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.

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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.

 

Why

I’m taking an course called Gameplan by Sarah Harnisch. It is a Young Living specific book. “The complete strategy guide to go from starter kit to silver.

My next several posts are directly related to things I’m learning creating as I go through the book. Bear with me please.

Lesson one is directly related to committing to a end game. What is the reason you are in this? What is your why? What has put a burning passion in you to get going in this business, yes, but ultimately, what will you do once you win? What will you do with your first paycheck? What will you do with the money once your at silver? What will you life look like? What is your bucket list dream from your life?

My why is this:

I will be debt free. I will be financially stable. I will have the freedom of being home full-time in order to spend my days building my homestead business and making art. I will bring us to Self-sufficient + 1.

I want to rise above this financial mess we have created and live a life of financial freedom. I want time to create, bake, dance, garden, whatever strikes my fancy. I don’t want to spend the end of every month worried about that last $20 covering the last 3 days of the month.

Every now an then I allow myself to daydream about what the day will be like once I have paid off the debts. Usually it involves more sleep, lots of outside time, a clean room with an easel and paints, home made meals, a slow cup of coffee.

This book promises all of this if I follow the steps.

Join me on my oily journey by signing up as a member here.

in praise of fruit cake

Sorry I haven’t written lately. Been working hard on creating a plan for our future!

When you read the title you cringed – admit it. Perhaps the joke about using it as a door stop was recalled. Maybe you even remember seeing it on the Christmas table at your grandmother’s house, dreading the moment she would ask if you had tried some.

I love fruit cake! Let me rephrase that, I love the fruit cake my mother makes, and since then, my sister and I have learned to make (although my hubby still says ick because he’s a ninny). There is a disconnect between the reality of great fruit cake and its legend.

I have had some of the fruit cakes that have the candied fruit peels or other candied fruits. I have had some of the fruit cakes that are buried beneath brandy or rum. I have had the strange tasting fruit cake that comes in a box from the rack at the grocery stores that has barely enough fruit to call it fruit cake. Given this rundown of the average fruit cake, I understand your trepidation about fruit cake.

My favorite cookbook “Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook” has a recipe for fruit cake that when you separate the name from it, doesn’t look that bad if you like candied fruit. It even has a option of “or snipped mixed dried fruit”. That is the main key – dried fruit instead of candied fruit. Another problem is the spices – not everyone enjoys the Christmas combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.

How many of you like Lara Bars? How many of you love a chewy granola fruit and nut bar? How many of you adore trail mix? Let me introduce you to the real fruit cake. Its calorie content just about matches the Lara Bar. I’m baking some now to add into my healthy eating as a daily snack because it is a great mix of fruit and nuts.

img_4902This recipe I got from my sister, who modified it slightly from my mother, has dates, almonds, walnuts, raisin, cherries, whole wheat flour, honey, eggs, orange juice, orange zest, baking powder, and salt. Sounds good doesn’t it? Today I enhanced it even more. I added in oats, sunflower seeds, apricots, and prunes – I left out the cherries because I didn’t have any. Look at it! It looks like trail mix or granola before you bake it. I bake it in loaves, but I wonder if I could do it like bars, then cut them into portion sizes – just like a granola bar. Portion sized ready to eat!

I asked my mom about the recipe at an inconvenient moment. They were out RVing across the country. No recipe because who makes fruit cake in an RV. She is not sure where she got the original recipe – maybe a magazine, but she altered it and played with the recipe. She switched it to whole wheat flour and dried fruit instead of candied. She also prefers orange juice to brandy or rum. I come by my desire to alter recipes naturally. She also pointed out that it should really sit in the fridge wrapped in orange juice soaked cheesecloth at least 1 month to help it truly come together.

So here is the recipe for those of you who are now dying to enter the realm of Fruit Cake aka a wholesome fruit and nut bar.

1.5 cups almonds (mom prefers whole – I used sliced)
1.5 cups walnuts
(substitute 3 cups nuts of your choice – I added sunflower seeds to the other nuts)
2 cups dates
1 cup raisins
1 jar cherries (mom like adding maraschino for color and moisture)
(substitute 3.5 cups dried fruit of your choice – I added prunes and apricots to the other fruit)
1 teaspoon orange zest (I used 5 drops orange essential oil)
3/4 cup flour (we prefer whole wheat – I’ve never had this recipe any other way)
(not in the recipe but I added 1/2 cup old fashioned oats)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix together the above ingredients then add

3/4 cup sugar or honey (I prefer honey)
3 beaten eggs
2 teaspoons brandy, rum, or orange juice (mom prefers orange juice)

Mix together well.

Line 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper. Press into pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 1.75 hours. Once cool, remove from pan. Soak cheesecloth in orange juice, brandy, or rum. Wrap around bread, then wrap in tin foil. Age in fridge 2-4 weeks. My sister and I can never wait for it to age.

Welcome to the world that is what I call fruit cake – or fruit and nut bars.