Arkansas adventures

AR breakfast

Our last trip to Arkansas yielded some very nice firsts!  We had the chance to break in this nifty Lodge grill for instance.  It was love at first breakfast, the charcoal starter thing-y had us up and scrambling eggs before I could finish slicing bagels – THAT’S FAST!  Normally my problem with charcoal grills is all the waiting but this thing makes it a breeze!

This was the first time we were able to sleep in the house (on the floor), eat in the house, go to the bathroom in the house (figured out the toilet has a crack though), wash out dishes in the house, clean ourselves at the house (sort of) – in short we were able to be at Addie’s without leaving for anything!

That left more time for exploring!

AR kids creek

As we were walking the land behind Addie’s we came upon this creek.  When we visit Addie’s we usually have a LONG list of stuff we’d like to get done and most of the time the kids are working right along with us.  So when the opportunity to take a muddy break presented itself I couldn’t say no.  Watching my kids negotiate this very wild, non-manicured, non-saftey checked creek was the best part although I’m sure my kids would disagree.  Armed with a stick to check for snakes (water moccasins would be common) and check water depth they very carefully explored.  It took 5 minutes just to get used to the squish of the creek bottom and non-stop bugs swarming them and the cool temperature of the water.  They became pretty bold after that though, testing that tiny vine as a swing (above), exploring deeper waters, so much braver than their mom!  We still had to walk back to the house after this creek adventure which brings me to a product review.

Bean boots AR

The kids received these LL Bean boots as a Christmas present.  They are expensive and not many boots can do what the Bean boot does….or is supposed to do – good for walking, perfect for wet ground, really, really good looking.  The only thing I can stand by is the way they look, they are a very handsome boot.  But getting them on and off is a pain and walking in them is a nightmare – two things that put them in the NOT buy again category.  What I’ll try in the future are another pair of Blundstones (you totally saw that coming I’m sure) worked over with a little magical product called Obenauf’s.  Although not marketed for waterproofing, with trial and error we’ve found it to be a good protector of the already water resistant Blundstone boot.  Perhaps we’ll need rain boots for the crazy wet days but for day to day needs, we’re back to Blundstone.

The work at Addie’s still overwhelms me, there’s so much to do, so much for me to learn.  But one day, I’m hoping to sit down at a table like the one below, with friends and family and tell stories of our early misadventures with this land and this whole process and marvel at how far we’ve come.  Sounds good right?!

photo via the old white house tumblr

photo via the old white house tumblr




Stop, Drop and Roll

Burn pile behind Addie's house

Burn pile behind Addie’s house

Back in Arkansas our projects continue.  The very first time I visited Arkansas a fire was involved.  At that point in my life, fires were something to be avoided at all costs, something scary and dangerous, the only fires I saw growing up were in fire places.  So at the age of twenty five when my soon to be husband took me to met his grandparents in Arkansas I was not sure what to think when “burning the brush pile” was on the agenda of our visit.  Coincidentally, this first fire took place behind Addie’s, my husband’s family gathered together to clear out the damage done by folks who had been renting the sweet old house and then set it all ablaze in the back yard.  Is this good for the environment?  No.  Is this how they do it in the country?  Yes. Is it exciting?  YES!

We made a burn line so the fire was unable to jump into the forest and we manned different parts of the fire armed with shovels, our faces covered with masks or bandanas, ready to smother any fire that looked uncontrolled.  I thought the whole thing was wonderful, the purposeful work, everyone coming together to help, the efficiency of the fire.  I didn’t think years later we’d replicate almost an identical scenario with our own little family but that’s exactly how it happened.  Over a decade passed since that first fire and in the meantime, Addie’s house was ignored, brush grew and took over what once was a meadow and fruit orchard.  From time to time a family member would drop by and attempt to control the overgrowth, cutting brush and piling back in that same spot in the back yard, over the years the pile grew and grew.  When my husband and I decided it was time to tackle this pile it was mammoth.  We called in some help, waited for the right conditions, grabbed a little diesel and a lighter and got started.  The kids categorize this day as “the best day ever”.  They covered themselves in soot, helped light fires, fanned flames, smothered errant flames, burned the bottom of their boots, smiling and sweating all the way.  They felt powerful and helpful and they were!  It was the type of experience we hoped our kids would gain in Arkansas and they are ready for more.



