Friday, December 17, 2010

Snowy Days in Northern New York

The snow here in this part of the country is legendary. Stories of the the hardships of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 are common in the history lessons at school. When anyone in the military hears they are being assigned to Fort Drum, New York their first fear is... The Snow! But here we are, in the middle of it all. It's a bit exciting, and already exhausting. The almost daily shoveling can be a bit much.

Why so much snow, people ask? Yes, lots of states in the country get snow. But when you live in an area where it rains for much of the spring, summer and fall, it only makes sense that it snows the entire winter. There isn't a dry season here. There isn't even a week in the year where there's no precipitation of some kind. Well, unless those historic below freezing temps kick in, and then it's just too cold to snow. That's a whole different kind of suffering. The constant precipitation comes from the "lake effect" weather systems off Lake Ontario. So the most common phrase on the news right now is... "there's another 'lake effect' storm watch for the following counties..."

The snow can be beautiful. It's soft, fluffy, sparkly, and when there is no wind it sits so nicely on the trees. It can also be trouble. Like last night when I agreed to substitute for another gymnastics teacher who couldn't make it to work. I drive a half hour up and down a pretty windy, hilly country road to work. It was especially fun when I slid the entire length down a rather large hill. A small mountain, I'd venture to say. My 4x4 truck didn't take that hill as well as I'd hoped. It barrels through the city streets like mad, though! My half hour trip took more than 45 minutes. Not too bad, but I was still late. Coming home was even less of a picnic. After being at work for 3 hours, none of the roads had been plowed. All that snow just kept piling up.

Northern New Yorkers all seem to take this in stride. This is their life. For 5 months out of the year it *is* going to be colder than, well... you know. And for those 5 months there *is* going to be so much snow that you will likely lose your small dogs and children in it. The schools rarely close for even a foot of snow. Our town got about 8 to 10 inches last night, and the buses were right on time this morning. The plows work double over time, and the bus drivers know how to get around in this stuff. That comes with the (sometimes) burden of living here.

This is what we woke up to this morning. Here is a picture of the boys down at the bus stop.
Across the street there is an old church that someone has converted in to a house. And I like taking pictures of Husband doing all the work!
The little candy canes I have in the front yard are almost covered up. Poor little guys! I wondered why NO ONE up here puts outdoor Christmas decorations in their front yards. Now I know! You never see it!
They do look pretty all covered with snow, though :) This picture was taken last week from my front door. We got a lot of snow, and then it got very very cold so the moisture was sucked from the snow. I'd rather have the fluffy stuff!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Being a published author is cool!

Actually, I don't know if it's cool or not yet. I'm a newbie. But I assume there's all sorts of awesome somewhere in the experience of being a published author!

And here.... is my *official* press release!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Elva Resa PR, 651-357-8770, pr@elvaresa.com
Local Author is Published in New Picture Book Anthology

Peggie Brott writes story "Saying Goodbye" in Military Life: Stories and poems for children,
a collection of original stories and poems about the joys and challenges of military life.

Book: Military Life: Stories and poems for children

Local Author: Peggie Brott
Publisher: Elva Resa Publishing
www.elvaresa.com/pressML.html
ISBN: 978-1-934617-09-0
Publication Date: December 2010
Retail Price: $12.95
Format: 8"x10" Paperback, 48 pages

(St. Paul, MN) Award-winning independent publisher Elva Resa Publishing is pleased to announce the
publication of local author Peggie Brott's story "Saying Goodbye" in its December 1, 2010 release of
Military Life: Stories and poems for children. Brott's story was one of thirteen original stories and poems
selected for this anthology about military life from a child's point of view.

In "Saying Goodbye," a young girl helps her dad pack for his deployment and, along with her mom and
brother, says goodbye to her dad as he boards the bus to deploy. Brott captures tender details of an
emotional parting, including special gifts exchanged between Squirt and her dad.
Military Life gives a glimpse of the many joys and challenges military children experience, from moving
to making new friends, deployment, homecoming, patriotism, and tender family moments.

About Peggie Brott
An army wife for ten years, Peggie Brott believes in helping her three children find the silver lining in any
situation and enjoys all the adventures army life brings. She was inspired to write “Saying Goodbye,” a
story in Military Life: Stories and poems for children, during her husband’s second deployment.
Peggie has been a stay-at-home-mom, Girl Scout and FRG volunteer, gymnastics teacher, and a student
in the culinary arts program. Her husband is currently stationed at Fort Drum, New York.

Elva Resa Publishing is based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Its mission is to make a positive difference in
people’s lives. For more information, visit www.elvaresa.com.

To arrange an interview with Peggie, please contact 651-357-8770 or pr@elvaresa.com.
For more information about this book and its other authors, please visit
www.elvaresa.com/pressML.html.


