12 reasons to take your daughter to the fair

If you’re blessed to be a parent to an amazing daughter (or, like me, four), you may know multiple ways to braid hair. And you’ve probably hosted your share of  tea parties. You may paint a really mean manicure, especially on your daughter’s dominant hand. And you’re really good at listening (because she often has a lot to say).

But as the proud parent of an amazing young lady, you also need to make sure to take your daughter to a county fair.

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A Big Fat Mistake

I make mistakes. A lot of them.

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Sometimes I wear a brown belt with black shoes and don’t even notice.

Last week I went to a dentist appointment and didn’t notice I had duck poo smeared on my boots until I propped them up on the end of the long, vinyl dental chair. Truth.

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What Defines an Opulent Home?

How to increase your home's value

Would you like to increase your home’s value? In your own eyes? In the eyes of your children? Surprisingly, all that’s sometimes needed is a little distance…

There’s a story I love to tell about the house with golden windows. (I’m not just a crazy chicken lady and homesteading homeschool mom; I’m also a professional storyteller, so I have a few stories tucked away that tend to spill out sporadically. )

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Counting it joy

When things are hard

When did we start thinking things needed to be quick and easy? Nothing’s quick or easy if we’re going to really learn something.

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Training My Dog to Like My Birds (5 simple steps)

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My sweet labradoodle is the smartest, most loyal dog I’ve owned. His loyalty is deeper than deserved.

But training my dog to like my birds? For that I do deserve some credit.

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My Tapestry

Family stories are often treasured memories and unforgettable heartbreak woven together. The tapestry often turns out to be beautiful, in the end, and for that I am grateful. This past week my daughters and I had the privilege of spending hours in front of the wood stove with my parents, who were visiting from Delaware. We asked questions about their childhood memories and were enthralled with their recollections until the fire dwindled each evening. At times, the walls resonated with our tear-filled laughter. Other moments, we somberly, quietly listened to past heartaches that seemed so distant yet compelling, because they were literally a part of us.

We were appreciative to hear family stories about a few back-to-basic things that we’re now doing on our own homestead the way my grandparents did on theirs.

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Homemade Italian Dressing and a 4:8 Attitude

Homemade Italian dressing is always–always–in my fridge. But it didn’t used to be. In fact, I never once contemplated homemade Italian dressing until the day a double disappointment lead to this new joyous staple in my fridge, my new wish-I-had-realized-that-sooner thing.

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The beginning of my homestead journey

She’s a novice, but already quite knowledgable. As the frigid winter months trudged along, she taught me most of what I know about the topic of homesteading. And now that we are blessed with delicious fresh eggs daily, we love making homemade egg soufflé the way Great Grandmom used to make it. For that amazing recipe, read on…

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Silencing my complaining

It was a simple request, but her unembellished words made the hairs on the back of my arms line up in militant fashion, immediately creating a unified front against the bitter elements howling at the windows.

“Ya wanna walk with me to get the mail?”

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Two of my daughters, this one included, have an unusually high internal body thermostat. And even in the coldest recorded New England winter in 137 years, she often chooses to wear a t-shirt around the house. Today’s was one of her favorite. One she tie-dyed last fall. A t-shirt that boasts “Parent’s Weekend 2014” alongside her big sister’s college logo, under the streaks of color she had squeezed on herself.

Mind you, our 215-year old farmhouse is far from efficient, and our single-income-family budget is nothing more than meager. So our thermostat control straddles moderately cool temperatures, and I tend to wear two, if not three, layers when I’m tucked away for a winter’s day behind our beautiful but oh-so-inefficient wavy, handblown panes of glass in our little Cape tucked up on the bank of the river.

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The thought of braving the wind that howled like an angry, cold-blooded dragon, about to unveil itself rising up over the river bank, gave me pause. I should explain that in the suburbia where I grew up, getting mail was an easy feat. A mere dozen steps or so from the front door. But today our box on our rural route requires a nice jaunt, down the drive, around the bend, and beside the lake.

