Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 Review

As 2015 draws to a close, I am returning to my blog to review the year. I have not been as faithful to blog this year. One reason is that my computer has had problems, but the other is that I just haven't felt like putting my thoughts into words.

2015 has been a good year. Some highlights include:

Craig started the year driving over the road for Versatile Transport. I was able to go along on one trip to Alabama. Craig often took Percy along, and Percy is a great traveler.

We had 3 camping trips - Itasca State Park in May, Father Hennepin Park with Carrie, Mardo and Micah in June, and Two Harbors in August with friends from church.

We were able to go to Northfield one weekend to watch both Jake and Drew play baseball.

Carrie, Mardo and Micah visited the cabin a lot. Now that they live here in Minnesota, they've come up to visit often. Micah loves all of Bubba's vehicles (truck, tractor, moto, bicycle, etc), playing in the sandbox, and throwing stones in the 'agua'.

Brenton and the kids came up for Emily Day. It was fun to watch the kids try tubing and water skiing using a special board Craig borrowed from a friend. Izzy and I had fun doing some crafts together.

Aaron and his girlfriend came up 3 times this summer. Jeff and Whitney came a couple of times too. We always enjoy when any of the kids come up - it's so nice to spend time visiting, playing games, etc.

Craig and I also enjoyed several motorcycle rides during the summer.

This summer we finished the window seat in the bump-out in the family room. It now has drawers and a trundle bed. It's awesome! Craig also finished the trim on the family room windows.

Craig has made a lot of progress on his 1963 Hendrickson. He really wants to get it finished this year so that he can drive it to truck shows next summer.

Jeff and Whitney got married in September. Brenton officiated the ceremony, Aaron was Jeff's best man, Carrie was a bridesmaid, Mardo played the piano, Micah was the ring bearer, Izzy and Stephanie were Micah's "babysitters" while Mardo and Carrie were busy.... it was a real family affair. The weather was perfect, and the wedding and reception were perfect too. Welcome to the Balvin family, Whitney!

Northland Community Schools, where I work, passed their referendum this fall. That means that by 2018 we will have a whole new building for our schools. I signed a two year contract with the district. I am thankful to have a job.

Craig helped a builder add a portico to the cabin. We now have a beautiful entry that we just love.

We celebrated Thanksgiving down in Northfield at Brenton and Stephanie's house. I just so enjoy having all the kids and grandkids together.

Maybe the best highlight of all was the birth of our new grandson, Isaiah David, born 12/17/15 to Mardo and Carrie and big brother Micah.

As you can see, most of my highlights include being with family and friends. They are truly blessings!

I hope you've had a good year too.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Garage Sale Treasures

This week there was a garage sale at a cabin one the road we drive each day to go to town. Craig stopped yesterday, and came home with a set of lawn chairs and a couple of other things.  As we drove into town yesterday we noticed that there was a new sign at the sale - "Today is Wheelin' Dealin' Day." We just had to stop, and we were so glad we did. Just about everything was half price, and they were willing to deal even more. We ended up spending $16 (original total would have been $34) and came home with lots of treasures.

Here are the kitchen items I found. What you can't see is that there are two nice microwavable bowls inside the pot. The pot itself will go in our camper. The handle and metal thing in the pot on the right is a nice sized sifter. There's also a pair of metal tongs.

When I saw this pair of doors, pinterest-style ideas ran through my mind. I could put a different picture in the upper section and hang the door on the wall. I could paint a door a fun color, and add cork in the upper section. I could add fun knobs and make a door a jewelry organizer. When I saw the price - they were marked at $1 each but with the half price I could get them both for $1- I knew I had to get them. 

Craig had seen this metal fencing when he was first at the sale. We decided to buy it today. Now we'll have fun finding the right spot for it. These sections would look great with vines growing on them. Or how about spray painting them a fun accent color for the back of the garden?

Down in the basement of the cabin where the sale was I spotted this light fixture. I showed it to Craig and he liked it too, so it came home with us.

Craig didn't waste any time putting this new light up at home. We needed a fixture in the hallway outside our bedroom, and this one is so pretty!

There were a couple of pieces of furniture at the sale that I wanted to buy - if only I had time to refinish/re-purpose furniture. It's a dream of mine, to be able to pick up used furniture and make it pretty again - and then sell it. 
We did buy one little side table - but Craig took it into the garage as soon as we got home and put wood glue on some of it's joints, so I didn't get a picture of it. 

