Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 Reading Challenge

I LOVE to read. Our kids love to read. I love to read to our kids. When I've gone a week or so without a novel in hand...I feel like I get a bit cranky. Thankfully we have frequent trips to the library so this hasn't been too much of an issue lately. I usually try to get just one or two books for myself, and the kids and I pick out at least a couple dozen for them. We have a special shelf just for library books and these are the ones they usually pick when we have our regular reading times (before rest/nap time, and before bed). I love to see the kids grab books on their own and sit down on the couch to 'read', and I really love to just sit down with one or both kids at various times throughout the day and read with them (especially during daycare hours; it's a great way to get one-on-one time with my kiddos). I do most of my reading in the morning before I get out of bed (if I wake up early enough), or at night before I go to bed. Then I try to fit in some reading when the kids are resting, after cleaning up from dinner if my hubby is home to play with the kids, or whenever else I can.

On a blog I recently started following, I read about a book challenge that Nicole @ Table For Four had completed. She has inspired me to set my own reading goal for 2012.

I found a blog called "A Novel Challenge" and started searching for different types of challenges, but was soon overwhelmed with all of the ideas. Most were challenges that you could sign up for, and link back to in your own posts, and on and on. If I didn't have so much on my plate, I may have chosen to go that route, but I do, thus I will just make this reading challenge between me, and you, through a blog post I can update. I really did like some of the challenge ideas though, so I will incorporate those into my own challenge. Some of these include: Finishing the Series Reading Challenge; The 2012 "Books I started but didn't finish" Reading Challenge; and The Jodi Picoult Project.

I'm going to create a separate post to list some of the books I plan to read during 2012. Sometimes I am searching the library shelves for a particular author, other times I find something that sounds interesting and go with it (and have discovered many authors new to me that I love!). So, I really don't know what will end up in front of me at times.

My goal for 2012 will be 30 books. I really don't know how many books I read in 2011 (wish I would have been keeping track) so I wasn't quite sure where to set my goal. I figure with 30, as long as I read a book every 2 weeks - with a few extras tossed in, then I should have a good chance at reaching my goal.

Now I just need to finish the book I started in the last week of 2011 (Jodi Picoult's "Nineteen Minutes") so I can get started on my 2012 goal! I have 6 books waiting in my library bag...

Christmas Gifts For The Kiddos In My Life...Outside The Box.

I've turned into the "aunt" that makes Christmas gifts.

Before we had kids we just had one niece (born in 2004) so it was fun to find a fun gift for her birthday, or Christmas, and not have to worry too much about getting her something she already had. Then, in 2007, the "triplets" were born. Ok, so they weren't really triplets (and they weren't all mine). In March my younger brother and his wife had their first baby (a boy!), in May my hubby and I had our first baby (a girl!), and in July my older brother and his wife had their second baby (a girl!). Somehow my mom and I started referring to them as the "triplets" whenever talking about all the currently four year olds.

July 2008 brought us another baby (a boy!), March 2009 a baby for one of my hubby's sisters and her husband (a boy!), June 2009 another baby for my younger brother (a boy!), and July 2011 a third baby for my older brother (a boy!). Did you catch all that? ;-)  Anyways, we are blessed with 6 nieces/nephews, our 2 kiddos, plus 3 Finnish "nieces" (who are actually the daughters of my best friend and her hubby, in Finland).

Alright, now that I've gotten off the subject a bit...back to it...

A few years ago I decided that instead of searching for gifts and hoping that they don't already have "that", I would make gifts. The chances that one of the kids would already have "that" would be next to none. Plus I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I It's something I've always loved to do, but as life has gotten more hectic, I don't get much time for it anymore. Except when it's time to sew Christmas gifts!

Looks like the pink one above, but is actually dark purple...
For the first year of homemade gifts, I made a set of 10 bean bags for each child (with non-toxic poly pellets-I highly recommend them over real beans if you're making bean bags) plus a bag with handles to carry them (although I didn't send these to Finland; they were SO heavy). I used all sorts of fun fruit and vegetable fabrics that I happened to have already, and bought a girly fabric for all the girls bags, and a boyish fabric for all the boys bags. I didn't take pictures (oops) but maybe I can take a picture of our kids sets to post at a later time. I also gave each of the kids a savings bond to stash away for 30 years :-) which I had hoped to continue every year.

Then the following year (and this year as well) we unfortunately had to put the savings bonds on hold since I had left my job and money was, and continues to be, tight. But, I was still able to put my sewing  machine to good use. I made all the kids (including my Finnish "nieces", plus my two daycare kiddos) library book bags, and included a couple books. This time I carefully selected different fabrics for each kiddo. I love all the different types of fabrics available, which sometimes makes it difficult to choose, but I try to keep up on all of the kids favorite colors and interests - so that helps.

This year I made pillowcases for all the kids. I was sooo tempted to use holiday fabrics because there are always SO many cute ones out there (thinking they could be used as their special Christmas pillowcases), but I decided it may be better to select fabrics that could be used year round (although who says you can't use a candy cane or snowman pillowcase in July?!). I also included a book with each one. I love to read, and I love to read to kids. Because of this, I love to include books as part of a gift :-)  The fabrics/photos spread throughout this post are the ones I used for the pillowcases. I made 12, although my Finnish "niece's" and daughter's were from the same fabric design, and one of our nephews and one of my daycare boys was also the same. Oh, and of course our newest nephew isn't old enough to use a pillow so I decided to make him an extra large "tag" blanket which is also a pillowcase for when he gets older!

I already know what I will be making for next year. (Note: I usually haven't even thought about it this far in advance; I decided on pillowcases early fall and made them in November...)  Is it crazy that I decided on next years idea before I was even done making gifts for this year?! I am sooo excited to make next years gifts that I was ready to run out and buy fabric before Christmas...but I didn't. I realized it would be wise to use my JoAnn Fabrics coupons throughout the year, keep an eye out for cutsie fabrics, and work on them gradually. Maybe. If I get the sewing bug (and a great fabric sale) I may jump on it. And the 'accessories' that will go along with it can be purchased here and there, rather than all at once, so I can at least hold off on binge buying those. I want to keep it a surprise in case any of the "parents" of said kids are reading this...although I've already told my mom and'll have to think about it. Maybe once I get the first one all sewn up I'll post a picture of a 'current sewing project'.   ;-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Discovering the Effects of Coffee...

I have never been much of a coffee drinker. Back in the day I used to enjoy a "vanilla coffee cooler" from Caribou, but I preferred the smell of coffee to the actual taste. On the very rare occasion that I would decide to have a cup, I'd only fill my mug half full and loads of cream and sugar were required to make it taste 'better'. Even then I'd only manage to drink just a few sips, before dumping it out. I should mention that I try to avoid caffeinated beverages because they flow right through me, if you know what I mean, and every hour afterwards (for several hours) it's as if I've taken down a gallon of water. The only two things I drink on a regular basis are water and milk (I've never been a big juice/soda-pop/coffee/tea/etc drinker). Caffeine never had the "pick-me-up" effect that it did for most others. If I had a Barq's Root Beer (or other caffeinated soda-pop) as a special treat at night, it didn't keep me awake-it was bedtime as usual. But, this can change. 

