Looking Back–Looking Ahead

It is amazing to see how far this little space has come. When I began blogging, I was a homeschooling mom of 4. Now I am a working mom of 6-but with one of those six fully-grown and another who will reach adulthood this coming year.

Navigating the changes of motherhood is rewarding, challenging, and sometimes, downright scary. And yet, through it, I have had this space to hash things out, get advice, and share some of my joys and burdens with you. And for that, I am forever thankful.

And because of that, I resolve to nurture this place a little more. This space,  that has given me so much (including lasting friendships), deserves some more of my time.

Here is some of what I hope to share with you all in the coming year:

  1. More Working Mom Wisdom and #MomWin Wednesdays.  We moms need to celebrate our successes, and the joys and obstacles of the modern working mom are still some things I am working through in my brain.
  2. I want to share more of my crocheting with you. It has been one of the most fun changes in my life in 2016. Through some yarn and hooks, I feel connected to my childhood with my grandma, I work through stress, and create beautiful things for friends and family. If all goes well, perhaps a Dakotapam Etsy shop may be in the works.
  3. Homemaking Tips–21 years of marriage in, and I’m still learning, but I have picked up a few helpful things along the way (hint–less stuff is a GREAT starting point!)
  4. More Cooking for 8! Keeping my growing family well fed has always been a kind of fun challenge. I tend to strike a balance between from-scratch and convenience foods, and sometimes, for fun, I just cook from a box–sadly, these meals are a HUGE hit–likely due to the novelty factor.
  5. I hope to share a book a month with you–some fun, some meaty, and some for the kiddos! I love to read–but my crocheting tends to get in the way! I hope to use YOU as my motivation.

Mostly, I just want to spend more time with you, and I hope you are all up for coming along for the ride. Please feel free to share those things that you find helpful–I love making new friends too!  And please, don’t be a stranger in the comment section! I love to hear from you all!

And now, a quick question for you: What do YOU want to see more of in this space? Leave me a comment or pop over to our Facebook page to let me know!

 

#MySummerStaycation

It has been a good summer. yes, we have 20 or so days left, but this is the point where I begin to reflect.

We began the summer with a family wedding in Florida. It was lovely and I had so much fun catching up with Matt’s siblings and significant others. The kids had a blast and were able to see many new things. I don’t have a whole lot of vacation time built up and summer is a super busy time for me at work, so I flew back home after the wedding and worked, while Matt and the kids had an #epicroadtrip. I was sorry to have missed seeing the family and friends he caught up with but I was not sorry to miss out on all of the time in the car!

Matt and the boys spent a week at scout camp, leaving the girls and I with a fun little staycation. We rode rides at our little amusement park in town, we ate treats, we had cereal for dinner, and we enjoyed all kinds of goodies at the Bismarket.

I don’t regret not getting away from North Dakota more this summer. North Dakota summers are GORGEOUS! I daresay they are #Legendary!Warm days, cool evenings and late, late, sunsets make for enjoyable evenings after work. There is always something to do.

However, armchair traveler that I am, I have enjoyed watching other people’s vacations and I have decided to put a few on my bucket list!
Shockingly, our family has yet to visit South Dakota! I have had it on my short list for a while, but when I saw some friends had visited The Flintstones Bedrock City in Custer, SD. . .my decision has been cemented! What fun Americana!  We want to visit Mt. Rushmore, of course, but there is so much more to do! We will have to plan a long weekend next summer to take it all in!

Flintstone Park

A friend enjoyed a Scandinavian cruise much like this one a few years ago. I think this would perfectly combine my love of the show, Love Boat, and my love for our family’s Danish heritage!

copenhagen+canal
Photo credit: Gary Light CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

But for now, I’m pretty happy to be right here in my beloved North Dakota.

note: I was sent this super cute Succulent planter from Pro-Flowers as an inspiration for this post.

How To Cook a Stress Free Thanksgiving Meal

I know how it is. You picture the Thanksgiving meal worthy of a spread in a magazine, but when Thanksgiving Thursday comes around, you are desperately thawing a frozen turkey and sending your husband out to the store for more butter. Meanwhile, your toddler is eating the fake fruit in your cornucopia centerpiece and  the dog just ran away with a pickle. . .which means a mess to clean up now and later.

