Category Archives: Holiday Celebrations

Thankful for Beauty

We had a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving basking in a baby glow. This year our family had 2 new babies around the dinner table and it was such an extra special celebration with a lot to be thankful for. But I have been thinking a lot lately about the future of my girls. I have 5 daughters who will be women of color one day. And honestly I am pretty concerned about how they will fair out in the world. But there have been many positive changes and I am always on the lookout for affirming resources.

This week I was at my favorite bookstore (Scout and Morgan, see below), when I came across a beautiful book The Atlas of Beauty.

I was immediately drawn to the cover and the story of author/photographer Mihaela Noroc. Noroc has been traveling the world for the past 4 years photographing all the beautiful women that she meets.

As you can see her idea of beauty is far from conventional but it “smacks of truth,” as one of my college professors, Robert Grunst, used to say. This is the kind of world I want to live in, one that celebrates the beauty of the all women (and more then just the beauty of women). I love especially the pictures of women that you wouldn’t expect to see where they were photographed. The women of Iran were particularly surprising. Even I had some preconceived ideas of beauty

I plan to share this book with my girls, having it readily available. In this time I am very grateful for all the beauty in the world.

Welcome to Scout & Morgan Books in Cambridge, MN

Yes, this is my first Rodeo

I have of course heard of rodeo. Our farrier (the person who trims our horse’s hooves) is a true cowboy. When we went to Yellowstone this summer we drove through Cody, Wyoming. Since our destination was Cody and we had a limited amount of time we didn’t stop for too long in Cody. But I did notice that they have a rodeo, every single night during the summer.

We also stopped in Sheridan, Wyoming en route. We stayed in a hotel and were watching the local news while winding down and waiting for our turn in the bath room. We found out that in Sheridan (and assuming other places) rodeo is a high school sport rivaling football. The results of the competitions are reported on the evening news.

When we moved up here we heard about Heidelberger’s auction  barn. They also boast a rodeo every year but up until this year we have never gone. Through a strange coincidence, my father became friends with the brother of Mr. Heidelberger. Dad was talking about his friend but never using last name until my mom said something like, “Neil’s brother has an auction place up by you.” Heidelberger’s was the only one I knew of and we put two and two together.

So this year we went as a family as guests of Neil and his family. So yes this really was our first rodeo.

The announcer set the stage well, “the great American sport known as rodeo–the world’s most dangerous playing field.” Luckily no one got seriously hurt last night but you could totally see that having a 2,000 pound bull as an opponent would be seriously dangerous.

Avril tried out the mechanical bull–a much safer option for this mother!

Bareback riding, I never knew that there were 2 other cowboys on horses ready to assist and catch the wild horses after their rider was thrown or to help the rider safely off in case he was able to stay on. It was amazing to see them work the horses! Some “amazing horsemanship and teamwork” as announcer Davie Kimm said.

Calf scramble. The 4-6 year olds joined 4 calves in the arena. Each calf had a ribbon tied to their tale and the children try to catch the ribbon.

Wild cow milking contest. No description can do it justice.

So yes it was a great night at the rodeo, and quite possible the start of a new tradition.


Sledding fun

Sometime every winter Proeun and I have the discussion that I am sure most Minnesotans are familiar with–should we stay in the frigid north or head somewhere sunnier. Since moving to Crazy Boy Farm we have definitely had that discussion less. While we are not proficient at the winter sports yet we are slowly building our repertoire.

This winter there hasn’t been much snow. And the one thing we are lacking here on the farm is a hill. The first winter first snow we realized “uh oh, no place to go sledding!” Last year Proeun tried using the tractor to pile up snow. That worked pretty good but this year there hasn’t been enough snow to even do that. Luckily we have a big pile of wood chips left over from this falls clearing project. And voila, sledding hill. The children have been out almost every day and for them a day is not complete until they have sledded. Now we need a little more snow.

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Doeun Family

We hope you had a very amazing Christmas. We had a very blessed Christmas. Of course, the more children we have the more fun it is. We still tried to do a homemade Christmas. The children even got into it.

