Tuesday, June 30, 2015

We Bought a Farm: from V's perspective

In 2010 I found out I was pregnant with Abigail, unexpectedly, while living in Turkey. Having two two-year-old boys and knowing I would need to live in Germany for a long period of time in preparation for this baby's arrival, the Lord orchestrated details for a long-time family friend, Veronica Ray, to come and live with us in Turkey and Germany during this time. 

We had known Veronica since she was a very little girl and had actually lived in the same house with her, her three siblings, and her parents, when we lived in Minnesota. (We had an apartment under their house.) Ron and Ebby will always be very special friends to us, solidified even more by Veronica living with us for a year. 

She truly was a part of our family during that year. We will always love and appreciate her honesty, sincerity, and devotion to our family. 

Another thing I always appreciate is her photography. She really has an eye. Now in the Air Force herself, she took some leave to drive from Texas to Tennessee to see us! Here are a few of her snaps during the three days we spent with her.

We love you Veronica!

Check out Veronica's ladder!

A favorite page of mine too, Veronica. 

Veronica cropped herself out of this selfie. Abigail is totally into winking when she smiles.

A nice shot of our home.

Hopping over a pile o' dung.

Hitting herself repeatedly with the ball and paddle game.







I think I've decided that the boys silly-face obsession originated with this woman.



Abigail willingly posed for all of V's pics.

Watching "How to Train your Dragon I"

Abigail and Veronica went on a hike together -- typical Abigail hikes in her dress and dress shoes. I give up getting this kid in jeans!


The girls couldn't quite say her name -- so they created their own version of it.



And here is a fun video from 2010:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Faye Medema


Would you join me in praying for the family of my cousin Faye? Faye was one of twin daughters of my Uncle Dan, my mom's brother. Faye was murdered last night and her father, Dan and her twin sister Dee desperately need your prayers as they face her death. Faye's life was filled with much pain and loss as she fought her addictions, but she did know Jesus and I believe that she is finally free from pain. I have such fond memories of my twin cousins. Faye Medema: 8/18/86-6/26/15. 
Thanks everyone.

***** UPDATE *****

A memorial fund has been set up to help raise a small amount of money for a funeral. Click here if you would like to contribute. 

We bought a farm: Song of the South

Below, is a copy of our water bill. Each month we receive our water bill with a Bible verse written on it.


I really think that people outside of the south have no idea how the South actually lives. Around here, no one would think of challenging this because it is just a part of the culture. I imagine this is how the entire United States used to be.

Our little town has ONE restaurant. We decided to try it the other day. It was very good -- total home cooking with rubbermaid containers of different flavored tea sitting on the counter behind us. 

They also had this sign in the window:


Right after we had a laugh at this sign, I went to get Hannah out of her car seat. We could NOT find her other shoe. In fact two days later, I still haven't found it. We had no choice but to bring her in without one shoe.


At least she didn't have a bare bottom!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Our story in pictures

I have been wanting to get a cute picture o the girls with Scrubs. I have one I love of the boys, and I finally snagged one with the girls. Once I got that picture, I decided I wanted to tell our story with pictures.






















Guest Post: The Last Shopping Trip


Etleva was a friend of mine from the Azores. She is a mother of two, an educated and articulate military spouse, a working woman, and a very sophisticated lady who loves our Earth and loved style. 

When she shared with me that she had given up shopping for a year, I was honestly, completely flabbergasted. I have never been a big shopper, but Etleva was the epitome of style to me. She was always put together with nice clothes and beautiful jewelry. I asked her to tell me more, and she shared the following blog post. It really parallels with my family's attempt to live a slower life, less dependent on "things" to make us happy. But for me to say I'm not shopping does not compare with someone like Etleva to say she isn't shopping. Read on to hear why she made this change. 

January 9th was the last time I went shopping for clothing this year. It has been over five months since that shopping trip at Marshalls and I can honestly say that I have yet to justify purchasing 2 of the 3 clothing pieces that I bought that day. All I can think of is, they were cute and on sale. I am probably not alone on this one… And so, a few days after my last clothes shopping trip in January, as I was looking at my closet, frustrated because I could not find a decent outfit for the day, I wondered… my closet is bursting with tops, skirts, pants, dresses, and everything else you can think of a woman’s closet having. My daughter’s closet is full of my clothing – mostly with out-of-season clothing. The hallway closet is full of outerwear – jackets, coats, etc. There is clothing – my clothing – in tubs – clothing that I have not worn in years but I might. (You know what I’m talking about...

