Saturday, August 27, 2011

Battening Down the Hatches

John and his dad are at this very moment reinforcing the barn roof in preparation for any residual Hurricane effects that may reach us.

They aren't really being paranoid.  As you'll see in the pictures, the barn is so old and rickety that any gusts above 10 mph could blow that roof right off.

 Do you see the amusing part?  Take a closer look at the next picture.

Safety first country style!  Yup.  That's my husband with a rope tied around his waist and my father-in-law holding on to the other end.    Well, at least it's something.

Ok - East Coasters, I hope that all the hurricane predictions are exaggerated.  But, stay safe every one!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rough and Tumble

Rough And Tumble Engineers Historical Association (now there's a mouthful) is a living museum of farm equipment and engines.   My husband and father-in-law are both members of the organization and each year will head out for tractor pulls and special events.

The annual Thresherman's Reunion is a big deal in these parts.  For 4 days special events and a fair-like atmosphere take place at Rough and Tumble.  My husband and father-in-law take one or more of their antique tractors to show at the event.

While my husband spends several days there, we usually try to take the whole family for one of the days.  Last week we all headed over on Friday.  Here are some of the pictures from our day....

 Buggy & Horse parking.  This pic was taken in the morning.  When we left in the afternoon the area was packed with buggies.

 That's John & my boys on the green tractor with our little red wagon trailing behind.  John picked us up at the vehicle parking area (about 1/2 mile down the road) & brought us in.  I was trying to get a pic of the folks he was talking to.  He always attracts attention on this tractor because it is a one cylinder and has a very distinctive 'boink boink boink' sound.

 My men

 How we brought in our wagon. :)

 I can't even begin to tell you how many antique tractors are on display.  There are seriously 100's of them.  Almost every possible make is represented - John Deere, Massey Harris, Farmall, Oliver, International, Deutz (our family's preference).  These are Silver Kings.

 Old stuff everywhere

 Steam engines.  Remember all this stuff is operational, so folks are driving their old toys around all day.  There's probably a collection of 30-40 of these babies that show up every year.

 I tried to zoom, but couldn't get in any closer.  Anyway, Amish & 'English' (that's the rest of us) intermingle.

 In the engine house

 Many, many different old engines

 Some of them are massive.  To give you perspective, this one is longer than a school bus.

 Me (10 pounds lighter than 4 weeks ago!) and the boys standing in front of 'The Otto'

 The Otto is owned by John's family's company.  I can't tell you how old this thing is.  It's old.  It's left on display at Rough and Tumble year round.  And, once a year John comes out to baby it a bit and start it up.

 He enjoys this stuff!

 Givin' the wheel a little turn

 Gettin' ready to start it up.

 Steam diggers in action.

 I'm always reminded of Mike Mulligan.

And now for MY favorite part of the event....
 This makes the whole thing worth while for me.

 I can almost hear the angels singing.

 I could spend hours searching.

 Oh wait!  I DO spend hours searching!

This year's finds.  My picture doesn't do all this justice or show the size of these items.  But a circa 1930's stand alone gentleman's mirror, a hand crafted nail organizer (I've got some plans for this!  I love all the drawers!), & 2 old wooden wine boxes.  I got all my treasures for a total of $22!   Stay tuned.  I'll show you what I'm going to do with my organizer!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Keepin' My Name & Earthquake!

Thanks to everyone who weighed in on my question about whether or not I should change my blog name.  You all pretty much confirmed what I already felt in my heart.  Even as I typed that post I felt kinda sad about possibly changing my name.

The fact is, my blog is 'Stairstep Boys'.  I can't really imagine it being something else now.  And, I'll admit the green-eyed monster had gotten to me.  I saw other blogs that had started around the same time as mine with huge 'follower' numbers & mine seemed piddly in comparison.  I thought that changing my name could change my numbers.

But, I'm gonna nip that jealousy right in the bud, because I can say I am truly grateful for each person who reads my blog.  I've gotten to know some of you in such a way that I feel like I have friends in different places I've never been.  And, that is something pretty special.  

So, take that you green-eyed monster!

Also, as I was typing this we just had an earthquake!  How about other east coasters?  So far I've heard that people in NC, VA, DC all felt it!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Should I Change My Name?