If you are interested in purchasing this book, it's available on Amazon.com- Military Life: Stories and Poems for Children, for $12.95. I'm more than happy to sign something and send it to you after you've purchased the book. I cannot get book plates from Elva Resa at this time.
Here is my Author Page on the Elva Resa website.

So if I've done nothing else in life to fullfill my dreams, I'm a published author and that's all I've wanted. Prayer and patience have brought me here. I will continue to put myself, and my books, out there. I just pray this isn't the last one. But if it is, I'm ok with that, too.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner, Weekend, and Kicking Off Christmas!

I started my Thanksgiving feast on Wednesday night. I was trying out a new pie crust recipe for the pumpkin pie, so I wanted to make sure I made it early enough in case it didn't work out. It did! Even the dough tasted yummy! (Shhh.... no, I was *not* eating pie crust dough!)

Thursday (aka T-day), I'd like to say I woke up early and made a big breakfast and was cooking away from the crack of dawn. But then my entire family would laugh their butts off and call me a liar! So the truth is, I slept in until about 10:00.... *then* woke up and began my cooking for the day :) I made the pumpkin pie first because my oh-so-strange husband likes his pumpkin pie cold. As in, has been refrigerated for a few hours before he eats it. Anything to make him happy! I only made one pie this year because last year I made two and no one ate the second one. At all. Not even for leftovers. I did, however, buy (*gasp*) a Sara Lee apple pie.... "just in case".

I prepped for my stuffing early in the day as well. This is a granddaddy of stuffings, I must say. Although no, there's no sausage in it. Next year I'll add that. I used 5 kinds of breads, though: pumpernickel, white, wheat, bagel, and rye. I bought them all on the discount bakery rack. In the past I've bought them several weeks out and frozen them. I dice all the bread in to 1 in. x 1 in. bite size pieces. The recipe says to "tear" the breads, but I like how diced bread looks better. I have tons of bread leftover to make another stuffing, and bread crumbs. The recipe is from the Taste of Home- October/November 2009 issue (by far one of my most favorite issues), and was submitted by April Greenwood. So first the recipe from the magazine, and then I'll write what I changed or substituted.

~Scarborough Fair Stuffing~
10 cups (torn or diced) assorted breads. - such as what I mentioned above
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh sage
2 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
2 tbsp. minced fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1 can (14.5 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup butter, melted

Directions: In a large (**my note: very large!) bowl, combine the breads, herbs, salt and pepper. Combine the eggs, broth, and butter; add to bread mixture and stir until moistened. Transfer to a greased 13"x 9" baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350* F for 25-30 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160*.

My changes: I did not have any fresh herbs. I used all dried herbs and didn't measure them, just eyeballed it. When using dry herbs versus fresh, you don't use the same amount as in the recipe. You have to convert the measurement. I also didn't use rosemary because I don't like it. I mixed it all *in* the baking pan instead of a bowl. My large bowl was being used for something else, and 10 cups of bread is a lot!

My turkey, for those who are wondering, is cooked in this. Yes, really. I even found an ad for a 1951 Westinghouse Roaster. The one I have was my Granny's. She always used it to roast turkeys, hams, etc. And so do we! It still works great.

The food was delish, the family all loved it, and I even got sweet Husband to clean up after me. As per tradition, we rounded off our T-Day evening with a family viewing of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Yes. Really.

Husband and I woke up at 1:45 am to get ready for some Black Friday shopping. He wanted to get to Wal-Mart by midnight to check out the cheap-o movies, but I wanted a little sleep. We got to Wal-Mart around 3:00 am, but the movies were mostly picked over. Shucks! That's really what I went out so early for. We *could* have waited for 5:00 am at Wal-Mart to see what movies they were bringing out, but had other stores to hit. The only one we really wanted that we didn't get was How to Train Your Dragon for $9. We finally got home around 10:00. We'd hit up about 7 stores and ventured in to the mall. We didn't see any big fights or fun stuff that makes going out on Black Friday worth it! Got some really good deals on things we'd either been needing for awhile, or wanted to get the kids for Christmas anyway. I don't mind shopping in the crowds. It doesn't bother me a whole lot. And when I got home I took a long nap!

The rest of the weekend has flown by far too quickly. Being the only weekend I've had off (with father-in-law's funeral being an exception as it wasn't a "fun" weekend) since I started working full weekends in the beginning of September. Not getting that down time with the kids and my husband every weekend has made me appreciate this time with them even more.

We were fairly productive in getting most of our Christmas decorations up, too. Both inside and out. We got a lot of cleaning done, played games together, made decorations, decorated cut-out cookies, went to a Christmas parade, and the boys had hockey practice. I got to sleep in three out of the five days! Now that, in itself, is huge!

Oh, and did I mention the snow?! Ya, it snowed. A LOT! Though it could be worse, I realize. This picture was just the beginning...

Monday, November 22, 2010

A year of thanks

This year I have a lot to be thankful for. Some down times, too, but those don't slow me down. They help me grow. A few times along the way I complained instead of being thankful. I didn't thank God for His blessings, I questioned Him. He sees my heart, though. He knows I will come around and see the blessing eventually.

