Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Old World Wisconsin Take 2

Saturday I left Prairie Sherry at the Farmer's Market since she had 20 pound boxes of canning tomatoes to hawk. (Thanks, Edith!)  I went with my family to Old World Wisconsin.  We met my niece Molly there.  She was wearing a prairie dress and my old sunbonnet.  (Sniff)  It was the last weekend of Laura Ingalls Wilder Days, a Laura festival that has little to do with Laura other than a look-a-like contest. 

The weather was chilly and we all wore sweat shirts.  A big difference from the 95 degree heat and high humidity Sharon and I experienced on our visit two weeks earlier.  (Refer to Eydie and Sharon's Excellent Adventure blog for the details on that field trip.)  There were lots of people at Old World.  Drat.  I forgot to take a photo of the parking lot.  Sharon will never believe me that there really was an unruly line for the quilting bee.  

Going to Old World Wisconsin with four kids under nine years of age is much different than going with a limp, heat exhausted Sharon.  First off, I had to constantly worry about one of the kids backing into a pesky cast iron stove.  I soon became exhausted from warning the kids about the stoves.  It was a relief the stove was broken at the Inn, though the volunteer seemed very apologetic.  She was supposed to be popping popcorn.

Also, I had to continually think of modern day analogies so the kids could connect between past and present.  Here is a cheat sheet for those of you planning a visit to Old World Wisconsin with young children:

General Store = Target
Shoe Store = Target
Chicken Coop = Target
Garden = Target

I found myself saying inane things like, "In the 1870s people couldn't just run to Target and buy a new shirt.  They had to use wool from these filthy sheep."  or "In the olden times children were pleased to play with pine cones and corn cobs."  My favorite was, "Back then kids weren't allowed to talk at the dinner table."

I had a "Come to Jesus" moment when my 3 year old daughter, Lulu, saw a gentle work horse and exclaimed, "Ohhhh!!!  Elephant!!!!"  I guess the third child doesn't go to the zoo as much as the first two children.  The rest of the day I made a big deal about every horse we encountered.  "Lulu!  Look at the horse!  See the horse?  The horse has a mane.  What does the horsie say?"  I made a mental note to plan bi-weekly zoo visits between now and Labor Day.  (Lulu also referred to a huge pile of straw as a nest.  Sigh.)

Part of LIW days is doing "fun" olden time chores  All the kids happily tossed off their flexible Keen sandals and clomped around in wooden shoes.  (This was a perfect opportunity for me to once again tell the story of how their great-grandfather came to Wisconsin, from Holland, wearing wooden shoes.  I had to chase after them into the chicken coop to finish the story.)  The kids stacked wood, swept porches, washed dishes, and did laundry.  These are the same kids who won't get under their covers so they don't have to make their beds in the morning.  I guess chores are more fun if they aren't your chores.   

I think next year I am going to volunteer at Old World Wisconsin.  But only if I am can volunteer nowhere near an iron stove, I just couldn't handle the stress.  I guess that would leave either outdoor laundry demonstrations or concise tours of chicken coops (The smell is deadly.)

Civil War Days starts August 1st at Old World.  You know I'm going, so I'll see you there.

Prairie Eydie   




Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pepin Surprise

In July of 2011, Sharon and I took a Laura Ingalls Wilder tour.  We wandered from Pepin, WI (setting of Little House in the Big Woods) to Walnut Grove, MN (setting of On the Banks of Plum Creek) and ended up in DeSmet, SD (setting of On the Bank of Silver Lake & more).  Sharon designed pink tank tops for us to wear on the tour.  The front read, "Shaking Our Fist at the Storm." (Sharon and I love pretending we are Pa in The Long

Lots of available parking!

Sharon and I are both Wisconsin gals and couldn't wait to see what Pepin was like.  Our cheery mood was immediately dampened as we approached the LIW museum.  The museum was marked with a poorly painted, plywood Holly Hobbie esque cutout.  In the museum's entryway was a huge Mississippi paddle boat replica, reminiscent of Mark Twain and Showboat.  Sharon asked me, "Did I miss the book, Little Paddle Boat on the River?" There was no explanation why the river boat was there.  It just was.

We cautiously continued into the museum.  We found a definite theme.  There was lots of stuff, but none of it was authentic.  The "curator" had painstakingly typed descriptions of each item on index cards.  The cards had faded to a dirty yellow. 

There was a molting fur coat draped over a wire hanger.  Little bugs swarmed around the shoulders.  The index card read, "This bear skin coat is kinda like the buffalo skin coat Pa wore in Little House on the Prairie.  (Seriously, why was Pa always wandering off into a blizzard?  He wore the buffalo coat when he dug himself into a snow bank, ate all the girl's Christmas candy, and then discovered he was just feet from his family.  Imagine that!  Hahaha.) 

