If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you probably already know a lot about me – namely the fact that I love wine, handbags, high heels, my handsome husband, our daughter Kate, decorating, and dashes. But here’s the back story.
For those of you who skim, have ADD, a backed up Google Reader, or just don’t care to read my entire life story, here’s the short version:
My name is Dusty – and yes, that’s my real name. I’m a Midwestern girl who went from the farm, to college, to the suburbs. Met my dream man at age 19, married him at age 24, and now in my 30s I’m as happy as can be balancing my high maintenance tendencies with my desire to keep things simple.
And now for all my curious readers who’d like to know more about me, stalkers who want to dissect my past, and deviants who want to try to guess at my bank account passwords, here’s the long version – along with little related stories in the endnotes that I couldn’t resist sharing! (Click on the endnote number in the post to go down to the related endnote. While there, click on the same number to go back to your place in the post.)
I am a Midwestern girl through and through. I currently live in Madison, Wisconsin with my husband Greg and our daughter Kate, but I wasn’t always enjoying the leisurely life in the suburbs…
I grew up on a dairy farm outside a small town in southwestern Wisconsin and spent every minute of every day plotting how I would one day get off that farm. Farm life included my mom and stepdad, seven of my siblings, and only one shower for the 10 of us to share. I was never cut out to be a farm girl. I hated the smelly farm animals, hated being in the buggy fields, really hated haying season, hated being dirty and smelly – I pretty much hated it all. I did my fair share of outside farm chores, but luckily my mom took pity on me and most of my chores were indoors – keeping the house clean, taking care of my youngest brother and sister, and cooking meals for our huge farm family.
I like to joke that I had a “hillbilly” upbringing, but really it was probably more of your typical “small town, huge farm family with no money” kind of upbringing. My mom sews and most of our clothes were either homemade, hand-me-downs from older siblings, or from garage sales. My mom taught me how to sew at a young age and eventually I made some of my own clothes, too. We ate dinner together as a family every single night. Meals were always made from scratch and usually incorporated in some capacity the huge container of lard we kept in the fridge. Summers were spent gardening, canning fruits and vegetables, and making homemade jellies to stock up our cellar for winter. Our milk came straight from the cow to the pitcher to our kitchen table, we collected fresh eggs from the flock of chickens that wandered the farm, and grew our own sweet corn in the field across the road. Overall we made do as much as we could with what we could produce ourselves and nothing went to waste.
I’ve always loved decorating. I was lucky enough to have my own bedroom and it was my sanctuary while I was growing up. My mom could never discipline me by sending me to my room because I already spent as much time as I could in there doing things like reading books and practicing walking in high heels – but mostly I spent hours and hours decorating and redecorating with fabrics and materials I’d raided from my mom’s sewing room.
My love of decorating came from my mom. She was always re-arranging furniture and looking at different ways to use things. She loved “junking” as she would call it, and I don’t think there was a single garage sale, flea market, or antique store that we passed without stopping at when I was a kid. Even a pile of castaway garbage on the side of the road would have my mother hitting the brakes if it looked promising enough. The result was growing up in a house full of antiques and items that were on their way to a landfill until my mother saved them and repurposed them for something else. (An antique bedpan as a planter anyone?) Years of “junking” and antiquing taught me to look at things in a different light and to see potential in even the most worn-down things. It also gave me an appreciation for history, and different styles.
I can look back now and realize that I learned so much growing up on the farm – a strong work ethic, how to make pies from scratch, an ability to spit without it dribbling down my chin – but that didn’t change the fact that I hated farm life and dreamed every day of something different. In my mind college was my only way out and I was determined to get there.
At age 17 I graduated second in my class from high school, received a full academic scholarship to a private university in northern Wisconsin, and became the first person in my family to go to college. College is where I met the three great loves of my life: my husband, my independence, and wine. This is also when I discovered that some people actually do come from towns with stoplights and that pizza delivery is not just something you see in the movies.
I wish I could tell you that I studied hard in my dorm room every night and that my time between classes was split volunteering at the homeless shelter and the Save the Whales foundation, but the truth is – this was the time in my life when I really let my hair down. College was easy for me, so I challenged myself by partying nearly every night. That’s about all I’m going to say about that because one day my children might read this. But the good news is I was still able to graduate (with honors!) in four years with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice and a minor in psychology. No harm, no foul.
