31 December 2012

New Year's Eve

My husband and daughter are in the kitchen prepping diner. We are eating spaghetti tonight. No black eyed peas for us on New Year's Eve. Lola is chattering away about anything and everything while the two of them are rolling meat balls. I sit in the living room trying to type with a cat on my lap.

After diner we're having a party. We will be dressing up, playing games, and blowing our party horns, picked up at the Dollar store for the occasion. We still need to make party hats. Lola is very excited about the party and plans to stay up until midnight, although she doesn't really expect to make it that long.

This will be our second New Year's Eve in this town. If I remember correctly, it will be a nice and quiet affair for most of the night. Perhaps one or two firecrackers will be set off. I am used to so much more noise. Where I come from, this night is the big fireworks night.

When I was complaining earlier about the lack of noise on New Year's Eve, Lola sighed: "Oh mother, why can't you just enjoy your new life?" (I don't know where she gets this stuff, I very seldom complain for the record.) I tried to find some live streaming of the Dutch fireworks but no such luck. I'll just have to take her home some day for the real thing.

Well, I am off to get dressed for the party. Happy New Year, everyone! May 2013 be a peaceful and blessed year for us all.

11 December 2012

One Wish Granted

As I type this, my mother’s plane is taking off. In just a few short hours she’ll be here. I can hardly wait. I’ve got to finish up one work project, scrub a few toilets, and throw a vacuum cleaner around the house. And then I can enjoy the rest of the week off.

My mom ordered snow. Not so much that it hinders traffic. Just enough to makes things pretty. Here you go, mom! Just for you.

17 November 2012

Opening Day 2012

Aside from fleas, flies, ticks, mosquitoes, and the occasional wasp, I have never deliberately killed an animal. Yet this morning at sunrise I sat in the woods, for the second year in a row, waiting to shoot a buck. I am fairly certain this time, given the chance, I will pull that trigger. Last year I wasn't too sure if I would be able to do it, and since I never saw a buck, the question remained unanswered.

I am a meat-eater, however, and Ryan's buck fed us for a year. And it was guaranteed free range, organically fed, and artificial hormone free meat, which is more than I can say for the average anonymous slab of meat one finds in a supermarket nowadays. One must work for it, though, if you call sitting and waiting work.

So far I have seen no signs of animal life save for nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers of the downy, hairy, and pileated variety, and one lone blue jay. And there is a mouse that lives behind my stand. I have heard him squeak but he hasn't shown himself yet. The deer are out there, though. I have seen proof. Perhaps tomorrow.

13 November 2012

Nothing Yet

It was snowing last night when I drove home from work. A couple of miles north of our town the snowflakes were sizable ones even, and the road was white, forcing me to slow down. I was hoping to wake up to a winter wonderland this morning but sadly no. Nothing. We are still looking at dying grass.

I really wanted some snow because this Saturday is Opening Day. The first day of gun hunting deer season. Ryan is getting more and more excited and I too am getting in the mood. Up in the UP where we work, the season is almost twice as long as in Wisconsin. "The Holy Season," they call it up there. I don't expect to see many people at work next week.

We spent last weekend tromping in the woods, getting our stands ready. I have been evicted from my spot by my husband but I was allowed to keep my stand, lovingly referred to as "the lemonade stand." It really is. I suppose if hunting doesn't work out for me, I could sell refreshments. I very much missed a beverage cart last year.

Ryan has taken back his spot. He is hoping for another big buck of course. So am I. Last year's deer fed us for a year. We are just about out of venison. Time to fill that empty spot in the freezer.

02 November 2012

Peer Pressure

It used to be chain letters, the old fashioned, handwritten kind. I didn’t get that many because it was a lot of work, which was why I always felt pressured to continue the chain. Then it morphed into chain emails. Much easier to distribute and therefore more plentiful and more annoying. And the pressure became almost unbearable. “Send this to five of your closest friends in the next five minutes, or suffer horrible agony and death.” I decided to live a more daring life and I stopped sending the chain mails. Thankfully I survived.