There was a wheat platter labeled, "This is sorta like the platter that that was rescued from the fire (in the First Four Years) but not really.  Sharon and I kept wondering, where was all the real stuff?  (Turns out it is all in DeSmet)

(Eydie didn't mention our fellow tourists who seemed to be totally enthralled with the displays.) 
Realtors, this little cabin is move-in ready--quaint
and filled with prairie charm.
Sharon and I left the nearly empty museum to visit a replica of the Ingall's log cabin.  The log cabin is actually next to a way side: so you can pee, walk your dog, buy a soda, and then take a ten second tour of an empty cabin.  We then dragged ourselves to Lake Pepin thinking a scenic view would lift our sagging spirits.  Nope.  There was an orange snow fence barricading the lake.  We took a photo through a tear in the fence.

Sharon and I still had time to kill before lunch, so we decided to do some shopping.  We went into what appeared to be a quaint shop full of extremely sharp cookie cutters and scythes.  As we turned to escape, the owner greeted us, wearing a leather apron and a tight vest.  (Yes Prairie Friends, he was also wearing pants and a shirt.)  He wanted to chat about his craft and seemed a tad creepy.  We backed our way out the door as Sharon talked to the owner in a low, soothing voice about how she used to rose maul wooden boxes.  (Actually is is spelled "rosemal", and the guy wasn't a tad creepy.  This guy looked like an axe murder.  I hadn't left our exact itinerary with my family.  If I hadn't gotten us out of there our bodies wouldn't have been found in years.)    

Luckily a good friend of mine (Thanks Keila!) recommend a fabulous restaurant in Pepin, the Harbor View CafĂ©.  The restaurant is committed to sustainability and purchases fresh ingredients from local famers.  Everything is homemade and delicious.  Over lunch, Sharon and I talked about how we could give Pepin a make over when we retire.  But for now, we will continue working towards the grand unveiling of our etsy site. 

Prairie Eydie

There is still enough time this summer to grab a friend and take a road trip.  Make some memories and have some fun!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dressing Down: A Serious Flight Risk

(Sharon is gone for the week to New York.  So, I am in charge!  Woot!  Woot!  Prairie Eydie)

This post is going to make me sound like an old geezer.  (Yes, it probably will.  But when has that stopped you?) 

No, I am not sitting by Ciara.
She is in first class. I just
grabbed this from Google images.
Geez Louise, doesn't anyone dress up anymore?  So I am waiting for my plane to take off for NYC, and I am looking at my fellow passengers.  Really, pajama pants and a ratty tank top?  Is that last night's spaghetti sauce on your left 34 D? This is your travel wear?  If it is going to be a 17 hour flight to Beijing--maybe, but we are talking about a mere three hours of flight time, O'Hare to LaGuardia.  You can't sit for a couple of hours in a decent pair of jeans?  Do I want to see the top of your thong panties as you bend over to arrange your carry-on under the seat? When is the last time you shaved those underarms? I love Hello Kitty, but to see distorted cat faces stretched across your behind... Blech!  Oh dear.  I usually wear my Hello Kitty pajama pants to school on "PJ Day."  I hope Sharon isn't trying to tell me something.  I am just glad that they aren't serving breakfast on this flight.  I remember sitting next to a woman, on a flight from Seattle to Milwaukee.  She had a kit to make tuna salad.  She entertained herself, and DISGUSTD ME, by making the tuna salad and slowly savoring it on crackers. 

Dear Prairie Readers, can we admit that there has been a serious decline in standards of dress during the last four score and twenty (I've always wanted to borrow that phrase.)?  Not that I want to go back to men wearing shirts and ties to mow the lawn,  I have a neighbor who wears long khakis and a striped polo to mow his lawn.  I appreciate the extra effort he makes  but do I really want to see my neighbor mowing that same lawn in a pair of sports shorts, and only a pair of sports shorts?  If it was Michael Landon you wouldn't have a problem.  Sir, let me tell you that you do not have the buff physique to pull off that look.

This reminds me of a fun interview Jon Stewart had with David Sedaris.

This is not a pair of pajamas.
This is a pantsuit circa 1974.
I remember when the first woman's pantsuit first appeared walking up to the communion rail in my childhood churchWas there a woman in the pantsuit?  Or was it floating to the communion rail?  My father, dressed in his three- piece suit despite the 80 degree temps, leaned over and whispered, "Looks like two tigers fighting under a blanket." I don't think he meant any harm with that comment. It was just a very honest observation.  Where does this leave Hilary?  He viewed himself with the same critical eye. When my mom purchased him his first non-white dress shirt, he said, "It looks like the Easter Bunny threw up on me." 

