Summer of History



This summer we decided to become members of the Wisconsin Historical Society.  I had already known we would be going to Old World Wisconsin at least once, as it is one of my daughter’s favorite spots.    Becoming members seemed like a natural next step….free admission to 12 spots in WI….our day trips were going to involve some very interesting Wisconsin history!

Old World Wisconsin

If you haven’t been to Old World Wisconsin, I highly suggest you get there!  My daughter even dresses the part, with a dress that looks like period clothing and a bonnet.  The complex is huge and exploring it is so much fun for both of my kids (7 and 8 years old).  Added to the fun and learning is the fact that there are so many staff, dressed in period dress, that lead the children (and adults) in activities of late 1800’s Wisconsin farm living.  It’s a living history museum where the school has an actual teacher that teaches a lesson, and the kids can do chores like thrashing rye, weaving linen, gathering eggs from a chicken coop, and carding wool.  Staff prepare meals in the manner of the time period for the other staff and the kids get to learn all about it.  This time, one woman was making a rhubarb pie in one kitchen, and in another kitchen, the woman showed my kids how to start yeast for bread.  We always leave thinking we wish we could stay longer and when can we come back.  The best part is, there is always something new too.  This year, you could get an old fashioned soda in the inn and could buy small items in the shop with an old fashioned coin!



Another spot we enjoyed in our #summerofhistory was Pendarvis.  While this is a much smaller spot, we still enjoyed it.  The staff here gave us a tour that I thoroughly enjoyed.  There were all adults on our tour, aside from my own kids, and I felt that the guide geared it much more to adults.  Thus, I think my kids got a little bored.  They were glad when we got to the end of the tour and were able to explore on our own for awhile.  The mining aspect of this little town was very interesting and now the kids know why we are called the Badger State!

A great little day trip for us was rounded out by a stop at Hook’s Cheese for superior and delicious fresh cheese curds and a stop at the quaint and sweet High Street Sweets.  There is a very nice park with picnicking facilities directly across from Pendarvis too!

Circus World

We spent an afternoon at Circus World in Baraboo with friends.  This is also a stop that is free with membership in the historical society.  I personally loved the old circus wagons with all of their colors.  My son very much enjoyed the huge model of a working circus from the past that takes up a whole room.  It was very interesting to see the old buildings and explore the winter grounds for the Ringling Brothers Circus.  A lot of history right there!   The kids enjoyed learning both the history of the circus and seeing the shows, especially the silly and funny show with 2 goofball clowns.



We’d like to see Villa Louis yet, and we will return to Old World Wisconsin again soon I’m sure.   Another historical thing we did during our #summerofhistory was the mail boat tour of Lake Geneva.  This is pricey tour, and pretty expensive, but it had been on my own summer bucket list for many summers.    It has been around delivering mail for 100 years.  While delivering this way is no longer really necessary, it’s a tradition that is fun and a part of the history of the area.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it to younger kids.  It is about 2.5 hours long and a rather slow, luxurious boat ride. However, you will learn a TON about the history of the area and see and learn about many of the huge, beautiful mansions that line the lake.  Plus, it really is fun to see the high school age mail jumpers deliver the mail around the lake, jumping off and on the boat as needed!



My kids really do like learning about history, and I think it is very important to learn about the past.  My daughter enjoyed a Pioneer Day at Shake Rag Alley and now wants a butter churn for Christmas. Ha!

Washcloths and Dishcloths and a Great Little Gift Idea


The first project I ever did was a dishcloth I made when I was 5.  My mom taught me to crochet.  It was a wonky piece, with uneven stitches, a few holes and was definitely NOT square.  She loved it and was so proud!  She used it for years.  Nowadays, I’m better at making those functional crocheted squares.  I have made all sorts of patterns, and the only types of dishcloths I use are hand crocheted or knit ones.  They last a long time, can be made in so many great colors and can be bleached and washed and dried ad infinitum (color fades…obviously…but the things hold up!).  They are a great first project for a newbie and a great gift item.  Think housewarming, wedding shower, and gifts for teachers, piano instructors, neighbors, friends, etc for Christmas!

Here’s how I made a couple of different dishcloths using common stitches.


Basketweave Dishcloth:

IMG_8028            IMG_8026

Using a size G hook*, Ch 25.

Row 1: dc in 4th ch from hook,  dc across,  ch 2, turn.

Row 2: *bpdc in next 3 st, fpdc in next 3 stitches*, repeat from * to * 2 times, bpdc in next 3 stitches, dc in turning ch, ch 2, turn.