So much clothing and yet I could not decide on a decent outfit to wear to work… thus, I decided that I was NOT going to go shopping for any clothing (including shoes, jewelry, accessories, etc.) for myself this year. I also decided to trim my wardrobe, which I did in March.

I was born and raised in Albania. We had very little in terms of material things back then, and yet I feel that we did not miss out because we did not have a closetful of stuff or tubs upon tubs of toys. We had little, and we took care of what we had so it lasted longer. I remember having one – only one – pair of cold weather shoes and one – only one – pair of summer sandals. There was no time wasted wondering which pair to wear. There was no time wasted wondering which coat to wear. This leads me to an article that my husband sent me after I told him that I would not purchase any more clothing this year. The article stated that successful people wear the same outfit all the time. And when you think about it you might have already noticed that Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Elizabeth Holmes, Mark Zuckerberg, et al. do in fact wear the same outfit day after day after day…

Now, I don’t care to be that kind of successful but they are on to something – something that I want to make use of, too. Think about it – it is simple, decision-free, thus no waste of time, and it saves money…

Now, as I mentioned, I am not there yet. I still like my colorful summer dresses, and I am keeping them, but I am not adding more to my collection no matter the price. Why? Because I have seen so many benefits to not shopping!

  • Time saved from browsing online. I used to spend so much time browsing online for shoes and clothes, though I had no intention on purchasing anything. Or I would go to a site to look for a pair of boots and end up spending two hours browsing for coats. Such a waste of time that I could have used playing with the kids or watching an episode of The Gilmore Girls! Now, since I don’t shop, I don’t spend time online browsing.
  • Time saved going shopping. At least every other week, I would be heading to a store. Not because I needed to purchase anything, but because I wanted to see if I could purchase anything. You know ... a cute top, or anything that caught my eye.
  • Money savings. This is a big one. I didn’t realize how $20 here and $100 there (my bill was often $100 or more) can accumulate to $200 a paycheck on clothing (that I don’t need.) That money is better spent on quality food – I am a big proponent of quality ingredients for quality home cooked meals – or piano lessons (which I would love), or saved for a family vacation!
  • Changed perception. For the longest time I considered clothes shopping as “therapy." ME time! I took pleasure, though fleeting, in adding pieces to my wardrobe. I think, and that is just my perception, that we are conditioned by the retail corporations mainly, to think of shopping as “therapy." These are clever people, y’all, who make use of some clever, conniving, and creative marketing tools that all of us are susceptible to. I have realized that reading a good book (probably borrowed from the library for additional savings), or going for a long walk in your neighborhood, talking to a good friend over a meal or tea/coffee, drawing with your kid, etc., can be as therapeutic and even better than going shopping.
  • Minimize waste.  I am a big fan of minimizing our waste, and let’s not go into how much Americans waste compared with other western countries, because that would be a very, very long post. So for this post, I would like to state that not going shopping equals to less packaging, less plastic bags, less gas use, etc. You get the point. Less waste makes me happy.
  • Less frustration/disappointment. There is this phenomenon called “Paradox of Choice” that goes something like this: when you are faced with too many choices (the number of tops in your closet, number of salad dressing bottled on the super market’s shelf, number of items in a menu, etc.), you tend to become overwhelmed and paralyzed to the point where you don’t make a decision at all. Or if you do make a decision, be it a good one or not, you tend to immediately regret it because of all the other options you had that you did not choose. Sounds familiar? It happens in the mornings when you get dressed and on the way to work you think, “Bummer, I should have worn the other black pants!”, or when you are in the fitting room deciding which of the 10 tops you will purchase because you don’t want to bust your budget, and then, as soon as you check out you immediately regret your choice. I have been there on several occasions… not so therapeutic after all, huh?!
  • Setting a good example for my children. I want my children to know that life can be beautiful and fulfilling without too many material things. That spending time with the people you love and making memories is more important than accumulating things. That, as customers, we direct the market, and if we choose to spend less of our hard earned money on unnecessary material things we would have more to spend on education, quality food, charities, savings, etc. I know that I am often a dreamer, but I am also a doer. Learning starts at home and I want to be a good example for my kids to learn from.