There are times that I slip into the grocery for that early morning cartoon of eggs in a questionable state of appearance.  Yes, I may be unshowered and wearing a pair of worn sweats, but if I am going to present myself to 150 passengers in the tight quarters of economy class,  I usually try to spruce up a bit--a comb, a bit of deodorant, clothing that I don't regularly wear to bed. Flying is no longer a nylon hose and white glove experience, but I figure if you have to sit next to me for several hours, at least I shouldn't make your eyes burn.  Geez.  Why haven't you told us what dynamic, envelope pushing outfit you're wearing?  It had better not involve Hello Kitty or leggings.

Shoot! I have to turn off all electronic devices.  Eydie is going to have to post this half-written.
  Prairie Sherry

Hey!  Sharon was cut off before she got to Michael Landon Monday.  Lets see what I can come up with on short notice.  Below is an actual photo of Michael getting ready to board an airplane in L.A.



Friday, July 26, 2013

Prairie Packing

On Sunday Prairie Sherry is turning her buggy around and heading east. This "grl" is going to New York City.   

A week-long trip to cosmopolitan locale requires a bit more than throwing  a couple of petticoats and a pair of button boots into a satchel. This requires serious packing.  Packing is something I do, and I do well.  I think it is in my pioneer blood.  Given a covered wagon, I would have been able to pack those quilts, an iron skillet, a barrel of flour, the plow, two chickens, and even the potbellied stove with room to spare for the six kids and the family dog. 

Superior packing requires lists--lots of lists.  I have compiled my extensive written litanies of clothing, beauty aids, shoes, books, writing materials, supportive cords and chargers for my electronics, camera gear, meds (Who wants to search for a pharmacy for a Tums at 3 AM?), snacks...  I won't even go into the lists I am leaving for those who are staying home.

The guest bedroom is now Packing Central.  Items are organized in neat piles on the bed.  Too bad if I want to wear that pink dress for my business lunch with Eydie this afternoon.  It is in a packing pile and therefore cannot be disturbed.  I am down to a a pair of yoga pants that shrunk in the wash and a Leinenkugles t-shirt (...and if you don't know about Leinenkugels, I know you don't live in God's Country.) to get me through until travel time.  

If you think that this Prairie Grl will hit the check-in line with a six piece set of Louis Vuitton,  think again.  I pack light.  I may not make my usual "carry-on only" goal this time around, but I won't have more than one small piece of checked luggage.  It may be fat as a tick and ready to burst, but there will only be one.  I have also been known to pack some clothing that I am willing to leave behind so that I will have room for new purchases.  This backfired on one trip to China a number of years ago.  I had left a ratty pair underwear in the wastebasket in our hotel room on the last leg of our trip only to have a maid rush into the lobby with the reject waving in her hand like a flag.  She presented it to me with a flourish in front of a group of Chinese businessmen.  They seemed quite awed at a rather large-ish, grey-ish pair of granny panties.   

My 19 year-old, Jo, is going with me on this trip.  For her, packing is a last minute affair.  An hour before departure time she will be wandering around the house looking for her tan shorts--the same tan shorts that she put in the Good Will pile a month ago.  We'll be buying a tooth brush at the airport because hers will be on the bathroom counter at home.  I will lend her my hair brush and a t-shirt to sleep in and "tsk-tsk" at her lack of planning.

But whatever the content of that one piece of luggage of mine, rest assured that I will be be sitting at that luggage carousel for hours waiting for it to appear. Whether my suitcase is put on first or last, it always manages to wander to the very back of the line.  I am not a pessimist by nature, but this has always been my reality.  When it finally pops out and begins spin around, I will throw myself upon it in joy and officially begin my vacation.

All that luggage, and my bag is back
there chatting with the crew.

Yikes, it is Beauty Tip Friday.  One item that is traveling with me is my L'Oreal Sublime Sun Face Lotion SPF 50+, 1.7 Fluid Ounce.  It goes on like a foundation primer.  As the bottle says, it is "liquid silk." The bottle is small enough to go in my carry-on.  A girl can't always wear her sunbonnet.  

Prairie Sherry  



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Celebrate Every Day Like It is Your Birthday!

Last summer Sharon created a collage for her bedroom.  It included things she wanted to remember daily.  Things like:  hug the ones I love, enjoy nature, Do Not Demand My Way (HUH?), read more...  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  All was great until she added this in the corner: "Celebrate Everyday Like It Is My Birthday." 

