Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

I've been a mother for 15 years now. I'm not quite what you would call old and wise, but I am definitely older and I do think I might be a bit wiser than when I first started. Having four children has taught me some things.

Here are a few nuggets of wisdom that I've learned along the way that I thought I might pass along to you--just in case you were thinking about having children. And...if you do have children, well, you have my sympathies.


1. Twist-ties make a lot of sparks in microwaves and will even catch tea towels on fire.

2. Dishwasher soap is NOT the same thing as dishwashing liquid.

3. Your child might think it amusing to call "911" and hang up, but I can assure you, when the police show up banging on your door, they are not amused in the least.

4. Cats, children, and vacuum cleaner hoses do not mix.

5. As a parent, you will--at least once in your life--absentmindedly accept the "thing" on your toddler's outstretched finger.

6. Bathroom floor vents make excellent receptables for your child's unwanted bread crusts and will hold hundreds of them.

7. Ants are drawn by the hundreds to bread crusts in floor vents.

8. Your baby does not have a nutritional deficiency that is causing his scalp to be patchy and bald. Do not--I repeat--do NOT even think of calling the doctor to take him in. Instead, hide all household scissors up and away from older sibling's reach.

9. Also, your cat does not have a vitamin deficiency that is causing his whiskers to fall out. (See #8).

10. Children make lousy gluers of lamps, statues, and vases--unless you are going for the mosaic look.

11. A soiled diaper on a bored child is never a good thing.

12. Magnifying glasses do ignite paper through bedroom windows.

13. And last, but certainly not least, never let your child sneak off to bed with neon green silly putty!

Good times!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Disguised as WHAT?!

Another Halloween, come and gone. Not too sure about these costumes. My youngest went as a witch. Again. I think she spent all of two minutes on her costume. More interested in candy than in presenting herself as a proper witch. My son went as a Clone Trooper. I think he looks like an alien kitty.
And my two oldest went as...well, I'm not sure! They didn't do much trick-or-treating. They handed out candy and terrorized the little lions, bunnies, and kitties that came timidly up to our door. My second oldest is supposed to be a spook of some kind. I think she looks more like the bride of Achmed the Dead Terrorist. Fans of Jeff Dunham will know what I'm talking about.

What a crew!

So, my husband takes the younger two out. They're gone for two hours or so. Check out the plethora of candy they brought home. That's quite a haul! Naturally, I had to "check" it all to make sure it was safe. Now, where did I put those spandex pants?

I'd be smiling too if I had this much candy.

Before you start thinking that these kids are a little on the odd side, I thought I'd better show a more presentable picture of them. Friday, they got their pictures taken. They were awesome for the photo session. Not one problem with them. But I wanted to slowly strangle the photographer. She stressed me out so much that I wanted a cigarette by the time we were all done. And I'm not a smoker!

Ahh....much better!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Visit to the Farm

Lather, rinse, repeat. Lather, rinse, repeat. What the heck--lather, rinse, and repeat again. Don't bother me now: I'm in the shower with some incredible, homemade soap!

Little did I know that when I joined Etsy to sell, I would soon become a die-hard homemade soap addict. Handmade soaps rock! They are so much better for your skin than store-bought brands, they don't dry out your skin like regular soap, and you don't need a translator to read the list of ingredients. And, most don't holler like a banshee if some of the lather gets in your eyes. Makes you wonder what's in those storebought soaps, doesn't it?

I've purchased from a variety of talented Etsy soap sellers. And...I would buy from many of them again. But I keep coming back to the same seller: MapleHillFarm. Please do check out this wonderful shop: I can assure you, you are in for a treat.

Lynn Culver of maplehillfarm is quite the amazing lady. In my book, she ranks as a master soap maker. As soon as I tried her soaps, I knew they were different than any other handmade soap I had tried. Lynn's soaps are highly fatted with extra olive oil, which results in a very moisturizing soap. The difference is quite noticeable! And the lather is a creamy, lotiony lather that is very skin pampering. That is why I have taken the "lather, rinse, repeat" mantra to new levels. ("Why no, honey...I have no idea why our water bill is so much higher now!") ;-)

One of the reasons why I like Lynn's soaps so much is that they are highly fragranced. But not in a you-just-fell-into-a-vat-of-rose-oil-what-in-the-world-are-you-wearing sort of way, but in a you-smell-amazing-what-are-you-wearing sort of way. You WANT these fragrances to stay with you!

