Hippity Hoppity

Hello Friends!
Well, Easter was here and gone quick as a flash! I had such a busy day, a fun day, but such a busy day that I completely forgot my camera and phone on my dresser and don’t have a single picture from the day. But I have the memories and that’s the important part.
We potlucked it again, which is just so necessary at this point, because we were 30+ people again this year. I made my usual honey glazed ham, and the ever weird family-tradition-in-dessert-form “Gork”, and I … bought pies. I will remind you that I am cursed in baking. But, you see, Marie Calendar is not, and I am a big fan of not serving people bad food so freezer section pies are my new favorite potluck thing. Anything where I don’t have to make a crust, anything.
I had put up a Tuesday Post showing some of the eggs we had stuffed a little while before Easter, but because I believe the magic shouldn’t be just for kids, I also snuck a couple cool new eggs in the collection before the adults came out to help hide them, and there were lots of “oohs” and “aaahs” and laughter about the new eggs joining the fun. I’ve taken a pic of a few of my favorites from the last few years, the bunnies, the dinos, the sports ones are pretty classic. The camo and clamshells cracked everyone up when they saw them. I will admit though, the candy fits less great in the seashells. Although, big news, and I don’t know if it’s good or bad. The Twix fun-size bars now fit in a dollar store egg! They didn’t the last couple years, so either the candy shrunk or my eggs spontaneously grew, and I know where I am betting my money. I’m not complaining really though, it means I don’t lose about a fourth of the candy I bought for eggs, so in the long run it saves my money (and my waist line, those Twix had to go somewhere right? Certainly can’t waste them).

One of the sweet ladies in town has been a good friend and mentor to my cousin, and she has long spoken highly of the amount of work I put into Easter for the little ones. She very sweetly surprised us this year by giving us her collection of Easter eggs to use, as she has passed the torch on to her kiddos. We had a lot of fun looking at her eggs as we stuffed them and there was one egg in there that was HUGE by egg standards. We referred to it as the motherlode. I attempted to use Watson as a source of scale, he was not terribly enthused. We loaded that egg up with candy and some change and it was quite the find for the lucky little one.

I have always loved Easter, I have really fond memories of church and eggs, family and friends and bunnies as a kid, and I think I love Easter even more now as an adult. Seeing my dad and uncle play with the wee ones, watching all my cousins, now grown, with babies of their own and sitting on the porch with my Grandma while we swap recipes and tips and solve all the world’s problems while debating a piece of pie, those moments are so special. Watching the kids squeal over candy and hearing Dad’s Easter prayer, yelling back and forth directions to a cousin who knows where the spices should be in my cabinet but can’t see it while I pull someone’s hot dish from the oven, that feeling of community and easy comfort is so perfect and such a reward after months of planning and organizing to pull it all off. There’s always a new reason this is one of my most favorite holidays.
I also would be remiss if I didn’t briefly mention how amazing the weather was! It was cold, rainy and windy all week leading up to it, and it’s been pretty stormy since, but our Easter Sunday was warm and sunny, very bright and all the flowers started to bloom that morning, it was a blessing in the most sincere way to wake up to that sunshine, especially when I had dreamed of a snowstorm the night before. The kiddos even played in the hose water (admittedly, it wasn’t quite warm enough for me to join them haha, but they were really happy).
I wish you all could come join our joyful Easter celebration, you are all so special to me and I hope your holidays, whichever ones you celebrated, were joyful, wonderful, and filled with love! Share with me your traditions, memories, and favorite things, I can’t wait to hear about them! Happy belated Passover, Easter, Ramadan, and Spring (and any others I might be missing)!
Until we chat again, my friends!

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Hello friends!

I am once again calling on your expertise! It’s Christmas time officially and I need some no cost holiday fun ideas for little kids. We’ve been a house of busy working adults for so long that we sorta have our Christmas spirit in batches, and the kids are losing their minds about it.

I also need some very inexpensive but very fun Christmas gifts ideas for these kiddos. Santa is really broke this year because they’ve literally tripled my food and utilities costs and I wasn’t exactly pleased with the budget beforehand. Gotta love when a single tank of gas is your entire commute budget for the month. But I digress. 

The boys have been loving napping under the tree

I plan on making some reindeer snacks for Christmas eve (and the reindeer will enjoy them sometime after the kiddos go to bed). My parents always made it look like the reindeer were super messy eaters, and I think this year that sloppy reindeer might just make a comeback. Carrots and apples for sure, and cookies for Santa.

I was planning on involving them in the cookie making process if they wanted. We always make almond butter cookies instead of sugar cookies, they have a little bit of a deeper flavor and are just a little less sweet. I’ve never heard any complaints so I think the kiddos will like them, and they make up very similarly to a sugar cookie and can be decorated just the same. We usually make a batch of chocolate almond butter cookies too, as well as a couple specialty cookies. Although I learned my lesson a couple years ago with red velvet cookies. It’ll be a while before I try those again. Messy and gross to boot. I think I messed something up, but frankly you have to use so much dye there’s not really a second chance. 