Back when I started my blog a year and a half ago I wasn't sure what all I'd write or what direction I'd take with my blog.  And so, I wasn't sure what to name it.  At the time I felt like Stairstep Boys kinda summed up my life.  In many ways, being a mom to a little clan of boys really describes who I am.

But, in many ways it doesn't.  I'm more than that too.  I have developed some new interests in the last year & a half - furniture re-do, healthy eating.  And there's the stuff I've always loved - gardening, simple living, houses (Have I ever mentioned that I'm pretty obsessed with what the inside of houses look like?)

Anyway, I was unsure about the name Stairstep Boys from the very beginning.  But, it was the best I could come up with at the time.  If I had it to do over again I'd probably choose a different name for my blog.

Which leads to this question.   Should I change my name?  I have a couple names I'm considering...I'll share them in a minute.  But, of course, I'm having this internal debate about my motives.

Do I want to change my name because I feel it would better describe me and what my blog is about?


Do I want to change my name because I think I could increase my readership?  (I often think people might not visit me because they don't think they'd have anything in common with me).


Why do I want more readers?  Because I'd love to get to know more people or because I take some kind of validation each time I get a new 'follower'...or for that matter feel a little hurt each time I lose a 'follower'?


Does it really matter why I want to change my name?  Do I analyze things too much?  Am I taking myself too seriously?


Will I lose some of my readers if they come looking for Stairstep Boys and see a different name?

Ok.  Well.  I'm asking you.    Here are the options I'm considering.  Would you tell me which you like best?

1.  Learning Contentment 

2.  Pursuing Contentment

3.  Keep my current name....Stairstep Boys


4.  Is there some other name you can think of that you think would better describe me and my blog?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Green Smoothies?

I was not sure if I believed people who told me that you can add a bright green vegetable like spinach or kale to a fruit smoothie and not really have it effect the taste.  Nontheless I've been wanting to incorporate even more veggies into my diet and one of the things I've been having for breakfast lately are smoothies.  

So, I figured why not try it?  And guess what?  The people are right.  The smoothie gets a lovely green color, I get the benefit of an extra serving of veggies & the vitamins, and it tastes great!

So I will share with you 'my' recipe for a green smoothie.  This is how I made it this morning, but there are so many variations you could try.

Not my picture...found it here.  I forgot to take a picture this morning of my own smoothie before drinking it, but this is pretty much how it looked.

Karen's Green Smoothie

1 banana
1 fresh peach
1 single serving container of honey flavored Greek yogurt
1 handful baby spinach
6 ice cubes
1/2 cup coconut milk
a splash of pink lemonade (the only juice I had on hand)

I think my favorite part was watching my kid's faces when I put spinach in the blender.  I think they thought I was joking.  Their faces were even better when I actually drank it!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Before & After Pics and a Dose of Reality

Good Morning!  I hope everyone had a great weekend!  To start off the week I have a few fun pics to share with you.

Do you remember this chair that I found alongside the road waiting for the trashman?  It was such an interesting piece with lots of character.  It just needed a little TLC.

The project took me a little longer than I planned because I had trouble deciding what kind of fabric I wanted to use on the seat.  But, the finished product looks like this....

See?  It just needed a little love.

Another project I wanted to complete this summer was to clean out my computer (ahem...junk) room.  We have a small house with virtually no closet space.  So, this room somehow became the collect all space for things we didn't know what to do with.  The before picture I am going to show you is actually not a picture of it at it's worst.  I forgot to take pictures before I began the cleanup process.

So, take a look at the before picture and add to it about twice the clutter, plus a few pieces of furniture waiting to go to the attic shoved against the wall to the left (with stuff piled on top of them too).  Then you'll have a fairly accurate idea of how the room looked.

Here's the Before.

Do you kinda get the idea?  My after pics would look so much more dramatic if I could give you the full effect of how messy the room was.  But, at any rate, I decided to clean it up a bit AND to give the boys a designated downstairs play area.  

I had some toys in the living room, but  our living room is really so small there wasn't much room for them to play.  This is still a small space, but it gives them an area of easy access to some toys (In the living room they were all shoved in a small cupboard and it was hard for the boys to see what they wanted much less to get it out and put it away on their own.)

So, here's the after pictures...

