A Frightfully Fun Halloween Party for Any Age

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My daughter, Shyanne, is the queen of Halloween.  She drives an old, lifted Jeep Cherokee with a life sized skeleton named Victor in the front seat all year.  When Shyanne invited me to her Halloween day with my other daughter and granddaughter, I didn’t hesitate (never turn down opportunities to be with loved ones).  I hopped in the car with my witch hat and headed to the eastern plains.

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Now there is nothing quite like the sound of a five year old’s bent-over, belly laugh.  And that is what I was met with.  “You look like a unicorn!” Maryjane wailed, a twinkle in her eye.  “I am a witch!” I declared.  “Looks like a unicorn to me.”

There were crafts laid out, and snacks galore, spooky music met me when I entered through the door.  I got straight to work, for this Grammie has a role.  I make the best Halloween hamburgers (veggie burgers) this side of the veil.  I sneaked the bits of cheese from cutting out eyes and mouths to my scary granddog.

Witch’s brew was put on, just like when the children were small.  Ah, it does not seem like it was that long ago at all.  A jug of apple juice or cider, a handful of brown sugar, a good sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice and let that begin to simmer then serve.

Shyanne put on a spread of easy treats, crackers and chips and cookies.  We decorated warm sugar cookies with edible watercolors and sprinkles.

We made puppets out of tongue depressors glued to construction paper cutouts that we glued googly eyes to.  Shyanne had carefully pre-cut Frankenstein heads, pumpkins, bats, and ghosts out.  We painted and glued and sprinkled our way into the Halloween spirit.  I did notice that is hard to get into the spirit when no children are present.  This was a welcome party for me.

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“The neighbors are going to wonder what is going on,” Emily said, as Maryjane and I danced to Disney songs and howled loudly like werewolves.

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Emily posing with her pumpkins. She is very ready for the new baby to come! (a few more weeks!)
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Maryjane’s broom. It’s a compact like my Fiat.

Pumpkins were carved, and we danced, and sang.  Halloween parties can be impromptu and easy.  For any age, for us older children regress rather quickly in the sight of sugar cookies and glue sticks.  I hope you find a few ideas to incorporate into your own spooky Halloween day!

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Giving Outdated Throw Pillows a Second Life

It occurs to me that sewing might be one of those lost arts.  My cousin and my youngest daughter have expressed a desire to learn.  My older daughter zips away on her machine making pillows for her house that is being built.  It is probably a little unusual for her age.  I can certainly sew, but I am limited in what I know how to do.  I don’t often use patterns and wish I knew more so that I could make elaborate clothing and such.  Anymore though, you can purchase a machine from a craft store and they will throw in sewing lessons.  If you do sew, it is time to take your machine out and freshen up the house for autumn.

Throw pillows always add a dash of personality and color to a space but they begin to look tattered or out of date fairly quickly sometimes.  Today we are taking old throw pillows (or new pillow fills) and giving them a new look.

These are very simple and can be done by hand if one does not have a machine.

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I used a new pillow because these are going into my new shop, but I will be doing this with my old pillows for my house as well.

Measure the pillow, then measure your fabric, adding 1 inch on all sides.

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Iron!  I am the type of dreaded housewife that does not iron.  Lord, if it needs to be ironed, it doesn’t get bought or it ends up in a pile of ironing for close to five years.  But, as my grandma taught me, you must iron in sewing.  Period.  Now, iron your fabric so it looks all pretty.

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Fold fabric in half inside out.  The folded edge is one edge you don’t have to sew!  Pin the sides, leave bottom open.  Sew each side, giving it about a half inch seam.  Take out pins and run your hand along side to make sure you got them all!  (Camouflaged little suckers.)

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Now flip right side out and use a chop stick or the like to gently push out corners.

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Place pillow inside and fold in bottom seam and pin tautly together.  Hand sew or machine sew.

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Easy as that!  Now, I took that pillow before we started and used a large needle and yarn to pierce all the way through the pillow and back out, tying securely to create a crease in the middle.  So when the pillow is done, you can see that little indentation.  I carefully wove a piece of yard through the fabric and top layer of the pillow and brought back through and tied a ribbon.

