- Posts for Monday Musings tag
Tie-Dying

This weekend, my daughter played with one of her classmates and liked the tie-dye shirt he was wearing. She asked if she could buy one and I explained that it’s even better to make your own, so guess what we ended up doing on Sunday morning?

The stores here don’t carry Rit Dye, which was the one brand I remember using as a teenager. But we did find a Tulip Tie Dye kit – one in the entire store! – and bought that, along with a pack of 5 boys white t-shirts. Rowan chose the patterns, so I did the rolling, bunching, and rubber banding, and she applied the dye. Here are the results:

Tie Dye | Our Prairie Nest

Tie Dye | Our Prairie Nest

Tie Dye | Our Prairie Nest

Her favorite color is blue, so she went pretty crazy with it. In fact, we ran out of that color before we ran out of the green and pink. She had a lot of fun doing this, so I’m sure this is a project we’ll repeat in the future, once she outgrows these shirts.

Enough for Me | Our Prairie Nest
Enough for Me

I don’t have it all and being among other moms kind of drives that point home for me. Today, especially, I felt the weight of judgment that’s probably just a figment of my imagination.

It all started Friday night, spending time with people I’m aware are far better off than I am. Actually, it started before that when someone very graciously picked up the tab for an event I’m interested in attending, after I mentioned needing to put off spending money on until closer to the date. While I appreciate the gesture, it injures my pride a little bit. Now I have to figure out how to repay that person without it seeming awkward. Of course, I realize a true friend won’t be weird about it, but I still hardly know most of the people around me.

As it is, I have a hard time getting comfortable with people. I’m always waiting for their judgment, because it’s loomed over me since I was a kid: I’m weird. I don’t fit in.

With motherhood, it’s even more acute. First, when I had my son, I had That Mom Friend who did everything with her kids that “normal” moms do: took them to the Picture People for monthly photos, had the perfect house with a finished basement playroom, and strong opinions about the things we “should” be doing. I couldn’t keep up and, frankly, I didn’t want to.

More than ten years later, that feeling is still there with my youngest. It doesn’t help that my fellow mothers are now millennials, instead of Gen Xers. Of course, we can still relate to each other as parents, but there’s an age gap that makes it obvious we are coming from very different places.

The big difference, though, is how much effort I put into entertaining my little one. I’m comfortable with her finding her own way, so I don’t provide much by way of activities. She has enough (I believe) toys, books, and more, not to mention nature all around her. Every Monday, we bake together. Tuesday through Friday, the kids are at school. To me, that’s plenty. Her weekends should be free for exploration.

Where I live, there are a ton of fun, kid-centric places to bring little ones up in the city, about 45 minutes north of here – museums and zoos, and do I ever do it? No, unless it’s a school field trip. It’s too expensive, too much gas, and I just don’t want to run my child up to the activities constantly. Our one weekly activity during the summer was a visit to the library, then we’d hit the local playground or beach/pool on days that seemed good for it. Running up to the city for everything there seems like such a waste of time, energy, and money. Do I begrudge the moms who do this? Of course not. That’s their choice. But when they’re surprised we’ve visited the zoo once (about, um, 2015 or 2016?), it hurts a little.

Sometimes, people act as though I’m a stay-at-home-mom, which also has me grinding my teeth a little bit. I’m a work-from-home-mom and my husband doesn’t bring in an income… so what does that mean? How do people perceive us, exactly? Then there’s the fact that we grow a lot of our own food, bake homemade goodies, don’t stock up at Costco and Sam’s Club (because, again, that means going out of my way to do those things, spending money on gas to save money on food). And so on and so on.

What drove the point home and sent me in kind of a blah spiral was babysitting today. Spending time in a mom friend’s enormous house, while she graciously brought my daughter up to one of those special kid places with her kids for some fun, was a bit of a happiness killer. I know what I have is enough for me. I know it’s not enough for most people. And, honestly, I would like more. Who wouldn’t?

But I’m at a point where what I have is enough for me, and it’s up to me to continue to stand by that. I guess what I need is to “find my tribe,” the people who are happily living with less, while still striving for what they do want and need. Just somewhere a little to the left of the rat race, maybe?

Canning Pickles | Our Prairie Nest
Pickles & Breadcrumbs

No, pickles and bread crumbs don’t go together… unless you’re making them!

Last week, we did our first canning of the season. Year after year, we enjoy a bountiful cucumber harvest. The right ones go into pickles. Which cucumbers are best for pickles? You want the smaller cukes, the ones with smaller seeds. They should be just ripe. An overripe cucumber doesn’t make as nice a pickle.

