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Notes from the Heartland

Updated: 2018-03-07T23:22:53.056-06:00


DIY Season is Here!


 It's officially SPRING!  Okay, not "officially".....but officially at our house.  We've seen three robins, we can no longer keep ice cubes frozen in our trunks and the Dairy Queen is open.  Officially Spring.  We all know what Spring means in DIY world.  My list is burgeoning...and this year the focus is definitely outside.   I go to sleep at night thinking about curb appeal....for a giganto white white white house.   We were graced by a beautiful green roof a few years ago thanks to Mother Nature's April Fool's Hail storm.  That rocked....(really it was such a blessing.)  That added a smidge of color...but it's WAAAAY up there in the air.  My next thought was the porch....looking pretty dingy, chippy, icky.  Better fix that.   The floor is a pale taupey color....which I really liked a few years ago when it was shiny and new....but now I feel like we need some color out there.  Shutters?  Maybe shutters will make an appearance this summer??  I had an architecture professor proclaim however that shutters should never be on a house unless they actually work....and would actually cover the entire opening if closed.  Look for yourselves at most houses with shutters....they're really kind of like the bikini of house parts....they sort of cover the edges but don't quite meet in the middle.  Mine would have to be operable and cover the whole window if closed.....(Dad, google "pintle hinges" and "board and batten shutters"....remember all those fabulous grandstand boards....we need to chat) Anyway, the porch railing is a good place to start.  There is a small section on the north end of the porch, then the rest of the wraparound to the south porch.  I started here at the north section and decided to scrape, prep and paint the whole thing before moving on.I've always thought, as an old house owner, you never get quite as well acquainted with your house as you do when you scrape it.  I've helped scrape my folks' house more than a few times and you see the little details up close and personal.  I discovered, while scraping the top rail, that it had once been painted a minty green....very interesting.  Perhaps a former homeowner was looking for a bit of color too. The wood is in great shape....I hope I'm in this good of shape when I'm almost 100 years old too!!  My dad bought me that Purdy carbide scraper and holy cow.  Holy cow.   I am pretty sure there has never been a more wonderful tool for an old house owner.  Scrapes the heck out of stuff.  And because Bob Yapp is my Yoda, I will declare I was never, nor will ever be paid or given product by's just an awesome tool and I thought you should know.  Scraped and ready for paint! Oh she's so beautiful.  I must've looked like a nut to the neighbors, standing on the porch, staring at the railing!  Oh well, wasn't the first, nor will it be the last time my neighbors question my sanity.  I used the Behr paint with that stuff.  This is "Silver Sky", a beautiful blue white.  There are so many whites.  If you're not sure of the white you should use definitely take samples home first...white is not just white...and it usually looks nothing like it did on the sample.Now on to the rest of the railing!And while we're at it I've also decided the porch floor and ceiling are going to get a once over as well.  I laid down two samples for the floor color....but I'm just not sure about either.  I think we'll go with something similar to the left, but with more gray.   This was called "Slate Gray", but is a little too bluey.More to come!~jen[...]

Backyard Reno...VanOort Style


So here's the deal.  I've painted, repainted, renovated, primped, plumped, and refinished EVERY. ROOM. IN. MY. HOUSE over the last ten years.  Realistically, it's time to start over. (Don't read that part Levi)  I want to change paint colors, room arrangements, etc...but it's summer and in summer we should go outside.After ten years, we thought it was time to do SOMETHING outdoors.  Last year we built the Little House, which is adorable and maybe someday I'll write a post about it...maybe not.  I don't like to blog anymore....but I'm doing this for my mom and dad, so they can see what we've been up to! :-)  We've built raised beds in our garden and those work out fabulously.  BUT NOW....NOW we are undertaking our "backyard oasis" as our ten year old calls it.Up there I was standing in the pool.  Okay, not IN the pool, but in the pool spot.  That was last year in September.  My advice if you're considering buying a backyard pool, do it in September or October.  Now you'll have to possess super human patience, since you'll now have to wait approximately ten thousand years eight months to use the blessed thing, but the price difference is staggering....and affordable.In September 2013 this beauty came to live in our backyard.  Lovely, yes?  We love it, the kids love it, the birds love it, leaves love it...everybody wins.  HOWEVER, it sort of looked like it was dropped from outer space into our yard. Plunk.  It's not especially easy to find a spot where a 27' circle can fit in your yard, that goes over no electrical wires, gas lines, cable lines, water lines, ant get the idea.  This is where our 27' circle would fit.  As soon as the pool was installed I started to think about how we could landscape to make it shed it's "plunked from outer space" status. And that's where Rich enters the picture.  The famous Rich who remodeled our bathroom to vintage perfection, drywalled our kitchen ceiling to perfection (without sanding...I know, right?  Is that a thing?  It is.)  Anyway, I got my ideas all pulled together, sent those off to Rich so he could digest them all ideas tend to give Rich the longer the better.  We decided on a set of stairs for the pool with a platform at the full on deck...just a place to do cannonballs from.  Priorities people, priorities.  That doesn't seem so bad, right?We won't discuss what happened when Rich dug the post holes.  It will give you nightmares.  It gave me nightmares....serious, no our entire Subaru with all of us in it could have disappeared and no one would ever have known where we disappeared to.    Alas, Rich handled it and we moved on.  The "post hole problem who shall not be named" is forever a closed case.We moved on.  And the magic started to happen.  Platform!  We love this platform.  See how he laid the boards around the outside first, then laid the others there are no cut edges exposed from the front?  Such nice work.  Rich and my dad are a lot alike.  Think, think, think, then build to perfection.   The bird's eye view from the upstairs window....lovely steps nearly complete AND the big load arrives from the lumberyard.  That truck pulled into our yard at 7:45am...apparently they don't believe in beauty sleep. And then.  Then the big, honkin' beauty of our backyard begins.  Pergola City...that's the new name of our backyard. Up go the posts.  These posts are no joke.  Like, they each took a whole tree to produce those suckers.  Honkin'.Standing tall and proud!  Concrete drying, drying, drying.  I'm trying hard to be patient. In the meantime let's take a look at these lovely pool steps.  Aren't they lovely?  Railings and risers will be white, treads and deck will be stained. Since I don't possess SuperMan strength to lift[...]

