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Monday, July 28, 2014

Winnebago Dreamin’


The past week was county fair week, the one where we took Baha Black Sheep to live for the week, groomed her, and Adam showed her.  I’ve been tweeting, instagramming, and facebooking about it with the hashtag #1sttimefairmom and I’ll do a complete summary later.  But today, while I play catch-up on all the things I didn’t do last week, I want to share some camper inspiration I found.


You see, every morning when I drove to the fair, I passed the campers lined up and thought, “Gee.  If we had a camper here, we could roll out of bed, take care of Baha, and go back to bed.”  And every evening when we left the fair, I thought, “Gee, if we had a camper here, I could put my boys to bed and then sit outside the camper and relax with the other fair moms.”

And so, I decided I needed a camper.  A cheap one, that I could redecorate.  We could, of course, camp during the fair.  But we could also camp nearby in the summer, and Bart could run home to chore.  It would be like a vacation, but close to home.  A staycation of sorts.

First thing I did, of course, was check out re-decorated campers on pinterest.  Here are a few that caught my eye.

(Please re-pin from this pinterest board, where I’ve made sure to pin from the original source.  OR, click on the picture to be taken to the original source.  Did that make sense?)

 vintage camper redecorated

Vintage Shasta from Cornbread and Beans Quilting


Gia the Glamper from Queen of the House of Boys

5th wheel camper renovation!

5th Wheel Renovation from Follow the High Line Home

glamper redo

Gorgeous vintage camper redo from The Noshery

vintage camper redecorated

Little Prairie Girl’s Vintage Glamper


So fun, right?


But then I found out that it costs over $300 to camp at our county fair.  WHAT?   So maybe we’ll hold off a few years until we have more than one animal at the fair, and more activities throughout the day.  I guess I can drive back and forth a few more times.

(But let’s just say I did start looking for a camper – any advice?)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Passions and Purpose: Putting it all Together

As I mentioned in my last post (and you may have inferred based on the random topics I blog about) I am a dabbler.  I dabble in this and I dabble in that, and I have a hard time sticking to one thing for a long period of time.  If I have an afternoon without planned activities, I’ll fill it by dabbling – a little furniture painting, a little reading, a little gardening.  And I dabble on a large scale, too…I taught for 4 1/2 years.  I had 3 different positions during that time.

In my leadership class, we’ve been working towards identifying our “Leadership Life Purpose.”  We started with our passions, and I thought I had it figured out that day.  But, surprise, surprise!  The next time our class met, I was feeling passionate about something else!  And the next time, yet another passion had surfaced.

I guess it’s possible that I haven’t found my true passion, but you don’t have to spend a lot of time with me to know that I get pretty darn excited about a lot of different things.

As we dug deeper into ourselves – our passions, our gifts, and the legacy we want to leave behind, I was at odds. Should I focus on being a leader in this area of my life? or that one?  How should I spend my time and energy? There are just too many amazing choices in life!

I felt overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed by the choices available to me. Overwhelmed by my passions. Overwhelmed by my obligations.  The number of things I thought I could do or should do were too many to count.

2014-06-30 19.17.19

And then, I had a moment of clarity.  I don’t know how it happened, or what prompted it, but suddenly, I knew how all of my passions and gifts fit together and were meant to be used.

My purpose right now, the framework narrowing my choices and focusing my energy is this:

Build a better world for my children and through my children.

2014-07-04 18.42.12

That’s it. Everything else falls under that umbrella.  If it doesn’t, it’s not important. It can wait.

I’m still figuring out what exactly this means for my life.  But so far, I’ve been amazed at how I can apply this mission statement towards everything from cleaning my house to how we spend a Saturday night. And as we move forward and new challenges and new opportunities present themselves, it is comforting to know that this guiding principle will help me make decisions about what is to come.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

What to do with uncertainty

Our last HomeShed sale was an amazing success, but I have to admit…the two weeks before – the mad rush to get ready – were hard for me.

I was in a junk funk.

Our May sale was not a big success, and the over-analyst in me wanted to know why.  But, as is often the case, there were many reasons for its mediocrity and I had a hard time pinpointing what they were.

That uncertainty didn’t sit well with me.  Uncertainty never does.

So, I was in a junk funk.  I hadn’t had time to complete any new furniture projects. No painting, building, or repurposing had happened.  And I hadn’t been picking for much new stuff either.  Not a good combination if I wanted to impress customers (and sell stuff!)

I started with the picking – I went to a couple of garage sales, but didn’t find a lot.  I just wasn’t in the mood to buy stuff.  It all seemed too risky.  Will my customers like that? Is it the right style? Is that price too high? Will I be able to make my money back? Does that piece need too much work? Is it worth driving back tomorrow to pick it up?

Too much uncertainty.