 (My husband loves this blue recliner.  I'd be just as happy if it left.  It takes up half the room.  But, it's where he rests each day for a few minutes when he comes home for lunch.)

Finally, I took some inspiration from You Can Call Me Jane at Thy Hand Hath Provided and I'd like to include a dose of reality.  Last week she showed some pictures of her kitchen and how it typically looks during the summer months when she's busy with fresh produce, canning, etc.

We've all seen those pictures in magazines & even on other blogs of kitchens with completely bare countertops.  They almost look like they are never used.  Well, my kitchen - even at it's best - never looks like that.  And, I'm OK with that.

I practically live in my kitchen....especially in the summer months.  So, I thought I'd share some pictures of what my kitchen typically looks like at this time of year.

Waiting to be canned:
Random stuff always collects at this end.  Note the half eaten apples my boys stuck on the counter.

On this side are the tomatoes, etc. that are bruised and need to be used ASAP

Hey Jane, I let my dishes air dry too.  And, scraps go into a 'yuck bucket' which is then taken to the chickens.

Also waiting for canning.

How does your kitchen look this summer?

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Think I Need This T-shirt

A t-shirt I need to have made for me just to clear up any confusion when I go out: 

"Yes. I have 4 boys. 
 Yes. They are all mine.
 No. We don't have any girls.
 No. We're not going to keep trying until we get one."

(And I like this graphic)
image found here

First Time In Four Years!

I promise I'm not going to bombard you here with constant posts about my healthier eating/weight loss journey.  But, I have to share something with you today because I am SO excited!  Today was the first time in 4 years that I stepped on the scale and saw a number in the 170's!  

Granted it was just below 180.  And, granted it was before I was dressed or had anything to eat.  But STILL! I haven't seen a number like that in such a long time.  It was so motivating to me.  I really feel like I'm getting somewhere!

And, have I mentioned I feel so much more energetic?  And, my mood has greatly improved over the last couple weeks?

Thanks for letting me gush.  It's these little accomplishments that keep me going.  And, who better to share them with than my blogging friends!

Have a great Friday!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

News Flash! Healthy Eating Pays Off!

It's been two weeks since I started my 'lower carb, lower sugar, more fruits & veggies, few processed foods' healthy eating plan.  You might recall that in my post, 'Haywire Hormones', I read an article about how the foods we eat affects our hormones and, thus, our moods.  It's stuff I had heard before but for some reason the article really resonated with me and I decided to give healthy eating a shot.

I've always known that I want to eat in such a way that is good for my body & that is natural.  I didn't want to try 'diet pills'.  I didn't want to sign up for a program that sent me pre-packaged food (although I will say that I have a friend who recently lost 50 pounds through one of those programs.  So, for many people they do work).    I wanted to do something that I could live with long term.  I wanted to change the way I eat.

What a better time than the summer than to incorporate fresh fruits & veggies into your diet!  That part was a no-brainer.  Getting rid of a large portion of the carbs I usually eat has been harder.  But, not impossible.  The first change I made was changing what I eat for breakfast.  Instead of eating carb-laden cereal, toast, pancakes, or baked oatmeal I've been eating eggs/omelets with veggies or bean salsa, turkey bacon, Greek yogurt, fruit smoothies (made with yogurt), rice cakes with almond butter, fruit.  Getting protein first thing in the morning instead of carbs has made a huge difference in my energy levels throughout the day.

I also have a huge sweet tooth.  But, I haven't missed the sweet stuff as desperately as I thought I would.  But, the clincher for me is that I can't completely deny myself a sweet treat.  So, once a day I have allowed myself either a piece of dark chocolate or some frozen yogurt.  And, surprisingly to me, some days I didn't even crave a treat.

To keep myself on track with my eating and so I don't lose focus I have been keeping a food journal.  I kinda fought against doing this.  It's one of those things that feels restrictive to me.  But, I don't think it's something I will do forever.  (Ok  - I KNOW I won't do it forever).  Right now it helps keep me on target and makes me more conscious of what I put in my mouth.

I've also been trying to incorporate more exercise.  This hasn't become a regular routine yet.  But, there have been several days that I've packed my big boy's bicycles and a stroller for the little one and I've taken them to a park very close to my house (2 minute drive) that has great riding & walking trails.  The boys love it (and now ask to do it everyday) and I actually love it too.  I've even met a couple new moms by going to the park!

