Giving Back

One of my most beloved values that I take from my childhood and strive to pass on to my children is the notion of volunteerism. Growing up, our family participated in distributing meals once a month at a downtown Milwaukee church and I recall this being one fun night. I still remember watching my dad goof around with the folks who were there eating and having a ball. He would sneak extra portions (which was a strict no-no) and just walk around chatting everyone up. My mom was usually with the gaggle of other ladies doing dishes in the kitchen and running interference with all the food. There was a core group from our church who went to this function every month and they are still some of my parents closest friends. It was a true sense of community that I felt when I got to go along and it is that feeling that I have carried with me all these years.

Finding the ‘right’ activity is really critical and I think it is what keeps many people from participating in volunteer activities. It only takes one bad experience to really thwart feelings of good will and I too have had my bad experiences. One year I sat on the board of the girl’s preschool and it was one of the worst decisions I ever made and it has kept me from PTA events to this day. I also worked for several months with a local children’s organization that was so mismanaged that I finally had to walk away from the weekly frustration I found myself in.

The next hurtle is finding a volunteer activity for a family with small children-which quite frankly is no easy task. Google searching “volunteering with kids” brings up ideas like ‘penny drives’ which are great, but wasn’t quite the hands on experience that we were searching for. In this day and age, kids aren’t allowed in many places (albeit for good reasons) but I happened to mention my frustration to my girlfriends one evening and my lovely friend Mrs. Traveler exclaimed “You should do meals on wheels! The people would LOVE to see the kids!” And you know what…she was completely and utterly right.

Four years ago our family started our journey of volunteering for Meals on Wheels through Independent Living. I can tell you with all honesty this is the perfect fit for us because it hits the main points we were striving for.

1-It is FUN and we get to interact with others. This was really key as we wanted the kids to understand directly who they were helping and why. It has been really interesting to watch the kids grow up doing this activity and how well spoken they are with adults. Let me tell ya, that boy is a real charmer with the over 75 crowd…..!

2-Independent Living is wonderful to work with. They have a top-notch volunteer coordinator who is mindful of our routes and has kept us in the vicinity of our home, which is truly wonderful. Finding an organization that partners WITH you is really key. From my first meeting I was truly blown away by how hard they work to make the process easy on their volunteers and how valued they make us feel as well.

3-The time commitment is reasonable. We deliver meals every other Monday and fill in on other days if needed. We know exactly when and where we need to be so we can plan our calendar around it.The longest our route takes us is maybe an hour (and that is if the weather is nasty). Most times we are done within 30 minutes!

4-It is family friendly. Everyone we deliver to LOVES to see the kids. They know our kids by name as well as our kids know all of them.

I know that this continues to be a great match for us as, to be honest, none of us ever complains about having to do it. After this many years, we have fallen into a rhythm and it is now just part of our family schedule.

The rewards continue to be both plentiful as well as humbling. We take a lot of pride that we watch over these individuals, particularly those without immediate family in the area. We have on more than one occasion been greeted with a person who has fallen down and couldn’t get up, but knew we would be there to help. We have helped deal with icy walks, listened to health concerns and decorated bags with notes of encouragement. We have delivered meals to people who live in tenements barely suitable for habitation and we have walked away and thanked our lucky stars for our tiny house. We have giggled and laughed while scrooching puppies and have made up a remarkable number of jokes that are required to be referred to each and every week (Ok, some of us think that last point is really annoying and wish we had never mentioned the troll who lives at the end of one particular hallway….and the kids will NEVER let me forget it…EVER).

So dear reader, on this National Volunteer Week I ask you to make your mark. Maybe it is walking down to that neighbor you haven’t seen all winter and raking their yard or dropping off a plate of yum yums (or eggs if you got em’) or maybe its contacting that organization that you always thought sounded great, and you always meant to help out but just needed a bit of prodding.

Community. That’s what I feel every time we deliver a meal. We are a part of this community and I will consider my job as parent a success if our kids learn and live one lesson, and one lesson only… and really its a pretty simple one…

…just be nice and respect one another….

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Posted in Family Time | 2 Comments

Curl up and Dye

So it is STILL cold in Wisconsin…I mean like 18 degrees in the morning…hafta start your damn car in the morning and let it run cause there’s frost on the windshield cold.

I needed to heat things up….so what else could I do this weekend but turn up the tunes…dance…..and DYE in the kitchen!

I have some lovely merino roving that I have been experimenting with spinning and decided that spinning natural colored fiber is WAY too boring (gives new meaning to sleeping at the wheel) so I invested in some acid dyes to have some FUN!

Acid you say? Hmm….sounds dangerous doesn’t it? Crazy scientist scary right? Walking on the edge of life I am…

But really, acid by way of vinegar doesn’t really sounds too bad now does it? I mean basically I made salad dressing…really really pretty salad dressing. And even the kiddos got in on the action….