My hubby is another story. He brews coffee nearly every morning. If he doesn't, it usually means he woke up late and didn't have time, so he'll grab a cup when he gets to work. If, for some other reason, he doesn't have coffee in the morning then he'll brew up a pot in the afternoon for a little energy boost (or sometimes he'll do this, even if he DID have his morning coffee).

I don't remember what the case was on Sunday, but shortly before dinner he was grinding coffee beans and brewing up a pot of coffee. It smelled so good that I decided to go ahead and have a cup. With creamer. I skipped adding sugar because the creamer seemed to sweeten it up a bit. I emptied the cup. And not into the sink, into my belly.

Wow! The things I got done that night! I was cleaning the kitchen, taking care of paperwork, sorting receipts in preparation for doing my business taxes, paying bills, etc, etc, etc. I was finally in bed at for a half hour, then went to sleep (luckily Monday was an off day for my every-other-day daycare family!). My normal night after I/we put the kids to bed is to throw some laundry in the wash, read/watch Netflix while I wait to put the laundry in the dryer, maybe read up on some blogs/putz on Facebook, have a snack, occasionally play a game of cards with my hubby, then go to bed. To sum all that up, I'm exhausted and have a lack of motivation.

Monday night (no coffee) I managed to fold one basket of laundry, wrap a couple gifts, and read a few pages of my book before falling asleep.

Tonight (I'm still running off of Tuesday) I did it again. Knowing that I don't have daycare kiddos coming Wednesday morning (ok, I guess it is already technically "Wednesday", but I'll 'speak' as if it's still Tuesday) I decided to have a large cup of coffee. Ok, ok, I'll admit - I may have even asked my hubby to brew up a pot...after asking if he would like a cup of coffee. It didn't taste quite as sweet with the creamer tonight, so I added sugar. And I drank.the.whole.cup.

Oh, the things I got done tonight! I finished wrapping gifts, except the one thing I had left to make, but don't worry - I completed that sewing project from start to finish tonight, and got that wrapped too! I also uploaded pictures from my camera, and finally blogged about a recipe for Vatkattu Suklaa Puuro that I created over a month ago, which I've been meaning to blog about!

Now it's 1:30 in the morning. I'm on my second blog post. I'm hungry so I'm going to eat a bowl of cereal (I hate going to bed with a hungry tummy). Then I'll floss and brush my teeth. Then I'll go to bed.

I'm crazy. NO MORE COFFEE for me for a LONG time. Luckily I am all done making Christmas gifts so I won't need any more late nights to get those done (thank you 'advance planning' for helping to mostly conquer my usual procrastination when making Christmas gifts, and thank you coffee for pushing me to get that last little gift done tonight instead of Friday night!).

Stay tuned for a post about my love of making Christmas gifts for the kiddos in my life, and also PART 2 of "A Life Worth Living" (Click here to read A Life Worth Living - PART 1: A Reflection).

Vatkattu Suklaa Puuro (Whipped Chocolate Porridge)

Our local ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) program runs a series of classes called "Super Saturdays" where one Saturday morning per month you and your kiddos can come and learn about a specific topic. We attended the November (Dinosaurs) and December (Bears) classes. It runs for an hour and a half, starting with free play time (it runs in one of the preschool rooms at our local primary school), circle time, story time, art/craft projects related to the topic (painting/coloring/paper crafts/playdoh/floam/sand table/etc), then we meet again for circle time songs, stories, and the goodbye song. The kids love it and it gives us all a chance to play in a 'new' environment, meet new friends, and mostly just have fun!

When we left the November class, it was chilly outside and there were snowflakes in the air. (The date was November 19th, and we got our first few inches of snow for the season that afternoon/evening. It didn't last long before it melted, and our ground is still bare...just a few days before Christmas!) It was lunch time and the kids wanted Cream of Wheat. Sounded great for a chilly day! While in Finland last year I learned how to make Vatkattu Puolukka Puuro (Whipped Lingonberry Porridge). It is basically farina (Cream of Wheat) cooked in water that has been boiled with lingonberries (the berry skins can be left in, or strained out-I usually strain them out for a smoother texture). Sugar is added, it is cooled, and then it is whipped. Lingonberries aren't readily available for me, so I use cranberries instead (vatkattu karpalo puuro-whipped cranberry porridge), or blueberries (vatkattu mustikka puuro-whipped blueberry porridge). Our family loves either version. Sometimes we'll add vanilla yogurt to the top...yummm.... I tried making this with strawberries once, and it just didn't give it a bold enough flavor. Next summer I want to try making it with raspberries from our garden. Next time I make a berry version, I will get that recipe up for you.

Anyways...back to our cold November day. Rather than make plain or berry porridge...I decided to experiment with cocoa. We L.O.V.E. chocolate. I worked a little magic and Vatkattu Suklaa Puuro (whipped chocolate porridge) was 'invented'. Although we fell in love with it, I wouldn't serve it for lunch again (or breakfast...or dinner...). It was dessert. I'm sad that my hubby didn't get to try it (he works on Saturdays) but my daughter was just asking for 'chocolate purro' the other day, so it will appear on our table in the near future.

Are you ready for the recipe? It makes about 2-3 servings (was the perfect amount for two kids and myself) but can easily be doubled.

Vatkattu Suklaa Puuro / Whipped Chocolate Porridge

2 Cups Water or Milk (or a combination of both)
1/3 Cup Cream of Wheat/Farina
1/3 Cup Baking Cocoa
1/3 Cup Sugar
6-8 Large Marshmallows or 1 heaping Cup of Mini Marshmallows

Bring water or milk to a boil. Over medium heat, whisk in the Cream of Wheat/Farina. Simmer 2-3 minutes, until thickened (stirring frequently). Reduce heat to low. Stir in cocoa and sugar. Add marshmallows, stir, then let sit for a couple minutes so the marshmallows can melt. Remove from heat. With a hand mixer, beat for 3-5 minutes (use the whisk beaters if you have them). Serve with a nice cold glass of milk. Enjoy!


