Saturday, April 25, 2015

When the Impossible Becomes Possible




Today, the day before my 40th birthday, I ran my first half marathon.  I was not bitten by the running bug.  I still do not want to run a full marathon.  I am still a very slow runner.  I didn't lose any weight.  My goals were (1) complete the 1/2, (2) run the entire thing without any walking, (3) do not finish dead last.  I accomplished all of those goals. In fact, I am pleased with my pace.  Although it is slow, it is pretty darn good for me.  But more than anything else, here are the reasons I did this.  I wanted to show myself that 40 is just a number.  Tomorrow I will hit that number and it's not the end of the world.  Most importantly, I wanted to prove to myself that I can do hard things.  Things that I once thought were impossible.  Like running 13.1 miles.  Like training outside in a frigid Wisconsin winter.  Like running in rain, frigid wind chills, blustery winds, up hills, in heavy snow and sleet.

Several years ago, some friends talked me into running my first 5K.  I had never run 3 miles before.  Even when I was an active teen playing sports, I would just do 2 mile runs to stay in shape.  Running a 5K was a huge deal to me.  I couple years later, I got up the courage to run my first 10 K.  After successfully completing that, I had my first fleeting thoughts of trying a half. I have since run a few more 5Ks, but the next time I attempted to train for a 10K, my knees started bothering me and I had to stop.  I really didn't think I could do another 10K, say nothing of a half.  Then last summer I did a running challenge.  I ran every day but Sundays for a month.  I started at 1 1/2 miles and every three days I increased my distance by 1/2 a mile.  By the end of the month I had reached my goal of 5 miles.  I was encouraged and decided that maybe in the past I hadn't pushed myself hard enough and that's why it took me FOREVER to build up my distance.  Then we moved.  And I got really sick.  I was so anemic in September that when I would attempt to go for a run, my muscles would almost instantly cramp, I was light-headed, and so winded I couldn't run a quarter of a mile.  So I spent the fall just trying to get my body (and blood) healthy again.

Which leads me to my take-aways from this process.  I'm so thankful for my body.  Our bodies are truly amazing.  8 years ago, after the birth of my youngest child, I developed a DVT, a blood clot in the deep vein of my leg.  For a month I was completely bedridden and in excruciating pain.  I could barely walk and mostly used crutches or a wheel chair to get to doctor's appointments.  I was so grateful when I was able to walk again and I haven't taken it for granted since.  Now, after my poor health in the fall, I find myself grateful once again for the blessing of a body that can heal and re-gain strength and will carry me through the rigors of training for and running 13.1 miles.

I am also thankful for my family, the greatest support in my life.  They have encouraged me to run when I didn't feel like it, put up with late dinners, Saturdays taken up with long runs, and me checking out occasionally at inconvenient times to get in a run.  They have never complained, only encouraged and supported me.  My heart was so full each time I saw them along the race today, cheering me on and giving me high fives.  I loved that Jesse and Renie ran the last bit with me and Lincoln was at the finish line to hug me as I came across.

So, in summary, 1. 40 is just a number 2. I CAN do hard things. 3. I am grateful for a healthy body and 4. I love my family.

Friday, November 28, 2014

And Back to Wisconsin Again...

Our family loved living in the Pacific Northwest.  Two years on beautiful Bainbridge Island were a wonderful adventure.  We had lots of fantastic experiences and forged some lifelong friendships.  A chain of events this past summer led us to decide that despite our love of Bainbridge Island and the greater Seattle/Puget Sound area, we wanted to be back closer to our families and back to truly small town, rural living.  Lincoln took a job back at Lands End and we moved our family back to Dodgeville, WI.  We knew that this time around we wanted at least a few acres and I wanted to be in an old farmhouse.  We were very excited to find that a house I had always loved, on the very edge of town, was for sale.  Coming in at 4 acres, with a barn and a wrap around porch, this seemed like the perfect compromise for our family.  If it was up to just me, we would be on 40 acres, far from everyone.  The kids, however, wanted to be close enough to town to walk or bike to the library and the pool, and be close to their friends. This is a win-win.  After a long and agonizing negotiation, we closed on the house on November 21.

Because our new home is actually a very old home, there will be enough home improvement projects to last me a very long time.  To get started, we decided it would be easiest to tear out all the carpet before moving in all our stuff.  We knew that we wouldn't refinish the floors immediately, but I was anxious to just get the carpet out.