Then came social media. And a new kind of pressure surfaced. “Like this and show your support for [fill in the blanks] or scroll down if you don’t care.” Or, my personal favorite: “Like this and go to Heaven, or scroll on and go to Hell.” The image to accompany these messages often shows a child suffering from a debilitating disease, a family tearfully mourning a lost loved one, or something equally horrific. Something most people do care about, even if they don’t know the person in question.

I never “Like” a post of that kind. Which means I must be a self centered, uncaring, unfeeling b*tch going straight to hell. WTF? Who posts such nonsense? And why do posts like that get hundreds of thousands of “Likes?” What is wrong with people? Don’t give in to this kind of peer pressure, kids. Because once you do, you have to “Like” the next thing, and the next, and so on and so forth. It’s all downhill from there.

Also, evidently God keeps track of our Facebook activities. If ever you needed an incentive to clean up your profiles, this is it!

01 November 2012

Bad Mother

Lola’s room is a small one and there really isn’t enough room for everything we put in there. She is usually very good about keeping her room tidy but once friends come over to play and everything gets pulled out from the shelves, it’s hard to get it all under control again. It is simply too much for her and things steadily get worse.

Several attempts have been made to organize her room. Once she and I started that task together and I asked her to go through the great big basket with stuffed animals and get rid of the ones she doesn’t play with. Naturally, every single stuffed toy suddenly became a favorite. Watching Lola go through her collection deciding which one to do away with was like watching “Sophie’s Choice.” Gut wrenching.

About two weeks ago, Ryan and Lola went on their customary father - daughter date and I seized the opportunity to take charge of her room. Hardening my heart, I was resolved to recycle a few more toys than the childhood toys of her parents which were the only ones she had been willing to give up. Ruthlessly I went through her basket and the shelves of her room. Three garbage bags later I resurfaced.

We put up more shelves, organized everything in shiny new purple baskets, and rearranged the furniture. You can actually see the floor of her room again. I also went through all of her drawers and purged her summer clothes and the outfits she had outgrown. Walking into her room now is like a breath of fresh air. Lola loves it and has not once asked for any of the toys I got rid of.

Until last night.

Ryan has gone bow hunting with his dad and as always when he is gone, the girls have a Girls Night. This means that Lola moves into my bedroom and we watch a movie together before we go to sleep. Since I have a bigger bed, there is more room for her stuffed friends, and she usually brings a few more than the two or three that share her bed.

“Mom,” I heard her say when she was getting ready for bed. “Have you seen that white bear that I have?”

I knew exactly which bear she meant. It had not made the cut. Not wanting to confess to that right away, I pretended not to know which bear she was talking about. She showed me a three inch version of the bear I had thrown away and told me she was looking for its mother.

Oh no. I had orphaned a baby bear.

I fessed up to possibly, maybe giving its mother away (not true, I threw it away) and suggested Lola could be the little bear’s mom from now on. Big tears rolled from Lola’s eyes as she hiccupped that the little bear could not sleep without its mother. My daughter is very good when it comes to drama. I felt horrible.

So, anyone have a white bear to spare? I know a good home for it.

31 October 2012

Patching It Up

We traveled down state on Saturday to celebrate Halloween and my birthday with Ryan’s brother and his family. Their neighborhood blocks off a few streets every year to ensure safe nighttime trick or treating for kids. Roaming the streets in the dark does All Hallows Eve more justice than walking around in broad daylight, don’t you think?

On the way back up, we stopped at the pumpkin patch in Allenton where we petted and admired alpaca’s, goats, emus, and turkeys, and picked out a nice big pumpkin to carve.

