Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cabinet History and the Surprise Treasure

When we moved to Wisconsin now almost nine years ago, packing with a six week old baby and the long drive was epic!  We have a wonderful pine hutch that we'd gotten while we lived in Vegas and had served for many years as our TV cabinet.  When we first got here, the house we lived in had a built in cabinet, and then our in first home, the piece was too big so it was put upstairs in a spare room and was used for photo album storage.  Now that we've settled on the homestead, we moved it last summer to the back side of our wrap around porch to use as a potting shed.

Yesterday we noticed that it looked like some mice had gotten into the birdseed being stored in the hutch.  So we opened the large heavy bottom drawer and found two old big throw pillows in it.  Gosh I hadn't seen these since we left Vegas!  So we pulled them out looking for a little mouse nest (there was none).  Guess what we found?  This stained glass that B's grandpa Ray had made and we had placed in here for very safe cross country transport.  It was so lovingly packed that in the midst of moving, taking the business over and working 80 hours a week, and living out of boxes for the first nine months, then moving again into the "lake house",  it was oh so carefully packed away and set up so that we could find it now, nine years later.  What a happy memory and a surprise treasure.  It's now hanging in the living room window.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

New Digs For Stretching Wings

 B's big winter project was to build a chicken tractor for the ladies.  He wanted to build it to size so that it could just be placed over one of the raised garden beds for them to cultivate it.  The only items purchased for this venture were two wheels and some hardware.   The rest of the wood is all salvaged from the barn, a friend, and around the property.  Great old louvered shutters make a door that's self ventilated, and old brass furnace vents from one of the house remodels allows for cross ventilation.  Nothing is too ornate for these girls :) 
Today was the day, and B made the big push to finish the roof and relocate the adults.  The babies, are in their awkward teenage years by looks right now, and will join them by fall.  They'll transition first to the hen house and run adjacent to the grainery.  These ladies will not only be our wonderful egg producers for us and our farm baskets, but they'll also earn their keep by their unique abilities to create new fertile ground for our every expanding garden.  This was an epic project, which B did virtually on his own, and is a huge check off of the to do list!  Congrats Love!

Simply Perfect

 I am officially a slumber party survivor!  There are so many options out there for birthday parties and whether it's painting pottery, gymnastics, doing a family overnight, or simply the dreaded chuck-e-cheese, they are all quite expensive and short lived.  So when I mentioned a slumber party to Sidney and she jumped on it I was thrilled. 

She started to think about it and came up with the theme cats, because of her beloved "Warriors"  book series (thanks Christy)!  So over the last couple of weeks we've hunted and found cat ideas to incorporate into her party.  We decorated the attic....slumber central and found a few key activity components.  I set up a pizza station in the kitchen and they all rolled, pulled, and tossed their own dough and decorated their pizzas.
 We found some cute (and very inexpensive) sun catchers at the store that were kitty cats, so the girls each made theirs and I popped them in to bake.  They turned out great!
 A big hit was the mug cakes!  I found some cute kitty mugs at Pier One on clearance and the girls each mixed their own ingredients and we popped them in the microwave.  Amazing and very cool idea!  The girls loved them, and they get to keep the mugs and a recipe!
 Despite the little activities I planned, they were all perfectly happy just being girls.  Chit chatting, playing warriors, painting nails, watching a movie, singing and lot's of whispering (sometimes louder than necessary, especially at 2 am).
 They were up at 6:30 am and are once again playing strong.  I went up to say good morning and see how they were all doing on four hours sleep.  I was immediately dismissed as I was interrupting their game....m o m   Pleeease, we're playing...and please leave the left over popcorn, we're pretending it's mice. (more warrior cats play I assume).    I'm getting ready to start making waffles and am certain that I'll need a nap later.

Lesson learned.  It's so much fun to just do the birthday party thing at home, and let the kids play and be kids.  I spent a total of $65 on this party and that also includes the first or second book of the series (depending on if each girl had started it yet) in their little goodie bag to go home with their mug, sun catcher and some Hello Kitty lip gloss.  A simple party, can be simply perfect and an evening to remember!

**I apologize for the graininess of the photos, my settings went drastically awry last night!

Saturday, April 24, 2010


 I watched this courtship play out in several areas of the yard.  Queue Barry White music here.  Guess how it turned out???
Didn't you just hear the record needle scratch across and abruptly end Barry White??  Have a great Saturday!

