Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Little Bit About The Blog

A little bit about me and this blog:

I grew up on a larger grain farm in Northern Indiana, the oldest daughter of parents both raised on the farm.  I married a dairy farmer's oldest son.  I didn't grow up with animals other than those we had for 4-H projects, and definitely NOT dairy cows.  I quickly learned the daily routine, the lack of vacation (cows have to be milked twice a day, every.single.day), the hard work, the fact that something will die when my in-laws leave us here to do chores for a weekend, a pipe will freeze and have to be dug out of cement on Christmas day before opening presents and making breakfast; my husband will NEVER be on time because something will happen during chores.  Farm life can be a total pain in the back side.  It can also be handy when you want leave an event you don't want to be but have to make an appearance,.  NOT that we've ever done that of course…. (cough-cough)  But in all honesty, there is no other way I'd rather raise my kids.

A little room off the milking parlor, the milk house is where all the fruits of the cows' and farmer's labor are stored.  It's the first stop at the beginning of the day and the last stop at the end of the day.  The milk house is a place where we complain about everything the day's events are discussed and the world's problems are solved.  Discussion is candid and language often raw.  Dreams are discussed; disagreements are hashed; jokes told;  plans for the future are made. All proper grammar rules go out the window.  Memories of the time we've spent in the milk house as a family are numerous and near and dear to my heart.

This blog is a like that little room off the south side of the barn.  It's a random sampling of the chaos that make up our life.  Whether that be farming related, my boy's shenanigans, basketball/sports related, crafty things I've put together, or fitness and health related, I promise it will be real.  It will be random.  It will be funny.  It will be disappointment.  It will be like standing in the milk house door for an hour after chores talking about the day. Kick back.  Stay a little while.  Enjoy the chaos that is our life.

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 In Review

2013 has been a year of Blessings and hardships.  I suppose that's to be expected.  You have good with the bad.  A group of my friends and I got together Friday for lunch and had a good ole gripe session.  The general consensus? 2013 stunk. We've all been going through the motions, not enjoying life.  I can't even begin to recall last January through April.  It seems as if I've been stuck in the funk mode all year, even now wallowing in self pity and of all of the things I didn't like about this past year.

Here's the conclusion I came to today as I was sitting working with my blog design this afternoon and evening;  The Good Lord Above blessed me with a great many talents.  There are some things that, despite how hard I try, I'm never going to excel at.  I need to move on.  It doesn't mean I should stop doing those things, it just means I either need to accept it and do them as well as I can, or stop doing them.  Not easy for me.  I don't give up easily.  You see, He also gave me hard working parents who taught me the value of determination and hard work.  I may also have a *slight* stubborn streak.  At some point that determination and work becomes the very definition of insanity.  Nothing changes but I'm still working, more exhausted, and more frustrated than ever.   This is the first year I can say I have successfully resigned many of those frustrations and decided to be smarter instead of beating my head against the wall day after day after day. Surprisingly the decisions to give up and change these habits were easier than I ever expected.  It was more of a weight lifted than a burden on my heart.

The best part of these decisions and changes has been the support of my friends and family.  The only one who thought I had failed in some way was me. What's up with that? I'm my own worst critic. Even though these changes took them from my direct day to day contact, they get it.  They understood.  They love me anyway and I love them.

I look ahead to the next year with a skip in my step; of brighter, bolder things to come.  Do I have lofty goals for the next 12 months?  Of course I do.  And I will fail repeatedly.  I will get up, dust myself off and try again.  Because it's what I do. It's who I am and I'm ok with that.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Few Random Thoughts

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Merry Christmas!  Happy End of 2013! I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday so far.  Mine has been most restful, thank goodness!  After Thanksgiving I had gotten a sinus cold and lost my voice for 5 days--- sidebar- do you know how fun that is when you have 3 ball games and you can't yell at the refs cheer for your team?  Most aggravating I can assure you.-- My voice has never really returned to "normal" and will still go out or get scratchy sounding.  Coach thinks it's sexy.  I told him I feel like I sound like him after the first week of practice, like I'm trying to project my voice to 60 kids in a gym with no mic. I must have been able to rest it enough in these last few days, as I feel it is back.

