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Pageant Days

Once upon a time there was a little girl…

Reta Jean just knew she was meant to be a princess. She loves all things pink and sparkly. Her mom and dad let me sign her up for a natural pageant, and she was ready to show her stuff.


The entry forms included questions about her favorite things and hobbies. Reta Jean’s favorite foods are marshmallows and ice cream, and her hobbies are dancing, jiu jitsu and working in the garden with papa. She also likes to cut her own hair. Which she did just  2 weeks before the pageant. A big chunk on the top of her head. Right against her scalp. In retrospect, none of these things sound very princess-y, but Reta Jean wanted to be a princess, so we did what we could to make it happen.

While waiting for the pageant to start, Reta Jean didn’t want to hang out in the dressing room with the girls. She came out to the auditorium and immediately started practicing her jiu jitsu on the mats hanging on the wall. Dad got her to stop beating up the walls, and she decided to dance instead. Did I mention her favorite TV show is “So You Think You Can Dance”? Yep, and her favorite style, right now, is break dancing. Everybody else may think she’s rolling around on the floor, but she’s DANCING! Before heading back to the dressing room, she finally showed me her “pretty feet” pose. She’s been practicing, and is quite good at it, for as long as she can stand still.


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For the opening number, all the girls criss-crossed on the stage to their spots, then all they had to do was stand still and smile. I tried to get a picture of Reta Jean standing still, but that just doesn’t happen. She was so happy that things were finally starting, she kept dancing and waving.

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Then, it was back to the dressing room to get ready for the beauty portion. Mom and I helped, but Reta Jean picked out everything she was going to wear. She loves her pretty pink dress and fancy white shoes.  Mom tried to cover her almost-bald spot with a head band, but it just didn’t work. It was better to just let her wear it down and let the short spot blend in. In reality, it just made her hair look a bit thinner. She’d be on the stage and the judges probably wouldn’t see the top of her head anyway. Hopefully.


We had our hands full keeping her off the stage before it was her turn. We let her walk around the hall to keep her occupied and barely dodged a meltdown. She REALLY wanted her turn on stage.

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It’s always hard to get pictures of Reta Jean because she is in perpetual motion. It seems like even when she’s still, she’s “vibrating.” Whirling dervish, Tasmanian Devil, Hurricane Reta. Those all suit her just fine. Walking slowly for the judges? Not so much. She hopped onto the stage and introduced herself. “I’m Reta Jean. I’m 3. Oh, I’m 2.” And she was off!


She skipped to her first mark, then monster walked to her second. The slow turn at the front mark? That turned into a dance spin with Mom.


For her exit, we had practiced blowing a kiss and waving with two hands. Apparently, that wasn’t enough to capture how excited she was. She jumped up and down, blew multiple kisses, and had to be coaxed off the stage by Mom, while she continued to wave at everybody. We just knew she was going to win for Best Personality, if nothing else.

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Once Beauty was over, we watched the exiting queens, and had one more of many “10 minute” breaks, while we waited for crowning. She rested with some cookies while the exiting queens were presented, then couldn’t be still another minute. She was off and running around the back of the auditorium with the boys.


Once the stage was available, she was right back up there. There were stage lights to check out, dance moves to practice, and excitement to burn off. No sitting quietly with Mom and Dad for our Reta Jean.

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Finally, it was time for crowning. Fortunately, her group was first. This is when we learned they had a category for “Best Poise,” not “Best Personality.” No shot there. The kid has no fear and no inhibitions. And, apparently, no poise. And that’s perfectly OK.

She won a Princess tiara and participation trophy. And…ready for this? Best Hair! I agree! Even with a chunk missing, there’s no beating her fabulous curls. She was hot, sweaty and exhausted, and THRILLED with her awards.

trophy2awards2While Reta Jean had a wonderful time at her first pageant, I don’t think the pageant world is ready for her. Pageant girls are beautiful and well-behaved. And still. And poised. If they had categories for Best Laugh or Most Sparkly Personality or Bounciest, Reta Jean would be a shoo in. Like so many wonderful little girls, Reta Jean is a sparkly peg, and will never be contained in a round hole.

I have no doubt she’ll find her stage someday. And she’s going to fill it with love and magic and sparkles. Because she’s Reta Jean.

