Friday, February 28, 2014

BIG Tissue Paper Flowers {A fun way to decorate}

One of our upcycled flowers
 The girls and I had fun working on a project last weekend that helped to use up the stash of tissue paper that I had been saving. When we receive a gift wrapped in tissue paper or if flowers come wrapped in it then I will save it as long as it isn't in too bad of shape. I will use it for wrapping other gifts but I saw the idea for big tissue paper flowers and thought it would be fun to use it for that too.

 The girls at work. We did make some of our flowers using new tissue paper too but it was actually handier to use used paper as we needed to have the paper crumpled up.
 We followed the instructions that I had found over on the Style Me Pretty blog. It made for a fun afternoon with my girls.
 I used them as part of the backdrop for my booth at the Bridal Show this past weekend.
 Now we put them up on the wall above Megan's bed. She is laying on the bed reading - a favorite activity of hers.

It might be -25 degrees right now outside tonight (that was the forecast) but inside we are ready for Spring with flowers blooming! :-)

Home Alone

 Earlier this week Ken had a dinner meeting down in the Twin Cities (a 4+ hour jaunt from our place) and so he would be going down in the afternoon, spending the night and coming back the next day. When he does something like that our family often likes to go along as we have family and friends down there and we enjoy seeing them as well as having the extra family time in the car as well.

This time we had talked about going as a family too but as I had something scheduled I wasn't sure if it would work and then I kind of forgot about it and scheduled something else as well. It just seemed that this time it wouldn't work out so well for all of us to go. When the kids heard about Ken's upcoming trip they wondered why they couldn't go even if I didn't go. They could spend time with their cousins while Ken was busy. So we decided to do that. I would stay home alone.

  Being at home alone is a very odd thing for me. It has hardly ever happened in my life. I grew up in a big (6 kids) and busy family and we did things together. When I went off to college I lived in a girls dorm with room-mates and life was pretty bustling there as well. While still in college Ken and I got married and while still in college Mara was born. My life has normally been one of having lots of people around me and I like that. I am an extrovert and having people around is what I like. Even when I am sick I tend to lay out in the living room so I don't miss out on anything.

  This week however I actually thought some alone time sounded kind of fun (and I actually had more if it then I thought I would as a couple of my commitments got cancelled due to others being sick). I had purchased Crystal Paine's book "Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode" a few weeks ago and had read through it quickly but was wanting to go back through it and really sit down and write down my thoughts, priorities and goals.

   Though I love my family dearly and love to have them around it was really kind of nice to just be able to concentrate on thinking about how to make our lives a little more organized and figure out ways to be more productive but less stressed. So on Tuesday evening I made myself a lovely supper of liver, sauerkraut and pasta (I decided I might as well have some of the things they didn't like so much while they were gone) and sat down with my meal, my book, a notebook and a cup of tea.

  With much prayer I have been carefully thinking about what I have going on in my life, working to see what is really important and what isn't. What is using the strengths that God has given me and what things aren't? How can I get rid of clutter in my home, thoughts and schedule? How can I be more focused?

  Though not normally a lover of extended time alone (I do REALLY like a little alone time each morning) this 24 hours that I was given was really a retreat for me that I thoroughly enjoyed.

  Even if you don't have alone time to read it in - I do recommend Crystal's book. If you are over busy or stressed or feel like you aren't accomplishing anything "Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode" might be just the tool that you need to help.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Home for Sale

   In January we bought land on the Mississippi River and decided we would like to build a home on it. To build a new home however means we need to sell our current home first. This isn't necessarily easy for me as I love our current home and we have tons of good memories and we had dreams and plans for it (including lots of fruit harvest in the future as we planted lots of trees and berries) but we are now full of dreams for our new place too so it is time to sell this one.

 I know that probably most of my blog readers live far away with no intention of moving to North Central MN but just in case that is not the case and because I plan on sharing the link to this post locally I am going to give you a tour of our home in case you or anyone you know is looking for a house like this.
This is an older picture before the doors were painted, the shrubs grew much or the shingles were changed.
 Our home sits just outside the city limits in a very nice neighborhood. The property is just over an acre with a large yard, garden and also some nice wooded area. The property has it's own well and septic (the septic is rated for a 3 bedroom house - it has always worked just fine for us). The soil is fairly sandy (in the garden we have been able to build it up to pretty nice garden soil) which drains really well in the Spring. That is really nice because we rarely have any mud issues. There is a sprinkler system installed in the yard and garden. We have planted many fruit trees, raspberry bushes, shrubs and perennials.
 When you come in the front door there is a nice sized entry way. In it is a door to the garage and also a very large coat closet.