My year of thankfulness:

JANUARY: Finally got our official orders out of Fort Polk and headed to Fort Drum.

FEBRUARY: Left an empty house behind us. The longest we've ever dwelled in one residence since Husband and I were married. Thankful for the memories we had there.
Saying Hello to New York and thankful for the new adventure.
But one of the greatest parts of this month was meeting my sweet Melissa (and children) for the first time. I've "known" her since about 2006-ish. If not before. We chat online and text almost every single day. Meeting her in real life on our drive from Louisiana to New York, even for just a few hours, was one of the best parts of my year. Thank you, Lord, for that opportunity.
Also, getting an accepted offer on the amazing house we live in was a huge high point for this month.

MARCH: Spending a month in a vacation house where the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario. My soul is always so complete when I'm near water. (Probably having something to do with being an Aquarius!) Watching the thick winter ice slowly melt, seeing gorgeous sunsets every night, living carefree from all of our "stuff" since everything we owned was in storage.
The very last week of this month we stepped in to the second house we will own, and began making it ours.

APRIL: Started working at the YMCA in our town. Was originally hired to be a gymnastics coach "helper", and ended up taking over the program!

MAY: I always love May. Two of my favorite boys have birthdays in May (Drew and Husband), and the month between spring and summer makes my heart happy. God is visible in so many ways with new life all around us!

JUNE: I'm so grateful my parents were able to take a trip out to see our new house and new town and new state! We really had a lot of adventures in the week they were here. Also thankful they were in a position to take Louisa back with them for a few weeks. I fondly remember all the time I spent with my grandparents over summer and winter and spring breaks.

JULY: Getting the entire Brott family together, minus one, was a huge blessing! All the cousins playing and having fun for one weekend was a beautiful sight. Thank you, Lord, for bringing us together for one last big family weekend with Dave.

AUGUST: Blessed with the courage, strength, and ability to go back to school! And not just school, but the Culinary Arts program! Thanking the Lord for the chance to use Husband's GI Bill, and for a husband who wants to see me succeed!
Loving my big boy 5-year-old and so proud of all the things he can do now that he's so big!

SEPTEMBER: So grateful all three children got a very good start to school this year. All three have great teachers, are doing extremely well, and are happy. Couldn't ask for more.
A 13-year-old who is well behaved, knows who she is and doesn't let people change her, and is a wonderful big sister. Thank you, Lord, for my sunshine!

OCTOBER: Thankful for the amazing show of colors God gave me. Fall in Nothern New York did not disappoint. My drive to school and work every day made me slow down and just pray, think, and be grateful.

NOVEMBER: Dear Lord, thank you for all the time I've had to spend with my father-in-law. Thank you for letting me help out where and when I was needed. Also, thank you for the chance to see my own dad on his birthday.
Grateful that Husband has the chance to hunt again. He's missed it on the years he couldn't go with his dad.

DECEMBER: (I know it's not here yet, but I have a huge thanks when it gets here.)
Beyond thankful for my story that's being published. I talk about it a lot, but it's my dream come true. Also thankful for the gift of humility that God has given me.

All year long I'm thankful for the people God puts in my life. Everyone has a purpose, a reason for being around me. Everyone helps me grow, makes me think, prays for me when my faith is low, holds me up when I'm feeling down, and gives me high fives when I'm feeling well.
As always, thankful for the chance to be a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a friend.... and the Daughter of God.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

~Dave Brott~ Nov. 19, 1948- Nov. 5, 2010

On Thursday, November 4, we got a call from Husband's mother letting us know that Husband's dad, who had cancer, wasn't doing well. He didn't wake up for more than about 5 minutes at a time, and she seemed worried. Husband spent the night debating on whether or not he should switch his airplane ticket headed for Wisconsin on the 19th (for one final hunting trip with his dad), and leave that weekend. No need. Friday morning at 7:30 am, my mother-in-law called back. Father, Dave, had indeed breathed his last breath. Now we needed to cancel the plane ticket, pack up the family, and drive out to Wisconsin.

I wasn't sure what to do with the kids, but decided not to tell them and send them to school for a partial day so that we could pack, and process the news, in peace. I wrote notes to Drew and Hunter's teachers letting them know what happened, and asked them not to say anything to the boys yet. Louisa had already left for school when we got the call.

We picked everyone up from school halfway through the day. Louisa guessed as soon as she saw us in the office. I felt bad for Drew and Hunter because they thought we were going on a fun adventure when they saw the truck all packed up. An adventure, yes. Fun, no. Drew cried a lot when we told him, Hunter didn't quite understand.