Now Sharon (who is of a certain age) sometimes has difficulties separating fiction from nonfiction.  So she started expecting me to call and wish her a "Happy Birthday" everyday.  Sharon felt sad when the birthday cards weren't flooding her mailbox. And, she also started expecting a birthday present every time I saw her.  (I think her gift neediness goes back to when her ex-husband gave her a tin of smoked oysters for their first anniversary.  Also, for her birthday one year, he put his old motorcycle helmet in a box and gave it to her.  He obviously doesn't know that there is a BIG difference between vintage and used.) 
"Why...thanks honey."  

So, being both one to please and go along with pure nonsense - I started bringing Sharon gifts whenever I saw her.  Here is a partial list of gifts:
  • two Joy Mangano hangers in lilac
  • an orange peace dove sun catcher
  • a teeny tiny Dalai Lama collage which reads, "My religion is simple.  My religion is kindness"
  • bottle cap magnets
  • a flashy pink Goldi's tote bag (She brings it to the Farmer's Market every Saturday and says it causes quite a stir.) 
  • a bottle of Hopalicious (During the school year Sharon and I enjoy grocery shopping together after going out for breakfast at Lazy Jane's.  This is very handy because I can just give her some groceries as a present.  A rotisserie chicken.  A roll of toilet paper.  A couple of beets.  She will take anything.)
Sharon is extremely animated when she accepts her gifts and never says "Oh, you shouldn't have!"  She squeals (like that pig on the sled, in Farmer Boy), snatches the gift, and stuffs it in her handbag.  Then she asks me if she looks a day over thirty.  It was fun for awhile, but it is wearing thin with me (not with Prairie Sherry).
This "Sharon Has a Birthday Everyday" nonsense is starting its second year.  It needs to stop.  I don't have time to continue thinking of gifts to give her or remember to daily wish her "Many Happy Returns of the Day."  PLUS, I keep giving her my art work which I could be selling on Etsy. 

I have come up with a desensitization program for Sharon.  Here are some of the components:
  • I will start giving her less attractive gifts.  Like used tubes of lipstick, expired sunscreen, and jars of old lentils. 
  • I will set a gift in front of her for fifteen seconds and then take it back.  Every time she doesn't cry I will throw her an M & M. 
  • I will talk in a soothing voice about how people really only have one birthday a year. 
  • I will develop a plan to slowly cut back on her multiple mailbox trips to check for birthday cards. 
  • We will circle her actual birthday on the calendar so she can have something tangible to focus on.  (Hopefully she won't think of starting a countdown - like, "Only 178 shopping days to Sharon's Birthday."  I seriously would not be able to stand that.)
Once my business partner (an dear friend) is less needy, I will have more time to raise my children and create art.  

Prairie Eydie   

Eydie,  Just remember that my real birthday is November 16th. That is less than 4 months away.  Prairie  Sherry 

The Art of Aging

When do you give up the moniker "middle aged" and just say "old?"  I think I may be nearing that point in my life. Tell-tale signs:
  • I have to increase the print size to "large" as I type this--and that is with the progressive bifocals on the face.  New prescription.  No excuses.
  • When I hear "Grandma" called out in a store, I immediately whip around.  I don't do that for "Mom" or "Mommy" any longer.
  • I receive senior citizen discounts at Dunkin' Donuts without asking.  That one really hurts.  Prairie Eydie wants to know why I go to Dunkin' Donuts.  This doesn't seem to be in keeping with my organic, all natural image.  Everyone needs a half dozen Munchkins now and then.  (Sharon.  I just have an image of the Wizard of Oz Munchkins.  I am pretty sure NO ONE needs a 1/2 dozen Munchkins, ever.  Prairie Eydie.)
  • Now when I have to check off a box expressing my age on surveys and forms I have to go awaaaaaaaaay down to the bottom.
  • A student asked me if I had voted for Herbert Hoover in the presidential campaign of 1928.  I realize that 8th graders have little understanding of age, but really.  Actually I was pretty impressed that the kiddo even knew about Herbert Hoover, let alone put him in the correct century.
  • My daughters have ceased making jokes when the AARP advertisements come in the mail.  One daughter asked me if I would consider a Life Line when the last one leaves for college. She was serious.
  • The doctor just told me that I need to have a couple of varicose veins taken care of this fall.  Compression stockings are in my future.
I have never acted my age.  When in high school I was a bit socially awkward (understatement), and secretly pulled out my Barbie dolls now and then.  I still have them.  Once an adult, for the longest time I had this notion that my age had locked at 18.  I felt like I was playing a game as I did very adult things like teaching, traveling through Europe, and buying my first house.  I became a mom in my mid thirties, adopting my last daughter at age 45.  I didn't marry until I was 50...The list goes on. 

