Changes, Changes, Changes…

Oh, the changes…

It has been so many months since I last published anything on here! The reason? SO MANY CHANGES!!

At the end of July, I accepted a position as a school counselor in Wisconsin. We were thrilled to be moving so much closer to family! As you might be able to imagine, that also meant we had very little time to pack our things and move. The school year was right around the corner. We had just about given up on moving closer to our families this year.

We had one month to put our house up for sale, find a new house, and pack like crazy. Oh, and plus that whole part about having young children…

We made so many trips back and forth from Minnesota to Wisconsin, we were actually getting used to not sleeping in our own home on a regular basis.

Finding a new home

Finding a house was tough. Incredibly tough. We made so many trips to look at houses, and it seemed like we always came up empty-handed. Two offers on two homes, and we still did not have anything to show for it.

Finally, a few weeks before school was about to start, we found our home, and they accepted our offer. The only trouble was we needed to wait until the end of September to close on the house. Four weeks without a house to live in…

This might be easier if we weren’t moving over four hours away, and our parents weren’t still over an hour away from our new location.

Some really awesome people

Believe it or not, those four weeks without a home were amazing.

Now, when I say that we were living in a one bedroom, basement apartment with a family of four, one might think  I was insane to say that it was amazing, but it really was.

We got lucky, incredibly lucky.

A new co-worker of mine and her family offered to let us stay in a basement apartment below their home. They live on and run a resort. They also happen to have two young children, as well.

Yes, we were definitely cramped, and we certainly missed having our cat and dog (they got an extended stay with Grandma and Grandpa), but we had a lot of fun.

We also made some pretty great friends, too.

Apartments even have the best hiding places.

Plus, who wouldn’t want to go kayaking and paddle boarding after work each day?

Jon kayak

We will forever be thankful for the amazing month we had, and the great friends we made.

The new house

The month that we stayed in the little one bedroom apartment flew by a lot quicker than we would have imagined. We were actually pretty sad to leave. (We even joke that they could have been rude to us or something, so that closing on our new house would have been a more joyous event). 🙂

The day finally came, and we closed on our new home. The following day was incredibly busy and stressful, as we had to drive back to Minnesota and get all of our belongings out of the old house.

Did I mention we still hadn’t sold our old house? Very frustrating.

We quickly settled into life in Wisconsin (and can openly cheer on the Packers again), and settled into our new home.

Another settling

Another settling that occurred during this time was my fibromyalgia. Here’s something not new: moving is stressful, starting a new job is stressful, worrying about finances is stressful! Stress + me = fibromyalgia pain

Over the last few years, I have gone through some of the worst flare-ups I have had in all the years I have dealt with it. This flare-up included.

It is now November, and I’d like to say I have it under control and that things are better, but I cannot.

Beyond the aches and pains, dealing with stomach issues, heart palpitations, anxiety and panic attacks, and just feeling exhausted all the time, these last few months have been incredibly rough on my body. I do hope that eventually things get better, and I start to feel a little more ‘normal,’ but for now, I am just taking things one day at a time.

I am still getting settled in at work. There are still some boxes that haven’t been unpacked. We weren’t able to move everything with us, so some of it is still in our old house. Oh, and we still have not sold our house! It’s been crazy, and stressful, not to mention painful, but it has absolutely been worth it.

 

Share
Posted in All

A garden

The Veggie Garden

We have officially planted our garden for the summer! One of my favorite things to do during the summer is to grow a vegetable garden. It’s so fun to be able to enjoy and have a meal from what you grow!

I spent a ton of time last summer canning, making pickles and jam. We haven’t purchased jam or jelly in over a year… 🙂 Win!

The first garden

Last summer, we put decided to change the look of our veggie garden. In the past, we used two garden beds that were square in shape and about 4ft x 4ft. Oh man, did it have weeds.

It was so bad, we pretty much just gave up on it. (I’m not a fan of keeping up on weeds…).

So, we decided we needed to change how we planted our veggies.