Let's meet Lynn.

She's a doll, isn't she? And....she homeschools her five kids. (Did I mention she's amazing?)

I sat down with (well, okay, I convoed) Lynn a few days ago and interviewed her. Here goes:



My name is Lynn Culver. I'm a soap maker from Clio, Michigan. Clio is just north of Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors Corporation. As a young, single woman I pursued an MBA and worked as a production supervisor for GM. Most everyone I knew worked for GM in those days. About the time that I finished my MBA, I married, quit work, and began a family. Steve, a graphic designer, and I now have five children - 18,16, 15, 12, and 7, whom we have always home schooled.



We chose a country lifestyle and bought a little stone cottage on ten acres. We filled it with antique flowers and vegetables, sunflower houses, chickens, and kids. An elderly woman had lived in the house since it was built in 1934 and she had surrounded it with hollyhocks and herbs. I had never grown anything in my life but immediately became hooked on herbs and flowers - particularly the antique varieties like hollyhocks, cosmos, cleome, and sweet peas. I got stacks of books from the library to learn about them, and one of the books introduced herbal soap making. Always a romantic, I loved the idea of using beautiful herbs while learning a historic craft. I've been a soap maker ever since - about ten years now.



Living in a household of artists - hubby, a graphic designer, and kids who draw, sing, play instruments etc.. - I never thought of myself as artistic. But soap making is different somehow. It allows me to have a creative outlet - even though I am only capable of drawing stick figures!



I would like to expand my craft by offering body butters in some of the soap scents and creating more gift set choices. I also make lip balms and need to get those listed on my web site as well. I would also like to sell my laundry soap in bulk to make it more economical and to start selling soap flakes for cleaning again. So much to do!

Out of all of Lynn's soaps, this one is my favorite: Mineral Salt Spa. Be sure and grab a bar or two of this soap; the fragrance is SO clean and fresh! Just be sure and leave me some. Otherwise, I might have to hurt you.



I really don't have a favorite item. Since I am so indecisive, I usually have about six bars of soap in the shower at one time. That way I can use a different one each day! (Jeannie: She sounds just like me! My husband is always hollering that there's no room for his Dial. Sooner or later, I will edge that soap right OUTTA HERE!)



When I am not making soap or homeschooling, I'm reading, gardening, cooking, knitting, running, or helping hubby restore our turn-of-the-century farmhouse. We moved from the stone cottage four years ago and now live in a big, old house in a grove of maple trees - hence, the Maple Hill Farm name. If I had a whole day to spend at home, I'd choose to make soap, of course. And I would also like to take a walk around the farm through the mounds of yellow leaves.

This is my son's favorite soap from MapleHillFarm: Green Tea. It smells so amazing!



I have a twin sister who is also an Etsian and fellow sheteam member - Beth Roy, of Wired Vintage

Well, there you have it. If you have ever wondered about homemade soaps, do try out Lynn's shop. I've ordered from her several times, and each time I try a different soap. They all are so wonderful! I've given them as gifts many times, and I always hear rave reviews about them.

Gotta go...I hear a shower calling my name.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Colonoscopy Gone Wild

Here the past few weeks, I've been thinking about my husband a lot. Mark's been working some pretty late hours and hasn't been as home as much as he used to be. And when he is home, he camps out in front of the TV way too much--at least in my opinion. I've been thinking about how I wish he would get a hobby, or at least read a bit more.

I wasn't thinking about any of those things this past Monday night. As I was cradling his unconscious body in the bathroom and watching him go through things beyond his control, I wasn't thinking about how his life could be so much more "well rounded" or how hobbies can be so fulfilling. I wasn't stressing about his TV habits as I was riding shotgun in an ambulance on the way to the hospital--with him in the back, registering a blood pressure of 80/50.

On Monday night I was thinking I might lose him.

