Our first Christmas on the farm!

 

Our first Christmas on the farm is special to me because I always love this time of year but I also love to decorate for the holidays. A lot of our decorations we did have had been in storage for years so it was like getting all new stuff to start decorating here. Fun! I did decide not to buy Christmas lights because we had SOME and we didn’t need a ton and maybe next year when the farm is more established I will fee more like budgeting in to add more festive lights or something.

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I think I might have had the most fun decorating the gate. I love that we have this at the start of our property that I can change the decorations with the seasons and holidays. It makes me smile when I come home. I’d like to think that every so often my neighbors maybe enjoy it. But hey, even if they don’t, I love it and I guess that is what counts! =D

 

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Cute! The stuff along the top and the stars I did buy new but I got them at the dollar store! Lol! I didn’t spend more than $10 on a few new decor things to add to what we had.

 

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This is the gate from my parking area to the front porch. I love Poinsettias!

 

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I threw 2 strings of white isicle lights up along the front of the deck and that is really about it. I don’t enjoy hanging lights and we had so many that were broken and a tangled mess (a typical issue for most) that I didn’t want to fuss with it. The inside decor was more important to me because we see it all the time.

 

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I put together this cute center piece for the dining room table of all fake flowers from the dollar store, a red ribbon and some other little things. I really enjoyed having this on the table for the month!

 

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Sticker to go over the buffet with garland and poinsettias ON the buffet.

 

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Our festive dining room setup! =D

 

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Our tree!

 

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When we put this tree up I thought I’d write a whole blog post about how important a tree is or how symbolic it can be. But since I didn’t at the time and now the occasion has come and gone I thought I’d just say something breifly about why it is so important and symbolic to ME! I had my 1st son when I was 19. The first 9 years of his life our lives were closely tied in with my Mother. We either lived with her or really close to her. So Christmas was always about her tree, her decorations and when both of my boys would bring home homemade decorations from school they’d proudly go up on the tree. Well a couple of years ago I had so many special ornaments from my boys that I didn’t want them lost, broken or anything so I started separating our Christmas stuff. Then my Mom moved to Louisiana and I had a “hand me down” artificial Christmas tree. Two years ago when I thought I’d get a real tree I sold my fake tree. Then that next Christmas I didn’t get a real tree, we didn’t even decorate and instead left Az and spent the holidays in Louisiana with my Mom, my younger son and the rest of our family out there. So THIS year…after getting everything out of storage for the first time years…I found all those special ornaments. But we had no tree. I didn’t think about it and didn’t budget to buy a tree. I considered getting a real tree and I didn’t feel like I could afford it. So I went to the store on a whim and said “Screw it, I’m doing this!” and I bought a decent artificial tree with pre-lit lights (praise Jesus…if you don’t have one you don’t know what ease you’re missing, lol!). And you know what….I WAS PROUD! Because this was mine and my son’s first Christmas tree that we bought, all on our own, in our own house, on our first homestead, doing and living entirely on our own away from family and most of our friends and….I WAS PROUD! I let Riley setup the tree after we combed over our favorite special decorations and we really enjoyed ourselves. Once the tree was done I couldn’t help but stare at it and just feel proud of not only where we are but how far we’ve come! So THAT to me…is why a Christmas tree can be so symbolic. If you have ever spent a Christmas without a Christmas tree…the next time you have one you might realize just how special they are!

 

GIFTS!

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Seriously, this year everyone in my life totally outdid themselves. I’m wondering if everyone feels sorry for us out here in the boonies living on our own or if everybody was just “better off” financially this year but hey, either way, we have people in our lives that really care about us and have blessed us with an abundance of gifts!

 

I met a family recently on Facebook who is a family hoping to start homesteading soon and they started following my journey through this blog and my Facebook page and they asked if they could send me gifts for Christmas. I said there were several books I’d really been wanting to get myself so I sent them 5 examples. THEY SENT ME ALL 5!!!! I was totally shocked! Lol! Above are 4 that came in 1 day and the 5th one is below! I seriously can’t wait to get through these all, I’m so super excited about each one!!!!