To double the recipe after trying it using the measurements above and loving it so much that 2-3 servings just isn't enough for the next time use these measurements:

4 Cups Water or Milk (or a combination of both)
2/3 Cup Cream of Wheat/Farina
2/3 Cup Baking Cocoa
2/3 Cup Sugar
12-16 Large Marshmallows or 2 heaping Cups of Mini Marshmallows

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Life Worth Living - PART 1: A Reflection

Click here to read: A Life Worth Living - Part 2: A Decision Is Made
Click here to read: A Life Worth Living - Part 3: Where I Am Now

Sometimes you make a big life changing decision thinking that the outcome will be exactly what you wanted. Then you realize down the road, that it really isn't what you wanted. This is where I am at. This doesn't mean that I wish I could "take it all back", because I certainly do not wish to return to the "life" that I had before making the big decision. And, honestly I am for the most part happy where I am right now because I feel that everything happens for a reason, and this MUST be a stepping stone to where my path will eventually continue on to.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A year and a half ago I resigned from my full-time I.T. job at a technical college, leaving behind many friends, tons of memories, great benefits (health/dental insurance, retirement, etc), and exactly 11 1/2 years of my life (12/1/98-6/1/10). I had outgrown my job in the department a few years prior, although I still enjoyed supporting the staff and students everyday. I felt in my heart that it was time to go, but the health/dental insurance kept me around for a couple more years (I had a husband and two young children to think of).

Here is my story...

Two young children. While I knew they were well cared for at my mom's daycare, I felt like I was missing out on so much. My daily routine went kind of like this: up at 4:30/4:45 to get ready, throw a quick lunch together (if I didn't the night before), grab something for breakfast that I would eat at my desk throughout the morning as time/students allowed (if at all), get the kids up and changed, try to be out the door by 5:30/5:45 to drive 45 minutes to drop the kids off with my mom, then another 20 minutes to get to work. I had been starting work around 6:30/6:45 so I could be out around 3, but near the 'end' I was rushing in at 7am when I needed to be opening the student lab. The 4:30/4:45 wake-up time was just getting difficult. So, I'd leave work around 3/3:30 then head to my parent's to get the kids. But, usually I'd sit down and end up hanging out for a while because I was so exhausted the kids were playing so nice. Then we'd eventually head home, which was another 45 minutes of driving, sometimes an hour if traffic was bad before I entered the country (no traffic!). So home around 5:30 or so, then it was: make dinner/give kids baths/pajamas/brush teeth/read books/kids in bed by 7:30 or 8/mom in bed by 9, if that. Going to bed anytime after 9 was going to bed late, for me!

This was pretty much Monday-Friday, although my hubby (who works Wednesday through Saturday) had been taking some classes and there were some semesters that he would keep the kids home on Monday or Tuesday if he didn't have classes those days, but for a while before the 'end' I think I was bringing them M-F. Then I was with the kiddos all day on Saturdays while the hubby worked (usually gone 6am-6/7pm). Oh, and I think I forgot to say that Wednesday is his 'late' day at work; 10am-8pm, but sometimes not home 'til 10. I understand that he has no control over his work hours (and would love for them to be different), but man, were his work hours tough on everyone!

I was thankful to spend time with the kids on Saturdays, but honestly I was so burnt out from the week that it was hard to find the energy to actually take them somewhere to do something fun. I felt horrible. I'd barely get to spend any time with them during the week (especially when my daughter wouldn't fall asleep for naptime at daycare and then instead fall asleep on the way home and sleep through the night-for a while she was doing this 2-4 nights per week!) and then I was so exhausted on the weekends that I didn't feel like doing much of anything except play at home, and maybe try to get some laundry/dishes/cleaning done.

Was this really my life? Why did I allow it to be that way? How would I ever get to really know my children? Did I mention that I am married? How can your marriage be healthy if it is rare that you actually get to spend any time together? Was having fantastic health/dental insurance really worth not being able to spend time with my family? I'm pretty sure I was dealing with depression.

I hit rock bottom and knew I had to make a change. There had to be more to life than living it the way I was "living" it...

Click here to read: A Life Worth Living - Part 2: A Decision Is Made
Click here to read: A Life Worth Living - Part 3: Where I Am Now

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Zumba On My Mind

All.Day.Long I have been humming and singing Zumba songs in my head...and moving my feet. I was dancing around the kitchen tonight while making dinner and my 3 year old son smiled and asked me to stop dancing; my 4 year old daughter didn't even seem to notice me, or maybe she was ignoring me? :-). I told him "I like to dance!"

Last night was my 6th and final class of the early fall Zumba session. A couple days before it started, a friend from the college (where I used to work) had posted on her FB that she was thinking of taking the class, and looking to see if anyone was interested in going with her. I typed a response that I was interested and as I pushed the enter key, wondered "Am I crazy? Am I really going to do this?".

I had heard the word Zumba before, but I really knew NOTHING about it. I thought about Google-ing or YouTube-ing it to see what it was about, but decided not to; I figured I would find out when I got there.

The day before class started I mentioned taking the class to one of my sisters-in-law; she was interested too, so we all ended up signing up for the class the day it started.

Wow. For a girl who has NEVER had any type of dance instruction/training - I was a little intimidated at first. All of the fancy foot work, combined with the upper body movements, seemed a bit out of my ability. But I still remember on that first day the instructor (Darcy Fox) said not to worry about not knowing all the moves, JUST MOVE! (or something along those lines...can't quote it exactly.) I figured there was no sense in worrying then, because I do know how to move!

Unfortunately my friend and SIL had some things come up and weren't able to make it to all the classes, so I went solo to about half of them; but fortunately I'm ok with going solo because I got 6 full weeks of Zumba in, and I am hooked!

I'm so torn though...I had decided I wasn't going to sign up for the next 6 week session because the location is about a 45 minute drive from my home. With winter coming up I worry that traffic might be bad on any snowy days...and do I want to put that stress on myself? is so unpredictable-do I want to base my decision on it?

I really enjoyed the Zumba class. The instructor was great - she was very outgoing and upbeat and encouraged us to give it our all. It felt great to move and I felt I improved quite a bit since the first class (as far as getting more of the moves down). And it worked out great that the class was on Tuesdays. My hubby's work weekend is Sunday-Tuesday, so I can plan for it (his hours are unpredictable otherwise, so I don't plan anything for his work week unless I can bring the kids with, or have a grandma available as back-up). I've thought about looking for a class closer to home, but I'd like to take it with this instructor. Maybe she knows someone that teaches Zumba up my way that she could recommend. So, if I could find a closer class that is on Monday or Tuesday night, for a similar price, maybe I will consider it. :-)

Did I mention that my hubby initially encouraged me to sign up? I was on the line about it...nervous because it was something new, and also because every-other-week my 'later' daycare family is here on Tuesdays (they are picked up 5/530ish - class was at 630). It all worked out though. My hubby is the best. He realizes the importance of me getting out and involved in something, and encourages me to do so because I have a hard time actually doing this, most of the time. I am now understanding the importance as well, and will continue to make sure that I MAKE time for me (between working from home (daycare) and our varying schedules it sometimes gets lost in the shuffle).

