Blueberry Pickin’ in the Mitten

blueberry picking

Hey guys, have any of you been blueberry picking yet?  My mom, sister Kendal, and my two girls and I went a week or so ago, and it was so fun!  We found a good spot and started picking away.  My mom was methodical and tried to pick a bush clean before moving on to the next.  I felt a little scatterbrained and kept moving from bush to bush, looking for the best one, and sampling the occasional berry.  Fynn followed close by me, and at one point whispered to me, “How many have you eaten?  I’ve had five or seven,” as if she was confessing a deep, dark, secret.  Let’s just say that I had a few more than five or seven and was praying that my teeth wouldn’t be too blue when I went to have my bucket weighed!

blueberry pickingblueberry picking

My Grandpa and Grandma Fazakerley used to bring my sisters and I blueberry picking when we were little, and those times are some of my most favorite memories of them.  My grandma would pack a picnic lunch and we would sit on a blanket in the shade after we were done.  I know for sure we had cookies and lemonade, but don’t ask me what we ate for lunch!  And I’ll never forget when my younger cousins Eric and Andrew were old enough to come along.  I can still see my grandma’s eyes bugging out of her head as Eric swung his full bucket of blueberries around and upside down, testing gravity.  Which is exactly the sort of thing my Kimball would do.  Luckily, he had football practice and wasn’t able to come.  Did I say luckily?  Oops, I mean unfortunately.  Okay, now I’m lying.  Really though, the girls never once even thought of testing the centrifugal force of a bucket of berries.  Although, Fynn did walk back to the car with an empty bucket on her head, so who knows what she was thinking!

blueberry picking

The girls and I left with several pounds of berries, and I made blueberry crisp and blueberry buckle.  I also ate copious amounts of berries straight outta the fridge, and let’s just say my stomach has made the most unusual noises as of late.  Enough said.  Moving on.  So the recipe I used for the blueberry crisp was actually a rhubarb crisp recipe.  I had made it a few weeks ago with the rhubarb my Aunt Lynn had given me from her garden, and I liked it so much that I just switched out of the fruit.  I thought it turned out perfect!   You can find the recipe here.  You could probably use a little less sugar since blueberries aren’t nearly as tart as rhubarb, but I made it as is and loved it.  Of course, my tolerance for sugar is probably higher than the average human’s.  But if you are looking for a good blueberry crisp recipe, save yourself the trouble of spending hours on Pinterest and just make this one.  You won’t be disappointed!  (And try it with rhubarb, too!)

blueberry crispblueberry crisp

What’s your favorite blueberry recipe?  I’d love to hear!

Megan

 

Hay Day

hay wagon, hay bales
Kimball and Sander resting up before the unloading begins!

We recently had our first hay day of the year.  It involves hitching up a trailer to the truck, going over to the next town and stacking the truck and trailer with hay.  Like, 130 bales or as much as we can fit.  It was almost like an emergency because we were down to 6 bales.  We were close to having the horses graze in our front yards.  Sander would have loved it, because he’s not fond of mowing.  Anyway, this was the first time we ever had use of 2 trucks and trailers.  It was awesome!  David, Sheldon, and I took one and Chris, Megan, and my Dad took the other.  David and Sheldon filled one truck and trailer up while I counted bales (well, I tried….I lost track a few times and had to start over).  Then the other truck came and we took off to unload into our barn.  Having two trucks and trailers meant we can make half the trips we normally do to get the 1,000 bales that we need.  We have a borrowed hay elevator we use to get the bales into the loft.  It was the perfect temperature, too.  Usually our timing is impeccable and it’s in the 80’s and muggy.

hay wagon
Megan stacked the trailer up to the rafters.
hay, stacked hay
Chris looks a long way down from Megan’s view at the top of the stacked trailer
Fynn running through a field of wheat
This is what Fynn does while the trailer is loaded.

We’ve learned a lot about stacking hay these past few years.  Like, what to wear and what not to wear.  Megan knows what to wear and I know what not to.  She always wears jeans and I usually wear yoga pants….no more, though.  Hay sticks to yoga pants like lint to a lint roller. Like flies to a flystrip.  Like white on rice….you get the picture.  I once went into a gas station to get a pop in between loads…..with so much hay stuck to my pants, I was embarrassed.  But my thirst won out over my pride.  As far as shirts go, that’s a tough one.  It’s such hot and sweaty work, it’s tempting to wear a tank.  But the hay is so scratchy, and it has uncanny ability to get into the craziest places.  As long as I live, I’ll never forget the discomfort of hay stuck in my bra.  It doesn’t matter what shirt you wear, hay will get underneath it.  Maybe a turtleneck would work if it wasn’t so hot!  Don’t even get me started on hay stuck in our boots….