A grueling 20 hour drive straight through got us to Husband's mom's house in the north woods of Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon. His sister was already there, along with some of the best family friends you could ask for. Now for the hard part, funeral planning. It was a long week of meeting with the funeral director, pastor, florist, etc. Buying food for incoming company was on the list as well. My mother-in-law spent every spare minute on the phone trying to contact people, inform people, and cry with people.

Backtracking for a moment to how Dave died, I'll say that it came much sooner than anyone expected. We knew he had cancer. We knew he probably wouldn't be cured. But what we didn't know was how far it was progressed and how fast he would go.

Going forward to the funeral itself, it was a long two days. The wake was on Thursday, November 11 at the funeral home. Everything was nice, as nice as a wake can be. I had put together six picture boards, so it was good to see everyone enjoying those. Friday the 12th Dave was finally laid to rest. He was buried with military honors for serving the United States in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam era, including one tour of duty. I do have to take a moment to say that I have never been prouder of my husband than the moment I saw him stand and salute the flag draped over his father's coffin. To have the honor, and privilege, to salute the flag of a man you look up to as much as Husband looks up to his dad, priceless. Heartbreaking. I cried tears of sadness, and tears of pride. All the deployments, homecomings, ribbons, military honors, nothing meant so much to me as that moment.
I've seen a lot of death, I've been to a lot of funerals. I've grieved and cried, but more importantly I've grown and learned. Each time I take away a bit of wisdom. The sad and tragic deaths where we just don't understand why, and the deaths you see coming or expect, they all teach us something. Do we take that knowledge and grow, or do we stop living and stop seeing what's around us? That's the test. As a Christian, I *know* I will be reunited with my loved ones again. As a strong person who's seen a lot of death, I know I'll make it through each and every time. In tact, whole, and that much wiser. Sure, I give a piece of my heart every time, but that doesn't mean there isn't enough of my heart left for everything else that's still ahead of me. It just means that a piece of me lives with my loved one, until some day I see them and can reclaim it again in my Father's Kingdom. Death is not the end. I firmly believe that. It's a beginning, and one that many of us work hard for.

All week long I felt God working in me. Giving me strength, grace, and compassion when I needed it the most. I have yet to fully grieve for my lost father-in-law, of whom I have always felt a close connection. But until I'm ready, I hang on to the signs that God gave me. During the week we spent preparing the funeral, God was with us, showing us His love in signs like a beautiful bald eagle perched fearlessly atop a tree above our heads, sunny 60 degree weather where the kids could run outside and enjoy the Brott family land, and a beautiful scene like this one as we left Northern Wisconsin to head back home. (Yes, the beautiful weather gave way to snow just in time for us to leave!)


My father-in-law was a good, loving, hard working man. He raised my husband to be a good, loving, hard working man. For that I am forever grateful. My husband is so very much like his dad, and for that I am proud. I am raising two amazing boys who will carry on the Brott name. For that I'm honored. Dave is now resting in heaven with his daughter Tabitha, his mother, and the father that died so young Dave barely got to know him. For that I praise the Lord! Thank you, Lord, for giving us Dave. The smiles, the jokes, and the wisdom will stay with us forever.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

2,996

Thinking about you today, and every day, Mr. John Napolitano Sr.
All the families of the 2,996 lost are in my thoughts and prayers.

By the way, Mr. John, if you read this I expect a tour when I come down to NYC!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A Letter to Hunter as He Sets Forth on a New Journey

{8-12-2005}

Dear Hunter,

You are about to start a new journey. One that I am both excited and sad about. During this journey I can't be there with you to make sure you behave in class, or wash your hands after you use the bathroom, or eat the fruit in your lunch before the cookies. I won’t know when you fall and get hurt, and I won’t be there to give you a hug and wipe your tears. When you get tired and crabby, I won’t be there to sit you on my lap and rock you and sing silly songs until you feel better.

Today I’ll take your pudgy little dimpled hand in mine and we’ll walk in to your new classroom. I’ll leave you to the magic of Kindergarten, full of new ideas and new friends. As I walk away, I might have a tear in my eye. But that’s ok. It’s because I’m so proud of the big boy you’ve become. It’s because I can’t believe how fast time has flown by. And it’s because I cherish the little boy that you still are.

This year you will learn many new things, and grow so big! I can’t wait to hear about everything that you do at school. You are full of wonderful stories and I know you will have a lot to share with me every day when you get home.

Have a great year in Kindergarten, Bubba. I’ll be waiting here at home every day when you get off the bus to hear all about your adventures.

Love, Mom

{8-12-2010}

Friday, September 03, 2010

Intro to Culinary Arts 101 ~or~ Late and Clueless, as Usual

Most people who go to college, or back to college, have several fears. There's the typical fear of showing up to class completely naked, or failing a class that you really need to pass. One of the worst fears has to be wandering around a strange building on your first day (or week) and not being able to find your classroom.