If I don't end up signing up for another Zumba class, I will definitely be searching for some instructional videos (I need something to follow!). It would be nice to get a few Zumba workouts in each week anyways, so I will find a way to make that happen :-)

p.s. Ever since I was a kid I have dreamed of I have danced - and I wouldn't have it any other exercise I don't have to worry about missing steps or 'putting on a show' for anyone. I dance for me!

p.s.s. If you made it to the bottom of my ramblings...thank you! :-)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back Into 'This' :-)

After taking an unannounced break for a few months...I am ready to get back into this! My life has changed drastically over the past few months and I am excited to make the best of each day as I live A Day In The Life Of...Me.

Stay Tuned...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Back Next Week...

After a busy weekend, and a busy week already in progress - I plan to devote some time next week to a few new blog posts. Mailbox Monday and Finnish Friday will return next week...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mailbox Monday: Week 3

My letter went in the mailbox on Monday; this post comes a couple days 'late'.  :-)

"G" has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. She is not family by blood, but in the hearts of myself, my siblings, my parents, and several others, she is family.

Me, "G", and my daughter. Florida - January 2009

I could tell a million stories, camping, vacationing, The Forty, her fabulous cooking/pickle/salsa/wine/etc making, etc, etc, etc, but this post would go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r.

The most important thing I will share about "G" is friendship. "G" was my grandma's best friend. Ever since my grandpa 'passed away' in 1983 (and probably before?), "G" had been by my grandma's side. She became family. My grandma had a 'cabin' of sorts in Wisconsin that she moved to after she retired in 1986/7. They both lived in Wisconsin until 2005 - the first great-grandbaby came in 2004 and my grandma wanted to move back to 'the cities' to be closer to all of us. When she got sick in 2006, "G" was here quite often to help out with doctor appointments and such. She was here A LOT in 2007 as my grandma's cancer became worse...and was here until her last breaths on October 31, 2007.

We all tried to spend as much time as we could with grandma, between work, kids, etc, but "G" was always there for her. My grandma was so lucky to have such a loving, caring, kindhearted friend. I hope someday when I am breathing my last breaths that I have a friend just like "G" by my side.

I am hoping to drive out to WI soon for a visit - it has been way too long! Maybe we can get in a few games of Hollywood Rummy; "S" and I play, but I am ready for some new competition! ;-)

Thank you "G" for being a part of our family, and mostly for being such a great friend to Grandma... <3

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mailbox Monday: Week 2

(Monday was a holiday, with no mail service, so I'm posting a day 'late'.)

Today I placed an envelope in the mail for R&V. I met R&V 8 years ago. They have been family ever since. I have many stories I could write about, but I'll keep it to the most recent, for now. :-)

BBQ. Grilling. Yum. R&V make a fantastic team when it comes to the grill. I believe V most often preps/seasons/marinates the meat and veggies, and R does the grilling.

Yesterday we got together with my hubby's side of the family to celebrate Independence Day. It was a fun day; visiting with family, water fun with the kids, and, of course, yummy food. R&V grilled up some delicious items and we also enjoyed layered salad, corn on the cob, apple crisp, various treats, etc.  The main course was beef, chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, onions and peppers.

Here's the amazing part (dad, you will be proud!). I have tried shrimp many times, mainly at restaurants (cooked many different ways...and off from someone else's plate) and at the holidays when there is a cold shrimp platter around. I have never liked shrimp. For some reason I've kept trying it in hopes that I would eventually like it.

I tried it again yesterday. And. I. Liked. It!

I'm quite certain it is the way it was seasoned and grilled. It didn't have that shrimpy/fishy taste like it normally does (or like it seems to have to my taste buds). I even took some leftovers home to eat later that night. The beef, chicken, and mushrooms were also delicious, but I still can't believe I liked the shrimp!

My dad LOVES shrimp. He orders it when ever/where ever he goes out to eat, I think him and my mom have it every so often, and it is a staple at the holidays. I wish he could have been at R&V's to see me enjoying it as well...oh - and to enjoy some shrimp himself!

I wish I would've taken a picture of my plate to share here, but I thought about it too there was no evidence remaining.

I promise my letter to them doesn't just compliment the shrimp they served!

Thank you R&V for being such a big part of our lives!


It is past my bedtime now, so I will wrap this up.

Watch out for a new Finnish Friday posting this week!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Mailbox Monday: Week 1

I met "D" many years ago after she started working at the Tech College, where I also worked. She was in Marketing, I was in Information Technology.

I remember at work or when we were out and about having people ask if we were sisters. :-)

She took me on my "first" bike ride (I had been on a Honda Goldwing a couple times before, but a sportbike is a very different experience!). I think we ended up riding through Lino Lakes a bit, and I guess I'm not really sure where else we went. I know we went through the country - and it was great! We rode so fast and while beforehand I thought I might be nervous, I wasn't. By the time our ride ended, I was hooked.

At the time I was living in an apartment with "T". When we came in after the ride, she teased that I was going to go out and buy a bike. I guess she was right because within a month or two I had completed my Motorcycle Safety Training, tested (and passed!) my endorsement test a.k.a. motorcycle license, AND bought a motorcycle.

"D" also played a big part in my current life...she introduced me to my husband! They had met at an open house for a local bike shop - before I met "D" I believe(?). They became friends and hung out here and there. As our friendship grew she thought that "S" and I should meet. The first attempt didn't work out on his end (I believe he had a work party) but eventually we did meet (that story is for another post).

I was honored to have "D" by my side as I married "S". And I was honored to be a part of her special day a year later, as she married "J".

We've drifted apart over the last few years; moving far away from everyone, and having a couple kids can have that effect, but deep down our friendship is there waiting to reconnect. Now that the kids are getting a bit older (4 and almost 3) things seem to be getting easier, and I am finally (but slowly) learning how to live again.  :-)

Thank you "D" for your friendship and being a part of my life!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sometimes I Wish I Didn't Care So Much

During lunch today, after the kids were done and had run off to play, my husband asked if there was anything he could do to help out today. Wednesday is a 'big day' for me, so I have been doing a few projects around the house, mainly organizing and cleaning. The house is kept up fairly decent from day to day, but toy overload was setting in, so it was time for rotation, and the basement has been in a bit of disarray lately. Anyways...I jokingly asked my husband if he could plan out menus for the next few weeks (I plan out breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as snack for daycare days - makes life sooo much easier!). He said sure, and rattled off "mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese..."  I laughed and added in "fish sticks".

Then I said "Sometimes I wish I didn't care so much". He nodded in agreement. I replied "except that I care too much about you and the kids..."

It is such a struggle sometimes. It would be so easy to buy convenience items and I know everyone would eat them. Just think of all the extra time I would have! Planning menus would take no time at all. I wouldn't have to plan around what fresh ingredients to incorporate into multiple meals, or what I need to prepare ahead of time to ensure meals can be served at meal time, etc... But, I'm too far in now to go back. Plus, I love that we eat healthy and that my children are learning healthy eating habits. And, I do love to cook and bake.