We were also told that not only were there hardwood floors under the carpet, but also pocket doors preserved in the wall between the family room and living room.  That became our next priority.  With the wall closed off, the house did not flow very well,  We determined that it would be a lot easier on our movers if the wall was opened before move in day.

We closed on Friday morning and by evening the carpets were out.  By Saturday afternoon the wall was opened up.  Unfortunately, the pocket doors were not still there.  Despite the missing doors, we proceeded with opening the wall and for now we will just finish it off as an archway.

For this post, I will share lots of pictures of the house on move-in day.


This first view is from the front door.  The closed door goes to the mudroom.

Straight ahead from the front door.  The wall to the left is the one where the pocket doors should have been.




Another view, from the other corner.  Daisy is managing to photobomb each shot.

And one more looking back at the front door.  The old windows are gorgeous, but sadly you can't really see them because the curtains cover them.


The dining room has this beautiful built-in hutch/buffet.  


The floors have already been done in here.


The kitchen photographs pretty well, but there are a lot of issues here.  There is very little counter space, the cabinets are kind of nasty, and the tile is not at all my style.  The appliances are older and the microwave is a counter top style and takes up lots of prime counter real estate.





The family room has a falling tile ceiling, an awkward light fixture, and that wall with the shelf is the one that has the doorway to the living room enclosed in it.


The woodburning fireplace has no mantel and a dated insert.


The final room downstairs is the powder room.  It needs to be completely gutted.  The sink takes up a solid half of the doorway.

We have our work cut out for us.  Upstairs tour another day, since this post is getting lengthy.

I am so happy to be living in an old house.  The previous owners lived here for 45 years.  I love living in a house with a history.  I love knowing that a family was raised here.  This is the kind of place where you can put down roots and raise a family.  I'm looking forward to the journey.




Thursday, March 28, 2013

Waxing Nostalgic

I've been planning to post today about a sewing project I just completed.  But I read this post at Thrifty D├ęcor Chick and it really got me thinking.  I'm not going to lie, mince words, or apologize for what I believe, I'm just going to say it.  My childhood was better than yours.  Ha!  Seriously though, I had an idyllic childhood.  And here's why I think that.  It involved horses and haymows and kittens. 

It involved inner tubes and rope swings and tree houses.  It included gardening and haying and making maple syrup.


 It involved skating on a frozen pond and swimming in rivers.  It involved frog races and gathering eggs.  It was a close relationship with my rain-bonnet-and-house-coat- wearing-grandmother.  It was mountain climbing in the Adirondacks and donning swimsuits to play in a summer rainstorm.  It was searching for kittens in the haymow and playing hide and seek on a warm summer night.  It was tree climbing and sour wild apples and wild spearmint.

 It was catching crayfish in the Big Brook and cousins who were more like siblings.


 It was milking cows and scratching pig backs.  It was jumping in huge leaf piles and playing in the pasture until Dad's whistle called us home.  It was picking berries, cutting green beans, and wrapping meat.  It was fields of daisies, sledding the pasture hill, and catching bullfrogs.  It was scrimping to take a family vacation, sharing bedrooms and eating casseroles.  It was campfire sing-alongs, fishing for bullhead in the pond, and going to school with the same kids for 13 years.  It was having parents who taught me about faith, moral uprightness, and integrity.  I am infinitely grateful for the experiences of my youth, for the day to day simplicity of my childhood, made magical by the combination of freedom to be a child and the expectation to make a contribution to the family effort.
And so I got to thinking, I am brimming with nostalgia, memories, stories that I love sharing.  So I'm going to be self-indulgent and start sharing them here.  Flashback Fridays perhaps?  Come along if you want, but either way I'll be here. ;)


Monday, March 11, 2013

Pinterest Review- Healthy Granola

This is it! The granola recipe I've been using. I am so excited to have found this. Go on over to A Small Snippet to check it out. That is her photo up there. Looks great right? It totally is. After you're done browsing at A Small Snippet, print the recipe and c'mon back here. I'll tell you what changes I've made.

So here we go.

The recipe calls for almond extract, which I'm sure will give this a greater depth. However, I didn't have any on hand so I just doubled up the vanilla. I'm definitely going to add the almond extract back in at some point, but my point is, don't worry if you don't have it on hand.