Step number one, soak the fiber in water and just a bit of soap. This opens up the wool and allows it to ‘accept’ the dye much easier than if it were dry….

Since I wanted to ‘hand paint’ the fiber we laid out plastic wrap…which will make more sense in a bit as to why we did this (other than the obvious reason of trying to keep the kitchen from being dyed as well)

photo 1 (48)Step two….mix up your dye solutions and grab some syringes…then you are off to the races. Seriously these syringes are the shizzle….these babies kept the mess to a minimum and cleanup was a snap.

photo 2 (24)So easy a handsome 8 year old can do it

photo 3 (11)When we were all done adding the dye, you wrap the whole thing up in plastic like a beautiful snail and steam that sucker on the stove top for a bit. Heat makes the dye adhere to the wool and really makes the colors POP right in front of your eyes.

photo 2 (25)Then you set it out on the deck and let it cool cool cool (cause its hot hot hot). You know you’re done when any of the liquid left in the plastic is completely clear. That means all of the dye molecules have been accepted by the wool and they are now married for life.

Rinse that pretty lady and let her dry in the sun.

photo 1 (47)photo 2 (23)And wouldn’t you know…..it totally worked and is absolutely lovely ready to be spun wool.

A few areas of note to the process:

1. The Bruno Mars Pandora station is da bomb for whiling away an afternoon of *insert activity of choice here*. Get ready to shake yer booty….

2. If you find yourself in a room adjacent to your deck on a sunny (albeit cold) afternoon and have your window open cause its pretty darn steamy……it helps to have some female cheerleaders outside the window keeping you company. Yup, they hung out with me all afternoon….they are pretty happy to be out in the yard after 5 months of being locked up, and I realized how much I missed their little sounds…..

photo 2 (21)

That’s medicine on her comb cause she got a boo boo from one of her evil sisters

 

Posted in Around the House | 1 Comment

The Domino Effect

So sometimes….just sometimes dear reader…the dominoes actually fall in our favor.  This doesn’t happen often, but when it does I offer my thanks to the universe that we were blessed with a few great days.

Saturday morning I called up my fellow thrifty shopper-work friend and asked her if she wanted to join the kiddos and I on a trek out to one of our favorite St. Vinnys.  She replied with “pick me up at 10″ and we were off.

Now in my head I really had it planned that I was going to find a new couch that day.  It was going to not only be hardly used but also fit AND match our living room. One might say I manifested said couch (ahem).

So we arrived at our destination and off all of us went to various corners.  I went over and picked up some shirts and pants for the boy who seems to never stop growing.  I continued to meander here and there picking up treasures along the way….and then I rounded the corner and saw it.

Wow, it was a really nice couch.  I sat on it….hmmmmm…firm….much firmer than our current dilapidated version.  Then I lifted up the cushion (the true tell tale sign of the state of a couch in my book) and there wasn’t a crumb…a spec…of…..anything!  Then I lifted up the whole thing to inspect the bottom and it was…like it was brand freakin new!

EUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Now, it was a 3 piece sectional and my co-hort felt VERY strongly that it wasn’t going to fit in our living room.  But out she whipped her trusty tape measure and off we went to see if that darn thing would fit. (But really in my heart I knew it would……..)

And hot damn! We measured and remeasured the living room and it was confirmed it would fit…quite perfectly.  Then the wild hair grew out from you know where grew and I decided I needed to get that couch home THAT DAY.

And wouldn’t you know, it was just really meant to be.  Off I went to rent a U-Haul and I was in and out in 4 minutes.  The kiddos and I were able to get our couch and loveseat out of the house without too much pomp and circumstance and a kind neighbor helped us load it up.  Off the boy and I went to drop off the old and pick up the new.  The boy found driving in a truck (especially one that his mama was driving) to be quite a hoot….so I may have taught him the questionable truckin phrase of ‘haulin a$$’.  Eh, we were!

Off we dropped the old disgusto couch and picked up the new which the kiddos and I along with another kind neighbor were able to load into our living room with no problems.

Needless to say…the hubby had quite a surprise waiting for him that night when he arrived home.

couch I realize most of you have no idea what the ‘before’ looked like, but trust me…this is a BIG improvement…and soooo much more seating!  Stay tuned on the new rug that is currently making its way to our house….If I don’t get outside soon so help me the whole interior of the ranch is getting overhauled…I CAN’T BEING COOPED UP ANYMORE!

Sunday we decided to get the heck outta dodge and take a road trip to Monroe, WI.  We had recently watched a ‘cheese’ special on the Travel channel that featured a restaurant that we hadn’t heard of so we thought we would check it out.

As my hubby said once we were seated “there couldn’t be a place farther up my alley”.