unloading hay bales
Kimball and Sander unstacking for Grandpa to send it up the elevator
Milla and Papa enjoying a break at the end of Hay Day

Megan and I don’t mind hay days, probably because we didn’t grow up having to do it (like David did).  It’s a family affair….many hands make light (but scratchy!) work.  One year Megan made these amazing brownies, so now it’s a must..  On Pinterest, they’re called ‘Slutty’ brownies (gasp!), but we named them ‘What the Hay?’ brownies.  They’re super delicious but calorie-laden, but we figure, why not?  After all that work, we’ve earned them.  We’d be happy to share them with you if you help us on our next hay day.  We’ll probably have at least two more of them!

Milla and Fynn enjoying their What the Hay brownies

 

what the hay brownies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we will see you at the barn, right?

Mardi

 

We Brake for Estate Sales

Guide to finding great deals at estate sales

Megan, Kendal, and I went to an estate sale the other day.  We absolutely love estate sales, but they’re not all created equal.  Our favorites have antiques and lots of cool old stuff.  Megan saw online that this one had old quilts and linens, so she was sold.  To me, part of the fun of estate sales is going through the house.  I like to see the “blueprint” of a family’s home and the life they lived there.  It’s a very personal experience.  If one of their belongings call my name, I am only too happy to purchase it and give it a good home.

estate sale sign

We were like kids in a candy store, taking everything in.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about the family who lived there, probably for many years.  The house was beautiful, large, and traditional in style.  Looking at the family’s belongings, it was obvious that they liked to cook, entertain, and read.  They had a few different sets of china.  There was a Royal Dalton service for 12 that took my breath away.  Before I was married, I would have thought I needed to have it.  Now I’m more of a paper plate girl. There were several tables of silver, beautiful but needing polished.  The house was full of furniture (our favorite thing to buy if it’s antique), pictures, dishes, pewter, games, holiday decorations, and a whole lot more.  There were women’s clothes and some fur stoles (gasp!  how glamorous!).  Looking at the woman’s clothes, she must have been petite and well-dressed.  This may sound crazy, but I wish I had known her.

Megan and I love books and particularly have a fetish for really old books.  Not to read, but to decorate with them.  We each bought several.  I found a cute collection of Jane Austen novels and a volume of Tennyson’s poems.  I also bought the 1952 edition of My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier.  It’s not that it’s famous, but there’s a movie out based on this book and I’ve been wanting to see it.  So I started reading the book, but the musty smell just about knocks my socks off!  Kendal bought doll house furniture and an antique enamel-topped table that Megan pointed out to her.  On the way home, Megan was not so sure she should have pointed it out to her dear sister….maybe she should have bought it herself.  But every time Megan and I bring home another piece of antique furniture, our husbands cringe.  We’re running out of space.  Oh, well.

antique bed from estate sale
Fynn’s antique bed was a great deal ($30) at an estate sale!

Upstairs in the hall, there were four painted portraits of children.  I’m assuming they were the children who grew up in the house because the portraits were signed and dated 1969.  The children in the portraits were beautiful, two girls and two boys.  They were priced at $70.00 each.  I felt sad and outraged at the same time.  Why on earth hadn’t the children, now grown up, taken the portrait of themselves?  Someone in the family had to have wanted them.  At least, I know I would have.  What a treasure to have a painted portrait of a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, etc.  I had the absurd thought to take them and give them a good home, if only to save them from the dump.  I did have a picture of a stranger hung in my home for awhile because I loved the frame.  It was of a mustached man, probably over a hundred years ago.  I got the creeps every time I looked at “him” so I kept only the frame and put our family picture in it.  I hope that mustached man doesn’t come back and haunt me for putting his picture in the garbage.

antique book from estate sale
The antique book “The Heroic Life of George Washington” (copyright 1902) displayed on this bench is an estate sale find. I think I paid $3!

There were two immigrant trunks that fascinated us.  They were beautiful and one was Scandinavian in origin.  If only we had more room for such treasures.  I know that the Bible says to store up treasure for yourself in heaven, not on earth.  But God?  Can I please just take my antique bench with me to heaven?  I just love it, and my kids won’t want it.  I’ve already told my kids that I will come back and haunt them if they get rid of all my favorite things.

Do you ever go to estate sales?  What kinds of things do you look for?  If you haven’t been, you are missing out!  We have made some of our best purchases at estate sales.  Here are a few tips if you are a newbie:

1. Look online for sales in your area.  You can usually tell if there is anything you might be interested in by the description and items listed of a particular sale.