I also wish I didn't care so much about taking care of my house. It's rare that I do a thorough cleaning, but everyday is filled with dishes, laundry, cleaning/tidying up, etc...all the basics that most people do - although maybe it's not an everyday thing for others. I would love to let the dishes go for a few days sometimes, or let the laundry pile up, to tackle it all at once for a couple hours. But I can't. With running a business out of my home, I just don't feel comfortable letting things slide.

I don't mean to complain, I'm working on that, but I guess this is a place where I can do that sometimes, just because I can :-)  I'll continue to do the things I do, because I DO care, but little by little I will find ways to make them seem less tedious. I will find ways to fit in more of the things I truly love to do, little by little.

Sometimes I wish I didn't care so much...but I do.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Introduction to "Mailbox Mondays"

No other type of communication can ever compare to sending/receiving a handwritten letter in the mail.

I began corresponding through "snail mail" at a very young age. I think I was about 6 years old (first grade) when some friends from down the block moved to Missouri. I can't imagine that I was writing at that age (mom did you write letters for me?) but maybe it was shortly after that that we wrote letters back and forth. For years. They moved to Tennessee, and eventually back to Missouri, all the while we exchanged letters. We don't write any longer, but we occasionally update each other through email.

Then, at 12 years old (the summer just after 6th grade) I began corresponding with my pen-pal in Finland. I have a whole collection of letters locked away for safe keeping! As time went on, we began emailing each other, which was nice because of the length of time it takes for a letter to travel back and forth. And now with Facebook, communication is even easier. It's nice to keep up to date with each other at the touch of a button; it's tough living so far away from your best this helps a bit to not feel so far away :-)

But, I will never forget the days of running out to the mailbox in anticipation of a letter awaiting with my name on it. And, on the reverse side, I loved to drop a letter in the mailbox, or make that trip to the post office to get my letter or package weighed and stamped to go to Finland. Ok, I'll admit that even now amongst the bills and junk, I am always overly excited to receive a handwritten letter :-)

But, times are different now, and I realize that. I can't even remember the last time I sat down and hand wrote a letter. Makes me sad sometimes because it was something I always loved to do. It just seems so hard to find the time to sit down and write. Especially with my Finnish friend because our letters have almost always been pages, and pages long. Now it just seems easier to sit down and type - because I can type SO MUCH faster than I can write.

I've decided to change that. I have a ton of stationery, plenty of pens around the house, moments here and there that could be used for writing, and no excuses not to do it.

I plan to write a letter each week. I will drop a letter in the mailbox each Monday. My "Mailbox Monday" post will not contain the actual message that I hand write, or the recipients name, but a 'story' about them; how I met them/know them, an adventure we have shared, how they have impacted my life, etc...I haven't really decided yet, but the words will come as I write them and I'm thinking it will turn into one of those types of 'stories'.

If a tough week/end finds me on Monday with out a letter to drop in the mailbox, I won't beat myself up about it - this isn't another 'chore on my list''s a chance rekindle my love of letter writing; I imagine it to be relaxing and enjoyable.

On Monday I will have a letter going out to someone...and I'd love to keep up with this for as long as I can!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Bicycle Ride With My Family

Today we made a picnic lunch then packed the cooler - and our kids - in the bike trailer, and headed out for a bike ride. There is a new bicycle/walking trail that connects our city with the city just to the north of us. We knew where the trail started, but were not sure where it let out, or how long it was. My hubby attached his GPS to his handle bars, so we could measure distance.

It was gorgeous weather for a bike ride, around 70-75F (21-24C), with a nice breeze/wind. We rode through the countryside, farms, fields, etc...and eventually came to a wooden bridge. It was quite a long bridge. I could smell the wood as we biked across it; it reminded me of Finland. I took in every breath and enjoyed the sights (swamp, trees, the train tracks running parallel to it, etc...). The bridge ended, and we hit the asphalt trail again.

Soon we hit a road. The trail ended. The road straight ahead turned to gravel just ahead. So, we went to the right. As we stopped to decide where to go next, we were lucky to hear a train approaching! We parked our bikes so the kids could watch the train. I love these small towns where we can watch the trains 'close up'!

After the rails cleared, we crossed to see what was ahead. Turns out it went to the old highway, that now hooks up to the new highway. Hmmm...not a safe place to ride. So, we turned around and went the direction that would be taking a left off of the bike trail. There was no shoulder to the road, so we had to ride on the road and pull into the grass/gravel on the side when a car came by. We soon turned on a residential road, and followed it for a bit, chose another road to turn on, then searched for a place to stop and eat lunch.

We kept riding and found out that the road went to another busy road, with no sidewalk, so we decided to go back to a church that we had seen among the houses in the neighborhood. We pulled in and there was a police car. The officer was gearing up to go out on his bike. He greeted us and said 'hi' to the kids, then gave them Junior Police Officer badge stickers. My son was talkative and my daughter was shy. :-)

We found a nice tree shaded area and had our lunch. The kids played around a bit, then decided to head for home. The GPS battery was running low, so we made a note of our distance since it likely wouldn't last until we got home. The ride home seemed to go a bit quicker, but we were starting to feel it in our legs.

After we crossed the wooden bridge, we came across a turtle. We stopped to check it out and the kids loved it! We didn't want them to scare it, but we let them get down and get a closer look. I think it was looking for shade because it kept running under the bike trailer. I moved the trailer and then it would go running again - I don't think I've ever seen a turtle run so fast! Ok, so I haven't seen many turtles-maybe they all do that? We moved on and then made our way back home.

We ended up riding close to 15 miles (24km), and were out and about for nearly 3 1/2 hours. With A LOT of hills. I should call myself lucky that the bike trailer works better on my husband's bike...I don't know what the kids weigh, but I'm guessing close to 30 pounds each (13.6kg) - so that is 60 pounds (27.2kg) of kids, plus several pounds for the trailer, and our cooler (thankfully soft-sided), and the first aid kit, etc. This was a great test of his endurance! (I do take the kids out when my hubby isn't home - and it really makes me realize how hilly our city is! I always have in my mind the phrases "slow and steady wins the race" and "I think I can, I think I can...".)

All in all it was a GREAT day! I do have to say though, that I was a bit disappointed that the trail just dumped us out onto a fairly busy road with no sidewalks. I thought it would bring us closer into 'downtown'. Maybe the trail is not completed yet??? We decided next time that we'll just ride to the end, and turn around. It is a 2 mile ride to get to the starting point of this trail, and there is a great playground/park across the street from this point so maybe next time after we come back we will have a picnic at that park, play for a while, then enjoy the 2 mile ride home.

On a side note, my husband will be participating in the Mud Run MS Twin Cities on Saturday, September 10th. It is a 10k (6.2 mile) race through a military style obstacle course made of mud. Two of his cousins who live in Missouri recently participated in this, in their area. One of the cousins formed the team for the Mud Run in the Twin Cities, so my hubby and brother-in-law have joined his team. This will be the first time the guys here have participated in an event like this. I think our hilly bike rides with the kids is just the first step in preparing his body for this. If anyone is interested in joining in, or making a donation - please click here. There will be plenty of pictures and stories to tell after he completes this! My sister-in-law and I will definitely be on the sidelines with cameras in hand!

p.s. What better way to end a day full of bike riding excitement than with a rib eye steak for dinner?

