The Sweet Spot

“Good, old-fashioned ways keep hearts sweet, heads sane, hands busy.”
―Louise May Alcott

It is true that I shocked a lot of people a few years ago when I made a major lifestyle switch. A new name. Step kids. Yet, the most shocking revelation to many was that I made residence on a farm. When I reconnect with former students and old friends they often chuckle to learn that I am embracing my current crazy-chicken-lady status with wild abandon. Though, honestly, I think that my bond to nature has always run deep. I was born and raised in the UP of Michigan by hard-working parents who built a house with their bare hands (I am not kidding either. My father built his own sawmill and skidded and milled all of the lumber and built the entire house from the foundation up). When I met John, even though we are vastly different, not only did I instantly realize that he had my dad’s work ethic, but we had a lot of things in common. We both desired a life that incorporated tranquility, old-fashioned values, and a link with nature. Not to mention the synchronicity that was playing out in all of our lives. John, the kids, and I – came into each other’s lives at the perfect time. We made an instant connection. We needed each other.

I think often of the original homesteaders who cleared our land and built our home with trees cut from the property (the original section of our house is over 125 years old). When exploring our property you will find fences made from heaps of stones EVERYWHERE. The same stones that they toiled to remove, we now use to landscape the two ponds that John built, as well as repurpose for our flower beds and around the pool. I honor their hard work and feel that using these rocks give our projects more significance – it gives them a story.

My Renaissance Man John pensive in thought.

We are thankful for the rocks for landscaping.

I wonder how many years ago the apple trees in our orchard were planted? The trees give the landscape a personality. I watch them travel from each season and I feel moved by their beauty. The first hint of rosy buds takes my breath away. Their branches move from bony winter to startling green – then the most dizzying display of white and pink ruffled blossoms until their grand display – boughs drooping and heavy with fruit. The orchard shade is often where we pull up chairs to take a quick break from working in the hoop house. It is here that Lukas takes joy in being able to pop an icy root beer (kept just for him in the shop refrigerator) though he is always ready to share that first sip (he is a sweet and thoughtful boy). Were these trees planted in hopes that their canopy would someday provide shelter as well as fruit? Did the people who planted them rest like we do and marvel in the serenity around them? Did they listen to the haunting cry of the cranes and feel wistful when the sky aches green after a thunderstorm like I do?

Our apple trees were loaded with blossoms this spring.

The apple trees provide a lovely shady spot when we need to pause from a project.

Mid-summer the apples start to get big.

Rosy autumn apples.

The trees barren and waiting for spring.

Someday long after we are gone, will the owners of this farm wonder about us? Will they question who planted the peach and cherry trees, the blueberry bushes, the grapes, and the masses of tulips, daffodils, lilies, roses, and gladioli?

I have always wanted a front porch. Therefore, I was charmed the first time I visited John and saw his beautiful log home, with a covered porch. Now it’s “our home” – our happy place. It was thrilling last summer to close on our mortgage and become farm and home owners together. Our hard work is a legacy that we want to pass on to Avalon and Lukas.
The winters in the UP are fierce, which makes our summers twice as sweet. I feel it is my responsibility to soak up every moment of bliss in the summer and I have found that our porch is the perfect place to relax with lazy dogs (not Meesha – the youngest of our two German Shepherds – she will continually drop her throw toy at your feet).

Meesha ❤

Mid afternoon is best when the breezes blow (as a teacher I am afforded and thankful for this luxury). Early mornings and at dusk the zombie mosquitos tend to attack. Yet I’ve been known to enjoy a cup of morning coffee (though I prefer one of the ponds as a backdrop with our three clambering ducks: Lucky, Dante, and Beatrice) or a cold drink at night (usually while John is still working hard on a project).

Last summer I painted the rocking chairs bright red. I also love adding color with pots and collected treasures. In the summer I haul out the house plants, and because I am thrifty, I winter the ferns and geraniums. Last year I potted hostas in pots and they did lovely on the porch that gets plenty of shade. I then planted them around the pool in the fall (there’s always a spot for a hosta).