Avril made arm knit scarves using the video below.

Mavis and Effie helped made all sorts of baked goodies. And I did my usual–knitting. This year I decided I would do either legwarmers or slippers for all the children.


Here are the legwarmers I made for Effie and Mavis. They both picked out the yarn. Effie liked the metallic worsted weight and Mavis the bulky weight yarn. I made up my own pattern using four needles and multiples of 4. Start and end with a ribbing, for the lighter weight yarn I did 2X2 and the bulky weight 1X1. But then for the main pattern I did

Row 1: Knit 3, Purl 1 repeat
Row 2: Knit


Pray’s slippers


Avril’s slippers


Lith’s Baltic Booties. I loved the yarn for this. It is my all time favorite yarn–


I did do some sewing but I found it alot harder to get away and sew, whereas with knitting I could do it while we are in the thick of family living. This is another of my favorite patterns, done up in cotton flannel. The pattern is available in this book.

I didn’t get to a couple presents so I plan to keep working and creating throughout January. Hope you had time to pursue some creative pursuits this year.

We are very very excited for the next year. We have some very exciting things happening in the next couple of months. We’ll keep you posted.

Also don’t forget that our CSA is up and running. We are taking reservations for the next year now.


Rush City Santa Day

I didn’t move around a whole lot when I was younger. Let’s see I lived in 4 houses growing up. Most in or around the Twin Cities metro area. So I always considered the Twin Cities home. I am a Minnesotan, and that was enough. But the concept of a home town was completely lost on me. A town where everyone knows everyone and we do things all together as a community was completely foreign. It might sound a a little scary to those with a more urban mindset but let me tell you it is so nice.

I did have to ease into it a bit though. This is our first year really trying out some of the community events that are staples of this town. One of those staples is “Santa Day.” This year Santa came to Rush City on December 5th. I had heard about Santa Day in years past but this year we decided to go.

Santa and Mrs. Claus make their rounds through the community.


Santa reads holiday stories to the children at the Rush City library. Meanwhile the local girl scouts help community children make ornaments and the Ladies of Rush City sell homemade cookies–by the pound.


Then the children got an opportunity to make requests. Effie wanted a Princess sticker book. Love this girl. The only thing she really wants is a book that costs all of $3 at the local Dollar General.

Santa also went to the fairgrounds where the local Lions club was selling Christmas Trees and Wreaths. One year we will has a real Christmas tree.


The highlight of the day though is the Tiger Store (Rush City Tigers). One of the local High School teachers noticed that some of the families in the community had no money to put presents under the tree. So he started taking donations. He stores these donations all year and pulls them out on Santa Day setting up a store where children can come and do their shopping for free!

My girls totally loved this idea. The parents wait outside. The senior girls from the high school help the children find just the right gift for the people on their list while the senior boys wrap the gifts and the children get to take their wrapped gifts home. I am seriously choked up just thinking about the whole concept that this wonderful man came up with and the community implemented.

Many families donate to the store throughout the year and that is definitely our plan for next year. But mostly I just love the idea of a town where people care about each other and band together to make sure everyone has a great Christmas. So I am totally sold on small town living. Even though I didn’t move to Rush City until I was 30 I now have a hometown.

Open House Recap

I am not very good at throwing parties. But thanks to some very special friends who enjoy party planning (Rose and Mara) plus my children who threw in some ideas of their own, this years open house was a great success. The weather was beautiful and the company glorious. And special thanks to my parents who came early to help with last minute preparations.


When we were cleaning the feed sacks out of the barn in preparation for the party Avril came up with the idea of a sack race. As the children were racing one guest said, “Oh look there is actual dust coming out of the sacks.” Oh my, not exactly dust, more like remnants of the feed. Life on a farm.




No Doeun family event would be complete without a basketball game or some variation. Here the children have a shooting contest. Notice Miracle, our pet goat that lived in our house for awhile roaming, in the bottom left. The only bad part was when she decided to try some of the buffet and we had to throw away some food, and she got sent back to the barn and had to be monitored for a couple days to make sure she didn’t get sick.




