Monday, February 24, 2014

An Awesome Etsy Shop, A Weird Flea Market, and Bigfoot

These things pretty much don't have anything to do with each other, but I'm putting them all in this post because I can't wait to tell you about them!

First off, Husband and I are always trying find ways to improve our weekly grocery bill + be better environmentally. We have talked for a little while about using reusable snack bags in the kids' lunches. I was a little skeptical, because I thought that it might get messy or gross. Deciding to take the plunge, I went on Etsy and searched for "reusable snack bags". I found a lot of shops, but one stuck out to me for their prices and patterns: KBExquisites. I bought two to try them out and we loved them. Seriously. Our family loved them so much that we got three more. We use them everyday in the girls' lunches and sometimes in ours, too. These are so easy to use and clean. I have to mention that the shop's owner is absolutely sweet and great to deal with for transactions. If you are in the market for some of these, I highly, HIGHLY recommend her! We liked the chevron and polka dot patterns the best.

So this weekend we decided to leave town on a whim and found ourselves in the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma. We had a great time! Check out our new decor for our dining nook that we found at a little old flea market in a tiny town:
Don't be jealous.
Also somewhere near the Texas border (I think), we found this place:

We were the only customers there and we took that opportunity to ask the question, "Why Bigfoot?" Being fans of cryptozoology, we couldn't believe our luck in finding this place. They even had a near "life-sized" replica of Sasquatch himself, although we think that they used a wookie costume. So why Bigfoot? "Everyone here is Bigfoot crazy," was the answer. Also, everyone has seen him except the lady we were talking to about Mr. Foot. We were surprised, not knowing that Bigfoot was in Oklahoma, but she showed us this map, which I got a picture of:
So now you know. Bigfoot is also in Oklahoma. Husband didn't get to ask her the question he really wanted to ask (what she thought about the theory that Bigfoot is actually an alien), but we did hear a story about her seeing a picture of a ghost. These are the things that happen when we go out adventuring. It's pretty freaking awesome. =D

I hope everyone had a fun and adventuresome weekend as well!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Around here this week....

We finally got a weather warm up here in Wisconsin for a couple days, and we definitely took advantage! 

Wednesday it was 40 degrees! 40!!!!! Before moving here I never would have said 40 was warm, but it totally felt like a heat wave, it was even sunny out :) We busted out some puffy vests and decided spontaneously to go to the zoo. 

This baby thought pheasants were the funniest thing ever!

Camels....not so funny. He was totally unimpressed.

These kiddos were sooooo happy to get out and be able to stay outside for several hours! 

So was this mama! ( I have no idea why my hand looks so awkward in this photo, it kind of creeps me out).

I love that our zoo is right on the shore of a Great Lake!

On Thursday we hooked up with a local homeschool group and went on a Sugar Bush field trip at a nearby nature center. I knew we'd learn about maple syrup but I had no idea just how amazing our experience would be! Unfortunately I only got one photo because my phone was acting up ( I've decided I'm over the camera phone thing, I miss having a real camera).

Back to our field trip......

Our trip started around the campfire where our naturalist engaged the children ( who ranged from toddler to teenager) with Native American legends and history of maple sugaring. We tasted maple sugar, sumac berries, sap, and syrup. The children learned how to make a spile out of a piece of branch and used a ream to dig out the middle ( a spile is what you tap the tree with). 

We learned how to identify a maple tree by looking for opposite branching, holes from yellow bellied sapsuckers, and mustaches ( yes, maple trees have mustaches)! 

The children used yokes and buckets to gather sap from a tree, and also gathered firewood to bring to the sap house. The sap and firewood were measured and weighed and the data recorded. We learned all about hydrometers and the scientific process of how sap becomes syrup. 

It was a fantastic experience! The children were engaged and really had fun. My boys agreed that it was lots of hard work to make syrup but was fun and they want to try to make our own someday when we have a maple tree :)

Lugging buckets of sap using a yoke. Do you see the spile necklace he made? They've been wearing them all day today :)

Oh and we learned a new word too! Migwetch, which is the Ojibwe word for Thank You. 

Migwetch for reading about our fun filled week!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Eating a Meal with Strangers

I will admit it: I am not a very social person. I'm an introvert. It could be considered a fault of mine, but I have a lot of trouble with social interaction, especially with people I am not extremely comfortable with. 

About a year and a half or so ago, when we were getting ready to leave for New Orleans for our wedding anniversary/belated honeymoon (dubbed "Honeyversary") and Husband asked what I thought about having Thanksgiving lunch with two strangers from Reddit named Matt and Courtney who were doing a holiday meal, my first thought was, "" He eventually persuaded me and a few days later we were at Copeland's in Metairie, waiting for the strangers to show up. 

Wow. I was going to be sitting there with people I had never met before. I already had trouble talking to people I sort of knew...and what exactly were we going to talk about? Thoughts such as these went through my head, even after we got our table and were seated. My husband is very outgoing, so he really did most of the talking, but the funny thing is that the conversation went quite smoothly, no one was a weirdo (everyone is a weirdo in their own way, myself included, but I'm talking about a WEIRDO weirdo), and everyone seemed to get along pretty well! It even turned out that Matt was a native New Yorker, like Husband. All five of us (Matt, Courtney, a college student who was living in New Orleans but originally from the Northwest, Husband, and me) came from different places where we now live and were meeting in New Orleans. That was pretty neat! We shared similar ideas about the world, which was unanticipated. It is always a good feeling to know that there are other people out there who feel the same way about things.  