We chose to make rows versus one large plot. The rows are covered with weed block, and we cut up some 4 inch non-perforated drainage pipe to plant the vegetables in. (We found the drain pipe at home depot for about $5 for 10 ft.). Each piece of drain pipe was cut to be about 2 inches long, placed it where we wanted the veggies to go, and planted our veggies in them.

This did an amazing job at keeping the weeds at bay! We hardly have to weed our veggie garden, and bonus, no chemicals needed!

To prevent the bunnies and other hungry creatures from eating our crop, we drilled spots on the wood to stick 1/4 inch diameter dowels and attached deer fence to the dowels. It worked well, but eventually the dowels snapped under the pressure.

Regardless, we had a great growing year last summer!

Veggie garden-summer 2017

This worked so well for us last year, we did the same again this year. We planted corn, cucumbers, pumpkins, green beans, sugar snap peas, sweet potatoes, Roma tomatoes, and leeks. This is our first year for corn, sweet potatoes, and leeks, so it’s definitely a learning curve. I am not quite sure how it will all turn out, but it’s a great experience!

We changed how we fenced in our veggie garden, too. Instead of the dowels on the garden beds, we used wooden stakes and plastic poultry fencing to surround the garden. For the door, we have 3/4 inch plywood slotted between two stakes on each side. Nothing fancy, but effective!

We also have separate pots for carrots, lettuce, dill, lemon balm, and mint (mmm mint tea…).

We also have strawberries and rhubarb growing. Not to mention, we are looking forward to picking some fresh raspberries from the yard…

It just goes to show that you don’t need a ton of land to grow your own food!

How about your garden? Any tips you would like to share?

Share
Posted in All

The Hygge Hype

Hygge

Hygge: pronounced hoo-gah (or is it hue-guh?) No matter, all that is important is that Hygge is all about feeling cozy and warm. I am all about that!

I recently read the book The Little Book of Hygge (not an affiliate link), and I was definitely inspired! This book was a good read, and I definitely recommend it if you are interested in learning more about Hygge.

Lighting

Lights and lighting are an important concept of Hygge. We don’t currently have a fireplace, but I will keep working on that one. For now, the fireplace episode on Netflix will have to do! 🙂

We aren’t big on lighting candles. Having an open flame on a table really isn’t ideal with small children and pets. We do keep a few candles handy (homemade!) for our evenings on the three season porch.

I also purchased some LED string lights from Target in their “dollar spot” (well, that’s their old name for it, but you get the idea). For $3 a piece, we were able to add a lot more Hygge feel to our home. We have them on the three season porch, on a shelf above the sink in the kitchen, on our headboard in the bedroom, etc. We even have some for our tent when we go camping.

 A place to be cozy

About that three season porch: we never really used it except for storing our shoes and coats. It is not possible to enjoy it during the winter, because it is not insulated and is awfully cold on a January evening in Minnesota.

Now that we have introduced Hygge in our lives, we use our porch almost every evening. We still cannot do anything about the cold Minnesota winter, but we can at least enjoy it for the majority of the year.

What do we do on our porch? My husband and I like to head out to the porch once the kids are in bed. It’s our time together to unwind. We sit, we light candles, we talk, we enjoy each other’s company and the calmness around us. We still use electronics, in fact, I am typing on the porch right now, but it is generally only for short periods at a time.

In the early spring (and throughout the winter), when it was just too cold to be on the porch, we enjoy our evenings in the living room. Candles lit, minimal lighting, and the enjoyment of our conversation. The TV remains off, and other electronics are used minimally most nights.

I have to say, I look forward to this every single day. It’s this feeling that I know there is a highlight to the end of the evening, so even if work is stressful or the kids won’t eat their dinner, there is something to still look forward to. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, I love my kids, but there are definitely days that don’t go as well as I would hope, and being able to relax and feel peaceful helps me to calm down and feel refreshed for a better tomorrow.

