Monday, November 30, 2015

Our Real Life Now


            We are home from another big weekend with our children, grandchildren, siblings, in-laws, and parents; a wonderful ingathering for Thanksgiving in Nebraska. Even though we love all of our family immensely; it is great to be home to our own little home in the north woods.
I’ll admit immediately that it feels hollow and lonely inside. But, as I am sure Mom is saying this morning in her home out in Idaho, “real life” must resume.  Thanks Mom for showing us how to bless each others’ lives by celebrating home-going as well as getting together.
Elv and I talked late last night about it. I hate the let down thud of transition from visiting children to our life at home.  And he is so glad to be home and to return to work. It is like a huge relief to him.  He snores in his recliner, while I moan inwardly, silently bleeding over the loss of the life-giving togetherness I enjoyed all weekend.   
At the same time I love our life at home. Small family life is nice, too. Brad and Amy are quite spoiled because of it.  And so am I. Tidiness is easier to maintain. Dishes are nothing to keep done. Meals seem pathetic and skimpy with only four servings each of meat and vege to put on the table, created in no time at all.
            And then there’s our dream that we have nurtured for years. The dream to putter at off-the-grid living in a cabin in the woods has given us a happy project to always work on together. It’s been our get-away on weekends. It’s been our get-away in our heads when life seems too heavy here at home. This has been our real life now in some ways. It’s like we get through the days and work of our life here in Hayward by looking forward to our get-away times and our future of being able to potter about feeding birds, building decks, and sitting by the fire with our memories.  And I wonder if we’ve maybe been wasting our real life by straining at the future so intensely. Of course, I don’t want to admit that. I just want to wonder about it.
            So we talked about enjoying our real life now. Re-evaluating is rewarding for us. We do have a wonderful life now. We cherish our together times each day: morning coffee, daily texts, prayers, plans, and as always the project of maintaining our house and home. A dream is good as long as it is kept firmly tethered so that it doesn’t rob us of enjoying today. A dream out of hand can make today’s duties seem pointless.
            And we talked about living in today with intention. Not letting work or money run us. But enjoying what we do. And about choosing to be content. 

            So, I potted three geranium for you, Amy, within the first hour of being home last night. There they sat on my sink in a dirty flowerpot, ugly and hopeless- looking, right where I’d left them last week in my haste and flurry to go to Nebraska. Until I looked more closely they seemed ready for the garbage. Tiny new leaves are coming out down close to the bottom of the stems. This is part of our real life now. Re-potting geranium that will be lush and budding by Christmas time.
            Changing the tablescape this morning is our beginnings of Christmas/winter decorating. Mopping and dusting to follow. And I saw a collection of white pitchers full of pine bough bouquets yesterday in my perusal of simple winter d├ęcor on Pinterest. That’s coming up, too.
            We want nice suppers at table and quiet evenings of home projects this week. Must spend time preparing accordingly in the kitchen today. What happens on Monday at this house makes or breaks our week. THAT, at least, hasn’t changed.
            Yes, about being content. To those of you young moms straining at the “boring” of being a mom of little ones, please choose contentment in your real life today. But this is another subject. Later.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Posting From My Hearth

It is a cold, blustery November day. It is a cozying-my-cottage type of day inside. First thing I did was to dump out the "fresh" coffee made from a generic can of coffee grounds from Wal-mart. Only thing that stuff is good for is the drain, truly. Found the last of Gabe's home roasted beans and started over. So now, I have a pretty decent cup of coffee to fortify me. 
It is a day to light candles and play music while I work. 
The to-do list being long and varied; I decided to blog first and see what comes of talking about it here before starting on it. 
Brad needs to be packed up for his little weekend outing to a youth rally. And the laundry project has been getting a lick and a promise for a few days. Elv has been noticing, too. No leaving the unfolded laundry plopped on the chair today.

 I stirred up these muffins quickly this morning after Brad wandered out to the kitchen to make french toast for himself. Guilt there for me because he often has to make his own food. He is learning to cook, though. So I chased him out and made our breakfast this morning. 


                           Blueberry Muffins  

Dry Mix of corn meal, flax meal, buckwheat flour, gf all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon.
Wet Mix of 3 eggs, oil, and milk. 
Frozen blueberries.
Bake at 350 degrees until Brad shouts for the second time from his desk that those things must surely be done by now. I had set the timer but it must have fizzled somewhere along the line. 

This would be a good day to turn the church flowerpot into a winterscape.  Birch sticks, red branches from the woods, pine boughs, and other things. I counted how many varieties of things there are generally in a fetching winter window box. Three to five in varying colors. No lights and no red bows; this is for the front of the church. 

While we munch on warm muffins and plan homemaking loveliness the man has it about as hard in the woods as we do here at home.

I sent him this text: Darling, will you please take a minute and get some kind of picture of your inside to outside atmosphere of you/your machine today. I'm blogging about our "rough" life on a cold November day. So these are what came in. You can see Lance's machine over there in the distance, too. Think shirtsleeve, controlled cabin conditions. 