What 7 and 9 looks like

7 and 9 on their first ski lift

7 and 9 on their first ski lift

Over a year ago I did a post on what 6 and 8 looks like and it’s something I find myself going back to read over and over.  So before these years pass me by here’s a snapshot of 7 and 9.

My 9 year old daughter now poses for pictures, she talks about how the zoo offends her, “I mean what if you were a lion, do you want a million kids passing by and tapping on the glass while you are bored out of your mind?!?!  It’s just wrong.”  She’s ready for more independence, walks around the neighborhood by herself, bikes to the park on her own, wants more time with her peers.  She still likes a hug first thing in the morning.  She still has her brother sleep over every night on the couch in her room.  Tears have started to fall for incomprehensible reasons, she calls these moments growing pains and it’s terrifying when I consider adolescence in this force that is my daughter.  She’s one of the coolest people I know.

My 7 year old son dances when no one (except my daughter) is watching and boy can he move.  His “R” sound is still soft and it makes him seem younger than he is.  He gets frustrated when his sister is able to catch on to things faster than he can (like skiing) but his careful personality pays off when he explains how NOT to fall off a ski lift to his older sister (which, of course, she did).  He asked me this week if I knew the bad word that rhymes with “buck”.  The bad words he’s currently aware of include “stupid” and “shut up” so times are changing!  He still cuddles and is generous and thoughtful like his dad.  He’s one of the kindest people I know.

This crazy parenting experience provides something new with every passing year.  I wonder if anyone ever feels like they are good at this job/role?  On one hand I can’t believe I have the privilege of helping these little beings grow, on the other I cannot believe the challenge of helping these little beings grow – what a mix!  To all the parents out there, here’s to us!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one


Here I am day 4 of homeschooling.  Yes, we are teaching the kids at home now.  I cannot believe how many spelling/phonics rules I’ve never been privy too.  Sure maybe you can rattle off, “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ or when pronounced ‘a’ as in neighbor and weigh”.  When my kids were small they loved Starfall, and I learned the handy jingle, “when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking” (Like in meat or treat).  But this week while getting familiarized with Spalding’s, “The Writing Road to Reading” I’ve picked a gold mine of this stuff, for example:

1.  ‘c’ says ‘s’ when filled by e, i or y

2.  ‘v’ and ‘u’ can’t have the last word (meaning in English we don’t end words in ‘u’ or ‘v’

3.  ‘g’ may say ‘j’ when followed by ‘e’, ‘i’, or ‘y’

There’s about 29 of these rules, about half I’d never heard before!  Although my children don’t seem to be quite as enthused as I about this fascinating new world where the English language has started to make more sense, they did say they are having fun at school again!  That alone would have been worth it but knowing that many vowels have more than just short and long sounds also rocks.




Addie’s House 2

Back to Arkansas where the only time I think about my hair is to check for spiders before calling it a day.  How about a little look inside?  Truthfully we still haven’t had the opportunity to fully assess the inside of the house.  A family member uses the house for storage and until we get everything moved out, we’re not really sure about how everything looks within.

Part of the back room of the house.

Part of the back room of the house.

Talk about the land of the lost, this house seems to be where things go to be forgotten, but try to look past the stuff and get a glimpse of the floor……I’m sensing some interesting things there.

Here's the other side of the room, whoa look at that natural light streaming through the bathroom.

Here’s the other side of the room, whoa look at that natural light streaming through the bathroom.

Time to roll up our sleeves and get cleaning.

Child labor is highly helpful, you should see this kid suck up the dearly departed wasps with the shop vac!  Who needs video  games with fun like that?!

Child labor is highly helpful, you should see this kid suck up the dearly departed wasps with the shop vac!   Who needs video games with fun like that?!

Many, many sweaty hours later we were able to clean out three rooms.  This whole exercise was a huge motivation for living simply!

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Hey, where'd the kids go?

Hey, where’d the kids go?

What the......

What the……

Nothing quite like building traps in the sand-like Arkansas soil while tethering yourself to the porch!

Nothing quite like building traps in the sand-like Arkansas soil while tethering yourself to the porch!

What else sounds like fun?

Sawing some stuff down?