This afternoon we talked about how, if we had a secondhand store, we could have bought lots of treasures at this sale for the store - and made money selling them. I decided that it's a good idea to go to sales on the last day of the sale because you're more likely to get a bargain. Sure, some of the "good stuff" will be gone, but you never know what you'll find at a garage sale. That's half the fun!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Clean Kitchen Makes Me Happy

This morning Craig and I talked over our plans for the day:
  • go to church and copy the bulletins for tomorrow
  • help mom take her lawnmower to Craig's sister's cabin
  • paint the foundation blocks on the cabin
  • stack wood
  • clean the kitchen
  • do laundry
What a list! It almost made me tired just talking about it. We decided to start out doing the things away from home. Craig dropped me off at church to do the bulletins, and he went over to his mom's and helped with the lawnmower. Then he went to the shop to start stacking wood. I walked from church to the shop. Craig decided that he could finish the wood next week, so we headed back home (stopping off at a great garage sale, but that's tomorrow's post). 

I decided that the next thing on my list had to be the kitchen. I had run the dishwasher last night, but hadn't washed the pots and pans. After making quiche for breakfast this morning my kitchen was a mess. (I wish cooking good things to eat didn't make so many dirty dishes.) See?

I couldn't take a picture of the kitchen island, because of the sunshine, but it was messy too. 

It was time to tackle the mess.

After about an hour, my kitchen looked like this - much better but not done.

It was time for lunch, however, and after we ate Craig wanted to get started on the painting, so we headed outside.

After finishing our painting I came back in and finished the kitchen. Now I am happy - I have a clean kitchen. But it's time to make supper!

I did learn a couple of things along the way.

1. Finish the job each day. I read on pinterest one time that finishing each job during the day will help your house (and your life) to be more free of clutter. My kitchen today is proof of that. If I had finished all the dishes on Thursday and Friday I wouldn't have had such a big pile today. This principle applies in all areas. If I put my makeup back in the drawer when I'm done, then my bathroom vanity is cleaner. If I hang my clothes up when I take them off, then my bedroom stays cleaner. You get the idea. It only takes a few seconds to finish the job, but when you don't finish it takes more time another day. 

2. Cleaning up one part of the kitchen and seeing it so nice encouraged me to go on to the next section.

3. It's easier to clean when I have itunes playing. I just put on my favorite playlist, and the music made me happy.

Just for fun, here are the before and after pictures of our painting project today...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Camping 2015 - Trip #3 - the North Shore

Last weekend we went on our third camping trip of the summer. It was our second annual camping weekend on the North Shore with friends from church. we camped at Burlington Bay Campground in Two Harbors. We love the campground because we can have camping spots overlooking Lake Superior. Last year we went in June, and here are some comparisons regarding camping in each month:


  • The weather was more unpredictable - cooler, and wetter
  • No bugs
  • Campground not as crowded
  • Nice summer weather
  • Black biting flies always around
  • Campground was packed - many sites had more than one vehicle, and more than one tent. This made the roads in the campground less safe, and the bathrooms more dirty. The campground was still very quiet at night.
We enjoyed our weekend so much. Both my husband and our friends have motorcycles, so we trailered them and brought them with us. One day the four of us jumped on the two motorcycles and enjoyed a ride up Hwy 61, stopping in Beaver Bay for lunch.
Another day we packed a lunch and the 4 of us plus our dogs piled in the pickup and drove up to Grand Marais for the day. It was beautiful!
Each night we had a campfire and roasted marshmallows and made smores. Each morning we had our coffee while looking out at Lake Superior. We walked along the shore, and threw stones in the lake. We simply enjoyed the beauty around us, the company of our friends, and the relaxation that comes with being on vacation.
Here are some pictures from our weekend.
Here is our camper on the right, and our friend's camper on the left. 

This was the view from our camper:

Our "motos" - as my grandson would say -

Craig really liked this old logging truck we saw...

We stopped to check out this marina on our way up to Grand Marais.

The rest of these pictures are from Grand Marias. It was a hazy day so the pictures are not as bright as if it had been sunny.

We had such a good time that we made reservations to go back next summer - we're going to try June again.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Being Transplanted

My daughter moved back to her home state after living abroad for 6 years, and since the move we've had several conversations about how hard it is to make the change. She feels that she's left part of herself, part of her heart in the country she left. Even though she lived here for 18+ years, it doesn't feel like home anymore. After being here for 10 months she thought that she'd be farther along in this journey of change. She doesn't want to move back abroad, but grieves the loss of that place none the less.

Our conversations have made me think. After reading this blog about living abroad I knew that I wanted to write a blog of my own. So here are a few of my thoughts:

1. You don't need to move abroad to have these feelings. We've moved 3 times in 37 years, the farthest was 125 miles. Each time I felt lost and alone. I needed to make new friends, find a new doctor, join a new church. I didn't have roots in the new place.

2. You don't even have to move to feel uprooted, lonely, unsure. When my husband decided that we needed to attend a different church, I went through a time, a long time, of feeling uprooted. It wasn't easy making friends in the new church, finding a place of ministry where I could belong. It didn't feel comfortable, and I had no history with the people in the new church.

3. Whether you change churches, move to a new neighborhood, move to a new city, or move to a new country, it takes time to feel settled again. Sometimes it takes a lot of time.