I also didn't have flax seed, ground or otherwise. I used wheat germ.

I knew some of my kids would not like the almonds, so I added pumpkin seeds instead. Any sort of nut or seed would be delicious. Or just leave them out entirely. It will still be great.

And lastly, the recipe calls for a sprinkle of cinnamon. I added more like 2 tsp of cinnamon. In the next batch I decided to also add about 1/4 tsp of nutmeg and 1/8 tsp of cloves. Basically, pumpkin pie spice, except I didn't have ginger. Or pumpkin pie spice. Again, tweak it to your own taste. I think this is an absolutely fantastic basic recipe to individualize for your family. I love that there are no refined sugars. Just honey as a sweetener.

So yeah, my vote is definitely Pinterest success!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thoughts on Homesteading

In my last post, I mentioned that I have been trying to make more and more of our foods from scratch, using as much clean, unprocessed, whole food ingredients as possible.  It is amazing how difficult this can be initially.  Old habits die hard and time is of the essence and all that jazz.  One of the things I keep telling myself is this: If you can't make it at home with basic, whole ingredients, you probably shouldn't be eating it. 

So where did this come from?  Why the sudden interest in cooking this way?  It has nothing to do with weight (which is what my nutritional concerns were always based on in the past), and everything to do with keeping our bodies healthy for the long run.  I am thoroughly convinced that all those chemicals and preservatives in processed foods are slowly and silently killing us.  Our bodies are simply not meant to consume those products.  It's one of those things.  You know when someone who has been overweight their entire life suddenly makes lifestyle changes and gets to a healthy weight and you ask them what spurred the change and they tell you they were just ready?  They had finally had enough?  They were finally ready to take care of their health and their future?  I kind of feel like that.  I've had these inklings and desires for a long time, but suddenly I feel ready.  Suddenly I feel spurred to action.  I'm just finally ready to make the change.

Going along with this is the longing I have been harboring for many years now, to be able to grow, cultivate, raise, process my own food.  Desires, that have been simmering under the surface, to be self-sufficient.  Most of my blog readers know that I grew up in a very rural area on a hobby farm.  My father was a teacher, so the farm was not income producing, but provided our large family with basic food needs.  We always had our own milk, eggs, butter, beef, pork, and vegetables that we produced on our own land.  While it takes a lot of work, even on a small scale, to run a farm, there is a freedom in knowing you have what it takes to support your family's basic needs.  There is something pure and satisfying about looking around you at what God has provided, and cultivating it into something your family can use.  When we moved to Wisconsin, it was the first time that I had usable space to really plant a garden.  I started small and then each year expanded a bit more.  Every time I pull a jar out of my canner to be placed on my food storage shelves, I am filled with satisfaction and purpose.  If I can look in my freezer and see it brimming with produce rather than frozen pizzas, I am content. 

I have been thinking a lot about my mother and the things she teaches me by her example.  Right now it is sugaring season in northern New York.  My mother has tapped her trees and has begun collecting and boiling the sap that will become pure maple syrup.  My mother has done this for as long as I can remember.  Not in a sugar house, but right in her kitchen, using a process she has refined over the years into a smoothly flowing cycle.  She begins the process on the old wood-burning cookstove in a large container, moving the sap along as it boils it down, until it is finished off on her gas cook top.  How fondly I remember sugaring time when I was a kid.  As soon as I would get off the bus from school, I would run to the trees to look in the sap buckets to see how well the sap was running.  I loved a nice sunny day when the sap would be running like crazy.  And nothing is finer than opening the front door to be greeted by a warm, steamy kitchen, the air heavy with the sweet aroma of maple syrup. The kitchen windows were always steamed up to the point of dripping condensation, from all the vigorous boiling going on inside.   If you have never drunk a small cup of maple syrup fresh from the vat at a sugar house, put it on your bucket list.  Absolute, pure delight. 

To me, this is the perfect example of what I am talking about.  Heavenly Father gave us maple trees, and Mom uses what she was given to provide something for her family.  For free.  Aside from the sweat of her brow.  This, THIS is why God teaches us the importance of work.  So we can take what we've been given and be good and responsible stewards over it. 

My parents have taught me this by their examples every. day. of. their. lives. 