Friday, April 23, 2010

What you can get done when rain's coming....

 Check out this gooseberry plant!

Nothing lights a fire under farm projects more than a weekend forecast of rain.  Our weekends are always productive at getting through our long list of Spring to do's, but some days, things just click.  B and I can get ridiculous amounts of things done and end the day tired, but feeling relaxed and accomplished.  These days seem to be days when the kids are at school.  Hmm... I wonder if there's a connection? 

We started early, and once we dropped the kids at school, ran by the old house to dig up the beautiful berries that we planted four years ago, that are all but taking over the South side of the yard.  No, I don't feel guilty about this.  For the record, the house is still ours and since it's been on the market for the last three years and we still pay for it and take care of it, then we will divide and transplant landscape we like if we want, so there!   The gooseberries and boysenberries will be a fantastic addition to our newly installed berry section of the yard. 

This leads us to the next task.  All of that sod that we pulled out to create the above berry paradise needed to be moved, preferably before a weekend full of rain.  What does one do with extraordinary amounts of rolled grass and dirt??  Well, when you're thinking of this grand adventure and creating the perfect little homestead, what homestead would be complete without it's own mini sledding  hill??  So, we are layering the levels of sod and will make a nice picnic spot in the summer and a place for a bit of winter fun.  We got half of it moved today which was quite an accomplishment, believe me!

If this wasn't enough, we had a rare spring day with minimal wind so we dragged out and burned all of the brush left from B's winter overgrowth clean out of the wooded area on the West side of the property (by aforementioned newly forming sledding hill).  As we took a break from that we moved ten or so bales of hay away from the cold frames toward the garden and covered them before they get saturated.  We picked up a few things and are now hunkered down and ready for rain.

Oh and by the way, in between all of this, I had an hour long sewing lesson and can now officially attach collars and do waistbands so I can finish the final touches on musical costumes.  Thanks Barb!

Now I'm off to sip a glass of vino and relish in the day.  What a great weekend start!  Don't worry, the rain won't stop us from doing a few things.  But I've got bigger plans on tap.  Preparing to be invaded by four 9 year olds for a birthday slumber party tomorrow.  Oohhh maybe we'll have some thunder tomorrow night! Fun!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

 Image from

Interesting thoughts. "We have allowed ourselves to become so disconnected and ignorant about something that is so intimate as the food we eat."  (Food Inc.)  There are so many things that we strive for as we work toward teaching our children about living in a thoughtful way toward our world.  On this earth day, my head has been swimming with all of the things that we have consciously been working on to be kinder to the earth, and live a simpler and fulfilled lifestyle. 

The food we consume is so important.  I find myself in a constant state of awe at the complexity of it all.  Or is it?  What are good choices, what are bad?  When I was growing up fast food was a once in a great while treat and soda was unheard of in my household.  One of the things that I'm increasingly seeing is that the processed and fast foods have become so cheap that the basic healthy foods can't compete for many a busy family on a tight budget.  What does that say about us as a people?  Good food is a luxury?  Mass production has been a huge convenience and for some an impressive money maker, but what are the consequences?  What are the costs associated with low cost foods?  Out of control use of antibiotics and hormones are having lasting effects on our children.

 Ultimately what's good for us, good for our kids, good for our earth, and humane should be the focus.  Progress and technology have been wonderful and profound things.  I utilize them everyday.  But progress out of control will have long lasting effects.  Obesity and type II diabetes are becoming more and more common in our children.  Don't you think a way to reconcile this would be to create a healthy lifestyle/environment that fosters longevity, and not ingrain immediate gratification?  This is a difficult and overwhelming thing to think about.  For now, research where your food comes from and how it's made, grow a little, and make informed decisions that best suit your family.  There are easy, cost effective, healthy and sustainable baby steps that everyone can take so that we can take control of our food system and what we put in our families bodies.

Earth Day is every day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Opening the Window

 Today was full of self-imposed break neck speed.  I started the morning determined to finish sewing the tin man pants (4 sets of which I had two left).  This is my current sewing project for  Charlie's first grade musical.  So at 5:45 I began, and in between pinning, ironing and stitching I got the kids up and ready for school.  In fact, this began last night when I did the first two pairs of pants in between scrabble moves with Sidney.   I guess I was feeling a bit guilty, because I didn't do much sewing over the weekend and didn't want to get lost in the week without doing it.  So at lunch today I began working on the first shirt.  I seem to be having a problem picturing in my head how to do the arms with the silver lame, because I ended up pulling stitches on the entire arm not once, but twice!  Amazingly, as I when posted here, I was very calm and though frustrated, not angry about it, just puzzled.