I don't want a pickle...I just want to ride my motorsickle.

I spent Saturday afternoon with the kids, at my in-laws house. My hubby was done with work early so he came over and a while later I ran to Costco for milk and frozen berries. I ended up picking up a take-n-bake pizza to share for dinner, before taking the kids home. The kids wanted to ride home with daddy, so we left for home, a silent car for me, and a car full of conversation for him. Halfway home I got the urge to ride my motorcycle. Out of nowhere. I called my hubby to see if he thought there would be time for a quick ride when we got home (it was nearly 8:30pm). He said there would be.

Not more than 5 or 10 minutes after arriving home, my bike was running and ready to go. The kids got to stay up a bit late to see me off :-)  My son LOVES motorcycles, so I think it was exciting for him to see momma heading out for a ride. Would I remember how to ride? It's just like riding a bike. Once I hopped on, I was back on track.

Since I became pregnant with my daughter (in August, 2006) I've only ridden a couple times, maybe a few (literally 2 or 3 times). In 5 years. Sad. After a difficult delivery with my daughter, the seasons had changed by the time my body was healed enough to ride, and by then I was pregnant with my son, and the cycle continued. Then the crazy life of working full time, long commute, 2 young children, hubby with a varying work schedule, leaving my job to start my own business, etc... Excuses, excuses.

I used to love riding. I still do, but as you'll read in an upcoming post, I am trying to work things out for myself, and I think returning to my motorcycle is one way of doing this. Just one of many things.

I rode about 20 miles (32km) on Saturday. It. Was. Great! I love that I can ride down the road and take one turn to enter the countryside. Riding in a car can not compare at all to riding on the open road on a motorcycle. The fresh, cool air whooshed through my helmet...there is nothing I love more than the smell of fresh country air. I could see all that was around me; I felt free. Following the country curves was relaxing, and if not for the darkness - I would have ridden a hundred miles. I said 'hi' to a few deer in a field as I rode by, but knew they'd be out in full force in a short while, so I wrapped up my trip.

I was so thankful to take a spur-of-the-moment ride (and let my hubby put the kids to bed!) and look forward to the next one. Although, I'll plan to leave earlier so I will have more time to explore and enjoy nature before darkness falls. I found the spot where I'll try to capture the sunset, so that may be the goal of my next ride :-)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gingerbread Muffins

I found this recipe here and the kids and I decided to give it a try (you can also find the recipe below). If you've followed along the last few weeks, I'm sure you've noticed I enjoy making muffins :-)  I'll continue searching for new and interesting recipes to test and share.

These were DELICIOUS paired with a cold glass of milk. While baking, the house smelled wonderful; one of those smells you wish you could bottle up to enjoy later!

I normally freeze the extra muffins that aren't eaten right away, so I sometimes leave off toppings, but since this was my first attempt at this recipe - I made them as directed. The topping was very crumbly, but tasty. I stored the extras in a Tupperware container for a day, just to see how they'd hold up, and they were just as good the next day (so into the freezer they went). I'll try one in the next day or two to see how they are after freezing. If the topping doesn't survive, then I'll just make them without it next time, unless we are having guests and can eat them all fresh from the oven!

Gingerbread Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

2 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour  (5 1/2 dl)
1 tsp baking powder 
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp dried (ground) ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup sugar  (3/4 dl)
pinch salt
1 cup applesauce  (2 1/4 dl)
1/2 cup molasses  (1 1/8 dl)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)  (1/2 dl)

1/4 cup oats (I used rolled oats)  (1/2 dl)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour  (1/2 dl)
4 tsp brown sugar
4 tsp vegetable oil (I used canola)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
tiny pinch salt

Mix all the ingredients for the topping together.

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Mix the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk the wet ingredients until combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ones in, mixing with a few swift strokes until combined. Scoop the batter into a greased muffin tin. The batter should come just short of the top. Generously sprinkle the topping onto the muffins, pressing it down gently. Bake for about 20 minutes-use the toothpick test. Cool in the muffin tin for a few minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Finnish Friday - Can I Really Wait Four More Years?

Photo taken (by me) at Salolampi (Bemidji, MN) in 2009

Before I left Finland last summer to journey back home, the plan was to return in 5 years, with my husband. We'd fly into Helsinki (instead of making the flight up to Kuopio, which I've done in the past) and my Finnish 'sister' (and her hubby?) would pick us up so we could tour Helsinki for a couple days before making the drive up to their home near Kuopio. I've been to northern Finland (Rovaniemi, in 2002) and eastern Finland (Joensuu, Savonlinna, 2002 and 2010) and areas in between (including Central Finland, which is 'home base'). In southern Finland I've toured the Helsinki it's time to get out of the airport and explore!

It has been nearly a year since I left for Finland...and it seems like just yesterday. In my mind I feel like I am supposed to be going back next month. It's such a strange feeling to describe, especially since I know there is not another journey awaiting me this summer. It almost feels like the same excitement I felt as I was preparing for my journey last year...except I'm not preparing for anything :-)

I miss the landscapes...I miss the food...I miss the adventures...I miss the shopping...I miss the produce department at the markets...I miss the language (even though I have A LOT to learn-watch for another post on this)...I miss the chocolate...I miss the fresh air...I miss the sauna...I miss the Horsma...I miss the wide variety of dairy products that I can't find here...I miss eating fresh strawberries...I miss new experiences in a 'new' land...I miss feeling content...I miss feeling 'at home'...I miss a lot of things...AND MOST OF ALL I MISS MY FAMILY and FRIENDS!

I don't know if I will be able to wait four more years. I am saving my pennies. I am hoping. Would next year be too soon? There is ONE thing I want to work on before I take my next adventure (besides saving up money!). The language. Maybe I will be ready in two years? Time will tell.

If I can travel to Finland before 2015, I would be so grateful. If not, I will be just as grateful for the opportunity to go when I do. And, maybe in 2020 it will be time to take the whole family! The kids will turn 12 and 13 that year. I can't WAIT to bring them with when they get older! But, if I go sooner than 2015, and plan to take the kids in 2020, does that mean that I will need to make at least one more trip in between???

Yes. :-)

If you cook...or don't cook...Check Out This Blog!

For the Love of Cooking

I came across this blog last month while searching online for a recipe...and now when I'm searching for something specific - I start there. For example, I searched this site for the Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins that we made today, and it is also where I found the Banana, Strawberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins recipe. I am looking forward to trying some of her bread recipes, main dishes, etc... Everything looks so delicious!

Thank you Pam for creating a well laid-out site with beautiful photos and most importantly fabulous recipes!