Row 3: Repeat row 2

Row 4: *fpdc in next 3 st, bpdc in next 3 stitches*, repeat from * to * 2 times, fpdc in next 3 stitches, dc in turning ch, ch 2, turn.

Row 5:  Repeat Row 4.

Continue repeating rows 2 – 5 until piece is square.  Dc around the whole thing.  Finish off and weave in ends.

*A note about hook size.  Some of you might have a way smaller square than me if using a G hook.  I am a very loose crocheter and often go down one or two hook sizes when using a published pattern.  If you are a tighter crocheter, try a size H or even I.

Diagonal Stitch Dishcloth

With size G hook (see note about about hook size), ch 25

Row 1: sc in 2nd chain from hook and in each ch across, ch 2, turn

Row 2: Skip one stitch, dc in next 3 stitches, work elongated sc: insert hook into skipped stitch, yo and draw up a big loop, yo and pull through both loops on hook, skip next stitch, dc in next 3 stitches, elongated sc, and repeat pattern across, dc in last ch, ch 1, turn.

Row 3: sc in each stitch across, ch 2, turn.

Repeat rows 2 and 3 until piece is square.  DC around the whole thing. Weave in end.


For a great little gift idea, try tying up a cute washcloth with a handmade bar of soap or a specialty bottle of dish soap.  Could be cute housewarming gifts, teacher gifts, or anytime gifts!  For handmade soap, I really like Windrift Hill out of Montana.  Or locally try the Soap Opera in Madison for a large variety of soaps!

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There are so many different washcloth patterns out there.  Another favorite pattern I use is here.  Or I also like these blossom stitch cloths.

Bulky and Soft Crocheted Infinity Scarf



I have discovered some amazing yarn.  Okay, I know there are TONS of amazing yarns out there, but this one is one of my new favorites.  It is bulky and works up quickly and the colors are, well, AMAZING.  Ha.  I try not to use that word lightly, but I love this yarn!  The yarn is Malabrigo Rasta.   Do a Google search and you will come up with SO many gorgeous projects using this yarn.  However, most of them are knit.  I decided to try a simple crochet scarf and was very pleased with how it turned out.  I put these scarves together quickly (under two hours each).    I’ve included my methods below.  Enjoy!  Make a bunch for Christmas gifts!!!


With a size N hook, ch 9 LOOSELY (I can’t stress this enough…stay loose with this project.  The overall feel of the scarf will be even softer and will give you a bit more length).  Turn.

Row 1:  (sc, dc, dc) in 3rd ch from hook.  Skip next 2 ch.  (sc, dc, dc) in next ch.  Skip next 2 ch.  sc in last ch.   ch 1, turn.

Row 2:  (sc, dc, dc) in first sc (first stitch).  Skip 2 st.  (sc, dc, dc) in next sc (you’ll see that you are working in the “valleys” between little hills…if that makes sense!).  Skip 2 st.  sc in last st.  ch 1, turn.

Repeat row 2 until you reach desired length.  I made the above scarves with one full skein.  Finish off, leaving a long length for sewing.  Whipstitch the ends together to form the infinity ring.  You could also just leave as a regular scarf!



Easy Project: Burlap Valentine Banner


I see a lot of cute burlap ideas when scanning Pinterest, and I’ve recently seen lots of photos of burlap banners with cute hearts on them for Valentine’s Day.  Type in “burlap heart banner” and you’ll get a multitude of hits with ideas.  So this is nothing new.  BUT, since I had all of the items I needed, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

First off, I gathered supplies.  Since I have tons of fabric scraps from all my daughter’s dress projects, I had plenty of red and pink fabrics.


Then I needed burlap.  Now, the nice thing about being the family craft guru is….people collect stuff for you that they think you might want for your crafts. So this Christmas, I was given a bag of random burlap bags. I had no idea what I might do with said burlap bags, but I took it.  And bam-o….now I’ve got a project for that burlap!  Wahoo!

The next steps were simple.  I made templates for a heart and a pennant out of scrap cardstock and traced out my designs on the fabrics.


Then I just sewed them together.  Since it’s a shabby chic style, there’s really no need to measure things perfectly or even sew perfectly.  That is my kind of project!

I added a simple 1 inch-ish "hem" to the top through which to string the yarn.

I added a simple 1 inch-ish “hem” to the top through which to string the yarn.

I enlisted the help of my kids to finish the last few parts of the banner (they like to help me sew sometimes).  Then, with further help from my kiddos, we strung the pieces onto pink yarn and hung it up over my transom window.  Valentine’s Day decor!  Done!  I love how it turned out!