I stopped by one of my favorite junky shops (JB Knacker, Gilbert, Iowa) for inspiration. I  wandered around and I was inspired, but the uneasy feeling was still there.  My mind was racing…Brenda has a lot of silver in here. Maybe I need more silver in The HomeShed.  And those little floral teacups. I see those all the time. Maybe I should buy them when I see them? She has a lot here.  But when I have had those at the HomeShed, they don’t sell.  Maybe I need to paint all my furniture white like Gravy Home Goods.  Or black like Broad Street Market?

But then, a moment of clarity came. I remembered something I’d seen online.

be yourself

I can’t try to be JB Knacker. Or Invintg. Or Broad Street Market. Or Gravy Home Goods. Or Junk Refunkery.  My shop is slightly different, and 9 times out of 10, people like it.  If I try to be a second rate version of those other shops, I’ll never succeed.

feed your soul


When I buy things that I genuinely love, they sell almost immediately.  When I try to guess what others will love, I lose money.  Owning a creative business means you must learn to trust your tastes, your style, and your vision.  You can not try to conform to another style because you think customers will like it.  It will never be genuine.  Trust your soul, not your ego.

This has a much broader application in my life than just what I buy for The HomeShed.  I am an over-committer.  I am a dabbler.  I have too many irons in the fire all the time.

When I start dividing those irons into soul-feeding and ego-feeding, the uncertainty disappears.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

We miss you, G Pad! (A Product Review)


For one glorious month, Verizon let me try out their LG G Pad 8.3 LTE.

And now that month is over.

And we miss our G Pad.

G Pad

(Photo from LG)


We were considering getting a tablet, mostly for me to use for work, so I wouldn’t have to haul my laptop to meetings and such.  But before purchasing, I wanted to give it a try and see how it worked for our family.

So, Verizon sent me a G Pad.  I immediately synced it up to all my accounts, which was super quick and easy.  And Adam (5) immediately downloaded some games.  And we spent the rest of the time enjoying our new toy.

Favorite uses:

-games: Maybe this is common knowledge, but it was new to me.  All of my past Google Play Store purchases were available for download on the G Pad (and I didn’t have to pay again.)

-photos/videos: The quality was fantastic, and the boys put on a couple of crazy dance shows for me to record.

-Skype: I used the G Pad to skype from a turkey barn with elementary teachers.  We tested it with my phone (Samsung Galaxy S 4) and the G Pad, and the G Pad had a much clearer picture.

-Blogging: I haven’t figured out a decent way to blog from a mobile device, but that’s not the G Pad’s fault.  That’s blogger’s fault. (Think they’ll shut down my blog for that?)  But I did draft a blog post in Google Drive and then c&p and post it from my laptop.  Technically, I could do that from my phone, but the bigger screen on the tablet made it so much easier!

-Reading: We love the kindle app on my phone, and all of my books seamlessly (and automatically) synced to the G Pad.

-Pinterest: So much easier to see the pictures than on my phone!

-Bloglovin: I like to leave comments on blogs. And that’s hard to do on my phone. So I just don’t read blogs on my phone.  Much easier on the tablet.

Other Favorites:

- The battery life was pretty amazing. Days without charging.

- The charger is a regular Android charger, which meant it was interchangeable with the chargers (including car charger) we already have.

When we had the G Pad, Verizon had a special where you got the tablet for free and just paid $10 a month to add it to your plan.  It looks like that special is over, but at $199 with a 2 year agreement, it’s still a great deal on a tablet!  Check out the specs here.

We still haven’t bought a tablet, so I’m open to suggestions! Do you have one? What do you love about it? What do you use it for? Leave me a comment below!


(Verizon provided me with an LG G Pad 8.3 LTE but all opinions are my own. I was not paid for this blog post.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Junkin’ in June: The Central Iowa Junk Jaunt


I know not all of my readers are local, but this weekend (June 27-29) is the perfect time to visit Central Iowa!

Junkin’ in June, the event that started it all, is always the last weekend in June, and my junky business, The HomeShed, will be a part of the action again this year!

I still have a ton of work to do to get ready for this sale – I’ve been pickin’ like a mad-woman and have a ton of new stuff to clean, mark and display – so no new pictures yet, but these pictures are from our last sale and give you an idea of the types of junk we sell!

2014-05-29 10.52.362014-05-30 10.21.302014-05-28 16.32.322014-06-20 17.41.402014-05-28 16.32.552014-05-28 16.33.32-12014-05-28 16.33.472014-05-29 16.24.222014-05-29 16.31.022014-05-29 16.30.11-12014-05-29 16.31.442014-05-29 16.32.332014-05-29 16.32.482014-05-30 08.24.432014-05-30 08.24.512014-05-30 10.20.352014-05-30 10.20.432014-05-30 10.21.06

Junk not your style? The HomeShed is located at Red Granite Farm, and in addition to fresh produce, Nicole just ordered hundreds of new perennials!  Of course, I’ve already nabbed a few for my yard, but there are some left for you, too. (This persicaria is going in front of my kitchen window! Can’t wait!)

