The Christmas Cactus

I love Christmas cacti, even though they should really be named Thanksgiving cacti since mine always bloom the last week of November. All year long, the weird tapeworm-ish looking plant takes a backseat, visually speaking.

Suddenly, without warning, the entire plant erupts into the brightest and most psychedelic hues of the rainbow. The colors are so bright that they almost hurt your eyes to look at them.

I used to have a huge Christmas cactus and it was glorious. When my oldest was about three, it mysteriously flew off of its shelf and landed upside down, shattering off most of the leaves and all but about two of the blooms. It was a sad day in Plant Land.

This plant was one that I think I grabbed at Lowe’s one year because fuchsia is my favorite color EVER. I stuck it in an old coffee cup and honestly I have no clue how long I have even owned it. I’m happy that this year I managed to not kill it and so I will share it with you!

Happy Wednesday!


The Frugal Farmhouse #1

My recent post, Ch-ch-ch-changes, brought me more texts and comments than I have ever received from a single blog post! First of all, THANK YOU SO MUCH for hanging out with me on my blog/farm journal/soapbox. I am honored that you guys devote some of your very precious time to read my words! Now, one of the questions I was asked was: “So what methods have you been using to try and stay sane?”. Okay, that was totally paraphrased, but I have been working out an answer for you all in my little pea brain. I want to give you the best answer without going into an annoying amount of detail. I will also list resources to help you! Initially, I was going to put all of these into a single post, but I think it’s just too much, so let’s keep it simple and start with one goal.

Get rid of the clutter in your life.

This could mean physical clutter, mental clutter, or a combination of both. I don’t know about you, but I felt like a slave to my clutter. Whether it was my inability to say ‘no’ (which turned into mental clutter for me) or dusty knick-knacks/papers everywhere/craft supplies out the wazoo, it made my brain tired. Very…very…very tired. I can’t do visual clutter. I need clear surfaces to function. I need to wake up to a clean sink in the morning. I can’t think when there are too many things around me.  Let’s face it: Clutter is depressing.

Clutter was a constant physical reminder that I had too much going on. I read somewhere that it takes about 21 days for you to walk by something enough to where your brain ignores it. Then one day, when you finally activate your decluttering mode, you ask yourself: “How long has that pile of (enter a noun here) been sitting on the table/floor/dresser/etc.?” Suddenly, you become really annoyed with yourself because you have been so busy that your brain has been on auto-pilot for months or years and things like this happen when you are on auto-pilot mode.

So, here are some resources I have used myself that I’ve enjoyed and found to be useful. Just remember that decluttering and organizing takes time. You aren’t going to miraculously have everything organized overnight and it may take months. I know that personally, I went through several weeks of deep cleaning/purging and even months later I am refining this. One day at a time! You will get there!

Help for the clutter:

  • Kick the clutter habit one tiny step at a time with FlyLady! I love the routines for my day! I am not typically a routine person (like, at all), but now I have a morning and evening routine and I feel out of sorts if I break them. There are also housecleaning routines that you can easily adjust to your own needs. I only clean twice a week for about an hour at a time now. That’s all! Note: The full email campaign is, IMHO, just too much. Sorry, FlyLady. Be sure to update your email subscription to “FlyLady Lite” rather than the full campaign unless you enjoy email overload! Also, she offers cleaning supplies. Her Bronze microfiber rags are the absolute bomb. I prefer them to my Norwex and e-Cloth rags! They are GREAT. I’ll elaborate later on.
  • The book: “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I enjoyed this book. Okay, so I don’t fold my undies like I used to (shame, shame), but I do like the idea of getting rid of those things which give you no joy. I started my decluttering with this in mind and I was able to whip through most of my house pretty quickly.
  • The site: Organize365. This is a very popular site and offers podcasts as well as tons of info on how to become organized in your home.


I wanted to show you a couple of FlyLady ideas that I use regularly. This is my daily “Flight Plan”, as it is called. I won’t go into major details yet, but you can see that you do declutter for at least 15 minutes every single day. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I promise you that even 15 minutes is a start! Not listed here is something called “Zone cleaning”, which I do every Tuesday. It is a deeper cleaning routine for one “zone” in your house.