My SAHM-iversary


It has been one year since I worked my last shift outside the home.  I’ve been a full time Stay at Home Mom for one year. Time flies, as usual, but today when I thought about that little fact, I felt reflective.  I feel like I’m a different person than I was when I worked.  I was only working VERY part time at the end, but I still was a different person.  I do miss it sometimes.  My job outside the home was a break from the kids, a chance to talk to adults and a chance to shine in something I was good at.  I mean, I WAS good at it (for real…you definitely wanted ME to take care of you!).  And I got paid for it (nicely!).  And people NEEDED me (my patients!).  Those things are all still true.  People NEED me (my kids).  I’m good at this job: (Mom, housekeeper, cook, chauffeur, organizational guru, counselor, volunteer, event planner, etc etc etc….Domestic Engineer I guess).  Oh but wait!!!  I don’t get paid for it!  And even though my kids need me, it’s different than getting paid or getting a good annual review or people just plain saying, “Oh good, we are SO glad to see you, we could really use your help!”  or “I don’t know what to do…what should I do?”….and then totally having the answer.

So I feel a little sad I don’t have that anymore.  But then I sit and think about what’s different now that I am a SAHM, and I wouldn’t change a thing.  I’m around EVERY weekend to spend time with my family and my husband.  I used to work weekends.  For awhile, I’d work every Friday night, and every other Saturday and Sunday.  My husband works every Saturday during some parts of the year and travels, so there were times when we only spent time with each other and as a whole family once or twice a month.  Family meals didn’t really happen.  Ever.  Now, when there is an event on a weekend day, I can just say yay or nay….no trying to figure out a year in advance what weekends I would have off.  I worked until 10pm sometimes and finding a sitter for that time frame was impossible.  I don’t need to worry about that anymore.  If a kid gets sick, I can be there the whole time.  No scrambling to find someone to work for me.  Weekends are RELAXING for us now.  We can have our “Taco Tuesday on a Friday” and our weekend movie nights.  My husband can make his french toast for us on Saturdays, and I don’t have to rush off for work.  On Sundays, after church, I get to enjoy the family traditions that my husband started with the kids while I worked.  It often involves downtown Madison, the terrace, coffee and lunch.  Or sometimes a trip to museum.  Or a Packer game.  Sundays are all about the 4 of us.

Family chill time on New Year's Eve.....another night that I would have worked in the past.

Family chill time on New Year’s Eve…..another night that I would have worked in the past.

So what did I do today for my SAHM-iversary?  Well here’s the randomness that is a day in the life of ME:

  • Up at 5:30, got ready for my day, made bed, etc.
  • Got kids ready, lunches made, and kids to school
  • A brisk 4 mile walk at the Conservancy through the snow with a great friend
  • Stopped at the Co-op for a couple of things and tried kombucha for the first time
  • Worked on laundry
  • Vacuumed
  • Emptied dishwasher, picked up living room and kitchen
  • Went through some kitchen cupboards as part of a “minimizing my stuff” plan
  • Ate some lunch
  • Crafted in my craft room…my sanctuary happy place.

    Ahhhhh…my happy place.

  • Picked up the kids from school
  • Made Pioneer Woman’s Tres Leches cake
  • Agreed to my husband’s last minute idea to take the kids out for dinner and to see Paddington
  • Hauled sleeping children in from the car and put them to bed
  • Putz on the computer!

Well that’s it.  I did nothing special today, but I was Mom and I was happy.  I’ve been happier this year than ever before, so I think I made the right decision when I quit my job. I think I’m due for another “day in the life” photo shoot.  I did that once when the kids were really tiny and made a fantastic scrapbook spread out of it.  I need to document these days now.  I’m a proud SAHM.


My Arts and Crafts Room


I am blessed to have a room in our house that is devoted solely to crafting.  It started out as an office for my husband as well, but if he works from home, he usually sits on the couch with his laptop or sets up multiple monitors in the living room or on the kitchen table.  So I quickly invaded his “space” in the office.  For a time after I had O, I was limited to the first floor due to hip problems, so this room served as a bedroom then too.  But now…oh NOW it is the most wonderful space ever.  I have two big tables for working and so so so many shelves.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Let’s talk about storage.  The amount of paper and supplies I have accumulated is staggering.  My favorite crafting endeavors involve yarn, paper, and fabric, all of which add up.  I have a lot of wonderful scrapbooking supplies that need a home, yarn scraps, extra fabric, a computer and printer, a sewing machine and photos, photos, PHOTOS!