How Project Life Rocked My World


So....Pinterest.  It gets us all in in, I want to learn 3897 new crafts....before tomorrow....because I saw it on Pinterest.  HOWEVER, this time Pinterest did not lead me led me to the scrapbooking promised land.   I was scrolling Pinterest...because that's what I do when I'm sleepy.  It's like warm milk for my brain.  THEN, a friend had posted a pic of a Project Life layout.   My brain stood up, shook off the warm milk and was hooked!  I googled Project Life, I hashtag searched, I YouTubed Project Life videos during my morning treadmill can see it's developed into a *smidgen* of an obsession new hobby interest.Let me begin by saying, I am not a scrapbooker.  I tried once, bought three sheets of coordinating paper, and a folder thingy to hold those three sheets of paper.....and they sat there for...hmm....I think I only had one child at that time....that's been a while.  I just couldn't commit.  I have lots of friends who scrapbook and create amazing layouts...but I just couldn't do it. Project Life is super different...tiny little pockets, to fill with lots of beautiful paper, little snippets of our week, day to day photos....maybe that's what hooked me.  I revel in our day to day.  The adorable things our kids say, funny Instagram photos, all the poop jokes that seem to pop up at the dinner table (I live with three men)'s all awesome and makes up the entirety of our life.  It's basically scrapbooking for life, rather than occasional special events.  I. LOVE. IT.Oh, and it indulges my penchant for squirreling away every little bit of paper/ticket stub/business card.....The first week of 2014 lasted for...I'm pretty sure....eleven years.  I was so excited to get my first photos from the year developed and jump into my first layout!! I've decided to do a two page spread for each week (unless we have a super boring, everyone slept all week, kinda week)  One layout= one week, for the entirety of the year. That grapefruit photo = Love.  One of those things I would probably forget Marshall ever said....but now I have it captured.  I just keep my journal with me, laying on the table, in my purse, whatever, and just jot down quick tidbits of the day....then at the end of the week I go through my dslr, my Instagram pics and the journal and pull out the good stuff.  No staging, no fancy stuff, just our real life.My folks are gonna be all over this.  Can't wait to show it to you Mom and Dad!!  Now if I can wrangle in "artist" Jen and let the layout come to rest rather than fiddling it to death and we'll be all set!!  I'll post a pic of the finished layout when it settles in! love and light,jen[...]

Listening From Inside


I love Christmas.I love preparing for Christmas. I love thinking about Christmas. I love Christmas music.  I love decorating for Christmas.  I love buying "the perfect" gifts.  I love food.  I love cookies.  I love spending time with family.  I love Christmas movies.  I love snow.  I love being a Capricorn.I love you man.Basically when the kids threw off their Halloween costumes, the holiday season began at our house.  For real.  I bought gifts early, wrapped gifts early, felt super prepared.   The "festive" level at our house was at Def-Con 5.  Then the real world happened.I worried, I fretted, I obsessed about something (that will remain nameless to protect folks' privacy).As I read the other day, I "borrowed trouble".  Why do we do that?  Worry about the unknown?  It's's unknown!  Isn't that stupid?  Worrying is like rocking in a rocking chair. It's something to do to pass the time, but it's not going to get you anywhere.The festive went on, I stayed pretty festive.  But the worry would creep back over me, like a fog.And then.I had a dream.  Do you believe in the power of dreams?  I mean...not like I wished for a unicorn before I went to sleep and then woke up riding one....not that kind.Do you believe you can receive messages when you're not so darn busy worrying about stupid things?I do.At least I do, until I let the worry creep on me again.  I'm naughty like that...human I guess.This dream, which was very warm and full of yellow and orange, if that makes any sense, told me everything is all right.  Everything is going to be all right.I've received messages in dreams before...but I shant go into those right now, for fear you already think I'm fit to be shipped off to the looney bin.Believe your inner voice, friends.  It won't lead you astray.The holiday season went on......AND message came true, I was filled with joy and laughter and giggles and remembered why we shouldn't borrow trouble.  It takes away from today.Oh, and I let my kids play video games until they fell over in exhaustion.  Don't worry, this one reads more in his free time than you, me and the rest of the free world put together.  It's okay to break rules sometimes.And listen to the messages that lead us to lives of and light, jen[...]