Life after College
At age 21 I graduated college and moved to Madison where Greg (a.k.a “G”) – my boyfriend of nearly 2 years at this point – was already living. We got an apartment in the suburbs and I got my first “real” job at a small nonprofit social work agency working with court-involved teenagers.
One day we were walking through our neighborhood and noticed a house we’d always admired was for sale. We had no idea what houses sold for and were curious to see the price on this one, so when we got back to our apartment I went online and looked it up. On the side of the website was a little “mortgage calculator” where you could enter the price of a home and it would give you an idea of what your monthly payments would be. I’ll never forget when I clicked the button and that number was generated. “Greg!” I called from the spare bedroom/office/storage room/man room. “We could totally afford to buy a house!”
That little online mortgage calculator set the wheels in motion and that summer G and I bought our first house. I was 22 years old, G was 25, and we couldn’t have been more proud of this major life accomplishment. A few weeks later – on our 3 year anniversary – G proposed, and sixteen months after that we were married.
Is She Finished Yet?
This may come as a surprise to you, but I really did do some heavy editing of the “long version” of my life. A lot of things hit the cyberspace cutting room floor – like the fact that my mom forced me to play sports when I was a kid, but I eventually grew to love it and attribute that to the active lifestyle I live today. Or the fact that I wanted to be a belly dancer when I grew up, or a lawyer, or a professional ice skater (I can’t even ice skate, or belly dance…but I can argue). And I guess you’ll never hear about the time I accidentally walked in on the high school boys basketball team changing in the locker room. But time to wrap things up, right? (I probably lost most of you back at canning fruits and vegetables!) Today I still live in Madison with my wonderul husband G. Somewhere in between the last paragraph and now we sold our first house, bought our current house, and welcomed our beautiful daughter Kate. I’m still in social work although I work for a different nonprofit now, serving children with mental health issues.
There were definitely two sides to me growing up – the girl who fed the cows in manure-covered jeans, and the girl who wouldn’t go into town without makeup on. I still have those two competing sides of my personality, but like I said at the beginning – I love my life and am happy as can be balancing my high maintenance tendencies with my desire to keep things simple.
So far in life there are a few things I know for sure:
Determination and a sense of humor will get you through anything.
True love is truly a lovely gift.
Money cannot buy happiness – but it can buy wine, which is a close second.
I hate sharing a bathroom.
An underage drinking ticket will not get you kicked out of college.
Pizza delivery goes straight from your doorstep to your ass.
It really is best to knock first before taking the shortcut through the boys’ locker room.
Related Anecdotes & Key Information
 Before I had my driver’s license, I would ride my horse into town and tie her up outside the gas station so I could go in and buy a soda – and no one in town would even bat an eye. That’s how small my hometown is.
 I also have 5 additional siblings who grew up with my dad and stepmom about an hour from us.
 Our sophomore year of college my roommate and I moved off campus into an apartment and I cooked us our first dinner in our new place. I made homemade spaghetti. So much homemade spaghetti, in fact, that it took us a week to eat it all. I’d spent my entire life cooking meals to feed 10 people and had never considered doing it any other way!
 I took my first home economics class my freshman year of high school, and I’ll never forget our first class project. My classmates labored tediously over sewing a pillow out of two square pieces of fabric…while I sewed a dress to wear to the Homecoming dance.
 I took driver’s education class in high school and one afternoon the instructor said he didn’t have a route planned and we could go wherever we wanted. Well I was in the driver’s seat, so I took my car full of fellow permit holders, drove to a nearby town and showed them all my favorite old Victorian houses.
 The college I went to was predominately female – I think the ratio was 7 girls to every 1 boy. I started out majoring in psychology but took an Introduction to Criminal Justice course the second semester of my freshman year because that’s where all the boys were. (Sad, but true.) That Intro to Criminal Justice text book became the first text book I ever read cover to cover, and I ended up loving the subject so much that I changed my major to criminal justice.
 I’m glossing over all the G parts a bit because I plan on doing a separate post about us. But don’t worry – it should only be about a third as long as this one because so far we’ve only been together a third of my life!
I gladly read the whole thing. You are too cute and clever for words. Thanks for sharing the backstory. Loved it!