 I would like to try this today.
 We'll see. Hope Mennonite Girls Can Cook don't mind me doing this.

See this silly, little tree? I unboxed this at the Duluth store yesterday. Couldn't believe my eyes! How simple this would be do make at home. Also in the same box were six packs of wooden snowflake ornaments that looked great on the tree. Plugged it in and sat it in the window. Lovely! I'm still considering how I can duplicate this for pennies. Don't tell our costumers, please.

And I should sew and do dishes and do some banking. Brad needs contacts and airtime for his phone ordered up. And a nice, sit-down supper would be a perfect ending to a work and project day. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

How To Get Children To Work

A glimpse into Sunday evening at home while everybody was here the other weekend. On the menu were those little pig-in-a-blanket snacks of a mini hot-dogs individually rolled in it's own blanket of dough and baked. The girls moved the prep operation out to the dining room table for space to work and immediately had three or four little people asking to get involved. All of our girls are patient with this sort of thing so the little hands were allowed to roll dough and "help". What amazes me anew is that it is truly helpful in the end.
The girls have discussed together lately again how to get their children to work. Listening and getting asked for ideas brings me to this post. Obviously they have some of this already well established as you can see. I want to add to that discussion here for the benefit, I hope, of all moms of little people.

   But first, let's talk about coffee. Josh and Francis added to our coffee bar for the weekend by bringing along their fancy espresso machine. Lisl had already contributed the use of her new Aeropress. Gabe roasts coffee beans at home, so he brought those. And Lisl brought Thai roasted beans, as well.
   Francis spent an hour at a time making lattes to order. Serving is fun, as every contented hostess knows, but taking the time and creativity to serve artfully is even more fun. Caramel drizzled over whipped topping on a pumpkin spice latte handed to me in a thick mug means a lot. I know she spent time and thought on this one cup of richness. Was it economical, efficient and quick? No it was not, but it was worth it. We were both pleased and blessed, giver and receiver.
    Francis served coffee all weekend happily, although it took effort and time and thought (work) because she understood a few important things about good work. She was unconscious of the effort and wasted time, because making others happy and the sense of accomplishment are bigger than the "work" of making lattes. She has figured out that effort for the common good is nice. And it was really, really nice! It made me feel positively spoiled and pampered.

    The first thing to establish in our minds as a parent is that work, (dressing and keeping the garden) was in place before The Fall.  The thing that got added to work was the drudgery part of things: sweat, recurring weeds and thorns. Dressing and Keeping is what real work is all about. And it should be fulfilling, purposeful, and even fun. So those of you who claim you dislike work, must change your mind. Give Romans 12:1 some thought.  If we want our children to have a good attitude about work; we must show them the right way to think about work.

Another thing that encourages children, is doing work and play together.  Sharing it shoulder to shoulder is much better than standing over them like an overseer. Get down there on the floor and show them and help them. Picking up toys goes quickly when mom or dad helps. 
I believe to dislike work should not be considered. Never ask a child if he likes to pick up the toys or his clothes. For sure, never let him say it twice if he doesn't like it. Work is fun and you should mean it and say it as such over and over. Don't shirk work yourself. Embrace it and keep after it. All of the jobs around home should get done as cheerfully as possible.
   When the baby cries all night and the work isn't getting done, don't fret it. The work will still be there and life goes on. Hopefully, the children have been conditioned by practice to rather enjoy tidiness and will know how to find it when needed.
    I know, this seems like it sounds better than it walks. But truly, the keys to your success are in training by practice and implication, not by threats and spankings.

    Then there's the whole charting, rewards or forfeitures, system. Frankly, that didn't work for our children, but that is because I did not like to use it. It was too much work! to remember and to be consistent. Charts, in my book, are created to be failed. They drop out of date in only a few days and either you have to somehow make up the chart or look like a failure. It seemed to me we only added an additional layer of failure to our already failed practice. So I quickly abandoned charts.
    We got on with our real life much quicker by making the housework a habitual practice that just had to be done and so it did, for the most part. We had a very short list of things that happened twice a day that we called "clean up". Dishes and sweeping and tidying. Oh yes, I had to lower my standards somewhat. The washcloths were just as available and folded if not in perfect squares, for instance.
    One thing that Mom and Aunt Eva taught us; was to enjoy a sense of accomplishment. Once the room is clean, look at it, and see what you have done and enjoy the pretty of it. The smallest child who gets to help with that, can understand and enjoy accomplishment when pointed out to him. Build on that as part of the goal.
    The sum is this. Moms and dads who enjoy working for order and cleanliness and accomplishment will pass it on to their children. 

I wanted to discuss the dignity of industry, too.  And what to do when a first grader decides he doesn't like to work. And what to do about the elementary age student who is sick of school work and is lazy about chores. What are your good ideas? 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Wild Rice Soup

 We are having cold, rainy days. Tonight we are to get our first snow. Supper should be warming and comforting. We have a pack of wild rice from Bemidji, Minnesota that I have been looking forward to cooking up.