With FlyLady, you don’t say you are doing housecleaning! You are “blessing your home” by taking care of it, so we call it “Home Blessing Hour” when you clean. I do this twice a week: Mondays and Fridays. I like our house to be clean before the weekend and then I like a clean house to start the week, too. Just so you know, dusting, mopping, polishing are all limited to 15 minutes…no more. I use a cheap timer from Wal-Mart and I keep it in my apron pocket. FlyLady actually recommends 10 minutes for each task, but I get a more complete job done if I give myself 15 minutes. Typically, I have it all done in about 12 minutes per each job. The idea is to limit your time so that you don’t become obsessed with a perfect cleaning job. As she says, it’s not about perfection, it’s about progress. Perfection is what prevents us from starting a job…we think if we can’t do it perfectly, we just won’t do it at all. I know this has been a problem for me in the past.



So what do you think? Where are you on clutter in your life? Are you organized or are you ready to set up a burn barrel in your front yard and throw in the contents of your home? I threatened to use a bulldozer and a burn pile more than once. I’ve come a long way, baby!

Another way to look at weeds

If you have ever gardened, it’s a known fact that if you don’t cover the soil with something (like mulch), God will cover it for you. Normally, this will be done with weeds.

But what is a weed, anyway? It is simply a plant in a place where you don’t want it. They are certainly not all bad, and in fact, many are very nutritious for us. We can look at them with utter hatred, or we can choose to make something positive of the situation. In my case, I see them as free chicken food from Mother Earth. Or, as I call them collectively, “chicken salad”. Every day, I have been going out to get my sunshine dosage (more on that later…I get seasonal affective disorder, I am pretty sure), and as I’m basking in that wonderful warmth, I silently thank God for each weed. Each one helps my little flock to stay healthy through the winter, and in turn, they produce healthier eggs for my family. This makes us healthier, too.
I think far too much when I’m weeding.

I think how weeds, just like the obstacles and trials in our own lives, can either be met with contempt, or they can be used to better us; to strengthen us. We may not be able to choose whether or not we get a yard full of weeds, but we can choose the attitude in which we greet them. As it is with life, our attitude towards the negative things we encounter is our choice

Now go out there, put on a big smile, and pull up some chicken salad. Happy Thanksgiving, friends. 

It’s sew nice to craft again! Or, “The Doll Chronicles”

Over the weekend, for the first time in about two years, I was able to sew to my heart’s content. Jason was out with a friend on Thursday, so it gave me the opportunity to crank up some Steely Dan on Amazon Music and get to work. 

May it be said that as a young child, I wasn’t doll-crazy. I had dolls, but it was stuffed animals that I was obsessed with. Do you remember Kaybee Toys in a mall near you? If you lived close to Tyler, TX, we had one. Remember the giant stuffed snakes that were suspended on the ceiling? If you ever wondered what weird kid would actually want a giant stuffed snake, now you know one. His name was Jake The Snake, and I used to curl him up into a giant “O” and sleep in the middle. But back to my point.

I wasn’t a girly girl and so I didn’t have very much to do with dolls. However, God sent me a doll-obsessed child. And this child wanted an American Girl doll more than anything. Now, AG dolls ain’t cheap, and this Mama is frugal. So, her first 18 inch doll was of the Target (Tahr-zhay) variety. As far as I could tell, she was quite similar to an AG doll and there are tons of little cute accessories you can choose. But after some time, her hair became crazy. Like, rat’s-nest crazy. I managed to straighten it some with Internet tips, but it wasn’t ever the same as straight out of the box. Still, I reasoned, a doll is a doll, and this one cost about $80 less than a bona fide AG doll. 