2.  Go with someone…it’s just safer if you aren’t familiar with the neighborhood, and you might need help carrying large items out, since you are expected to remove anything you buy yourself.

3.  Have a little idea of what you are looking for, but keep an open mind!

4.  Arrive early for the best selection, but don’t hesitate to go on later or even on the second or third day.  The prices are usually reduced by a third or half on those days.

5.  If you see something you are seriously interested in, grab it or it will probably be gone!

6.  If the sale had an awesome selection, definitely plan on going back the second or third day for even better deals, although I usually find the prices pretty reasonable the first day of the sale.

For a more detailed list, read this guide from The Weathered Door for some great tips.  We hope you are inspired to find your next great bargain at an estate sale!  Good luck and happy hunting!

Mardi

Keeping the Peace

Keeping the Peace

Did you know that Mardi and I, our parents, our sister Kendal, two different aunts & uncles, and a cousin all live on the same road?  Isn’t that awesome??  Well, if you ask some people, it might sound like their worst nightmare.  But we just feel incredibly blessed.  Our kids have grown up together and probably don’t have too many memories that don’t involve each other.  Mardi and I are so thankful for that, especially since we adored our cousins growing up and still feel a special bond with all of them.  Our kids are so lucky to live next door to one another and also right by grandpa and grandma’s house, where they frequently meet up.  And our parents’ home is the place to be…a beach equipped with all kinds of toys, a big yard to host neighborhood football and baseball games, a pantry that always has treats…pretty much every kids’ dream.

extended family easter photo
The whole family at Easter brunch…freezing, but smiling!

Living next door to family has lots of advantages for me, too.  I love knowing my kids can see their grandma and grandpa every day.  I love sharing meals together a couple times a week, especially in the summer out on the deck.  If I have to run an errand, the kids can run down to grandma’s.  If I need a roll of toilet paper, I can steal one from mom.  If Mardi makes cookies at 9:30 at night and invites me over to try one out, I’m eating one still hot from the oven within minutes.  If Aunt Kendal calls and asks the kids to spend the night last minute, we get an unexpected quiet night at home.  The perks are endless!

family
Mardi and I and our girls at Mount Rushmore minutes before it became a torrential downpour…happy at the moment!

Is it for everyone?  Probably not.  There are the occasional downsides, like grandparents having to discipline instead of spoil.  Listening to your son and nephew argue over the latest call made in their game.  Getting on each other’s nerves because you are with each other all the time.  Knowing pretty much everyone’s business.  Having your mom call and ask where you were when you are 39 years old, or tell you that your garage door is still open even though I was well aware.  Getting a call from your aunt because she thought she saw flames in the window when you had lit a candle.  Having your dad hear you yelling at your kids from 100 yards away

yellowstone national park
Here is the whole family (minus me) at Yellowstone National Park. After traveling by RV for two days in close confines, it is amazing anyone is still smiling!
Family vacation
This is what we all feel like doing to each other sometimes! David looks like he’s about ready to choke Kimball! Trust me…I’ve been there.

So what are the keys to maintaining peace and harmony in a family that spends so much time together?  Well, I’m certainly not perfect and have caused my fair share of conflict, I’m sure, but personally I have a few guidelines that I TRY to abide by to keep the peace.  They are as follows:

*Pray!  This is obviously the most important one.  Pray that God will help you see things from his perspective, not yours.  Pray that God will bless your family with peace.

Don’t quarrel with anyone.  Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible.  Romans 12:19

*Keep your mouth shut!  Ahhh…this is the one I struggle with the most!  Sometimes it is so hard not to comment on something that is none of my business (especially since we all know each other’s business so well).  If you think they might not appreciate whatever you are going to say…then don’t say it, unless they specifically ask for your opinion.

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3

*Wait!  If you must say something, wait a day or two.  It is amazing how many times I have been annoyed about something and wanted to address it, only to wait a day and realize how petty and foolish I was to get worked up over something so silly.  Just waiting a day has saved me from saying lots of things I would have regretted!

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth.  Therefore let your words be few.

*Reflect!  If you are still angry after giving yourself a cooling off period, reflect on your behavior.  Now is a great time to pray that God would grant you humility and help you to see your own faults and shortcomings.  In my experience, recognizing my own sin can so often knock the self-righteous anger right out of me.

