The Ho-Ho-Holidays

Hello friends!

(Happy New Years! I am admittedly writing this on the 29th, because I won’t be around the internet much this weekend, but I hope your New Years Weekend is everything you wished, and that 2022 is amazing!)

We did it! Another lovely Christmas in the books! It’s kinda funny though, this year, because I was so careful about spreading the joy out in small doses throughout the month, I think this is the first year where the relief is fairly small, since there simply was not a lot of stress to start. A wonderful Christmas miracle.

We had such fun at the family secret Santa on Christmas eve, got to see some family members who are usually working odd hours or generally don’t make it to as many events, obviously spent a lot of time holding the newest family members, and I think my person liked their gift.

I was randomly assigned my cousin’s fiancé as my secret Santa giftee this year, and since I know family is very important to him and he has a brand new little daughter, I opted to give him a family photoshoot opportunity with all the bells and whistles, prints, a big old frame, the works. A couple people have asked if that was a cheat since I take photos as a hobby and have done shoots for the family before, but to me, saying yes to a photoshoot, whether as a gift (which I’ve done before) or not, guarantees a minimum of about 25-40 hours dedicated work to a project (my cousins wedding was actually closer to 60), and it’s usually kinda expensive for me too, so it’s definitely not a “well I’ll just do this because I have nothing better” gift. At least, I certainly don’t see it that way.

My cousin hosted Christmas since she has such a lovely little home, she’s so proud of. She should be, its adorable and she and her husband have put such time and effort into making it a cozy place to be. They’ve really made it a lovely place to raise kiddos and take on the world together. It’s got lots of little old home quirks but is also updated to show off their personalities.

She made a wonderful dinner, and we all potlucked the side dishes, which worked out amazingly as usual. There was so much good food that I need to run about 40 miles to work off that meal, I ate so much. 

I made green bean casserole with bacon and sauteed mushrooms, as well as no bake peanut butter bars. I know the casserole was delicious, I got to try some, and it was gone before seconds could be had, and I’m hoping the peanut butter bars were good, they were gone before i could try them myself. I assume that’s a good sign. I think it’s also a sign to make some more for new years. I’m also going to make some for my neighbors as a thank you for always scraping my driveway with their snow blade, I’ve never asked but he’s so big hearted that my driveway is almost always cleared day of. I want to make sure he knows he’s appreciated.

I remember as a child someone told me, I wish I remembered who, that calories don’t count over the holidays. Obviously, that’s not true, but I think the sentiment behind it is “don’t make yourself miserable over the holidays, just be prepared to put in the work before and after” and I think that’s fair. For what it’s worth, I also joke that they don’t count because you do so much running around on the holidays you’ve pre burnt them off. Also, I just love watching my brother short out when I say that. I always call it girl math.

Christmas day was lovely and calm, we got up late, and I started the day by baking some cinnamon rolls (that were preassembled, so they were very easy to get in the oven). While they baked, we did our stockings and enjoyed watching the valley slowly wake up. 

I definitely always push the idea that the holiday is not about gifts, as a Christian I think it’s important to consider beyond the platitudes the “reason for the season” and give some thanks and consideration for the overarching importance of the Christmas holiday, but there is something to be said for realizing how much love and effort went into the gifts you received. From my shy little cousin picking out some lovely spice blends for my secret Santa gift, to my dad’s choice of a wonderful light bar for the front of my car (something I’ve been talking about for eons) it was clear to me that a lot of consideration went into my gift choices, and I felt so loved and seen. If similar sentiments are to be believed, Christmas morning had similar vibes for my immediate family members too. My dad got a lovely desk upgrade (which has been riding around in my car under a blanket for over a month because it outweighed me by a decent amount and was both taller and wider than I so I simply could not move it by myself) and I finally (finally!) after many tries in recent years, surprised my brother with a video game he wasn’t expecting but totally loved. My mom’s surprise gift was a hair straightener that is built to work a little better with her disabilities, so now she can do almost anything shed like with her hair independently, and independence is in vogue in our house lately.