Then, after a year or two of begging, we all visited the AG doll store in Dallas. Look, people. I am trying my best not to be materialistic, and then I walk into  THIS PLACE. The Mecca of Materialism. Not only are the dolls fantastic, but they have the most incredible accessories ever! A crock pot? Got it. An entire 1930’s era canning set, complete with water canner? It’s there. A 1960’s Volkswagen Beetle with real rubber tires and plays songs? Yours for only 350 smackers. Does your doll have potentially life-threatening food/insect allergies? Don’t worry, she’s safe with the optional epinephrine kit. I’m not kidding. 

It was, in a single word, amazing. Oh, and the AG dolls’ hair? It’s fabulous. Like human hair fabulous. They even have a doll styling studio and a café in-house. You can have a birthday there. Ah yes, and there are doll holders in the bathroom stalls… yes. Annnd, the tiles in the bathroom and the party area are awesomely glittery. 

So anyway, that Christmas we splurged on Kit, the doll whose era is the 1930s. You can only imagine the excitement that day! That has been about three years ago and Kit is still played with, and I will add that her hair still looks like she was just released from her box. 

Being a frugal mom, I can only do “splurge-y” gifts like that every few years, though. Otherwise, it really sucks the fun out of the season for me. This year, I decided to give Kit some new duds. Rather, I decided to MAKE Kit some new ones. So, here are the results of a kid-free weekend! Hope you enjoy. Oh yes, and Kit has a buddy now: Zoe the doll. You did know that dolls need friends, right? Just like you shouldn’t keep a single horse or goat, you probably need a doll friend. Or so I was told. No, I didn’t buy Zoe, if you were wondering!

Zoe modeling a vintage-styled dress, trimmed in ric-rack:

Market bag, because all girls need a good bag!

Market bag and wallet detail. Bag is also reversible. I will add a snap to the wallet.

A jumper made with some $1.99/yd. fabric that I just got and some vintage ric-rack that I picked up at a yard sale like four years ago!

Lastly, a patchwork skirt made from a Moda mini charm pack that was languishing in a sack in my craft room:

Keep this on the down-low, though! I had to hide all of my evidence to keep it secret until Christmas morning! 

Back soon with another post. Until then…

Attack of the Purple Carrot

So the other day, my kids begged me for some homemade chicken and dumplings. I LOVE chicken and dumplings (or, as we can them: C&Ds), but sadly, Jason and I are on a low carb diet at the moment and we can’t really partake in one of our favorites. Still, it’s an easy enough recipe and my kids begged me enough that I gave in. I decided that now was a good time to teach them how to boil a chicken, since so many recipes begin with a simple boiled chicken and veggies.

Now, we happen to be involved in a food co-op that comes once a month. They offer a mixed vegetable and fruit box that we really enjoy. It introduces us to some things that we might have otherwise not tried on our own. For example, I found that I love kohlrabi and I hate radicchio. (Tip: Do not mistake radicchio for a red cabbage and make coleslaw out of it… In fact, don’t eat that crap at all because it’s horrid, bitter, and will only come in handy if you were starving and it was the only thing left on planet Earth to eat. Same with arugula, but anyway.) Well, this month’s box contained a very dark purple carrot. And when I boil my chicken I add carrots to the mix. So, the kids and I chopped up said purple carrot and I was pleased that it was very sweet. We added onion, celery, a few more carrots, and a sack of leg quarters to the pot and let it come to a boil. Then I turned it to a simmer for about an hour.

 When I opened the lid, I was shocked at what I saw:

My delicious homemade chicken broth was purple. Freaking Grimace/Barney/Dino/Grape Ape purple. Chicken broth is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE PURPLE. The Mom Fail alarms were going off in my head. Would my kids eat this? This eight pounds of oddly lilac chicken legs?

 When I took the legs from the pot, the skin was also, indeed, a scary shade of lavender and frankly it made my stomach turn. I forced myself to eat a bite to reassure my little pea brain that color really wasn’t an issue. It was very tasty. I continued to make the dumplings and added them to the grape juice-ish broth. When they were done, it looked like this:

It was a great recipe gone terribly wrong. Fortunately, my kids called it “Halloween dumplings” and wolfed it down, praise baby Jesus. And I learned my lesson: Never add a purple carrot to a soup unless you enjoy a Crayola-colored broth that makes you a little nauseated to look at it. 

