Savoring Fall Fun

We’ve been busy lately, squeezing in all the outdoor fun we can to enjoy this gorgeous Wisconsin season.  Last week temperatures were mild – upper 60’s to even some 70’s, so we had the perfect day to visit a petting farm and their pumpkin patch.

After visiting all of the animals (and petting some) and going on a tractor ride, we walked and ran through the cornfield to the pumpkin patch to find the perfect pumpkins.  My kids picked the small ones very quickly and were ready to move on to have our picnic lunch.  Days like this are fleeting in fall, so I’m glad we shared it with my sister’s family and our parents to create fun family traditions.

Fall Fun collage

What are your favorite fall traditions?  I LOVE my husband’s pumpkin bars that he lovingly makes with a baking pumpkin instead of the canned stuff.  Hope everyone is enjoying October!

For some of the favorite things about fall, check out The Girls Who Blogs post.

Fresh Cheese – Squeaky Good!

I haven’t been blogging as much – nor visiting many cheese factories lately – as I, like so many other people, am trying to squeeze out all the fun I can from summer!  It HAS been fun and busy for sure.  Here’s one of our adventures that I had yet to record.

Earlier this summer, I took the kids on a road trip to meet a dear friend and her child at a farm.  This place is awesome as you can go in the pens with the animals.  We were catching chickens, feeding goats, meeting pigs, riding ponies, and petting the many farm kitties. It was a blast!  My friend & I also made our debut appearance as goat herders, catching a stray goat and directing it back into the pen.  Besides the goats who tried eating our shoes, they were quite adorable!  See my daughter feeding them below:feeding the goatsMy son wasn’t so much into the animals and just wanted to be held or sit on the antique tractor.  I did get a picture of him in these cute wagons though. playing in a wagonNeedless to say that excursion wore my kids out, so while they snoozed in the car on the ride back, I sought out a cheese factory along our drive. I briefly stopped at Baker’s Cheese – a place that my relatives rave about.  We were already big fans of their smoked string cheese, so I knew the store would have some more cheese-awesomeness.

ker's Cheese Factory StoreWhile they don’t have the best cheese billboard ever, they have a small, quaint shop with delicious string cheese and several other varieties. Here’s what I bought: aged cheddar cheese, smoked string cheese bites (it wasn’t the correct weight, so they put a “we goofed” sticker on it), and FRESH string cheese.

Fresh String Cheese, Smoked String Cheese, andAged Cheddar I think everyone in Wisconsin knows that when cheese is fresh it SQUEAKS!  This string cheese was squeaky good.  I only hope everyone can experience eating cheese fresh from the factory like I did! AMAZING!  We continue to buy the smoked string cheese from the grocery store, but I still long to go back to the factory for another supply of the fresh, squeaky stuff.


Memories of Mark

I haven’t written in a while because I just could not be moved to do so.  My family recently said our goodbyes to my grandfather, and we just celebrated his life with family and friends who came to pay their respects at his wake and funeral.

I think my 4-year-old nephew explained it best to his grandma, saying, “Yes, Great-Grandpa is dead, but it’s okay, he’s up in heaven now driving his tractor.” My other nephew, almost 2 years old, who shares my grandpa’s name as a middle name (Mark), just sprung into the arms of my mom for a big hug after she sang a beautiful song during the funeral mass. It is amazing how little ones just know to provide love and comfort during difficult times.

I’d like to share just a few of the MANY memories and stories of my grandpa to honor his 85 years on this earth:

He truly was part of the “silent generation” that shared core values of hard work, respect for authority, loyalty, understood sacrifice and the value of a dollar.  He worked as a farmer for almost 50 years before retiring.

He was one of 12 children – one sister died at a young age – so there were 11 total children. They grew up on a farm with everyone helping out and working hard.

He could speak German, learning it from his parents and grandparents. They would usually speak German when they didn’t want the kids to understand what they were saying. He would re-tell us some of the naughty words that he heard, like “die verdammte Kinder!”

He was a great student, walking quite a distance to school (probably uphill both ways WITHOUT complaint). I remember that he told me about taking classes in farming in high school and more classes about business after high school.  He excelled in school,  actually passing up his older brother, a stubborn joker, who would NOT mind their teachers, moving ahead of him in grade levels.

He didn’t like to dance, so he let his my grandma dance with his brothers, so he “wouldn’t have to push her around the dance floor.” Really Grandpa? You said that?!! Kuddos to Grandma for still dancing!

When my grandparents were married in 1950, my grandma moved to his farm, where he had led the life of a bachelor for several years. He only had 1 fork and 1 spoon, and when he made her eggs, he first gave her the spoon. My grandma refused to use the spoon, so he let her have the fork! My grandma just laughs at this memory and shakes her head every time she retells it. She truly was the one who made their house a home!

He liked joking around and telling stories – often while sitting on the side of the room at family gatherings, just talking one on one with another relative. He made our significant others – the newcomers – feel so welcome. I always liked it when he did something to make Grandma say, “MARK!” in her disapproving, scolding tone. Grandpa’s eyes would get really big, he’d raise his shoulders and cross his arms, and say, “I’m in trouble!”

He loved playing cards – sheepshead – during which brandy slush would be served.

He had some amusing expressions like “slower than molasses in January.”  Apparently, they would pour molasses on the hay as a treat for the cows.  With Wisconsin winters, it certainly poured slowly for several months of the year.

I was so blessed to have shared so many years with him.  Visiting Grandma & Grandpa’s farm while growing up was always a new adventure: playing with the kitties in the barn, petting the calves and seeing the big cows, climbing around the hay mow, sledding and snowmobiling in winter too.  He was there for so many milestones in my life – graduation, wedding, and the births of my two children.  I will always cherish these memories and keep his legacy alive for my own family.  Love you always Grandpa!

My daughter meeting Great-Grandpa at her first Christmas

My daughter meeting her Great-Grandpa at her first Christmas