A self-improvement journey

I have days where I like myself, and others where I am really annoyed.

Lately it has been the later. My weight is up. My teeth are yellow with grey stains. My upper lip skin is strangely dark and makes me look like I have a mustache. I spend my spare time zoning out in an electronic haze, or sleeping. My office is in chaos. My house is a mess. I have no routine.

You get the picture.

Yesterday was July 1. I agreed to join a teeth whitening challenge. In the challenge we are to brush twice daily with Young Living Thieves Aromabright toothpaste, and a drop of orange oil.

I only managed brushing once.

But today is a new day, and I will brush twice. I will take my Slique Citraslim. I will research skin lightening oils. I will spend time organizing and cleaning my home.

I will improve me.

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I feel like dancing

I can’t be the only one who after watching a good movie feels like dancing… or am I?

My kids and I have had a tradition of dancing during the credits of movies. Not in theatres, although you may find me bouncing a bunch, but at home after a good movie, we HAVE to dance. My dog expects this too. He gets excited and it is the one time I let him jump up on me, so he can dance with us a bit.

We just watched “the Greatest Showman” and it was wonderful. I wish I had seen it in the theatre. I wish I had been wrapped up in that spectacle on the big screen. Sadly I make do on my tiny 32″, but that is my own home viewing choice. We like movies in our house, and books – but that is commentary for another day.

I am vibrating with energy. I am dreaming of a production of our own. Will it happen? Maybe. I’ve already been collecting songs in my Spotify playlist.

But in the mean time, here we are dancing and jumping and waltzing as the music plays and the credits roll.

A Dorothy Story

rubySlippers

If Dorothy had just followed the red brick road…

She would have met a banker with a head full of money, a mechanic with a well oiled motor bike, and a furniture salesman with a penchant for animal prints. They would have arrived at the sapphire city and stayed in a posh hotel where there was a baking and cooking contest using the magical apples.

Dorothy would have gone on to open a skin care and wellness institute and become fast friends with the artist formerly known as the wicked witch of the west who really was suffering from an emerald allergy.

Using her shoes, she would have gone back to Kansas to visit and brought with her magic apple and poppy seeds which helped bring color and a lively business to her aunt and uncle.

The wizard would have come to visit Dorothy in the sapphire city and spent long weekends talking fashion and reminiscing about life in the old world.

To be continued…

Fiesta Salsa Recipe

It was 9:20 pm Saturday night and I was walking to the garden, again, aided by a head lamp, with scissors and a measuring cup.

Because I wanted to make salsa that morning. Here is how my Saturday actually went.

I had to hit the farmer’s market before I could start. I needed a few items that weren’t quite ready in my garden. I had tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini in the house that needed to be used soon but did not have peppers or garlic yet. I got up early, ran down to my jar supply, gathered a plethera of pints, realized that I only had 2 lids in my canning supply. I suppose I could pilfer the 5 new jelly jars with lids. I have to get more today, I need to get going on pickles too.

Only first I had to take girl child to the dentist at 7:30 am. Yes there is a dentist open, not just on weekends, but early morning weekends. We finished at the dentist, and visited two stores to pick up the perfect birthday gift for her BFF. Finally, we are at the farmer’s market. I had taken a photo of my recipe before I left the house, that way I could check that I had all the ingredients. Of course once we were there I only glanced at it, and remembered I needed garlic and hot peppers. Got them plus a few extras – like fresh made irish soda bread! So good toasted with butter slathered all over. Also good with honey. Mmmm.

We got home, and I started chopping tomatoes. I even took the time to squeeze out the seeds. This is a step I usually ignore because it seems like a waste, but then I realize later that the salsa is too liquidy, so I tried to follow the recipe. Except I only had 5.5 cups of tomatoes in the house. So off I traipse to the garden. You may be interested to know that our garden is at the opposite end of our property, away from our house by about 1/4 mile. I pick all the ripe tomatoes, promising my garden I will be back to pick the cucumbers and zucchinis, and maybe pull a few weeds, and see if there are any remaining peas, or beans. And yikes those turnips have to get processed today!

