.  He enjoyed playing in town where we lived, and I loved playing in the country where they lived some of our childhood.  Later when they moved to a small town close by we had fun there as well.  We both had younger siblings and we took it upon ourselves to entertain them.  We spent many hours playing with them,  making up games, doing silly things to make them laugh and doing our best to entertain them.  We were always laughing and joking and he was the life of the party.  He loved to make people smile.  In later years I missed him, he had moved away like many of us do to find and discover himself.  He settled on the east coast and loved the fair weather and beautiful beaches.  He absolutely loved to sing and entertain.  When he came back home to visit, he always had his guitar, he carried one with him almost all the time and we were always treated to him singing and playing for us.  I was always so proud of him and his work and dedication to his goal of making beautiful music.  Thankfully through technology we were able to keep in touch over the years and I always told him how proud I was of him.   We had many years of fun and his laughter and music will live on in my heart forever.

 
This is a link to a beautiful song that Jay wrote and performed called Heaven.
When I think of him I think of this song. I am thankful every day that we have recordings of his music to help us through this extremely difficult time in our lives.  It has been a great comfort.

In light of all the heartbreaking loss my family has experienced this year.  I brought myself to share this sad news with you as well.  Not that I would have not, it's just that honestly I haven't felt myself lately or felt like blogging because my soul aches.  I just returned from driving with my cousin Jay's older sister, across country to her brother's funeral.  I was thankful for the time with my cousin.   We discussed many things as I drove along.  I am physically and mentally exhausted and my heart is full of sorrow for those we have lost this year.  I miss them.  I have yet to heal from the loss of my dad and my cousin's loss I have yet to begin to deal with.  I share, because I know I am not the only one suffering or who has experienced loss.  I am not the only one who has the heartbreak of loosing more than one family member in a short time.  I will in time feel more whole, and heal.  My heart will always hold a special place for my family who has gone on before me.  

In the mean time, as I heal, reflect, grow and change.  I keep my family, my goals, and that which is important dear to my heart.  I still hold sacred our goals in this short life that we are here on earth.  I will continue to share with you my daily life, and trust that I will be blessed with a very large span before I experience the heartbreak of the death of a loved one again.  Blessing to you and your family as you hold those dear to you close.  Life truly is short and we never do know when our journey will end or the journey of our loved ones.  Hugs

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Changes in Seasons, Changes in Life


With the changing season, we have had changes in our lives.  My absence here reflects the recent devastating loss of my cousin.  I went back home for an extended period of time to be with my family.   I have since returned home and have been regrouping, reflecting, and healing.

 

This is my cousin Kristopher Pete McDonald, he was born November 12, 1974 and passed October 10, 2013.  He is a war hero and a veteran serving five active duty deployments between the USMC and ARNG.    He dedicated his life to helping, and savings the lives of others.  He was kind, loving, and compassionate to everyone who knew him.  We were blessed to have him in our family and he is greatly missed.  He was a wonderful brother, son, nephew, uncle, cousin, and friend.  In his last act of love and kindness, Kristopher was an organ donor.  In death he was able to do what he loved most which was helping others, and savings lives.  

Kristopher is my Dad's nephew, their birthday's were one day apart.  He is my oldest cousin, just four months older than me.  He was my first friend in life. He was always eager to lend a hand and help where needed.  Though he has two younger brothers of his own, in reality he was a big brother to my other two cousins as well, spending much of their lives being raised together they were especially close.

I will always be proud of Kristopher and the man he grew up to be.  He gave life his all never asking for anything in return.  He delighted us with his gentle laughter and contagious smile.  My life, and the lives of all who knew him were brighter because of him.  Rest in Peace




Obviously sad at the recent loss of two beautiful people in my family, in my reflections I have focused on life.  Our life span is unknown and in general even living into our nineties, our lives are lived quickly.  Yes,  it is normal, natural, and the continuation of the greater cycle of life.  I have lost many beautiful people on my life's journey who made an impact in my life in one way or another.  Some more than others but all leaving an impression on me.  I have reflected on the importance of living a quality life even more so than before.  I have reflected on the role we play in being parents, spouses, community members and how we effect each others lives.  I have really reflected on what life goals are important to me and what matters most in my life and the lasting impact I wish to have on others the most important being the impact I have on my children and how best I can guide them.  Little has changed in my priorities,  my family still being of the utmost importance in my life.  However I have noted some adjustments I would like to make within my own life.  I am thankful for the opportunity to take a closer look at my own life and the improvements and growth within that I would like to make, to improve myself, and in turn have a direct positive effect on those around me.