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But then I found a pretty button so fastened that on!  You could also hem the open bottom instead of sewing it closed and sew on adjacent ribbons to tie closed.  That way you can change your pillow covers and wash them.

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Throw pillows can generally be washed in the washer and floofed and dried in the dryer.  If a fabric is particularly fine, place it inside a bigger pillow case and wash and dry it that way.

Simply Crafting a Spring Wreath

20180226_141926We tiptoe towards March.  We are almost there!  Spring, I see you!  Tiny dandelion leaves and grasses push through winter’s brush.  The finches breasts are turning rouge and father sun greets us earlier.

Yesterday I noted the large plastic poinsettia wreath still gracing my door and the pine swags sweeping around the porch.  Time to welcome spring, I thought, as I gathered the remaining yuletide greetings and put them away.

I have been planning on creating a spring wreath to share with you all.  I had plans to go to the craft store and pick up a glue gun and plastic daffodils, maybe bells, and this and that to display.  Even though a lovely jumble of faux flowers would look sweet and welcoming I didn’t want to purchase more stuff.

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I have a grapevine wreath.  Its natural woven texture preferred over more plastic.  Then I scoured the house.  I uncovered a purple ribbon that will just highlight my door.  A feather from the hen house that parades as a hawk feather (Araucanas have the loveliest feathers).  And finally baby’s breath from the bouquet of two dozen roses my husband gave me for our anniversary.

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It is much more simple than I would have imagined.  Yet graceful and organically welcomes spring.  Nothing is glued on so I can change it in a few months if I wish.  A wreath on the front door symbolizes welcome.  The circle being the universal sign for family, community, and strength.  Adorning a simple wreath with seasonal finds is satisfying and welcomes our dear friend spring back to the land.

How to Make Your Own Witchhazel

 

IMG_2302I held the bottle of witchhazel in my hands at the store and wondered why it was clear.  Plant extracts are never clear!  There are pigments in plants.  I decided to make my own.  That was years ago and my face wash in my shop was one of my best sellers.  It is astringent without being drying.  It clears skin.  It heals up wounds.  It works as deodorant.  It has many uses.  So, are you ready to see how easy it is to make?  Here is my recipe.

You will need 4 Tablespoons of either witch hazel bark or leaf.  If using to heal varicose veins (yes, topically it does this) then get the bark.  If you are not lucky enough to have it growing by you (it does not grow in Colorado) then you will need to order some.  mountainroseherbs.com or starwest_botanicals.com are both good sources.

Place the 4 Tablespoons in a pint canning jar.  At this point I like to add other herbs.  Calendula, lavender, and roses are all lovely on the skin.  Goldenseal and arnica could be added for wounds.  Nettle for bug bites.  Yarrow could be added for veins.  A fresh leaf of aloe.  Maybe 2 Tablespoons total of extra herbs.  It doesn’t really matter, you can’t mess it up!

Now pour vodka over the herbs leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Yes, all extracts whether in shampoo or witch hazel are indeed alcohol based.  Alcohol is what pulls the plant medicines from the plant.  Screw on lid and label what you put in it and the date.  You will likely forget, trust me!

Place in window for two weeks, shaking when you see it.  Now the base is complete.

It is important to cut this extract as it would be too strong for the skin.  1 part base to 3 parts water will make a lovely extract.  Add some essential oils and make your own face wash/deodorant.  This is a great gift.  Add aloe or a tea of chamomile and comfrey for a wound healer.  Use in a spray bottle with essential oils to make a room spray.  Or a facial spray.

Witchhazel is a wonderful thing to keep on hand.  Now that you see how easy it is to make I hope you will whip up a batch!

 

 

Organizing the Good Life

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I encourage people to follow their dreams and to live a simple life.  A busy life, but on their own terms.  We aren’t quitting our jobs to sit around and watch television!  We do a lot of things to make ends meet and have a little change left over to play.  We farm, we make medicines (though the bulk of the retail aspect I sold), we teach, we write.  We take care of animals, start seedlings, answer emails, promote our farm, and kiss baby lambs.  It’s rough work, I tell you.  But we could easily get overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done.

The office supply section at the store is adorable and fun to look at but those bulletin boards and mini-dry erase boards will fill up what I have to do in the next two hours, let alone the week!  And they are quite pricey.