I, uh, clearly don’t have a gift for arranging gifts in a decorative way. Also, I couldn’t get the stocking to hang on the stove after I fill them, so they sat in each person’s preferred sitting spot instead

All in all, three days of relaxing, feeling very loved (and very full of food) were much needed, we watched the snow fall, caught a MythBusters marathon, and generally slowed down. Going back to work was a little more of a chore than expected, sure wish I had taken the week off haha.

Until we chat again my friends.

A Quiet Week as Santa’s Elf

Hello friends!
Things are actually fairly chill on the farm, which is a little weird, considering how close to Christmas we are. I’m definitely writing a little early this week, just like with Thanksgiving, mostly so I don’t forget to post. Also going to make use of the schedule feature, although I get a little nervous trusting schedule features. I’ve written enough of them to know it’s really easy to foul them up.
Gifts are all wrapped, and honestly? Can I shamelessly brag for a few? I was on top of it this year, I had all my shopping done by December 1st and 80% of my wrapping done by the fifth. And the entirety of my wrapping was done last weekend. I’m never ever that on top of things. It was such a pleasant feeling.
It helped a ton that my little brother is usually my partner in crime, but he works in shipping and handling, so the closer to Christmas we get, the less time we have, and if I want help I have to get it before, what we refer to as peak season. Since my biggest stress is shopping during this time of year, he helped me get the lions share done before December, so we weren’t majorly behind waiting on his crazy shifts to end.
It did take us forever to put up exterior lights. Our schedules barely meshed and when they did, the weather wouldn’t cooperate at all. It was heavy winds and rains the entire weekend we had set aside to set them up. I finally snuck out and got some of them up after work one day, my dad came out to help, because poor Christopher was so sick, and the weather was just barely cooperating. After helping me reach some of the higher points, my sweet dad offered this summer to put up a permanent set of hooks so, should I have a reason to set up the outdoor lighting alone, I won’t have to wrestle the staple gun up and shoot staples over my head while holding lights. I am very excited about that prospect.
It’s honestly not that I don’t want help, I swear I can totally be a team player, but when you are trying to work around your own work schedule, everyone else schedule, and the unpredictability of care-giving, tasks that can just be picked up when you have a free moment and solved quickly, those are gold. So, having a better Christmas light solution sounds silly, but it means next year I’ll be able to cross it off my list, even if I have to get put at 4 am to do so, without bugging others. Or, like right now, when I have to go fix a dead strand of lights, it’s much easier.
It’s been so windy and gross lately, with rain and snow squalls, freezing temps followed by warm wet weather, basically everything is majorly soupy and borderline unsafe. We’ve been out breaking up ice rinks in the arena and corral for the horses, since it pours and turns into a lake, and then freezes into a slippery situation. I’ve made plans to fix the drainage in those areas, hopefully in the spring, but even if it was fixed, the sheer amount of moisture we’ve gotten this year is completely crazy and I don’t know if my simple gutter and French drain solution would suffice. Definitely makes it hard to work outside, that’s for sure. The wind is so biting, even on the warmer days where we break freezing it’s too cold to be outside. Ears get to hurting, jaw gets to hurting, fingers stop working, too cold. The weird intermittent fog doesn’t help either. It also means I haven’t been outside with my camera in a while, and I miss it!
We had quite the funny situation in my house earlier in the week. I’m not hosting Christmas this year, my cousin wanted a swing at it, so all I have to do is bring a side and a dessert, which I am so excited about. I plan on making a jazzed up green bean casserole and a batch of no bake chocolate peanut butter bars. But earlier in the week, I went to double check the ingredients for my dishes, and I found my mom and dad had gotten very excited about the canned green beans and had eaten the base for my side dish. I cracked up, made a run into town, and all is well, but it was a silly situation to find. I also know I need to keep canned green beans in the house more often, they were a total hit apparently. Also, by the time you’re reading this, unless you’ve read it the same moment it’s gone up, the casserole and bars are done and being enjoyed, hopefully, by my sweet family in Christmas eve. We plan to hide out in our jammies with cinnamon rolls on Christmas day.
I hope your holidays are merry and bright, whichever ones you celebrate, and safe and cozy and restful and wonderful. I’ll catch up with you next week.
Until we chat again my friends! 