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  James 4:6

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  Romans 12:3

Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.  Proverbs 18:12

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye.?  Matthew 7:3

*Apologize!  Now this one I have gotten pretty good at!  It’s a direct result of not being good at all of the previous points!  I pray that I will never be too proud to admit when I am wrong or have done wrong.  I apologize to my kids all. the. time.  I have to apologize to my sisters and parents, occasionally too.  It is never pleasant, but boy, does it restore peace to your soul and to your relationships faster than anything.  And I value that peace for myself and my family above any temporary conflict or annoyance.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  James 5:16

And don’t forget, no family or person is perfect.  We still have a sinful nature and live in a sin-filled world.  Life here on earth is not supposed to be like Heaven, or we wouldn’t need God.  And we do need Him, especially if we want to be good neighbors (or family members or co-workers or parents)!

Do you have a strategy for keeping the peace in your relationships?  Tell us about it…we have plenty of opportunities around here to try new ones out!  But trust me, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Megan

 

Meet the Minis!

If you follow our Instagram, you already know that we have added two new members to our horse family.  In a former post, I alluded to the detour we took on our way up north to look at miniature horses.   See that post here.  Megan’s infamous statement to her girls, “just because we’re looking, doesn’t mean we’re going to get one…,” proved to be right.  Instead we got two, a mama and her baby.  Our original thinking was that if we got another horse, Nina would not be alone if Megan and I rode our horses.  Nina, our 19 year old Arabian (Marek’s first horse), runs, paces, neighs, and panics when her boys aren’t with her.  So we thought, let’s get her a companion.  We don’t really need another horse to ride, so let’s get a mini…..they’re smaller and eat less.  Besides, they’re cute.  B-u-t, it turns out that going to just “look” at a miniature horse farm is the kiss of death.  Martha, the sweet owner of the farm, took us to look at the babies first (smart move).  They were all about 3 months old, all legs and looking like Bambi.  Their hair was frizzy and their short manes stuck straight up like mohawks.  They were adorable!  One in particular caught our eye because he came up to us, wanting attention.  The others were a bit skittish.  The affectionate one even followed us to the gate and stuck his head out as if to say, “hey, where are you going?”  Yep, you guessed it, we were smitten.

We then looked at adult minis.  Our main requirement (IF we got one, of course) was a good temperament.  We’d had a bad experience with a Hackney/Welsh cross named Dougal and Kendal and Fynnlay bear the scars to prove it.  He didn’t last long at our barn.  Then we had a Palomino named Flossie who loved Angus and Colin, but was stubborn as a mule.  She was young and basically more work than Megan and I could handle.  So our next grand scheme was a mini companion for Nina.  There were several adult minis to choose from in a variety of colors, all with good temperaments.  Decision time.  Megan and I asked Milla and Fynn which horse they liked.  The affectionate baby was the consensus, but he wouldn’t be able to be ridden for a few years.  Only Fynnlay would probably ride him anyway, because we have Nina.  But how fun to ride a mini horse!  We also had dreams of getting a cart and driving them.  So we again leaned to an adult……but that baby was so cute!  As it turned out, the baby’s mother was for sale too.  She was a sweetheart also.  We left excited, dazed, and confused, visions of miniature horses dancing in our heads.

For the following few days, we talked it over.  Milla kept saying we should get both the mama and the baby.  I agreed, but did not hesitate to throw her under the bus, telling our Dad that Milla thinks we should get both.  After a few phone calls back and forth with Martha, we set the day for mama (a.k.a. Golden Promise) and baby to arrive.  We decided to call Golden Promise “Goldie” and the baby Ryerson, or Rye.  You’d have thought we were naming a human baby.  We had baby name lists and went through the process of elimination before we got to Rye.  At their arrival to our barn, they seemed pretty relaxed.  Colin, Angus, and Nina were curious and ran around the paddock in excitement.  We have the minis in a separate area for now and may try to put them with the other horses later.  They checked each other out over the gate, it was so cute.

Friesians meeting our miniature foalfriesian horse meeting miniature foal

miniature horse and foalminiature horse and foalminiature horseminiature foal climbing on mama horseminiature horse and miniature foalminiature horse and miniature foalminiature foal in barn

All has gone well so far, except for the fact that Megan and I can’t seem to get anything else done, we’re at the barn so much.  They’re just so fun to watch.  We’ve learned that Goldie is like a Hoover vacuum, so our theory that minis eat less has been blown out of the water.  Rye likes to play and jump on people, acting like a dog.  But his hooves hurt, and it’s bad manners.  We have a lot to teach him, but we’ll have fun doing it.  The adventure continues, so stay tuned. Forgive us for posting so many pictures, we’re proud horse parents!

Mardi

What do you think of the baby’s new name?  Yay or Neigh?