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I have done a few posts about black board paint.  If you want to learn how to create it, click here.  Here is yet another idea for the blackboard wall (or door, or table, or whatever).

A large section of the kitchen or office, or living room for that matter, wall can be taped off, four layers of black board paint added, let dry for four days, and tada, a charming country organizer has just been made, at a fraction of the price, may I add.

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You could add milking schedules, what the kids need to take to school, countdown to quitting your job, grocery list, to do list, honey do list, menu plan, anything you need to keep organized this week!

We might be really busy, but we are doing what we want, and having a grand time of it.  My uncle passed away yesterday and he led an interesting and fun life, always teasing, always had a glint of mischief in his eye.  May we live our lives to the fullest.  I love this saying below.  It encourages me to live, play, rest, and work hard…and indulge a bit.  Life is short!

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Painted Letters

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It’s too cold still to be gardening here and most of my projects are completed for the winter.  This is the time of year that I recoup, reinspire, rediscover.  I hope you have followed along and completed your lists of things you love, things you are okay with, things you dislike, and things you want to try.  If not, click here!  We have written poetry, and broken writing rules, and today we paint.

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I finished the book “Paris Letters” by Janice Macleod, a lovely tale about a young woman that sold everything she had, and took the leap to Paris.  Where, incidentally, she meets a romantic and not bad looking fellow.  She began to carry watercolors around with her and painted scenes that became stationary for her Paris Letters.

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After completing my list of what I love to do, what I am okay doing, what I dislike doing, what I want to try, I was surprised to see painting on my okay with, not what I can’t wait to do list.  I think by the time I find all the paints, the canvas, the easel, and drag everything where I want it, I am too tired to paint.  Presently, my paintings are being displayed at the local coffee shop.  I did expect to have all new paintings there, but alas I have not painted in a year!

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I decided to go get a two dollar pack of watercolors and watercolor paper.  It fits in my ginormous bag that I carry with me everywhere (filled with books, tinctures, salves, day timer, phone, and Maryjane’s toys).  I put water into a small canning jar and put that in my bag too.  I can easily sit and paint at the spur of the moment.  In two weeks, I have completed five paintings.  None that should win awards, but perhaps delight the recipient.

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I painted an elementary picture of Elsa, the baby goat, beneath an elm tree for my pen pal, Holly.  (Want to be my pen pal?  Click on the pen pal post!)  I painted a rosemary plant and wrote a heartfelt letter to Nancy before she died.  I painted a simple tea cup while at the coffee shop and sent it to my other pen pal, Debbie.  I painted a duck yesterday at the coffee shop and wrote a letter to my great aunt Lila.  Then last night I painted a cast iron skillet for my great aunt Donna.

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Aunt Donna called me a week and a half ago after reading the Homesteading Oven post and said, “Now I know you don’t like electronics, but you need an oven!  How can Shyanne bake without an oven?”  And so, my dear aunt graciously and generously bought us a stove.  So, the skillet will go out in the mail today to serve as a thank you note.

All of a sudden I am painting again and connecting with people.  I encourage you to pick up a two dollar watercolor kit and fool around painting in the coffee shop.  We have time.  It’s not time to garden yet.

Support Your Local Homestead!

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For centuries women have tended the home and the family and on the side sold things made by their hands to help support their family.  It seems to be an innate instinct in us.  Many homesteaders are entrepreneurs.  In this economy it can be scary out there.  What can we do to make sure we can put food on the table?  What can we craft, make, sell excess of, teach?  There are many opportunities to start a homestead business.  I have always told my homeschooled children that I would rather them make a smaller amount of money and work their own hours taking pride in making things from their own hands then to be cooped up in a cubicle day in and day out unappreciated!