Y’all Ever Just Shake Your Head At A Situation?

Hello friends!
Okay, were going to start off with some…  weird? and kinda sad news. I’ve been putting off writing about it, but I am documenting the farm, and this has been a big, frustrating deal on the farm.
Juliet has moved in with the neighbors, and no longer lives on the farm. The good news is, when she was disappearing for days at a time, she wasn’t pinned down by coyotes, or antagonizing an old farm dog, she was camped at the neighbors.  The other good news is that, realistically, she’s probably happier over there as she is the absolute center of attention. The bad news is, the way it went down semi-soured my relationship with the neighbors, and honestly? I did my best for that to not happen.
I’ll give you a brief rundown, and then I’ll let it be, because I’m still just a little heated about it and it’s not good for the soul to harp on angry things.
Basically, one day, after Juliet had taken off again, my neighbor called to let me know a little black and white cat was over at their house and asked if she was mine, since “she’s so well taken care of”. She talked for over an hour (which I did not mind at all, if an elder is willing to story tell, you usually learn a thing) about how Juliet looked just like their old cat Hemingway and how they’ve had so many strays dropped on the farm. Side note, this is a topic I think I’ve touched on before, and may eventually dedicate a post too, because abandoned animals are a huge rural problem. Anyways, she casually mentions if I don’t come get Juliet, they were thinking about taking her to the humane society. I told her to please not, and I’d troubleshoot how to entice Juliet home.
I’ll spare you the long, drawn out, two week period where nightly I’d get a call from my neighbor telling me I needed to better take care of my cat because she was over at her house again. I went and physically picked up Juliet several times but shed bolt from the car back to the neighbors as soon as I parked. We started feeding her more and fancier food, lots of scratches, even separated her and her sister, as we thought there was maybe a territory dispute going on.
Friends, I could not for the life of me work out how to keep this outdoor barn cat at home. She could not come in the house, as not only is she pretty dang destructive, my mom and brother are both dangerously allergic to cats. I tried locking her in one of the outbuildings with food and water and you’d think I’d threatened her with death. I was at a total loss.
Meanwhile, my neighbor is calling every night, and getting more and more pointed. Suddenly my “well cared for” cat was being abused because I didn’t feed her whole cream and fresh fish every night, I should be letting her in the house despite the fact that it would almost certainly end in an ER run. I was trying my best to keep up a calm, accommodating tone, but I admittedly was getting frustrated with the whole situation.
And then one night she says this: “well Amanda, I simply find it so inhumane to not feed an animal, so we’ve been feeding her canned fish and cream. You should try to buy the treats we give her, and she loves watching the nightly news with me. If you just tried a little harder, it’s easy to keep this cat around”
That’s right friends, all this time I was competing with canned fish and whole cream served inside and wondering why suddenly her warm barn accommodations with an always full food bowl weren’t enough, after three years. I was set up to lose. I didn’t even say anything in retort, I was shockingly calm for someone who got this information very late on a work night, and then still had to go out, in the driving rain, to pick up Juliet and fruitlessly bring her home, knowing it would change nothing.
I’m now fairly convinced my neighbor fell in love with Juliet and was essentially hoping I’d release her to them. I just wish she’d mentioned this before I spent a ton of time, effort, and funds driving over there every night to pick her up.
The final tally? I miss Juliet terribly, and I worry because it feels weird still to not have her check in every night, but if she’s truly happier over there I won’t stand in the way. I hope they’ve given up on the humane society idea, or that they would at least let me know so I can go re-adopt my own cat. I tried to let my neighbor know of the cat becomes too much to send her back my way, but somehow, she got it in her head i don’t feed my animals and isn’t really speaking to me. Which is doubly annoying because we used to have a little inkling of a neighborhood watch.
The only upside, Cordelia is an absolutely spoiled princess of a barn cat now, two warm beds, no sharing food, prime mouse hunting grounds to herself. Living the dream.
Well, that’s story took many more words to write than I thought it would, and as it turns out, it’s a pretty fresh wound because I’m a little sour about it all over again. But that’s the story of how my neighbor waged minor psychological warfare and ultimately stole my cat. Told you it was weird news.
Anyways, happier topics next time. I feel a lot better now that y’all know. It’s a weird thing, because I could’ve just ignored this event and never written about it and y’all would never have known, but I felt like I had some big news I had to break, like when you have to tell a small child their playdate was cancelled.
In case you were wondering if I take this blog too seriously? Yes, clearly.
Alright you lovely souls, hug your felines close today for me, keep a little dirt under your nails, and say hi to your neighbors if you see them.
Until we chat again my friends! 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Aaaand in my office….whyyyyyy????