The coat closet has been big enough to store all our outdoor gear plus more.

 From the entry you can go up some stairs to the living room. In it there is new wood flour that was just installed this fall. There are big windows facing South that are wonderful for helping to heat our house in the Winter (in the summer the sun in higher and we have some deciduous trees that shade them). The living room also has a big window that faces West which is perfect for watching the sun set.
The living room from another angle.
 Connected to the living room is the dining room. In it is a sliding glass door that goes out on to a nice sized deck (East side of the house).
From the dining room you go into the Kitchen.
The kitchen is a very nice and efficient working space and we have used it to do oodles of home cooking. I will admit it can get a bit crowded when we have really large gatherings and try to have a lot of people working at once. We have managed though.
From the kitchen we go down a short hallway and there is a bathroom. The flooring in here is ceramic tile.
There are also two bedrooms off of that hallway. Here is one of them.

And here is the other:
This one is a large bedroom with a walk in closet.
That is everything upstairs so down we go to the lower level....

Our house is a split level so the downstairs is partially in the ground but we still are able to have nice windows.

The stairs goes down into what we call our family room. We have it split up by a very big desk set but this room is actually pretty large and could be very open.
Some of the walls and ceilings downstairs are done in tongue and groove knotty pine. Most of the flooring downstairs is carpet (upstairs it all wood except for the tile bathroom).

The Master Bedroom Suite is down here. There is a large bedroom (The bed in it is a California King - to help give you an idea of the size) with a large walk in closet:
There is also a bathroom off of this bedroom:

It has a double sink, toilet, large linen closet, shower and a large medicine cabinet.

The other room down here we use as an office/craft room/ guest bedroom. 
 It also has a nice southern window which I use to start seedlings by each Spring.

 And then last I will show our least photogenic room but one that is really important! The laundry room:

 This is an unfinished room with the laundry area, furnace, air exchanger, water heater, water softener, pressure tank and shelves for storage.

The house is over 2,100 sq. feet.  There is also an attached 3 car garage with storage space. The home is heated by a propane furnace and electric baseboard heaters (which are downstairs and are rippled at times which helps us to get cheaper electricity).Our house is evidently well insulated as well as the southern windows providing good heat as we can go well over a year before filling our normal sized propane tank. We do also have central air that works well. We don't use it a lot as we live in Northern MN and I don't like racking up our electric bill that much but there are some hot days that we are very thankful for it!

 Here is a picture of the house this winter.

If you would like to see more around the property here is a tour I did of the outside a couple of years ago. Since then the tree fort has become a ground fort and we built and chicken coop and run. We have also added a raspberry patch and around a dozen more apple trees.

We are asking $168,000 for the house.

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Getting Ready to Garden {Choosing Seeds}

 I am hoping to get my seeds ordered this week. I would have liked to have gotten this done a while ago but just hadn't found the time. That is all right since up here in the North country we can't plant outside until the very end of May and we don't even plant are seedlings inside until April. However since I order my seeds from Fedco (at least for the most part) they do sometimes run out of seeds so if I don't order early (they start taking orders the 1st of January) I might not get exactly what I wanted. So I do need to get on the ball now.

When getting ready to order seeds my first step is to look through what I have left over from last year and also what seeds did I get saved. For the most part I buy heirloom seeds and that makes it so I can save them and still get a good result. Now my child plant might not be exactly like the parent as I don't have the space to have totally separate plots for each different variety nor do I have the inclination to only buy one variety of each type of vegetable. That said I have still had good results with saving seeds and just sometimes end up with a veggie that is a mixture of a couple of varieties. I don't mind that element of surprise but probably not everybody would like that.