Pumpkin Patch Weekend


Fall has arrived in Iowa....okay it arrived a long time ago, who am I kidding.  While I have my eye set on the holiday season, my kids are firmly planted in the idea that Halloween is the biggest deal since sliced bread.  I remember....the candy, the costumes, the parties at's a big deal in kid land.  Our traditional trip to the pumpkin patch was wonderful.  We are lucky to have several REALLY great pumpkin patches nearby, but our newest favorite is at Bass Farms across the road from Palisades Kepler State Park.  Bass Farms is a CSA during the summer months, and roadside vegetable vendor...they rock.  They don't use any chemical spray, grow organically and well, they basically just rock.  We're always happy to hand over our pumpkin dinero.  The kids searched high, the kids searched low, Daddy filmed the whole thing.  You HAVE to check out the video...the VanOort rendition of "What the Fox Says" at the end = Classic.  And as if the day could get any better, the delightful owner of Bass Farms offered my kids each a sack to cram as many tiny gourds into as they could, on the house.  Two little kids, with two sacks, and a GIANT box of tiny gourds....they were thrilled.Keeping the tiny gourds in the sack long enough to get to the car...that was a challenge all on its own.Pumpkin carving tonight!love and light, Jen[...]

So Whatcha Been Up To?


Ten months, shmem months.  What's a year between friends, right? I will admit, I have fallen into the netherregions of bloggerdom. 
BUT!  While I've been non-blogging, we've been having a marvelous time!  Onion Grove Mercantile, the business end of this fun parade has gone wild...thanks to so many of you!!!  


Making a living doing something you love is AH-MAY-ZING.  It's truly a blessing.  This business has taken me in so many unexpected directions!  Onion Grove Mercantile now has an Etsy shop and website, which is now in transition to a new hang with me there while it's updating! You can take a peak if you would like to!  The first time someone called me a "signpainter" I thought, wow, that's cool!  A business that sprang from a side project for a dear friend and into something that I can be so proud of!  

ANYWAY, I'll try to be more bloggy....I've sworn off Facebook (sorry Facebook friends), so this shall once again be my outlet for family/home/lifey type tidbits....mostly because my Dad asked me to.  Love you Dad! ;-)

Love and light friends!

Snow Day


Happy Snow Day friends!  We woke up to a snowy wonderland this morning, and how better to celebrate a day off school than blueberry muffins and The Devil Makes Three on Sonos.  Don't even get me started on Sonos.  I love that thing.  Life changing, for reals.The second best thing about days off school?  KIDDOS!!!!  When I was a young mama, many moons ago, I thought, oh won't life be easier when the kids are in school.  Well, it's different, but I miss those little turkeys!  We played and played and played outside.The birds need to shovel their front stoop!  Oh, and yes, my kids sled down the porch steps!  You gotta do what you gotta do folks.Such characters.The most delicious way to top off a snowy, fun filled day....homemade bread and vegetable soup.  Precious day with precious and light,jen[...]

All Time Faves


Do you guys ever check that "stats" thingy on your blog page?  I just discovered that thingy with my Onion Grove Mercantile blog.  It's kinda cool to see which posts folks think are better than sliced bread.  I'm not going to go crazy and say any of my posts are equivalent to segmented bakery goods, but there are a few that have more than three visits.  Three is my high water mark.  I decided to check out the stat thingy over here at Notes From the Heartland too...just for kicks.  I mean it's cold, it's dark at 2pm and I have some time on my hands in between NetFlix episodes of Sons of Anarchy.  Okay, don't even pretend you can't get behind a long haired tattooed biker with a big heart.  Okay, okay, I'm NOT a fan of the gratuitous violence (I cover my eyes) but the bikers, yeah I kinda like the bikers.  There should really be a girly version of that show.  Long haired cute bikers minus the yucky blood and guts. Like, maybe they run a pet shelter and fight for the rights of pets everywhere.I actually married a tattooed biker....wanna see?Hehehe. So I digress, back to the stat thingy.  I thought it would be fun to review my top 5 stat thingy posts. they are.  On to to the statistical fun.Number 5!  The garden markers made from.....can you guess?  Of course you can.  Can...can....get it?  Can?  Orange juice can lids!  These are a fave.  Number four!  The dry erase project made for one of my besties.  She has five kids...and runs a cafe....and basically volunteers for everything she's ever been asked to do.  Please don't ask her to join your group, I like to go dancing with her once in a while. ;-)Number 3!  This one surprised me a tad...I like these the message they deliver, but still a little surprised.  I think these puppies rode the subway sign wave that went crazy a year or two ago.Number 2!  The Wallpaper potion. This will change your life. Swear.  Well, I guess it can only change your life if you have wallpaper.  Okay, I guess maybe not everyone has wallpaper anymore.  If you live in a 100 year old house like us, you'll want to send me chocolates.  For reals.AND......I know you've been holding your breath through all that other junk.....I PRESENT NUMBER ONE!!!!  Crockpot Mongolian Beef. There.  Done.  Now I have to say, while this stuff is pretty good, I don't know that it warranted 107,679 visits.  Really, people?   Thus is the magic known as Magic Mike...heheheh...that really just made me laugh out loud.  My internet bestie (someday real life....I'm going to photobomb his upcoming trip to the just watch Michael...I'm gonna be there;-) Michael of Inspired by Charm is magical.  Michael has the Midas touch when it comes to Pinterest. If he pins you, you'd better be prepared.  FYI.This Mongolian Beef post is probably ready for a Caribbean vacation.I hope you enjoyed this little tour through my stat thingy!  love and light,jen[...]

