The Munchkins

Life with identical twins

Growth Spurt Food

So food. We were in trouble in a few different ways.

First, cooking dinner at home every night burns you out. We have a pretty good stable of recipes, but we have worn those bad boys out. We were even sick of our favorites.

Second, the girls are going through a growth spurt. Usually I can get away with a free for all for dinner one night a week where we just scrounge something up, no more. It also meant we had no leftovers from the dinners I did cook, so nothing for lunch. Things were rough around here for a bit!

Third, I wanted us to get back to making more food at home. Back in the day I prided myself on not buying premade food, now it was a huge staple in our house. Truthfully, it’s a huge help especially when we’re eating so much at home, but we needed to figure out a few things.

I did a bunch of digging on Pinterest, and asked Delaney a million questions about what she might be open to eating. I really, really wanted them to find a muffin that they liked, since we needed a grab and go food.

We decided to start with a banana chocolate chip muffin. The first time we used gluten free flour, but they were pretty dry. The next two times they made it with regular flour, and I made my own muffins. These have been a hit. They especially like them in the mini size, since they’re just a few bites, and they last all week.

The other thing we tried for Delaney is overnight oats. She doesn’t like eggs, and doesn’t like oatmeal packets, but she was open to this. They have been a huge hit! Again, grab and go which seems to be key for her. She can wander into the kitchen at 7:58, grab her oatmeal jar and be on her google meet at 8:00. She’s been doing the strawberry recipe from here.

I also bought an egg bite maker. We all love the bacon egg bites from Starbucks, and I thought that would be an easy snack option. It might be, but they take 10 minutes to make, and that doesn’t include the time to fry up the bacon/pancetta. I think we need to find a solid egg/cheese recipe and just go with that.

We’ve been trying A LOT of new recipes for dinner. Some have been hits, some misses. This orange chicken has been the crowd favorite so far. Bonus that it really did come together in 30 minutes! It’s a lot though, and without my two helpers probably would have taken longer. Perfect for a Saturday though!

The other thing I did to ease our pain was menu plan for the entire month. I haven’t done that in years, but I was tired of dreading looking through Pinterest every week, so I just did the whole month. I forgot how much I love doing this! It makes the month so much easier! I also printed out a February calendar, and we’ve been penciling in the dinners we really love. At least we’ll go into that month with a few meals teed up.

We’ve also been making our own ice cream. I have the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cookbook and it is gold. Our favorite has been the French Vanilla recipe with crumbled gf oreo’s in it.

These months before their birthday are always a growth spurt. I probably have at least another month of this? Right now we’re eating a lot of chicken. I’ve tried throwing in a few vegetarian meals, but they need the protein or they just aren’t full.

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No Spend January 2021

You guys! It’s been so long! And I actually have things to tell you. I definitely need to make more time to blog in 2021.

Let’s start here. After a few years off, we’re doing another No Spend January.

Like many of you I’m guessing, our grocery bill shot up dramatically when the pandemic hit. Our household went from eating 1-2 meals outside the house, to eating 3 meals a day, 7 days a week at home. We did the occasional take out meal, but that was maybe a few times a month?

Not only was I suddenly buying food for breakfast and lunch for everyone, but because we were in lockdown, we continuously treated ourselves to things that felt fun. Fancy soda, scallops, all the ice cream treats, popcorn, chips, pretzels. We did seafood night once a week in the beginning, and honestly, I have no regrets on that front. Those were some amazing memories! But we’ve been in the pandemic almost a year now, and our grocery bill and habits are still there. (For reference pre-pandemic my grocery bill was ~$100. Now it’s $150-200. And that’s just Trader Joe’s.)

I was grocery shopping sometime in December, in the frozen aisle grabbing the things the girls asked for and realized everything was $5. That tub of ice cream, those mochi, the ice cream sandwiches, the frozen mango, the watermelon soda, the milk chocolate covered pretzels. And it was adding $20-$50 to our grocery bill every week. Did we need all of it? No.