Our priorities can change pretty fast. In the blink of an eye, what is important to us suddenly isn't so critical anymore. We hear this so often, but it is easily overlooked until what matters most to you threatens to be taken away.

Mark is much better now. His colonoscopy/polypectomy gone awry is now a thing of the past, and he is home now, recuperating and regaining his strength.

So tonight, when I came downstairs and saw him watching "The Hunt for Red October" for at least the 12th time in his life, I just chuckled and handed him a nice big, homemade strawberry-banana shake. Something to make the movie more enjoyable.

Sometimes I think I just think too much. Maybe I should do less thinking and a lot more appreciating. You never know what life is going to throw at you.

Refill on that shake, Honey?

Monday, September 7, 2009

No Beer OR Rocks in These

We had homemade bierocks for supper tonight. That's pronounced "beer-rocks", and no, there isn't a drop of beer in them, nor are they made with rocks. (However, if your bread-making skills are like mine, they could be mistaken for rocks. Or doorstops.)

That being said, I cheat and make my bierocks with the Rhodes frozen bread dough. You can also use generic frozen bread dough (I buy the rolls and thaw them out).

If you've never had a homemade bierock, you're in for a treat. I'm not sure, but I think their origin is German. What was surprising to me is that a lot of people outside of Kansas have never even heard of bierocks. If you've ever gone to a craft fair in Kansas, chances are homemade bierocks were on the menu. And they usually sell out pretty fast.

That's a picture of my homemade bierocks. There are several ways you can make them, but most all of them consist of browned, seasoned ground beef, shredded cabbage, and onions. For extra flavor, I like to add a few strips of Swiss cheese to them before pinching them shut.

If you want to make homemade bierocks, it's easy. Just use any good homemade bread dough recipe (like I said, I cheat and use the frozen bread dough). Let your dough raise once in a greased pan and then grab a handful of it and roll or push it out flat with your hands. You can make your flattened shape either round or rectangular, whatever is easiest for you. Spoon on a few tablespoons of the filling onto the dough, add a few strips of Swiss cheese, and then pinch shut. I can usually make about 13 or 14 bierocks out of a package of bread dough. But I make mine big. Really big. You can probably get 20 or so bierocks if you make them smaller.

Here's what I do to make the filling: brown some ground beef (or ground turkey) and onion in a pan. When the ground beef is about halfway browned, add some shredded cabbage. Cook till done and then drain. Season with salt and pepper. That's it for the filling. Pretty simple, right?

Notice I'm not measuring here with my fancy-schmancy recipe. I say "some". Well, if you're a mom, "some" is whatever you need to feed your family of ____. For our family of six, I use about a package of ground beef (or one small tube) and maybe 1/2 of a head of cabbage. Like any good German cook, I rarely measure anything anymore.

Oh, back to the recipe. Once you have pinched your dough shut, placed these little guys on a greased cookie sheet. I like to brush mine with beaten egg for a shiny brown finish. Then, I let them raise again in a nice warm place. Maybe let them raise for another 20 minutes or so. Then I bake them in a 350 oven for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve these as your main dish, with maybe some fruit, salad, or vegetable on the side. They are very filling! They also reheat easily and are very portable since you just eat them with your hands.

Prepare to fall in love with these. They are so tasty, especially fresh and piping hot out of the oven! I would imagine you could fill these with anything you like....ham, eggs, potatoes, etc. But we just use the regular bierock filling for now. It's hard to go wrong with a good thing.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I Toad You So

Everyone has something about them that's a bit different. Okay, maybe even odd. For me, it's always been a fascination with toads. From a very young age, I have never been able to walk by one without picking it up and making a fuss over it. I thought maybe I would outgrow this silliness, but as you can see from the picture below, it doesn't look like my toad obsession is going away anytime soon.

Pictured here are seven of our nine pet toads. Aren't they adorable! I had a TIME getting them all to cooperate for the camera, and I still couldn't get two of them in the picture. I especially like the picture of Penelope here (third from the left). To most people, it might look like she's pouting because she doesn't want her picture taken. However, I know better: she's our nearsighted toad, and no doubt probably thinks there's a bug right in front of her.

