29 July 2011

Funny Photos Part Two: The Funny Continues

I think it's high time for a few more hilarious moments caught on camera.  Enjoy!
 Why's this so funny?  Jack actually thought this outfit matched.  And it wasn't for mismatched outfit day at work or anything either.  You see why I worry about him?  Soon he'll be pulling his trousers up to his armpits and wearing black socks with white tennis shoes and khaki shorts (I shudder at the very thought!).  This is why men need women--to tell them they look ridiculous when they really do look just plain ridiculous.
 Here's how the annual Independence day fireworks show started: Kaylee hears no fireworks, Evelyn sees no fireworks.
 Sometimes I'll catch Evelyn making this face at herself in the mirror mounted across from the stairs.  I wonder what on earth she's thinking.
And finally, Kaylee's face completes the munchkin look.  She's about to don a pair of stripped socks and welcome Dorthy in the name of the Lollipop guild.

26 July 2011

I Love My Job

 It's been nearly a year since I worked my last full month for Iowa State University.  I was coming up on my due date with Claire, working full-time for the Ag and Biosystems Engineering Department, looking after our little farm (throwing hay bales is a lot more tedious when you're pregnant but it was a great workout) and taking care of Evelyn single-handedly while Jack completed a co-op for Rockwell Collins.  During the week, he was two hours away--a tad too far to drive back and forth without going broke or insane.  So, I tasted a bit what it was like to be a single mother and honestly, I don't know how I did it.  I know I didn't have much fun.
Now, I've got the best job in the world.  I know that lots of women claim they'd rather claw their eyes out than stay home with their kids and I'll admit it's not all wonderful all of the time, but most of the time, it's fabulous.  Don't believe me?  Look at some of the stuff I do day to day:
 Yay for jewlery making!  I like to pretend these are real diamonds and black pearls.  I don't care that they're not.  If they were, I'd probably worry about losing them and wouldn't ever wear them.
I also run a full service salon.  I cut Evelyn and Jack's hair (Clair's hair is still too fuzzy to do much with) and perform routine and specialized nail care.  See?
Ten points if you can name this horse breed . . .
That's right--a Fjord!  They were pretty neat.  They are one of the few horse breeds where they all look the same.  Thank goodness for the weekly horse shows just minutes from our place too.  I'd be having horse withdrawal otherwise.
And, of course we do lots of jogging on beautiful, secluded stretches of Cedar Valley trails and go to the park afterward.

I hope I'm not making anyone too jealous but it is pretty wonderful being my own boss (or maybe it's rather that Evelyn and Claire are my bosses and I'm Jack's boss who, ironically is the only one making any tangible money now).  Of course, staying at home is a scary way to kiss a lot of our earthly riches goodbye but to be extremely sentimental, I feel much wealthier now.  Things have a way of working themselves out and I am thankful every day that I get to be at the best job in the world.

24 July 2011

Inspirational Homes: Near Perfect

I've found that since owning a home, I seriously lack in creativity when it comes to home decoration and remodeling.  "You bought the wrong house," you're probably thinking and, in a way, you're right.  Our poor home needed a complete facelift and there I was--the plastic surgeon with scalpel in hand, patient anesthetized and no clue what parts to nip or tuck or lift.  Luckily, I have a few family members and friends whose opinions I trust and whose styles are compatible.  Whenever I'm at a loss, I turn to them for direction.
Occasionally I discover on my own something I like, whether it's one feature of the home such as a grandiose wrap-around porch or the entire house that looks like a replicated stone fortress.  I've decided the best way to keep track of everything I want to mash into a house is to document it with photos (even if it in the end it's simply the imaginary mansion I've constructed in my mind).  So, if you catch me outside taking pictures of your house from my car, take it as a compliment even if it seems creepy.  It means you have good taste!
Now that I've got you wondering just what kind of architecture I find inspirational, here is one I find nearly perfect:

What's that?  You can't see it very well?  I just wanted to emphasize how large the property is.  I would guess it was a good fifty acres.  Plenty of space which is something I really need.  And so do my pets.
Here's a better view:

Isn't it neat?  Lots of windows, a dramatic front porch, a castle-like roof, a private pond and a quarter mile driveway?!  What more could I want?!

Other than the lack of a barn and pasture (which could easily be remedied with a little sweat, time and building materials--heck, if you own a house like this, you probably have the resources to just pay someone to build it for you), this is the kind of place that makes me salivate.  And not in the bad, covetous way, but the, "I really think that place is amazing and hope I can have a house that nice someday" way.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll get lucky.  Dreams do come true!
So, if you're driving in Lincoln, NE on North Pioneers, take a peak at this gorgeous house.  Just be prepared with some towels in case you too find yourself drooling.