I'm Back...Maybe...Well I'll Try

2013-01-21T16:31:43.115-06:00 we are....four months later.  I have to say that I wax and wane with my interest level toward my personal blog.  Uh, we just have to look at the ole blog header up there to determine!!  It's perpetual summer here in Iowa, hadn't you heard?  I did change my profile pic...that's pretty good, right? I should really post a "real life" photo of myself next to that one.  I have look liked that one day in my life.  The  other jillion days of my life I have a pony tail, no makeup and paint splattered from stem to stern.  So, in defense of all women who are intimidated by foofoo photos of other women....this is what I REALLY look like (pre-pro makeup & hair).  Normal, normal, normalty normal.  Yay for normal. ;-) I had an art teacher in high school who refused to take videos of family events, or even use a camera for the most part, because he said you were missing out on LIVING life, while you were trying to CAPTURE life.  I think about that a lot. I enjoy reading other folks' blogs about recipes, but really don't want to take the time to take photos of every step myself.  I love seeing "before & after" shots of home projects...keep up the great work friends!  However, I tend to dive in and not take photos til my projects are finished, if even then.  SO, I'll try to do better, friends...try to plop out a blog entry once in a while, but my husband does a great job blogging about our family, mostly for the benefit of my folks and I have stayed super busy with my third baby (not really a real baby, don't go crazy).  Onion Grove Mercantile has taken on a life of its own.  I went legit this year and even filed TAXES.  CA-RA-ZY, right?  I feel so blessed to pursue my art and make a contribution to our family finances!  Life stays busy, our kids keep growing and we are loving every minute of it!  I included a couple shots of some of my faves from the last few months!Our oldest celebrated his NINTH birthday last week. Whoa.  I understand every bit of what my art teacher meant now....while you're not looking your kids will grow into little "oh look at this little baby" to BOOM! young man in a blink.That shaggy hair makes me grin everyday.  This kid knows who he is, is proud of it and is a beautiful ray of light in the and light,jen[...]

Sock Drying, Fun for All Ages


I know.  Right now you're asking yourself, what kind of magic has been performed on these children.  LINING UP to help with chores.  Hanging socks, nonetheless.  Quite possibly the worst job in the "hanging-of-clothes" line of profession.Enter Papa.  AKA, The Genius.  Yes folks, my dad is a genius.  After spotting one of these babies hanging from an Amish clothesline (we love our Amish around these parts) he took a snapshot in his brain and recreated it for my clothesline.  And my sister-in-law's clothesline.  And another for my sister-in-law's clothesline (those folks have A LOT of socks...possibly more than two feet per person, I don't know what's going on over there.)And let me tell you, we kinda fight about who gets to hang the socks now because it's SO DARN FUN.   The socks don't get folded over the clothesline, so they dry so nice and evenly and they flap around in the wind so they don't resemble cardboard when removed from the sock dryer.  It's revolutionized our feet. Kids, lining up to do chores.  Does life get better?Then of course we need to take a break from the fun for some more fun.  Running through drying sheets has to be one of the all time best things about kid-dom.  If you never had the opportunity I strongly encourage giving it the college try now.  I grew up running through my grandmother's drying sheets and towels and there's nothing better.Happy socks.  Happy Mama.One last, kinda crummy photo, for those of you "recreators" who would like to see the top view for making your very own sock dryer.  Everyone needs more fun in their life...sock drying should be part of that. :-)Be kind to each other,jen[...]

Lemon Blueberry Bread


It's officially Fall in Iowa.  It's official because I say it's official.  In a hundred year old house, when the weather turns cool, you freeze.  I'm frozen.  The glitch here is that I have a rule for myself (and all the innocent victims who live with me.)  No furnace until November (if humanely possibly).  So, like a little cave woman I'm  huddled over the only heat source in the house (besides the lap dog)....the oven.  It's time to bake, get warm and put on my winter "layer". tehehehe.  This bread is insanely delicious.  Bring over a crowd while baking because A) your house will smell divine.  B)  your winter layer will become extra thick unless you share.Enjoy friends!Lemon Blueberry Bread1 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt1 cup plain yogurt1/2 cup sugar2 large eggs2 teaspoons grated lemon zest1/2  teaspoon vanilla 1/2 cup vegetable oil1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)Lemon Syrup1/3 cup fresh lemon juice1/3 cup sugardissolve over medium heat, cook 3 minutes, stirringLemon Glaze1/2 - 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted (or not, I forget sometimes when the wild beasts sweet children are begging for Lemon Bread NOW!!)2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juicemix together(if you start with the juice then gradually add the sugar you'll get to JUST the right consistency)----------------------------------------------------------Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x5 loaf pan (or whatever size you have....I just wing it)Sift the dry ingredients together, mix the wet ingredients together, combine.Mix the blueberries with the tablespoon of flour.  Fold them into the batter. (GENTLY!  Don't beat the poor things to death or you'll have blue bread. Or on second whatever you want, blue bread is fun too.)Bake 50 minutes (or 70...whatever it takes to get the toothpick to come out clean when you poke it), cool ten minutes then remove from pan.Place bread on plate.  Poke with fork or toothpick about 13.5 times.  Brush with Lemon Syrup.  Once, let dry a tad.  Twice, let dry a tad.Pour Lemon Glaze over the bread.  As much or as little as you like. YUM!!!![...]