First things first, I decided I wanted open shelves for the yarn and fabric, as well as for pretty baskets.  I love when you walk into a yarn shop and they have all those open spaces with fibers of all kinds and colors galore.   I wanted to store my yarn that way.   My husband is a self-proclaimed Ikea master, having assembled multiple shelves, cabinets, beds, dressers, and more from the Swedish company.  For storage solutions, I feel there is no equal, especially for the price.  We decided first on a 5 x 5 cube unit for my main storage.  Mine was the Expedit line, which is no longer available, but now they have the Kallax line which is similar (here is a 4 x 4 cube version).  My yarns look great in it, and the bins fit my 12″ x 12″ scrapbooking paper.  The Thirty-One Your Way cube fits in it great, by the way.  IMG_4982

This was alone in the room with some wall cabinets for awhile, but last year, my husband said, “I think we should move the kids’ art stuff into that room as well, and make it a family arts and crafts room.”  He thought maybe I wouldn’t like that idea seeing as how that was MY space, but it meant we’d free up dining room space, and I also felt like purging and organizing, so off we went to Ikea again!  The plan was to house all of the kids markers, crayons, paper, coloring books, workbooks, globe, stickers, etc in this room as well.  We also wanted a big space so all of us could work on projects at the same time. The challenge would be to fit it all in and still be able to hide it!

This time, my husband bought items from the Galant line, and they work great in the space.  The sliding doors hide so much stuff and the cubes fit as well.

Sliding doors  are open to show the shelves.  See the black cubes in there?  Hidden kid art stuff!  Also, that rolling cart to the left.  You got it.  It's from Ikea.  It's working great for current kid projects...move it out to the big kitchen table, move it back...whatever you want!

Sliding doors are open to show the shelves. See the black cubes in there? Hidden kid art stuff! Also, that rolling cart to the left. You got it. It’s from Ikea. It’s working great for current kid projects…move it out to the big kitchen table, move it back…whatever you want!

Upper white cabinets are from Ikea as well. The lower shelves are from the Galant line.  The shelf on the left is Ikea, but a discontinued line.  The multi-colored 12 x 12 plastic tubs?  Costco!  My other favorite place!

Upper white cabinets are from Ikea as well. The lower shelves are from the Galant line. The shelf on the left is Ikea, but a discontinued line. The multi-colored 12 x 12 plastic tubs? Costco! My other favorite place!

A big, HUGE table in the middle of the room with a peninsula for my sewing machine, and the room is complete!  I did pretty much NONE of the planning in this room.  It was completely my husband’s vision and DIY skills.  But now it is such a nice place for me and the kids to work on projects.  And it’s all tucked nicely away out of site when we’re done.

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I’ve since added a few small updates that I think add a lot to this creative space.  I find having markers and colored pencils out is both pretty and easy to use.  So I got this neat organizer at Michael’s.  I added my cutting board to the top of the table since I do a lot of rotary cutting and measuring of both paper and fabric.  Lastly, I added some paper pinwheels and banners to the space to brighten it up!


Indian Lake Park


At some point, I will need to do a post about the Dane County Parks.  There are some great ones in this county.  But as for now, let me tell you about my favorite, year-round gem….Indian Lake Park.  Until last winter, I had only been to this park in the summer.  It is GORGEOUS in the summer with well-marked and groomed trails and beautiful views.  I like to pack a lunch with G and O and head over there for the afternoon.  We picnic, run around, and then hike the trail up to the overlook.  Along the way is a small, yet very interesting, old chapel.   This particular trail is good for kids my age (6 and 5) since it is not overly long, has steps, a couple old, interesting trees, and a rewarding overlook at the top.  It is easily hiked by my crew.

Hiking up the steps to the chapel and overlook

Hiking up the steps to the chapel and overlook

Ahhh the reward.  Check out the gorgeous view.

Ahhh the reward. Check out the gorgeous view.


That’s all well and good but it’s DECEMBER right now.   Not gonna look like that.  Last winter, I discovered there is a sled hill here.  Okay so I know we don’t have snow right now, but we WILL.  So I highly suggest you plan a sledding excursion here.  The sled hill is a short hike from the parking lot through the snowy and beautiful woods.  At the top of the sled hill there is a large fire pit and a small warming house.  On the particular Saturday that we were there, there was a bonfire going, and the woodburner in the warming house was going strong.  G and I had a blast sledding here.  It’s a pretty setting and a perfectly sized hill.

Sitting near the fire pit at the top of the hill.

Sitting near the fire pit at the top of the hill.


We saw many people cross country skiing here as well.  This is a sport I hope to try out again this winter.  I tried once as a teenager, and well, it didn’t go so great.  I enjoy the outdoors in winter though, so these trails look inviting!

When we get some substantial snow, head out to Indian Lake to sled.  And my kids would want to me to remind you that you MUST get hot cocoa after.  Winter activities must always be followed by cocoa, they say.