Wishing you the very best in all you do, as you too might also discover the changes within as we change seasons.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Life up Close, Moonflower Delight

When you are walking around, you really  never know what you will find.  As I prepared to leave a weekend retreat a few weeks ago, I was surprised by these first two and quickly snapped a shot of them both separately.  They happened to be on the same large rock, I'm still not sure if the first was lunch for the second!   With critters, I am not as close because I do not want to impose on their space but I was still fairly close enough.
 Praying Mantis, blending in nicely with the rock he was on.
A nice sized lizard on the other side of the rock from the Praying Mantis.  To me, he looks like he might be eyeballing lunch???


The last in the Life up Close mini series are these beautiful flowers.  They are called Moon Flowers
Moon flowers only open at night.  This bloom previously opened the night before so it is not as tightly closed, it is getting ready to open again as you will see below.
This is the side profile of the opened moon flower.  Though a bit out of focus, I left this shot so you could see the yet unopened buds on the right side of this photo.  For some reason my path has crossed with several Praying Mantis this year as you can see one was crawling on the moon flower in this shot.
This is the Moon Flower fully opened in all it's glory.  They are absolutely beautiful and I was so happy to see them on this evening.  My mom planted them and while visiting her she took me outside to see them.  What a treat :)  Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Life up Close, A Garden Walk

Today we have the pleasure of a stroll through the garden enjoying patterns and textures that we might not  have seen before.  These are a collection of plants taken in various locations, some are common weeds that I found beautiful, and some are planted flowers.  I love finding beauty in the ordinary.  Common weeds are natures gift of beauty to us, don't forget to take a moment to enjoy them too.

Enjoy your day :)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Life Up Close, A Walk to the Mailbox

As I went outside to collect the mail from the post box, I found more nature than mail when I arrived at the box.  As usual I couldn't resist capturing them.  I love nature!
 While I'm not going to get into the habit of identifying the species of insects pictured, this species of spider is particularly interesting...this spider is "Argiope aurantia" commonly called "Golden Orb Weaver" most recognized for it's zig zag patterned web.  The zig zag of it's web wasn't captured in my photo but you can go here for more pictures of these spiders and their webs.  They are really neat, I had never seen one before this photo.
I was able to get close enough to this grasshopper to capture the texture on the wings and the fine hairs on it's legs.  The main reason I get so excited about being this close up is that my pictures are all taken with the camera on my phone!   I wanted to combine the two since I always have my phone so I would always have the ability to capture nature in a split second.
And last but not least... lovely wasps building a nest under the box in the newspaper holder.  Thankfully we do not take the paper so they were not disturbed and did not sting anyone.  They have since been removed.

It's amazing what you see, if you slow down enough just walking a few feet from your own front door.  Enjoy your day :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Life up Close

I realized some of the pictures I have been taking around our home have been very close up to different objects in nature.  I decided to do a mini series in the next few days of some of them.  I hope you enjoy :)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I'm still here :)

I am still here.  I have been taking things slowly and healing, and still decluttering.  The decluttering challenge was such a success that it was extended for Sept. as well.  I have a couple pieces of furniture that was at my Dad's that I am deciding what I would like to do with.  They used to be in our home once upon a time and I have been deciding if I want to keep them or let them go.  Not exactly a decluttering mentality but when you are dealing with grief, it's better to go slow.  I can always find a home for these items later, but can't get them back.