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Gabba and Papa’s Wonderland Fort

Since the kids moved up here, I’ve been working on making their little corner of our world extra magical. They’re big enough to pretend now, which makes everything that much more fun. Every time they come now, I try to have added something a little different. And they always notice. You can see the tree fort from the house, so the first thing the kids see is our new pinwheel garden. When there’s just a little breeze, it looks so pretty!

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We started with our little troll bridge, and added extra straw bales. I still want to add more to make it even more climbable, jumpable and giggly.

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Reta Jean loves to rearrange all the “santas”. They’re garden gnomes, but I’m not going to tell. She also likes the fairies. When she’s playing with them, it’s like she’s in her own little fairyland and I love it! It makes me so happy to see her pretending.



There’s also a set of farm critters, including a farmer, a barn and a tractor. Charlie screwed together some boards into corners. This way the kids can make them into anything they want. Today they were a big barn. They’ve also been boxes and a stage. We’ll see what they come up with next.106

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Raymond prefers to run, jump, throw and swing sticks at things. There’s plenty of room for him to do just that.

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Everything is more fun if you can dress up while you play. We have dinosaur hats, fairy wings, butterfly antennae, and superhero capes. There are also pinwheels and recorders. (The Dollar Store has become my new favorite place. I can get all kinds of stuff for the kids, and not have to worry about them breaking things or getting them dirty.)

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There are several different balls to play with, too. Of course, Reta Jean has to take the one Raymond is playing with, and the chase is on!


The fairies and gnomes stay outside, but the rest of the toys go in and out in a basket. The basket is almost as big as Raymond, but he and Reta Jean will pick it up and haul it outside when it’s time to play. The other day, Carly brought them up while I was at the airport picking up Charlie. As soon as I walked through the door, there was no hello, no hugs and kisses. I got, “Come on, Gabba! Let’s go to the troll bridge and play!” It was chilly and almost dark, but they weren’t taking no for an answer. Raymond grabbed the basket and the two of them waited at the back door until I could catch up. I really couldn’t ask for anything more!

Charlie and I provide the playground, but the kids provide the magic. Watching them love what we’ve worked to create is absolutely heartwarming. There is still work to be done. Who knows what fun things we’ll find? As long as the kids keep coming, and breaking out with their giant smiles. As long as I keep getting squeals of delight and Raymond telling me, “Gabba, this is fantastic!” As long as there are kids in our life who believe in magic, we’ll keep working to make a magical place for them to grow.

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Admitting You’re Wrong – Random Thoughts From The Shower

Spring needs to come and rescue me from reality television. These people fight about everything. On “Celebrity Apprentice” Donald Trump was talking about ruthless business people – as Leeza Gibbons was awarded the win for leading with integrity, kindness and inclusion. (Geraldo lost and I’m glad because it would have been rewarding totally egotistical, self-indulgent behavior.)

This led me to thinking about people who aren’t willing to admit when they’re wrong. (Don’t ask how exactly this is related. This is just what happens when you have random thoughts in the shower.) I don’t see why this is a big deal to some people. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. No biggie. I admit it – oops – and move on.

I think a lot of people believe parents and teachers hate to say they’re wrong. To me, that was even more important. I hated the thought of my children or my students saying, “Mom/Mrs. Redmon said (insert incorrect information here.)”  I felt that was unfair to everybody. If I’m wrong, please tell me so I can fix it.

If you know you’re wrong, guaranteed someone else knows you’re wrong, too. I’ve heard people don’t like to admit they’re wrong because they don’t want others to think they’re stupid. Let’s look at this a different way. If you’re wrong, and you know it, and you are going to defend your wrongness to the death, you aren’t going to fool everybody. So, that means the people who know you’re wrong, are probably going to think you’re not smart enough to know you’re wrong.

The other thing to consider is honesty. By insisting you’re right, you’re essentially lying. When you lie, people don’t trust you. The next time you feel the need to insist you’re right, people are going to have a hard time buying it. They may have let you’re insistence slide the last time (it’s exhausting to argue with someone who will not hear that they’re wrong), but you need to know that in “winning” that last round, you lost credibility.

I get that for some people winning is everything and they don’t care what anybody thinks of them. Well, I care. I want people to trust me. I want them to know they can have faith in what I’m saying. That also means if I’m not sure, I’ll say I’m not sure. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to hear what you’re saying. And if I accidentally gave you wrong information, I’m going to do my best to return to you and correct myself if possible.