 

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Then one of the gifts from my sister came in the mail unwrapped and it was these GORGEOUS blue vintage mason jars! OMG!!!!

 

TIME FOR FESTIVITIES!!!! Southern style!

 

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For Christmas Eve I made some hot chocolate to take to my Aunt’s house before we headed over.

 

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I put said hot chocolate in the mason jars my sister got me! How cute!

 

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At my Aunt’s Riley helped my Mom make fudge. Her and my Aunt Suzan came in from Louisiana for the holidays and it was wonderful to get to see them, all of them! This was one of the best holidays with a big part of my family in a long time!

 

CHRISTMAS MORNING CAME! And so did Santa….

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Almost all of these gifts under the tree are from my Mom and my sister Jennifer to Riley and myself! A lot of them came in the mail already wrapped and some for Riley I had to wrap but for a Christmas tree for just 2 people you can tell me we were very spoiled this year!

 

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Santa left a laptop under there for Riley! 😀 😀 😀 He noticed it right away…

 

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The dogs started out helping and then they ran outside. This is Riley digging in to find his laptop! He’s been asking for one hardcore for about 3-4 mths and since it will be useful in our homeschooling I told my Mom he could go ahead and have one now so she got it for him.

 

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A few of Riley’s presents that I’m most proud of really just because I always call him my “city boy in transition” because he still doesn’t totally understand the country life and such and so getting him into outdoor/country hobbies is my goal to help him realize how amazing this lifestyle of ours is! So he got new arrows for his bow for Christmas!

 

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He got another light saber so him and I can play together! Lol!

 

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He got a wood sword and a case and belt for it because he has this new obsession with swords so I figured I should start him out with a wood one!

 

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So Riley has had a pocket knife now for about 2 years that he earned in Cub Scouts but now that he’s getting older I figured he should graduate to a swiss army knife and then maybe next year when he’s 12 start carrying an actual hunting or survival knife! Progress. My boy is growing up on me!

 

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I got a ton of kitchen stuff for Christmas which is A-mazing! From my sister I got this glass mixing bowl set which I desperately needed….like…you don’t even know! Lol!

 

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My sister also got me this huge 128 piece home and auto tool kit! SO needed that! Love it!

 

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So we headed out super early, like 7am to go to my Aunt’s house to do Christmas morning presents with them after we did ours at home. We got to see the rare Christmas Full Moon sinking just before the sun rose on our drive over.

 

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Then to the east as the moon went down the sun came up behind the clouds and gave us this gorgeous view!

 

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My aunt’s Christmas tree! It is Minnie Mouse theme for the 3 year old grandbaby in the family, lol! I won’t share a ton of photos of my family as that is their life/privacy but I thought I’d share a few highlights.

 

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This is me and my cousin’s baby girl Amelia who is just a couple of mths ago. She’s my baby love and when I’m there I try to always have her, lol!

 

So while at my Aunt’s I got the rest of my presents from my Mom and all my family and they were totally over the top. I find it amazing that everybody totally listened to what I had said or hinted at as wanting. They all know that I’m trying to be this Pioneer Woman and that developing my cooking skills is really important to me. My Mom has seen the food pics I share on Facebook and I do that strictly because just a year or two ago I would never have dubbed myself a chef of any sort. But I’ve been working hard to go all natural, all organic, no processed food and in doing that you just have to learn how to cook. And when you’re learning how to cook you quickly realize what all cools and utensils and appliances you desperately need and which ones really aren’t that useful. So I told my Mom a few things I’d been wanting and the rest they ran with and I totally hit the jackpot!

 

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Mixing bowl set!

 

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Pasta Machine! OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes!

 

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Canning mason jars!!!