30 October 2012

A Visitor

My mom is coming and I am super excited. She’ll be in the US long before she travels up north to visit us, but just the thought of having her close makes me happy. Of course “close” is a relative term. She will be about 1,000 miles away for most of her visit, but still, she’s here. In the country. I can hop in the car and according to Google Maps I can be with her in 18 hours. In current traffic. Not stopping for gas or food.

She is planning to come up mid December. She’ll stay for about a week and then we ship her back to her sister to spend the holidays there. She hasn’t been to Wisconsin before; the last time she visited we were still in Washington. Hopefully it snows when she’s here. I have a few fun things on my list to introduce my mom to the Northwoods, and some of them involve snow.

Naturally I have sent my mom a nice little wish list with things to bring back from the homeland. It’s interesting what you miss when you live in another country; band-aids by the yard, homeopathic meds, and anti-fungal cream are on my list. I remember going shopping for my aunt and uncle when I would fly out here to visit them. They too, had a interesting list with salad dressing being the strangest in my eyes.

Of course my mom will probably want a decent place to sleep in return. It’s time we get going on that guest bed we have been talking about.

26 October 2012

Catching Up: Craft Fair

Our small town holds an annual Fall Festival every first Saturday in October. The whole town is decked out with fabulous fall displays and there is music, food, hayrides, pony rides, and an ever growing arts & crafts fair. This year Dutch Girl Originals participated in the craft fair for the first time ever.

Of course, as soon as I signed up for the fair, I was offered a job. I briefly contemplated cancelling, but I really didn’t want to. I decided to go for a smaller booth instead. So I worked my butt off at night getting ready for the fair while working a regular job during the day. It was a little stressful but I am so glad I did.

The first sale of the day went to Lola. She had worked hard on making drawings and cuttings and sold them on the side. I did okay for a first timer. My big seller were the owl pillows. It quickly became obvious people were not yet ready to start thinking about Christmas. A glance at the ornaments was the best I got.

The wonderful garland display did not attract as much attention as I had hoped. Ryan built it by mounting two thin poplar trees cut from my parents-in-law’s yard, not for this purpose though, in Christmas tree stands. I strung the garlands in between the posts but they didn’t show up very well against the park back drop. A white wall would have been better.

It was cold though. So cold. We kept it dry for most of the day but did see a little bit of snow (!) come down, smudging every single one of my tags. I should have listened to Ryan who suggested laminating them. Every now and then my mother-in-law would walk down, my booth was just down the road, to allow me to warm up inside.

Despite the cold, I had a blast. I am already looking forward to next year. Now I need to get my Etsy shop ready for the holidays. After I finish Lola’s Halloween costume, that is. A crafter’s work is never done.

25 October 2012

Open Letter To YouTube

Dear YouTube,

Earlier this year, in April to be exact, my five year old daughter Lola danced her very first ballet recital. It was too cute for words and naturally we, the proud parents, wanted to share this moment with friends and family. In our case they live spread out over the world and the easiest way to share a video is by broadcasting ourselves via YouTube.

I uploaded the footage I had made of Lola’s ballet and tap dance recital. Almost immediately I was hit with a copyright notice. In August you made good on your word and the two videos were blocked in select countries around the world. That turned out to be a bit of a euphemism because only if you lived on Guernsey, Jersey, Samoa or some other exotic island, were you able to watch either video.

Naturally I disputed both claims because a) we are talking about a bunch of non-commercial four and five-year-olds dancing on a carpeted stage for friends and family, and b) my daughter’s dance teacher pays a hefty monthly royalties bill to compensate the artists and the music companies that own the rights to their work for the use of it.

The first claim was almost instantaneously dropped. The second one, for Frank Sinatra’s “High Hopes,” was not. When I checked on the status the other day, I noticed that all but one music company had dropped the claim. The one remaining company was Orchard Music, a young and independent company from New York. They claim they own the rights to Franks Sinatra’s “High Hopes.” And because of that claim, the poor people of Germany were still deprived of the pleasure of watching my daughter and her friends dance.