A cozy drink

Another piece of Hygge is the enjoyment of a warm drink. My husband and I enjoy tea most evenings after the kids are in bed. Peppermint is a favorite of ours. Along with everything else I deal with when it comes to fibromyalgia, I also have a stomach that is easily upset, or heartburn, or some other issue. The peppermint tea before bedtime really helps with this.

What it’s really about

One really important thing I have learned about Hygge is that it is more about the act than what you can purchase. Any candle will do, it doesn’t have to be anything special, just light it. You don’t need a porch, just go outside or find somewhere comfortable. And conversation doesn’t cost a dime.

It is so easy to take things for granted, but if you really look around, you can find so many things in your life that are Hygge. For example, a few weekends ago, it was incredibly windy, so we pulled out my daughter’s new kite that she got for Easter. Although quite chilly, the weather was perfect for kite flying. There we were, just a family together, running around the yard, trying to keep a kite in the air. Hygge.

For Mother’s Day, my husband asked me what I wanted for dinner. I decided kabobs on the grill and corn on the cob. Grilling is totally Hygge. Bonus: we all had a delicious meal (even if the kids don’t want to eat mushrooms or onions on the kabobs, they still LOVE corn on the cob!).

More Hygge

A rainy afternoon, reading stories to your kids.

Knitting, just because.

Reading through a magazine.

Enjoying your coffee on the steps while your kids run around the backyard in the early morning sun.

The windows open and waking to birds chattering.

The wind chimes slowing making music in the breeze.

Hygge for life

Hygge can easily be instilled in our lives, we just need to be aware of it. We need to take a moment to slow down and enjoy everything around us. Yes, our lives can be incredibly busy, but we all are capable of taking a moment to enjoy being just where we are; Right here, right now.

How do you Hygge?

Share

Microwaves

In October of 2013, I decided I didn’t want to use a microwave anymore. Why? They really aren’t that great for you…

So, it became my New Year’s resolution for 2014 to not use a microwave in our home. The truth is, I didn’t wait until New Year’s to start this resolution. We actually started that October.

By the time we got to January 1st, we had spent the rest of October, November, and December with a microwave that we weren’t using. Yup, it was just sitting there, on our counter, not being used. So, we got rid of it.

Yup. Gone.

And we haven’t looked back. We do not miss our microwave one little bit. Honestly, in the three + years we have gone without a microwave, I have never thought ‘gee, I wish I had a microwave…’ Not once.

We do all of our cooking on our stovetop or in the oven. I have gotten some unique questions along the way, like “how to you heat up frozen vegetables, like the ones in the steam bags?” Urm…    Needless to say, I have enjoyed learning how to be self sufficient and not rely on a microwave.

We have come across one issue, and that is that some food items only have directions for a microwave. Yeah…and not even just a little section on the box for conventional oven. Nothing. (Maybe that might be a hint that we shouldn’t be purchasing that food item?). But then again, we still buy some prepackaged food, because frankly, sometimes we just need an easy dinner night…

Here’s the thing though. If you work outside your home, you might have noticed that businesses aren’t exactly set up to meet the needs of, well, we will just call it “crunchy” people. Want a warm lunch? Microwave it.

So, when I took my position as a school counselor in the fall of 2014, I had to make some decisions. Was I going to give in and microwave my food at school? Was I forever going to eat cold lunches every day at work?

Well, I wasn’t going to back down so quickly from the microwave situation. And personally, I am not a fan of cold lunches. Maybe every once in a while, but not five days a week. Plus, taking leftovers to work is a great way to make sure you save money on groceries and you aren’t throwing away food!

Behold, the solution:

 Isn’t he so cute?

Yes, the Crockpot. In fact, this Crockpot (not an affiliate link).

We now own three of them! Well, to be fair, two of them are mine, because I work in two different school districts and would forever be forgetting it at one of the schools. So, the third one is just for convenience.

My husband even uses one at home! He is at home with the kiddos and has a daycare family (Daddy Daycare!!), so it can be quite convenient to pop in one of the little tins in the Crockpot and forget about it until lunch.

