Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A New Frontier -

- Otherwise known as Kindergarten begins today.

Five days a week.
Seven hours a day.

It will be a new experience for our Sammy Sam, but like getting up on that big horse, I know he can do it.

I know that he'll be in good hands. and that it will be a chance for us to make the most of the time we have.

I'll hold on a little tighter, linger a little longer at bedtime, and love on my little boy who before I know it will be riding off on his own.

Mommy is so proud of you and all that you've learned in your short five and half years. I love watching you soak up facts like your daddy and can't wait to see what kind of things you learn in Kindergarten. I know that I'm not always very patient with you and I'm sorry for that. Mommy thinks the world of you and will miss you like crazy while you are at school learning about Jesus and how to read. When you curl up in your new nap blanket I hope you think of me and our snuggle time before bed. I love you to the angels Sammy Sam! - Mommy

The Birth of a Butterfly - a week long series

Out of the eight or so caterpillars we've raised until they flew off as butterflies, only once were we privy to the awesome sight of watching a butterfly emerge from it's cocoon.

In celebration of a summer of observing all things insect, I invite you to join us this week as we share in photographs the birth of a butterfly.

Also if YOU have raised butterflies this summer and blogged about it, go ahead and link up your posts. I will link back to this original post every day this week so others can find your blogs and read about what bug business your family has been up to this summer.

This particular photograph is of the butterfly soon after the chrysalis cracked open. Stop back tomorrow to see what a newborn monarch butterfly looks like!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The case has been solved.

No, not the one about our missing garage sale signs, but the one about our apple tree. Ever since we discovered there is an apple tree in our park I've been trying to figure out what kind of apples our tree produces and thanks to my mom, who helped us pick the remaining apples from our tree this week (thanks Mom!), I was able to connect with an apple expert and get some answers.

Turns out they do get a little more red than I thought, but JP Jacobson of Pine Tree Apple Orchard knew without even tasting a piece of the apple we brought to the State Fair Ag Building with us today what kind they were. He sampled a piece and confirmed that they are indeed "an early pie apple" known as "FOLWELL" Finally an answer! Considering we can harvest apples as early as mid August I would certainly call that an early apple. They hold up nicely in pies and don't turn to mush - even though they are a soft apple to eat.

One thing that isn't a mystery around here is what kind of pies we'll be bringing for Thanksgiving Dinner!

Help Yourself

Whenever the kids ask for a snack when it's only been an hour since the last time they ate I calmly say, "Sure. There are carrots in the refrigerator. Help yourself." It's a win-win. If they are truly hungry and not just bored as is usually the case, they will get that snack they asked for - in the form of something healthy. If they are only asking because they are bored, the option of carrots usual stops the repeated requests.

One of my children takes me up on my offer almost every time. This particular time she helped herself to the whole bag.

I've been thinking a lot about kid's meals lately because Sam starts kindergarden on Tuesday and will be taking his lunch to school every day. I ordered a lunch box and a 4 pack of containers from Easy Lunch Boxes and will be sending our freshly homemade applesauce, a veggie of some sort, and a protein and grain with five.days.a.week. He is my picky eater and I thought it would be helpful to hear what things work in your lunch know, besides carrots :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

a walk down memory lane

I made the long trek home a couple of weekends ago for my high school reunion. It's been 15 years since I walked the halls of our small town high school (but only two weeks since I walked the halls of my elementary school (but that's a whole other post for another day).

Before meeting up with my classmates on Saturday I drove the country roads that I used to know like the back of my hand. It's been almost a decade since I've been back to see my hometown up close and personal like this and it was surprisingly emotional. It felt like home, but I felt like a stranger in a foreign land all at the same time. It looked the same, but at the same time it looked smaller.

Looking from the outside I realize how rural it was. I guess I always new that, but I didn't feel like a country girl growing up.

I should have.

My home from age 8-12 was at the crest of the hill on the left

This barn was my playground from the time I was 8 until we moved to a horse farm when I was 12.

We raised horses on a 52 acre farm
I was a member of 4-H for half of my childhood.

"Fix Fence" was a constant on the to-do list.

I worked in the tobacco fields.

There were always bullet holes in the road signs.

Riding my bike "around the block" meant a five mile ride up and down hill after hill after hill.

It will be interesting to see how Sam and Julia look back at our current life in the country some day.

Thanks Brittany for inspiring me to write this post about life in the country!

This is the view from the other end of the Drotning Road where we lived. Our home was on the left before Hwy W. It burned down two years after we moved out and the current owners built a new house further up the hill.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Alphabitty Moments - the letter L

Welcome to Alphabitty Moments! Thursday is the day we record the little moments of childhood using a word that begins with each letter of the alphabet. This week we are on the letter L. Some people chose to do scrapbook pages and others simply post the word and the picture. It's completely up to you! I've found that it's not productive of me to open up a bookmaking software and spend a little time in there making a single page. I plan to do it all at once as we get closer to Christmas and the opportunity for printing using a discount code typically presents itself. And now on to the letter L for LEGOS....