19 July 2011

What I Hope My Children Become

There are so many things that I want my children to learn but I have been discovering that in order for them to become someone of integrity, compassion, generosity and all other exemplary attributes and rather than simply doing good things, I often need to be an example for them.
I have long loved this story as it illustrates clearly two paths that could have been taken.  I hope I can be as kind in my everyday activities.  Sometimes though, it is my children who see things much more clearly and are the ones suggesting we give while I am the one hoping to hide the boots for the sake of a laugh.
Click here to read the entire article, Lessons I Learned As A Boy by Gordon B. Hinckley.

18 July 2011

How We Spend Summer Nights

Jack and I were married for nearly five years before we even had a converter box and antenna for our television to pick up the few lousy channels available in the area.  If you can't glean from that information that we're not big TV watchers, then I'll tell you, we don't watch much television.  Movies, yes sometimes, but really, there's not much on the tube that is that enticing.

So what's there to do on those long, muggy summer nights in the seclusion of rural Iowa?  Plenty.
 And funny enough, plenty involves a lot of nothing while sitting around the fire with visiting friends.
I love this picture.  It's a bit trippy but my camera finally captured a few difficult-to-photograph fireflies, a staple to any good summer night.
The cats usually meander over to see what all the laughing is about (and to poke around for food that no one's paying attention to).  Once they've been shooed away one too many times, they'll either sink down for a pat on the back or disappear into the cornfields to find a late-night snack of their own.
With so many geriatric trees on our property, there's always some spare scrap of fallen wood that needs to be burned.  Whether we have friends drop by or it's just our family, most times we turn the lumber into a blazing bonfire to enjoy, even if we're fresh out of marshmallows to roast.

If we aren't in the mood for stoking a fire, Jack and I often take a stroll around the property after the girls are in bed.  Granted, we risk being sucked dry by the hordes of vampiric mosquitoes just waiting for us to step outside, but it's kind of become a date-like activity for us: listening to the quiet symphony of crickets and cicadas while discussing our plans for the next home improvement project.  Sometimes, we go nuts and talk about what we'd really do if we had an unlimited amount of money.  We'd keep the original house of course, after all that work we put into it, but would add on.  A lot.
Fireflies are a dime a dozen in Iowa.  Capturing them with a dinky digital camera however, is much more difficult to accomplish than I thought.  So you're going to have to trust me when I claim that that is a lightening bug and not Tinkerbell streaking across the sky.  It's a shame you can't see how the night shimmers with them in July.  Guess you'll have to visit the Midwest if you have never been blessed to see them in action.

I'm sure some people would be bored out of their minds being cut off from the rest of the hustle and bustle of the world and I'll admit I sometimes miss the city.  Still, I can always drive into town if I want some bright lights and noise.  On the other hand, not many other people though can open their windows and hear no one but nature whispering outside.  And that's just how we like to spend our summer nights.

When Flowers Aren't Friends

For the most part, I've got nothing against flowers.  I admire the innumerable colors, shapes and textures of flowers that exist in this small part of the world.  Personally, I have an affinity for purple irises--the ones that smell like grapes, NOT the deep purple and white ones that have the stench of black licorice (my baby brother says that's the devil's candy, but that's another story).  I love it when Jack brings me bouquet upon bouquet of wildflowers from the ditch in part because they were free (one of my favorite words!) but also because it's a gentle reminder of the simple beauties of nature.
Occasionally though, I've found that nature isn't always cottontail bunnies and monarch butterflies.  Or in this case, cosmos and Johnny jump-up flowers.  To date, we've had chicory, bachelor buttons, hollyhocks, gloriosa daisies, morning glories . . . you get the idea.  Lots of wildflowers (In case anyone else likes knowing relatively useless but interesting information, assuming you're not a botanist or something where information like this may in fact be pertinent, check out Wildflower Information here if you're wanting to identify your own wildflowers).
Some of the wildflowers grow in the pasture, which I don't mind so much except the horses don't eat them.  I'm not going to argue with my pets about what they should and shouldn't be foraging but those innocent looking flowers can compete with the grass if they become too abundant.  Maybe keeping the flower population in check is the real reason Jack brings me fistfuls of wildflowers . . . Oh, well!  They're so pretty!
I love this guy.  With his droopy little petals, he looks like a cute puppy with his tail tucked.  I just hope he's not planning on biting me.
Okay, okay, so wildflowers aren't all that dangerous as long as a horse doesn't decide to chew on one that might be poisonous.  And as long as they don't choke out my precious grass, then I suppose they can stay.
There is one though that I do not tolerate on my property (I sound so commanding, but honestly, the plant probably has an upper-hand seeing as after nearly four years of living here, I still find plenty of them around).
"What a b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l, vibrant purplish pink flower!  And what an interesting shape!" you say . . .
"But what are those awful, thorny, pokey leaves?" you begin to wonder . . .
None other than a two foot bull thistle!