The weather here is changing and I experimented with some paint color on our porch ceiling.  It was white and bugs were drawn to it like a magnet.  I have read that bugs would not be drawn to a blue color because it reminded them of the sky.  It didn't work for me, but I am really enjoying the nice blue ceiling color.  I used some paint that we already had from another project that I really liked.
This is obviously before,  you can see where I have the biggest amount of cobwebs and bugs above the porch light.
This is after, the bugs are slowly coming back.  For security reasons the light stays on all night and it attracts the bugs so for me the blue didn't work, but it sure looks pretty!
 While out taking the photo of the porch ceiling, I was delighted to see this beautiful Praying Mantis on our door.  It took a while but I finally got a couple of pictures to my liking.  Yes, they are very big here, but how many times do you get to see one super close up?  I think he looks like he is smiling!  I am guessing "if" this is a female it is close to laying a pod to hatch next spring.  Eight years ago, when we first moved to this house my mom bought a pod for my garden and they have continued to hatch and re-appear each year much to my delight.  Like anything tiny, they are absolutely adorable when they are new little hatch-lings.  Ok are bugs adorable???  Well I guess not in a furry kitten sort of way but if you know how big they get, they are :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Little Goals

School will soon be starting, and we have been working very hard to declutter and clean. However because of the emotions involved, going through one small box or moving a few items here and there seem like a monumental task.  Sunday I woke up with a predetermined goal.  I wanted the garage cleaned out so I could even think about working on our family room.

Before I could even begin going through dad's things on the scale that I wanted, we had to first start by  cleaning out our own garage so that we could put anything away that goes out there and not have piles in front of the garage door waiting for the day we cleaned it out.   Usually we do this twice a year.  I set donations in the garage and random items end up in there that we aren't sure what to do with and before we know it, the garage is not user friendly for what we need.  Now we have everything at least on the shelves leaving the middle open.  The goal for the garage was to clear out the middle to set up the treadmill and park our bikes.  I am very happy that our goal was reached!  Now to keep it that way through the winter by donating items as we have them instead of setting them in the garage.

Yesterday, my goal when I woke up was to clear out our family room to start with.  I wanted to get our house back to our standard of normal as much as possible before school started.  Normal for us is clear, clean, clutter free surfaces.  With the exception of my sewing room/office because I am always working on a project in there.

When we brought my dad's things home after cleaning out his house, our house turned  into a literal storage facility.  I had paths and random items carried by hand from the truck ALL over my home.  Six hours of my time was spent going through paperwork of my dad's that were in huge drum liners and trash bags stacked randomly around my family room.  File boxes full of files, and cardboard boxes as well.

I have more work to do, but you can see the scope of the project below.  I hesitate to post these photo's because I do not want to mislead anyone into thinking that I have decluttered my own belongings etc.  This is from moving my dad's house into our house almost a month ago.
After about twelve hours later, our sofa and floor at least on one half of the room is clear and clean.  Sorting paperwork was a process that yielded small results but lifted a huge weight from me personally.  I knew that it would be a very time consuming process but so important.  Once those papers are gone they cannot be replaced.  It was just a matter of determining what was important to keep and what could be burned.  I only have a few small file boxes to sort through at a later time and that big job is done.

After some appointments today, I will return home to hopefully finish clearing things out in the family room and if I have time I will work on the dining room.  If I stop now, in my experience clutter is a magnet and more will grow and build on what is left.  It's getting there!

I hope everyone joining Rhonda's decluttering for August is able to reduce a few items here and there and are feeling relaxed and enjoying their space as they reduce what they do not need.  I enjoy open space very much and in a small home, open space is a luxury!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Kindness of Others

In the midst of all that is going on in my very busy life right now, my truck had to go immediately in the shop for an emergency repair.  I am trying to move furniture, donations, and haul things here and there and settle our home out on top of decluttering.  Of course I am still emotional right now and stressed and I really felt like I just couldn't handle anything else on my plate.  I always try and find a positive no matter what the negative is, and was so very thankful that I do have a back up vehicle to drive, even if it wasn't going to allow me to do what I needed right now. I had transportation.   I called the shop and explained what was going on and was blessed beyond measure.  The mechanic worked my truck in yesterday and I was able to pick it up today!!!!!  I don't know how many times I thanked him but I guarantee each thank you was from the bottom of my heart.  Having a vehicle out of commission isn't the end of the world, but when you use and depend on that vehicle as much as I do right now with all the moving around going on, it can feel like your plate is full and starting to break.  Breaaathhhhh........... it all worked out in the end.