This applies to sports as much as, if not more than, it does to business and real life. You’ve seen the athlete. Any call made against them is greeted with arms thrown in the air and an expression of total disbelief. Sometimes even a full-on grown-up temper tantrum. Do they really think that we’re going to believe that EVERY ref is gunning for them EVERY time? Yes, there are those refs. I’ve seen them, but it’s not every ref at every game. In contrast, some athletes accept the calls against them. They may not like that they got caught, but they know they were wrong and are willing to admit it. When these athletes respond negatively to a specific call, I’m more willing to believe it’s a real issue.

Personally, I’d rather be believed when I know I’m telling the truth, than get away with something when I know I’m wrong.

Before somebody calls me out, I have to add none of this applies to practical jokes. I have no problem flat out lying just to mess with someone. I once had students convinced I was really an 89-year-old black woman. I told them being stuck in a classroom with fluorescent lights had completely bleached me out and I’d had really great plastic surgery. That’s what they get for asking how old and what race I was.




Easy Soapmaking

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Rainy weather means more time for new projects. This week, I’m making soap! The whole idea of lye and ash, and whatever else you need to figure out to make soap, is a bit intimidating to me, so I found  a beginner version.

Hand-milled soap, made from white, unscented soap (think Ivory) is a great way to start. I learned about it in the book “Natural Soapmaking.”

Just take a bar of soap – not scented, beauty, deodorant bar – and grate it with a regular cheese grater. I thought this would be hard and end up with my knuckles getting cut up on the grater, but it was really easy. One bar = approximately 2 cups of grated soap.

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I thought it was pretty. Tori thought it looked like grated cheese.

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Put the grated soap and some water in a pan of boiling water, like a double boiler, and melt away. The recipe I used called for melted beeswax, as well. I wasn’t sure how exactly to go about melting just 2 tablespoons of beeswax, but then I figured it out. I used an empty glass spice jar that was in my I’m-going-to-use-it-someday stash. I put the jar in the boiling water, next to the dish that was holding the soap. Next time, I’ll start the beeswax a little sooner because it took a little longer to melt, but the method worked well.

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The next directions said to melt the soap until it “looks like marshmallow cream.” Descriptions like that make me crazy. Maybe what I think looks like marshmallow cream isn’t what someone else thinks. No problem here. In 10-15 minutes it really does look just like marshmallow cream.


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Once the soap and wax are melted mix them together, then add whatever else the recipe calls for. In this case, I added crushed almonds, almond oil, and honey. That’s it! (You can also add essential oils, botanicals, oats, whatever you want) Mix it all up, and pour it into whatever type of mold you want. I used a silicone loaf pan, and it was so easy, I forgot to take a picture.

In about 5 hours, the soap is hard enough to remove from the mold. I cut mine into rectangles, but didn’t like the way it looked.1124141558a (500x347)


So, the next day, I took my little round cookie cutters to it, and made little circle soap.


Once it’s cut, the soap has to age three weeks. I have everything I need for Cinnamon Orange soap and the rain is supposed to last throughout the week. I’ll be doubling or tripling the recipe so there will be enough to make full-sized bars.

You can find the book “Natural Soapmaking” and lots of the basic supplies at my Amazon store.


Things to Learn

I enjoy every day on our farm, whether it’s chores, crafts, or fun in the kitchen. I’ve read and read and read to learn to do the things I enjoy today. There have been many useful websites that have helped me on my little adventure. When I read what I write about some of these companies and sites, I feel like I sound like a sales person for them. I’m not. If you buy products through my aStore at Amazon I get a very small commission, but other than that I have no financial interest in any of these businesses or products. They are things that have helped me along the way, so I’m sharing them with you to help you get started on your own homesteading adventure. Have fun!

Items I’ve used and written about in my posts, I’ve listed in my Amazon store, so you can find them easily. Please check it out!


The Ball Canning website has instructions, recipes, product information, and lots of useful tips for successful canning. I refer to them often.


New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has everything you need to start being a cheese maker. I’ve used Ricki’s Mozzarella kit, and her Basic Cheesemaking Kit is next on my wishlist.


You don’t need to be a full-on homesteader to enjoy different aspects of the lifestyle. The Homesteading Today Forum is full of helpful people, who can offer all kinds of information and support.

http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/American Gothic

Mother Earth News magazine is also available online. SO much information about gardening! They even have a garden planner that we used this year.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Homestead Plan

Grit magazine  has lots of fun articles, covering everything you need to know about rural living – and includes blogs and videos!

http://www.grit.com/RJ and pacas

If you want additional information about anything I’ve posted here, let me know!