Back in the kitchen, I now have 7 cups of tomatoes, seeded, and chopped. I start on the next ingredient, 2 cups chopped, seeded, peeled cucumbers. This the is the main reason I chose this recipe. If you garden you know there are always too many zucchini, and the same can often apply to cucumbers, and tomatoes. I had searched the internet and found several recipes for zucchini in salsa, but none of them were canned, so I checked my blue book, and found the Fiesta Salsa. It contains cucumbers, which I discovered over the years of too many zucchini to deal with easily, could be substituted for cucumbers in most canning recipes. Bread and butter zucchini pickles are amazing by the way.

I seeded and chopped, but did not peel, 1 cup of cucumbers and 1 cup of zucchini. I didn’t want to chance the flavor too much, and I don’t believe in peeling cucumbers or zucchini. Such a waste, althought I’m sure there is a reason the recipe planner wanted me to peel them.

Next ingredent, hot peppers, several kinds, equalling 4 cups. I removed seeds, and threw them into the food processor. I’m a whimp when it comes to spice so I got a few medium hot peppers, and most mild hot peppers.

Then I was called away to help unload the animal feed from the truck. I realized in that moment that the feed shed really had to be cleaned, since I had officially evicted the chickens who had been calling it a coop for the last year. I emptied and cleaned, and organized and now it is a working feed shed only again. Although I think we will need to store firewood in it this winter.

Back in the kitchen, I realize I have only purchased 2 cups of peppers, so I topped it with 2 more cups of zucchini and cucumber. So much for me finally following a recipe.

Next ingredient, 1/4 cup minced cilantro. I don’t usually like the taste of cilantro, and usually substitute parsley from our patch, but I did not get a patch started this year, and guess what, I didn’t pick any up while at the farmers market.

Out I go to mention going into town to my hubby. He is getting ready to reattach the tiller to our garden tractor. So I stick around to help him out. Then go to check out the chickens in their new space, collect eggs from all around in their yard. Notice their water is low, fill it.

Get back inside, let the hubby know I have to go back to town. He lists some items he needs. I make a list, it includes cilantro, and majoram. Grab boy child and let girl child nap. Off we go.

I park in the lot near the co-op, and decide to run into the thrift store first. Boy child needs a few items for his Renaissance Festival costume. We look, probably linger too long, then head to the co-op. I pick up cilantro, and majoram. No sign of fresh parsley, I hope I still like it once the recipe is complete. Head off to fill hubby’s list.

Stop at 2 more thrift stores on the way. Find a vest that will be a perfect doublet. Get hubby’s items. Check the list again. All it good. Head home.

As we are pulling into the driveway. Hubby informs me we are going to work in the garden. He wants me to show him where he can till – there are some produce that is done or I have given up on. The letuce row that has bolted. The pea row that the wildlife consumed. The root row, where we pulled all the turnips.

We worked hard. Pulled giant weeds so the tiller could make it through. Pulled posts and string. Weeded around the peppers and tomatoes. Moved all the volunteer tomatoes from the rows we were tilling under. Replanted the tomatoes, picked the cucumbers and zucchinis.

Finally back at the house. We are all tired. I turn on the heat for the boiling water canner. We sit for a few episodes of Once Upon A Time. Send the kids off to bed.

Back to the kitchen. Start the dishwasher to sanitize my jars. Add ingredients to the pot, slowly, checking them off as I go.

7 cups chopped, seeded tomatoes
2 cups chopped, seeded cucumbers (zucchini)
2 cups chopped, seeded banana peppers
1 cup sliced green onion
1/2 cup chopped jalapeno
1/2 cup chopped anaheim peppers

Shoot! I only needed 3 cups of hot peppers! I pull 1 cup of the zucchini/cucumber mix off the top, reach into fridge, open bag – nope that’s asparagus. GAH! And so I was walking to the garden at 9:20 pm to get chives, desperate to finish the salsa, because there is no room in the fridge to store anything overnight.

