Things that make a childhood

I think every family has one month a year that seems to house the most birthdays. Our family’s is March. While no one on the Ranch has a bday in March, our extended family has taken over the month and one must try and stay one step ahead with getting gifts and cards in the mail.

This past weekend we tried something a bit different. We hosted just one of our nephews, E, who turned the big 7 last week. We decided that maybe if we channel all our energy into just one kiddo, perhaps we will fair better…and not be soooo exhausted on Sunday.

Well, we got 50% of that at least…..we were all exhaustamundo last night…but what a fantastic weekend we had!

Our kiddos and E had no school on Friday so we picked him up a day early to get the party started. The hubby took first shift and he and the boys tried to go ice fishing, but alas it was a pretty big jump from shore to ice as the edges are all thawed. So…off they went to the playground and the library.

That night was special bday dinner number one followed by a movie selected by E. (Night at the Museum 3….was just ok…but we did get to see the return of Matthew Crowley from Downton…as Sir Lancelot…which was weird…and unsettling…that this was the movie he made a debut it)

Saturday was another lovely day so off the boys went in search of ice fishing….

….and home they came empty handed…though at least they did get out on the ice and give it a valiant effort.

Then it was Auntie’s turn…so off we went to downtown Madison where there was lots going on. (Can you tell I am the one that remembers to take the pictures??)

We had to park and walk and I really had the kiddos guessing where we were headed. Upon realizing it was the Children’s Museum, I thought the boy was going to have a coronary. He was whooping and shouting and just so darn excited. He then proceeded to tell his cousin that the Children’s Museum is one of the ‘greatest things that made up his childhood’. Oh man, I had no idea so I was glad I picked the jackpot of places to go.

I did explain to E that we had taken he and his brother several years ago and did he remember? He replied, ‘No Auntie, I don’t have a very good memory from when I was little’. Oh they were just so funny.

Here are the 3 kiddos in 2011:


And here they are in 2015:


Apparently we need to stop feeding these kids….


Oh we had a good time indeed. Then we decided to walk up to the square to see what fun things we could find. Upon hitting the corner, the boy declared that he knew exactly where we were and could we go to the Veteran’s Museum which was just a short walk away. “Mom, it’s free and it is sooooo cool!” (He had just been on a field trip with school). Far be it from me to say no so off we went.


Here is what I can tell you….the boy remembers EVERY SINGLE THING the tour guide told them on the trip. EVERY-SINGLE-THING! So boy did WE get quite the tour from him. I cannot explain how excited he was…particularly that everything he showed us was “REAL!!!”  MOM……that cannon over there…It’s REAL! (He would EXCLAIM!)


Nothing, however, could prepare us for his ‘absolute favorite room…I mean mom this is why I love Madison….you just can’t believe what is in here!’ (At which point a few strangers also followed us to see what all the hubub was about) It was this:


To quote the boy “Mom, that’s a REAL chopper from Vietnam”. I have also now learned that to a 7 year old and 9 year old boy…..a museum dedicated to Veterans is truly the coolest thing EVER!

The last stop was to the downtown Madison library. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the newly re-done library….get on down there. It is just lovely and has so many great things to check out.

I actually got to go check out the garden section while the kids busied themselves with art projects.


Some of us may have contemplated our previous decision that we did not require a nap.


Oh it was a perfect weekend for us to enjoy with a 7 year boy indeed!

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The Buzz

Can you hear it?? That lovely buzz of spring?

We feel it at the Ranch….and it is hard to contain all our ideas without exploding.

The hubby equated it to feeling like we have just woken up from hibernation and I can’t agree more. It has been a long winter but we are realizing surviving winter only helps us appreciate our love of spring. And the boost of energy that comes from seeing that glowing orb in the sky on a regular basis….along with temps higher that 2 are pretty awesome as well. That being said, we have also hit the season of mud. Oh glorious sink your feet 4 inches into the ground mud. I mean our yard is M-U-D-D-Y!!!!!!!!!!!!

This past weekend the girl and I started over 200 seeds. I started conservatively ordering seeds this winter (and boy, is that hard to keep under control) and limited our supply from mainly Seed Savers and Fedco. Both are treasure troves of interesting and enticing heirloom and organic varieties, and they kept this gal’s spirit up during the darkness of winter. Oh the possibilities….