My grandmother never would have
worn one of my necklace creations.
I have everything in place to be a great little old lady.  I have always been known to be a bit eccentric.  While I will never have a house full of cats, I am two cockapoos into a house full of dogs.  I like to putter around the house, and I have always considered puttering to be an important part of the aging process.  I live in a wonderfully creative and tolerant community that doesn't look twice when an aging female doesn't dress her age.  No house dresses for me!  I will be wearing flowing, flowered skirts with my compression hose.  I have very close friendships with like-minded females who will grow old with me. Most importantly, I have my three daughters and two grandchildren who seem, for the most part, to tolerate and even enjoy being around me.

For me, the most important part of the aging process to to keep my creativity alive and nurtured.  I want to keep reading, learning, writing, and doing my artsy-fartsy stuff.  Retirement isn't in my near future, but once the teaching gig is done (starting year 35), I can't imagine that I won't have a job somewhere.  I may be the oldest seller at the farmers' market at some point.  They'll have to prop me up by that scale and keep my oxygen tank away from the grill.

This is one of Eydie's creations.
Beauty comes at any age.

Prairie Sherry
"Sharon? Sharon?  I think she
overdosed on Munchkins."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blog Block

Although you might think that this is Sharon
at one of our "business lunches", actually
 it is my daughter, Lulu.
It has happened, Prairie Friends.  I have blog block.  Sharon and I usually spend part of our weekly meetings brainstorming blog ideas.  But our last meeting was spent figuring out Etsy.  Geez.  First, we had to take photos of our art, from every angle.  I got to be the neck model for the necklaces.  I do have a very nice neck.  Sharon told me to enjoy it before I got "turkey neck."  Then we had to write lengthy descriptions of each piece of art.  We over used the words "whimsical" and "original".  We kept nervously laughing and saying "Oh, this is SO going to get easier."

I guess we couldn't stay in the zone of hilarious lunches at Alchemy followed by cruising rummage sales for battered shutters, buckets, and ladders. (Below is a photo of a rummage sale creation.  I can't figure out how to add a caption.)  The problem is, I felt very comfortable in that lunch/shopping zone.  Now Sharon says we really need a business plan and have to get organized.  She is right.  This became painfully apparent after we couldn't find our login/username to Etsy for the fourth time.

Actually, I am pretty sure that Sharon and I can say "Buh Bye" to our lives because we will be spending every minute posting items on Etsy.  Who knew?  No more puttering around in the garden with the baby kale.  No more swimming with kids.  No more sipping iced tea on the deck.  Sigh.  The Prairie Grlz will now be chained to a computer finding synonyms for "whimsical" and describing each freaking charm on Sharon's awesome necklaces.  (Sharon, it would go much faster if you'd just make plain, chain link necklaces.  Maybe with a simple sea shell or an acorn pendant???  Consider it.)

I have been reading Austin Kleon's fabulous book called,  Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative (page 83).  He brilliantly graphs the life cycle of a project/idea. 
  • This is the best idea EVER.
  • Ok, this I harder than I thought.
  • This is gonna take some work.
  • This sucks.
...and you get the idea (Get the book too!)

So, we are at the "This is gonna take some work" part.  I am good with that, especially if we have just one more fun "business lunch" at Alchemy.

Prairie Eydie 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cheers to Our Readers!

Just some of our young, hip readers.
Do we actually have an audience for this blog?  Well, we think so. Blogger has a stats page that gives us a somewhat cryptic overview of who is tuning in.  We haven't figured out the finer points, but we can see when we have peaks and valleys in our viewership.  Mondays don't appear to be stellar days, although right after the long 4th of July break we had a fabulous Monday.  Perhaps it was the need for the quiet solitude of our virtual prairie after the craziness of a holiday week-end.  I've noticed when the titles of our posts contain the word "bra" as in "Did Ma Wear a Bra? (see June 18th), readership shot through the roof.  Perhaps you were thinking I was going to reveal Caroline Ingall's stripper past?  

Some of our posts fell a bit flat.  Eydie is still licking her wounds over her "Prairie Grl Tosses Fiddle Aside in Favor of Allen Stone" (June 28th).   Perhaps if she had entitled it "Allen Stone Wears a 36D" she (or Allen ) would have gotten a few more hits.  I suggested a couple of captions for that piece, as in "Obviously Allen wasn't getting much in high school," but Eydie thought that might offend our more delicate readers.  I tend to ride the edge of PC, so my dear friend needs to reign me in a bit.