Keep in mind that this is some imaginary deadline I've decided to impulsively put myself on and has now developed into a dull aching tightness in my neck.  

So this evening once home from the school pick up, I think I've got it figured out in my head and sit down to those tin man arms again.  I'm pinning and pinning and missing something.  At this point the kids are incessantly telling me how they are***starving*** (enter whiney scream where the asterisks are),  so I figure, I need to stop being uber sewing mom and actually feed my kids.  That's when it happened....  I cracked open the kitchen window as I began to work on dinner and in wafted my favorite aroma.

Yes, the lilac bush outside the window is starting to bloom and in that split second rush of air, all of my self-imposed craziness drifted away and I just was.  It is a wonderful thing, that something so simple, yet so core can in a moment ground you back in reality so that you stop, take a deep breath, and savor.  The next time I decide to put myself under a crazy deadline, I just need to remember to open a window.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy Birthday TAW!

 Tilting At Windmills is one year old today!  I look back on the last year an am amazed at how this blogging thing has evolved.  I seem to be  in a fairly constant state of blog thought.  My mind is always racing and phrases or thoughts come together.  For a while I was writing down snippets to refer back to and then I stopped.  I wonder why??  A week ago as I was contemplating this post, it flowed very eloquently through my head.  I didn't write it down, I just knew that I'd easily be able to retrieve the stream of consciousness, like a rapidly flowing stream.  Well like that flowing stream, those words have gone away and so I sit and ponder once again. 

If you think way back, I started this blog thinking about balance and how to bring it to our lives and teach our kids about the importance of it.  We've had highs, like this and this and lows, like this and this, but most of all growth. 

I am so thankful for what I've learned, that I've been able to expand upon my creativity and that I've been introduced into this wonderful blogging community.  I've met so many wonderful souls and kindred spirits.   I've challenged myself in ways I hadn't even really contemplated when I began.  Now it's just part of my soul.  My writing and photography has become a silent teacher, an example for my kids.  It's been infectious.  Sidney now will run in and grab the camera every chance she gets to capture something and loves to write stories.  Recently Charles had to draw a symbol for each of his family members and he put a camera in my hand. 

I look forward to the continued metamorphosis of our journey toward self-sufficiency and our passage toward teaching our children well.  I appreciate all of you that have kept up with our adventure and my little blog.  I look forward to what this year evolves into and wonder, what it is that I'll be reflecting on next year.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Where has the time gone?***  Yesterday my little girl was 9 years old!  I can hardly believe it.  We began the morning by pulling out her baby album.  She was excited to go through it, and since she was born pre-digital camera for us,  I was doing a little photo hunting.  How did we survive BD (before digital)?  This is a photograph of a photograph because my scanner is broken and it took me far too much time trying to capture it!  It does not at all do my girl justice either!  It was so fun to look through this album and see all of the little stages of her babyhood going into childhood. (Also a little crazy to see how her dad and I have changed over the last nine years, I don't feel so much older)!

I do believe she's officially a tween!  She came downstairs this morning in a dress and wearing a pair of dress shoes.  The first thing she said is oohh I like these shoes because they have a little heel and it makes me just a bit taller.  Her birthday party is next weekend, and it's a slumber party, so I'm sure there will be many antic-dotes to tell. 

***Even at this moment I wonder where the time has gone.  I need to rewind for just a sec and say that I began this post yesterday, and then stopped so that we could have our family celebration.  Her request was Chinese food, my chocolate tart, and a family movie night.  Here are a few pictures of our evening.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thank You

I am so fortunate.  Yesterday I received this beautiful prayer flag that I won from Se'Lah of Necessary Room.  It was perfect timing for me.  Reminding me of all I have to be thankful for.  It enlightened my thoughts and reminded me of the pure goodness and generosity that is out there.  This was a great comfort to me as I waited for Sidney to have her surgical procedure today.  When you put your child's life in the hands of others through things like anesthesia it helps to hold onto simple acts of kindness.  It is now hanging in a place of honor in my sometimes dining room, now mostly craft room.  Please go visit Se'Lah's lovely blog.
She also sent me this cute little bunny with a wish for happy Spring! :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pictorial Garden Summary

It has been a really busy week in the garden.  You may have noticed if you've looked at the listing in my 2010 Garden plan it has grown exponentially this week.  Here are a few photos of the progress!