Lincoln and I are trying to really explore how we can apply these principles of self-sufficiency to our lives right now.  We are renting our current home.  For us, that means we cannot have a large garden or get chickens or a cow.  So I am trying to do what I can.  Making bread, granola, and as many other foods as I can from scratch.  Making my own household cleaners and detergents.  Researching where I can purchase local grass-fed beef.  Exploring the possibility of keeping my own bees.  Learning to sew for more practical purposes, repurposing clothing and other fabrics.  Planning container gardens so I can grow at least some produce this year, and really exploring my options for growing as much as possible in small, creative spaces.  I have learned, and accepted, that this is not something that happens all at once, overnight.  It's a process of learning and practicing.  Having one aspect of it become habit before biting off the next chunk.  And that is where we are.  Seeking simplicity in our lives.  And I hope to take you all along on the journey, sharing what we learn as we go. 

In my next post I'll share our granola recipe we've been using and the little tweaks I've made to it.  'Til then...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Old Stuff, New Stuff

 
I know a post containing photos of my Christmas decor is weird in March.  But I neglected to post in December and I like to be able to look back here to see it.  I won't include commentary to go along with it, but here are some key parts of it. 







 This kind of sneaked into the middle of these.  This is a gingerbread house on display at the Seattle Sheraton.  We attended this annual event for the first time this year.

 

 
I also neglected to take any good pictures of my Valentine's Day decor.  Here are a couple photos that give a glimpse of it.  I made the tablecloth and absolutely love how it turned out.  You would think I would have taken a better picture. 

I snapped this in the middle of our Valentine's party.  Behind our friends you can see the fabric scrap garland I made this year. 
 
Thanks for humoring me.  Now for the new stuff.
 
So much to say...
 
Most of the new stuff will (hopefully) get posts all of their own.  But I want to mention a few things now.  Since I last posted I have made my own laundry detergent.  Our rental house is on a septic system.  In the interest of minimizing the amount of chemicals in our septic and on/in our bodies, I decided it was time to take action.  So not only am I making my own laundry soap, but I have completely switched over to homemade, chemical free cleaning supplies.  Actually, not completely.  I am in the process of completely switching over.  I will post soon about how that is going.
 
I have also begun making some changes in the food we eat.  I definitely have plans to write a post about making as much as possible from scratch using whole, unprocessed foods.  I have a lot to say on the matter, but for now, I am now making all of our bread and have begun making granola in the hopes that eventually I can wean my kids off the packaged, sugar and preservative-laden breakfast cereals they are addicted to.  The basic recipe I am using is made with honey and no refined sugars.  I have been tweaking the seasonings to get it just how we like. So far, the kids love it, and it only gets better each time!
 
And one last thing that, again, I will post more about later, is our family reunion.  I am, by choice, quite heavily involved in the planning of our family reunion this year.  This year would have been my grandmother's 100th birthday, so our reunion will be a celebration of her life.  I am busily creating bunting decorations and working closely with my Dad to organize lots of fun activities and make this an extra special event.
 
So c'mon back for more details on all this stuff.  I'm ready to be more present here again, now that we are feeling more settled in our new home.   
 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pinterest Project Review

I really like the idea of sharing Pinterest project hits or misses, so I thought I would start doing that here when I have tried a project/recipe/idea etc that I got from Pinterest.  If you would like to pin this item, please click on through to the original post and pin it from there.

The other night for dinner I made Pumpkin Pancakes with Cinnamon Syrup



Let me first say that these smelled absolutely divine as they were cooking. I could hardly wait to finish making them so I could finally try them.  I was not disappointed.  My kids ate them with regular syrup (I had a TON of leftover cinnamon syrup that today will become part of cinnamon rolls), but I think the cinnamon syrup is the only way to go with these.  And that is coming from someone who is very particular about only using pure maple syrup.  But with these pumpkiny delights, cinnamon syrup is perfect. I added some morsels in mine, to give them a bit more depth.  The kids loved the pancakes with chocolate chips, and I also did some with Craisins and some with dried pomegranate (very similar to the Craisins, but sweeter).  The only change I made to the batter was adding a bit more milk, simply because I prefer my pancakes a little flatter, not so puffy. 

So I count these as a big success.  My kids gobbled them up very quickly and I enjoyed them thoroughly!