  As far as using seeds left over from other years goes - they will gradually lose their viability as they get older. However I have generally found them to do pretty good. I just plant them a little thicker (and then thin them if they still come up really good) and haven't had many problems. You can test them ahead of time if you want to see what the germination rate is - I found instructions here.
 Some other things to consider when getting ready to order seeds are:

  • What does my family really like to eat? We have tried various types of beans and what we have found out is that our family does not like flat beans, we do not like yellow or wax beans and we don't like any stringy ones. That might sound picky but it is the truth and there are a lot of beans that we do like so we will stick with those (as much as I do love to try new things!). Think of other favorites and make sure to plant plenty of those things.
  • What do you buy now that you could grow instead? We buy lots of onions and garlic and I need to figure out how to grow these better. Carrots are another thing that I like that though we have been able to grow decently some years - I still have never grown enough to cover our needs.
  • What herbs would you like to figure out how to grow and use better? Herbs are very fun to grow and I have found that it works best (at least for me) to add just a couple of varieties each year to learn how to use and grow. I tend to concentrate on adding them for their health benefits even more than their culinary uses.
  • How much room do you really have? If you are like me when you think about gardening in the middle of winter it can make you feel pretty excited. Paging through a seed catalog only makes that excitement rise and pretty soon I find I have a list of seeds that I want that would be enough to fill a bunch of gardens! When ordering seeds (at least for me) it is good to through a bit of common sense into the mix and not buy way more than I need or can use.
Something that I have found helpful is my little homesteading notebook. In it I am trying (I am not the best record keeper) to keep a record of what I planted, how they did and what my harvest was like. If you keep a notebook like this for a while it will be very helpful for making gardening decisions.

  Do you already have your seeds purchased for your garden this year?
Do you save any of your seeds?
What is your strategy for deciding what to plant?
I would love to have you join in the conversation!

When I think of Gardening and seeds it makes me think of these verses:

John 12:24-26. "Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me ; and where I am there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him."

It reminds me of how important it is for me to be like the seeds and be willing to die to myself so that good will result.

I will be linking this post to some of the parties listed in my side bar.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

God's Word

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105

"For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" Hebrews 4:12

  I fully believe those verses. God's word is vitally important to our lives. It is imperative that we spend time reading it, studying it and applying it.

 When you read the Bible however, do you ever find yourself wondering afterwards - What did I read? That has certainly happened to me. I read it fast, I read it with a distracted mind and then I can end up absorbing very little. I have been working to battle that in my life. 

   The things that I had personally found helpful were to concentrate better and force myself to find one verse after I was done that I really liked or that convicted me in some way. Now I admit there are a few chapters in the Bible (likes lists of names for example) that I struggle with this but still it has helped me to better pay attention. Memorizing has also helped to really absorb God's word in my life and reading out loud to my kids helps a lot! They love to discuss things and will ask questions and totally keep me on my toes. I feel very blessed to have them!

  Not long ago at church we were discussing this and the teacher shared some more thoughts on how to get the most out of your bible reading. I liked the tips so I thought I would pass them on:

When you are reading a passage:
  • Figure out a title for it. (That means you can summarize what it is about)
  • Choose the "Best Verse" (What I was already doing.)
  • Answer that question - What is this passage calling me to do?
  • Pray about what you have read and how to apply it to your life.

What have you found helpful in getting the most out of your Bible reading? 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fixing up a skirt

Today I thought I would tell you about another of our recent clothing modifications - getting rid of the long slits in Mara's skirts. They went up above her knees and made it so the skirt didn't cover so well and so we didn't care for that so we fixed it.

I took some fabric with eyelet lace on one side and pleated it a bit at the and then sewed it in. In hindsight (after Mara has tried walking in the skirt) I should have gathered the fabric up even more as Mara with her really long legs doesn't necessarily take very dainty steps and she finds it tight. But the general concept works well.

Not every item of clothing that gets passed down to us fits the standard of modesty that we like but generally it isn't to hard to do a little modification. Having a little more covering always makes us feel more comfortable and happy so the little bit of time and effort is quite worth it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Eating Ethnic Foods While Using up Homestead Products

Pirogi - A Polish Food using potatoes and sauerkraut.
 I had mentioned before on here that we were planning on watching the Olympics (we really enjoy them!) and then eating foods based on what country got gold in the event that we had chosen for the day. We were able to choose a different style of event for each day with only one repeat. The menu has been based on the previous day's event.