The dogs don’t normally get to be at parties, but Hiro certainly loved the attention.





The animals were a big hit, here is Miracle’s son from this year.




The one area I didn’t get cleaned, but where we are keeping the chicks, so a popular spot none the less.




There was also tours, a scavenger hunt and face painting. So much fun for the day. Hope you can make it out next year.

Welcome 2014

When we were preparing for our big move to our dream farm it was hard not to be frustrated by delays. Winter was coming and I was anxious to get settled. But delay after delay happened. Finally on New Year’s Eve three years ago we were ready to move. So on the first morning of our new year we woke-up to our dream come true. Now I know what a blessing all those delays were. Now the New Year will forever equal a New Life. I enjoy celebrating my holidays with quiet contemplation–reflection on what this day means to me. Last night I was lying in bed thinking how amazing our life is.

Today it is hard to see out the windows, they are so frosted over. The outside temperatures are not expected to climb out of the negative numbers for a couple days now. But we are celebrating our New Year with a special kind of ordinary–good food, cuddling, movies, games, crafting, reading, togetherness, all while living our dream. It’s a great life.

Last year at this time we set out to get healthy. Seemed like everything had been thrown out of whack a bit but the crazy upheavals no matter how good. Now in addition to looking forward I can look back to the good things this life has given, especially good health. Looking forward to another great year of continued growth. I hope all of you have a special dream or project to drive you forward to the good life.

Handmade Christmas

I finally did. I have been wanting to have a handmade Christmas for a long time, but didn’t think it would really work for the children. The adults in my family have enjoyed it for several years now with each of us trying to come up with something special to make for the others. For example this year I made salted caramel sauce and truffles for my sister and she made us homemade root beer and birch beer. I should say that I am so blessed that I come from a family where handmade is normal. My grandfather loved working with wood and my grandmother started a line of women who sew, knit, crochet, embroider, can, cook from scratch and bake and really anything else they decide to try.

So I was getting a little fed up with the story of Santa Claus. My children were becoming completely focused on what they were getting and as you can imagine the requests were getting more elaborate including this year a pony and an Xbox. I had been telling the children “don’t ask Santa for that because I will tell him no you can’t have it.” Finally we watched a VeggieTales about Saint Nicholas together and I explained the truth. I also told they children I wanted them to focus on giving rather then getting so I looked for projects we could work on together for the children. I found so many options out there that with the exception of legos (one toy I don’t mind splurging on) and a video game we could play together the majority of our Christmas presents were handmade. And the children loved it. They were even excited to see their siblings open their gifts. That is what I want to see. Here are some of our favorites from this year.

I saw these blocks on pinterest and thought they were so cute. I followed the instructions and had them printed on sticker paper about our local print shop. I think these were definitely a favorite for Mavis and Avril to make. I also made the carrying bag.

I saw this dinosaur tail pattern and thought of my little paleontologist. She loves rocks and dinosaurs and her favorite toy is her “Mommy t-rexy.” Obviously it was a hit.

I saw instructions for making magnetic paper dolls and put my own spin on them. I used these dolls but they were not colored so I had lots of fun coloring them with my husband’s art set. I did have difficulty finding the right size tin so I ended up order a tin CD case from etsy. I then had to print the dolls a bit smaller to fit the tin. I think I printed at 65%. I used mode modge to attach a colorful backing paper and then glued the doll parts directly to the tin. I used a roll of magnet I got at Michaels for the clothes. The magnetic canvas had a sticky side so  I put the clothes on the sticky side and cut them out. Now I need to make another set so they can play together.

For my littlest man I finally made the “quick change trousers” from Handmade Beginnings. So much fun I made 2.

Other projects were cutting down Cambodian sarongs to fit the girls and a pair of pants for Two.

We also wanted gifts to spark creativity. So Avril got a face painting set and book. She painted Mavis’ face then Proeun did the rest of them. What a fun evening.