You may have noticed the link for Bloglovin' at the top of the page.  I finally signed up.  I'm not sure why I didn't do this sooner.  Talk about a handy little tool for following all the blogs I read!  Everything in one place and it tells me which ones I've not read, etc.  What a timesaver!  Genius I say! Bravo!

A friend of ours and Jordan's Cross Country/Track coach is putting together a Zebra team to run with together in the Indy 500 Mini Marathon in May.  I said after running Sunburst in 2012 I'd never run another, that it was officially crossed off my bucket list.  Yeah, well, I'm too competitive for that.  Now I want to blow my previous time out of the water and I'll be running with 20 friends.  This could be fun and training with others will keep me accountable.  I've downloaded the training plans and I'm trying to figure out how to stretch a 12 week training plan over 5 months.  January and February are super busy with all 3 basketball schedules, so I know I'm going to have weeks where I don't necessarily stick to the plan as well as I should.  My last 2 weeks of workouts have been mostly nonexistent.  I've worked out twice this week-- so much for everyday.  Each day is an opportunity to start again, right?  The weather is supposed to be decent today and tomorrow (above freezing and in the upper 30's) so I'm excited about getting a run outside.

Today's Friday in a week that has felt like 7 days of Saturday's & Sunday's.  I need to get myself back into some kind of routine….. next week. Ha!  TGIF kids! Have a good one!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Country Charm Christmas Tree Skirt

For as long as I have had my own tree I have longed for a homemade country Christmas tree skirt.  It's taken me years to decide what materials I wanted to use.  Was I going to quilt something? What kind of patter did I want to use?  So many questions unanswered.  Here I am, many years later, and I have finally found my skirt.  I have been digging the rustic country look.  I have found several old barn windows that I am slowly rehabbing into frames, bulletin boards, and wall centerpieces.  Enter Pinterest search here.  Wouldn't you know I found the perfect pattern and material here at the Thinking Closet Blog.  She has so many neat and simple ideas on her site.  I just love it!  You will notice she used a no-sew technique, which is totally fine.  I decided on sewing mine, mostly because I felt it was easier for me.  Less blistered fingers.   No glue-strand spiderwebs when I'm done.

Let me preface by saying I don't usually Black Friday shop, unless you mean from the comfort of my couch with a coffee, laptop while in my jammies.  I had to run my son to basketball practice so I stopped in our local Walmart to see what I could find.  I was not going in if I couldn't find a spot to park.  Turned out there were plenty of parking spots.  Apparently the deals were to be had the night before.  I managed to score a new 7.5" pre-lit tree for $60.  I'll take it!  I perused the fabric isle, just for kicks, to see if they had any burlap.  Low and behold, 4 different colors!  I bought what I needed, and not a stitch more- the first cardinal sin of sewing-(always buy more than you need).  I didn't have enough and now I'm scrambling to find 1/4 yard more to finish up, because, of course, now they are out of burlap.

Here is what I used for my tree skirt.
2 yards Beige & 2 yards Red burlap (I needed 2 1/4 yards of beige)
1 standard 48" diameter felt tree skirt (you could use felt and cut circle.  I already had one I don't use)
Rotary Cutter
Cutting Mat
Straight Edge Cutting Guide
Sewing Machine w/ heavy needle (like for hemming or patching denim)
Neutral colored thread
Iron & ironing board

1. I started by ironing my burlap.  It was terribly creased.  A little steam and a lot of heat and they came right out.  Took just 10 minutes start to finish.  I love to iron.  There is something therapeutic about it.  No need to tell me, I know I'm strange.

It only takes a little steam. 
2. Cut off selvages.  Mine were a mess!  I think this was the main reason I was short on beige fabric. I must have cut off close to a quarter yard just trying to straighten the edges.  Then I cut 3" strips.  Be warned- this is messy.  You will have strands of burlap all over the place before you're finished.  You could hem the edges of the strips, but I personally like the raveled edges.  I don't mind the strings here and there.