I’ve added a new sweet treat to the mix since I’ve taken over the cookies portion of the holiday. We now also have no baking peanut butter chocolate bars, a recipe given to me by a friend of my grandma’s. They take about ten minutes to make and about an hour to chill (you melt and reset some chocolate) and then you have super cute little snack sized bars to eat. They are super rich but super addictive, so I always have to put them somewhere out of the way to help prevent calamity. I love little treats like that though, because for the most part, I almost always have the ingredients on hand and, other than the small scale crisis caused by attempting to measure peanut butter, they are really easy to make. Same principle as keeping premade cookie dough in the fridge, you literally never know when you might need a sweet treat.

Pretty sure we are going to have something akin to a white Christmas. I don’t know if it’ll snow or have a lot of accumulation specifically over those days but I definitely think that the conditions will be there and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. Last year it was -2 degrees Christmas morning, we had around a foot of snow, and it started snowing more that afternoon. Made it difficult to feed the animals but it was really quite beautiful. 

It was really funny though too, because, and I think I showed you guys in pictures, the little walkway that I throw food into the barn from was completely covered in snow. There was a large pile from the roof to be climbed every time we wanted to feed in the barn. I definitely fell off that pile several times and the horses definitely laughed at me several times, which…fair.

This year so far the snow has been… mushy? Not structures building snow so it doesn’t build into drifts or create those wind balls. Kinda just gets everything wet and muddy. I think the kiddos would like it a lot better if it was the fun fluffy stuff. 

I’m somewhere in the realm of 80% done with my Christmas shopping. I’m one of those weirdos that starts planning in October and as soon as we get Halloween squared away I start slowly enacting my plans. Doesn’t always work, I definitely still have to do the December 23rd quick trip. But I’m getting more organized each year. I have to, my holiday season is packed, have you seen the size of my family? I have events every weekend of November and December and lots of weekday craziness too! This year there’s a color-coded spreadsheet. You know I’ve hit full first born, obsessive planner mode when I bust out the excel formulas. Putting on our serious Santa hats.

(It’s really quite pleasant to see all those pretty little cells though, you gotta admit).

Until we chat again my friends!

Hippity Hop

Hello friends!
Easter was fantastic at our house; I hope you had a lovely Easter too! (Or a lovely Passover or Ramadan).
We got incredibly lucky with the weather. It poured all day the day before, and it actually snowed and blew and rained and hailed, etc. etc., basically the entire week before. We got approximately two hours of clear skies on Friday to try to clean up the yard and we did our best.
But amazingly, it was beautiful and sunny on Easter! Cold, definitely large-jacket-weather, but so sunny and pretty. I got lots of family photos so hopefully with the lighting some of them turn out well.
We hid 350+ eggs and I am still convinced we haven’t found all of them. I think we got close though, the kids absolutely loved it. Each kiddo got a bucket and a little toy, either a stuffed bunny or a little set of pocket cars they could choose from (among the youngsters in my family stuffed animals and pocket cars are valuable riches, you see). After that it was off to the races.
This year there was enough youngsters that I had to send some grandparents and a grand uncle to the basement to supervise a Veggie Tales screening, because there’s too many bright sunny open windows upstairs to peek through, and the Easter Bunny is shy, you know.

(Most of my Easter pictures include family who would like their privacy respected so please enjoy these photos of some of the decor)

We had a lovely potluck dinner, I made ham and some chip dip, and lots of desserts. My extended family brought, in turn, turkey, some potato and pasta salads, some warm casseroles, and a couple more desserts. My mom tried her hand at deviled eggs and a little pasta salad kit, with supervision, and she did pretty well. A lot of the steps she remembers, it’s mostly just timing and remembering the safety rules, as well as reading the recipes. This is a huge improvement from even last year when she could hardly stand in the kitchen by herself without becoming overwhelmed. It’s easy to forget all the progress she’s made post strokes, and it served as a good Easter gift.
I also had set up an ice cream bar with lots of toppings, so the kiddos were very pleased. And very sugared up by the time they left. That’s my job as the fun cousin, although I think the parents were on similar sugar highs, we really did go dessert heavy this year. But we are a family of sweet tooths… sweet teeth?
Before we ate we had a nice reading of the bible story. This worked out well because, while I had made an Easter Bible Trivia set, everyone was so keen to be out in the sun we ended up forgetting about it entirely. I’m super glad we were able to get at least a little of the true reason for the holiday into our celebration. I think sometimes it’s really easy, I know I’m super guilty of this, to think about the Easter bunny for the kiddos and the food and the games and the yard and forgetting the whole Jesus thing. I’m guilty of that at Christmas too.
The kiddos also got to feed the horses some multicolored carrots, courtesy of our neighbors. The local research station rents land from my neighbors, and I’ve gotten to know some of the field workers. Since they are allowed to take home any harvests afterward (the research station is currently interested only in the seeds) I often get gifted some of the excess, this time, easily 15 pounds of various carrot varieties. I’m so grateful, not only that they think of me but also because its gorgeous, meticulously grown produce. I’ve been cooking with them lots, sharing with family, and feeding them to the girls, and even then, I don’t know if I will be able to use them all in time. Can you freeze carrots? Anyways….
The horses and kiddos had lots of fun, especially because purple carrots stain little fingers and horsey tongues, and little June was telling her little cousins about how she rides Ro and how “Manna” can give everyone lessons. I might be on the hook for a couple more tiny novice cowpokes this summer.
We got to try the new ladder golf setup, and everyone really seemed to enjoy it. I was a little worried about the tethered balls flying with the little ones around but for the most part they are pretty good about staying out of the game zone. My family tends to get a little competitive so the wee ones have learned pretty quickly to not get involved unless they really want to play.
I also bought a game called Throw Throw Burrito, but with the wind a little blowier than usual we didn’t think an outdoor card game would work exceedingly well. No worries, next get together we will throw three-foot inflatable burritos at each other, we have the whole summer after all.