John can’t look at the porch without thinking it needs to be power washed. Yes, our hens free range across the porch in the morning. Though, there’s only so many hours in the day. Plus, it’s the imperfections that make life worth living. A reminder that life is beautiful in spite of flaws – temporal and fleeting – but worth savoring and working hard for our dreams.
July is the sweet spot of summer since we are set free of time commitments (softball/baseball games and youth theatre). Last July we were truly able to surrender to family dinners, home projects, the backyard fire pit, and star-gazing.

This year July will be different since we are planning a large-scale home addition (doubling the size of our living quarters) and we are also planning a long-awaited vacation to Alaska with Avalon and Lukas. My husband reminds me so much of my father and he can build anything. I am excited to watch our living space grow and eagerly await the memories that we create as a family.

It is almost February, and the snow continues to gleam – a white and frosty landscape as far as the eye can see. Until then, our porch awaits. A character in our story. A graceful reminder of when people lived their lives outside. The reason why John and I fell in love and are committed to work hard together to create a life worth putting all of our eggs into one basket. ❤

Remi and Meesha our loyal companions.

Putting all our eggs in one basket. ❤

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Our Story

“I don’t know what rituals my kids will carry into adulthood, whether they’ll grow up attached to homemade pizza on Friday nights, or the scent of peppers roasting over a fire, or what. I do know that flavors work their own ways under the skin, into the heart of longing. Where my kids are concerned I find myself hoping for the simplest things: that if someday they crave orchards where their kids can climb into the branches and steal apples, the world will have trees enough with arms to receive them.”
-Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

 

Shakespeare our rooster and one of his girls.

Summer is here and it has been wonderful to the Waldos so far. Year #16 of teaching is in the books and I have been blissfully enjoying mornings of reflection. June translated to a cup of coffee, sleeping kids, snoring dogs, and the fragrance of lilacs and apple blossoms in our tiny, cozy home. I am recharging for the new school year by filling the well with the beauty around me. My focus this summer will be growth – in the garden, in my writing, and in continuing to develop myself as a wife, mother, and teacher.

Our apple trees were loaded with blossoms this spring.

It is going to be a great year for apples!

John and I had have come so far in our time together. Wednesday, June 7, 2017 was a huge financial milestone for us as we closed on our refinance/home mortgage. Yes, the farm is officially ours! Our loan officer at the credit union praised us for what we’ve done with our credit score in our time together. How wonderful it feels for us to finally find a partner who is on the same page with work ethic and commitment to a career and the future. We will continue to work on our financial health together and teach Avalon and Lukas how to be resourceful, penny wise, and independent.

While nothing is perfect, and we have our moments (we are both set In our ways) I am thankful to be building a life with a man who puts providing for his family, and our safety, as his priority. I can’t stress enough how hard John works. Both in his profession and his personal life. Our home is a labor of love – demonstrated by the sweat equity he has put into our land. While the appraisal showed us a dollar amount – the legacy we have to hand down to the kids, because of his steadfastness, is priceless.

Thank you, John for strength in the face of adversity. While many people would have raised the white flag in defeat – you stood your ground to keep
this beautiful farm and give Avalon and Lukas a safe and secure childhood. In doing so you are providing them with the opportunity to learn about the delicate balance of nature, see where their food comes from, and sustainability.

Thank you for allowing me to be part of your world. In a few weeks we celebrate the two year anniversary of our marriage – but in reality – we’ve been searching all our lives for each other. Corny? Yes, but true.

How thankful we are to the family and friends/co-workers who have helped us in countless ways. Through turmoil, heartache, and divorce and onto fresh starts – our network of support has uplifted and kept us going. ♥️

I know we will encounter rough patches, but we are a team. I’m ready for the next chapter of our adventure. After signing the mountain of paper work in June the world looks different. The focus is clearer and the colors are richer. Home has a new definition for me – and I am ready to stretch and fortify our roots together. 🌱🌱🌱

I’ve always believed that dreams combined with hard work pays off – no matter your age. I love John, Avalon, and Lukas. I love our story. 

John is adding a new pond, complete with a rushing river, to our property.

