Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A New Year:First Things First

Each year in January, many of us make resolutions to better ourselves and our lives. We're going to stop doing all the things that are bad for us and start doing all the things that are good for us. I like the idea of a fresh start as much as anyone. The promise of a new year always holds so much possibility. I've always had mixed emotions on resolutions. We all know that most of them are doomed to fail. Not because they are impossible, but because change is HARD. Whether it's change that we want and have chosen, or change that we would rather have skipped over.

Still, at this time of year, I find myself dreaming of what I want out of my life, how I want to spend my days, ways in which I want to grow. I keep being reminded though, that the best place for me to focus on is my relationship with God. I know from the past that when I make reading my Bible and prayer time a priority it sets the right tone for the whole day. I feel more calm and am reminded that I don't go through life on my own. I can't do it all on my own and I'm not expected to. There is grace and there is time for me to grow with God into the woman He has planned me to be.

So before I get too busy making to do lists and endless goals, I'm going to spend time doing what matters most. I know that it will have the greatest impact on my days and my family.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Shortbread Cookies

Anyone else been waiting for the newest Downton Abbey season? If you're a fan, I know you have been anxious to see what happens in the new season. If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon, come on up, you'll love it! There are lots of ways to catch up on past seasons. Most libraries have them or you may find a friend or neighbor who owns them. Some seasons are also available on PBS's website, as well as Amazon and Netflix. I had hoped to watch last season again before the new started, but I didn't get it done.

Last year I made cucumber sandwiches and scones for the Season 4 premiere. Last Sunday, I tuned in for Season 5 and was not disappointed. What did you think? Last season was pretty quiet in a lot of ways (especially after all the drama of Season 3), so I liked that there was a lot of promise of things to come this season. It seems like it will be a season of secrets and some scandal--all the things we love about the show. For this week's episode I made up a batch of shortbread (super simple!). I can't seem to watch without a cup of tea. I feel so British.

Bonus points if you dip the shortbread in chocolate. (I'm an over-achiever.)

from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 C. butter

Combine flour and sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling. From mixture into ball; knead until smooth. Press mixture into square glass baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges just begin to brown. Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Cut shortbread into strips or pieced sized how you like. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

To dip in chocolate: Melt chocolate of your choice (I used dark chocolate chips) in microwave, as directed. Dip ends or bottoms into chocolate and allow to cool on wax paper-lined cookie sheet.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Rewind-The Rest of 2014

A new year is here and while I have a lot I could say about the rest of 2014, I'm ready for a fresh start on my blog. I'm setting some blogging goals for myself so I can share more often and share a greater variety of things. Most of my posts in the last year have just been about my family and events in our life, which is great, but there are other things I'd like to share about too.

So, here's a final look back at the fall and holiday season of 2014.

Levi started kindergarten. He loves it and is learning so much. One of his favorite things is that he gets to ride the bus. He and his bus friends are always hatching plans for playdates and parties. I'm so glad he is meeting friends he will be in school with for a long time.

My mom and I sold at our second barn sale at Little Prairie Girl in Holland, IA. It is always fun to create things that you like and find someone who likes them too. I also held a holiday sale in my home in November and enjoyed completing various custom orders. If you haven't already, be sure to like our business page on Facebook. I'm looking to add more to our Etsy shop and always welcome custom orders.
Right after that I hopped on a plane and headed to Charleston, SC where I met up with my BFF Joanna. She flew down from Pennsylvania. What a treat to have a WHOLE week together. We have been friends since high school and spent a majority of our friendship away from each other. We stay connected with phone calls that are often interrupted by our little ones and cut short by preschool pickups or errands to be run. Charleston offered us plenty of cool things to see, yummy things to eat (and drink), and time to just lay around and talk.

Fall fun in Lake Carroll with friends.

The kids and I spent Halloween in Iowa. Levi was Batman and Lillian was Elsa. I made Levi's costume (complete with muscles--a fun project!) and my mom made most of Lillian's costume. I made her wig using this tutorial.

It took Lillian a little while to adjust to Levi being gone every morning. They play so nice together and are so loving towards each other (most of the time). I'm so glad they have a built-in playmate at home.