Over here, we are trying to reinvent our business. (Doug and I will be doing markets as well.) Trying to be resourceful to appeal to the public and the community so that we can put food on our table while helping those around us.  Nancy is looking for the same thing.  We absorbed everything Joel Salatin told us in an intimate gathering and farm to table dinner last summer.  We have read books.  I have actually exhausted every single farming book available to me in the library system. (Can someone please publish another one?  I need something to read!)  We feel the need pulsing through our blood streams to become farmers.  There are no books specific to us.  We are not in our early twenties.  We do not qualify for the term “Greenhorns”.  Pity, it is such a fun name!  Most of the farmers are older and are retiring.  There are only names signifying possible craziness when two middle aged women want to become farmers.  But boy do we look cute out in the garden!  What we do have is collective business experience, a youthful exuberance and tons of energy and ideas, and two daughters willing to tag along and help!  We have computer savvy husbands with two sets of extra strong hands.  We have support.  We have creativity and a great collection of cute farmgirl clothes and aprons.  Oh my goodness, I can’t wait to wear my bonnet at markets!  Somewhere it will fit in!

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Many great businesses have been started by resourceful women…and men.  The local businesses on your street need their community in order to survive.  What you can do is support these businesses.  The same people you see at the bank, at the grocery store, in your church.  These people need your help.  I wish I could tell people, even people that shop at my store, that every time they go purchase herbal medicines and salves at the big health food store, they put me that much closer to going out of business.  Every time one goes to Cost Cutters instead of the single mom cutting hair, she can’t pay one of her bills.  Big corporations pay their bills just fine.  We small businesses are often cheaper, you get more, you get more quality, and yet we are forgotten in the shadow of a big store.  Granted if no one in my neighborhood is crafting shovels and I need one, I go to Walmart.  I won’t lie.  But there are so many shops on our quiet Main street that could supply a wealth of what people are looking for.  Farmer’s markets help bring the people together.  I don’t know about all the tents of people selling stuff they bought.  Packaged pancake mixes and magical weight loss mixtures, but those that make and craft and grow.  Those are my heroes, the ones I want to help.

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Nancy and I are making rich soaps, all organic ingredients.  Made from her goat’s milk.  We have made them beautiful, simple, clean.  I am making my famous lotion, renaming it Farmgirl Face and Body Cream for the markets.  I have made soy wax candles in darling coffee cups.  I have made aprons, double stitched and darling, a staple for any farm girl.  I have planted rows and rows of greens.  Nancy has planted even more rows and rows…and rows of greens!  We have herbs growing.  My dining room is overflowing with over-wintered herbs for cooking.  Our spoiled rotten (but adorable) chickens are all laying and we will sell our combined rations of fresh eggs with their beautiful orange yolks.  Nancy and Faleena will be busy baking muffins, breads, pies, and other goodies.  Emily is hand roasting organic coffee beans and designing the packaging.  She is also selling cups of coffee at the market with fresh goat’s milk and sugar.  Emily and I spent an afternoon developing many medicinal tea blends and packaging them.  We have organic green and black teas to offer as well.  Medicinal honeys add a sweet touch to administering medicine and our collection of extracts that have been our staple for years will be there as well.  We have fresh preserves, jams, beets, zucchini and more that we have sat in hot kitchens canning.  Emily is making organic baby food.  Faleena is spreading the word about us in the media world.  Doug has made us a darling logo and is making our labels and banners.  Steve tilled up the soil for Nancy.  We are set!  We are ready!  Come out and say hello to us at markets!  (And you can certainly go “like” our page on Facebook.. https://www.facebook.com/5Farmgirls?ref=hl ) Farm to table dinners….classes….the ideas are endless.

flower power (The youngest Farmgirl, Maryjane, will be at markets)

What homestead business could you start?  What is your skill and passion?  And what business could you support to keep your local economy, nay your neighbors, strong?

Love Wrapped Up in Stitches

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I’ve been a busy bee these past months.  Our first grandchild is coming in four short weeks or less and I cannot tell you the buzz of excitement around here! (I am using a lot of bee terms…I am also excited for my bees to arrive in April!)  We have a baby shower this weekend that will fill the capacity of the coffee shop I am using and there were still many more people I would have liked to invite!  It is a great thing when friends and family gather around a soon to be mom and support her.  Community is an amazing thing!