Dear YouTube, the reason I am writing this public letter is because you are now owned by Google and no longer allow individuals to contact you directly. You see, there is something very wrong with the Orchard Music Group’s claim. They don’t actually own the rights to Frank Sinatra’s “High Hopes.” They don’t own the rights to a lot of the songs and lyrics used in the YouTube videos they have laid claim to. I don’t know why they do this. They like to harass people, evidently (see here and here). But you, dear YouTube, have grown too big to care.

For the record; I am aware that the initial Content ID Match is an automated process. However, once I as a user disputed the claim, it was manually checked by the claimants. For the Orchard Music Group to reinstate their false claim was a conscious act. Fortunately I am not that easily intimidated. I contacted Orchard Music Group directly to point out there was no basis to their claim and they were really being quite ridiculous. And lo and behold, within ten minutes they lifted their claim. With a mere 43 hits, they must have realized there was no money to be made here.

Your methods are seriously flawed, YouTube, and companies like the Orchard Music Group are taking advantage of that. Please consider updating your tools. If you cannot, ask your parent company, Google, to help you with that. They are really quite good at this. If you won’t do it for me, then do it for the Germans. And grandparents everywhere. Herzlichen dank.

The Dutch Girl

23 October 2012

Spammed And Scammed

A couple of months ago I received my very first spam comment on this blog. I was so proud! Receiving spam comments on your blog is like a rite of passage, a sign that you have reached the big leagues.

"This design is steller! You obviously know how to keep a reader
entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved
to start my own blog (well, almost...HaHa!) Excellent job.
I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
Too cool!
Here is my web-site : ranking check"

This comment was left on a really old post from the early days of the blog, when we were still living in Olympia. It seemed rather pointless. I mean, if you want to attract traffic via my blog, wouldn’t it make more sense to comment on a post that has a better chance of actually being read?

I didn’t delete it, of course. And then last week I received my second spam comment. On the same post. Hmmm. When I took a look at the post itself, there was nothing there. No comments, nothing. The spam is a scam.

I feel robbed.

22 October 2012

Tales From The Patch

The very first time we started a vegetable garden, we made a few mistakes. We picked a partially shaded spot, for one. We did not thin out our sprouts enough. We were not on top of weeding. And we did not realize just how much room a pumpkin plant takes up.

Despite overtaking half of the garden, the harvest was pitiful. Only one measly pumpkin made it, which we did not find until we cleaned the garden up. Nonetheless, it was a pleasant surprise. The next time we wised up and planted the pumpkin seeds in a sunnier spot which they had all to themselves. A whopping two pumpkins we grew that year. Still not very impressive but a hundred percent improvement.

This year was our third attempt. And keeping with tradition, we harvested three pumpkins! Including the biggest one yet! Next year I want the kind you can eat. And maybe little gourds. Perhaps they'll do better.

Big pumpkins get big smiles

21 October 2012

Domestic Diva And Saver Of The Planet

A while ago, probably over a year by now, I read a post on the blog Thy Hand Hath Provided on how to make your own liquid laundry soap. I very much liked that idea. It's easy, cheap, and chemical free. I love projects that are kind to the environment as well as my wallet.

I bought a bar of Fels-Naptha soap, a box of borax, and a box of washing soda and set out to make my first batch. Easy as pie. A little grating, a little stirring, and some patience was all it took to end up with five concentrated gallons of detergent. A lot of people seem to prefer powdered detergent but since my washer and dryer are located in a rather damp basement, that is not an option for us. I added about twenty drops of lavender essential oil to make it smell nice(r).

So far, I am really happy with my soap. It works great. I use the same amount of detergent per load as I always have. The only thing I changed in my laundry routine is that I have started to add about 1/3 of a cup of borax to every load. We have very hard water and borax is said to help with softer water, nicer smelling laundry and better stain removal. It seems to do the trick.