So come on out and see us – we love to see our old friends and meet new ones on these big sale weekends!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Upper Elementary/Middle Grades Summer Reading List


Ah, summer. 

Chasing fireflies, afternoons by the pool, baseball games…and brains that slowly turn to mush.

Did you know that some kids regress as much as two months or more in reading achievement over the summer?  But there’s an easy way to keep kids caught up – a little summer reading.

summer reading list

As a 4th-6th grade Title I reading teacher, I was always looking for good books for my middle grade readers.  I know that fantasy is all the rage, but fantasy can be a tough read, too…long books, weird names, and make-believe worlds.

So here are a few alternatives – books that I recommend to middle grade/upper elementary readers – and as a bonus, the adults I know that have read these books loved them, too.


WestingGame1 The Westing Game (Puffin Modern Classics) by Ellen Raskin

I don’t know why it took me so long to read this book, but it was amazing! So clever and great for boys or girls.  I read it with two 6th grade boys who struggled with reading, and with a little help, they loved it, too! (Official recommendation Age Level: 10 - 18 | Grade Level: 5 – 8)

chasing vermeer Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett 

Another seriously clever book! Chasing Vermeer is a mystery with many levels of understanding for a variety of kids. The unlikely friendships and unlikely heroes were favorites when I read this aloud to my 4th grade students, too. (Official recommendation | Age Level: 8 - 12 | Grade Level: 3 – 7)

Ella_enchanted_(book_cover) Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine 

Although most of the boys I taught wouldn’t have chosen this book on their own, that didn’t stop them from loving it!  Ella is a strong female lead – one who breaks free of the chains that bind her in the end. (Official recommendation | Age Level: 8 - 12 | Grade Level: 3 – 7)

Almost-Super_final Almost Super by Marion Jensen

This brand new book by a brand new author is amazing for super hero fans. I read it to my own son this winter, and we both adored it.  A superhero story, yes, but also a story of friendship and believing in yourself. (Official recommendation | Age Level: 8 - 12 | Grade Level: 3 – 7)


A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

What can I say about this book? It makes me laugh, and I love it!  Alice’s grandma reminds me of my own grandma, and I’ll re-read this book over and over thinking of her.  Oh, and the 6th graders I read it with loved it, too.  (Official recommendation | Age Level: 10 - 14 | Grade Level: 5 – 8)

esperanza rising

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Another historical fiction, like A Year Down Yonder, but this one is the story of a young Mexican immigrant in the American Southwest. Esperanza is also a strong female lead, who becomes the leader her family needs in times of despair.  I read this to my 4th graders, as well, and just like Ella Enchanted, although the boys wouldn’t have chosen this themselves, I think it’s safe to say that they thoroughly enjoyed it. (Official recommendation | Age Level: 8 - 12 | Grade Level: 3 – 7)

holes Holes by Louis Sachar

Amazing. Smart. Clever.  A story of kids rising above the odds and their circumstances. I’ve read it several times and wouldn’t mind reading it several more. It’s that good. (Official recommendation | Age Level: 9 - 12 | Grade Level: 4 – 7)

What other favorites should I add to my list?

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Linked up to Twitterature at Modern Mrs. Darcy

Monday, June 9, 2014

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

I'm part of an amazing leadership class that combines agricultural leaders with urban leaders. As we introduced ourselves, I met several kindred spirits...and Sheree.

When I heard Sheree's introduction, I was certain we wouldn't be friends. In fact, I was pretty sure we were enemies.

Whenever  I meet someone new, I automatically start looking for what have in common. But I didn't have anything in common with her.

Sheree is a raw vegan chef. I'm a livestock farm wife at who eats a lot of turkey (and bacon.)

Strike 1.

She has no kids. My kids took up most of my introduction.

Strike 2.

Our backgrounds, childhood and education were completely different.

Strike 3.

But as our time together went on, I realized that I was *gulp* wrong. Sheree is not an enemy.2014-06-06 11.44.59

Turns out, she wasn't nearly as closed minded as I was. She was able to find something we had in common: passion and dedication to something that is special to us.  Yes, our "specialties" are sort of contradictory.  But Sheree's open-mindedness has led me to be more open-minded as well.

Sheree's okay with my food choices, and I'm learning to be okay with hers. I have tried a few of her recipes and watched her tv show (Fork in the Road.) And she's patiently listened to me talk about how much I love my farm and sharing my story of agriculture.

Somehow, despite our differences, we have become friends...friends who respect each other's views and even help support each other's goals.

So, the moral of the story is this: have an open mind. Don't judge a book by its cover. Look for the best in people and celebrate that.

And then, maybe, we can all be friends.

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