I will say it again, obviously Allan
wasn't getting much in high school.

One of the items I always like to check our on our stats page is this little world map that shows where are readers are from.  Of course the majority are from the United States, but our second highest country of readership is Russia!  That amazes us, and keeps us wondering who in that vast country takes the time to check out our posts.  Canada comes in third, and we have a handle on who a few of those might be.  We get regular hits from Denmark (I have always said that I am a Dane at heart.), Germany, Guatemala, England, Spain, France, Ukraine, and just this week New Zealand and China. One week a number of people in Romania were following us.  I guess they gave up.  They are probably still shaking their heads over the Michael Landon photos.

I know of several people who refuse to read the blog--my daughters. They are so used to me doing really embarrassing things that they would just as soon not encourage me by paying attention to any of this.  I did threaten to post recovery photos of my youngest who just had her wisdom teeth removed.  She told me that it didn't worry her because she didn't think anyone important (her friends) would ever see them.  Ouch!  Well, let's just see if that is true.  Friends of Maia, be sure to let her know if you see this:
"Perhaps I should have given my poor mother 
a bit more encouragement in this writing venture."
While not huge, this worldwide readership just makes me want to encourage all of us to link cyber hands and have a moment of pure prairie peace.  Take a peek at this oldie but goodie.
I might suggest ditching the Coke and substituting a mojito, which I have been perfecting this summer using my fresh garden mint. Whatever your beverage of choice, I do find it amazing that something as inconsequential as a blog written by a couple of middle-aged women who are still trying to find themselves can link complete strangers from all over the globe.

Prairie Eydie has set up a Facebook page for us.  We are extremely needy individuals, so please type in "Prairie Grlz" in your Facebook search box and like us, or click here for a quick peek.  

It is Monday, and I haven't forgotten.  One of our readers, Martha, sent me this photo of our dear Michael.  Does this even need a caption?  I don't mean to be shallow, but just compare him with Allen Stone.

Prairie Sherry

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Prairie Parmesan

Dear Readers,
I know you are wondering what Sharon and I talked about on the drive to Old World Wisconsin.  Laura Ingalls Wilder? The heat index?  Our children?  Nope, nope, and nope.  We talked about a Facebook post from my kindred spirit sister-in-law, Heidi.  (Look left) 

Sharon and I both feel unfairly judged by waiters when they are cranking out parmesan cheese on our pasta.  I always think waiters are looking at my upper arms and wondering why I'm at a restaurant instead of at the gym working on my triceps. 

Sharon and I then brainstormed a list of things we feel judged about:
  • I feel judged that I am a Bruce Springsteen fan.  Not a nutso fan, but enough of a fan to know all the words to "Jungleland" and to like the album, Nebraska.

  • Sharon felt judged as a single mother raising three children.  To combat this feeling, she made sure her daughters always looked perfect.  This is why Sharon can tie ribbons into absolutely perfect bows.
  • We both feel judged that we HATE playing board games with our children.  Cootie is the worst.  Or maybe Hi Ho Cherrio is the worst.  I really can't decide.  I keep donating board games to Goodwill and then feigning confusion when my kids ask me where Monopoly is.
  • I feel judged that I think Jon Bon Jovi is really hot, now.  Now as in 2013.  (Obviously I have lots of issues with eighties music.) I didn't think he was hot in the eighties.  Slippery When Wet?  Coral lipstick?  All that permed damaged hair?  Ugh and Ick.

 Then Sharon and I started talking about how we judge people.  Gasp!  That list was surprisingly long.  Here is a partial list of the Prairie Grlz judgments:
  • Women who are really skinny who keep asking if they are fat.  Come on!  I look like I am wearing a permanent bustle.
  • Avid Packer Fans (this is only because we have absolutely no clue what is going on.  If we knew what was going on - we'd probably start a Packer blog.)
  • People who drink lite beer.  I didn't even drink lite beer when I was on Weight Watchers.  Can I suggest Hopalicious by Ale Asylum?
  • Sharon judges people who use Kenra Volume Spray 10 oz. Obviously she was not blown away by my Kenra beauty tip when she saw the price.  I judge Sharon for using Suave hairspray. 
What does all this judging and being judged mean?  Not sure, but it was really fun to talk about.  Try it with a pal. 

Sharon and I are now less than two weeks away from opening our Etsy site.  Talk about putting ourselves out there to be judged.  Just know you will never see these Prairie Grlz drinking lite beer at a Packer game while listening to "You Give Love A Bad Name."

Beauty Tip:  Want people to wonder just what you have been up to?  Try Benefit's Dandelion Blush.  Love, love, love it!