Sure, never done that before!

So much harder than I imagined!

So much harder than I imagined!

Just keep breathing, arms must keep moving.  It's gotta come down eventually....

Just keep breathing, arms must keep moving. It’s gotta come down eventually….

That little 2 inch tree was my Everest, so darn proud of myself!

That little 2 inch tree was my Everest, so darn proud of myself!

Lastly, found this little inspiration for the house “skirt”.  We will probably only be able to do this in the front and use lattice around the sides and back, but I think it’ll compliment the house perfectly.

photo via the internet

photo via the internet

Hope you’re enjoying our Arkansas adventures, until next time!

Oh hair balls!

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Curly Me.

Hair is a weird thing.  On one hand, it’s just hair right, what’s the big deal?  On the other it’s YOU, one of your most distinguishing features at least.  I’m the girl with the curly hair, so much so that I’m deemed unrecognizable by friends when I straighten my hair.




Straight….wait who are you again??












Recently I gave my curls a break, I just needed a change, something that would stick around longer than a blowout.  The thing with hair, particularly curly hair is it’s a whole darn thing.  It’s like an outfit and accessory all in one, sitting on top of your head.  A constant party is happening above my neck and it’s completely unpredictable. You go to sleep one way and wake up with a different head of hair – forget about factors like weather changes, pffffff, it’s crazy.  There are benefits too, don’t get me wrong.  Curly hair is fairly low maintenance – less washing, prefers to air dry (when possible).  When it’s long you can usually pull off a hair knot sans accessories – it just stays!  And all of your straight haired friends LOVE your curls.

Now with my straighter, albeit slightly fried, locks I did get the much needed change I was waiting for.  Since things are simpler and a bit more predictable above the shoulders I find myself experimenting with my clothes – more pattern, more color, different silhouettes.  Fun stuff!  But I lost the healthy shine and the ability to just wash and go unless it’s 1987 and I’m with Bon Jovi.

Bon Jovi 1987. image via google

Bon Jovi 1987.
image via google

The verdict:  Am I happier with the overall outcome?  Yes………no………yes, most of the time.

Oh hair balls!!!!!!

50 Shades of White

Addie's House as it looks today.

Addie’s House as it looks today.

We are in the process of picking paint colors for Addie’s House.  This process is made one gazillion times easier with the internet.  A simple google search of: white house, silver metal roof and thousands of images pop before your eyes like magic.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 3.10.26 PM

image via google

For example, before seeing what a cream house with a metal roof looked like (above) it was something we were considering.  After seeing the example we realized how much we prefer the sharp contrast of a white house against a green landscape as seen below.

image via google

image via google

My husband always like the underneath of a porch ceiling to be sky blue, but it was convenient to find this picture showing a blue ceiling with a white house and gray floor.  Pretty much exactly what we were planning.

image via google

image via google

Final decision = white on white, gray floor (and stairs) with a hint of sky blue on the ceilings.

Now for the door….

Front door

Front door



Weekend Progress 1

Back to our latest labor of love, the little house in Arkansas.  We call it “Addie’s House” since that’s the last person who lived there, she’d be my kids’ great-great grandmother.  Since Addie’s passing the house has seen some renters come and go but for the past decade it’s been left to get reclaimed by nature, just slowly breaking down.

Not on our watch!  So the first BIG step was the metal roof to stop the major leaks, big critters and such.  I don’t have a handy picture before the roof went on but it was a hefty project.  Next dire need was the front porch, one more round of a heavy, hot summer followed by a cold, wet winter and we’d probably need to rebuild the whole thing.  So to buy a little time we decided on a nice fresh coat of prime and paint.  Sure we could have just painted but primer is a bit more kid friendly and a good way to get them involved.

The family that wears overalls together, works together!

The family that wears overalls together, works together!

While the kids primed my husband and I sanded and then we all chipped in the to cover the porch floor with a nice fresh coat.

Say it with me: roll up, roll down. more paint, roll up, roll down.

Say it with me: roll up, roll down. more paint, roll up, roll down.

Nice difference, yes?

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Since it can’t all be work and playing is more fun we had our first family camping session  …..which turns out is quite a lot of work.