If you love to cook/bake and are looking for new recipe ideas, or if you are beginning to cook/bake from scratch more often and want some recipes that are fairly easy and family friendly, check out her site. Let me know what recipes you try; I will add them to my list!

Happy Cooking and Baking!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

The kids and I made these today, and they are amazing! I didn't take a picture, but I'm including the link to the recipe so you can see them here. I used Dannon All Natural Vanilla for the yogurt, and followed the recipe just as it was.

I filled the muffin cups just over half full (so they wouldn't be too big, or too small), and had extra batter so I filled up a mini-muffin tray (dozen) and popped those in the toaster oven for about 10 minutes, while the others baked in the big oven. They were moist and fluffy, just as the recipe said they would be. Sorry Betty Crocker, but I will be following this recipe from now on for my banana muffins!

I'm staring at my empty plate...trying not to go back for number three...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I. Love. These. Muffins.

I tried a new muffin recipe today - and I think I have a favorite! Thank you to Pam @ For the Love of Cooking for a wonderful blog full of recipes and photos! I look forward to trying other recipes from her collection; this was the first.

For the recipe click ---> Banana, Strawberry, and Chocolate Chip Muffins

This is what my final product looked like:

I think I may have made mine a bit smaller because it actually made 21 instead of 12. Either way they were a hit at snack time today...and I've got a stash in my freezer now too :-)

Food & My Family

It has now been over a year since I left my full-time job, although my official last day was June 1, 2010. Exactly 11 1/2 years of service at the Technical College. I have always loved to cook, but never did a lot of baking. As I transitioned from a short-term stay-at-home-mom, to a licensed childcare provider, I decided I was going to do my best to improve on what I already thought of as being fairly healthy meals. We have always eaten fruits and vegetables, but we'd have our fair share of processed, convenience foods, because time was so limited after working all day, picking up the kids, and driving an hour to get home, what is better than something convenient?

Chicken Nuggets. I'm proud to say that I can't even remember the last time I served a 'traditional' chicken nugget. Well, besides the one time I made them 'home made'. They were too much work, and turned out kind of dry...not my specialty I guess. Now I just lightly season (garlic, onion powder, and pepper) and bake boneless skinless chicken breasts (in a glass baking dish, covered with foil), slice them up, and serve them with some type of dipping sauce (catsup, bbq sauce, honey mustard, etc). Easiest chicken nuggets I have ever made...and the best part is that the kids love them this way!

Hot Dogs. I will admit that I love a good hot dog. Last fall I found some on sale at our local meat market which were natural, and didn't contain any of the 'yucky' stuff (preservatives, nitrates, msg, etc...). They were super yummy. I was so happy to find them quite a while later at Costco; three packs of 8 for $9.99!  They are Coleman brand, click here to check them out. I don't buy them often, so they are more of a special treat when I do buy them. I have even used them in an alternate way - home made mini corn dogs! Cut the hot dogs in thirds, used a recipe for a cornmeal dough to wrap around, baked them, and they were ooohh so good. I haven't made them for a time I do I'll snap a couple photos and post the recipe here.

Pizza Pizza! Pizza is another thing we enjoy. I've only made dough from scratch a couple of times, but we usually buy the "just add water" generic Wal-Mart brand crust mix, and it is actually pretty good. My hubby started adding seasoning before mixing in the warm water, and it makes the crust extra tasty. I also buy the all natural generic Wal-Mart brand pizza sauce...add some freshly shredded cheese, toppings, and dinner (or lunch) is served! We also make english muffin pizzas, and even whole wheat tortilla pizzas. The best part is that they all taste wonderful, the kids love them, they are fairly healthy, and cheaper overall than buying frozen pizzas.

Soup. I love soup. I have made so much soup in the last year, I can't even believe it! It is so easy, and there are so many varieties. There are a couple recipes I follow (and love!), but I mostly make up the recipes myself. I have several notepad-chicken scratch recipes that I've written as I throw things in the pot. At first I didn't write them down, but then I'd make a fantastic soup and think "grrr...I should have written this down!" So, now I do. The best part about soup is that it freezes well, and stays good for quite a while, so I always make a huge pot to store it away for later.

Baked Goods. Like I stated earlier, I had never been much of a baker. My husband would usually make the Jiffy Mix/Bisquick pancakes, and occasionally a carrot cake, brownies (from a box), etc. Not anymore. I LOVE TO BAKE! I make all of our pancakes and waffles from scratch, using whole wheat flour. I make muffins almost weekly, and am always looking for new recipes or making variations to the 'staple' ones I make. I make quick breads (pumpkin, banana, etc.). The kids and I even made brownies from scratch for my hubby's birthday this past March - they do not even compare to a boxed mix... The next 'big' thing I want to try is English Muffins from scratch. I found a recipe online that had great's all printed to just give it a run!

Baking Powder. I believe this ingredient is a good example of one of those deals where you end up needing to bake something for some reason...the recipe calls for a teaspoon of baking powder...and you wonder if it's any good because you know you've had it f.o.r.e.v.e.r. You use it anyway because you would hate to have to buy fresh use it just once. Before I started baking, I think I had had the same small canister of baking powder since I first moved out of my parent's house in 2002. Last fall I splurged and bought some fresh stuff! I wonder how long it had been in a square container with a blue flip-top lid???  I am now on my FOURTH container of baking less than a year!

Yeast Breads/Rolls. The one thing I am still a bit hesitant on baking is yeast breads. I did make some in the bread maker that I borrowed from my mom, and they turned out just fine, but I'm still a bit nervous. I really need to just suck it up and do it! I want to make the rolls that my Finnish friend makes...she showed me how to make them last summer when I visited, and I documented it in notes and photos (she doesn't follow a recipe), so maybe soon I will attempt these. During my first trip in 2002 I wrote down the steps as we made the rolls, but when I tried them on my own at home - they were literally like hockey pucks. Maybe that's why I am nervous to make another attempt. I will though.

Smoothies & Popcorn. My favorite meal. And yes, I have served this meal to my children (and hubby!). It's also one of my son's favorite things as well! Dairy, protein, fruit, sometimes veggies, and whole grains (popcorn)! I make the popcorn in my air popper, so we could leave it alone for the healthiest popcorn, but...I usually melt a little butter with onion powder to drizzle on top. Smoothies...I love them...I think I always have, but it always seemed like too much work to have to hand wash the blender afterwards, so it was very rare that I would make one. Now, I'm washing stuff all the time, so what's a few extra pieces?!  :-)  The ingredients I use are pretty simple. My base is a few ice cubes, vanilla yogurt (I prefer Dannon All Natural Vanilla, 32oz), milk, applesauce (unsweetened), and bananas. My most common blend is strawberry-blueberry-banana, just because I always have a bag of frozen berries in the freezer. This past Sunday I made strawberry-peach (and skipped the applesauce in my base) and it was delicious!  I have also been adding a huge bunch of fresh spinach to my just slightly changes the flavor - in a good way - and packs in extra vitamins. I've also added pineapple, apples, pears, and whatever else I may have on hand or leftover from a meal. Soon I will be introducing some other varieties of veggies and fruits to my blends...the possibilities are endless!