Let me back up a bit. This morning I was very nervous for my first Intro to Culinary Arts 101 class. It's a 5 hour class every Friday and the book is huge! So I was intimidated. I left the house 40 minutes early for a 30 minute drive. I ended up getting to the school with 7 minutes to spare. Which would have been great if I didn't pull in to the faculty parking lot first. I drove by this half-empty parking lot and thought "Hey, why isn't anyone parking here?" and then pulled in. I drove in a little circle, found my parking spot and was approached by a security guard who asked if I had a parking permit. Um... noooooo (smile sweetly). Back out of my nice cozy parking space near the building I needed to be in and drive aaalllllllllllll the way around the building to the back parking lot for "students" and park. In the back. Of the parking lot. Extra seven minutes totally lost.

Ok, but we're still good. If I walk quickly I can get to the door and find my class easily. I remember right where the hallway is from my orientation tour last week. I think. As I march in to the school with pride, my steps slowly lose steam and I realize I actually have no clue where I'm going. Walk down this hall.... no room 012. Walk down that hall.... there's a gymnasium, workout room, locker room.... no room 012. I backtrack a little bit, walk down a few hallways I've already been down, and 15 minutes go by. 15 minutes *after* my class started! My heart is thumping like crazy, my mind is about numb from freaking out. I finally get up the courage to ask someone just where in the heck room 012 is because I'm 15 minutes late and oh my gosh I just need to get to my classroom right NOW!!!!!!!! Oh, down there, across from the bookstore? Ya, I walked by that a hundred times. Ahahahaaaaaa (nervous laughter)

Finally, I walk in to the classroom and just my luck someone else is as late as me. Yay! It's always a good feeling when you're not the only screw-up. I was able to get a seat and receive the syllabus excitement free.

My next obstacle came when I realized I was one of few people in the room who had no "kitchen" background. And by that I mean, professional, working in a kitchen of a restaurant. Any restaurant be that pizzerria, buffet, cafeteria, sit down, fast food, etc. Out of 20 students, three of us just like to "cook at home". I hate being in the minority! Another subject I was in the minority of was that I seemed to be the only one who didn't know we need a chef's uniform and our own cutlery. I mean, how would I know that?! Everyone in class knew because they had been in a culinary class before, or because the bookstore people told them. I, of course, fell in to neither catagory. But yes, sadly, we went and spent quite a large sum today on cutlery for me. I ordered my uniform online, praying that with the holiday weekend it gets here by next Friday.

Here is all of my lovely cooking utensils that were required. I chose to buy a toolbox to carry it in because I heard one of the other students ask the teacher if she wanted us to buy toolboxes or cutlery bags. She said it didn't matter.I also chose to buy my own measuring cups and spoons because the kitchen director said that with a class as large as ours it might be best to buy our own, but we didn't have to.

That brings me to my next freak out moment. The kitchen itself. I have no idea what anything in that kitchen is! Ok, not "anything", but close. It's a professional kitchen. Like I said before, I know nothing about them! Being in one and having the teacher and kitchen director go "here's this and this and this and this.... here's the rules.... yadda yadda..... ok, off you go, good luck!" makes it even more intimidating.

Now I need to be off and reading my first 4 chapters of my very large 40 chapter textbook. And hopefully next Friday won't be as hard. At least I'll know where my classroom is! That's a start.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Culinary Arts School ~ or ~ Let's see what Chaos Mommy can burn in someone else's kitchen!

It's about that time. My life as a lazy, good for nothing, lay about are done. I'm off to get me an education at one of them there.... colleges. Higher learning, they call it.

When the idea struck me that I could finally go back to school this fall (what with having all three kidlin's in school for the first time), I had to go through the college catalog and pick a direction. There weren't a lot of choices since it's a small "two year" college, but one degree struck me the second I saw it. I didn't know if it was something I could actually pursue, though. To me, people who get their culinary arts degree want to work in big fancy uptown restaurants and serve their specialty every Friday night to the wealthy masses. Simple little folk like me don't go for degrees like that. Surely not.

A few short months later, and here I am: the eve of my first day of school. With the help and support of my amazing husband (and the GI Bill he's worked so hard for), I have my books and am all ready to start. Kind of. Gotta get rid of these blasted butterflies first. I'm not one for sitting in classrooms where I'm actually expected to, you know, participate. So yes, why am I going to *school* then?! Because I know that once I get there, I'll get over it.

Tomorrow I start two of my three classes this semester. Introduction to Hospitality, and Safety and Sanitation. I'm sure the latter will be loads of fun. My technical degree name will be an AAS in Hospitality with a Culinary concentration. That means I get to take mostly culinary classes. And my dream of owning an independent book store with pastry shop attached is now just *that* much closer!

Off I go... college student. Again. For real this time, though. I mean, no dropping out. Really, really going to make it work. Hopefully.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

More Garden Signs

At my mom's family reunion every year they have a homemade gift giveaway. After I made the signs for my dad, I thought I'd make one for my mom's reunion also. This is what I came up with.