                         Wild Rice Soup
   4 or 5 medium potatoes
   1 lb Venison Sausage
   1 cup wild rice
   1 large sweet onion
   1 stick butter
   Chicken broth powder
   Garlic salt
   Corn starch or clear gel for thickening
   Shredded mild cheddar cheese                                                             

   Bring four cups of water to a boil, then add in a cup of dried wild rice. Simmer for 45 minutes. Dice the potatoes small and cook in water. Add a large tablespoon of chicken stock powder. (I keep beef and chicken stock powder on hand, instead of messing with cooking bones and canning the broth. It tastes great, but it's not as healthy or nutritional, I suppose, than the traditional stock that Grandma made.)
   While cooking the potatoes, brown the sausage in a black skillet. In another skillet saute the onion in the butter. When the onion is clear add a couple cups of milk, then thicken with corn starch. There's your white sauce. Add the meat and the white sauce and cooked rice  to the potatoes that are now tender. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic. Add in cheese and milk if needed and simmer very slowly till serving time.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Empty House Full Heart

    I left them on the curb at ORD this morning. I kissed that baby and made myself buck up and not cry. They disappeared into the maw of steel and glass. And I can't believe I got back into my car and drove away.

   Everybody was home this weekend. And we had lovely times together.  I'll post about that later, but here's one more picture for my own mom to see. Yes, I know there are missing girls and boys and babies, too for that matter, on this picture, but we had this brainstorm right then and so...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Leaves and Other Things

 Fall turned quickly from dry and sunny to cold and rainy this week. These pictures are already outdated, but since they document our  few lovely fall days; I shall post them here.
   I hoped to create a memory for our grandchildren. So we headed out to make a leaf pile to play in. Benny will remember, for sure.
   They ordered up videos of themselves running and jumping in the leaves so we have a few clips, too.
  It isn't necessary to explain to a child what there is to do with a pile of leaves. I caught more than one picture of only feet showing at the top of the pile, for instance. I didn't go under there myself to prove this, but it seemed like they weren't at all claustrophobic about being able to breathe under there. Imagine the smell of dry, oak leaves on damp grass, mice and moles, and lawn mower leavings.

                     A List

~ After this busy weekend, Lisl and Rennie are flying back to Thailand.
~ Amy is going with them to stay for a few weeks.
~ We had four new grandchildren born in the last year. They are all here, along with their families right now, getting acquainted with each other and us.
~ Babies come in all sizes and temperaments.
~ Babies are not only cute and precious; they're smart.
~ Fall work goes away whether it is completed or not, because winter takes over. I'm glad for that.
~ The Graber family has accumulated a bunch of coffee snobs. So this weekend we have flavored and sweetened lattes, or not if you like them without flavors and sweeteners, and espresso or just plain coffee, all options for our individual desires and tastes. Fresh, home roasted, Thai, or Kwik Trip beans for fresh ground, as well. It is ridiculous and fun!
~ Windows 10 is a pain, but can be coerced into looking enough like Windows 7 to be useful to the likes of me. Thanks to Clark and Dru for your encouragements and Gabe for setting it up for me. Liking a new computer, finally.
~ We have three different Thanksgiving invitations to choose from this year. We'll see what that turns up.
~ Northwood Outdoor is opening a new store in Village Square on Miller Hill today. That seems unrelated to this list. It isn't.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A New Coffee Station

Here it is. First we had a pile of white oak timbers sort of sanded off, measured, and cut to length. Brad is the builder. He has been so kind and patient with our brainstorms and gets enthused with us. I wanted a little coffee buffet and he seemed happy to help. So from our stash came these boards. We tried running them through a planer, but they have lots of rustic personality part of which makes them uneven and stubborn about getting forced through a planer. Elv says the planer needs to have new blades, but I think it's worse than that. These boards are what they are, so be it.
I wanted barn wood, right? And rustic. So these are perfect.
When I came home from work last night he had it standing by the wall ready for finishing. I put two coats of water based sealer/topcoat stuff that I often use for my projects. Next week, I ought to add two more coats, sanding between coats to make it shine even more. He put the screws straight in through the timbers with a rather rustic result of being able to see each and very one of them.  In this case it is just fine with me. I showed him afterward how it would work to put them in at a slant underneath to have them all hiding. He put quite a few hours of careful work into this project.

   Dena, the tea boxes turned out to be these white canisters that were sitting just for pretty in our kitchen. We found them at the used shop awhile back and couldn't leave them behind; but frankly, I hadn't really put them to use.

Elv wants to get an electric receptacle installed here for us. Who knew that the old thermostat box I have been hiding behind a calendar for so many years would "land" in the perfect place to have electricity here now.
Liz, Rosie, and Ruthie will recognize some of this collection, of course. Still have to get a couple of braided runners to complete it.