I hope you guys had as magical a weekend as we had. I need to spend today cleaning up, my house looks like an Easter bunny exploded, so I’ll leave this here.
Until we chat again my friends! 

Auld Lang Syne

Hello friends!
Happy 2022!
We made it. 2021 was an objectively very weird year, to be honest, it almost made 2020 look mundane, and I was scarily unemployed and surviving on my savings for a portion of 2020.
2021 had some extreme highs and lows.
Obviously some of the lows included losing family members both of the two and four legged variety. And the unfortunate issue of really screwing up my elbow with a pretty crazy wipeout off the back of Ro. I’ll eventually have full range of motion again, right? Hopefully?
But the highs were crazy too!
Obviously a big one: I started this blog! I can’t believe I sat down in March to get started, that feels like so long ago. Which is entirely weird since I feel like I still have no idea what I’m doing. I have so many ideas for this little corner of the web and am slowly figuring out how I want to implement them. But to think, I’d talked about starting a farm blog for a while, and it took leaving a job and my then coworkers wanting farm updates still for me to actually start. Its turned into quite a fun journal entry for me of sorts, a way to keep accountable and really think about what’s been happening. It’s also exercised a muscle I haven’t in a long time, like many kids I loved to write, mostly fiction, but our school system did it’s best to kill that love. I didn’t realize how much I missed it.

I was not a fan of the first few hours of the new year, meteorologically speaking

Another huge high was how close Ro, Nel, and I got. Everything from pasture picnics to figuring out mounting without both arms, we kept bumping into moments of growth and trust building between the three of us, and while they weren’t always easy (looking at you, frustrated tears over mounting block woes) we came out with an easy sort of calm about hanging out, something I’ve longed after for many years. Something that can only be achieved when you get to work with and love critters that are solely yours and beyond a weekly lesson or show-lease relationship. I’m so grateful for those horses and trainers that came before but am happier than I’ve ever been with Ro and Nel. Truly, while I’ll never be Olympic levels of good at this sport, I firmly believe I was destined to be a horse mom.
Other great highs include starting at a job I really love! After job hopping a little, entirely unintentionally, I think I have finally found a place to settle. My boss and coworkers are pretty understanding, I don’t regularly get put down, harassed, or threatened with termination over silly, inconsequential things or unavoidable circumstances, and help is generally a git comment or slack message away. Plus, I work with one of my best friends (different teams, same department) and just the comfort of an always friendly face is invaluable. One day I’ll share some of the lessons I’ve learned during my short time in the software development world and the difference between a terrible job, a good job that’s a bad fit, and the right job. Also, the concept of the right role for now. Might make a good post.

Quite proud of our new years dinner too, but ignore my yorkshire pudding. It tasted yummy but didnt poof

So, the standard question this time of year: any resolutions? Not really, in that I’m a firm believer in starting whenever you can, so I generally don’t wait for the new year. But I would like to continue with some current goals. First, I’d like to shake off the work burnout I’ve carried with me from earlier roles and figure out the best way to put lack of confidence and imposter syndrome in its place. I just told you how much I love my job, but the painful truth is no matter how great a position is, if you’ve hit exhaustion and senseless anxieties, you gotta find solutions. I’ve been trying out solutions for much of the latter half of 2021. Secondly, I want to get my health generally more stable (no more constant colds) and lose some extra pounds that seemed to follow me home from college and set up permanent residence. Even if the numbers on the scale don’t move, I want to feel better and more in control of my health. And not huff and puff up my driveway. Finally, I’ve been working more on “acting on ideas”. Not in an “impulse shop” or “start 80 new hobbies” kinda way, but more in a “I really would like to rearrange this space” or “I really want to finally add that section to the blog” kinda way. I tend to get locked in the planning stage, and sometimes something as silly as hanging an art piece on my wall is procrastinated in the name of “thinking it through”. This blog almost didn’t happen for that same reason. This actually affects every part of my life, so I’ve been really keen to start practicing that new habit. Stay tuned for progress.
So what are your goals or resolutions for 2022? What were your highs and lows? Got ideas for the blog? Funny new year’s stories? I wanna hear it all!
Happy 2022 y’all! Let’s make it ours!
Until we chat again my friends! 

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.