The rules this year are fairly simple. We’re sticking to just what we need at the grocery store, and making more of an effort to make things at home rather than buy them. (I’ll write a post of the recipes we’ve been trying and what’s worked and what hasn’t!)

No coffee shops, no takeout, no extra purchases that aren’t necessities.

I waffled a bit on doing this this year because as a money mindset girl, I think once you get restrictive with money, you cut yourself off from the flow. But when I reframed this month as a financial reset, and as us getting resourceful rather than just throwing money at every situation, I embraced it. It’s felt really good and really easy to just say no to buying things right now. There’s no emotion attached to it, it’s just “Can’t do it, No Spend January.” And I’m loving checking my bank balance and thinking YES.

The girls as always, have been awesome. One night Delaney was really, really hungry after riding. We had a meal planned, but it would take 20-30 minutes to cook. I told her we could just go to McDonald’s, that there were times when you just needed to do what you needed to do, but she wouldn’t let me. She insisted that since it was No Spend January, we should just go home and find food, so we did.

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Christmas 2020

I’ve held off on making a post about Christmas because I have no pictures! I feel like that’s par for the course though, I’m horrible at taking pictures at the holidays.

We got a huge blizzard on December 23. 8-10 inches of snow and white out conditions, plus it was below zero cold. I was worried about the horses, because Dexter and Gunnar took forever to go into the barn. In fact, I bailed out of a work call early to go drag them in. By that point they were pretty wet, and we spent the rest of the day drying them with towels every few hours.

Christmas Eve morning we got the house cleaned, the table set, and the roast chicken prepped. Then I headed out to plow snow for TWO hours! I don’t think it will take me that long in the future, but it was the first time I’d moved that much snow, and I had to figure out where to go with all of it. The 4 wheeler with the snow plow did fairly well, but it was no match for the drifts. I had to get the tractor out for that. That was mostly slow going because I drive at granny speed. I’m all about first gear!

After all of that I wanted a nap, but no dice since my parents were coming out for dinner. We played a few games of mah jongg, and then had our roast chicken dinner. I love that dinner. It’s so easy, but always so good!

We were going to watch Christmas Chronicles 2 after dinner, but we were all exhausted (the blizzard was stressful, I didn’t sleep well because of it, then plowing) so my parents headed home early.

Christmas morning it was just the three of us! That’s the first time that’s happened ever. It was nice, but we all said, it was like any other morning at home. I mean, we opened presents, but I should have planned a few more festive things, or at least a different breakfast for us.

Christmas was much, much smaller this year. I said that last year, but this year I actually did it. The girls got a few things, but I didn’t go crazy. A few things for riding, a few shirts/hoodies. It felt good. My parents came out around 10:00am, and we feasted on cinnamon rolls.

We headed into my parents house that afternoon to open presents with them and my brother’s family. It was good to see everyone! We left around 5:00 because … chores. Amazing how that gets us home earlier these days!

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Dexter & Gunner

Oak Hill Farm would like to introduce you to Dexter & Gunner! Our two new additions!

My dad bought Ellie this summer, and while we all love her, she has been a learning experience for everyone. She is very much a herd horse, a follower. She doesn’t like to ride out on her own, or be told which direction to go. After spending the last five months with her, we’ve realized that we’re not the best home for her. We want to be able to saddle up and ride, and right now, that just isn’t her thing.

My dad and I started talking about looking for two trail riding horses. Given how bonded Dash & Buddy are, I thought it would be best to have two horses that would always have each other. Ellie is often the odd horse out, and it breaks my heart.

My dad did some calling around and found a place that had quite a few horses for sale. Last week we headed up to ride a few of them, to see if any were a match for what we were looking for.

We rode four horses. The first two were bumpy. These horses are trained very differently from what we’ve been riding, and it took all of us a bit to get used to things. (In jumping you keep your leg on tight to the horse. In Western, leg on tight means GO!)