 We started about 75 veggie plants from seed, they're incubating nicely

 Plants in the cold frame seemed to take off, some of our lettuces and radishes have popped up
6 raised beds are done, 6 more started, and peas planted in the two closest
On Friday we received our berries and lavender, a few of the lavender plants are here
Rented a sod cutter and cut 4 berry beds next to the barn, these are three of them
This particular bed has the three cherry bushes and a row of blackberry canes behind

 All in all a successful week of garden prep and starts.  Next up is to rent a post hole digger and set the stakes for the picket fence around the asparagus.  We're also going to pre-cut the holes for the split rail fencing that will make up the trellising for the berries, and dig the holes so that we can move the laundry line closer to the house.  Just a little light work on the to do list! :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Something about this photo captivated me.  Our yard is simply alive with Cardinals this time of year, their lively songs calling to one another and then darting from tree to tree in a massive game of hide and seek.  This one was awash in the early morning sunshine and it almost looks like your seeing him through an antique glass window.

This got me thinking about how perspectives are such amazing things.  People can look at the same scene and see something completely different.  My wavy antique windows enhance the views I see from inside, giving them a slightly skewed yet artistic feel.  This same view could drive someone else nuts and be seen as a hindrance.   This holds true in every aspect of life.  Whether it be landscapes, social situations, sporting events, or the written word.  The perspective is in the eye of the beholder.  Thankfully, our perspectives are what keep us unique from one another.  Even though differing perspectives may lead to heartfelt discussion or even conflict, it is respect for this amazing thing called perspective that get's us through. 

B's cousin posted something to us that I just loved so I have to repeat it.  A quote by Pericles: "What you leave behind is not what's engraved in stone, but what is woven into the lives of others."  From my perspective this is a beautiful way to live life.  What does it say to you?  Enjoy your weekend and all of the wonderful perspectives you encounter!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


As I mentioned here, we are spring break orphans this week.  We took a couple of stay home days this week to savor kid time and work around the house.  But this was quite a change from our normal California trip.  That's been postponed until June, and mind you, the kids definitly new something was awry when we didn't board a plane prior to Easter. 

They understand and have had a good week despite the lack of West coast scenery.  But today had an extra special hour, and one that is now going to be repeated for the remaining 3 days of the break.  I daresay may become a weekend standard.  Yes, Buffy with grandma was able to make an appearance today with the assistance of DVD players on the coast and on the Great Lakes and a speaker phone.  The children's beloved grandma Buffy time was realized today despite 2000 plus miles of distance.  Amazingly, we got the episodes to start completely in sync with a mother/daughter 1....2....3 done perfectly well.  You'd think we'd had some practice at this :)

So as our vacation day saw rain and some snow showers, the kids and parents (watching this phenomena) were warmed by the Coast via telephone.  Thanks mom!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


 Today was the day.  I hauled myself up to the attic to begin the great sort of kids toys. This wasn't the first time, but maybe the most monumental.  I've weeded down before, and always kept the best and most used, but now my babies are big kids and so much of it is just taking up space.  It was quite a trip down memory lane, and I realized as I went hunting for these pictures, that some of the best items we've had for a V e r y long time! 

I think that one of the most valuable items that I'm retiring is the dress-up box stuff.  This box (with it's matching plastic shoes), has served it's purpose ten-fold.  My kids and all of their friends have utilized these clothes for six, yes I said six years!  Now when Sid does dress up, she and her friends parade around the house in a variety of her 'real' dresses. 

The other items I weeded through were the litany of learning games, flash cards, and things like lacing cards.  These all held hours of fun, but have been outgrown.  Now of course as I carted all of this down the three flights of stairs, the kids are flabbergasted that I would be passing this stuff on.  The exchange went something like this "Charlie, you haven't even looked at these games in two years." to which he said "but I used to like them!"  We've made peace now.  I explained as he's moved onto Monopoly, Uno and Wii, someone else might like these other games just as much as he 'used to'.   Thankfully, it wasn't too much of a fight.