We haven’t started many seeds at the ranch as we just don’t have a good place to do it. Our basement is CHILLY and we would have to invest in some warming pads, but then there is also this very inquisitive cat to contain.

So what got me excited was I brought some geranium plants to winter at my work and they have just done so beautifully…that all of a sudden it hit me! I can start seeds at work!

I pulled in my favorite facilities dude and implored could I please put in a few grow lamps and he was happy to oblige (side note…we seriously have the greatest facilities dude EVER at my work!).

Here is what we look like 5 days in:





It gonna be a GREAT spring!

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These things happen in 3’s

So here is the thing about knitting that is both strange, upsetting, frustrating and wonderful all at the same time.

Knitting is an entire leap of faith.

You have be very trusting as a knitter as well as remain entirely open to the distinct possibility that your time and materials may completely backfire on you….

You have to allow yourself to swear like a sailor ever so often. However when things get out of hand you must heed your mother’s advice and walk away from said project…or put it in the naughty corner for awhile…until the swearing is curbed….and you decide you want to look at that project again.

This leads me to projects 1, 2, and 3….all of which have been very very naughty.

Project #1 started well over a year ago when I found this yarn that I just loved. The color was right, the weight was just perfect for the pattern… off I went happily knitting a sweater for myself.

The project went well, and everything seemed great….until I tried it on….and I was swimming in knitted horribleness. It was WAAAAAAAAY too big in the weirdest spot….under my armpits (hmmmmm that isn’t really where I need extra space thank goodness).

So I put the sweater in the blankety blank naughty corner for all of the summer so I could think about what to do.

Then I ripped it all out and started a different sweater……

And about 1/4 of the way in I realized I hated it….

Blankety Blank

So out we ripped again….

Then I started magic number 3….which as luck would have it is my most favorite thing I have knitted this winter and I wear it all the time!


Project number 2 has to deal with felting.

Felting, as a general rule, is not something knitters hope to achieve as many times it happens accidentally….like your favorite sweater  tossed haphazardly into a hot washer and comes out as Barbie wear.

California sissy put in a request for a new pair of slippers for her birthday. I had knit her a pair several years ago which she wore with wild abandon and had happily worn them out. (Believe it or not, this makes knitters very very happy. To hear someone has used something so much until it plum wore out is a sign of love and affection.)

So off I started on these slippers, which are now referred to as those “blasted blankety blank %^$# slippers”.

The premise is you knit these gargantuan slippers and then you wash them in hot water until they magically felt to the correct size.


What actually happened is I used some blankety blank yarn that I received from a co-worker and the top of the slipper felted at a completely different rate than the bottom. The bottom resembled a hotdog, the top was large enough for a yeti.

Blankety blank….

So I started over again

And I proceeded to knit the wrong blankety blank size…so they were still too big. (on the plus side I do now have one slipper done for myself….the down side is I would have to knit another one of these blankety blank slippers and right now I never want to see them again)



I finally knit the right size (kind of…one felted up slightly larger than the other) and handed them off to my sissy. Hopefully it is many many years before I need to re-visit that project again.

So this brings me to project #3…..otherwise known as the blankety blank monstrosity of a prayer shawl.

So first it started with this blanket that I knit for my parents last year. I ran out of blankety blank yarn when I was knitting it, so I had to order more. Then when I was done, I had a ton leftover.

So I decided it was the perfect yarn to knit a prayer shawl as it is very soft and squishy as well as very very washable.

And then I decided I was a pattern writer extraordinaire and threw caution to the wind and casted on my project.

In retrospect this was a very very very bad idea.

I decided I wanted to knit the long ways from end to end for a little something different so I casted on 300 stitches….which was about 150 stitches too many…though I didn’t realize that until yesterday.

When it took me over an hour to get one row done, I should have known this was going to be a mistake of epic proportions.

But alas I just kept at it. Then I changed directions to try and make it better….it just directionally shifted the blankety blankness of it all.

This project has stewed in the naughty corner off and on since July. I finally decided enough was enough I just needed to finish it for our shawl meeting later this month.