Meet Dexter!

Of the horses we were looking at, I was super drawn to Dexter because he looks exactly like Oz. It shouldn’t surprise me, he’s a bay quarter horse as well, but I kept going back over to pet him. They weren’t sure if he would be a good fit, but we threw a saddle on him and I hopped on. It was love at first trot. I connected with him, and felt really comfortable riding him.

After our experience riding the first two, they brought in Gunner since they thought he might be a good fit. You guys. Gunner spoke to me from the moment they brought him in. He made eye contact, wanted me to come over, nuzzled my neck. I kept saying “He’s so chatty! I just want to talk to him!”

Meet Gunner!

In case you wondered, I’m all about the energy, all about the connection!

Riding him was very similar, just ease and flow.

On the drive back my dad and I discussed it and agreed he would buy one, I’d buy the other. (I bought Dexter, the Oz look alike, how could I not?)

Bonus? They’re pasture mates, so they have been living together for a while.

They came home last Friday and have settled in perfectly. Our place is a lot bigger than the pasture they were in previously, and they are loving it! They’ve been exploring the pasture, they love coming into the barn and hanging out, and have met the other three horses from across the fence.

We’ve ridden them twice around our property. It’s bliss. We just walk around the pasture, or out into the hay field. They are both super social, and come up for pets and kisses whenever we come outside. They’re sweet and funny, and feel like they were meant to be ours. I’ve noticed I spend a lot more time out in the barn these days. Chores take a little longer, but it’s also fun hanging out with them.

For now, the two herds are separated. At some point they’ll join up, but probably not while Ellie is still here.

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Lily Update

It’s time for an update on Lily, the barn cat.

A few weeks ago Delaney noticed that she was limping, and not wanting to put weight on one of her front paws. I thought maybe she jumped from up high and injured it? So I watched it for a day, but it only got worse. She didn’t want you to touch it, and it was clearly painful, so I did some googling, found a nearby vet and took her in that day.

They looked at her and assumed it was broken due to the amount of pain she was in. But, they needed to do an x-ray to confirm and to do that they needed to sedate her. They sent us home with the good pain meds, told me she needed to stay inside, and had us come back in the morning for the x-ray.

She loved being in the house. The drugs were good, she was finally pain free, and she just crashed on Delaney’s lap. The next morning we took her in and her paw wasn’t broken! She’d gotten in a fight, and had an injury on her paw that was infected and about to burst. Once they cleaned that out she was happy and (almost) pain free. We kept her in the house overnight again, so she could recover from the sedation. We put a dog bed in my bathroom, and she was super happy.

I intended to have her go back to being a barn cat, but she really loves the house. But, she doesn’t know the rules – she jumped on the counters, tried to scratch the furniture, and scared the dogs. So we came up with a compromise. She spends her days outside, roaming and hopefully hunting. Then at night, she comes in the house. At that point, she’s pretty tired and hangs out in my bathroom on her bed. Occasionally she wanders out, but she’s a cat and likes her alone time. In the morning she goes outside when I take the dogs outside, and runs off to chase squirrels and whatever else she finds. She’s just the sweetest thing ever. I thought she might meow at night, but I only hear her if she runs out of water!

It’s been a match made in heaven because I don’t feel bad that she’s cold, and she’s not bored in the house finding trouble. She’s also very smart. We’ve told her no a few times, and she’s stopped jumping on things and scratching. She also really seems to understand she’s supposed to go to the bathroom outside, and she even asks to go outside. I’m happy and I think she’s happy! (When it gets close to/below zero, she’ll come in the house all day. No worries.)


All the Horses

I did a post on Instagram, but there’s only so much you can type there, so I wanted to go through all of our horses in a blog post, and talk a little more about each of their personalities.

Let’s start with the horses that live at our farm.