To complete my transition to chemical free washing, I made my own dryer balls, too. These balls of tightly wound and felted wool yarn (from local sheep!) replace the need for fabric softener and dryer sheets. They work by tumbling around in your dryer and fluffing up your laundry, cutting down on dryer time, taking care of static cling, and smoothing out most wrinkles. They too can be made to smell nice with a few drops of essential oil.

Depending on the size of your dryer and the load of laundry, you need about three to six balls. If you have an extra large capacity dryer like I do, you might want to throw in a few more. The dryer balls will last you for many, many years. And all that time you're saving money on fabric softener and/or dryer sheets. And the planet thanks you, too.

20 October 2012

Catching Up: First Day Of School

Hard to tell who was more excited: the kindergartner or her mother?

19 October 2012

Catching Up: Six Years

Ryan and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary last month. The original plan was to camping in Door County together while Lola stayed with her grandparents. But then we learned about the Kermis in Little Chute and we decided to go admire their genuine, imported from Holland and rebuilt in Little Chute windmill instead. And we brought our Fairy Godmother along.

Our Fairy Godmother is my aunt. Some twenty years ago she, my uncle, and my cousin moved to the US and ended up in Wisconsin. My cousin and Ryan went to school together and when T. got married, I flew in for the wedding and my aunt seized the opportunity to hook her niece up with a nice looking usher. That was in July. We were married in September of the same year.

The Kermis was much smaller than we thought it would be, but the Dutch pancakes we had for breakfast were the real thing, and it was strangely comforting to see a working Dutch windmill against an American skyline. Kermis in Dutch means carnival but there were no rides to go on. We visited the craft fair and took silly pictures in our foam Dutch hats. Next year we'll go camping in Door County.

18 October 2012

Woman At Work

So I have been a bit of a slacker lately but only on the blogs, I promise. In fact, I have been hard at work for the past two months. It started with various projects for my husband’s employer that I was usually able to do from home. Slowly it progressed to a near full time job. And since the first of this month I happily commute to the UP every day. I do a little marketing, a little project management, and whatever else comes my way. It’s fun. Lola is back in day care and lovin’ it.

Of course, something’s gotta give, and that’s the blogs. I participated in my very first craft fair and was reasonably successful at it. (It was cold that day, though. It even snowed a little bit.) I try to keep a clean house and am reasonably successful at that, too. We purchased a dishwasher to assist with household tasks. It sits in our garage, patiently waiting to be installed. We want to tile the kitchen floor first. Makes sense, doesn’t it? And so I wait patiently as well.

Summer is officially over. It is full on fall here. I have seen some gorgeous colors come by on my commute but the rain and wind of the last few days have blown most leaves off their branches. We spent a couple of lovely weekends camping up in the UP on the Keweenaw Peninsula. We putzed around looking for property to realize our B&B dream on. We tried one on for size and squatted on the land for a night. Nice spot with a perfect view of Mount Bohemia.

Lola is back in school, a true kindergartner. She is learning to read and write. It’s fun hearing her sound out letters and watching her write them. She can almost count to a hundred now. No more skipping the number seventeen, and getting confused at twenty. Just like that, it clicked. She has been getting into a little bit of trouble every now and then, mostly for talking too much. But she genuinely seems to be enjoying school. She had enrolled in dance again and goes to girl scouts every other Monday.

That’s pretty much it, I think. You’re all caught up. I will try to upload some pictures this weekend to accompany the aforementioned events. But I am also working on Lola’s Halloween costume (she will be a mermaid this year), sewing a custom order for a client, and getting my Etsy shop ready for the upcoming holidays. So I can’t make any promises.

20 September 2012

Squeaky Toys

Before Sandman was introduced to Wisconsin winters, he was a year round outdoor cat and a formidable hunter. In his early years he was even made to wear a bell on his collar, to give the local birds a sporting chance. These days, he’s more of a comfort creature. He likes staying indoors when temperatures drop, even if that means using a litter box. And hunting? Not so much. Nowadays, he just likes to sit under a bush and watch the wildlife instead of running after it.