Oatey Crunchy Coconut Cookies


I have a four year old who, everyday after preschool, asks what I did while he was gone.  He's not interested in how many signs I designed/painted/shipped, if I vacuumed or the seventy loads of laundry I did. He wants to know if I did anything "SPECIAL". SPECIAL = sweet treats.  And he wants to be surprised.  I trotted out a recipe I hadn't made in a while today....and half of them are gone as I type.  They are soft, crunchy, oatey, coconutey, delish!!   Enjoy!

Oatey Crunchy Coconut Cookies
1/c cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups quick oats
2 cups rice cereal
1 cup flaked coconut

In a large mixing bowl cream shortening and sugars.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.  Stir in oats, cereal and coconut.
Form 1" balls in hands, plop onto ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 7-9 minutes or til golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.

Sweet Sticky Spicy Chicken


I think I've developed a pattern.  I eat....wait four months....then post the recipe.  Nothing else.  I stink as a blogger lately. ;-)  My sincerest apologies.  In my absence please enjoy the forty billion other blogs who actually make an effort.  Life has changed around here in the last year....I would never have guessed 365 days ago that I would own a business...and a business that is CRA-ZEEEEE busy.  Feel free to check that out if you's fun.  www.oniongrovemercantile.comYou will be happy you stopped by today, however, because this recipe is the shanizzle.  Oh...and it's stupidly easy...and you moms know what I'm throwin' down...week in four million places at need easy.  You'll dig this.I'm a fan of chicken.  Not much else in the meat world....but chicken, I can get behind.  Now throw the words, sweet, sticky, and spicy in front of it and I am a very happy chicken eater.  The level of spicy can be adjusted for your family's needs....we breathe fire around here...FYI.Sweet Sticky Spicy Chicken Ingredients1 tablespoon brown sugar2 tablespoons honey1/4 cup soy sauce2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger root2 teaspoons chopped garlic1 tablespoon red pepper flakes ***(please back off on this if you don't like "heat"...I don't want you to injure yourself)salt and pepper to taste4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1/2 inch strips  (I use only meat from Wallace Farms...check them out...Nick rocks!)1 tablespoon vegetable oil DirectionsMix together brown sugar, honey, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and pepper flakes in a small bowl.Lightly salt and pepper the chicken strips.Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken strips and brown on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens, 8 to 10 minutes.[...]

Garage to Studio Remodel....The Beginning


Hello friends!  After a year of home improvement projects (kitchen and bath and an assortment of various other things) I didn't think my husband would breathe a word of projects for...well....into infinity.  WRONG-O. It's so unlike him. ;-)  Or maybe he's tired of paint cans on the kitchen table.  That's probably it.  heheheOut of the blue this weekend he said "I think next year's big project should be converting the garage into your studio."  Um....WHAT????  I'd been dreaming/planning/hoping for this project....but wasn't sure he'd ever be on board.  I think he wants a new garage....that might be part of the motivation.  This last year I have been blessed with finding a path that I never really intended, but just happened to find me.  My sign painting business, Onion Grove Mercantile, has kept me busier than I ever imagined....and I love every minute of it!!  Well most minutes of it.  When I had one or two signs to paint it wasn't a big deal to work on them at the kitchen table....but when I have 40 signs to work on it becomes *a bit* of an issue.  A space of my own would be amazing....a space that can stay messy and I can dribble paint without panic.So here she is friends.  Oh, and there are actually DOORS on this little barn....they're just all open right at this particular moment.  I'm thinking we'll enclose one side, install a window, then have a swinging barn door on the right side.  The little door up top there needs some work too....that would be neato with a window in the big space, and the window reinstalled above that. (Stained glass??  I really am getting crazy now!) (source...BHG)I sorta totally love this....I'm not insane though....there shall be no tiled floor in my studio, or curtains...but I'm really digging the barn light and details.Here is all the interior beauty.  Can you see it?   Windows installed on the left wall there to let in some light, work tables, a big sign easel, paint storage......maybe a new floor?  This one is pretty bad.  You would think we've had a crazy earthquake or something...heaves like you wouldn't believe.  The space is really big though....would work perfectly for working on some of those giganto signs you folks come up with! :-)Then there's this dilemma.  My husband seems to think...*rolling eyes and being sarcastic*....that this piece of junk needs to be INSIDE the garage.  Just kidding, just kidding.  I luvs this car....super fun to drive and I just look cool doing the baby needs a home.  A new-garage-type-home me thinks.  Sitting in the middle of my studio is just not going to work for either of us.Currently this is the access to the long as I stay thin and sprightly this works...otherwise, uh...not so much.  I'm thinking something more like this would be nice.....along the back wall. (source?...who knows...broken link on Pinterest...shocker, right?  I'm becoming a total Pinterest snob...I know, shame on me)This is the attic space....nice and tall.  Swimming anyone?  The whole thing needs to be shored up, and the floor relayed...right now it's a bit like walking on marshmallows....and not in a good way.  A big hearty prayer before each step comes in handy.ANNNDDD....the electrical.  Houston we have a problem.   Not so much problem in terms of *do the lights turn on or not*...more like *I'm afraid the whole joint might burn down if I plug in a radio*.Call me crazy....but I'm thinking duct tape might not be an approved electrical component.So'll have to listen to me blabber on about this project for the next y[...]