If you have made it this far...thank you for reading :-)  I love food and I think I get a little excited and carried away just thinking about it. I love to cook/bake and it feels so good to know that I am making nearly everything from scratch and eliminating so many mystery ingredients. And while I try to keep things on the healthy side, we still enjoy the things we love, like a big juicy steak or hamburgers on the grill. Oh, and homemade Mac&Cheese, which overall is probably a lot less 'healthy' (fat-wise) than Blue Boxing it, but at least I know what all of the ingredients are that I am putting into it :-)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's Me.

It's me. I am the one with the problem. I just can't figure it out. But, I need to.

How can I change the way I feel? Something has to change. I often feel that I will never reach that point where everything is ok. But, I need to.

I feel like it is still there, hiding within me, and I just can't see it for there are too many things in the way. How can I find it, and bring it back? I wonder sometimes if I just don't want to. But, I need to.

How is it that Miss Independent could have fallen so far that everything seems to have fallen apart? Is that where my problem lies? I don't know if I have the strength to pick up the pieces and make things work. But, I need to.

Is it only up to me to make this work? I may need some help, but I don't know how to ask. I don't know if I can do this alone. But, I need to.

This is not something that can be 'solved' overnight. But, if I don't start somewhere then I will get nowhere.  I don't know if I can do this right now. But, I need to.

No Title...Just Spewing Random Thoughts

What is this life? Where we live each day just trying to get to the next? Things are never done, and the cycle continues day after day to just keep up on the things that do matter, but they really don't. And, even then some things just sit around waiting to be taken care of, but sit and sit because we can't keep up with what we're trying to keep up with. What is the point? Will we ever get ahead? Will we ever get through what just needs to get done to even get ahead? Is this really how I feel life should be? No. And woulda coulda shoulda's are not worth thinking about, but we all do, right? I "shoulda" followed my dream all those years ago and started over in a new land, a new language, a new life. I "coulda" had that new life if this and that and such were different. I "woulda" opened a lot of new doors along the way. Although, I can't really say where I would be today, or what my life would be like, because it is 'now' and shoulda coulda woulda's mean nothing, except possible regret, frustration and sadness. How do I get past this? Do woulda coulda shoulda's surface when we are not truly happy with something in our lives? If I were truly happy, these would not be an issue, right? I still have not found that balance in life. I feel like it has been taking too long to find it, which leads me to believe that I am not really searching for it, even though I need it so badly. What is holding me back? Why can't I just get things organized and figure it out? What am I really trying to figure out anyways? Do I need a goal, or a picture, of what I want my life to be? I would then have something to work towards instead of following this same old path to nowhere. But what do I really want anyways, besides true happiness and to be content in my life? How do I choose the right path to happiness? Where will that path lead me? What is waiting at the end? What is true happiness anyways? What does it feel like to be content? For me it may be one thing, and for you something completely different. I don't know what I want, or how to feel, so I continue on doing what I'm doing, just to get by. Some days it's upsetting to me. For the sake of my children and family, I really need to get it together because they mean the world to me, and I feel it isn't fair for them to have to endure my uncertainty because although I try to give them my all, deep down we all know that the shadow of what I really am is always lurking and before long it will 'shine' through for all to see, even despite the cloudy days.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Finnish Friday - The Butterfly

On July 27, 2010, I came into my Finnish bedroom to find this on my window screen:

I've heard that butterflies can be a sign that a loved one, who has passed away, is in your presence. My first thought when I saw it, was of my grandma who passed away from cancer in October 2007. It was a very difficult time as she meant the world to me. I still think of her often, and on that day of 'the butterfly' I felt that she was looking down on me at my home-away-from-home.

We still have distant relatives in Finland, whom I was very fortunate to have met when I made my first visit in 2002. Before my grandma got sick in 2006, I had 'convinced' her to make the trip with me to visit Finland. She didn't care much for flying (and it is a long journey to get there!) but she had decided it would be a great experience. I was very lucky to have traveled a lot with my grandma, mostly by car, but we did fly together once to Reno, and I dreamed of 'taking her' to Finland...

We never got the chance to take our trip to Finland together, but I thought of her often on my journey. Was this her way of saying "I'm here with you in spirit"? Maybe so, or maybe not, but either way I hold her in my heart, and her memory will always be with me.

Here is an interesting website that I came across:

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Finnish Friday...

Things have been a bit they always are, I guess. This week I will share a few pictures, and next week will have a story or recipe to share.  Hopefully I will find make the time to sneak in a post or two during the week as well :-)

Beautiful "Horsma"
It is considered a 'weed', but I like to think of it as a beautiful wildflower. The purple Horsma filled fields were so breathtaking. I don't remember it from my first journey in 2002, but I am sure it was there. I am sure I saw some last fall when my hubby and I took a day trip up north for our anniversary...I'd love to have it growing wild in our backyard, up on the hill...

Granite Heart
I love to find heart shaped 'things'. Things that normally wouldn't be heart shaped, but for some reason they are, and they catch my eye. They always make me smile a little. It's the little things, right? This photo was taken at Koli National Park.

A Lovely Lamppost
I just like this picture. It was taken at the home of another Finnish friend (sister-in-law/brother-in-law of my Finnish 'sister').

Friday, April 15, 2011

Finnish Friday - This is for you, Henna!

During my stay in Finland last summer, I learned that many of the items in my friend Henna's beautifully decorated home were from IKEA. When I told her that I had never been to IKEA, she was shocked - mostly because I also told her that there is an IKEA that is just over an hour drive from my home. News of this spread to her sisters-in-law and other family members...

Here is a little more background information as to the 'shock'. The closest IKEA to Henna is in Helsinki. She normally goes with one of her sisters-in-law. They drive for about 5 HOURS to get to IKEA! It is a full day-trip for them. Thus, the shock that I have one so close, yet had never been there.

Well, this past Sunday...

I finally made it to IKEA! (note: the yellow mustang doesn't belong to us :-) My mother-in-law and sister-in-law took me and we had a great time! They have other photo evidence of our trip still on their cameras, so I may have an update when I get them. We started with lunch; I had the Swedish Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes and Lingonberry sauce and a Salad. It was fantastic! I cleaned my plate, and wanted more...

(I should've taken a picture, but my batteries died - so here's a link...yum...)

We shopped and shopped and shopped. I didn't go too crazy, but I got some useful things for our home, and stayed within my $70 budget. After 4 hours of shopping, I couldn't leave without a snack from the Bistro...I'll admit - I got the 2 Hot Dogs, Chips and Soda was a delicious treat! Although, I shared half a Dog with my sister-in-law, because I just couldn't fit it all in :-)

The next trip will be with my mom - she has yet to make her first visit to IKEA!