Back to the house with a cup of chives. I finish the recipe.
1/4 cup minced cilantro
3 cloves minced garlic
1 T dried marjoram (I couldn’t find fresh)
1 t salt
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 T lime juice

A little over an hour later I am finally done. I did run into a little trouble with the limes being scary old in the bottom drawer of the fridge, but I figured it out. 5 pints plus 1/2 cup were completed.

Salsa batch 1 complete. Sigh.

My Life Story … so far … Part 3

This evening the air is summer heavy with scent. Rich and reminiscent of lilac grandmothers.

My paternal grandmother was the hub of our extended family. Every holiday the Lagardes gathered at her home and feasted. Cousins, aunts, uncles, all together. Often the evening would end with spirited board games or tv movies. Laughter, more food, and love abounded. My grandmother was almost always in the kitchen cooking, or cleaning up – although it was usually the men’s job to wash the dishes. Eventually it was realized that my uncles, one a chef and one a cook, being in the kitchen almost as much as grandma, and the aunts, it should fall to us cousins to do the dishes. I loved my grandmother, and in retrospect I wish I had spent more time with her, learning. I hope to be a little like her someday.

When my grandmother died, we all did a little posturing to see who would be the new hub. My mother tried. I tried. An aunt tried. Ultimately the Lagardes went their separate ways into individual families. Although a funeral gathering still draws us all together for hours of food, and laughter, and discussion. Now, my older sister tends to be the main hub of the Bill Lagarde clan (I’m a little envious). We also migrated more of the Norton events, mostly hosted by one of my Aunts – the hub of the Nortons. She holds a great party, very relaxed, and I also hope to be a little like her someday.

I adore hosting parties. I adore fancy glassware. I adore beautiful food. I adore having all the best things for people to enjoy. I love cooking, and arranging, and baking, and discovering beautiful things. There were several years where I hosted annual parties with live bands, catered food, and art. Once I was married with children, I held combined Thanksgiving/boy-child birthday bashes with attendance in the 60 range. However, those years of success, faded away as people became unsingle and as we all got busy with our own lives.

Then we moved out of south Minneapolis. We had started gardening and raising chickens in our tiny Minneapolis back yard (funny story about how we got into chickens – to be told later). At that time boy-child was nearing kindergarten age and I started to feel nervous. I always felt perfectly safe in our neighborhood, but I worried about my kids in large public schools. Plus, I really wanted them to experience a simple country life like where I grew up. We moved far enough away to be inconvenient for people to visit, but not far enough to be a weekend destination. I lost many of my friends and party attendees.

I have a certain amount of regret for not finding a better property. We should have bought something with more trees, more land, a barn, and maybe even established gardens and pastures. Instead we moved into a major fixer-upper, inside and out, and have fought tooth and nail to get to where we are. Where it is starting to look how we planned, but there is still so much to do. It usually feels like an uphill, I will never get it all done, battle to dead tired life.

We are here attempting to build a self-sufficient + 1 life (provide for ourselves and at least one other family). We hold a monthly open house on the first Saturday of the month. My dream is that we will become a local hub for homesteading information and learning. My goal is to create art, bake, and grow good food. I want people around me who are also wanting to do these things. People who can teach me, and who I can teach. A family by choice. A homesteading dream farm.

This is why I do what I do. This is what I dream.

My life story … so far … Part 2

I just took Dani Johnson’s GEMs personality test. I just discovered I am 42.5% Sapphire and 37.5% Pearl. I must admit I was hoping for Ruby simply for the color. I love red. It has always been my favorite color.

I had a boyfriend in college. We broke up on valentines day. After that, every valentines day until I was married, I wore black. I called it my anti-celebration, but inwardly I loved everything to do with valentines. I loved the hearts. I loved the red. I loved the roses. I loved the beautiful heart shaped boxes of chocolates. I could never admit it to anyone, but I longed for someone to give me those silly, commercial romance items.

I thought I would be happier, more content if life was easy. If nothing was a struggle. If nothing required effort. I gave up talents. I skipped opportunities. Looking back I only see fear, and feel regret for those years when I could have done so much more, been so much more.