Ode to the Tomato

Tomato season officially starts today.  Actually our area farmers' markets have had the locally grown scarlet globes for several weeks, but for me this is day one.  I start my new job as a tomato sorter and packer at the farm.  From now until school starts, I will spend 5 to 6 hours three days a week culling through thousands of tomatoes and packing them for delivery to food co-ops, restaurants, CSA members, and three farmers' markets.  I'll still keep my Saturday job working at one of those markets, but this will supply the bulk of my summer paycheck.

Fortunately, I have always had a fabulous relationship with this "vegetable" fruit.  In my early childhood, Grandpa Puttmann taught me to eat tomatoes with a sprinkle of sugar.  Now I have graduated to a drizzle of olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, and a splash of good balsamic vinegar.  All winter I look forward to the monstrous beefsteaks, the cherries that explode in the mouth, and the delicate-skinned heirlooms.  I am a snob about my tomatoes, only eating the local and dirt grown and never letting a shipped or hydroponic travesty pass my lips. 
Part of my pay as a employee of Jenehr Family Farm is all the produce I can use.  During the next month, my counters will be lined with tomatoes waiting to be processed in canning jars.  I will can whole, peeled tomatoes, spicy tomato jam--a gourmet "ketchup" that we will slather on burgers, and spaghetti sauce.  I will make "sundried" cherry tomatoes in my oven and pack them in olive oil and garlic.  Last year I even made my own tomato paste, which far outshone the kind in the tin cans, but took four hours of tending on my stove top. How can anyone say that cooking isn't art?!

In honor of the regal tomato, I recently painted one of my curb-find chairs a lovely tomato red and collaged bits of reproductions of Jule Cheret posters on it.  It makes me happy whenever I look at it. Each time I make one of these, I don't think I will be able to part with it, but then my daughters remind me that we now have enough chairs for a royal banquet. 

I can't leave you without a recipe this week.  This is my tomato jam recipe.  It is really yummy.

Tomato Jam (4-5 pints)

5 pounds tomatoes, finely chopped.  You can use a food processor for this, but just don't puree to smithereens.  Leave the skins on. 
3 1/2 cups sugar
8 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon red chili flakes

Combine all in a large, non-reactive pot (I use my stainless steel stock pot).  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook uncovered, stirring regularly, until the jam reduces to a sticky, jammy mess--about 1-1 1/2 hours.  Remove from heat.

Fill prepared pint or 1/2 pint canning jars allowing for 1/4 inch headspace.  Apply lids, and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.  Jam stores in a cool, dark place for up to a 1 year.

If you are new to canning, or just need a refresher, here is a great resource. 

Prairie Sherry


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Prairie Purge

Recently, Sharon and I spent the day at Old World Wisconsin learning about life in the 1840s.  What I took away from the day was a need to simply.  My home and life.  (A former boyfriend had a bumper sticker that read "Live Simply So Others May Simply Live."  The sticker drove me crazy and made me want to buy waterproof mascara and cigar box purses in bulk.)

Let's take a look at the Finnish immigrant family who planted a quarter acre of flax every year.  The flax kept the family entertained all year long.  (The only background knowledge I brought to the table about flax is - it makes linen and a crisp linen shirt looks good for about 90 seconds.) 

  • First, the family planted flax from seeds saved from the previous harvest. 
  • Just before the flax bloomed, the entire family congregated to pull the flax out by the roots. 
  • Then the flax was bundled into small bunches and tied with twine. 
v. ret·ted, ret·ting, rets
To moisten or soak (flax, for example) in order to soften and separate the fibers by partial rotting.
  • Now the retting (Good Scrabble word people! It gets rid of a lot of pesky letters) could begin.
  • The flax bundles were laid out in a field and every two days someone would turn the flax bundles over.  This would go on for about two months. 
  • FINALLY, the retting process was done!!!  Hallelujah!!!  Now the process of turning the flax into a spinnable fiber could being.  (And that process goes on forever and I had to stop paying attention because my mind was getting cluttered.)

I am not sure how the flax sermon got me to thinking about simplification.  It was just nice to sit in a grain barn with a cross breeze after tromping around in the heat. 

After nearly collapsing of heat stroke, Sharon and I left Old World Wisconsin.  (Sadly, we couldn't deal with visiting the one room Raspberry School.  Too stuffy.  Plus, Sharon didn't want to hear how good the teachers had it in the 1840s as compared to now.) 


