Summer Projects & Musings

Hello again. It has been quite a while. A summer hiatus came naturally for us — we didn’t plan it, but we didn’t fight it either. But as Fall begins and the school year starts up again, we are going to get back into a more regular rhythm here on the blog.

We all enjoyed the break, taking a rest from routine daily life and relishing time with our families. It was nice not to feel the pressure of blog posting. An unforeseen blessing was that all three of our families were able to spend about a week together in Colorado! It was a special time, and one that doesn’t happen frequently.

Another reason I enjoyed the break is that it gave me ample time to tackle a major project that has been years in the planning. It’s hard to tackle such projects unless you are able to put almost all other activities on hold. At least, it is for me! Since I’m also expecting #3 in December, I knew this summer was the time for me to do project. I needed reliably good weather as it was outside work, and next summer my baby would not be able to occupy himself for long, plus would be at the age of putting all sorts of choking hazards in his mouth. Not a good combination for getting engrossed in an extensive project! The time was now.

So, I set down to do the project, and it took me many hours over the course of several weeks. Here’s what it looks like:

The Polish flower murals that I added to our back patio, along with adding color to the window trim and newly installed door. It was a family project tidying up and beautifying the whole area.

I discovered Polish painted houses (as I shared in a past Looks We Like) in college and resolved then and there I would someday try it on a house. In that same post, Sarah wondered why we didn’t take more risks with interior and exterior decorating. That gave me courage to take action. Lastly, but not least, my in-laws (with whom we still live) trusted my artistic ability and gave the green light. Phew!

The project went like this: First, my brother-in-law (who was in between graduating and getting a job) was given the task of white-washing the foundation wall, which was previously an unattractive tan-grey color. Next, I followed these steps for each of the larger patterns and then for the windows and door: 1: Painting rough shapes of color for the flowers, 2. Painting rough shapes for the leaves, 3. Outlining and detailing the flowers with a dark brown (and some dark blue), and 4. Outlining and detailing the leaves with green. Finally, I painted the door and windows first light blue, then a dark blue accent, and lastly some yellow.

Each step of painting took longer than anticipated. The foundation wall took my brother-in-law a few days. Steps 1 and 2 of the flower patterns took a full day for each of the larger ones and about two days for the window ones. Step 3 took about the same amount of time as steps 1 and 2. Step 4 took another 2 days. When I say days, I mean the reasonable amount of time I could spend as a mother with two young children. We’d wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, then go outside. The girls would play in the sandbox, help on the farm, and play about the house while I painted until about lunch time when I’d take a break, make some food, tidy the kitchen, and put them down for naps. While they napped, I’d go out again and work until they woke up, take a quick break to give them a little snack, then head back out and paint again until dinner (while they occupied themselves as before). Some days, if my husband wasn’t too busy on the farm or it was movie night, I’d go out again for another hour or so after dinner.

So yeah, it was pretty time consuming. At most, I could do a full two days in a single week. The girls couldn’t handle much more than that, and frankly, I couldn’t either. It is hard to hone in on one specific activity for such an extended time. Bread making, library trips, house cleaning, and all the rest get sidelined. Even dinners on painting days had to be very simple, otherwise it was too challenging to get good work done. Luckily, the different sections and patterns of the project allowed for natural breaks. But it still stretched over a long period of time!

I am pleased with how it turned out. It became something of a family project too. My father-in-law and brother-in-law fixed the steps leading down to the patio, landscaped the area under the deck, and painted the deck support stilts white. My mother-in-law picked out the furniture and new door. Now the entire patio is an inviting space that we make good use of like we never did before. Plus, it adds a cheeriness to the whole yard where many of us spend lots of time working on the farm.

As for the blog…

While each of us sisters enjoyed the summer break and made good use of it in our separate ways, we discussed the direction of the blog a number of times. It’s a conversation that comes up frequently. It tends along the question of whether it is a natural extension of our lives or whether it is forced or perhaps even a facade? Obviously the facade is the opposite of our blog’s intention, being “beneath the crust” and all.

We agree that for the most part, we should have our regular, routine recipes up on the blog. Posting a new recipe each week was getting to be very challenging because we would rather take the time to make recipes our own by either streamlining, substituting, or tweaking more extensively - quality over quantity kind of thing. Each of us are interested in creating recipes too. But that takes a lot of time! Rarely do you get it right the first shot, and even then it is nicer to test it at least once more to make sure it’s great. (And there is only so many times you can make say, a cake, in a short period…even for us….) All three of us felt we couldn’t give recipes beyond our regulars (which we’ve made dozens of time and feel more than competent about) the proper attention they deserve. Plus, we felt we had built up enough of an archive that it was all right for the flow to slow a little.

At this point we’re aiming for a new post once a week as well as reducing our weekend lists to a combination of This & That and Looks We Like, keeping Mixed Media as it is, and posting Recipe Round-up at the end of the month, but not necessarily the last Saturday. We look forward to the new plan and are excited to tackle recipes more thoroughly and life topics more thoughtfully.

(A sidenote: we had a huge debate about deleting old recipes we aren’t 100% pleased with, be it a bad photo, tweaks we’ve now thought of, or whatever. Ultimately we decided we like having the record of our progression and the honesty of showing we aren’t perfect though we may (and hopefully have!) improved. We will continue to go back and update them, however, like we did with the pumpkin sausage pasta and baked mac n’ cheese.)

Another discussion that usually comes hand in hand with blog talks and one that we may flesh out in a separate post is our use of social media. This podcast got us talking about screen time and social media habits and acted as a kind of catalyst for changing and rearranging. Maria deleted her Instagram account and removed Facebook from her phone. I had already deleted my Instagram account by that point, and keep Facebook only for the blog. It is very hard in the food blogging world to resist the urge to gain as many followers as possible as quickly as possible. Most articles you read for growing your blog or online business encourage frequent (very, very frequent) posts along with how to make them look picture perfect. But trying to live less attached to our devices and more attuned to our families and daily activities makes that hard to do. And getting perfect shots is hard! Plus, we’re not sure what the real value is in it, perhaps not as much as is claimed. So far our preference has been to try always to improve, but not get hung up on perfection.

Ultimately, we keep up with the blog because we like the record of our recipes, thoughts, and discussions and anyone who also happens to enjoy it will find the blog organically. We’re not looking to advertise ourselves. In fact, one of the greatest blessings of this blog has been merely helping the three of us keep in touch more closely despite the far distances we live apart. That’s more than good enough.