So the attic is clean and ready for the tweenie items to be moved up to accompany those I deemed the current 'best and most used'.  I've got some toys  ready for re-play bagged up for those interested :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mad Women

Thanks to Daniela for my new headband, I love it...I antiqued the photo a bit! :)

Over the Holiday's last year there was a post on facebook from a friend about how much they loved Julie & Julia.  From that a couple of us posted back how much we wanted to tackle some of Julia's cooking, right by the book, as it's written.  From that, a small gormet club was born.  We're meeting every 6 weeks or so, choosing a different chef and cooking their dishes (by the book) and enjoying lots of good food, wine and company.  A little novelty has entered the arena, as we tend to dress a bit the part of the chef (you know something that is a signature of them).  So far we've done pearls for Julia and low cut tops with push-up bras for Giada Delaurentis.

This afternoon we had our brief pre-dinner meeting to hash out the menu.  The men were a bit jealous that they couldn't attend, but they were working and the kids are on spring break so a lunch meeting wouldn't cut it this time.  So the kids all played and we, the moms, sat down in the middle of the afternoon with a glass of wine, a cookbook and planned.  I don't often drink this early in the day, even if I'm on vacation.  In my head I completely pictured a scene from Mad Men as we booted the kids to play and commenced in our conversation. 

I'm looking forward to this month's installment.   We're the host house this time and I chose Jamie Oliver as the chef du jour.  I love his garden fresh cooking style and it fits in nicely as his food revolution,  has just premiered here.  We normally choose 5-6 dishes and one or two of them are cooked on-site as a group. The kids play and watch a movie and we play foodie in the kitchen.  As to the signature attire?  I don't think anything formal this time, maybe jeans, flip flops and a zip up hoodie will do.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Look What We Have Here!

 When we went out this morning for our rounds to survey what new life is emerging on the property, look what we found!  If you remember, last year I talked about legacy planting.  It looks like not only did they thrive last year, but they survived their first winter too!  Of course, I can't seem to keep our curious puppy out of this area, so this afternoon we hauled out some old picket fence panels from the barn which we are now going to enclose this area with.  See, it only takes a moment for me to come up with another project to add to the list!
We had a lot of fun yesterday with the kids and some good friends.  Both families are normally out of town for spring break, but this year neither one of us were able to do it, so we spent our orphaned holiday together.  B and I did take off two days this week, today and Thursday to bookend our week so we can work on the farm and have the days with the kids.  We aren't all work and no play though.  We spent some time at the zoo this afternoon (Monday's are $1 entrance day), followed by ice cream.  They'll be at work with us and tomorrow and Wednesday, which they think is fun anyway and I'll try not to pull my hair out. :)  Here's to a Spring Break that's off to a great start!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Wishing You and Yours a Happy Easter 
Filled with Family, 
Friends, and Peace!

A portion of our lawn erupted with the little blue violets this morning!

Friday, April 2, 2010


The wind is so amazing this afternoon.  I stand at my kitchen window and need to lean against it to stay upright.  I close my eyes and remember a distant lifetime ago when I stood at the Ring of Kerry in Ireland with this group of people in a beat up van called Big Bag of Sticks.  We saw each other on this two lane road, all stopped and stood up on the stacked stone wall and leaned over this cliff into the wind.  What an amazing moment.

Wind is such a phenomenal thing to me.  You can't see it, just feel and hear it as it ravages the trees.  How powerful it is.  In a moment it can snap a large tree in two.  I am mesmerized to watch it.  I love to watch a good spring storm roll in.  What is it that makes it so powerful?  The lightning and thunder add spectacle, but it's the wind that suddenly changes direction and whips up to announce it's arrival.   From the front porch on a warm evening, or from the 'buddy chair' by the living room window when it's cold, I can sit, listen and watch for hours. 

What amazing energy nature has.  It is just there, commanding respect of it's power.  Observing it, empowers us to think.  Sidney just finished her energy position paper for school.  She chose wind energy.  I look forward to the day we can put a windmill on our little homestead so that we can harness a little bit of the wind's majesty.
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80 Degree April Day

 What to do on a beautiful 80 degree April day and the first day of Spring Break??  Begin by coffee and strolling the property with the hubby in the early morning, with no jackets.  Garden, open all of the windows in the house, garden, color easter eggs, garden, play, take pictures, garden.....

Most of all BASK in the glory of the day!  Happy Friday!


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