At the lunch we learned about their project, Breakfast with Strangers, in which they traveled the United States in a van and took strangers out to breakfast in order to break down "stranger danger" barriers and learn more about the people who inhabit this country. Very cool. 

The experience was both enriching and surprising for me. Enriching, because we met interesting people who we probably wouldn't have met otherwise; and surprising, because I survived meeting and hanging out with people we probably wouldn't have met otherwise. ;) 

The other day I got a notice that I had been tagged in a photo of Matt and Courtney's book that was being released as an ebook, so of course we had to get it. After downloading, we sat down at the computer and looked through it. Humans, this book is really really great. You should definitely check it out, and not just because there is a picture of me and Husband in it (holy crap my hair is short). These are not stories of vapid celebrities and "who's wearing what", etc. These are stories of people who live all around you. Real people. Real strangers

"Stranger" is a very divisive word, when you think about it. Someone strange and foreign. Someone not like you. We are taught from our earliest age to stay away from strangers, don't talk to them. Be afraid. It seems like our whole culture is one of fear, from the extreme news stories to ongoing wars and conflicts, to entertainment that focuses on people doing terrible things to other people. It's not healthy. 

I find Matt and Courtney's project very refreshing. I'm glad they did it and I'm glad that we were able to be a part of it. You can also check them and their project out on Facebook, where they share uplifting stories and info about the project. Thanks again, Matt and Courtney!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Make Our Own Conversation Hearts? Ok, We'll Try It.

When I saw this pin on Pinterest: Homemade Conversation Hearts, I thought "Oh wow what I cute idea! The kids and I can make these!" NEVER AGAIN. The recipe itself is fine and the outcome is indeed very cute, but HOLY COW these were a lot more involved than we expected.

At first I thought it wasn't so bad. It started getting sort of frustrating when the flavorings and food coloring kept making the dough too sticky and we had to keep adding more and more powdered sugar. On the third of the four colors I was getting a little irked, but it was ok; the kids were being good sports and helping tremendously. It took three of us in latex gloves to accomplish this:

Hey, it's still pretty fun at this point!
One person for holding and kneading the dough (me), one for adding the coloring and flavors (Miss G), and one for adding the additional powdered sugar and also keeping the other colors from drying out (Miss S). Once we got the dough appropriately flavored and colored, then came the rolling out, cutting out, and placing on the parchment paper. The easy part! <--(I thought)

Miss G transferring some of the cut hearts to the parchment paper.

Ooh, pretty.

Candy lace

This recipe makes A LOT of candy hearts. And after you cut, push out each heart as it sticks inside the tiny cutter, transfer to the parchment paper, and cry out with your fist in the air to St. Valentine, you might find yourself feeling the same as I did while making these. 

These are almost all of the hearts that we got decorated. We were pretty much done.
Please direct your attention to the two obviously child-made ones. 

Perhaps you are looking for a zen-master trial for yourself...may I recommend making homemade conversation hearts? To be fair, I really have to hand it to Diamonds for Dessert. I think it's amazing that she created AND decorated all of hers. Even using a little stamp and everything. That's hardcore! Candy making is a delicate art and she is a candy artist. 

Also I might add that at this point we were on our second day of snow days + I was sick, so maybe my tolerance level was low for such time consuming and detailed tasks. 

Regardless, I'm glad that we tried these and (pretty much) completed them. So every heart doesn't have a message; it's really ok. We will put these out for our smorgastarta feast tonight. 

Now I'm off to make a sandwich cake with Husband and the Little Ladies. He has drawn up a design for the top of the cake of a wizard vs. dragon duel in a forest. Extreme!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

And then she baked....

I've been feeling gloomy as of late, for no real reason, which just makes it more frustrating.

Maybe it's the season? Though I really, truly do love winter. The cold, the snow, needing to wear a sweater each day, the way frost forms it's icy art on the windows. The way I can't open the back door because it's frozen shut......

So maybe it's not the season after all. Maybe it's pure exhaustion. Whatever it is I've made up my mind to cure myself of this funk. 

Some steps I've taken are to reduce my screen time and focus on being more present with my children and husband. I deleted my Facebook app off my phone as it was becoming too much of a time suck for me. I'm much less likely to waste time online if it means using the actual computer. I'm feeling good about this decision and bonus! My eyes hurt less! I know, who'd a thunk it.

I decided to start a knitting project just for me! I rarely knit anything for myself and if I do it's something small and quick, it's time I made something awesome for myself. Enter the Angry Sheep Cardigan!

Yesterday, ugh, yesterday. Let's just say by the time 7pm rolled around the only thing that was going to salvage the day was chocolate. So what do you make when you NEED chocolate and have copious amounts of rye flour in your pantry? Rye chocolate cookies of course! Yes, it sounds odd and maybe even dry and crumbly, but I'm telling you these cookies were the tastiest (and easiest) cookies I have ever made. Honestly!

Other things I'm doing are; making a list of veggies I want in the garden this year, planning said garden, and adding hot cocoa to my coffee on a daily basis. It's the little things people :)

Are you feeling the winter blues or the un-winter blues? What are you doing to stay positive?