Making Pickles

There are several ways to make pickles. The first couple of years, we went with the heat canning and boiling the jars, but last year we discovered an easier and tastier way to make pickles – no heat, no boiling, and the result are even more flavorful, crunchy pickles.

If this sounds intriguing to you, you want to go with cold process. There are several recipes available with different ways of spicing the pickles, but most come down to the same technique: you clean the cucumbers and jars, mix your spices, boil your brine, slice your cucumbers, add garlic, and then the brine and spices. Let them sit for a few days and then give them a try.

Making Breadcrumbs

The other thing we did last week was make homemade breadcrumbs for the first time. With all the grilling we do during the summer, the top of the refrigerator becomes a sort of catch-all for hamburger and hot dog buns. I don’t like throwing away the leftovers and I also don’t want to feed leftover pieces to the birds and ducks. It’s just not good for them or the environment. So I finally put the leftovers to good use.

Breadcrumbs are easy to make. I tore the buns into small pieces and put them on a foil-lined baking tray. Then, I placed them in the oven at 350 degrees. I checked on them every 10 minutes, mixing the bread until it’d all gone nice and dry.

If you aren’t sure you can remember to check in consistently, because you don’t want the bread to burn, you can dry it at lower temperatures for a longer amount of time. When a few pieces still felt a little soft, I turned the oven off and just let the tray sit for another 10 minutes.

Most recipes call for a food processor for the next step, which we don’t have (that and a mixer are both on my wishlist. Someday!), but a blender works just fine. I filled the blender about halfway with dried pieces of bread and used the ice crushing setting to break them down into breadcrumbs.

Then I experimented with my next batch by throwing in a combination of kosher salt, oregano, basil, and parsley. I kept the spices to a minimum, but probably could have been more generous with the amounts. This batch of breadcrumbs came out smelling delicious and I plan to make them in the future with slightly stronger seasoning.

That is, if cooking with them turns out well. I’ll try to remember to report on that!

*Edited to add: Cooking with them was amazing! Just as good, if not better than, store-bought breadcrumbs.

Bread Crumbs | Our Prairie Nest

On Pen Names & Summer | Our Prairie Nest
On Pen Names & Summer

What a weird combination, right? But, first of all, I’m back to writing regular posts.

Summer kicked my butt. Not that it was an unforeseen thing. Really, it’s in the parenting job description. Have school-aged children? Is it summer? Welcome to No Rest for the Wicked. Fortunately, I was pretty smart about how I planned things. Or unplanned, rather. There were times I simply gave in. To what? Random get-togethers with friends, trying to remember how to hula hoop, drawing hopscotch courts, and rediscovering Golden Girls.

Did I write? Definitely. From May to August, I put out two novels, a bajillion short stories, and kept up with administrative work. Because, summer or not, writing is my job and I can’t drop everything just because the lightning bugs flash their butts at me in their oh-so-sassy way.

If you keep up with my Instagram feed, you know what I write. If you don’t, you can just take a peek down at the bottom of the page here to see. It’s not that it’s a secret, per se. In fact, it’s probably the worst-kept secret ever. But I do like to keep it separate from this blog and my personal life for various reasons. That’s the second reason I have pen names.

The first reason is, as many aspiring authors might understand, fear. Not fear about myself or anything like that. It was fear that I would fail and my name would be attached to that failure. With a pen name, you can experiment. If it bombs, you can drop the project and start fresh with what you’ve learned. It’s a lovely thing.

I really wanted to write what I’m writing now, so I took a chance, but the pen name gave me a degree of “separation” between the first few books and personal attachment. Once I found out I wasn’t going to fail, I felt comfortable putting more of my heart and soul into the name I was building. The stories became more personal, as well.

And, at that point, maintaining a pen name became about equal parts branding and compartmentalization. Branding is a smart idea no matter what name you’re using. But also being able to have a boundary between yourself and your day job is healthy, even if it’s your dream job.

Writing is a part of who I am. No doubt about that. I do it every day and I love it with all my heart, especially the genres I write. However, it’s nice to be able to set those boundaries, to decide what belongs where. I’d like to keep my real name is attached to genealogy and Paganism, and maybe someday I will write a book under it again. But maybe not.

Anyway, there’s an indirect tip from one writer: if you’re going to venture into writing, start off with a pen name. It allows you to try something without taking it too personally if things don’t work out.

And, as far the kids wanting attention all summer long? Do take that personally, because someday that precious 5-year-old is going to be 16-years-old and screaming, “I hate you! You’re ruining my life!” while slamming her bedroom door.