 

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A peeler! This thing is awesome, we used it Christmas day for dinner to peel potatoes, lol! It’s great!

 

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A food dehydrator! Hello self sufficiency here I come!!!!

 

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A fry maker!!!! We will totally use this!!!

 

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My first cast iron set!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yay! Pre-seasoned and even comes with a dutch oven! OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve wanted this forever and my Mama did so good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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The awesome, huge tool set from my Mom!

 

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A canning setup! Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Another step down the road of self sufficiency!

 

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Christmas Day sunset out in the desert! My cousin Amanda’s husband is an Arizona native and he likes to go out to the desert for a lot of reasons and he wanted us to all go out to do a bon fire and just hang out so we did! Them and their kids and me and Riley!

 

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Here is Riley helping my cousin’s husband start the fire.

 

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Me and Riley enjoying the fire!

 

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Riley and his cousins playing in the fire, lol!

 

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An Arizona desert bon fire on Christmas Day at sunset! It was cold and a lil windy but the kids loved it and so I had fun!

 

THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS!

My cousin’s 2 older daughters wanted to come to our house for a sleepover so we had them over and other than selfies and being piled up on the couch we watched movies and stayed up late, lol! They ended up staying over all weekend!

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Fun times with the kids!

 

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Sunday running my monthly errands to go grocery shopping I decided to spoil myself a little more (I totally didn’t need the additional spoiling but I did need the jacket) and bought myself a new hoodie! I’ve had a black CenturyLink zip up hoodie for over 5 years from when I worked there and it’s…on the outs! So I bought a gray pull over hoodie that is Browning and has PINK CAMO!!! =D I love it!

 

I hope you guys all had a fabulous Christmas and I really just had to put this post together because I don’t want to ever forget just how amazing of a time we had and how lucky we are to have such good family! We have had a rough last year or two but all the great things that have happened this year on top of the quality time and conversations with my family this holiday season has really been not only a firm reminder of how lucky we are but also a much needed emotional reprieve for myself personally!

 

I hope everybody had a chance to recharge their batteries and spend the holiday season feeling loved!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

 

P.S. You KNOW in the very near future I’m going to be sharing a post about using each one of those amazing Christmas gifts for the first time because I’m so damn excited to cook with my cast iron, use that food dehydrator, make homemade pasta (Gahhhhh!) and everything! I’m just so excited about them all so when I do get to use them I’ll totally share how fun it was!

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Late 2014, Season of Changes

I pick up in our story, in our journey of getting TO the farm, in October 2014. The financial turmoil I mentioned in the last post that my fiance and I had post-summer was still happening and nearing a breaking point. Chad mentioned that his family had a house in another town an hour away that had been his grandparents and his mother and brother lived there now, there was still a small mortgage on it. They could always use some help with the payment and apparently there were 1-2 rooms that we could use for our rooms if we chose to move there. We talked about it for a while as it meant another move for me and Riley, him having to change schools, moving to a town we had never lived in, moving in with people we barely know and moving away from my real estate market in Maricopa that I specialized in. There were plenty of cons to the idea BUT the pros were that after talking to the family we’d have the option to buy the house from the family and own it one day, of course, allowing Chad’s mom and brother to stay. The house was run down and needed some work, things that they just weren’t able to take care of. So we planned a dinner with his Mom and brother to drive up there and talk to them about this idea, as they didn’t offer it to us in the first place. Chad did a lot of assuming but after talking to a few family members everybody was on board and so we prepared to move. It was the financial break we needed, to save us. We did, unfortunately, have to break our lease on our beautiful home in Maricopa but it came down to the fact that it was the only option we really had. We put 80% of our stuff in storage except for what we needed for our 2 bedrooms and moved in.


This is a part of mine and Riley’s life that because it involves so many other people, I will leave out a lot of the (unpleasant) details.