If nothing else, this is a great conversation starter. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked about my Crockpot…

So, like I said, I use it for my lunches. I generally reheat leftovers from dinner.

How long does it take?

This is what I have been able to break it down to:

Reheating leftovers from the refrigerator: 45 minutes

Heating up a can of soup: 30 minutes

Reheating something frozen (I like to make batches of soup and freeze them): I generally stick this in right away when I get to work, so about 3-3.5 hours.

This thing works great! In fact, more than three years later, all of our Crockpots still work amazingly! I highly recommend this to anyone needing to heat up lunches, but wanting to avoid microwaves (or maybe just wanting to start up a conversation with co-workers…).

Share
Posted in All

Making butter

We recently decided that we will no longer purchase our own butter. It is way too simple to make your own (and it tastes better too!).

We have been using the mason jar method. This is where you fill your mason jar with heavy whipping cream (yes, that’s the only ingredient) about 3/4 full and shake, and shake, and shake…..and shake some more…for like 45 minutes.

Butter making and arm toning rolled into one!

After you are done, you will have a bunch of buttermilk left behind. We drain ours into a little mason jar and keep it in our refrigerator for adding to our coffee.

After we drain the buttermilk, we wash the butter. Yup, we wash it. No not with soap, that’s gross.

We just rinse it through some cold water. It takes us a few rinses of cold water before it’s done. If you want, you can add a little salt after you are finished washing your butter. We generally leave it without, but to each their own.

The butter will keep at room temperature for about three weeks. You can also store it in the refrigerator, but we found that we prefer to keep it on the counter, so that it can more easily spread on things like toast. We also haven’t ever had a case where we still had the same butter three weeks later… It goes pretty quickly in our house.

We also tried putting a glass marble in the mason jar when we were shaking the heavy whipping cream. I can say, it really didn’t do anything for us. It didn’t reduce the shaking time, it was noisy, and then I had to dig out a marble from the butter after we were done…

It is incredibly simple to make butter, but yet, I can see why more people don’t do it. It takes up so much of your time! We live in a world where we need to find the most efficient and easy way of getting things done.

Then one day, my husband had a thought on this butter making…What if we used the Magic Bullet?

You know, this thing: Magic Bullet Blender (not an affiliate link)

Well, let’s give it a whirl!

Guess what? It worked! It made our butter so much faster than shaking it in the mason jar! How much faster? My husband timed it, it took about 10 minutes…

Homemade butter…in 10 minutes. Yup.

We still washed the butter once we were done “blending” it.

We actually ended up with more butter than we usually do when we make it in the mason jar! Double Win!

 

Time to pull out those Magic Bullets again and put them to good use!

 

Share

Homesteading

Homesteading. It’s quite the buzzword these days.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested.

The truth: I’ve dreamed about the idea of going off the grid for years. I really enjoy the thought of working hard and having to be creative. A part of my job as a school counselor that I really dislike is having to work in an office, often at a desk (as she types on her computer, during her free time…). Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy my career, but, really, the feeling of being physically exhausted is so much more rewarding than feeling mentally exhausted. Okay, so maybe I’d be feeling both, but still.

Here’s another truth: When you are constantly in pain, like I am, I’d rather have a darn good reason to be in pain than no reason at all. Why does my arm hurt? Well, probably because I was pulling weeds or kneading that bread. Not because, well just because.

Here’s another thing: I am capable. When you have days that you feel like you cannot move your body, you feel so run down and miserable, you start to cherish the days you feel semi-normal. The pain I feel with fibromyalgia also grounds me: I am not physically incapable. My body can do this, if I tell it to.

Anyway, back to homesteading…

The reality of things right now is that we live in town, with neighbors closely tucked around us. We have an older home that consumes large amounts of energy.