First up, Dash. Dash is a gorgeous black and white paint. He’s very regal. He is aggressively social, and will butt the other horses out of the way for a treat. He digs in my pockets, sniffs anything I carry, and will eat the hay out of my hands before I can even put it in a feeder. He is the first one to the fence, hoping for a carrot or peppermint, but is also the only one who will take selfies with me or put up with my shenanigans.

Buddy. Buddy is a chestnut, and he’s pretty old. He’s my introverted guy. At first I felt bad because he would be off on his own, but I’ve learned he just isn’t in for the drama. He looks like a teddy bear, but he rules the barn. He is incredibly particular about the hay he eats, and if he doesn’t approve, he throws it on the ground. His favorite thing to do is eat all the way to the bottom of a feeder. I’ll come out to check how much hay is left, and it will be filled to the top, except one horse head size hole in the middle. I have no idea how he does it! Buddy will do anything for food, but he has to be sure he’ll get food. If I’m just standing at the gate, he’ll wait until he’s absolutely sure I have a treat, and Dash isn’t going to get it, before he saunters over.

Ellie. Ellie is my parents horse, and she joined us in August. She’s a dun colored saddlebred, 16 hands high. (Same size as Lola) I think my mom is Ellie’s favorite person? With Caden a close second. I’m bottom of the list. She’s a big girl, and tends to throw her weight around when it comes to humans. But with the other horses, she has a much meeker personality. This results in the guys bullying her, or not letting her eat at the hay feeder with them. This BREAKS my heart, and I’ve been known to go out and move one of them so she can eat with the other. She’s totally a girl who loves her herd, but lately I’ve found her off on her own more. I think she’s tired of the drama as well.

Lola. She’s the one who made us a horse family! Lola still lives at Skyrock (and likely will until next September) where the girls ride and jump. She lives the life! She rides three times a week, has hay and grain delivered to her throughout the day, and is adored by all (her stall is up front and she gets lots of pets). She is incredibly happy right now. She loves having just Delaney ride her, and is loving the things they’re doing in lessons. She is super dramatic, and has a lot of big feelings about everything. They introduced a few new jumps and she stops, bucks, rears, tosses her head, and makes sure we all know it’s incredibly scary. I could not love her more. (Lola and Oz have had their hair clipped so they can wear blankets. Because they work so hard in lessons, they get sweaty, and we have to make sure they can dry easily. If you look just above her leg, you can see the lighter part where she’s been shaved.)

Oz. Oz is Caden’s horse. He joined us in July and also lives at Skyrock. Ozzie is a bay quarterhorse and he loves to work! Where Lola is long and low, Oz is light and quick. It took Caden a few months to figure him out, but now they’re a great team. He can be a speed demon at times, and is particular about how he’s ridden. You can always tell when he’s mad because he ejects whoever is riding him. I love him. If you ever see him and Lola in the same picture, he’s shorter and darker.

Like true siblings, Oz and Lola love to tussle. This summer Oz lunged and bit at Lola, and just last week Lola bit Oz in the face and gave him a cut. When Ricky told me what happened I said “They aren’t even in the same paddock together!” and he reported she did it when she walked by. I cannot even with these two!

It has been the best of both worlds to have horses at home that we can love on, while still being able to continue riding at our barn. There are times I want Oz and Lola home with us, but we’d have to trailer them to lessons, and right now I just can’t even think through that. Maybe someday we’ll have an indoor riding arena? I have no idea where I’d even put that though!

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Holiday Lights 2020!

I really wasn’t sure what we would do for holiday lights at the farm. Delaney and I had a groove going at the old house, but every time I looked at this house all I saw was a roof that was way too high up. I don’t even have a ladder that goes that high!

The weather was so nice, I knew we had to at least make an attempt. My plan was to use our nets on the hedge, and string lights up the columns. Oddly enough, that plan actually worked! Although had I been thinking ahead, we would have alternated the colored lights and the white lights on the columns, rather than grouping them together, but that’s an enhancement for next year.