And then I ran out of blankety blank yarn AGAIN! So I had to order MORE!

This horrible horrible project came off my needles yesterday and the hubby and I had a good laugh over it…as it is just so weird and long we can’t even believe it. The girl said she liked and and could she have it…but alas it is destined for someone at a shelter. (Please note I have creatively edited the picture so you cannot see why this is so weird, but let’s just say one end of this sucker looks like an arrow with a point…when it should be square)

IMG_0942The law and physics of knitting continue to confound and amaze me.

Posted in Knit me some happy | 1 Comment

Love, Auntie and Uncle

Greetings to all from what can only be called a jam packed weekend.  I slid into Monday grasping the largest cup of coffee the world could find me.

I have lots to report on but first I need to have a public service announcement. This is something that I think every blogger posts about at some point and I think it is my turn.

Through the magic of blogging one can create a life that appears from outside to be pretty darn wonderful.  One that may leave a reader rolling their eyes and thinking, ‘cripes, doesn’t anything ever go wrong?’

I can assure you with all the confidence I can muster that things do indeed go very very wrong at the ole Wolowik ranch. Appliances break, kids fight, parents lose their cool, dusting is but a memory and the cat box mostly goes un-scooped. We found ourselves in a rut only remembering the bad things that happened to us that we forgot the good. And that dear reader is when the blog was born. It is so great that we are able to share our family’s doings with a wide audience (and by wide, I mean like 5 of you), but really the true reason behind it was so that we as a family could focus on the good…cause there is a lot more of that than the bad (well, most days at least).

Now….that commences our public service announcement.

And now through the magic of blogging, let me tell you about our 98% perfect weekend.

Here’s the thing. The hubby and I LOVE being an auntie and a uncle. So much so, that it honestly caught us a bit by surprise. We have our own kids and we love them to pieces, but we were completely overwhelmed with the love we feel to my sissy’s kiddos.

When California sissy had her boys, it came at a time when our kids had moved onto ‘big kiddo’ status as they were already potty trained and into pre-school/kindergarten. We had decided two was more than enough for us, but that didn’t stop the love of caring for a bambino. What? A diaper needs to be changed? I’m on it! Bath time you say? You got it! They don’t want to be put down….No problem! Those two baby boys were some of the cutest and most fun babies to be around and we just love them to pieces.

Then Yoga sissy brought us two more nephews and as a bonus- they live much closer to us, and our hearts just melted the first time we met them. They too filled the hole of little kid snuggles and really exciting bathtimes! Then she added the most adorable niece EVER and we were just done for…all of us…absolutely at her beckon call…done

As an added bonus, we really try to have the boys out to our house for their ‘birthday weekend of fun’. It all starts with a phone call. The boys get to decide the menu, the cake as well as what we are doing that weekend. Sometimes things are kept simple (Auntie, can we just stay home and play?) and sometimes things are a bit more specific (Auntie, I would like sausage AND bacon AND pancakes for dinner)

So here in a nutshell are all the activities we crammed into 28 hours:

First up, sledding! We just got a bunch of snow dumped on us and Saturday was remarkably warm. This equated to a perfect afternoon to sled on our favorite local hill.

13Next up, two boys played for HOURS in the backyard creating a one of a kind fort.

11Perhaps a nap was was taken al fresco (just kidding)


Little guy and myself decided we were cold, so a marathon of Scooby Doo was up next.


Then Uncle declared it was time to make dinner, so in the bday boy went to assist in the preparation. Yup….we needed to make sausage AND bacon (and pancakes of course)





photo 1Uncle declared him a great assistant and bday boy declared it the perfect dinner!

photo 2

Did I mention bacon AND sausage AND pancakes were mandated?

Then of course a round of singing followed by trick candles (hi-lar-i-ous!)

IMG_0916Then it is now tradition to take out every sleeping bag in the house so we can all watch a movie together. Then we tumbled into bed and not a peep was heard…….

….yeah…ummmmm…until 5 AM the next day…..sigh….the extra bonus of little boys is their inability to sleep in. There is just too much excitement to possibly roll over and go back to sleep!

So by 7:30, they were out the door on their way to catching some fish and perhaps some more sledding.