I spent my day working as hard as I could around the house and got more accomplished than I did the previous day.  I knew that without the truck I couldn't move anything out of the house, but I could certainly organize and clean so that is what I did today.  Slowly I am getting the tall stacks of boxes and files and keepsakes worked down and sorted.  I am getting there.  The laundry is almost caught up and the kitchen floor is clean again :)  It's the little things, you have to choose to look for the rays of sunshine even on an overcast day.  So very thankful today for the caring people that are put in my path!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Making Progress

Today was such a progressive day that several times I thought it was already Wednesday!  (It is only Monday)  I have quite an impressive "to do" list right now and was able to mark most of it off, run errands, take care of school obligations, preparations for the girls for school, and still spend some leisurely time with them this evening.  What a day and a great start to this week.

Last time I was back home visiting our family, we went to one of my favorite stores in town called Waters Edge.  It is in Lawrence Kansas.  I am sure I will sound like a commercial for their store, but very few retail places feel so comfortable and inviting as Waters Edge.  I wanted to share with you about our most recent trip.  After such a sad and hard month, I knew I had to make time for a special stop and unwind and relax in nature.  We can easily spend several hours there meandering around enjoying the atmosphere and learning so much about nature and aquatic life.  You can visit their website here.  They have a beautiful gallery of photo's on their page.  Here are a few photo's from our recent visit.
This is one of many little pond and water display features.  If I could wave my magic wand I would transfer everything in the store garden to my own back yard :)  It is amazingly peaceful and tranquil.  It was absolutely the break and rest I needed after such a stressful month.

While searching through some of the whiskey barrel liners, I found this leaf print of a muddy leaf that was stuck between the pots.
This is a pretty good goal for my back patio I would say!  I absolutely love the mix of rock and brick.  If you ever have the opportunity to stroll through their gardens you will understand how peaceful it is.  I think the most soothing part for me is when I see an unusual plant I like, I know where I can get it for our own garden.  They are so helpful and want to teach you not just sell you what you need to have a peaceful sanctuary at home to enjoy.  Many times when you see something that is just right for your own home or garden it can be frustrating to try and locate what it is you see.  Especially with plants.  Unusual plants can be really hard to find.
This is a perfect example. This is a Mosaic Plant.  It is a water plant that my dd and I absolutely fell in love with,  when we have a home ready for it will return and bring one home to enjoy here with all who visit.

On decluttering; We are slowly working on different area's.  Today I spent time on paperwork and clearing my desk area.  Much of the laundry is caught up and donate bags are ready to go.  It is slow and steady and I can definitely see a difference.  I just have to be patient :)


Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Gift of Corn

Today my friend stopped by with a surprise.  We were given the opportunity to go pick corn!!!  What an amazingly generous offer.  We went with our youngest children and though it was really hot and humid, we had a good time.  While picking a few ears on the outside of the field, we discovered that several exposed ears of corn had Japanese Beetles on them.  Not just one or two but many!
Upon returning home, I began to shuck the corn with our youngest dd helping me.  While shucking we came across several "baby" corn in the husk next to the mature corn in the husk.  We opened one up and I took a picture to share.  Just in case you do not know...  the tassels or corn silks at the end of an ear of corn are attached to each individual kernel of corn.  Each tassel must be pollinated in order for that kernel to develop into what we enjoy eating! Nature is amazing!  I took this picture because it was a great example of this process, the tassels are still attached to the individual kernels growing in the husk in this underdeveloped ear of corn.  How neat!
I felt really blessed to have this opportunity and was very happy that we now have fresh corn frozen for our family in the freezer.  Everyone helped in the process of preparing the corn.  While our youngest dd was helping me pick corn, my husband and our oldest dd were blanching, peeling, slicing, and freezing peaches  that our neighbor brought us last week from the orchard.  Today was a great freezer day in our house!

On the decluttering front.  I shared yesterday how I love blessing others.  Well, my favorite is when I know where things are going.  I just love that.  Today I was able to pass on several bags of clothes and linens to a family that needs them!  That made me really happy.

DH and I worked on our bedroom today and decluttered several area's.  It feels so much more peaceful in our room.  I am always happy to reduce and  recycle to others what we do not need.  It felt especially good today to pass on so many bags of things that could be used.