4. Moving is like transplanting a tree.

My husband loves trees. He's transplanted hundreds of trees in the 37 years we've been married. Most of the trees he's transplanted have become beautiful mature trees. BUT - they didn't become mature overnight.

When a tree is first transplanted, it doesn't look like much. It's small, immature. Sometimes the tree will even look dry, droopy, wilted. It may look like it's not going to make it. The tree is in shock.

My husband takes good care of his trees. He starts by digging a good sized hole, and adds good black dirt. After he plants the tree he regularly waters it. He checks on it often. He clears the area around it so that it the wind blows through the branches. He talks to it (yes, he really does!) and he even has been known to touch the tree. He gives the new tree a lot of care and attention.

The first year the tree doesn't grow much. Sometimes there isn't even much growth the second year. Then all of a sudden it seems almost like we can watch the tree grow. 

When you move abroad or around the block you are like that tree. It's been a shock- you're uprooted. 
Here are some of my suggestions for putting down roots, experiencing growth after a move.

1. It actually starts before the move. Prepare yourself. Do your homework on the place you're moving to, pack some of your favorite things (don't get rid of all your stuff), and most importantly - pray about the move.

2. After you've moved, make sure you get plenty of exercise. Get fresh air every day, eat foods that are good for you. Feed your spirit too - read God's Word every day, and spend time in prayer. This is like watering a tree.

3. Allow yourself time to adjust. You will need a bit of time to grieve. You may droop a little. There may be days when you wonder why you ever wanted to move. Realize that these emotions are normal. Just don't stay there - don't allow yourself to wallow in this lonely place. Give yourself some "water", some pampering, some "fresh air". Remember that it will take more time then you want it to take. Hang in there. Some people don't give themselves enough time. They move again and again, searching for somewhere that's home. What they don't realize is that they haven't given themselves enough time to put down good roots.

4. Reach for the Son. Just as a tree stretches it's branches to reach the sunshine, so we need to reach for Jesus, God's Son. Allow Him to teach you, comfort you, give you His peace, His hope, His joy.

5. Start to grow. Look for ways you can get connected in the community and in a church. Realize that it will probably take a lot of effort on your part to make friends - since people who've lived there a while have already made connections/friends. Just as trees start to send out little roots, you need to stretch yourself, make connections. Explore your new neighborhood. Start a new hobby. Invite a neighbor to your home. Find somewhere to volunteer. Start to make new memories in your new place.

One day you will realize that it's happened. You feel almost at home in this new place. It may sneak up on you, this feeling like you're finally home. You'll look back and see that you've been growing, and you have new roots. It's time to celebrate!

Friday, July 10, 2015


It's finally summer. We've been waiting and waiting for warm summer days so we can be on the lake, grilling meals on the Weber, and enjoying lots of visits from family and friends. While spring came fairly early this year, summer has been slower to arrive. I'm not complaining - I loved the cooler spring days and nights, when there weren't any mosquitoes or deer flies. But now it's July - time for summer!

I'm reminded of a song from "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" where Snoopy sings

It's suppertime. (click to hear the song on YouTube)
Yeah, it's suppertime.
Oh, it's sup-sup suppertime very best time of day.

Br-r-ing on the dog food, bring on the boneBring on the barrel and roll me home'Cause it's supperSupper, supper, supperSupperSuper, pepper upperSupperSuper duper suppertime

But in my mind I hear these lyrics:
It's summertime,
Yeah, it's summertime.
Oh, it's sum-sum-summertime very best time of year.

Bring on the boating, bring on the sun,
Bring all the grandkids, it's fun, fun, fun!
'Cause it's summer,
Summer, summer, summer,
The best time ever!
Sum - sum Summertime!

Enjoy a few pictures of our summer so far.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Minnesota State Parks - Camping 2015 - Trip #2

For our second camping trip of the summer we headed south to Father Hennepin State Park. This weekend we brought two campers - because we had company this weekend - our daughter, son-in-law and grandson.

We had two campsites that backed up to each other in the Maple Grove campground. The sites were very private and very large. There was a pretty little path that went from one site to the other.

 The park is not big, but very pretty, with nice hiking trails, and a wonderful sandy beach. There were also two boat landings and several fishing piers, but we didn't bring a boat or fishing tackle this trip. we mostly enjoyed being together, and especially watching Micah explore the great outdoors.

Our grandson loved camping. He loves being outside all the time anyways, so campng was almost like heaven to him. He spent lots of time playing in the sand, throwing rocks in the water, playing in the water at the beach, and doing anything else he could find to do. 

This picture shows how he would splash the water, and when it would splash on his face he would say, "Ouch!" then laugh and do it again.

Father Hennepin State Park is a great park for family or group camping. The other campround in the park, called Lakeview Campground  had sites that were more open, perfect for groups. There is also a special group campground. The state park would also be great for people who want to camp and go fishing on Lake Mille Lacs.