But the story doesn’t end there… Oh no, because God has a great sense of humor. As if it weren’t enough that my stew looked the way it did, I was getting something out of the fridge the next night and moved the tub of C&Ds to get some milk. Suddenly, the tub flew out of the refrigerator one way and the lid went sailing the other. Ice-cold purple dumpling and chicken bits were now running down the freezer handle, under the fridge, on my clothes, and most disgusting of all, in-between my toes. 

What else could I do but burst out laughing? My kids thought I had lost it. Maybe I had. This stew had been damned from its creation, so it was only proper that it ended up covering me and half of my kitchen floor. 

Beware the purple carrots, friends. You have been warned. 

Ch-ch-ch-changes! Or: How to keep your sanity


Woman A vs. Woman B:

Woman A is always feeling rushed. Her day starts later than she’d like and she is up well past midnight most nights. She has many obligations to others and hates to let people down. Consequently, she has less time for her own household. Her garden is….wait. There is no garden this year because she missed all the planting times and besides, who has time for pulling weeds? Crafts sit in lonely baskets unfinished. Sewing…are you kidding? When can one find the time for THAT? Several months of magazines and books patiently wait to be read. Who has time for reading? Dust and clutter silently build up in forgotten corners. The house itself needs minor maintenance, but when will the free time come to do repairs or a good spring cleaning? After all, currently there is no wiggle room in Woman A’s schedule for any more activities. She is a day late, a dollar short, and several pounds heavier than she would like. At night, she collapses on the couch, exhausted, and spends several hours online on social media, reading, and basically escaping her busy world.

Woman B rises in the morning well-rested. She gets dressed in an outfit she chose the night before, then she makes the bed. Because she is up earlier than her household, she has time to enjoy her coffee and think about the day. She feeds the dogs and plans today’s breakfast. Each day has an assigned task: Mondays are light housekeeping days (one hour), Tuesdays mean it’s time to clean the refrigerator, use up leftovers, and plan the next week’s meals. It is also a day to work on her budget and balance the checkbook. Wednesdays are her ‘free time days’, so she can spend her extra time as she wishes (usually by reading or gardening). Thursdays are errand days, so this is a day for any appointments, post office trips, grocery trips, etc. She is sure to schedule any of the family’s appointments for Thursdays to keep car trips to a minimum. Fridays are another light housekeeping day (one hour), and a day to clean out her purse and car. All of these things are done in the morning and she is done by lunch. Saturdays are family days, and Sundays are days used for self-reflection and enjoyable tasks. Woman B can easily say “No” to invitations and activities that leave her feeling stressed or too “stretched out”.

For many years, I was Woman A. Though I am not yet fully Woman B, I am getting there as fast as I can. Before, I was always tired and I felt run-down. I had obligations to others outside my family that simply took a lot of time from the people who mean the most to me. These were self-imposed, of course. I hadn’t read a book in months or maintained a nice garden for a few years, and those are two of my favorite activities. My crafts were shoved into long-forgotten dusty baskets. Where was the farm girl who used to sew, crochet, and knit? The one who canned tomatoes and jam like clockwork every year? She was buried under her own choices; choices that ultimately took away her time and energy from the things that she truly loved.

I think that so many of us women are like the proverbial chicken running around without its head. We say yes to a lot of things, and many, mind you, are GOOD things, if not even GREAT things, but if it means ending up with us burning the candle at both ends, is it really worth it? In one word: NO. We end up stressed out, gulping down wine and chocolate (in my case, endless chips and dip), and feeling like we are stuck in a huge rut with no time for things that we truly enjoy.

The most powerful word in the universe is “NO”. I encourage anyone who is seriously stressing out to practice using it! It is not always easy, because the requests may be for a great cause. However, we can very quickly “yes” ourselves right into a nervous breakdown/major burnout if we allow it. Granted, there are seasons in our lives where things may be naturally more hectic. There are times when things will be crazy by no fault of our own. That’s life, after all. But I am concentrating on those times when we have a choice…when we could have said no and avoided the insanity that ensues.