 

Mitten Road Trip: Northern (Lower) Michigan Travel Guide

 


 

michigan road trip in the traverse city area

Hi friends!  Do you feel like summer flies by after the 4th?  I know I do.  I start to panic a little thinking about how it’s almost halfway over.  But I guess it makes me conscious of all the activities I want to make time for yet, too, like little road trips!  If you have a road trip on your summer bucket list, you really should consider northern Michigan’s lakeshore.  I don’t think you can beat it, although I admit being a Michigander I am a little biased.  Although, this area was voted one of America’s Most Beautiful Places by Good Morning America in 2011.  So here’s a little Two Liberty Belles’ mini up-north travel guide of a few of our favorite places near the Traverse City area of Michigan:

Crystal Mountain Resort is in Thompsonville (about a 35 minute drive south of Traverse City), which is where our parents own a vacation home.  This is a wonderful resort summer and winter, with skiing, golfing, and all kinds of activities.   In the summer, we enjoy the outdoor waterpark pool, the alpine slide, and they have a high ropes obstacle course too.   We will do another post on Crystal in the near future to give you even more details.

Crystal Mountain Resort pool, Thompsonville MI

Crystal Mountain Resort Alpine Slide, Thompsonville, MI

Just north of Crystal Mountain is a little town called Beulah.  It is located on gorgeous Crystal Lake, which has a cute public beach.  It is such a tiny little town, but it has a few nice antique stores and shops.  This is also home of the Cherry Hut, as mentioned in the previous post.  If you like homestyle cooking in a friendly, old-fashioned atmosphere, this is definitely a nice place to eat.

Cherry Hut Restaurant, Beulah, MICherry Hut Restaurant, Beulah, MI

Further down the road (US 31), almost to Honor is the Cherry Bowl Drive-in, also mentioned earlier.  It is so much fun!  It only shows family friendly movies, plays the National Anthem before the show, and is full of old-fashioned nostalgia.  They have the cutest snack stand that serves pizza, hot dogs, candy, and popcorn of course.  And if your car battery goes dead, like mine always does, a friendly employee gets it going with a quick jump.

Cherry Bowl Drive-in Theater, Honor, MI

Frankfort and Empire are two other little northern towns we love to stop at along Michigan’s famous M22.  They are both on Lake Michigan, have beautiful beaches, and cute little small town charm.  Definitely worth checking out!  Our kids love the beach at Frankfort.  They walk down the shore and find all kinds of neat trees and little streams.

Lake Michigan, Frankfort Lake Michigan, Frankfort

Empire also has an awesome beach, with a nice little playground.  On one side of the parking lot is Lake Michigan…on the other side is a calm inland lake with a dock and public beach.  The Sleeping Bear Dunes visitor center is also located in Empire.  This is nice to stop at and buy park passes if you plan to enjoy the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which we definitely recommend!  You can pick up trail maps and guides, and see a variety of displays on the ecosystem in the dunes.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire MI

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire MI

 

Probably our favorite stop is Glen Arbor, though.  It is located on Glen Lake and Lake Michigan, also on M22, north of Empire.  The water is as pretty, clear, and blue as any tropical beach.  The Cherry Republic is a must stop, especially so you can try out their Olympic Size Cherry Pit Spitting Arena, which all of the kids love.  Okay, I kinda like it too if I’m being honest.   It also has a tasting room for different cherry products, and a nice little restaurant.  The boomchukka cookies are my favorite, but they do have a full menu if cookies aren’t your idea of a meal.  And with a slogan like “Life, Liberty, Beaches, Pie”, these two Liberty Belles think it’s a match made in heaven.  Beaches and Pie definitely fit under the “pursuit of happiness” category in my book!

Cherry Republic, Glen Arbor, Michigan Cherry Republic pit spitting arena, glen arbor, michigan

After Glen Arbor, you can continue north on M22 to Leland, which is a quaint fishing village known for its smoked fish.  Here you can catch a ferry to the Manitou Islands.  Or you can cut across heading east towards Traverse City.

Traverse City is the “big” city nearby, and full of fun on its own.  Gorgeous public beaches, lots of nice shopping, and beachfront hotels make up this beautiful little city.  Our favorite restaurant/destination is the Jolly Pumpkin, on the Peninsula.  It has great food and a fun atmosphere, and it is at the end of a lovely drive filled with cherry orchards, beautiful homes, and beach views.

So here you have all of these fun little northern beach towns all within a fairly short distance of one another.  You can easily see a few of them in a day.  The next time you want to take a little road trip in Northern Lower Michigan, you should definitely plan on a few of these little towns!  You won’t be disappointed!  We love them so much, we go back year after year!

What are your favorite places to visit in Michigan?  We would love to know so we can check it out for ourselves!

Megan