By November 2014 house remodel #2 on the farm was DONE!!! Myself and the Seller were very pleased with this. He decided he didn’t want the risk of putting a tenant in there again and the cost of the 2 remodels were more than he could recoup continuing to rent out the investment property so he had to sell it. He had an appraisal done on the property and I listed it for sale accordingly! 

Here are the photos of when the second renovation was completed as the house went on the market up for sale just shy of a year ago!


She’s no looker and still has no curb appeal but at least she was all cleaned up and ALMOST everything in working order!



The deck is 515 square feet, I measured!








Done again. Dining room.



Living Room 





Living Room




Kitchen



Kitchen




Backyard




Backyard




I have always loved these 2 mature mesquite trees and how they just seem to beautifully frame the shop!




A view of the entrance to the carport, the gate to the back part of the property (about 6 of the 8 acres is rural and fenced in, separate from the “front yard” part of the house/property)



This is a tack shed on the property.



3 car carport/shop



The chicken coop is right there to the right, inside that covered awning area.



A shot of the back 6 acres. =D


Changes abound!!!


The house went on the market and I was excited! I was happy to see it looking so good again and I hosted a few open houses to drive people to the house since it’s in a very rural area. Things didn’t go as planned. There was hardly any interest in the home and when I would have someone come out to see it they either were just curious to see what it looked like after the remodel (nosy neighbors) or they were wanting a rent to own option which the Seller wasn’t too keen on!


In my life, the second week of November was a giant turning point. The stress my relationship was under with my fiance got to be too much and after arguing daily for about a month and finally sitting down to talk, we ended our relationship. Problem was, I had no intention on ending the relationship and I had vested my entire life and my business on this move to a new town. Riley had only been in his new school for maybe 2 months, if that. Add to that that I was heartbroken because nobody likes the end of a relationship but I knew that if we did proceed to hack away at it that if a marriage did happen, it would eventually end as our views on parenting were so far apart…that any compromise seemed impossible. So, since I wasn’t planning on having to move AGAIN we hadn’t been saving money. Both of us had put all of our extra money into fixing up his Mom’s house that we had planned to buy. I think we sunk about $3000 into that house in two months, repairs that were greatly needed. But then at that point in my life seeing the end of my relationship it felt as though all that money had been wasted, on a home I’d never own, belonging to a family I’d never be part of. The magnitude of the situation I was in got to be too much for me to bear. When venting to my Mother on the phone (who lives in Louisiana) she told me that Riley and I needed to come out to see her for Thanksgiving and just give myself a chance to get away. So we did just that. We loaded up in the car and hit the road a few days before Thanksgiving when Riley got out of school. The week following the break up, while still living together, Chad and I didn’t do much talking. We had talked about how it was obvious I couldn’t move out right away so he’d have to be flexible with me. And we needed to at least be friendly with one another or it’d be unbearable for both of us. Since we both agreed on those things, that’s what we did. So our trip to Louisiana and Arkansas (where I’m from, where most of my family is, where my youngest son lives) was great!!! I’ll share some photos below because it was such a wonderful time!



Thanksgiving in Louisiana and Arkansas!



When I go back home several times a year to northern Arkansas it is a 23-34 hour drive. This was my first trip heading to West Monroe, Louisiana and so when we left home and my GPS said 19 hours I was like “Woo hoo, I can do that!”. A little known fact about me, I love road trips. Particularly, I love driving, as these trips going back and forth to places we’ve been so many times there is less “road tripping” and sight seeing and more driving through the night to not have to deal with traffic and fellow travelers! So I almost always set out midday or in the evening with the intent to drive straight through and every trip I’ve made by myself or just me and my boys, we always made it straight through. #motivation #loveit



But honestly I don’t do it alone. I always have a monster (or 5) on board and generally a jug of my homemade sweet tea to make the drive a little easier! And it works! =D




Coming into West Monroe! It was my first time there and I swear you drive through Texas for 12-13 hours (no lie) and about an hour before you hit the Louisiana western border you go from wide open plains to TREES!!! Being from Arkansas with tons of big, huge, beautiful green trees but living in Arizona the last 15 years…I LOVE TREES!!! So that is always one of my favorite parts about going back home!