The other day I was sitting outside, enjoying the late summer sun, when Sandman came walking towards me. When I called his name, he seemed genuinely surprised to find me there and I wondered if his eyesight could possibly be starting to fail. Perhaps that’s why he’s stopped hunting. Lola immediately wanted to have his eyes tested and was very disappointed when I explained cats don’t read eye charts. When I mentioned it to Ryan, he was insulted on behalf of his boy. How dare I suggest such a thing?

And as if to prove Ryan right, that night Sandman brought home a little rabbit. The offspring of the rabbit we chased away earlier this year. Or so we thought. We had noticed her hopping around this summer but she didn’t bother with our vegetable garden so we didn’t bother with her. When I found the rabbit, it was already dead. Baby bunnies are so cute; I couldn’t help but feel sad, even though the last thing I want is an entire family of rabbits living in the backyard. Really, Sandman had done us a favor.

The next night, as I was putting Lola to bed, I heard a noise that sounded like a squeaky toy outside her bedroom door. We don’t have squeaky toys in our house. When I went to investigate, I found another baby rabbit sitting in the door opening to my bedroom. This present from Sandman was still alive. While I locked the cat in the closet, Ryan caught the rabbit and took it back to its home. Only to be caught again by Sandman the very next day. Two down. Could there be more?

Why yes. Of course there were more. We're talking rabbits after all. Yesterday Lola and I walked into the house and found bunny number three dead in the hallway. We had not told Lola about the other ones, but there was no hiding this one from her. She wasn’t as upset as I thought she would be, but she did want Sandman punished for this awful deed. I seized the opportunity to educate her on rudimentary Darwinism although I phrased it a little different.

And now we wait to see if there are even more bunnies. I really hope not. I'm done cleaning up little corpses.

28 August 2012

Musketeer Concerns

"Mother!" (She calls me 'mother' these days. I don't like it but I have decided to pick my battles.)

"Mother. This is a serious question. What if I'm a musketeer and I have two horses. How do I get to town?"

"That is easy," I tell her. "You ride on one horse and you tether the other one to the horse you're riding on.

"I don't want to be a musketeer anymore," she answers me. "It's too hard. What if I cut myself with my sword?"

That seems like a legitimate concern.

"That is why you practice. Most things are hard at the beginning. Do you think being an artist, a farmer, and a biologist (her other chosen professions) is easy?"

"My friends will laugh at me. I'll be the silliest musketeer ever!"

I set her on my lap, my silly musketeer with the serious concerns, and we snuggle for awhile. I tell her she has time to think about it. All the time in the world.

17 August 2012

Summer Bucket List

Lola and I made a summer bucket list at the start of her summer vacation. I went over it the other day and we're looking pretty good. More than half the things we wanted to do, we actually did.

There was fun in the backyard with water. Check.

There was father and daughter fishing. Check.

The father also taught the daughter how to fly a kite. Check.

A sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa. Check.

We went to a pick-your-own fruit farm. Check.

Unfortunately the pick-your-own raspberries are only available in the fall. So we went to the zoo instead. Check.

We went camping this weekend up in the UP. Check.

We finally made it to the Pulaski Polka Days. Check.

We are going to the county fair next week. It's right here in town so there's really no excuse to miss it. We are seriously considering entering a craft, by the way. Our vegetables, while tasty and prolific, are not quite 'fair ready.' Check.

Not on the bucket list but nonetheless accomplished this summer: going to the circus, riding on an elephant, feeding a giraffe, catching a bullfrog, riding a bike, and learning to sew.

So what's left? Hog wrestling, a trip to the farmer's market in Green Bay, a pie festival hosted by Lola, and learning new campfire songs. By the campfire of course. I'd say we are having an excellent summer, if a little hot at times. How is your summer going?