We keep these cuties outside in our giant window well. That I know of, only one has escaped, and that had to have been some kind of amazing toad acrobatics, as the window well is about eight feet deep and toads are rather clumsy creatures. (Way to go, Daphne! You definitely earned your freedom.)

Keeping toads as pets in our window well has worked out great. (I call them pets, but Hubby insists on calling them prisoners.) They are still outdoors--in the environment--and their care is minimal. We keep a container of water for them to sit in (they don't drink water but rather absorb it through their skin), and we toss down bugs in the evening. During the heat of the day, the toads burrow in the sand to regulate their body temperature. Sometimes you will see a little nose or head sticking up out of the sand. Come fall, they burrow very deep until spring. I miss my toadies during the winter months.

They chow down on a wide variety of insects and worms. They are partial to earthworms and Junebugs, but they will not touch slugs. Can't really blame them, can you? We also feed them roly-polys, spiders, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, katydids, moths, and grubs. It is most entertaining to watch a toad eat a large katydid or locust. They will use their front feet to stuff the insect into their mouth. Sometimes there's a leg or wing sticking out and the other toads will try to get the insect away from the toad who caught it. Then a riot ensues and it's not a pretty sight to see toads riot.

After a toad eats a locust, you can pick it up and hold it to your ear and still hear the locust buzzing away inside the toad's stomach! If you listen closely, you can even hear the locust saying, "Get me the hell out of here!"

I hear toads can live up to 30 years or longer. I wonder if I should perhaps mention the care of my toads in my will--in case they outlive me. My beloved Belinda (below) has been with us for about five years. She is a very dignified and fat girl and I find this picture of her hilarious.

Everyone should have a toad or two. Or nine.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Day in the Life of an Etsian

I've been thinking that Etsy has sort of become a lifestyle for me. I mean, how many of us make the daily Etsy rounds? What are the Etsy rounds, you ask? Oh, I think you know!

It goes something like this: Get up in the morning. Scratch, yawn, shower. Brew coffee. Check your shop. (Whoop if you made a sale; grumble if you didn't.) Relist an item. Read and answer convos. Visit the forums and chew the fat with a few friends. Go back and check shop for views (and possible sales). See who hearts you. Oh, yeah, peek at the handy-dandy Heart-o-Tron and see if you have new hearts on your items.

Then, check your shop. Browse treasuries; leave comments. Click on the treasury you created to see if there are new comments. Visit Etsy's front page (just in case your treasury is featured). Do the math to see when new treasuries are coming up. Take a break for coffee. Create a little. Take pictures. Tweak pictures. List an item. Another coffee break. Maybe a bathroom break too. You've had a lot of coffee.

Check your shop.

(And who said hamsters running on those little wheels were silly!)

That's me...on my computer in 40 years, still hanging on!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Patina is not an Italian dish

There has been so much written about photography and Etsy. Little did I know when I opened my Etsy shop that I would plunge headlong into a crash course in photography.

My dad, who is a very experienced photographer, explained to me a lot of stuff about Kelvin degrees, light temperature, and other must-have information that basically made my eyes glaze over and my mind focus on something more interesting (like chocolate). But, in a funny way, I kinda got his point. In essence, if the day is overcast and there's a funnel cloud on the horizon, chances are your subject matter may have a bluish tint to it and you may have to tweak it a bit in your photoshop program. If it's a sunny day, then your subject matter will have warmer hues to it.

Onto a completely different subject, I think I'm really loving working with this aged brass in my jewelry. Now, it doesn't start out as looking aged, unless I buy it from Vintaj (a company that I love, by the way). The components come to me all shiny and new and gold looking--you know, like pimp bling. It arrives as "raw" brass, so I have to age it myself. That, in itself, was an interesting, head-scratching experience. I won't even get into all the methods I tried. The old wives' tales tell you to urinate on it (I'm thinking NOT!), or to bury your raw brass in a dung heap (I'm thinking more NOT!) if you want to darken it. Today's more conventional means, thank you very much, seem to work just fine (I either suspend it over--ahem-- *storebought* ammonia or bake it in the oven). I can hold my head high and proudly confess that none of my brass items have been urinated on or buried in a dung heap. Horrors!

