Happy Thanksgiving!


We were scattered far and wide for the holiday, so we’re gathering here to share our Thanksgivings.

Janna here. I was back at the family ‘stead for the day. It was a cozy, low-key (at least for me) Thanksgiving. Mom wouldn’t let me do any cooking or anything ahead of time, so I lazed at home for the morning. My car is in the shop all week, getting body work done, so Dad picked me up. Mom and I got the final preparations together, Dad had Handel’s oratorio on Samson playing in the background, and we had a quiet, delicious lunch together: turkey roasted with herbs and citrus, cranberry spinach salad with pears and poppy seed dressing, mashed roasted squash, mashed potatoes, stuffing, homemade gravy, and some bread from Wegmans that Dad likes a lot.

Buckwalter Thanksgiving 2014 Continue reading “Happy Thanksgiving!”

Buying a house

Dear sisters,

Next up on Kevin and my quest to become boring adults (step 1. move to the midwest, step 2. expect a baby) is step 3. buy a house! This is all very tongue in cheek of course, while it seems like we are doing the staid “being adult” things, it actually feels pretty exciting and crazy! You’ve kind of been on the home buying journey with me since we started looking in August, but I’ll do a tiny recap here and share some of the things that were surprising to us.

It all started back in June when we first came to La Crosse and looked at some affordable rental properties. We quickly discovered that we were really picky. We wanted a house that accepted pets and had room for a growing family and was in the $700-1000 range and was in a nice neighborhood. Just from our quick search, it seemed really hard to find that. I’m sure we could have eventually, but we realized there were a lot of homes for sale. The allure of getting some return on our money was too strong to resist, combined with the generous gifts from our parents we knew buying a home could be within our reach. We came back in August for a week to do a more intense home search and to meet some real estate agents to work with and meet banks and mortgage people. Through the months of August and September we got listings sent to us that met our criteria from our real estate agent Brianne. Our criteria were–$85,000-120,000, 2-3 bedrooms, 1-2 bathrooms somewhere in La Crosse. We made a list of our top 10 right before moving here and within our first 3 days in WI we saw 6 of them. The home we ended up with was one of them. We put in an initial offer on October 10th, and we closed on November 10th!

The front door on 22nd St. We rarely use this since our driveway is on the other street (Redfield). We enjoy our corner lot.
The front door. We rarely use this since our driveway is on the other street.

Things that I think helped us not stress out about buying a house:

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Eve’s birth story

Dear sisters,

My favorite photo, taken just a few hours after she was born.
My favorite photo, taken just a few hours after she was born.

The story of Eve’s birth could begin with me telling you about waking up at 5:30 am on Friday, November 7th with strong contractions, 10-12 minutes apart. But I’m going to start it even earlier.

Eve’s birth was influenced by all the births before her in our family. Growing up, I remember hearing the stories of how the women in our family birthed. There was Grandma Grastorf, who avoided hospitals, and gave birth to our Uncle Grant in a bedroom of their apartment, before the doctor even got there. There was Grandma Buckwalter, who gave birth to 12 children, a testament in itself to her ability to birth well. There was our own mother, who was told she had childbearing hips, and delivered all of us quickly and without much intervention. I remember Mom being in labor with Esther. I was 11 at the time, and Mom was sitting in the blue armchair, rocking and working on some knitting or crocheting. She was timing her contractions, and I was helping her by writing down the times on an envelope. I also remember Mom talking about her birth with me. She gave birth at a doctor’s office. She and Dad arrived there at 7:30 am and I was born at 8:30 am!

All of these stories, gathered together, give us such a good foundation when it comes to birthing. We have strong, stoic women on both sides, and we have inherited those childbearing hips. We didn’t have a word for it then, but what we absorbed as kids was a positive birth culture. We did not hear that birth was a medical crisis, or something to be afraid of. We heard mostly that women’s bodies knew what to do, and that birth was a natural process that happened just as it should.

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Exclusive Sneak Peak

It is tech weekend. I spent 9 hours in the auditorium today, working with the amazing student technicians to get the stage, set, lights, and sound equipment ready for the tech rehearsal tomorrow. We’ll add all the lighting  and sound effect cues and costumes tomorrow, Monday we’ll add the wireless mics and the pit, Tuesday we’ll fine tune, Wednesday is the full dress, and then the show. Here’s an exclusive picture of the tree we were building from fabric today. Shh. Don’t tell anyone that I’m letting out pictures of the set ahead of time. IMG_4628

This part is fun, when the actors know their parts well enough to really explore them and all the pieces start coming together. In a week I will be able to catch up on sleep, and will have some time off to see family and friends and prep for the last few weeks of classes. For now I enjoy this rushcrazybusycollaborativecreative time. Mom asked me today (in a loving, teasing way, as she was leaving after helping iron costumes for two hours) if I have had enough counseling classes yet to figure out what makes me crazy enough to spend all day sewing a decorative set piece. Nope. I mean, I’ve learned about flow and that pretty accurately describes how I feel sometimes working with the actors, but the work today was something different. Whatever it is, I’m having fun.

Love, as always, your crazy oldest sister.

P.S. Mom has been amazing. She has been at rehearsal every day this week, helping the actors with their music, accompanying dance rehearsals, helping with costumes and prop space organization, and often bringing me food. I would not feel near as sane (relative term, I know) without her help and encouragement. Since I know you’re reading this, thank you, Mama. Thank you, thank you.

Highlights of Recent Life

I miss sharing the little things about life. Whenever I get the chance to talk to you, sisters, or you, friends, it’s hard to tell you everything! I’ve always been the oversharer of the family, rattling on about the minute details of my school day, spewing inconsequential stories about an interaction with a teacher or (during my post school days) sharing stories about all the wonderful people I know. Now that I’m far away I don’t get to do that as often! So here are some things that I would have shared with you, they might not be interesting, but that’s what you get when you talk to Jewel ;-).

ROUGH PUFF! A few weeks ago I made rough puff pastry dough for the first time ever and it was a triumph. I had always wanted to try making homemade puff pastry dough/croissant dough, but I didn’t want to go through the whole butter lamination process. Instead, I read up on the rough puff method: I followed this tutorial at Fine Cooking and it worked wonderfully. It is very similar to making a butter pie crust, except it has a few more steps. The key is not adding too much water, as soon as it seems like it’s holding together a tiny bit, you begin rolling. Here are some pictures of my finished product–apple turnovers! I filled them with a cinnamon/nutmeg cream cheese mixture and a small spoonful of homemade applesauce. Delish.

Continue reading “Highlights of Recent Life”