My boy loves his Legos. It's number one (two and three) on his Birthday/Christmas list this year. They are the only toy that we keep downstairs. I'm one of those - toys stay in the playroom and do not take up residence in my living room thankyouverymuch type of moms. Am I alone in this?

Anyway, Sam's Lego focus is mainly on Star Wars Legos but he happily plays with any of them. I grew up with a city set and I snatched up two big bins for $4 at a garage sale this Spring that are similar to my childhood ones, though this 'new' set came with way more people than I ever had!

I've also been lucky enough to find expensive sets at Once Upon a Child too and Grandma and Grandpa have given him some sets as gifts. I've yet to step on a straw Lego, but I have accidentally broken the castle PapaBear built with a huge set I got for $20 as an Easter Basket gift. I'm not the Lego builder - PapaBear is. He's also the Lego fixer. So much joy from such a simple toy - those are the things I want to remember!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

MamaBear's {Not so} Mild Salsa

My little garden helpers and I had quite a collection of tomatoes as of this morning. We planted eight tomato plants this year so we could have enough ripe at the same time for salsa making. I still haven't brought myself to make's so depressing how little you get from all.those.tomatoes.

PapaBear and I love salsa and we love to share our salsa so by request I'm sharing my salsa recipe with you today! It will also be nice to have the recipe preserved for future canners like this little cutie who helped me in the kitchen much of the morning.


30 medium sized tomatoes
2 green bell peppers
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
4 medium sized onions
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
1 cup chopped cilantro
3 cloves minced garlic
6 habanero peppers (I remove the insides & then chop them finely)

Add the habaneros last because you MUST USE GLOVES when handling them.

Prepare tomatoes by removing skins (soak in boiling water for 30 seconds and then transfer to ice water so the skins start to slip off)

Cook all tomatoes on medium high heat while you chop the remaining ingredients. Mash the tomatoes as they cook to break them up into smaller pieces. Then start adding the salt, sugar, and vinegar. After 45-60 minutes of cooking down the tomatoes, start to add the rest of the veggies.

Cook an additional 30-60 minutes depending on how thick you want the salsa to be. The longer you cook it, the thicker it will be. I love that while I'm doing all this prep, my dishwasher is sanitizing and heating up my jars. I also by this point have put my canners on the stove and have an extra pot of water heating to sterilize the rims of my jars.

I cut up a 1/2 gallon milk container to use as a funnel and use a ladle to grab one scoop of veggies from the bottom of the pot, one scoop of juice from the top, and one scoop from the side of the pot. By then the jar is filled one inch from the top. I pull four jars out of the dishwasher at at time so they stay hot and then continue to fill the rest of them until I have ten filled.

Wipe down the lip of the jar, place the lid on, and screw the rim on (but not too tight) I use pint sized jars because that's about how much salsa we'd eat in a week once a jar has been opened. I put the jars in a water bath for 15 minutes and then set them on my counter to cool for a day.

From 30 tomatoes we have ten pints of salsa - can't argue with that!

Do you have a favorite canning recipe?

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Alphabitty Moments - The letter K

Welcome to Alphabitty Moments where we stop and remember the little things of childhood. These are not the milestones or the well documented events like holidays or birthdays, but the every day things, events, and emotions that might be forgotten as our children's interests and abilities evolve.

I'm writing this from work so I can't share the cute pics I took of Sam with his King Cobra, but I wanted to get a linky up for those of you who continue to put up with my tardiness and excuses for slacking in my Alphabitty Moment posts. I don't know about you but K was a tough one for me! I ended up choosing King Cobra so I could remember the stage where Sam was (and still is) obsessed with snakes. Remember the day the kids drew snakes (to scale) for hours on 12 feet of craft paper? Yeah, I'd consider that obsessed. :)

So how about you? What K moment do you want to remember?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


It's the color of the big ball in the sky that has been baking BearCountry in 95-100 degree temps for far too long.

It's the color of Julia's dress that her second cousin wore five years ago.

It's the color of the first apple* of the season that we promptly turned into apple crisp for dinner last night....after we ate yellow corn, carrots, fresh bread, and garlic roast with gravy. Yum!

Now if only I could figure out a way to spread out my motivation to cook throughout the week instead of doing it all in one night....

*we still don't know what kind of apples these are...anyone out there know? What we do know is that they don't get any more red than that little tinge at the top, they are soft, tart, and HUGE!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Are those natural?