So, the big reveal I have is this:  This morning I stepped on the scale and in the last 2 weeks I've lost six pounds!  It hasn't made a huge difference in my appearance or in the way my clothes fit yet.  But, it HAS made a giant difference in the way I feel!

I have more energy and my I've been in a fairly good mood most of the time.  (I'm interested to see if there are any differences when I reach 'that time' in my cycle.).  I feel less blob-like, less blah and more engaged in life.

And the other surprising result has been that of gratitude.  When I take the time to actually think about healthy options and to prepare that food for myself instead of  just grabbing miscellaneous junk out of the cupboard or refrigerator and shoving it in my mouth, I have become more aware of what a blessing food is.  The news of the famine that is killing thousands of children makes me even more aware of this blessing.

And here is where I try to come up with an ending line that doesn't sound cheesy or trite.  Saying that 'an attitude of gratitude is the real pay off of healthy eating' or something like that  sounds crass next to the line that children are dying.  So, I'll end with this - I'm not sure what this new awareness means for me, but it seems that it should mean something.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Yard Sale Bust

Well, our yard sale was pretty much a bust.  We held it on Friday and Saturday but came away with very little cash in hand for all our work.

I even put out a few of my collectibles (not many because I know that a yard sale isn't the place to try to sell them).  I was disappointed that one of my items (1950's era red plastic rocket shaped salt & pepper shakers) got snatched up by a lady while I was inside and who told my friend they were in the 25 cent bin.  I probably paid between $15-20 for those 10 years ago.  I knew I wasn't going to get that amount at a yard sale, but I also wasn't going to sell them for 25 cents!

Anyway, on a positive side I did sell my high chair & car seat.  I was glad I didn't have to lug that back to my house (we had the sale at my friend's house, so I had taken a ton of stuff over in 2 different trips).  And, when it was all over, everything that was left of mine got loaded in my van and taken directly to Goodwill.  The only thing I saved were my vintage coats (I have a friend who may be interested in them).  Otherwise, I cleared it all out.  It was very cleansing!

And, now I have to urge to cleanse my house even more of unused/unwanted items.  Having the yard sale has given me fresh eyes.  I look at my stuff differently.  How much of it could I really not stand to part with and how much would I not even know the difference if it suddenly disappeared?

The moral of the story?  While I still love going to yard sales, I think I've had my fill of trying to have my least for a good long while.  Right now, it seems so much simpler to donate.

Finally, I wanted to share this link with you.  A friend shared this on facebook yesterday.  And, while it's not really related to yard sales, it does offer up perspective about things...what we have.  I remember years ago on a Saturday afternoon as I was dropping off yard sales leftovers at a thrift store and had to wait my turn because dozens of other people were doing the same thing, another man who was there looked around at the piles and piles of stuff and said, 'You know, there's really no such thing as a poor American.'

While I don't completely agree that there are no poor Americans, I get the gist of what he's saying....even those who would consider themselves at the low end of the totem pole have so much more than we realize.  And on that note, I leave you this link.  Take a minute to check it out.

 It's a collection of about 19 photos.  It doesn't take long to scroll through, but is very powerful.  It's called 'Where Children Sleep'

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wish Me Luck

Good morning dear blogging friends.  I know I've been neglecting you lately.  I haven't been posting on my own blog.  And, I haven't been getting to your blogs to read and comment.  It's been a busy, busy summer.  And, it doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

I've actually felt guilt over not nurturing my blog and my blogging friendships.  (Us women are so good at feeling guilty aren't we?)  I wish I could be here more often.  But, I have come to terms with what I can handle and right now I just can't handle my summer responsibilities and posting as often as I had been.

So, I'm just stopping in to say, I'll still be popping in here and there but it might be a bit quiet over the next few weeks.  And, I will be back!

In the meantime, my friend and I are having a yard sale over the next 2 days - Friday & Saturday.  Whoo!  Yard sales are hard work!  And, to be honest, I'm worried that my work won't pay off.  For some reason I rarely do well with the yard sales I've had in the past.  So, wish me luck.  I'm off to unload some of my packrat treasures!
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