3" strips
3. Let the pinning & folding begin!  I have never attempted ruffles before.  They were a little intimidating to me.  I was also worried about the burlap being difficult to work with.  Turns out it was a snap.  It folded very easily, was not difficult to pin or sew. I may have folded a bit too much and this also contributed to my lack of beige in the end.  I started pinning along the outside edge and then zig-zag stitched along the inside, one layer at a time.

Half done
Mostly finished product

4. I will finish with beige around the inside edge.  I think it would look strange just to end with the sewn ruffle layer and no finishing binding.  

All in all, I love the look of the skirt with my tree.  We have since decorated with more than just Trenton's favorite ornaments. It's also a fairly inexpensive product.  Even if I had needed to buy felt (it's only $2 a yard), I would have spent less than $25. The burlap was $2.50 a yard.  Additionally, I had the thread, pins, and cutting tools. The total time invested (so far) is 3 hours.  I anticipate needing another 20-30 minutes to finish up.  It's just that easy! 

Happy crafting!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

If You Can't Say Anything Nice….

I don't blog often.  In fact, I've been completely MIA for months.  Forgive me this morning for jumping to this as my forum, but my message is one that I feel compelled to share. I am noticing a sickening trend on blogs, FB posts, Twitter feeds, and other social media forums: unkind words & judgement from strangers criticizing the original poster's words and actions. 

Social Media has blown up into so much more than most of us could have ever imagined.  The sad part is that it has become very easy to bully others because it is so faceless.  It's cowardly and spineless. I frequently read comments on social media that are just downright mean.  The commenters don't know the bloggers or the struggles the blogger has been through.  What gives me or anyone the right to tell that person they are a bad parent/fitness guru/crafter/coach/player just because I don't care for the post?  Read it and move on! 

I am the wife of a high school coach and mother of two boys who attend and participate in activities in the community we live and where my husband teaches and coaches.  I'm the Team Mom.  I am also the Team statistician and tweet/FB scores and encouraging words about the boys during games and through the week.  It may go without saying, but DON'T YOU DARE say anything negative about my boys, whether that be my own boys or my Team boys. I WILL go Mama Bear on you.  People are leaving the most horrid, nasty comments about my Team, about my husband, about my community.  These comments start with "No offense but"...  Well how exactly do you expect someone to take that comment other than to be offended?  You set the tone with that phrase. If you feel the need to clarify before staing your opinion then you need to think twice before posting. 

The comment that sent me over the edge was received last night on the basketball program's FB page from a former player, bashing my husband.  This same former player came up to him just weeks ago and told him how good a job he is doing building the program.  So you don't think Coach is going to read the comment you leave on the program's page? You don't think the players see you bashing their coach? Do you think your former coach, who is one of the current Coach's best friends and co-workers, condones that kind of behavior?  Is that how you want current and future players to view Zebra Basketball players conduct when they aren't wearing the uniform?  And my biggest question- Would you come up to Rex and the Team and say it to their faces?  I bet not.  

Our kids, coaches & parents read that message and took offense.  You bash Coach, you bash the team.  You bash Coach, you bash me, my children and my community. You are saying you don't believe in the dedication, hard work & determination our coaches and players are giving to the program and the school. You are disgracing and defacing the program you say you are proud to have been a part of. Well, sir, you only proved you don't support our kids and our program. 

My generation has been caught in the middle of this tech revolution. The internet was not something I experienced until college. MySpace and Facebook became mainstream when I was out of college. We are now responsible for teaching our children "the rules", so to speak, of social media (referred to from here on as SM). Perhaps I'm hypersensitive to things posted on SM because I am an educator by profession. I'm very mindful of my posts and try not to post negative things, even about myself.  I try to set an example not only for my own children, but for others reading my pages. Isn't it our job as adults to lead and set positive examples for our youth?  If we don't who will?  We all stumble from time to time. It's human.  We say things out of spite we later regret saying.  I get it.  It happens.  However, we are role models whether we want to or not. It does matter how we use these moments to teach better behavior. 

The written word is so powerful.  It burns.  It sears into our brains and our hearts and festers like a splinter under our skin.  The sting of the written word lasts longer than the spoken word because we can read it again and again, obsessing over the intent.  It is for that reason we must take a minute to reread our posts before hitting submit and ask if it's setting a positive example.