Birthday boy caught the first fish. Uncle was so darn proud as he caught it ALL by himself. Uncle no sooner walked away and when he turned around this guy had just flopped the fish onto the ice. Definitely a keeper too!

6Then his brother followed with one all on his own as well.  All in all about a dozen fish came home and we had what can only be called the best breakfast EVER. Blue gills and fresh eggs!  I mean come on! Is there anything better?

What you don't see in this pic is the fish are still flopping around on the table and uncle is asking the boys to smile..and the boys are FREAKING out!

What you don’t see in this pic is the fish are still flopping around on the table and uncle is asking the boys to smile..and the boys are FREAKING out!

Now, at this point one might think enough activities had been accomplished. Really a full day and then some had been put in….but someone promised ice skating…so off to the pond we went. (In retrospect…this was a very very bad decision)

IMG_0920The ice skating part was great. The kiddos all had a great time and loads of fun were had.

Then we all returned home just a tad bit tired….one might even say we were all a bit OVER tired… might even take it a step further to say we were all WAY OVER TIRED!

From there it was just a hop, skip and a jump away from tears and frustration and our lovely weekend ended on a bit of a sour note.  Sigh……

Lessons learned…..

* Packing 1,000,0000 things into one day is probably not the best choice.

* The strong conviction of a newly turned 6 year boy is nothing to toy with

* A good night’s sleep cures just about everything

* An Auntie and Uncles love is unequivocally forever…bad days and all

Love you boys,

Auntie and Uncle


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Bracing for the storm

Greetings from the winter wonderland that is Southeastern WI. We received a good walloping yesterday and are still somewhat in ‘dig out’ mode. We can’t really complain as it was Feb 1 and it was our first real snowstorm of the year but how quickly one is reminded of how fun shoveling horrible shoveling is….sigh…..

Since we knew we weren’t going to get out much on Sunday, we spent Saturday morning out and about in the fresh air.  We got skunked the week before and the hubby was pretty insistent that we give the ole ice fishin rods another crack to try and stock pile up some more fish in the freezer.

Let me be absolutely clear about something if you are not from north of the mason-dixon line…..if it is January…and the day is bright, sunny and clear….you can be darn sure it is frickin freezing outside.

Enter in exhibit A:


I will not be so crass as to compare the day to a portion of a witch’s anatomy….but trust me…the sentiment was there.

That being said, never has a cup of hot chocolate been more welcomed…or functional as a hand warmer!


We added something new to the ice fishing trip…which included tip ups. The kiddos have never seen them in action, so they received a course in baiting and rigging them up.

Of course the most exciting part is fishing the minnow out of the bucket.



And really that is where the excitement ended as the tip ups never actually went up…or off…or whatever the right terminology is.


The boy and I were the only ones to actually catch something that day. It ended up the boy-8; mama-4….which it turns out is just enough for superbowl ice fishin sliders…


IMG_2231Did I mention it was cold? Thank goodness for balaclavas!


Sunday we woke up to snow…though not a ton.  But then it just kept snowing and snowing and snowing…all day long in fact.

So we hunkered in….and as it turns out….it was the perfect day to………….


All afternoon long in fact.





Oh what a lovely weekend….

Stay tuned…next weekend it is a birthday celebration with our WI nephews…..a wild rumpus is sure to take place at the ole’ ranch…..

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Can opened…worms everywhere

Greetings to you on this fine winter day. I am so excited for Spring this year that I have become rather obsessive in my garden planning. Oh new boxes are going to go in, and seeds will be started soon (oh yay! I just can’t wait to actually PLANT something!!!) Have I mentioned my new love of seed catalogs? Oh my the possibilities….the good news is I started with A LOT of seeds I wanted to order but pared it down to a much more manageable amount. And now I swoon at the sight of the packages… diggity I just can’t wait!

All this planning got me really thinking about fertilizer. I do a ton of container gardening and it become abundantly clear last summer that everything needed a bit of fertilizer. I hate hate hate putting any sort of chemicals in our garden (and we don’t) but we were fresh out of ‘black gold’ compost and the chicken poop is too hot to put right on anything. So I broke down and….eeeeeeekkkkkkk…bought the bad stuff from the store. And of course it worked in spades on my flowers and everything continued on just fine really. But deep down I vowed not to do that again.