Hello friends!
Last weekend was a whole lot, but very very fun! We packed a lot into one weekend, and unfortunately, continuing the trend of 2021, I am not feeling very well after the fact. Spent a good portion of this week just trying to survive my workday so I could go back to bed. Which is less than ideal when I also had a million things that needed to get done.
The parade was incredibly fun! Even though it was absolutely frigid, the turnout was the best I have ever seen it, I think due to it simply not happening last year. They tried, bless their hearts, and we had a Christmas light car cruise, but it simply wasn’t the same as a full-on float filled parade. This year the crowd was in the mood to party and it really lifted the spirits of all involved.
We went with a similar theme from 2019, because we still had most of the setup so it was easy (which is important when half your crew just had kids, or is working long hours, or is sick) and in 2019 our float had a serious technical malfunction and we went dark halfway through the parade. We made judging, which was nice, but we were majorly bummed that our float died, it was super avoidable too, someone’s child wasn’t being supervised and climbed onto the float during judging, refused to get down, smashed up a bunch of our lights, then the movement of the float shorted out what was left. An unfortunate situation, honestly, I’m just glad the kiddo wasn’t hurt. And I guess it worked out because we ran the float again this year to much acclaim. We also threw out 100 pounds of saltwater taffy to the crowds, our float has a reputation for that, and of course, that helps win the crowd over, I’m sure.
My little cousin walked with me the whole time carrying the banner, as has become our tradition. We started when she was three and barely toddling along. She was very brave until the crowds got close and continued to be very brave from behind me after the fact. Totally get it, she has a little broken arm and wrist (fell off the monkey bars at school), so I’d imagine lots of people around as you’re walking seems especially scary. But she was a little trooper.
(I am scrounging for photos of the float but my phone overheated and died and I didn’t get any personally, as soon as someone sends me some of theirs, I’ll share them with you guys!)

In the meantime here’s a sneaky picture of some of the decorations my mom has been working super hard on. She takes it very seriously

My cousins baby shower was a lot of fun too! I held little Kamila for the better part of it, she was napping, and it allowed her mama to eat and socialize. It also gave me an excuse to sit, and people watch (I feel I should point out that at this moment in the weekend I wasn’t feeling sick at all, I wouldn’t have held Kamila or any of the kiddos, and I would have not even gone to the event, if I had been feeling ill. Also, worth pointing out that this is more of a “I need to be kind to my body” sick and less of a “serious flu” kind of thing). We had a lovely dinner and played several games. Some of them I knew, gift bingo and such, but a couple were new, like the game where you had to guess the baby item just by feel. My dad, who is pretty close to the new mama and was enjoying her baby shower and holding his grandniece very much, jokingly guessed all car parts.
In other news, it snowed this week, for quite a bit of the week. Luckily there wasn’t an insane amount of accumulation, but definitely enough to be an inconvenience. I learned recently that meteorological winter and astrological winter are two different things, for tracking purposes, meteorological winter starts December first, and with our early snow, I can see why they do that.
It’s been such a weird year in terms of heavy precipitation, I’m not sure why the snow surprised me, but it did. Caught me very much off guard because last winter we didn’t get snow until February. I mean, it would occasionally flurry, but nothing would stick at all. This year, our first snow was the day before Thanksgiving, which worried me greatly because I didn’t want people to have to drive on dangerous roads for Turkey and fellowship. Luckily that melted off pretty quickly. This week its sticking around a little longer, although it’s still getting warm during the midafternoon, so we end up with a muddy slush that freezes overnight. Not terribly ideal. It especially drives the horses nuts because its slippery either way when walking on your toenails. It’s also significantly less fun to snack out in the pasture, so I’ve been leaving little piles of alfalfa in the run in, so if they give up there’s a little snack inside. Some days they eat it, some days I add to it for dinner when we close the big pasture for the evening.