Caden helped out this year, which was a first. She was not thrilled initially, but very quickly got into it. We were heavy with our duct tape, so don’t look too closely at anything. Also, the far column is our old white icicle lights. It worked, but up close it looks a mess.

Next year Delaney wants all warm white lights. I’ll be honest, I’m really feeling the multi-colored lights this year, especially everything we have on the hedge. So we shall see!

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It’s probably obvious, but not much has been going on around here. We stay home unless we’re at the barn riding, or out getting groceries. No more projects, which has been nice, and I doubt you want to hear about how we all loved The Queen’s Gambit?

Pandemic updates. I’ve been working from home full time since March. We chose distance learning for the girls from the beginning, but now that cases have skyrocketed, the entire school is in distance learning. I’m hopeful this will be even better for my girls, since it’s a more level playing field with everyone online. Our school district has done a good job, but it’s been exhausting for the girls to sit on google meets from 8-2:30.

We started off the school year in Iowa for the horse show. I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but both girls got behind. While Caden was able to catch up, Delaney never did. And once she had missing assignments, the stress piled up and she just couldn’t complete things. She ended the quarter frantically trying to finish no less than 15 assignments. We had multiple nights where we were up past 10:30pm trying to pull things together. This quarter, she’s kept up with all of her assignments and it’s been such a HUGE difference in her mental state. She’s on top of things, everything is completed that day, and she is much less stressed. Lesson learned!

Overall though, we all love being home. It’s been so much less rushing everywhere, which has been amazing for everyone. Just the other day Delaney and I were talking about how nice our mornings are now that we aren’t racing out the door because we’re late for the bus. Evenings are easier as well, since I can start in on dinner whenever I’m done with my last meeting.

We have a great routine going with the horses. Caden and I do chores in the morning. She feeds Ellie her grain and I throw a bale of hay into the outside hay feeders. Usually takes about 15 minutes, with some time chilling with Lily in there. Delaney and I do evening chores. She feeds everyone their grain, I throw a bale or two of hay in the indoor hay feeders, and we muck out the shelter. Sometimes Delaney grooms Ellie, sometimes we bring the dogs out so they can get some exercise.

Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s been a very quiet November for us, which is what we all needed. Moving to the farm, combined with all of the projects we did was exhausting, so it’s been good to just chill and relax and enjoy!

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Last of the Projects

We had a sizeable list of projects we wanted to finish before my parents went back to Arizona, and truly we knocked everything off the list. I kind of can’t believe we got everything done, but also can? Because that’s how my family works. But it did hit me that we’ve made a lot of changes when the vet came out and said “You guys have done a lot of work in a short amount of time!” Yes we have.

The last big one was replacing the barb wire fence that was out in the open. A good chunk of my property butts up to woods, so while there is a barb wire fence there, it’s embedded in the woods at this point which makes it difficult to tear out, but also not a spot the horses would necessarily try to get out. Because of this, we focused our replacement efforts on three areas of fence that are sections where the fence was out in the open.

None of us really had any idea how long this would take us to do. We had a system down for doing the wood fence, but had to make multiple runs to Tractor Supply, as well as multiple google searches to make a plan for putting up the Electrobraid.

Side note, in case others do research and find their way here. I looked at a few different fence types and ultimately went with Electrobraid. It was recommended by our vet, I liked the way it looked (although I went with all white, not the speckled), and it ships from Amazon for free. There was another fence I liked, but the shipping was as much as the fence, so no go.

The first long stretch of fence took us about two days. My dad hired a kid to help him put in fence posts on Friday, and we strung the fence on Saturday. We adjusted the fence line so that instead of going down the driveway, we followed the trees. This clears my driveway of fence on one side, but also we don’t really want the horses to roam in the wooded area since it isn’t safe. I waffled a few times on where the fence should go, but ultimately, I wanted to preserve as much pasture as possible because I really don’t need more grass to mow.

These pictures don’t really do the fence justice (it’s so hard to photograph!) but I felt a huge sense of relief once these went up. The barb wire sucked all around, and it’s so nice to have at least some of it gone!