This journey has brought us closer, has created a new place in our lives to fill with joy, and has made me very thankful for each moment.  There are moments when we are forced to realize our good fortune and no longer take for granted that everyone has a healthy pregnancy, or that everyone gives birth, or that everyone’s child grows up.  A friend of Emily’s, who was going to come to the shower as they have been going through their pregnancies together, and supporting each other, lost her baby at seven months pregnant.  A perfect baby girl was born yesterday at two pounds, with defined fingers, curly black hair, and a cord around her neck.  A cruel thing to have to deliver a dead baby and such a young mom left in the wake of grief.  I was moved to tears for this sweet young woman.  There is a bond all around the world amongst women, those we do not even know, one that can never be fully understood or explained, a connection in motherhood, one that sympathizes with each emotion involved.  And all I can do is pray for her, powerless to take away her sadness.

Our hearts beat a little faster as we ask Emily, “Did the baby move today?”  Place our hands on her warm tummy in hopes of feeling a little kick, a little hello, desperate for her to be born healthy and strong and outlive us all!

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I have prepared a welcoming pack of gifts, one that I do hope she will drag around for years to come.  I made a quilt for Maryjane to warm her in the evenings, to cuddle into and know that she is adored and watched over, to hide under during thunderstorms, to dream under.  I did not opt to put in the yarn ties, I simply quilted it and left it rather plain (in my mind).  But, it seemed perfect.  As I learned from my mother and grandmother, I embroidered the recipient’s name on the back and who made it.

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I had these fun labels made to put on all the things I shall make her.  Made for you by Grammie.  This baby comes from young families and there are nine,….calculate how spoiled this baby is going to be….nine grandmas!  I had to think of a name that set me a part but wasn’t too far from the original.  So, Grammie it is.

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A fuzzy afghan to swaddle her in, hold her close to my heart, watch her wrap up her teddy bear (Papa Doug is in charge of all things fluffy and stuffed around here…the bonified expert on stuffed animals!) that Papa gave her.  Watch it be cast aside, then found again, and act as a reminder of how much we think of her.

Crafting homemade gifts for others is so much more emotionally charged then something off of a Walmart shelf, don’t you think?  It doesn’t take much to pick up a simple skill, make a throw pillow, a quilt, an afghan, a shawl, a scarf…your love for the person wrapped up in the stitches!

Hoodies, Grandbaby, and the Quiet Christmas

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This year is quiet.  We are in a transition phase.  The kids are rarely home and at times it feels like we are empty nesters until we come home to see the house a mess and remember we aren’t!  I have a feeling the kids don’t want to be around us much anymore so we are not visiting Santa or seeing the Zoo Lights, or any other Christmas adventure.  The kids are, alas, grown up or very nearly there!  At nineteen, sixteen, and fifteen, they do expect Santa to still bring them rather large gifts, however!  This whole time gives me a myriad of emotions from reminisce for when they were little and loved seeing Christmas lights, and Santa, and their sweet homemade ornaments, to the frustrations of living with teenagers, to enjoying them when they are here, or fighting with them when they are here, to wishing they were home, to enjoying the quiet of just Doug and I here.  Oy, I hope this levels out this coming year!

But there is something on the horizon.  Another life is coming.  This time next year there will be a wee eight month old crawling about, pulling ornaments off of the tree, sucking on candy canes, and meeting Santa for the first time.  This new addition will be donned in adorable Christmas clothing of plush red velvet and faux fur or simple pajamas and she will likely be too cute for words.  At the end of March, I am going to be a Grandma!  Emily Lynn is having a darling baby girl.  I know this because the ultrasounds these days are absolutely amazing!  Maryjane Rose will light up next Christmas I am sure.  Grammie and Papa will once again be able to purchase little dolls, and toys, and start making new memories with a little one and maybe a baby here will bring everyone together once more!

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Nothing inspires crocheting like a baby coming and I have been busy!  Tomorrow evening I am signed up to take a knitting class to make socks and sweaters and all sorts of new things!  But ever since I was twelve years old, I have been crocheting.  Since my Grandma (who is still with me thank goodness) patiently taught me how to make a granny square that I won first place at the art fair at school with, I have been creating patterns (because real patterns may as well be in Russian, I have no idea how to decipher them and my natural defiance makes me change everything anyways!) and making blankets and scarves and little hoodies like this one.  This one is very special because it is for Miss Maryjane Rose Helgesen.  Can’t wait to meet her!

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These are simply two squares; one tapered down at the shoulders, and one smaller one with the two top corners brought together and everything stitched together and a simple draw string added.  This is made out of alpaca, it is wonderfully soft!

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