So, this is my decision and so far on my fifth month, I have not been tempted. My husband has been a great supporter, and I am very grateful for that. I told a few people about my decision to not shop and some are skeptical and some are supportive, but mostly skeptical and that is okay. I am not doing this to impress anyone. I am doing it to simplify my life.

I absolutely loved what Etleva decided and was mulling over in my own mind how I could do the same thing. I am not a shopper, but I do have more clothes than I need and don't like most of what I have. How could I simplify my selection. After a lot of thinking and praying and wondering, I decided to go to a "micro closet." You can read what I did by clicking below:

My 12-Item Wardrobe

Here are some other articles that I have found which parallel Etleva's line of thinking:

Can you go 30 days without buying anything new

We Bought a Farm: Cooking for a Crowd

We are foreseeing a LOT of guests on the farm. This makes my heart happy. We are excited to provide a place of respite and retreat to those we know and love.

However, it also freaks me out just a LITTLE bit. I have just recently started cooking. Prior to this year my husband did ALL of the cooking. (And I mean ALL!) But with him doing 7am-7pm/7pm-7am shifts, I had to learn.

I learned to cook with Blueapron.com. What a Godsend that was. I will be eternally grateful to my friend Stebbs for introducing me to the sheer magic of this meal heaven.

But Blue Apron is designed for 4 people. It is not enough food (and honestly, too expensive) to cook when we have guests.

So I turned to my Facebook friends for help. I asked them to send me their best recipes. Here was my plea:


I WANT YOUR BEST RECIPE!
Okay everyone. In our new life on our farm, it appears we are going to be hosting visitors fairly frequently. I have spent the last year learning to cook (via Blue Apron meals) and therefore feel a little more comfortable in the kitchen.
I am looking for recipes to cook for groups of approximately 12-15 people. I want your VERY BEST RECIPE. Don't send me the ones that are okay. Post the recipe that you go to and people just LOVE.

The only rules is that the recipe must adhere to the following stipulations:
1. Not too complicated. Freezer and slow-cooker ideas very welcome. Preferably under 1 hour in prep-time.
2. Egg-free.
3. Kid-friendly.
4. Free (or mostly free -- a little fudging here is okay) of things like processed foods or extra sugar, flour, or corn starch.)

I have compiled a TON of great recipes from my Facebook friends. I have also compiled a ton of Blue Apron meals that I'd like to try to recreate as well. And now, it is time to start trying these and sharing these. I will be updating this post and then republishing it to be current as I try these meals. Stay tuned!
My mother-in-law actually followed the recipe and did this one for me. It was SCRUMPTIOUS. We made enough to freeze for later. Yum! Recommended by: Briana H.

Yum! We will definitely be making this time and time again. I went ahead and ordered the Ras El Hanout spice online at amazon.com, and it came the next day. I also skipped the part where you poach the chicken and simply put the raw chicken directly into the crockpot. We served it with Basmati rice, and I even added some Indian Naan as well. Recommended by: Harmony H. 

I actually was off a few ingredients when I made this recipe, and it still came out FANTASTIC! Delicious, easy, and definitely something I will do again. I just did these on the stove top, and I paired it with some spaghetti and bread. But next time, I think I'd like to incorporate a salad. Yum! A definite keeper. Recommended by: Joy Z.

This was super easy and super tasty. I will definitely do it again in the future. Prep time is low and it would be easy to multiply for larger groups. Recommended by: Google

Easy. Tasty. Yum! I just used regular sea salt since I couldn't find any of the Hawaiian kind and it still tasted great. I served it with carrots and Brussel sprouts that I cut up, covered in oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper and then cooked on 400 for about 30 minutes. Meal recommend by: Joy Z. Veggies recommended by: Michelle K.

This was SO easy. Honestly, five minutes of prep. Very healthy. And the chicken came out tasting perfectly done. I really looked like a much better chef than I am. STRONGLY recommend this dish. I will be making this time and time again. Recommended by: Kris G.

This was the first time I tried to recreate a Blue Apron meal -- and I did so with great success! Instead of Vandouvan Curry powder, I just used regular Curry powder, and it came out fantastically. What is great about these is that they are basically a spin on the same old regular burgers, they are very healthy, and they are pretty easy.