On the ride home, I brought up going home and simplifying.  But, all I could come up with was pitching those Clinique lipsticks you get as part of "Clinique Bonus Days" and possibly donating a cake stand.  Sharon then went on a sanctimonious tirade (similar to the aforementioned flax sermon) on how she culls through all her beauty products twice a year.  She doesn't want to put any old product on her face.  Me?  I am sure that one day I'll learn to apply that eggplant eye shadow so I don't look whorish.  I also have faith that the moisturizer I bought from HSN will be effective 7 years later.

When I got home I attacked my bathroom.  Adios to scented body lotions that didn't make my nose sing.  Gone are the piles of mascara and eye liners that made me look like a depressed raccoon.  Ciao to the straightening serum that made my locks look limp.  Smell you later to bobby pins that ripped out my hair.  And cheerio to the Ped Egg.  (Good for you if you have no idea what I am talking about.  The Ped Egg is basically a cheese grater for your feet and is a very bad idea.)

Since this is a blog about living an artistic life, I have to think of a connection.  Hmmmm.  Since the bathroom purge, I have opened up room in my mind for more inspiration, beauty, and creativity.  I no longer think about old beauty products and how much I spent on the dangerous Ped Egg.  Tomorrow I am conquering the linen closet.   

Prairie Eydie

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Eydie and Sharon's Excellent Adventure

Heading to glory...or Old World Wisconsin.
Prairie Eydie and I have a bit of Thelma and Louise in us--minus the murder and the flight off the cliff.   We love a road trip!  It is escapism at its best.  We have taken some locally famous (or infamous) trips, our favorite being the 2010 pilgrimage to Lake Pepin, Wisconsin; Walnut Grove, Minnesota; and DeSmet, South Dakota--the grottoes for Laura Ingall's Wilder geeks.  It was on that trip that we waded on the banks of Plum Creek (and just about caught malaria from the mosquito population) and did a photo shoot with sunbonnets on the site of the Ingalls claim on the prairies of eastern South Dakota.

This week-end we ventured out for yet another adventure, heading to Old World Wisconsin, a living museum between Milwaukee and Madison, for their annual Laura Ingalls Wilder celebration.  Being a veteran of this trip, Eydie described the butter churning, straw twisting, quilting, clothes washing, and gardening we would do during our visit.  Sounds like a perfect way for a couple of mothers to escape their own household chores, doesn't it!  She also warned me about the crowds--the teaming masses of humanity who would be gathering for this event, all vying for a turn at the butter churn. Here was the parking lot at 10:30 AM.
You could hear crickets chirp.
Perhaps it was the 90 degree heat and the 99 percent humidity, but it was pretty darn quiet.

We did bring our sunbonnets. I think Prairie Eydie should have ditched the sunglasses for pure prairie authenticity.  Notice that I am not adding my bonneted mug to the mix.  Perhaps sunbonnets are a look best left to little girls in gingham dresses.  The next time Eydie makes fun of one of my Friday beauty tips, I will refer her to this photo.

Old World Wisconsin contains actual  houses, barns, businesses, schools, and churches of 19th century rural Wisconsin that have been moved to this location and restored.  Alas, air conditioning was not a feature commonly found at this time.  We watched a blacksmith sweating over a forge and several women cooking and dripping over caste pot-bellied stoves in period clothing--wool pants, corsets, long-sleeved dresses with bustles.  This was a sweaty time folks, and I don't think they had a ready supply of Mennen Sure Stick or Secret Clinical Strength.  I think I might have slipped a few electric fans into the restoration plans--nothing too over-the top, but just enough to send a cool breeze up my crinolines.

When it was time to stop for noon vittles, I thought we might be instructed in how to make a rabbit snare or at least forage the edge of the highway for road kill, but evidently the folks at Old World know when it is time to plop a bratwurst or a burger and a pile of kettle chips in front of a tourist. And this being Wisconsin, a cold microbrew was also offered.

We managed to stay out of trouble for most of the day, although later I found out that I wasn't suppose to be feeding the horse grass or instructing the tourist kidlettes how to do the same.  Even Prairie Eydie tried her hand.  Yes, those are actual daisies in her hair, but I am not sure who told her you were suppose to wear your bonnet like a feedbag.  Watch out, that horse isn't looking at your bazongas, Eydie.  More about bazongas later.

Just so you don't think that I am taking advantage of my dear friend, I guess I had better throw in a less-than-flattering photo of me, but I am really not sure how you can look cute and perky doing the wash with a hand agitator.  I have heard stories of pioneer women going insane because of loneliness and despair.   It looks like I am halfway there.  Even Eydie looks like she may be going over the edge.  

Once I made it home, all I was good for was a long bath and a mojito.  Eydie, on the other hand was inspired to go home and simplify.  More about that later.

Prairie Sherry  

I call dibs on the Geena Davis character.  I'm taller.