It’s difficult to decline invitations and offers, but before I answer, I think of my family. The two little people that I helped to create, and the older one that I chose to spend my days with. If my ‘yes’ means it will ultimately take away from the relationships with those three, then I am going to answer no. It hasn’t been easy to do, because I feel that I have let some people down, but I also know that I did what is best for myself and my little people.

Have you ever felt like you have taken on too much? And if so, what have you done to correct that? I really want to know.

If you enjoy reading, the book “The Best Yes” by Lysa Terkeurst is a very nice read about this very subject. She is a Christian author, however the book is not what you would call ‘preachy’. Rather, it is full of good examples from her own life and Biblical quotes.

Last of all, Woman A likely would not have noticed this lovely constrast of her Le Marne roses and Chinese pistache as she would have been rushing out the back door.




He promised me a rose garden…

When Jason and I got married, I told him to not send me cut flowers. More specifically, no cut roses. Give me a rosebush instead. After all, a rosebush will last for years, and cut flowers just a few days! I finally created a rose garden I like. I had a nice one when we lived in town, but not one since we have lived on the farm. I’ll give you a quick tour!

 Let’s start with the least impressive picture, lol. This is the first of two new rose gardens I have. They have only been in this place for about 2-3 months, so the plants haven’t had much time to fill in. 

Now for the individual plants! First, let’s start with one of my new favorites, Mutabilis. This is an old variety that gets quite large. The flowers start off almost white like this:

And then finish off dark pink like this:

And did you notice the Buckeye butterfly that was kind enough to let me take its picture? Well, here’s another. Usually, I have the hardest time getting quality butterfly photos, but I think this little guy was drying its wings.

Another lovely rose is a hybrid tea called “Electron”. This is what I call Jason’s “birthday rose”. I got everyone a rose that was either introduced or won an award the year they were born. Electron was an AARS winner the year he was born. Here it is:

Now we come to my birthday rose: Trumpeter. It is a floribunda type and was released the year I was born. It is a short little thing, but has the most magnificent neon red blooms:

Probably nine or ten years ago, I did some plant swapping with a woman through some internet group. I don’t remember her name, but she gave me this rose and told me she had gotten it from someone in Mississippi. So, I call it the Mississippi rose. It’s a prolific bloomer, and even though it has very little fragrance, I love the cute little blooms!

And that is certainly not all my roses, but those are the most decent ones for now. I also have Duchesse de Brabant, The Fairy, Tropicana, Le Marne, Don Juan, Hot Cocoa, Rainbow’s End, and many more that I can’t remember the names of right now. All of my roses have to be easy to keep. I don’t spray for anything, so they are on their own! 

Thanks for stopping by!

Some days are good for…

A cool and drippy November day is perfect for snuggling up with a friend!

Front Yard Do-Over (Again)

August 2008: This is the front yard the day we bought the farmhouse. To the left there is a holly tree, which we immediately removed since: A. I don’t like giant holly trees and B. It had a huge hole in the trunk and would be weak anyway. On the right was an odd little tree that resembled a ginkgo. It was not a ginkgo, but we did end up removing it for some reason or other. Normally, we don’t take down trees at all, but…


March 2009: Where the front garden all began. You can see that we fenced it in and were in the process of doing raised beds. There are lettuces, broccoli, onions, and cabbages planted here. What you may also see is that we did not remove the grass, which turned out to be a VERY BAD decision. I assure you, you will NOT WIN when battling Bermuda grass. Do yourself a favor, save your sanity and START WITH A BLANK SLATE.

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May 2009: You can see that the lettuces and broccoli are done. The cabbages, as you might notice, are completely eaten up by cabbageworms. Hurrah. Not. Also note that we had a nice watering system that misted all of the beds. Also note that the grass is growing at a rapid pace.

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January 2011: If you read my yearly reflections, you will know that I am always saying to live simply and not take on more than you can handle. Well, here I am, not following my own advice. Even though my front garden was crazy with grass and not well kept, I decided to plow up and landscape even MORE yard! Go me!