The hubby and I have watched show after show about this really great guy in Milwaukee and his awesome compost. (I vow to visit his operation this summer!!!) Anyhoo, as I considered ordering his worm compost to brew my own fertilizer ‘tea’ it got me thinking…why the heck can’t I set up my own worm composter?

And boy….if you google that….the can of worms pops right on open…and you are off to the worm races.

And what I found out is…it is really really easy to do this…and it costs very little.

(And no mom, our basement is not going to smell like worms…or garbage……..I knew I needed to address that right away)

First up…get two opaque plastic bins (cause worms don’t really like light).

Guess what? Every store has them clearanced right now…SCORE!

These are a lovely green color…though they are a bit more translucent than they probably should have been. Luckily our basement is pretty dark anyways so I think we are fine.

IMG_0872Next up…bedding. Apparently worms really like paper and cardboard. Good thing we seem to have that kinda stuff laying around our house all the time.


We had a huge amount of paper in a recent shipment…Into the container it went along with some water to soak it all down. (Worms like a ‘damp’ environment don’t cha know)

IMG_0876Yup…get it really wet.

Then squeeze out as much water as you possibly can and fluff it back up.

IMG_0878Oooh, that is some lovely fluffy wet paper isn’t it?

Then I put in a couple layers of damp cardboard for fun…along with….get this…..


Yup just sprinkled some dirt right on in there. Worms are a lot like chickens as they also have a gizzard and need some roughage to grind up their food…so in went the dirt.

Then I added some organic material for them to chomp on… grounds and tea bags are much loved by these little squirmie wormys…as well as vegetable and fruit stuffs.

The last part was to add the little guys to their happy new home.


And in a few months, I will have my own worm casting (that’s a nice word for poop) tea for my lovely plants.

Oh and….we will never have to buy bait ever again! Brilliant I say!

Posted in Around the House | 2 Comments

Back in the Saddle Again

Hi there and Happy New Year! Our apologies on the radio silence from ranch the past few months. Between the holidays, the darkness, the cold…finding the ambition to blog has been a struggle. But we are BACK! And we did it in grand fashion this weekend as we decided…if we can’t beat winter…well then we better join it!

So off we went to our very first ice fishing competition.

We were actually pretty lucky as it was not ‘that cold’ ( I think it was 10 degrees…balmy by WI standards) and there was little to no wind.

First up, we were greeted by a friendly group of fishin dudes who wanted to know if the kids were fishing. We declared ‘of course’ and the kids were immediately gifted new ice fishing rod kits. As you can see…they were surprised and amazed……

IMG_2154 Then we walked about 100000000 miles (ok maybe a half mile….but seriously when you are wearing all that cold weather gear plus winter boots that weight about 50 lbs a piece…it felt like MUCH longer) until we found the ‘right’ fishing spot.

Then, it is every man, woman and child for themselves. Everyone gears up their own rods and scoops their own hole (no whining allowed either).



The good news is we do have our very own professional ‘hole driller’…however he is very willing to turn over the task to the boy any day now. (28 cranks=about 14″ of ice….it was plenty thick)


Then the excitement began……….and we all stood around our holes and caught a gazillion fish


Scratch that….we actually froze our a$$es off and declared it too cold after not catching ANYTHING

BUT! We came back in at just the right time…..and there were TONS of games for the kiddos to play…and win

First up…transport popcorn from one end to the other.

On your mark, get set….go!


Then it was walk like a crab with a bobber between your knees


The boy won and walked away with a really really really nice ice rod.

Then they dumped a TON on change into a pile of sawdust and the kids got to go crazy.



At this point of the day, the winds had picked up and it was darn cold. So cold, the girl’s hands were frozen into a claw…..but she kept pickin.

So cold in fact the hubby gave me his hat and scarf…yes, I am wearing 2 hats I am so cold.


All in all we had the most fantastic day together. The hubby and I got to warm up with spicy bloody mary’s and the kiddos made lots of new friends. We all commented that night how we all had smiles plastered on our faces all afternoon long.

And that dear friend is the mark of a perfect day.

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