The Lonely Orphaned Sign


Hey folks!  Look, I'm still here!  Not much, but once in a while. ;-)   Onion Grove Mercantile is going a little crazy now....crazytown crazy.  A few pins by my magical  friend named Michael and I've been catapulted into the sign stratosphere....and let me tell you, it's a darn fun place to orbit!  Busy place, thus the lack of attention to poor ole Notes From the Heartland.  I've been learning lots about to stay to keep books (sorta) to NOT dip my hair in the paint EVERY.TIME.I.PAINT...I mean, not like that happens EVERY time....okay, it happens EVERY time.

This past week brought a new lesson.  Custom work is risky....unless you demand funds up front.  This poor girl pictured above is an orphan.  Painted, ready to go, never paid for.  Lesson learned...the hard way.  

But she's so lovely, I just keep moving her around my own house.  If you're interested in seeing the rest of the non-orphaned signs I've been up to you can check them out on FACEBOOK and the O-FFIC-IAL Onion Grove Mercantile website.  Talk to you soon friends!

Crock Pot Mongolian Beef


I don't ordinarily blog about food this often...but it's winter....and I live in Iowa...and I'm cold....and hungry.  So there.  Today is your lucky day though friends because I have discovered what may be one of my FAVE crockpot concoctions ever.  Crockpot Mongolian Beef....who woulda thunk it? Not I.  

Go forth...make Crockpot Mongolian Beef.  You can thank me later...oh and I like tulips and chocolates.  

Crockpot Mongolian Beef
1 1/2 lb. ball tip steak or flank steak (from Wallace Farms if you're nearby...Nick rocks)
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 sliced green onions
1 tsp. dried onion
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. white wine
1/4 c. cooking sherry
1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. red chili flakes
1/2 tablespoon peanut butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch

1) Slice meat thin, put in baggie with cornstarch.
2) Put all liquid and dry spices into crockpot, add PB, mix well.
3) Add garlic and 3 green onions.  Put meat on top, toss gingerly.
4) Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours (mine took around 4).

Holiday Tour 2011...just a teensy late


Did you hear? Our home was included in the Clarence Friends of the Library 2011 Holiday Home Tour.  The preparation is nothing short of a type of torture that I'm SURE has been outlawed by the Geneva Convention.  HOWEVER, the benefit is that all those nagging little (and big) projects that had been hanging out there in la la land got DONE.  Go grab a snack, a drink, and some toothpicks to keep your eyes open as you peruse the next 30 something photos of the all its CLEANESS.  Did I mention I have an eight year old boy, a four year old boy and a 35 year old boy?  They all live the same the same time I had to keep the ENTIRE house clean.  I deserve a trophy for that.  Or a tiara.Have I mentioned how much I love my kitchen now?  I'm going to share that love AGAIN soon in a Before and After post.   The dining room.  I managed to hide my oakey oak dining room table...the hubster put the kabosh on painting or staining it.   Little does he know the plans afoot when he leaves on his next business travel overseas.  BWAHAHAHA.Hedge apples....just because they're cool. God bless my husband and friend for lugging the cabinet out of the basement.  I love this thing.  Love.  The weight...well....just shy of elephant.The $1 chair.  More on that to come too....I'm such a tease. So here's the deal.  When a person hides their oakey oak dining have to do something about those oakey oak dining CHAIRS.  Solution?  Hide them in the basement and scrounge the house.  I kinda love the bench there.  That might least until I find permanent "new" chairs.  Actually what I would sorta totally love is to have mismatched...just all in the same wood tone....or painted....The den....because my dad is a genius bookcase builder.  Love that guy.Master bedroom. Makes me want a nap.Guest room.  Uh yes, I'm a ding dong and this is the only shot I took.Back to being a tease.  This is the new downstairs bath....that deserves its own post.  Its own blog really.  Its own country to run to be honest.Back stairs.  Do I have a photo of the beautiful front stair case and foyer tree you ask?  Uh no.  Woops.Upstairs bath.  Artwork by a very famous artiste named Marshall V.  He was two.  Genius. Pure genius.Boys' roomIf you're still awake I thank you for taking the time to go through my virtual Holiday Home Tour. Oh, it's January you say?  Just pretend it's Dec. 25 and you're delighted to look at Christmas photos. ;-)[...]

Cranberry Pork Roast (Tenderloin)


Yum. Yum. Yum. Yum.  I have a new "thing" for my crockpot.  Who knew?  This could possibly be the best invention for busy moms since the electric sweeper.  I actually have TWO crockpots now.  A little one and a big one....because recipes call for different sizes, did you know?  I mean, who wants to make a gallon of cheese dip?  Not I.  But a gallon of  yummy soup, yes please.

ANYWAY, tonight I tried a new recipe and it was the bomb.  Cranberry Pork Roast.  Well actually mine was Cranberry Pork Tenderloin because that's what I had in the freezer....and I only get meat from Nick from Wallace Farms....and my next meat delivery isn't for a couple weeks.  Don't get me started...but you should get a meat will change your life for the better.

Here's the deets'd better try'll thank me.

Cranberry Pork Roast (Tenderloin)
Pork Roast (2.5-3lbs) or Tenderloin
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 T. cornstarch
1 c. fresh cranberries 
1/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. golden raisins
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/3 c. cranberry juice
1/2 small lemon, sliced

In a zipper bag combine dry spices, cornstarch and meat.  Shake.  Plop into crockpot.  Dump other ingredients on top.  Top the whole show with sliced lemons.

