Wednesday, August 16, 2017


School started again this morning and Jess and the kids moved out a month ago, so it's time for new routines, new projects, new recipes. I heard last night that the beginning of the school year is considered "Mom's New Year" by many. A chance for a fresh start on homekeeping and family routines, and for myself, a chance to work on some big projects. 
First day of school 2017-2018

I've been keeping house since I was a child. My sister and I learned to cook and clean at a young age, and we had varying routines, but before we got jobs, we were responsible for the housekeeping when Mom was working full-time. Those varying routines have continued throughout my adult life and in my own home, as my family moved through life's stages. I was at the point where I was in kind of in a rut and, truth be told, a bit overwhelmed by having six people living here, with all of the stuff that comes with three kids and three grown-ups. So when I had the opportunity to take an online class about housekeeping routines last Spring, I gave it a shot. Stacy Myers of Humorous Homemaking is a busy wife and mother with four young children. Yet her home is always neat and tidy and, true confession, I was a bit envious. Stacy wrote a course sharing her routines and how she incorporates them into her family's life, and when I had the chance, I jumped right in. It was easy to individualize to fit me and my household, and I loved it. Once school let out, I let those routines go. We were so busy with summer (June just exploded with Layla's hospital stay, Jess travelling for work, library program, Wednesday matinee, etc.) that I didn't make those routines priority. I still followed them somewhat, but not like when I started. I'm eager to get back into them now, and I think they'll "stick" after school is out next summer. Everything is just easier when the house is cleaned up and meals are planned and laundry is done. I'm not seeing the course on the web site currently, but when it's back up I'll do another post about it. So - fresh routines for housework, meal planning, and bill paying.

Now for projects. Oh, are there projects! My head is overflowing with ideas for all of the things I want to do around this house. Prioritization is key, since there are so many things to do, and I want to complete them, not be scattered here and there with loads of half-done ideas waiting for finishing. A written list, breaking down each project into steps will help me, since I'm visual when it comes to organizing my brain. So - lists coming this week. Some of the projects include painting the kitchen cabinets, setting up the craft/art room, setting up a guest room, re-doing the master bedroom, lots of painting of walls of all the rooms, and then some tearing down of walls to open up some spaces. That last one is getting some resistance, so I'll just keep talking about it and making my plans, so when I start ripping off drywall, it won't be a total surprise to him...
Which wall is coming down? (I can't wait!)

There are outside projects as well. First and foremost is taming the jungle that is the backyard. That's going to take a skid loader and will happen after harvest. That space is changing big-time. The front is also a jungle, but I can do that by hand. Eating that elephant one bit at a time. 

I will be working a little more for a few months at least, so that goes into the mix as well. My weekend hours to get things done at home with Greg will be at a premium. I don't like working lots of weekends, but it's necessary for awhile, and I'm happy to help out there so someone can do what they need to do in their life and focus on what is more important right now than my weekends at home. And it truly is more important. 

Oh, and it's time to think about Christmas! I know, I know, but I do think about it year-round, and have several gifts taken care of already. I like to think I can make many gifts, so those ideas are "percolating" as a former co-worker used to say. 

Okay! None of these things is going to get done unless I haul myself up and get to doing them. I have an email friend whose blog name and life philosophy is, "If you do stuff, stuff gets done". I repeat that to myself all. the. time. It's time for me to get started doing stuff today. The boys get out of school early, so I only have a few hours before it's time to hear about their day and see about homework and get snacks. Then it's off to work for a few hours tonight.

Here we go!

Friday, July 28, 2017

For the Road

Last weekend we made a quick trip west for a small family gathering. With the Rocky Mountains in sight, Greg, Jess, the grands, and I spent not quite 36 hours with cousins, their spouses, and their kids, and our last remaining uncle. 
This trip is just under a 7-hour drive if Greg and I go by ourselves (and that's stopping at a restaurant for a meal on the way). As you can imagine, it takes a bit longer than that with three grands, including one who is pretty much potty-trained, but knows how to use that s"pretty much" when she wants to get out of her car seat. Ahem. 
The kids have books and Kindles and all manner of toys to occupy their attention on the road, of course. They have drinks and snacks and need wipes and drop stuff. The back seat looks like a war zone by the time they climb out of it. Well, this trip was going to be different. I saw this idea somewhere on the World-Wide Web (sorry, didn't note the source) and thought it to be brilliant. I purchased the necessary components months ago. Bradley and I spend part of an afternoon with the Cricut, cutting vinyl names and adhering them to these handy-dandy bathroom caddies:

We also labeled a drink bottle for each child. They fit perfectly in the small compartment of the caddy. Then there's a compartment perfect for snacks, and the long one on the other side works for books, notepads, or their Kindles. 
We used scraps of vinyl and Bradley learned to "weed" our letters (pulling out the centers of letters like "A" and "D", and how to use transfer tape to adhere them to the caddies and bottles. It was a nice afternoon working together. 
I stacked the three caddies together and tucked the water bottles into the long section of the top one. They were placed safely on the kitchen counter so as to be easy to grab the next morning before we walked out the door - and I did think about grabbing them. I thought, "Grab those caddies last thing and take them out when you leave." Of course I didn't grab them, and they sat safely on the kitchen counter until we returned home. Sigh. 
Jess took them home to use in her car. She drives to Lincoln with the kids regularly, and looks forward to getting good use out of them. I hope she shares with me that they work great and the kids enjoy using them. I did take one of the caddies along when I recently took Silas and Layla to Sioux City, and it was a bit big for Layla to hang onto while strapped in her seat. I think if she had someone in the backseat with her, she could get good use of it. It was a good way to keep her small books picked up off the floor of the car, though.
I'm thinking they'd make good Christmas gifts for the younger set of nieces and nephews in the family. I also think I'd like one for holding my needlework, phone, my Kindle, or whatever I take on road trips to keep myself busy. 
Caddies were purchased at Dollar Tree for, well, a dollar. Each. Water bottles were 88¢ each at the mart of Wal. 
Just remember to take them along when you head out of the house to get in the car. They work better that way.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

It's Getting Spicy Up in Here!

Not that kind of spicy - food spicy - yum!
If you know us at all, you know that Greg and I both enjoy cooking. Greg especially enjoys grilling, roasting, and smoking meaty things out there in the garage where he keeps all his big grilling/roasting/smoking machines. He cooks inside, too, as do I, but I leave the hot outside cooking to him...

Anyway, with all this meat cooking he does, he's learned about rubs and marinades, and makes many of his own. We have all the usual spices, and a few special ones for him to use in these flavorful concoctions.

So, for Father's Day, I happened upon an Instagram post about this web site called Raw Spice Bar. This company sends three fresh-ground spice blends each month for the duration of your subscription. I signed Greg up for six months.

So far, he's gotten two packets of spices along with some really tasty recipes to use them in.

No, we haven't opened the packets yet. We've just had so much chaos here with the kids moving out, and this weekend will be a quick trip to Colorado for some extended family time. When we get back, we'll whip up some new recipes. (Who wants to try that Scotch Bonnet Salt with me? HOT! And there's a luscious-sounding power smoothie recipe I'm anxious to send with Greg for breakfast next week.) You don't have to use their recipes, though, if you have another use for the spice blends they send. They list all of the ingredients so you can experiment a little if you want.

Shipping takes awhile, but it's worth waiting for. We had a hiccup with shipment of our first packet, but their customer service was awesome and they sent us another right away.  

Anyway, if you're interested in something a little bit different to give to someone who likes to cook, but has enough "stuff", this might be a choice for them. 

(I'm not affiliated with them nor getting any kind of reimbursement for telling you about the web site, I just really like it.) 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Empty Nest (The Sequel)

As the title of this post suggests, our nest is, once again, "empty". For the past three years (+ a week or two) our daughter and her children have lived with us. It was lovely, loud, chaotic, crowded, sweet, hard, and a blessing to be so close to our grandchildren. It was our privilege to be able to help Jess out at a very difficult time, and she slowly but surely worked her way back to independence. They didn't go far, and I still have the boys during the days, but the evenings are sure quiet now.  She worked really hard and is very excited to make a home for herself and her children, one that is just theirs.

As for our house, it's due for some spiffing up, and if I get my way, a major change. I'm not digging in yet, though, as Jess is still moving their things out. While that happens, I'm making plans for painting and floors and am excited to set up a guest room again.

This summer has been just so busy. We've had the library reading program once or twice a week, swimming, my sister visited, a trip to the zoo in Omaha, a trip to Sioux City, Jessica's 30th birthday (she jumped out of a plane to celebrate), Wednesday movie matinees, trying to garden (it's a jungle out there. Oy.), Layla had a hospital stay with asthma, Jess had to be in Minnesota for a week for job training, and this coming weekend we're heading to Colorado for a family gathering. Since the end of May I've lost a sweet cousin and then his father, my uncle. It will be good to get together with cousins and our remaining uncle on that side for a day of family and fun.
Perhaps August will slow down after school starts?