So the restaurant is called Baumgartners and it is worth the trip over to check out.  It’s pretty low key with a simple menu chocked full of all the things the Wolowik’s hold dear.  Cheese, sausage (braunschweiger no less!) and home made chili….and beer…..lots and lots of it.

Baum1(Interesting Wolowik trivia….the hubby told me he knew I was ‘the one’ when I informed him I love braunschweiger so much I could eat it like an apple……ah……now there’s a love story for ya!)

We did not, however, partake in the Limburger…cripes we had over an hour drive together….no one needs THAT funk in a car ride!

Baum3Need less to say, it was a GREAT weekend!

Sometimes, when the dominoes fall in just the right way, you have to thank your lucky stars that it happened.  Cause you know there is a day where the polar opposite is going to happen….like today….when we woke up to find someone drove their car into our mailbox/post last night and boy we had quite a mess this morning….but I digress….I will bask in the goodness of this weekend for just a bit longer…..

 

 

 

Posted in Around the House, Family Time | 3 Comments

King for a Day

Greetings from Madison, WI…where the snow is still deep and the temps still negative…

Sigh….

This past weekend brought some excitement, however, as we hosted our silly nephews for a night.  We will not be able to celebrate the big brother’s bday this year as they will be in sunny Arizona!  So we decided to host them and have our own Wolowik Ranch festivities!

First up…get them kids outside and tire them out!  So off we went to Tenney Park for some outdoor ice skating.

The was the boy’s FIRST TIME ice skating and boy did he LOVE it!

012Little boys got ice skates for Christmas this year and they have gotten really really good.  That didn’t stop them from having a ball with the ‘walkers’ however.

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Of course no ice skating is complete without the hot cocoa!

015All in all this was a brilliant idea if I do say so myself.  The kids skated for over 2 hours and would have stayed longer if I didn’t hustle them in.  If it had been mid December, really it was quite the idyllic scene (snow gently falling….lots of people skating).  But come on folks, it is MARCH!!!!!  Ice should be thawing…not growing!!!

Then we all mosied on home to get dinner ready.  In a pre-birthday phone call it was determined that spaghetti and meatballs were the dinner du jour.  So the birthday boy got to roll up his sleeves and learned how to make the yummiest, gooshiest meatballs there are!

022026And then he ate 3 plate fulls…….

027Which was clear when I asked to see his belly afterwards

030Then it was time for movies and cake

033It was a pretty awesome day!  Smooches to our just about 6 year old toothless wonder!

Posted in Around the House, Family Time, Madison Rocks | 1 Comment

You spin me right round baby….

Greetings from what can only be described as the epicenter of the winter vortex.  It has been so cold for so long, you realize you are getting used to it when you go out to start your car in the morning and note how warm 8 degrees feels….and when we hit 20 this weekend it felt darn near balmy.

The good news is this horrifically cold weather makes for excellent knitting time…but really I will give you the same justification if it is rainy/sunny/snowy/cloudy….doesn’t really matter…

However, I am finding my knitting time has been thrown a curve ball recently.  I have found a new activity that is keeping my knitting at bay and drawing my attention elsewhere….and is only furthering my love affair with all things fiber related.

Enter in…the spinning wheel…..

(ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh)

(That is the sounds the angels make each time I think of my new found love)

wheelThank goodness for Craigslist and my friend MJ’s course in shrewd online negotiation tactics…which completely and totally work by the way. As I found out, spinning wheels are friggin expensive…and they do not lose their value whatsoever (which is awesome if you are the seller…not so much when you are the buyer).  I was able to negotiate a pretty sweet deal and brought home this wheel which had never had so much as an inch of yarn spun on her.  After the hubby and I completely took her apart and put her back together (correctly) and got to know her a bit I was ready to give her a whirl.

And I figured out pretty quickly I had no idea what the heck I was doing…..

Quick….does MJ also offer a course in spinning wheel tactics?  I checked her course registry and by golly…she does! (that MJ is pretty much a shoe in for any course you want to take…bread makin, cheese makin, yogurt makin, baby sheep makin, chick makin, and now…yarn makin).

So off I went to MJ’s with wheel in tow and she got me all squared away and got me a spinnin.  Really it was love at first spin and I realized I was hooked.

And I made this:

yarnNot bad, right?  However, it is the scratchiest yarn EVER! (Recently a kid in the boy’s class asked me if it could be used as a back scratcher when I read them a story about yarn and brought some show and tell)…hmmmm…..back scratcher…..not exactly what I was going for…though at least now I know what to use it for…that…or pan scrubber…yup would work pretty well for that too.

So I really wanted to spin with some nicer fiber but I was too nervous of ruining anything…so off I went to take a proper course in all things spinning.  And boy……have I learned a ton!  And I have some fruits of my labors to show off.  In the past week I have created…….

TADA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

photo (26)That is my first legitimate…gonna knit with it…its soft cause its merino wool most lovely yarn created EVER!