My pensive and talented husband. He truly is a landscape artist.

Check out our GIANT metal rooster. I named him Apollo.

We adopted a duck named Lucky. She was rescued by the daughter of one of my friends. Lucky loves her new pond! Lukas loves her.

Lupine. June was a rainy month and my gardens and flowers are flourishing.

Our new hoop house is our pride and joy!

July 1st we harvested broccoli and peas. We started harvesting lettuce in June.

Happy kids enjoying the pool!

Our apple orchard. Home Sweet Home. ❤

 

Our family picture taken at the Pigs-N-Heat Charity Hockey Game in 2017.

Cilantro & Lime Infused Shrimp Tacos with Crunchy Cabbage

Cilantro & Lime Infused Shrimp Tacos“I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer — and what trees and seasons smelled like…”
-John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Our gladiolas are blooming which is a sure sign that fall is peeking around the corner.

Our gladiolas are blooming which is a sure sign that fall is peeking around the corner. I love to sit right here and have coffee in the morning and/or iced tea in the afternoon.

While I do not enjoy saying goodbye to summer, I love the feeling of transition that fall brings. There is elegance in autumn that is not present in other seasons. Now that I live on a farm, I am finding that I trust my senses more to announce the transition from summer to fall in the landscape. I watch the birds circling the sky, measure the way the morning light filters through the pasture, and I capture various scents in the air.

August Sky

August Sky

Our spring chicks are now full grown hens.

Our spring chicks are now full grown hens.

I LOVE our duck! Even if he refuses to go in the beautiful pond that John made for him.

I LOVE our duck! Even if he refuses to go in the beautiful pond that John made for him.

It’s truly been a magical summer and I feel like I have so much blogging to do to catch up. June started with a trip to New York City and ended with our belated honey moon to Alaska.

My husband built a pond/waterfall, installed a pool, created gardening spaces for me, and did various landscaping projects. We got approved for a grant from the USDA for a hoop house/greenhouse (which will be delivered in the next few weeks) and we added a new rototiller and sawmill to our farm equipment.

Our hotel was only a few blocks from Times Square and Central Park

Our hotel was only a few blocks from Times Square and Central Park

One of my students won a national writing award with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and I was presented with a medal and certificate of achievement.

One of my students won a national writing award with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and I was presented with a medal and certificate of achievement.

Prospecting for Gold in Chicken Alaska

Prospecting for Gold in Chicken Alaska.

One of our "off the grid" camping spots .

One of our “off the grid” camping spots .

Alaskan Fireweed and Mountains

Alaskan Fireweed and Mountains

Our Golden Retriever Ollie even relaxed in the pool this summer.

Our Golden Retriever Ollie even relaxed in the pool this summer.

The beautiful pond John built and my adorable step kids.

The beautiful pond John built and my adorable step kids.

The weather this summer was gorgeous and I walked laps around the pasture for exercise (sometimes while playing “Alien Hunter” with my step son) and we had evening fires in our backyard (which almost always involved a dance party with my step kids).

Lukas received this cool back pack from Uncle Nick. It holds all the essentials that an alien hunter needs: alien proof goggles, food source (snake), guns, and a radio. The radio also serves as an invisibility cloak ray gun (helpful to hide from the Queen..though she can still smell us). I love his imagination!

Lukas received this cool back pack from Uncle Nick. It holds all the essentials that an alien hunter needs: alien proof goggles, food source (snake), guns, and a radio. The radio also serves as an invisibility cloak ray gun (helpful to hide from the Queen..though she can still smell us). I love his imagination!

Speaking of my step kids, I have to give a shameless plug to my sweet stepdaughter Avalon’s YouTube Channel. She is ten years old and I have featured a few of her recipes here on my blog. Not only does she love to help me in the kitchen but we love to shop together and she shares my passion for writing, social media, and being creative.

Avalon and I had a spa day and got our back to school haircuts.

Avalon and I had a spa day and got our back to school haircuts.