Cover, cook on low 8 hours.  Enjoy!

Oh, and on a side note. RUN, do not walk, to your grocery store RIGHT NOW and grab every bag of fresh cranberries you see.  Bring them home and throw them all in your freezer.  
Just try finding fresh cranberries in July....dare ya.

Well Hello There Loveys


What the.....what?  I know, right?  I'm POSTING.'s a small piece of miracle.  Okay, maybe a large piece of miracle.  How ya'll been?  We only have oh.....400,000 months to catch up on...yes?  I think everyone goes through this, right?  You go along fine for a while, thinking of lots of things to talk about, yammering endlessly.  Then, whammo.  You hit the wall.  Or in my case, I got busy as H-E-double hockey sticks!!  I haven't been brave enough to count how many signs I painted before Christmas.  Seriously folks, it was crazy.  Then I landed my lil ole self in the hospital...I'm fine....but don't overdo it ladies (and gentlemen)...stress catches up with your body.  Our elf, Elfy, kept us company all through December.  I kinda wish our bathroom sink was bigger...who wouldn't want to take a marshmallow bath with a guy from the North Pole?  Okay that sounded weird.  Think of it in a "non weird" way.Anywho, the sign painting has been going along swimmingly.  I have lots of favorites from this year that I'll share soon....there are a bajillion. And my friends....seriously??!!  My friends are having knockout years....while I've been not blogging, they've been lighting up the night sky!  Did you hear that my dear Loo Who (Michael from Inspired by Charm) was published in a REAL LIFE magazine!!  Shut up, you say?  No, really!  Awesome, right??  If you haven't seen Folk you must run out into the street THIS MINUTE and find a copy.  I'm going to stalk my favorite flower farmer until her shipment comes in...then I'm on it like white on rice.  I mean, he's so famous now that I feel like a groupie. Okay, who am I kidding....I'm a Loo Who groupie. You rock Michael!!  Remember the little people. ;-)Then there's my friend Kim...yeah you know her....Kim at The NewlyWoodwards.   She's awesome all on her own...I mean really? Anyone who can set monthly goals and actually accomplish them...crazy.  But then she goes and gets herself in the FAMILY WAY!!  Shut up, you say?  No, really!!  Kim is going to have a BEEBEE!!  And that beebee will undoubtedly reside in the snazziest room, with the snazziest jammies, with snazzy stuff to do.  All made by my Kim.And if I don't feel sluggy and boring friend CATHY goes and gets her flower farm  listed with Silos and Smokestacks!!!!   That's a big deal folks.  BIG.  STINKIN'.  DEAL.And , well,  everyone else has been up to all kinds of cool stuff too.....==================>I can't promise I'll be all bloggy everyday...but I promise to try harder!  See ya soon![...]

It's POTTY Time!


I will say, this post seems a little like cruel and unusual punishment for you fine readers.  I get all lazy-pants on posting lately...and the first thing I come up with is a potty post.  That's how I roll folks.  Three men = need for two potties. This is a big deal-e-o around these parts.   First, have a look-see at my plumber up there.  It's always great to see means progress will happen.  Thankyoulord. 

And no plumber butt is ever involved....double bonus.

It's alllllmmmmmoooooossssttttt time.

She's in!   Water flowing.  Flushable.  She's a beaut.  Look at those beautiful square lines. 
Now this is a potty. 
A pretty potty.

Here's the deets if you're interested....because I know this post was riveting. ;-)

Pots for Sale


I have A.LOT. of catching up to do.  I blogged a total of 1.5 times over the summer....and SO MUCH happened!  To kick off catch up week we'll take a look at a recent sign!  My friend Becky ,of Willow Avenue Pottery ,asked me to paint another sign for her.  Do you remember the first?  One of my favorites.  This time she asked for a sign to help folks realize the pots in her studio are FOR SALE...not just shelf decoration. ;-)  We played around with some ideas....and landed here.  Becky was so sweet to share the sign photo on which her first response was, "I feel like I can get a hot shave next door! And a nickle root beer!"  That was a HUGE compliment....that's exactly what we were going for!!Becky and I don't deal in dollars.  We deal in pottery.  The first sign netted me a GORGEOUS. CUSTOM. GIGANTO fruit bowl.  I love it.  I fill it with fruit and take lots of photos of it.  I protect it from crazy boys.  I proudly tell the story of the fruit bowl everytime someone asks...and sometimes when they don't. ;-)  NOW, my fruit bowl has friends!!   Matching friends to be exact.  Two pretty tumblers and a beautiful deep little bowl.  Becky is a master with the glaze....she creates the most amazing finishes.Right now Becky is busy with the fall harvest here in Iowa....but the snow will fly soon and she'll be back in the studio.  EVERYONE needs a piece of Willow Avenue pottery for Christmas.  Just sayin'.You can check out Becky on Facebookher blogor her website![...]

Smiling Spoons


Shortly after our kitchen remodel wrapped up my boys discovered something really neat.  Every morning their cereal spoons smile at them.  Every morning.  Awesome. 