I'm still working part-time as assistant manager at the local movie theater, too. Some weeks I work a lot, other weeks not so much. It all balances out.

So, while I haven't been blogging, I do post on Instagram fairly often. It's just day-to-day stuff with the grands and food, mostly. If you're interested - . I like Snapchat sometimes, too. I'm "prairiegram" there if you want to add me.

I say this every time I post after six or eight months that I'm going to get back to blogging, and I really, really want to, so I pledge to try. I want to share the updates in the house at least. And maybe I'll get back to seasonal decorating again. Oh! I'm teaching three new classes for Community Ed this fall. It'll be fun to share those here as well. I'm excited to put them together. One is about using the Instant Pot (or electric pressure cooker). I love mine and while I don't use it daily, there are some things that I use it for exclusively. The second class is about making your condiments at home - ketchup, mustard, mayo, salad dressings, etc. The third one is about easy holiday entertaining with "dips, drinks, and delectables" thrown in. That one pretty much wrote itself.

See, I can't stop talking once I start. Thanks for reading - I'll be back. No, really, I will.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Soup Day

Even though it is now November, we're still having lovely weather here on the prairie. Every now and again there is a touch of chill to the air, though, and today the wind was from the north, and the sun was fleeting as the clouds blew in. It was a great day for soup for lunch!Usually when I'm home alone during the day I forage the refrigerator for leftovers and cobble together this and that to make something of a meal for lunch. Today I just kept thinking of a soup recipe I've made before in the Instant Pot. Since I had fresh-made beef stock (from t-bone steak bones and scraps), I quickly threw stuff in the IP, and within 20 minutes had a piping-hot bowl of nourishing and tasty vegetable beef soup.
The original recipe that I used for inspiration calls for potatoes and white rice, neither of which were in my pantry. Instead I used mushrooms and the last bit of a box of rotini pasta. I also substituted green beans for the peas, and black beans instead of garbanzo.This made a full pot of soup, so I enjoyed my lunch, then packaged up the remainder in glass jars to freeze for another meal. I love having extras to freeze for later.I'll be doing a couple of soup days for freezer cooking in the near future. It's an easy and frugal meal, and makes a perfect lunch for me and to send with Greg.Tell me what your favorite soup is - I'd love some ideas for new recipes to try!
Edited to add:It was so chaotic around here when I was trying to publish this post that I forgot to include the recipe. Oops! Here it is:

Pressure Cooker Vegetable Beef Soup

Yield: 6 servings
·      1lb. lean ground beef
·      1 tablespoon oil
·      1 large onion, diced
·      1 rib celery, chopped
·      6-8 mushrooms, quartered
·      3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
·      2 14-ounce cans beef broth (I used homemade)
·      1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
·      1 12-ounce bottle V8 juice
·      1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
·      2 carrots, peeled then sliced into thin coins
·      1 can cut green beans, drained
·      salt and pepper
1.  Preheat the pressure cooking pot using the browning or sauté setting. Add ground beef to the pressure cooking pot and cook until browned. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels.
2.  Add oil to the pressure cooking pot. Add onion, celery, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
3.  Add beef broth, tomatoes, V8 juice, beans, carrots, and browned ground beef to the pot and stir to combine. Lock lid in place, select High Pressure and 4 minutes cook time. When timer beeps, turn off pressure cooker and do a quick pressure release.
4.  Stir in green beans and pasta, season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn on sauté function and cook until pasta is done to your liking.
(You could put the pasta in before pressure cooking since it only cooks 4 minutes, but I didn’t think to do that. It would save a little time at the end.)