I know, because I’ve been there. After so many years of graduate school, and living closer to relatives, Thanksgiving was always a holiday spent at other people’s houses. That was great, except I longed to make our own traditions.I couldn’t wait. I just knew that my Thanksgiving dinner was going to be picture perfect, calm, and a foodie’s dream.

The first year that I cooked our very own Thanksgiving dinner went pretty well. The Rev. kept the boys occupied at the church or elsewhere and I cooked and simmered and served up several new, untested dishes. They were beautiful. And. . .nobody ate them. Since then I learned a Thanksgiving dinner truth:

Stick to Traditions

I learned the hard way. While I can experiment with food much of the year, Thanksgiving needs to be predictable. If I want to put something wild and different in the stuffing, I need to do it on some average Monday night when I roast a chicken. That turkey? Just sprinkle some salt and pepper on the top and slide it into the oven, thank you very much. Dakotateen has come to look forward to my super simple and family tradition cranberry relish. Were I to substitute in some cooked, or gelled or frozen concoction I would have a teenage mutiny on my hands. The good news is, mine is super easy, and Dakotateen prepares it! (Scroll down for the recipe!)

Plan Ahead

If you stick to your family’s traditional dishes for Thanksgiving dinner, planning should be easy. Simply list your menu on a piece of paper and then a list of ingredients needed. I no longer need a list! A frozen turkey needs a few days to thaw in the refrigerator. A fresh turkey cost a bit more, but tastes much better and can be picked up the day before Thanksgiving, freeing up fridge space. Me, I roast a large, bone in, turkey breast. It takes up less space in my oven, roasts faster, and we mostly prefer white meat turkey. I also splurge a spiral sliced ham. It warms up quickly and is great left over as well.

Have a Plan of Attack

I do most of my food prep on Thanksgiving day. I have a small (really) kitchen. To do too much work ahead would take up space that I don’t have. So that means cooking day needs to be organized. Now, anyone who knows me in person just giggled a little. I’m not organized. BUT, I can fake it when I need to.

My plan of attack goes something like this:

  • Clear the counters (because I’m not organized).
  • Get the turkey breast in the oven.
  • Begin chopping onions and celery for stuffing.
  • Have a glass of wine
  • Cut up cheese and sausage for the grazing children who will come into the kitchen whining for food. (Your best offense is a good defense)
  • Set our coloring pages and craft supplies for the same children. They can make the centerpiece. Martha won’t approve, but she’s probably not invited.
  • Start preparing the stuffing. Put it in the oven.
  • When the turkey is 45 minutes from done, pop the ham in the oven.
  • Begin peeling potatoes.
  • Put the potatoes on to boil.
  • Call the teen in to make the cranberry relish and cut up pickles.
  • Prepare the green bean casserole.
  • take stuffing out of oven, check on meat and put beans in the oven.
  • Mash the potatoes.
  • Take meat out of the oven and set on the counter to rest.
  • put bread in the oven (We use canned crescent rolls and I have the kids shape them)
  • Make the gravy.
  • Have the kids set the table.
  • Slice the turkey
  • take beans and bread out of the oven
  • Set serving utensils in the serving bowls.
  • Gather the family.
  • Give thanks.
  • Dig in.
As you can see, I serve a fairly simple meal. I serve what we eat. The table is rarely picture perfect. When I was on bed rest with the twins we used paper plates and plastic cutlery. On normal years I DO pull out the china. My point is, we don’t have to fall over ourselves to make the perfect meal. We need only cook with love, and let others help us.

Cranberry Relish

  • 1 bag fresh whole cranberries
  • I navel orange, peel on, washed and quartered
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
Pulse the berries and the orange with peel in a food processor until it is fairly coarse. Put in a bowl, stir in sugar, refrigerate for one hour. Enjoy.
Chime in! What are your tips for a simply enjoyable Thanksgiving? You know I’d love to hear from you!