We have a long way to go, before I would consider us as homesteaders. Thankfully, I have a husband that is willing to take this journey with me (or at least he nods his head, with this look on his face like, ‘What did I get myself into?’). Either way, he’s on the journey, too.

Jon putting up with my homestead dreaming

Even though we aren’t “homesteaders,” we are still taking steps in that direction. We have started to make our own bread, butter, and as many home-cooked meals as we can. I learned the art of canning after a successful summer of growing a vegetable garden. I make my own deodorant. We gave our microwave the boot over three years ago. Everything is cooked via stovetop or oven.

I have tried my hand at knitting, and after three long, grueling months, I successfully completed…a scarf. Not kidding, even a little. Okay, so I might be the world’s slowest knitter, but I have to start somewhere!

Now, would I like to be doing more? Yup. Making more of our foods, instead of purchasing prepackaged and processed? Yup. Finding an awesome recipe for shampoo that doesn’t leave my hair super greasy, or a laundry detergent recipe that works really well? Yup. Gather my own eggs each morning? Absolutely.

And so much more!!

Again, we aren’t close to being what I define as “homesteaders,” but we are on our way. The thought of everything we still need to incorporate into our lives can be pretty overwhelming. I often need to remind myself that the little changes over time soon become enormous changes in our lifestyle.

 

 

Share

Living naturally

So here’s the thing about natural living…

It’s tough.

We live in a world where the things that are easy/simple/quick is more than likely not that great for you. If it is healthier/natural/eco-friendly, there is a good chance that it doesn’t fall under the easy/simple/quick category.

It’s perfectly clear why a large portion of the population chooses to go the easy/simple/quick route…Because it’s easy, simple, and quick!

But if you found yourself reading this post, there is a good chance that you are looking to live more naturally. I’m in the same boat.

Except here’s the thing, I don’t have time for everything. And I assume you probably don’t have time for everything either. I am a full time mom of two, a wife, and a full time school counselor. Sometimes, easy wins.

And that’s okay.

Often times I beat myself up because I choose to make that pre-packaged meal instead of cooking something from scratch, or I forget for the millionth time to bring my reusable bags to Target, or I let my kid play with (chew on…) that plastic toy.

But, do you know what? I’m trying.

The truth is is that there are so many things out there that we can try to do more naturally, that it quickly becomes overwhelming.

Some days, I just need to take a moment to look at everything I have done already to allow my family to live without chemicals and toxins, and realize that this cannot happen overnight.

The current world we live in has made this a long process, but it is definitely worth it.

How about you? Are you just starting out? Have you been at this for a while?

Share

My first post…

Well, here we go. The first post.

I have a bunch of ideas of what I want to write about, but it is so difficult to sort it all out!

How about an introduction? Well, sure, that sounds good enough…

As you could probably already see from the right side of my page…my name is Miranda. I am a wife and a mother of two wonderful kids.

I mean look at those happy faces, am I right?

Anyway, we live in the midwest with our dog, Mater (think the movie Cars) and cat, Rooster. Yes, Rooster. Not confusing for our children at all…

I am also a school counselor. I work in two school K-12 school districts. Needless to say, I keep busy.

On top of all of this, I have Fibromyalgia. I have also been working through postpartum anxiety. Yeah, that’s a thing. No, I didn’t know that, either. I’ll probably post more on that later. Both make the days pretty painful and stressful, but I do what I can.

I have been dealing with fibromyalgia for about ten years now. Much of my search for natural living started with the thought that if I used more natural products and lived simpler, it might help the pain I endure each day.

The pain isn’t really gone, but the inspiration continued. I still have great interest in finding or making natural products. Even though I have fibromyalgia, I still dream about homesteading one day. I have random Pinterest searches for anything Minimalism, DIY, farmhouse decor, and Hygge. Although, these dreams can sometimes be difficult to mix with everyday life, I still hope for the dreams to become reality.

I still have a lot to figure out about the life I want to live. I feel so much of it is a give and take of what works for you and what doesn’t work.

This is certainly an adventure worth taking.

 

Share