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Just steps from our day’s labor we set up our house for the evening, or houses as it were.  We made dinner – cheese, water crackers and salami, cold beer for the adults, sparkling lemonade for the kids, apples and s’mores for dessert followed by star gazing for our night’s entertainment.  As the sun went down the cooler temps were a welcome relief as we all fell into our sleeping bags not long after the moon and stars made their appearance.

For our next round of work we’ll be diving into the fun topic of removing mildew from the house’s exterior…..don’t even get me started on the interior!

P.S. A few more snap shots

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A walk in the woods behind Addie's house.

A walk in the woods behind Addie’s house.


100 year old pines and oaks.

100 year old pines and oaks.

These little pieces of moss are scattered throughout the forest, we have naming continents but this heart was too good to pass up.

These little pieces of moss are scattered throughout the forest, we have fun trying to spot the shapes of continents but this heart was too good to pass up.

Repopulation of the Night Furies

Meet Toothless, the lovable night fury from How to Train Your Dragon

Meet Toothless, the lovable night fury from How to Train Your Dragon

Halloween is nearly upon us and it’s a big holiday in our family.  My kids begin discussing costume possibilities in July.  This year my son made his proclamation in August, “I want to be Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon“.  I start trying to visualize some half-homemade type creations I can bang out for him.  Then in September, my daughter’s got her final choice, “I’m going to be Toothless too.”  Hmmmm.
“Did you check with your brother?”

“Yup, we are both going to be Toothless.”

“Okay, sounds good”.

Better than good, my job just got easier.

Then both my kids mention they are over trick-or-treating, they just want to hand out candy this year.

WHAT?  What kind of children have I raised that running from stranger to stranger and collecting all the contraband I never allow is now passé at the ripe ages of 7 and 9 years old?

So I decide we’ll find a party to attend all together and bring some spark back to this family favorite.  But now my husband and I need costumes………

“What if your dad and I also go as Toothless.”

“Oh yeah!  This is going to be awesome.”

“Yes, we’ve obviously been working on repopulating the night furies since the last movie came out.” (I think I’m very clever to work this all in).



Kids:  Hoodies from Target, Black knee high socks for the tails also from Target, packed the tailed with left over packing materials, I used garbage bags that I cut and sewed for the wings and tails, mask from Etsy.

Parents:  Hat found Target, Black dress (old)

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One afternoon of sewing and voila, all finished.

We’ll even dress up twice this year thanks to our first “truck or treat”.

Hope everyone has a nice Halloween!

Getting Dirty

Growing up in a city I associated the word “dirty” with other people’s germs, your shopping cart that’s been touched by 100 other people, that guy who spit a loogie on the park bench, the money the cashier handed back to you – DIRTY.  In rural life there’s a whole different kind of dirty, one that’s associated with time outside, hard labor, on-going, never ending projects.

Me getting VERY dirty

Me getting VERY dirty

The past few weekends I’ve been able to spend time out in the country doing some hard, dirty work and I’ve found it’s cleansed my soul like nothing else.  NOTHING ELSE.  More than a bikram yoga class, more than a 5 mile run, more than a hike in the forests of France – pulling on a pair of work gloves and preceding to work until your soaked with sweat seems to be a little recipe for perfect contentment.  There’s a satisfaction associated with the piles of your labor, a newly weeded garden, a freshly painted porch, a rebuilt fence that no exercise regimen can compete with.  So I’m very excited to announce that my husband and I are embarking on a very dirty project.

The house project

The house project

Say hello to my husband’s great grandmother’s house.  Built in the early 1900’s to stand the tests of time we’ve decided to bring this little beauty back to the land of the living.  We’ve got a whisper of a budget and child labor so please don’t expect any Smitten Studio or Young House Love level of documentation or know-how as we undertake this enormous project.  But do expect a bit of Green Acres humor such as my son running with complete abandon right in a yellow jacket nest (4 stings later he’s learned how to not run through a field with high brush) or me unearthing a rattlesnake 3 hours into day one of our project though my husband who has spent years in this locale had never seen one venomous snake – Lucky me!

Meet the Western Pygmy Rattlesnake - my not new friend

Meet the Western Pygmy Rattlesnake – my not new friend

We are sure to gain a few bumps and bruises in the process but I’m hopeful we’ll not only survive but really LIVE!  Wish us luck.