Her “House Tour Video” is absolutely adorable and I think that her sparkling personality really shines through. Now that the pool is installed the sunflowers are ready to bloom, I told Avalon that she needs to do an update. Make sure you check out her video, give it a like, and if you leave a comment it will really make her day. This week we hope to record a video together of our new clothes for the school year. Avalon thinks that I need to start adding videos to my blog. What do you think? 😉

Avalon’s YouTube channel.

Autumn marks a time for fresh starts and in our house it means getting back to the basics with a new school year. Since I am a teacher, I join my kids in embracing an early bedtime routine, homework (in my case grading and lesson planning), and setting academic and personal goals.

As busy as our schedules get, I do not want to abandon our family dinners around the table. Last fall Lukas (who is now seven) declared that we should have Taco Tuesdays – and we obliged. Sometimes it may end up being Taco Monday or Thursday – but taco night is a hit in our household. Not only does it suit the meat eaters and the vegetarian in our house, but also the leftovers easily convert into salad, nachos, soup, or pizza. Depending on what we have in the house we prepare guacamole, spicy rice, refried or black beans, seasoned meat, and serve up sour cream, cheese, peppers, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and a variety of sauces.

Since we have a farm we raise our own pork and chicken (and soon beef), but my husband also loves seafood. For this recipe I came up with a simple marinade for shrimp (that would work well with any protein). Vegetarians could also use it to marinate squash, which is abundant in gardens and the supermarket this time of year.
The shrimp tacos also receive a burst of flavor and satisfying crunch from a cabbage slaw that is dressed with the same marinade as the shrimp.

Lukas helped me plant cilantro this summer and he loves adding it to our homemade guacamole and salsa made from our homegrown tomatoes. Have you noticed how kids are willing to eat healthier and try new foods when they help grow and prepare it themselves?

Lukas helped me plant basil, dill, and cilantro in an old tin tub and it is flourishing!

Lukas helped me plant basil, dill, and cilantro in an old tin tub and it is flourishing!

Ingredients:

I recently fell in love with Penzeys spices. My husband enjoys this Cajun spice in alfredo pasta and on eggs too.

I recently fell in love with Penzeys spices. My husband enjoys this Cajun spice in alfredo pasta and on eggs too.

*1 pound of raw shrimp
*1 bunch of cilantro
*1/4 cup chopped onion
*1/2 small cabbage
*3 juiced limes and zest
*2 Tablespoons of olive oil
*1 Tablespoon of Cajun seasoning
*2 teaspoons of sugar
*Salt and pepper

IMG_4036CILANTRO & LIME MARINADE
Pour the following marinade on the shrimp (remove shell and tails):
*Juice and zest of two limes
*1 Tablespoon olive oil

*2 minced cloves of garlic
*1 Tablespoons of Cajun spice (more if you want extra spice. Since the Cajun seasoning that I added already had salt, I did not add any additional)
*1/2 cup of fresh chopped cilantro

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IMG_4047CABBAGE SLAW:
*Chop ½ of the small cabbage
*Juice and zest of one lime

*1 Tablespoon olive oil
*1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
*1 clove of minced garlic
*2 teaspoons of sugar
*Salt and pepper to taste

Ideally, let the shrimp and slaw sit for several hours in the refrigerator (it works well to make the night before). You can grill the shrimp or cook over the stove top until the shrimp turns pink. Serve the shrimp and cabbage on flour tortillas with spicy ranch dressing. You can buy many versions in the store or add salsa to ranch dressing. For a healthier version you can add salsa or hot sauce to plain, fat-free Greek yogurt.

PRINTABLE RECIPE HERE: CILANTRO & LIME INFUSED SHRIMP TACOS

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I hope your family enjoys the fresh flavors of these tacos as much as mine did. Make sure you check out these other recipes for versatile Taco night: Spicy Brown Rice and Snappy Salsa, Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing, Homemade Taco Seasoning, Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip, Confetti Salad.

Thank you for following my blog and while I have a lot of my plate in the coming months with a new school year, thesis writing, an internship, and motherhood, but I am going to try my best to keep posting. Until then make sure you follow my page on Facebook, Instagram, and I would love to hear from you! ❤