There were two more stretches of fence in the back pasture that we did. The weather was a lot colder when we did those, and that was brutal. It made us all realize how lucky we were to have good weather for our other outdoor projects!

The other final projects were putting rubber mats in the other two stalls, and putting up boards around the grooming stall we put in the barn. Which means we’re done with projects for a while! Which means this past weekend we were able to chill! Which was really nice. The projects have been satisfying, and it’s been great to get so much done, but it’s also nice to rest.

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Checking things off the list

We have had an insanely productive last four days! With my parents heading to Arizona at the end of this month, our time to finish everything that needs to be done before winter was getting shorter, so I took two days off of work so we could spend dedicated time working on things. It was worth it!

Thursday. We blew insulation into the attic. Not the sexiest project and there are zero pictures, but it was much needed. This house was going through a crazy amount of gas to heat it, so we looked in the attic and sure enough, no insulation. (My inspector also tipped us off.) Easy enough to rectify this!

While I returned the insulation blower, my dad installed my closet. In the old house I had a gorgeous walk in closet. I thought I would miss it, but I really don’t. I spent the summer wearing 4 pairs of shorts and about 10 t-shirts and LOVED the simplicity of it, so I never missed the rest of my clothes. But, with winter coming, I need my jeans and sweaters, so it was time. Nice and simple, with some hanging space but mostly shelves, and it’s done. I still need to unpack everything, but that will happen soon since Caden is sick of the boxes sitting in the hallway by her bedroom.

Friday. Our focus right now is on the fencing. There is one fence we wanted to add so we could separate the pastures. Because it’s an interior fence, it needed to be wood. There were also a few others where we wanted to replace gates with wood boards. We had dug holes and put in most of the fence posts last weekend, but we still had a bunch more to do. I do not love digging fence post holes.

We also shifted a gate. It was screwed in on the end of the post, so we took it off and moved it to the front of the post, so the gate actually swings like it’s supposed to. Typing it out doesn’t seem like we did much, but I got in over 18,000 steps on Friday, and I remember thinking about going for a run and then realizing I’d already gotten one in. Lots of back and forth to grab tools, or drag posts where we needed them.

Saturday. We built the fence! Finally! The girls helped and they were such great helpers. I love that they’re learning how to drill holes, measure boards, and screw in screws. Life skills.

The fence in the back went up fairly quickly. Once that was done we broke for lunch and then did the paddock fence. After those boards were up I went around and added screws to the older fence boards to make sure things were on tight, and cleaned up random nails that were sticking out.

Next spring this view will look totally different. We’re going to spray paint the fence white, and paint the stall doors white. It will look so crisp and nice!

Sunday. We built more fence! Before I bought the house there was a gate and fencing that allowed the horses to walk behind the house, then down the side of the house to get to the front pasture. We took all of that fencing out a few months ago, but there was still big gates there which were pointless. So we took those out and put in wooden fence posts and boards. It looks so much better!

Because that project went so quickly, we had time to pull up the two tractor tire flower gardens. We dumped the dirt, then stacked the tires on top of each other to make another hay feeder. It worked perfectly! (I forgot to grab a picture but I’ll try to get one in the morning and add it.)

And truly, that’s kind of the theme with the projects we’ve been doing the last few months. Sprucing things up, investing the time and money to make everything not only look nice, but also function better and more safely.

I have a post that is half typed up about moving to the country, but I will say this here, if you are not up for the physical work, don’t do it. I’m actually drawn to the physical work right now. It feels good to be physically tired, to sling bales of hay, to lift boards and drill holes and take care of this land. I helped the guy who boards his horses here stack 160 bales of hay Thursday night and that work is no joke. You should see my biceps these days!

Ellie because she’s gorgeous.

Next up, remove the barb wire fence and replace it with electrobraid. I will cry with joy when this barb wire $#@!! is gone.

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