Did I mention that I am hooked?

Posted in Knit me some happy | 4 Comments

Knit or Bust

So I have been waiting patiently to deliver the X-Mas recap FOREVER and it seems like the last 3 recipients and I will never be in the same room…SO I took matters into my own hands and shipped the last remaining gifts out so I can finally post this!

I love love love knitting for gifts and this year I added my 3 partners in crime to the mix and whipped up sweaters for each as well as for The Girl.

I happened to find a pattern that I loved the results and have now knit it 5 times (of course starting with one for myself.  I mean I needed to test it out right?)  Can’t wait to see all their smiling faces in warm yum yums!

photoNext up…The Boy couldn’t be left out, right?  It has been a few years since I knit him a sweater and I realized why I haven’t done it.  Because the darn kid keeps growing!  Good lord, if this continues I will have to switch to vests as the sleeves alone took forever.  The funny thing about this sweater is I had him keep trying it on as I was knitting it to make sure it was fitting correctly.  I told him a co-worker hired me to knit it and it was for a boy about his age.  Was very cute when he opened it and realized what I had done.  I may never be able to replicate the deceptive nature of that one again.

photo (22)

Then it was onto my work Secret Santa.  I can’t possibly not knit a gift for this exchange but I was under the gun with a HUGE project going on at the same time (see below).  Luckily my knitty partner in crime gifted me some lovely bulky grey yarn that I was able to quickly whip up some thick mittens….We could ALL use a pair these days of the polar vortex!

mittenJust so you don’t think I haven’t forgotten about my sewing machine, there were a few of those projects squeezed in as well.

Apparently 4 and 5 are the age that Star Wars works its way into little boys brains.  The California boys are ALL IN when it comes to Yoda and Vader and so I appliqued some t-shirts.  We won’t discuss their mama’s rationale for who got what…but let’s just say it took her .000012 seconds to decide who was more deserving of the dark side.

006Then I got the call telling me of a new born who couldn’t last a winter without a new quilt to welcome him into the world….Good thing I had my girlie crafty weekend so I could whip this up.  Yes, I agree….he clearly needed his new quilt! (and an Auntie to wrap him up and lull him to sleep)

P1000180-2And last but not least was the all consuming, mother of all gifts I should have NEVER thought I could finish in such a short amount of time!  Life as the Wolowik Ranch knew it went on hold as I knit knit knit to get in done by X-mas.  And on the 23rd I took it off my needles and called in done.  There was something about it that I just knew it was going to be spectacular and really it is.  Unfortunately my camera took horrible pictures so you can’t see truly how lovely it is…..or how damn big it is.  It almost covered the top of our queen sized bed if that gives you some understanding.  Each square took me on average 1 hour to complete and there are 100 squares…..over 250,000 stitches on this bad boy!!  Knitting for Milwaukee G&G can sometimes be difficult (Ewww, wool is so scratchy….yikes it’s too hot…I don’t wear hats…blah blah blah) but there were no complaints and Papa declared it the nappy blanket.  I take that as a compliment……

photo 1 (40)And now I’m off onto new adventures in wool…stay tuned for new developments!

Posted in Knit me some happy, Sew me some happy | 2 Comments

Let’s hear it for 40!

Today dear reader, I enter a new decade, and I can tell you with absolutely no hesitation that I jump into 40 with both feet and am not lookin back.  I’m truly excited to see what this decade holds for me.

This ‘over the hill’ business called for a Celebration….one that did not disappoint and one that I can honestly tell ya was one of the best days EVER!

It all started with a text from my little sissy in October that read-”Keep Jan 18th open on your calendar”….and up until Jan 17th, that was about all the info that I received.  The day before I got one more piece of info, “Be ready tomorrow at noon with your shoes and jacket on-and be hungry”.

At noon o’clock the sissy train rolled into my driveway and off I was whisked for an afternoon of yum yums and mani pedis.

California sissy even flew in for the weekend….

photo (25)And of course little sissy provided the entertainment

photo (24)That night was like the 3 Picotte sistas gettin ready for the prom.  There was clothing traded and jewelry borrowed.  One curled the others hair while another tested out makeup. It’s lucky we even got out the door…..

Then we were off to the hubby’s restaurant for an evening of girls, girls and more girls…oh and wine.  Yes, lots of wine.

bday5I can tell you I was truly surprised by all the gals that attended, but I will keep that picture for myself.  I never know how people feel getting put on a blog (sorry sissies…you don’t count…you are related and thus I get to plaster your pictures all over the place).  It was overwhelming and humbling to feel the love in the room and I am so glad girls from all corners of my life got to meet one another and share an evening of shear bliss.

And here’s what I have to say to 40…..Bring. It. On.  I have a band of warrior queens by my side….and there ain’t nothin you can throw at us that we can’t handle!

Posted in Family Time | 2 Comments