The Girl Creative

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Father's Day Garden Sign Posts

My dad is an avid gardener. Every year for as long as I can remember, he's had a garden. When I was little I remember going out back to pick my mom some tomatoes for dinner. Or watching my dog, aptly named Tomato, run through the vegetable garden, smashing whatever was in his way. When I got older, we moved away from a house with a back yard to an apartment with very little yard. My dad soon discovered the community gardens in town. Every night after work in the summer he would drive across town to the garden to water his veggies. Many times I would meet him there, and once in awhile I would have already beat him to it.

Gardening is something my dad grew up with also. His father tended a garden in his backyard until the summer before he died. After all, our surname *is* "Farmer" :)

I wanted to make my dad something that would go in his garden for Father's Day this year. Something that would last, that he could use year after year. I decided on some garden sign posts that mark where (and what) his veggies are. Some nice, big, visible signs unlike the dinky ones you buy in the store. Because once your garden is full grown, those small signs become lost in the foliage.

We had some scrap wood sitting around from a closet that my husband tore down when we first moved in to this house. He used most of it to build shelves in the basement, but had some left over. I was eying up the two 2x8's for my project. They were wide, and sturdy.

Here's a list of my materials:

~Two 2x8's cut in to 10x8 rectangles (I got 12 signs out of this and I only need 9 for my project)
~20 inch Wooden Garden Stakes (we again used scrap wood to make them, but you can buy them at any garden store)
~#150 Sandpaper
~Acrylic Paint & Paint Brushes
~Outdoor Polyurethane (spray on or brush on)
~Hammer & Nails

1) Husband did the cutting for me on his saw, but you can also use a hand saw. And yes, any girl can do this on her own :) It was just easier to have him whip through them for me quick.2) I sanded each piece of wood on all four of the edges, and the one face that I was going to paint.

3) I painted the sign with one coat of blue acrylic paint. This particular color is Apple Barrel's Pool Blue. I think the blue will stand out nicely against all the green when the garden is full grown. I only used one coat because I liked the look of the wood grain through the paint.
4) I painted on name of the vegetable and a picture of it. This one is tomato, obviously. I will also need to do green beans, sweet corn, strawberries, cucumbers, squash, peppers, blackberries, and raspberries. Make one sign for each item in your (or your recipient's) garden. You can even go a little crazy and label all your fruit trees!

5) Once paint is completely dry, spray or brush on several coats of outdoor polyurethane. Let dry in between each coat, and then let dry before moving to next step.

6) Nail the wooden stakes to the back of the sign. Place a piece of cardboard under the sign first so you don't scratch the face of it. If you do scratch it, just add another coat of polyurethane to protect it.
Now your sign is finished! Give it away, or stick it in your garden and admire all summer.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Play-Dough

I've tried a few play-dough recipes before that didn't turn out well. Either too sticky, or too stiff. This recipe feels exactly like the store bought stuff. And since I used mostly generic ingredients, I'm guessing it's cheaper. I'll have to figure out the cost one day to see if it's always worth me just making my own.

~The Play-Dough Recipe~

4 cups all purpose Flour
2 tbsp Cream of Tartar
1 cup Salt
4 cups Water
2 tbsp Oil (canola, veggie, etc)
Food coloring

1. Mix dry ingredients in a saucepan. You could mix them in a separate bowl if that's how you usually do it, but it just unnecessarily dirties an extra dish.
2. Mix in water and oil and choice of food coloring.
3. Heat mixture on medium heat, stirring constantly.
4. Keep mixing until play-dough is no longer sticky, and resembles a real play-dough type texture. Around 10 minutes. It does get hard to stir after awhile, but keep at it!
5. When it looks like this, it's done.

6. Place on counter top, or I used a cookie sheet since I have *very* little counter space. Knead a few times, about 10 or so. It's warm so let it cool if you can't touch it yet. After I kneaded it, I spread it out on the cookie sheet to cool completely before letting the kids have at it.
This recipe yielded approx. 6 cups, or two of these 3 cup containers.

You can halve or quarter this recipe easily, to make more colors. I chose orange because it's Hunter's favorite.
And then it's time to create!



The Girl Creative

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Our Bamboo Forest

Behind the garage is a sort of raised garden thingy. We aren't really sure what it's for, and none of our neighbors have ever seen anything there but the bamboo forest that currently takes it over.

When we first moved in, this is what the "garden" looked like.

There was also quite a bit of trash thrown back there by the previous owners. Our neighbor told us they weren't sure what was growing back there, but the other owners had chopped it down several times while living here and it always grew back.

Well no wonder it kept growing back: it's bamboo!
Husband did a little research and found out bamboo is one of the fastest growing and multiplying plants there is. Another thing he found out is that bamboo can generate quite the revenue. I'm not so sure about that, though. I don't know the source because he was reading through several websites, but one said you can sell 1/4 acre of bamboo for about $90,000. I know that bamboo is an invaluable resource. It's considered "green" because it can grow in so many climates, and because of how fast it grows. "Renewable" is one of those words that I often hear when talking about bamboo. I'm just not so sure I believe the price per acre we saw quoted. I wish I had saved that website so I could site my source.