Thanksgiving was also celebrated in Iowa. We went to a UNI wrestling meet with family.
Once again, we cut our Christmas tree at Oney's with John's parents. It's a fun Christmas tradition and it was a beautiful tree.

The kids visited Santa in Cedar Falls after Thanksgiving and Mrs. Claus when we got our Christmas tree.

We baked sugar cookies. Lillian ate more dough than she actually made into cookies, but it was fun. John also built a log cabin out of pretzel rods and the kids helped decorate it.
Christmas morning fun...Santa brought Levi a shovel (He plans to dig holes and a pond) and Lillian got Elsa, Anna, and Olaf. Like lots of little girls her age, she had a Frozen themed Christmas.
On New Year's Eve we went bowling with our neighbors then we hung out at one of their houses to ring in the New Year. My little party animals made it all night!

I hope you had a great holiday season and I look forward to seeing you here more regularly.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rewind : Got Milk?

Another "rewind" post as I get my blog caught up on life in the last few months...

In August, we made a trip back to Iowa to visit my family. It is always great to just spend time with them, but it's also fun to play tourist there.  We have found plenty of fun things for our family to see and do while we are there. The highlight of this trip was a visit to Hansen's Dairy in Hudson, IA.

Hansen's Dairy is a locally owned and family-operated dairy. Most days you can schedule a guided tour where you can learn about their farm, their cows, the process of milking, and get some "hands-on" experiences. To top that off, you can meet and feed their pet kangaroos and wallaby, as well as taste some of the delicious products. The kids absolutely loved this hands-on field trip, as did all of the adults.

After riding in a tractor-pulled wagon from the visitor's center to the farm next door, we first visited the kangaroos and wallaby. They are the mascot of Hansen's Dairy, added to the farm after one of their sons took a trip to Australia. You can pet and feed them.

Next, we got to bottle-feed calves. As a child, my brother and I often did this on our uncle's dairy farm. It was fun to see my kids doing it.

Aunt Steffoni taking a turn
The day we visited, a calf had just been born. They mentioned that they were looking for an 'A' name since they name the calves with the letter that begins the mother's name. They were thinking August since she was born in August. I suggested our last name, which is a rare name. There surely hadn't been another cow named Ardente in their farm's history. Sure enough, they took our suggestion and there is now a cow named Ardente growing up on the Hansen farm. We even got to take a turn bottle feeding her.

Next we learned more about how they care for the herd and manage the different parts of the farm and milk business. We visited the milking parlor and took a turn trying to hand-milk one of the cows. Both myself and Lillian were quick learners and could have gotten hired for an opening they had.

One of the highlights of the visit was the tasting back at the visitor's center. We got to shake a small amount of cream in a jar to make butter. Levi loved it and ate a TON of the butter with crackers. We sampled chocolate milk and each got to pick one flavor of their ice cream to enjoy. In addition, they had hands on activities for the kids.

We liked their milk products so much, we now bring them home to Illinois and have my mom bring it to us when she visits. The kids cheer when we have Hansen's Dairy "kangaroo milk". I'm happy to support a "local" business and get a better product too. If you're in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area, I would definitely recommend a visit to both their farm and one of their retail locations.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Rewind: Summer Fun

My last blog post was way back in the summer. Life has kept moving and my blog has sat here silent. When I first started my blog, I wanted it to be a place where I could share about my daily life-family happenings, recipes, sewing, fun places I visited. I still hope to do that because if nothing else, I want this blog to document our life. So, if you don't mind, I'm going to do some "later posts" to recap our life over last few months.

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Our summer started with our vacation to South Dakota, but we had plenty of fun throughout the summer. Since John is home during the summer, it means we have lots of family time and the freedom to go places and do things. We spend our summers coming and going.

At least once a week, we head to the beach by John's parents' house. It is a private beach and we usually have it to ourselves. The kids are free to play in the water, sand, and go fishing.

Summer wouldn't be summer without some hiking and camping. We camped at Lake Le-Aqua-Na for the first time. It was a nice, peaceful campsite with shorter hiking trails-perfect for our little hikers.

We made a few trips to our friends' lake house in Lake Carroll. It is a wonderful retreat and the kids love it there. It's a mix of boating and country fun.

And if we didn't have enough fun with the Kennemers in Lake Carroll, we continued our fun with miniature golfing.

And of course...popsicles!