  To be honest I thought (and kind of hoped- because I want them to win!) that we would be eating a lot of American food but that hasn't been the case. So far in the events we had picked out we haven't had an American gold yet. That's all right though as far as the eating is concerned - we have found some yummy recipes and what I have been most excited about is how well many of them work for using up things that we already have on hand and how they have used up the fruit of ours and my parents (as they share much with us) homesteads.

 So just in case you might ever struggle with knowing how to use up "all that cabbage" or need to figure out more creative ways to use potatoes, I encourage you to check out some of the traditional (and even what many of them eat now) foods from other countries - particularly the European ones.

  The other thing that I enjoyed about many of the recipes that I found was the lack of using a can of this or a box of that. So often when I will check out a recipe anymore (like on Pinterest and even in many cookbooks) they will use short cut foods which will actually make it more complicated for me as I don't buy those foods and then I need to figure out how to make the shortcut item first and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Here are some of the things we have been eating:

For Russia (opening day we had their food) -

  • Blini  A nice thin pancake that used plenty of eggs from our chickens. We also put raspberries in them that we had picked this summer and froze and then for lunch we ate them filled with a fish spread that we made from the fish we had harvested.
  • Cabbage Rolls. Using cabbage of course!
For Canada -
  • Canadian Hash browns which were just little chunks of potato fried up with a little bit of onion and then we served eggs with them.
  • Jiggs Dinner Using Potatoes, cabbage and other wholesome foods.
  • Tourtiere - A meat pie
For Poland -
For Germany-

  •  Gutte Kuchen which used Raspberry jam that we made this summer and I was also able to customize it well for Valentines day.
  • Sauerkraut (again - the kids aren't so sure about this but I am happy to use up what we made this summer).
  • Boiled Eggs.
For Belarus-
  • Cabbage Salad
  • Pickles
For Austria-
  • Homemade bread (We buy lots of wheat locally so bread is always economical and easy to add to the menu.)
  • Knodel - a good way to use up old bread. 
 For the Czech Republic -
That isn't all the recipes we've used, foods we have eaten or even countries that we have eaten recipes from but they are the ones that I can remember that best used foods that we had in abundance. I just thought it would be fun to share with you how exploring recipes from other countries has actually worked well to use up some of the foods that we have a lot of. If you also have lots of your own homegrown food you might find it fun to try as well.

The Homestead Barn Hop

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fear God

I have been doing my morning reading in the book of Isaiah recently. There are some verses in the eighth chapter that give me so much peace. Though the book was the words of the prophet inspired by God a very long time ago - those words still talk about a God who is alive and strong today.

 "You are not to say, "It is conspiracy!" in regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy, And He shall be you fear and He shall be your dread." Isaiah 8:12 & 13

Fearing God is what matters. All the rest - no matter if we should sometime go through trials that seem impossible to us - doesn't matter in comparison to our relationship with God. We don't have to have any fear of life's circumstances - He has everything in control. We do need to be ready for the judgement day however - there will be no way to slip by unprepared on that day.

Fear God!

Pictures of the week

Sunday (of last week) All the girls dressed in purple.
 I had noticed that I haven't been taking all that many pictures lately. I don't like that as I like using photos not only as a way to document our lives but also as an extra way to notice the beauty and the fun things that God has given us in this life. Now of course I can notice things without using a camera but it is a special challenge to notice them through the camera lens.

Here is pictures from this week - except for the first one. I didn't think to take any on Sunday of this week but I had one that we had taken of us the week before on Sunday that I thought would be fun to share.
Monday -Honey for my herbal tea. So yummy when you have a cold!

Tuesday -Sweet Megan headed out to care for the chickens.

Wednesday - Our country of the day was Belarus and
 Mara made us some special bread from there for breakfast.

Thursday - A pretty metal flower that was at a place where we went to a debate.

Friday - The only picture taken this day. Megan decorated our Valentine breakfast table.

Saturday - The beauty of birch trees. Enjoyed while out skiing (for miles!) with the boys.
Did you notice some of the beauty that God put around you this week?


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