My boys and I at the Duck Dynasty Headquarters in West Monroe, Louisiana!


Boys being adorable in the hotel


Me and my Riley man


Some time in Arkansas with those we adore!


Part of the middle of southern Arkansas on our way from my Mom’s in West Monroe, La (north central Louisiana) to where my bff and family live in north central Arkansas. Almost a straight line north through the center of the state. Trees and wildlife (deer primarily) abound!!! And fog, I do not miss driving in fog!



While there, I kid you not, I never once saw the sun. That to me, being so used to the bright, blissful, endless Arizona sun was pretty dreadful! This was a very soggy, long dirt road to my good friend Alaina’s house. She also lives in the middle of nowhere, common factor with my friends and family! But on a sunny day in spring or summer, this road and this area is immensely gorgeous with bright green fields, tall towering trees and wild flowers!!!



One of the days going to my best friend Jeannie’s house, this is the dirt road to her house. She lives in flat lands and the area is primarily all farm land. So all the area around her house in a good 8-9 mile radius is ALL farmland. The main highway is raised, due to damaging floods in the last 30 years. But once you turn off that main road you drop down to the rural dirt roads and they’re all low, pretty level with the farmland. So when there is a ton of rain and the nearby rivers rise (and they do, at least a few times a year) then the farmland gets flooded. If it is bad enough, then the roads get flooded. A few times, most recently just a couple of years ago, the floods got so bad homes were lost and major damage was done on the nearby towns. These roads make me nervous as I seem to always find myself on them in a car!!!


While in Arkansas to see Konnor we got to go by my best friend’s house and she’s PURE COUNTRY! Her and her husband (and their kids) live on an acre outside of town and have chickens, lots of dogs they breed and pigs!!! I hadn’t had much experience with pigs although…I do love pork! haha! So it was a wonderful experience to get to meet her pigs, talk to her and her husband about what it’s like to raise them and I was smitten! I knew right away when I had a farm someday I would have to have pigs! They are such smart and social creatures! I loved how they wagged their little tails when you walk up to them!


One of Jeannie’s pigs! So cute!!!!


I am still not a fan of chickens and I’m not sure why, they just kind of freak me out! haha!


Jeannie’s dogs looking out to the farmland surrounding their house.

When we went back home to Arizona after Thanksgiving it wasn’t too bad because we were only home for a couple of weeks before we left again for the Christmas holidays in the south. Chad and I got along fine, we had a few heart to hearts about how we could be friendly roommates and still split the bills like we were before and make it through until I could put a new plan in place. So everything was shockingly amicable on that front.


Christmas in Arkansas and Louisiana!!!


This was the first Christmas in too many years that all my siblings got together at my Mom’s house. The previous 10 or so years my Mother and I both lived in Arizona so we’d celebrate together with my boys but my sister lived in Arkansas and my brother lived in Oklahoma. This year with me coming out, my brother and sister came out as well since they were all less than 8-9 hours away. So my Mom was very happy to have all her babies and all her grandbabies together in one place! We took that opportunity to have some family portraits done by my sister in law who is a professional photographer!


The swampy yet beautiful park where we did our family photos! The grounds were GORGEOUS! And I’m not sure what kind of trees these tall, lanky, mossy trees were but any tree is a splendid sight to me so naturally, I snapped up several photos while there!


One of the docks we did photos on!




My two happy boys, playing video games at Nana’s!


My baby boo! He is already 8 but still loves his blanky that he got when he was just 6 mths old. Sleeps with it always!


Riley man on Christmas morning.

So those are just a few photos from Thanksgiving and Christmas! This was a long post with lots of pictures so I’ll pick up on the next post in early 2015! Almost got you guys caught up to date, almost!

XoXo,
Elizabeth
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