Joe loves it though, big fan of playing in the snow. But a Joe is just a big fan of life, so this should surprise no one.
Until we chat again my friends.

Giving Thanks

Hello friends!
Happy late Thanksgiving! Oh, my goodness what a day it was. Our extended family growing and growing, and I’ve started to joke that we are going to need to have holidays in shifts if we get much bigger. We’ve debated asking to utilize the church’s event space, but it’s not very cozy so I’m never very keen on that idea. And honestly, its heaps of fun to get everyone together for some food and fun, no matter how squished we all are.
We got to meet our newest little family member this Thanksgiving. Kamila joined us a couple days before Thanksgiving, rather unexpectedly, since she was expected to arrive middle of December. We were all a little on edge, but mama and baby are happy and healthy, Kamila just wanted to join in on the Thanksgiving festivities.
She spent a fair amount of Thanksgiving sleeping happily in various family members arms, happily kicking her little feet while dreaming about who knows what. I think everyone had a different idea about what sport she was dreaming of. I personally think she was riding a barrel horse to a new pattern record, but others thought maybe track, soccer, or gymnastics. All fair guesses, but not as cool as mine (can you feel the bias?).
This was the first year I was not terribly stressed about Thanksgiving, and it was actually a very pleasant, chill holiday. This is my third year hosting so I’d like to think I’m getting better at it, or at least as a family we are finding out collective stride. Got everything done fairly early, took a “whatever happens, happens” approach to the food, and even slept in a little (the joys of everyone only needing to bring a dish or two, no one is up at the crack of dawn heating an oven).

This year we had a turkey, a ham, about 7 pounds of carnitas. It was amazingly delicious, but as a family we devoured that fairly quickly. I think next year we are going to need to add a second Turkey back into the equation (we did so last year and had a few more leftovers). We did however have so many pies that I’m freezing a few and my grandma is freezing a few for our Christmas brunch (don’t worry, that happens usually the first full week of December, the pies will hold over). My mom and I attempted homemade pumpkin pie because we couldn’t make it up to Costco this year. I will usually stand fiercely by my Costco pies and say nothing tops them, but as of this holiday that’s a whole lie. These pies were delicious! Our only concern was the recipe we were working from called for two pies, and we ended up with three, so I had to pull in a prebaked pie crust i had planned for something else. No biggie though, my little pudding pie would not have been nearly as good as the pumpkin ones. I was really concerned about sticking a prebaked crust in the oven, but it worked out pretty well. We got lucky.

The night before Thanksgiving, during all the baking and prep work, our houseguest arrived. He’s a childhood friend of my uncles, basically my grandmas fourth son, and a great help around the farm, so I definitely didn’t mind putting him up for the weekend. He’s also just a lovely human in general so he’s always welcome. I do always feel bad though, when a guest comes around a holiday, because they get a couple days of slightly crazy, anxious Amanda, followed by a couple days of comatose, post craziness Amanda. Neither are my finest look. I always tell people to come back in the dog days of summer, when I’m too busy basking in sunshine and summer activities to be crazy or comatose.
After Thanksgiving I cleaned up my house, made an ill-advised attempt at riding in our soggy arena (which is now frozen, joy of joys), and tried to catch up on some sleep. While I love having Joe around (yep, my houseguest shared a name with my dog, yep, it was as confusing as it sounds) weekend visits are hard because they are long enough you need chill out time, but short enough you feel like you’re wasting time if you sleep in. It’s a little bit of a catch-22, and needless to say I’m running on empty this week. Got a pretty busy weekend though, the light parade (and building the float for that), as well as Kamila’s baby shower, which is now a post baby shower, or something.
Anyways, I have so much to chat with you all about, but starting a new topic here might make this post a mammoth, so I’ve started a list of things and can’t wait to start writing the next post (don’t worry, intermixed with the catch up will be stories from float building, baby showers, and of course, the farm updates, got to keep yall up to date).
Until we chat again my friends!