I managed to cram a 4 year degree into 5 years. Had some great times and made some life long friends. Explored spaces most other students never got to see. Wandered late at night, writing poetry, pushing away potential loves because I was afraid – I don’t know of what. I graduated.

Then I discovered dancing.

I had danced before, at high school dances where it was more about finding someone to dance with, than the movement and music. I had danced at weddings to all the silly songs they would play. I took ballet and modern dance lessons, a few community ed ballroom lessons. I discovered dancing at a club. I discovered dance mixes played by DJs in dimly lit, alcohol laden, crowded spaces. While I danced I felt free and beautiful. I think I had somehow lost that feeling in the woods, in the top branches of the climbing tree, or down by the crick next to the gooseberries.

I discovered swing dancing. There was a usual group of us, always at Lee’s Liquor Lounge, where the music was rockabilly, and there was swing, two-step, and a little lindy. One of our group always introduced me as Eve to others. I wondered why, pondered it, and decided I liked it.

I discovered the Minnesota Renaissance Festival and began working there as Eve, the apple lady. A silent flirt who fell in love with everyone, and gave apple massages.

I met my husband at there. I thought he was cute. I wrote poetry, he wrote beans. It is a good memory. After much struggle, drama, learning, and growing; after a tree was caught, doctors were visited, and houses were purchased; we were married. Our children spent summers with us in the lanes at the festival. My little blue-eyed mud baby was quite famous as was my brown-eyed baby in a hoop skirt.

I guess I better make this continue on another day, because it is again past my bedtime, and I feel there is more to share.

My Life Story … so far … Part 1

Hi. My name is April J. I grew up on a homestead in a small town near Duluth. My mom was a Mother Earth News type before it was popular. We had close to 40 wooded acres, huge gardens, occasionally raised chickens, spent summers camping and fishing, and winters sliding and hauling fire wood.

My dad was a math and computers teacher at the local high school. My mom managed the home. There were 7 of us kids – 5 adopted. My mom kept a tight budget, planned meals, and bought what was wholesome, and cheap. She often made clothes for us, and once my sisters allergies were known, our bread was always 100% whole wheat and home made. We got milk from the local dairy stock tank.

As much as my kid brain thought we never had the money for the good stuff, candy and restaurants and designer clothes and the latest toys, we had enough.

I was shy. An introvert. Very happy reading in my room, or out exploring our woods. Climbing trees, collecting wild berries, catching frogs. I was emotional, a peace keeper. I was afraid of the dark. I enjoyed working in the garden. I thought no one liked me.

6 days before my 13th birthday I got sick. My school photo was that day and I look strange and pale. I remember loads of doctors trying to figure out what it was. One doctor said maybe appendix, but probably not. Almost a month later they decided to operate assuming an ovarian cyst. Ended up being a burst appendix. 3 hours to clean up scar tissue. My first meal after recovering from surgery was green jello because it was St. Patricks day. Funny story, when my first child was born by c-section, they found staples from that surgery still inside me.

I started writing poetry somewhere around middle or junior high school. I also took several art classes. I found school to be easy, and didn’t push myself at all – I always wish I had.

College was much of the same. I realized I wanted to be creative, but because poetry did not seem a financially stable career, I tried journalism. I realized that was not for me. Next I chose Graphic Design, which is what my degree is, a BA in Graphic Design. I wish I had pushed harder. I wish I had taken more math and science. My first year I took both and excelled and had both professors wanting me to take more. I wish I had gotten a dual degree in fine arts. I wish I had done more theatre, and not dropped music. I wish I hadn’t stopped running. I wish I had gone to the Sorbonne where I had been accepted my junior year – but chickened out.

So much of my life has had me taking tentative steps. Afraid of the wrong choice, afraid to take risks, afraid to pursue anything. I have so many regrets and I keep thinking over them all the time. I am working toward breaking free of this habit of defeat.

More next time – it’s past my bedtime and I have to work early tomorrow.