So I donned a few more layers and, with silent begrudging, joined my youngest on her cold trek for junk mail.

Noticing a large puddled area of melted ice that revealed black coldness in the center of the narrow neck of the lake, she discussed her doubt that we would ever again swim in the lake waters that stretch up to the base of our property.

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Surely, she mused and jest, it would never again be warm enough to sit at its edge and sift coarse sand through our fingers.

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I joined in her jesting and began to rant about green. I noted that I wasn’t sure I remembered what grass truly looked like. Would we really in just brief weeks see summer insects and August frogs?

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Then it happened. I noticed the beauty right where I was. My complaining was silenced, and I was thankful.

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She was too.

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We saw the beauty in the purity.

We walked home in silence, she with junk mail tucked inside the belly of her Dad’s coat that she was wearing. And I listening to the cold-blooded dragon’s breathy wailings dying down just a little.

Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow… Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:7-10

Delicious History

Funny how we sometimes assume we know something and for years (maybe a lifetime) never question. Never ask.

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I’d heard of Old Home Days in New Hampshire for decades. While on summer vacations over the years, I’d attended quite a few, in small rural towns speckling the central New Hampshire landscape. At these marvelous festivities I’d met fascinating craftsmen; watched all kinds of trades in action, from wooden bowl carving, to wool spinning, to fused glass creations; and devoured decadent baked goods from fresh kettle cooked corn to Maple Sugar Cotton Candy, which I have decided (with the means of the official editorial decision-making capabilities at my disposal) is worthy of an initial-capped, esteemed-looking name. (It is also, by the way, definitely worth the calories. Although, given the way it dissolves so sweetly on your tongue, surely the calories must be at rudimentary levels, if not non-existent.)

Yet, for all the crafts I’ve witnessed and delicacies I’ve imbibed at various Old Home Days, as a vacationer from “the South,” I never knew the history of the occasion. I always assumed somewhere in each town there were, indeed, old homes open for public tour on this one beloved day of the year. I never thought to ask if my assumption of the name was correct. Silly enough, I never even thought to ask where the tours were and if I could attend one. I guess I was too busy standing in line for every Maple Sugar Cotton Candy bag I could afford.

But I recently learned that after the Civil War, many men who returned home to the rugged, unforgiving New England fields, often headed south and west for easier farming. (It certainly earned it’s nickname of “The Granite State.”) In 1899, the Governor of New Hampshire decided to try to change the tide and encourage native New Hampshirites to return to the land of their roots. He figured if he could just draw them home in droves, families would realize how much they missed the beauty of their old home place. He organized, aptly named, an “Old Home Week.”  Towns across the state welcomed native New Hampshirites to revisit their old homesteads, revisit the land dotted with crystal clear lakes and sweeping vistas, revisit the land of their youth. And they did. Many visited for a long week, catching up with friends who had grayed and bent a little but who still had youthful jubilee in their voices when talking of their New England childhoods together. As they reminisced, they soaked up the forgotten beauty of the landscape.

Roads that wind and unfurl, opening up to one scenic overlook after another. Mountains that curl their backs up into the pulled wisps of clouds, who themselves are stretching across the azul summer sky.

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Intricate marvels of nature that await anyone who will slow down and let the beauty envelop them.

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Lakes that lazily take in the bounty of the scenery and offer it back serenely, reflected among the water flowers that dot their shore.

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The original “Old Home Week” was a success. Families moved back to the beauteous land they didn’t even realize they had missed so dearly. New Hampshire’s population increased. Over the years, the celebration shortened to a single day, but the intent of celebrating the charm of New Hampshire and its people is still thriving today, 116 years later.

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I’m excited to be a part of my small town’s celebration next weekend as a true New Hampshirite myself, no longer one just vacationing through who knows the deliciousness but not the history. Mind you, I am also hankering for some Maple Sugar Cotton Candy.

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I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you… have set my feet in a spacious place. Psalm 31: 7-8