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Time Keeps Slippin', Slippin' Away

Well. I  had no idea it had been nearly FIVE months since I fell down the Instagram hole and left my blog on the wayside. About the time we entered the 21st century and got smart phones, I guess. I'm still old-school in that I "do" email and most of my online time is on my laptop. We'll thank old Mother Nature for the need of a big screen. Ahem.
So what's happening here on the prairie? Harvest is in full swing. Greg's company finished seed corn harvest a few weeks ago. Now it's the farmers who are cutting down the corn fields. We love it when the world opens up again and we can see far and wide across the prairie. There has been some hard frost, so the minute pirate bugs are no longer making warm afternoons miserable. Sunrises and sunsets are stunning.
The family is doing well. Jessica and the kids are still living here with us. Some days are awesome, some days are long, but we are blessed to have them.
Bradley's losing teeth left and right, Silas is learning to read, and Layla is talking a blue streak. All are happy and healthy. Jess is hoping to be able to move out by spring, but I think they'll stay close.
I'm still enjoying my part-time job as assistant manager at the local movie theater. It's a great opportunity to get out of the house and see people and balances all of the alone time I have while everyone is gone during the day.
I am truly home alone since our sweet 10 year-old cat, Max, passed away last week. He was an indoor/outdoor cat and we knew the risks of letting him out. He insisted, and we acquiesced. He paid the price.  We have a moratorium on pets for awhile.
Last spring Jess and I got booth space at the local flea market store in town. Admittedly, we don't put much time into it, but have had some fun searching out deals with "the booth" in mind. Jess scored a few piles of pallets over the summer and we've been tearing those apart and putting them back together as wine racks and serving trays. There is a holiday boutique next week in town, and we've rented a space to sell some of our creations there.
The garden did not do great this year, but again, I didn't put lots of effort into it. We enjoyed some homegrown cucumbers - our single plant really produced nicely. We did add a few new raised beds, and the compost from the plant nursery had pumpkin seeds, so there is a lovely crop of pie pumpkins and assorted gourds out there.

So that's about it for catching up this evening. I have several things to tell you about in the next few weeks, so I hope you stick around!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Old MacDonald Had Some Puppets

About a year ago I was posting photos of a felt puppet project I'd started. Old MacDonald and all of his farm animals transformed that felt into sweet hand puppets. I made three sets, one for us and two for gifts. They were such fun to watch come together and we all enjoy playing with them.

The patterns and instructions came from Just Another Day in Paradise. (They are hand drawn patterns, so obviously a lot of work went into them. Thanks so much to Larissa for sharing.) These were not difficult to make, but there were tons of little pieces to keep track of.

I started by cutting the mitts, one pair for each animal. Then I tried to sew by color of felt - all of the orange pieces, all of the grey, all of the pink, etc. Then I did as many eyes as I could at once, and the hooves were on several, so I tried to do all of those at the same time. It didn't always work out, so there was a lot of changing of thread colors, but it did go quickly when I was able to spend some time working at the table. When we began work on the new flooring, the puppet project was put away and ended up staying put away until the summer was over and we were into Fall. I had to finish them, though, since they were birthday gifts for nephew. My Alex and Kale had been waiting since May for their birthday gift, and Connor's second birthday was quickly approaching in October. I probably sewed on them for between 10 and 12 hours altogether, but I was making three sets, so if you just want to make one set, cut that time by 2/3. A full set of puppets in one afternoon is awesome. A full set of puppets in one day is awesome. A full set of puppets after four months? Well... nope, they're still awesome. A couple of hours on a Saturday morning was all it took to put the final stripes on the kitties and the curly-q tails on the pigs. Somehow I ended up with extra stray pieces like eyes and hooves. I did finally just say no to hooves. They didn't fit anyway, and what little one was going to care about it. None. So I cut myself some slack and called them good. And they are so good! They're so CUTE.

I did, of course, change a few things as I put them together. I gave the old farmer guy overalls instead of jeans and shirt - my nod to Grandpa Adams, I guess. None of my three farmers have a hat yet, and that needs to be rectified. I think some of one of the kitties' stripes are different, I left off the blue on the bottom of the ducks, and of course, those evil hooves.

The felt came from the marts of Wal for the most part, but some was from I've always had great service and fast shipping from them, and can get a variety of colors not offered at the local box store. If you have to go out and purchase all of the felt for these, it would be a little bit of investment, but you get nine puppets. I had most of what I needed already.

As for play value, well, besides being fun to look at, there is the song. Songs build vocabulary. Did you know that often times children will sing words that they don't say yet? Plus, you've got the bonus of the song teaching children all of the animal sounds. I don't know why knowing animal sounds is important, but don't we all test young children on this all the time? "What sound does a cow make?" "moo."  Yeah! and we clap wildly. Okay.

There is also the dramatic play value. Kids can create scenarios between animals and/or the Old Mac guy. They have the power to control the puppets, to lead and construct the story. Plus, these guys are just fun to look at.

If you decide to sew up a set, I'd love to see them.