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that question in reference to Julia's curls I'd be a very rich MamaBear! We discovered her very first curls when she was a wee babe and they only get better with time...NO we don't do anything to them. In fact we don't even wash them with shampoo anymore. I read a book called Curly Girl back in May and it was filled with the answers to my questions about how to care for Julia's unique head of hair. There are different instructions for different types of curls so if you have curly hair pick up a copy for yourself - I got mine used online pretty cheap. It's great to be able to refer to it when I have a question. For Julia, this is what works.

Every couple of days we:

1) wet hair under faucet and apply 3T of conditioner
2) work through hair for 1 min with fingers
3) using a wide tooth comb, starting at the bottom comb out the tangles 0ne by one. This part can take up to 10-15 minutes depending on how long it's been since I last combed through it.
4. Rinse half of the conditioner out but leave the rest in to moisturize her hair.
5. scrunch with fingers and let air dry.

That's it! She has the softest curls and surprisingly enough they look their very best after she's gone swimming and the curls have had a chance to put themselves back in order so to speak. Curly Girl talks about putting your head under the water and letting the curls do their thing. It's quite remarkable how they have a mind of their own.

If we hadn't discovered the Curly Girl method I don't know that we would have been able to let Julia's hair grow. She's patient in the tub while I work out the tangles with gobs of conditioner but if the curls became brittle and broken we'd probably have to cut it much shorter.

Instead they are growing more beautiful every day. They are past her shoulders now and are tipped with the lightest of blonde highlights from being in the sun. She's yet to have a haircut because curly hair needs to be cut by someone trained in curly hair. That's an expensive hair cut and one we will consider down the road if her hair starts to break on the ends.

The other comment people make is "She's going to hate it when she's grows up!" Really? I have a hard time agreeing with that statement. Other than those 10-15 minutes in the tub they are amazingly easy to throw up in a clip or leave down.

What's not to love about this sweet, funny, affectionate, smart, creative, fun loving, little girl who happens to be blessed with curly hair?

Over the shoulder pumpkin holder

(the pumpkin on 8.2.10 that was first shown in this post)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Then and Now

Our Straw bale garden on June 6th

...and again on July 7th.

And most recently on August 4th: Full progress report to follow...just as soon as I finish harvesting a billion cherry tomatoes!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Missing the target

So my "how I spent my summer vacation" series isn't going as planned. I got behind, like always, and have yet to catch up. When I get behind everything piles up waiting for me to write about our days in chronological order.

I made it through a month of posts and have still been taking pictures, but with three weeks left until school starts chances are I'm going to miss the target at least one more time, but we're going to have in the meantime!

Alphabitty Moments - The letter J

Great memories...not so great picture of this week's "j" word - Jigsaw Puzzle.

Sam loves putting puzzles together and is getting pretty good at it too. 75 piece puzzles with pieces the size of my palm are what he enjoys the most. I love watching the wheels turn in his head as he figures out where a piece goes. It makes me think ahead to the raining or cold days ahead when we sit around the card table and put together 1,000 piece puzzles. No rush though, for now I'm perfectly content to sit on the floor and enjoy Sam at this age with these puzzles.

What J moment do YOU want to remember for Alphabitty Moments?

Thursday, August 5, 2010


....Sam rode his two wheeler without training wheels. Had he been wearing long sleeves I would have encouraged him to ride a little longer and 100% by himself. Instead he asked to go back to riding his trike which was fine by me!

...families from our church happenend to come to our playground while we were there. So much more fun for my kids!

...I harvest 4 giant and 2 small yellow squash, 1 head of broccoli, a handful of beans, a handul of cherry tomatoes, and a couple of Big Boys. I'm on the hunt for a good pickle recipe because I have 5 giant cucumbers waiting to be harvested.'s not as humid and it's very pleasant in the shade. It's been miserable lately.

....we might make a trip to Target. I don't think we've been there in a month and we're in need of quite a few household things.

...I hope to get my internet back up and running again in my house so I can post alphabitty moments.

...I hope to get a few more things sorted for our upcoming (and long overdue) garage sale.

...I will bathe my kids twice.

...Julia practiced pumping on the swing

...I will start thinking up our new routine for school and researching lunchbox options for Sam.

It's not a super exciting day, but it's a day with my kids and I'm grateful for it!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Preserve & Print

Your photos...

Your stories....

Designed by yours truly.

In this case - 430 pages, 1,415 photographs, 400 blog posts. Check out my favorite layouts from my latest book here.

I wanted to give a shout out to my fellow blog book designer Kristina who was helping me brainstorm titles for the Blog Book session at the MN Blogger Conference. Thanks K!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

School Spirit Beanie Crochet Pattern

Beat those winter blues and cold winds with this a FLEECE lined brimmed hat! It seems like everyone is wearing a beanie these days - me in...