These things don't even pretend to play nice.  Everything about them is painful and uninviting.  If they weren't already a nuisance enough, they're practically hydras--you know, the mythical creature that when one head was cut off, it gained two?  Yeah, these thistles are just as awful.  I've found some that I thought I had taken care of but were hanging on by a few precious fibers.  They were growing again like it was a flesh wound!
It had to go.  Out came the machete, down went the plant.  I win.  Once you know their secret weakness, it's a lot easier to defeat the beast, assuming you are diligent.  They are annuals so if you prevent them from seeding and spawning a new generation of evil, that plant won't be passing on its genes.  If I sound a bit harsh, forgive me but if you've ever tumbled into a thistle, you're well aware that not all flowers are friends.

16 July 2011

Humidity

Source
Humidity.  What can I say?  The word strikes fear into the heart of curly haired people everywhere.  My hair is stick straight however so I have no reason to fret over my coiffure but I have another reason to whine: no central air.  The temperature in Iowa generally is mild compared to other places, like say, oh, Phoenix, Arizona where today it's a balmy 107F.  In Iowa it's currently 85F but there's no relief from the comparably mild temperature.  The humidity over the summer is enough to make me cry.   I'm not quite sure how I'd know I was actually crying.  Tears would have to compete with the sweat already pouring down my face.  I'd wipe my face off but the towels are saturated with moisture from the air.  I'd drown my worries in a bag of potato chips but if they're open for more than about fifteen seconds, they become limp and mushy.
I'm not the only one who is suffering either.  The toilet is dripping--no, weeping with condensation.  That poor porcelain is sure sad today.  The fridge sheds a few tears each time I open his door.  And the cellar!  The humidity makes moisture seep through the cinder blocks (I can see why the original builders used rock--not much gets through them and it's sure sturdy).
Whenever I am inclined to bemoan my situation, I think of the homesteaders that built this place.  Not only did no such thing as air conditioning exist in an ordinary farm house, modesty dictated the wearing of a lot more (and much thicker) clothes than most people choose to wear nowadays during Iowa summers.
 I love this.  I can just see a woman like this living at our house in 1900.  "Darling, I've got to go out and shoot something for dinner."  All, of course, complete with bustles and corsets and petticoats.  Man, women back then were tough.

Like every good, harrowing tale, there is something to be gained.  Humidity is good for your skin.  Don't need much moisturizer these days.  And don't anybody try to disprove my old wives tale.  It's about all I've got going for me.  That and the fact that I've at least got three well-used window air conditioners and a slight but welcome breeze.

12 July 2011

How I Spent Spring Break 2010

Normal people spend their spring break at some location other than home, relaxing and shaking off the dormant stupor of winter.  We, on the other hand, spend 99.9% of all free time fixing something.  And for spring break 2010, we actually recruited other innocent family members to help (they should have known better--it wasn't their first visit!) and what better project to work on than the stairs?!

I think I'll let the photos speak for themselves here.  I'll show you a few of the old, incredibly steep, built-for-tiny-pioneer-feet stairs (they were like a painful slide when you slip down them--trust me, I know--so I took revenge on them by having them replaced) and some of the fixing up process.  It isn't always pretty and boy, was it a lot of work, but we got those suckers taken care of and I couldn't be happier!
Charming, isn't it?  This is what the stairs looked like after we ripped a hole in the doorway so we could tote our mattress up the stairs.

Can you say, "Steep?"
The skeleton of new stairs!



 We extended the landing of the stairs so guests (and ourselves!) wouldn't tumble down the stairs as they stepped out of the bathroom.

 It's starting to look finished!  And I love the storage under the stairs--plenty of room for Harry Potter!

Rather than let anyone go soft, I'm happy to say by the end of spring break, all that participated in the building of our new stairs were thoroughly exhausted in both body and mind.  There was still plenty of work after the initial building of the stairs (as you can see by the crumbling plaster and lathe behind) but I took advantage of the fact that several family members and friends were engineer-minded enough to conceive of these beautiful steps.  And if they weren't involved in the design of the stairs, like myself, they were used as pack mules for carrying garbage outside or bringing materials inside.  So with my deepest gratitude, thanks to all who helped with our elegant new stairs!

11 July 2011

Natural Talent

I have glimpsed, by accident of course, a few of the modeling shows that are on television and have had it confirmed: it really is difficult for some people to strike a decent pose.  Mind-boggling, even.
 I like this one . . . It reminds me of Where The Wild Things Are.

There are similaries, no?


Then there's this:
Poor girl looks like she took a tumble out of bed, although she doesn't look too concerned, does she?

I couldn't help but see the similarities in Claire's pose:
(A little risque, showing some belly and diaper!  She's not grasping modesty yet--she's still working on picking up things with her forefinger and thumb).

And Evelyn's fast becoming a daring shoe model:
(Using my shoes, of course).

The best part is that their talent is all natural--they certainly didn't get any photogenic genes from me.  And they knew just how to pucker their lips just right, mess their hair, where to put their hands, how to accessorize the floor with toys . . . it turned out just beautifully.  I think the cheap brown carpet really adds a lot to the photos, don't you?  I've a couple potential money makers on my hands.  But I'll encourage them to get an education as a back up plan, just in case.

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