So, now you ask, "Why would you want to get rid of such a great resource as bamboo?" (And even if you don't ask that) I answer, "Because I want a vegetable garden and the 'raised garden' is the best place to put one". I don't think I'll get to have my veggie garden this year, though. We have to wait and watch to make sure no more bamboo grows. If it does, which is likely because I'm sure Husband didn't get *all* the roots out, we have to pluck it as soon as we see it. Also, we have a big fat woodchuck living back there who will clean my garden out in one fell swoop. Another reason we needed to chop down the forest: home to too many critters we didn't want around.

Here is what we started with last week on Friday. Lots of big, tall, green bamboo. I kept telling Louisa she could finally have that panda she's always wanted.

This is what it looked like after Husband chopped it all down.

And here's the garden now, more or less. Three days and two broken shovels later.Yes, there's Drew stacking wood. The wood was in the garage and taking up too much room. I couldn't park my truck in the garage as it was, so we moved the wood. As stated in a previous post, apparently we're going to need this wood come winter.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How to Make a PB&J... according to Hunter

Hunter is my constant companion in the kitchen. Whether I like it or not! Of course, I love having a little helper most of the time. Except when I'm in a rush and need to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less. On those days, he's my table setter. As long as he gets to help with kitchen duties in some way, he's happy. (Believe me, I rarely complain about it!)

Yesterday he got tired of waiting for me to make him lunch, so he made it by himself. As he was getting his supplies out, I noticed he was talking to himself. Or better yet, his audience. He was saying things like, "Now you get the jelly out of the refrigerator..." Too cute! I grabbed the video camera quick and after a few takes this is what we got.

**Just a note, I beg you with all I have in me to ignore my house! Hunter and I had been playing all morning and I was just about to start cleaning. I never did get around to cleaning! We ended up playing the rest of the day. ha! And yes, he's actually making his sandwich in the living room. Hey, when inspiration strikes, we go with it!

video
{Part One}


video
{Part Two}

And yes, the grown-up did end up cleaning the mess! Bless him for always being a cure for my insanity.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

You May Be Wondering...

...just what in the world is going on in the lives of the Chaos Family! Or, likely not.

We're settled in Northern New York in a cute little town not too far from Fort Drum army base. We bought a gorgeous Queen Anne Victorian built in 1900. The house once fell into great disrepair, and has since been renovated by some of the previous owners. We are busy adding our touches to the house as well.
So far we've ripped the plaster walls down in the living room, dry walled, painted, added crown molding and baseboard. Right now we are taking down wall paper in Louisa's room and painting. As soon as I'm done painting her room, I'll paint our gorgeous foyer. It's got some of the most beautiful wood work I've ever seen, but the walls are stark white. I'd like to soften that up a bit.
Then (yes, much more!) we'll tear down wall paper in our dining room and paint that, tear down wall paper in Hunter's room and paint with a Super Mario theme (hopefully!). Drew's room is quite small and far down at the end of the upstairs hallway. There's a small alcove next to it, so Daddy plans to tear down Drew's wall and open up his room in to the alcove. It'll make his room twice as big as it is now.
Next year's project will be giving Me a new kitchen! This kitchen is quite small and, um... very Blue! There's also quite a bit of work to do in the yard that will wait until next year.
However, by saying we're doing all this work I feel the need to make it clear that we don't *need* to do all this work. This house is great as is! It's just that, we finally get to own a house that we get to put the money in to, so we *want* to do all this! It's fun :) For the most part! Except when a certain well-meaning husband doesn't cover anything... anything at all! in plastic before he tears down the old plaster walls and your house is completely covered in a fine coat of dust that takes weeks to clean!

Now, for the purpose of showing off our beautiful find... our house!
~all pictures were taken the day we bought the house, around the end of March.

{This is our house! Porch is not wrap around, but there is a front and back porch. Porch swing came included and it has been used often!}

{There is also a two car garage, fenced in back yard, and some really nice neighbors!}

{This is the foyer! So pretty! Still trying to find a runner that is long enough. It needs to be about 10 feet long.}

{Stairs and stained glass window in foyer.}

{Closer view of stained glass window.}

{This room is right off the foyer. I've since decorated it with some paintings that an uncle of mine did and blue barn stars. It has a small TV in it, but will mostly be used as a sitting room. There is a full bathroom off this room.}

{This is the old living room. I'll show updated pictures another time.}

{Dining room. The wall paper is quite interesting. All the scenes show women and children working, and men relaxing. Ha!}

{Heading toward the back of the house, this is the stove room. Apparently here in N. New York, I'll need this wood burning stove in the winter. The previous owners bought a fridge too big for the kitchen, so it sits in here. The "brick" is actually wood paneling. That will definitely come down!}