It all goes back to the age old lesson we learned as children: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.  It seems to be a more relevant message than ever before. 

"When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind. Our deeds are our monuments." 
~from Wonder, by RJ Palacio

Let's remember to be kind to one another. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

County Fair Fun

My husband has lived on a dairy farm all of his life (Minus the 3 years we were away in college).  We got married and moved to his family's farm and eventually built our house here. We have milked registered Jersey cows all of his life, and until last September, all of my boys' lives. We made the decision as a family to sell the milking herd and keep only feeder calves, some heifers and our good show string at a friend's farm. It's been a big adjustment but a good transition overall.  Even though Rex and I have never made our living from the farm (we are both teachers) we have been an active part of the daily operation. I can't imagine raising my kids in any other way than here on the farm.

Now it's fair week at our little county fair. Lots of work, it's really hot and humid, but it's also a lot of fun for us. We see folks we haven't seen since the year before and the boys bond with other kids in the area. We are one of only 3 families this year in the barn. The strangest part of this year is that None of us milk for a living anymore.  I can honestly say I do not miss 6am in the barn on a hot sticky day like today. 

We are also the only family with Jersey cows. Little, sweet, brown cows with good dispositions & awesome butterfat content in their milk. It makes the best ice cream! My boys end up competing against one another and that does not always equal the best post-show situation. Jordan won 2 out of 3 today. He won Sr Champion and Sr Showman, Trent won Jr Champion and Jr Showman. They had fun despite any disappointment (mostly Trent, the little brother) and now we are just having fun the rest of the day. 

Despite the work and complaints by the adults, it's about the kids learning responsibility, dedication & the value of hard work. We'll keep working for a few more weeks until state fair time and then hang up the haters and lead straps for next spring and do it all again. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Intimate Art of Cleaning

Welcome to my little spot in the blogosphere!  I'm so happy you have come to visit.  Feel free to comment and visit often.

As I was cleaning a vintage sewing cabinet, it occurred to me how intimate cleaning can be.  Cleaning can be very cathartic; healing in some ways.  There are times nothing feels better than stripping something down to the bare bones, scrubbing it out & reorganizing the contents.  Purging what isn't' needed, making things fit better, knowing it's clean.  Sometimes there isn't much that is more gratifying than a clean closet, cabinets, or drawers.  Now, mind you, I don't keep a super organized house.  We are a busy family with full time jobs, sports, school and hobbies.  My mail basket is constantly overflowing.  My dining table is the other catch all spot.  I have a basket of laundry waiting to be put away.  But as I was scrubbing my current project with a toothbrush in all of the tiny nooks and crannies, I started thinking of the history of where this piece has been.  I love looking in the drawers of old furniture.  An old Milk Duds box full of chalk for marking patterns and seam lines.  A pair of scissors.  Old nylons used to stuff socks for darning.  Old bobby pins, an old hair curler & clip.  A blouse pattern cut from a copy of The South Bend Tribune  circa May 1955.

Such neat little detail work & hidden treasures in this one!

My mind begins to wander as to what all was created with the machine, now sitting on my shelf, that was once housed in this cabinet.  Perhaps a patched knee for a little boy's pants.  A new silk blouse for a special night out.  Dresses for a baby girl.  Doll clothes for Christmas.  Squares pieced together for her daughter's wedding.  Hair in curlers while finishing the last hem of the cute little A-line dress.  Scrubbing all those little places makes it all become so intimate.  You become close to the piece being worked on.  The piece has a character, much like an animal or a friend has character.  You find flaws in the finish.  Strengths in the design.  Feelings toward the future color and design for it based on that character.  You develop feelings for it; love or hate, there are feelings.  Feelings toward whomever decided it was a good idea to slap on another coat of varnish without taking out the drawers.  Wondering who thought it was a good idea to put a little cut out on the top of the drawers to collect all of the lint and thread.  I can tell you there is NO way the locks were going to work with all that stuff in there. And who has the 4th drawer pull?

This is my adventure.  I have found a passion in finding these treasures and making them into something new.  I hope you'll visit often and leave me some love.