Sink Love


Normal people, who don't drive their general contractors insane, buy sink vanities.  I'm pretty sure I've clearly established "normal" isn't really a big part of me.  ;-)  From the time the bath remodel was a gleam in my eye I knew I wanted two sinks.  Four people live in this house....and we all  have teeth that need brushed.  SO.....the search began for a "something" for two sinks to fit in.  Being of the abnormal variety I was thinking buffet....long table...sideboard...somethin'!  Four times I walked past this table at the Junk Asylum.  It was gray.  It was covered in oily objects.  The vision just wasn't hitting me.  THEN.  It did.  I bought it and threw it in the car. My dad will be only took three college degrees for me to figure out ONE table could be divided into TWO HALVES.Luckily enough these shiny babies came into my life about the same time.  $320 Kohler sinks....for $40 the ReStore.  The cosmos was smiling on me that day.  Two MATCHING, BRAND SPANKIN' NEW, KOHLER sinks....with cutting templates.So anyway, back to the table.  It sat on the porch for two months a while.  Then Rich decided to go into supersonic contractor speed and the need for me to finish my wackadoo project became more urgent.  I stripped the icky gray paint with the super good orange citrus stripper.Stripped the pretty details. Then......what is that?  Is that a pretty little spot of turquoise under that ugly gray?  Why, it is.  My plan had been to strip the tops clear down to the wood....the table is oak.  BUT.... How could I with that beautiful color staring at me? The other tiny tidbit of a detail that needed a solution was the fact that this was a kitchen table....and unless you are 4'-9", that height isn't very conducive to teeth brushing.   I would be of the 5'-9" variety and I wanted tall vanities darnit.  If you come to my house I'll get you a stool to stand on.  We bought two different bun feet, screwed them together and screwed that whole show into the table legs.  Dad to the rescue again...I should have taken photos of that whole process....threaded inserts....the whole deal.  He does things the "right" way....thank goodness. I painted the legs to within an inch of their life with oil enamel paint.  Smooth as butter.  Spar urethaned the tops....which smells like poo poo....but does the job.Today Rich installed the whole show....and put the sinks in the holes just to make me happy.  (Plumbing coming soon!) Oh hello beautiful babies.  I've stood in the bathroom (in socks of course) about 23 times today staring at the sink tables. I love them that much.  My husband has had the nerve to question their functionality.  He can put the proverbial sock in it.  If I needed to stand on my head to brush my teeth I would do that at this point.  These girls aren't goin' anywhere! And this is what they look like in the evening.And from above. And close up with those beautiful chippy, turquoise tops. And the dynamic kazaa shot. And again with the sinks.  And again. The $40 price tag I enjoy looking at....but promise to remove before the Holiday H[...]

Bathroom Update Monday!


I'm feeling like a kid in a candy store right now.  A really lucky kid.  It would be wrong to ask everyone to just LOOK at this bathroom and not actually use it, wouldn't it?  I've never been a huge fan of bathroom cleaning....but I have a feeling I'm going to be a little neurotic about cleaning in's just so darn pretty.Tile is completely finished.   Grout is dry.  The shower is just waiting for Plumber Wes to come back.  When that water gets turned on he'd better jump out of the room because I'm going to slam the door shut and jump's been TWO MONTHS of bathing in the upstairs tub....and I'm not a fan.  A shower sounds like heaven.With the harvest imminently approaching here in Iowa I'm going to lose Rich for a good month.  He wanted to get the sinks mounted before he is in the Sunday was spent finishing the sink wall.  GOD BLESS my dad for helping me...I was on the edge of Breakdownville just thinking about everything I had to get done....baseboard, beadboard, setting nailheads, wood filler, caulk, primer, paint, spar urethane on sink table tops, paint on table legs....oh dear lord.  Somehow it all got a sign!  As usual, my mom kept the rest of the house running smoothly in my absence.  I'm a lucky lucky girl.  Wish they lived closer.   By 5ish on Sunday I was to this point....just starting primer.  I required a chocolate shake to contine.  I would have ran an IV drip of chocolatey goodness if I could've gotten my hands on one.   Oh....and started painting the window.  We have weird replacement windows in our house that came unfinished.  I noticed it right away when we looked at the house for the first  years ago.  Then we moved in...and I said "those windows are hideous....they will be painted."  Um...yeah.  That was seven years ago.'s happening now. Bright and early Monday morning we had a beautiful beadboard wall finished....with approximately 283 coats of paint slathered on.  I haven't put the top cap on yet....but that will happen eventually.  I got to the point Rich needed...and that made me (and he) happy. His happiness lasted a few hours while he trimmed out the window and started on the closet door. the time of this photo he was plotting ways to murder me and make it look like an accident.  Apparently the closet door that I insisted on using (which I LOVE and bought for $1 at a school auction) wasn't EXACTLY square.  Well to begin with it was a hundred years old.  I doubt if I will be square at a hundred either.  The door jamb Rich had built WAS exactly square.  You're picking up what I'm putting down, yes?  Some naughty words were uttered...I made myself scarce...I didn't even tell anymore jokes about Rich's Hawkeyes losing to my almighty Cyclones last weekend.  He got cranky.  I offered lots of muffins. Now really....wasn't it worth it?  Look at that beautiful old girl.  I love it.  I knew I would.  Rich digresses. I still have to strip the inside of the door and paint it white...but the outside will keep its beautiful aged stained wood.[...]

Tile as Far as the Eye Can See


Guess what?  The tiling is FINISHED!!!!  FINISHED!!! FINISHED!!!  Wes did an amazing job....and I have "finished" photos to share....but I'm tired....and a teeny bit cranky....from being here's another shot of the back of Wes' head doing amazing work.

More soon. :-)