{I feel so blue.... It wouldn't be so bad if they hadn't of painted all the trim blue as well. I get it, they liked blue and wanted a little country kitchen, but why the trim?! That's going to be a lot of work covering up. You can see all the counter space I have. That's it. The micro will have to go above the oven to give myself more room. Oh, and that's all the cabinets there are, too. Above the micro and sink is just shelving. I do like the pot rack, but haven't used it yet.}

Behind the kitchen is the back door, door to the basement (which is really nice!), and a huge walk in pantry. There are many old world details in this house that I hate to replace like old fashioned door knobs and light switches. The ceilings are high, the floors are original wood, and much of the trim is original. I feel so blessed to live in this piece of history. I'm also glad I get to be a part of keeping it up for future residents.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I *Heart* New York

So far so good! We've been in Northern New York since February 12. As I was expecting, it's worlds different from Louisiana. We'll have to adjust to the weather a little bit, especially once my "vacation" period ends and I have to get back in the world. It's such a strange feeling to have everything in your life come to a halt and you get suspended in limbo for short while.

I'll explain.

When we were in Louisiana I worked a part time job, lead a Girl Scout troop, had normal household chores, friends and play dates... you get the idea. Now that we're here in New York I'm on vacation. ALL of our worldly belongings are in storage and we're living in a cute little vacation house overlooking Lake Ontario. The house is big enough to make us comfortable for a short term stay, but small enough to make us *really* appreciate the 2700 sq ft house we bought! There are 3 bedrooms here, and a kitchen, living area, and bathroom. It's so much better than staying in a hotel. But, there's nothing to do. There isn't much to clean, I have nothing to fix or fiddle with like I would in my own house, nothing to decorate, not a lot of room to cook my masterpieces. Like I said, I'm on vacation in limbo.

The kids are in school now, they just started back this past Thursday. We wanted to wait to make sure everything with the house we bought was solid before we got the kids in a school. I'd hate to have to pull them out of yet another school. They left their school in Louisiana easily enough, but we don't need unnecessary moves. Soon we'll get the kids in their sports and scouts and we'll finally get back to normal. I know. I guess I should enjoy this break. How many people say they would LOVE to have the opportunity to sit and do nothing for 4-6 weeks?! After we move in to our new house and start all the projects we have planned, I'll wish for down time.

Back to our new home. Locals call our area North Country. It's north, it's cold, and it's rugged. We're at the tip of mountains up here, so it's rocky terrain. They talk about "elevation" a lot, which amuses Husband and I. The weather guys will say things like "expect more snowfall in higher elevations". We're flatlanders by birth, so we're getting used to the hill people life now. The natives here in Northern New York are just as tough as those you'd see south of us in the big NYC. They endure the harsh winters like their neighbors the Canadians (which, by the way, I can see out my vacation house window right now). These people love their history, and their roots are deep here. Instead of building fancy new subdivision after fancy new subdivision, they fix up all the gorgeous old houses. When we went house hunting (a tiring week of looking at about 20 houses), we saw some beautiful turn key, 100+ year old houses. Most didn't fit us, or weren't in the school district we really wanted. But luckily for us, at the very last minute before we were about to "settle" on a house, an amazing Victorian that Husband had his eye on had a deal fall through and we snatched it up. It was built in 1900 and we're so proud to own a piece of history like this. We hope we can continue along the lines of the previous owners and add our touch to the house to keep it proud for years to come.

Husband goes back to work in a week and a half, and we move in to our new house shortly after. My vacation will be over. I guess until then, I'll find things to occupy myself with, and be grateful.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's about that time...

It's about that time, to close up another chapter in my book. The chapter titled "Life and Times of a Soldier's Wife Living in the Boondocks of Louisiana". Long title, I know. Boy has it been a challenge living at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Anyone who's been stationed here will tell you how hard it can be. Nothing but a Walmart for shopping, very little to entertain ourselves with, and "fancy dining" is the local steakhouse (that doesn't even taste very good).

But guess what? We survived! We survived three long years here, and have finally been blessed with orders to move on. New York here we come! New York state, not city. There's a huge difference. We'll actually be 5 hours north of the City. So hopefully we can venture down there once, maybe twice. After all, we only got to New Orleans once since living here, and that's because my parents wanted to see a Mardi Gras parade there last year. We like to travel and see things, but we just haven't done much in Louisiana. We went to Texas several times to tour around.

Fort Drum, New York will be a whole new experience. We're moving back to the colder climates, after our bodies have adjusted to these beautiful 60* sunny January days down here in the sub-tropics. We're moving back to the greatest of lakes, except instead of the western side of Lake Michigan (like in our hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin), we'll be on the eastern side of Lake Ontario, and we'll be back on *our* side of the Mississippi!

We're looking forward to this new adventure. Like any good military family, we roll with the punches, and look at each move as an adventure!