August 2012: Three years of battling Bermuda grass has driven us to the breaking point. It has invaded my beds and even grown into some of the wood. We have the tractor in place to remove the raised beds and we ended up burning them. It was a happy/sad day!


Here is the front space that we created back in 2011. I seeded it with a wildflower mix and a poppy mix. See the lovely grapevine on the fence? Something ate its roots not long after this photo was taken and the entire plant collapsed in two days. I still weep for that grapevine. This is early summer, 2013.

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These beds were also seeded with wildflowers. You can see my onion patch here, too.


June, 2013: You can see that the grasses have been trying to grow back. Also, note the blackberry bush in the lower left corner. It honestly made the nastiest blackberries I have ever had the displeasure of eating. They had to be dead ripe to get any sugary taste, and even then, it left your mouth with a bitter taste. Gag. It was labeled as Rosborough. Nope, never again. I finally tore it out in 2016.


Shpring has shprung! This is April 2014. I love the wildflowers, but they are just hiding the fact that I don’t really want to deal with the yard at this point. Trust me, there are a ton of grasses in there that are already seeding…


April 2015, from our bedroom window. Love love love me some irises!



A favorite orange variety, given to me by an old schoolmate! I adore this iris and it is very hardy. I divided it this year (2016), so I hope for a LOT more!  In the background, you can see oregano, then Lamb’s Ears, and….more irises!


Spring 2015:


Looking awfully grassy out there….No garden beds 😦


June 2016: The Brown-eyed Susans and Indian blanketflowers were absolutely insane this year. True, I had no real gardening beds (other than those right by the house), but I couldn’t tear these out…yet.


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September 2016: The breaking point that has built up for eight long years! It’s time to do this dadgum yard RIGHT! One of the major issues was that it was never properly leveled, so you were always walking up or down a slope. After a few hours’ deliberation and some quick sketches, Jason and I decided to do this right so we NEVER HAVE TO RE-DO THIS AGAIN. Time for the “reno”!

First, you take a backhoe:


And you start to work on the leveling. It is really impossible to tell here, but that little scrape-out is about 3 foot tall or so! And then…


You raze that sucker and get it as flat as a pancake! Notice, almost no weeds…Praise the Lord!


We left this cornerpost because it supports a big climbing rose I have. The apple tree is actually going to be removed as sadly, it is too blighted to keep. Darn it.


And, welcome to our desert garden!


Now, for this shot, I had to get in the bucket of the backhoe and Jason lifted me up. Did I mention that I HATE heights! Whew. The asparagus bed to the far right was removed and we put it along the newly created arch next to the driveway. I call this garden the “Salad Bowl” because of its shape!


Here you can see that bowl-shape I was talking about. And here we have laid out our beds to run east to west. I can see everything from my front porch! Woohoo!


All my cute little beds…



To keep me from losing my mind, we gathered all the pine straw we could to cover up the sand. I wish you could have seen how much came in through my front door in that first week…yuck. I hate a sandy floor! And you can also see the four ornamental beds I have created in the very front of my house. We used logs from our woods to make the edging. It’s still a work in progress, but I did relocate almost all of my roses to the beds on the left, and then a lot of irises to the bed on the right. The crepe myrtle coming up in the bed was a volunteer. We have more baby crepe myrtles than anyone I’ve ever seen. We have relocated many to the chicken coop and some more to the front yard. This particular one is a nice pink color. I have no clue where it came from!


Sanity has been restored! Here we are in October 2016! It’s pretty amazing because so much has already grown up in the two weeks since I took this picture.The roses have really started filling out, and I planted tons of bulbs and some daylilies.

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I hope you enjoyed the tour through time! If you take away anything, just remember that Bermuda grass is the devil and you’d better rip all that hot mess out before you get to planting! And yes, it goes deep underground. Had we done that to begin with, I’d have a really lovely eight year old garden now. Oh well! Live and learn!!!

Until next time!