My husband, however, doesn't appreciate the aged brass look at all. "It looks like something you dug up with your metal detector!" he laments. "Well, that's the POINT," I say. "It's SUPPOSED to look old!" Sometimes the guy just doesn't get it. But then, I have to remember, this is the same man that, when I brought home a brand-new rug last week and asked him how he liked it, responded: "It's a rug. It covers the floor."

Uh-huh, I rest my case.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bless This Mess

Well, I've got these four kids. Five, if you include my husband. They're really good kids, but boy, can they make monster-sized messes! My oldest likes to read and write stories. That's a good thing, right? But the stories, the drawings, the books...they are everywhere. If you want to know where Alyssa is, just follow the paper trail. Literally. Chances are, if you follow the trail, you will find Alyssa behind a book or scribbling away furiously in her notebook.

Now, my next child is our horse girl. You know it immediately when you enter Brenna's room: horse pictures tacked to the wall, horse bedspread, horse books, and every Breyer horse that was ever made (okay, maybe not). It's wall-to-wall horses in her room, and I swear it even smells suspiciously like a stable in there. In fact, it's so cluttered with horses that Brenna could sneak in a real live Shetland Pony and no one would even know it. Hmmm...that might explain the stable smell.

And then there's Collin. Collin is in the fifth grade and thinks Legos are the coolest invention since the advent of the wheel. He's got buckets and buckets of Legos, enough to build a replica of the Sears Tower (and I do believe he is working on that as we speak). Legos cover almost every square inch of his floor. I don't know if he creates with them or just slings them around his room for artistic effect. I have no doubt that boy will become an engineer someday. But the Legos end up migrating downstairs...embedded in the carpet, stuffed down into the sofa cushions...even ending up in my vegetable garden, of all places.

And our youngest, Danielle...well, Danny takes the cake. She makes unbelievable, horrific messes that parallel the carnage left behind by an F-5 tornado. That girl literally colors for at LEAST three hours a day. But Little Miss Picasso never cleans up. If you see a pink blur in our house, that's Danny: running by at Mach 2 speed, onto her next disaster, er...I mean, creation. Markers, crayons, coloring books, artwork are everywhere! Because of her, we have confidently bought stock in Crayola.

And my beloved husband? Well, it's basically a laundry issue with him. Here's me: "Honey, look at this new-fangled contraption. It's called a hamper. I know we've only had it for 17 years, but let me explain how it works. You can put your dirty socks in it. Neat, huh?" Apparently, the concept is foreign to him because we are still working on the hamper vs. floor syndrome. Which brings me to...well, ME! I really can't complain too much about everyone else's messes, creative disasters, or dirty clothes sagas when I take a look at my workbench. How can anyone be creative with this type of carnage lying about?

It looks like the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brand Spanking New

Wow, a new blog. Just sitting here...all white and shiny and new. Must fill it up with something. Let's see....

Okay, here's me:

As you can see, I'm not terribly photogenic. Don't like my picture taken, so you won't see many pics of me here.

Next, the fam:

Not the greatest of pictures. I think I resized it one too many times. It looks all pixelated and fuzzy, and my middle daughter looks like a squinty-eyed pirate. Will get another one later.

I'm having a heckuva time adding pictures here. Every time I try to add one, it puts it at the top of my page, no matter where I am in the post. Okay, moving on.

I am a forty-something wife and mother to four. We live in a big two-story house with way too many treacherous stairs and brown recluse spiders. Our house is filled with books, Breyer horses, Legos, and artwork of every kind. We homeschool our kids.

Things I like:






Things I don't like:


jarring noises

big, slobbery dogs

clowns (that should really be put in a phobia category)

I have an Etsy shop:

I try to garden, but the weeds have such a foothold here. I am afraid they are winning.

I like thrift stores and metal detecting. Books call my name and I usually have my nose in one. And I think it's pretty cool that you can rent movies for free at the library.

Every year or so, I also usually fall and break a bone or something. No, I don't have a medical condition, just terribly uncoordinated.

More to follow. I know you're all hanging on the edge of your seat.