For extended family we asked for clothes, books or games. My sister is the queen of games so she helped extend our family game night by giving the kids some of her favorites. So all in all it went pretty well. We still were able to give fun gifts, we didn’t fill our house with things that will break easily and the children were actually excited about their gifts and what was even better for me, they were excited to give each other gifts. Yes we had a very blessed Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas with Significance

Maybe it is just where I am at in my personal journey but Christmas just seems so much more significant this year then I ever experienced before. I had wonderful Christmases as a child, so much so that there would be a huge letdown after Christmas. Then as a young bride it was a bit hard to recreate, seems like I was always too busy to pause much. But this year is amazing. We are on our dream farm, literally living our dream all year round. And this time of the year is our “off-season” where we are very protective of our family time since we are so busy the rest of the year. But what makes it so wonderful, I think it is the pausing. 

We did our Christmas shopping early, often opting for on-line versions so I didn’t have to navigate crowds. And we kept it minimal. Proeun and I were noticing a case of the “galloping gimmes” (from the Berenstein Bears) and were trying to figure ways to give the children a joy of giving, so we decided to do mostly homemade gifts and get the children involved. They are not as involved as I would like but it is definitely a step in the right direction. 
This spring we bought a piano but I haven’t had much chance to play. Now that the Christmas season is here we are focusing on learning Christmas carols. 
We started with 2 carols for the girls to sing in the choir at church. Since Mavis doesn’t read yet and Avril is not proficient enough to read and sing (though once she knows the song the words help her remember) they had to memorize all the verses for “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Once is Royal David’s City.” It was a fun exercise for all of us. And they loved singing in the choir.
I didn’t do as much crafting this year, other than the presents. I wanted to spend the month working on it but instead am focusing on Christmas stories and music to make the time significant, though Avril did make a lovely table runner with her aunt that really dresses up the table.
The children have been asking for a gingerbread house though, so when I saw a kit for a gingerbread barn I thought it would be perfect. However 4 adults and five children couldn’t figure out how to make it stay erect so it became a cookie decorating party.
The younger ones thought this was a much better idea anyway.
And so did grandpa. I had to remind myself that Christmas memories don’t need to be perfect.
I will post after Christmas about some of our projects but here are some resources for making the season more significant.
The Nativity Story, we kicked off the season with this and loved it, I hadn’t seen it before but it was perfect for setting the mood.
Advent and Christmas is Family Worship, our first year using this. I love it though it took some getting used to, also incorporates songs, better for older children but younger ones love the songs and repeating the verses.
Truth in Tinsel, we used this more last year and it is wonderful. Takes a bit more prep because there are crafts involved, but the younger ones get it more. Also has prompts to add to an advent calendar (I really want to do that next year and make an advent wreath).
And don’t forget to sing, sing all day long. We have Christmas CDs going all day long. And bake, and talk and love and just be. Merry Christmas!

New Year: 4th of July R and R

I hope all of you had a great 4th. As part of our goals to live a healthier life I am realizing how important it is to take time to rest, relax and celebrate. So even though our CSA deliveries have just started the work began pretty heavily back in March so we are actually about mid-way through our heavy work season. So for the 4th we decided it was time to celebrate.

We had family and friends over for a 4th of July cookout, then on the 5th we headed up North to some of our favorite spots. I have always loved Duluth and the North Shore and last year I was so focused on work we didn’t take time to go. But this year we made it a priority.

A smoked fish and cheese curd picnic at our favorite beach just a little north of Two Harbors. Yes there are some extra children in the picture family and friends came with us.

Gooseberry Falls, another family favorite.

The first time we went to the falls we came in our normal street clothes and just expected a nice hike. Little did we know that Gooseberry is one of the few places I know to get up close and personal with a waterfall. All these people were swimming and splashing in the water and we felt pretty out of place. Since then we have come planning on joining them. Yes this hike involves swimsuits and towels now.

Two on Nature’s water slide.

Avril with some of our family and friends enjoying the spray.

And how did Pray like his first trip to Gooseberry. As you can see it was just like home.