Loved every word. So fun to read more about you. And I had a hunch G was Greg. He just looks like a Greg.
What a great post! I did an about me post a little bit ago but it was not nearly as good as this I love Madison by the way, what a great town.
I loved this post…I’m always curious about how people’s lives compare with mine, how they grew up, etc…this was a great post!
My best friend growing up was named Dusty and I always envied her for having such a fun name.
I llllloved this post! And now I am excited to hear all about your twenty kajillion other siblings and Greg.
That was adorable! Thanks for sharing.
P.S. you and my hubs have very similar names. Actually, your name is one of his more famous nicknames.
You should write a book, that’s all there is too it.
Superb! I really enjoyed getting to know you a bit better – having some of the mystery peeled away, including your hubby’s name!
You are too funny D, enjoyed the story. So, does your fam still live on the farm? Do you ever visit?
What a cute post! I consider you the most “chic” blogger on my blogroll, so it was very interesting to read about your farm beginnings.
It’s fun to learn a little bit more about the blogger who makes me laugh regularly. And I have to say, I have searched your site for your first name out of curiosity (that makes me sound like stalker) but I never would have guessed it was Dusty. Very cute.
Holy Crapola! That was awesome! First, your name is Dusty?! For some reason I had my money on Dana. Dusty is awesomer.
Second, SEVEN SIBLINGS? And those are just the ones you lived with?! I never would have guessed.
Third, you know how to can things—things that you’ve grown yourself, no less?! Amazing! Especially since I consider canning a mystical process.
Fourth, your degree in criminal justice. Right on! Your social work? Even better!
I really enjoyed learning more about the famous and lovely D.
Great post! I loved learning about you and your life! I also love the endnotes.
I loved hearing your story! I just discovered your blog pretty recently and actually finished reading the archives today (slow day at work, thanks for keeping me entertained!). Your stories are wonderful, you have a great way of telling them…thanks for sharing all of this with us!
Fantastic post! I love learning about the lives of my fellow bloggers before I knew them. Coming from Toronto, Canada I don’t have any clue as to what a small town life is, but it sounds wonderful.
Dove head first into the long version and loved it! Thanks for sharing a bit [haha] about your life with us. It’s always nice knowing who’s behind a blog!
Love it! Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to see the next chapter about Greg. hey, wait, I thought you said once you weren’t much of a cook…….
Loved this post! Thanks for sharing with us. Your stories are sooo funny. I agree with one of the other bloggers, you really should write a book!!
i’m waiting for the post about your amazing adventures into having an intern:) Loved reading this, especially the little extras that i didn’t know already. Miss you Dusty!
I read the long version b/c your life is very very interesting!!! I think your town is smaller than my home town and I never knew that was possible. I think we are a lot a like, i have the same two personalities
Loved this post!
Thanks so much for the comment! We’re very excited, and I’m happy to have some fresh topics for my blog
I love your “about me”! It’s fun to learn things you wouldn’t typically know about people you meet through blogs.
Wow, I am sincerely honored by all your responses. I truly didn’t think people would read something so long, let alone read it and enjoy it. Thank you so much everyone!
@Amanda–I can’t believe you know another girl named Dusty! I’m so surprised!
@Jeremy and Mindy–my mom and stepdad sold the farm a few years ago (and got divorced). My mom now lives on a small horse ranch nearby. She was never a fan of dairy farming, but loved taking care of the dozen or so horses we’d had on the farm. And now she has her own little horse ranch with loads of horses and she loves it.
@Laptops to Lullabies–ooh, I love being called “chic.” What a compliment–thank you!
LOL @Erin and your “Holy Crapola!” Your comment cracked me up. Thank you!
@Kim S–I’m always happy to have a new reader, and am so flattered you took the time to go through my archives, too. Welcome!
@Leigh–I don’t consider myself much of a cook. I grew up making “hillbilly food” so I’ve got that down, but anything that requires more than two pans has been pretty much new territory for me over the past few years. But I’m learning!
@Gin–LOL! Blogging about that could possibly get me fired, lol!
Thanks again everyone. I truly appreciated hearing all your wonderful feedback. Thank you so much!
I read and enjoyed every word
I’m so glad I’m not the only one who still feels weird calling herself a woman instead of a girl despite being in my twenties!
Haha. Love your take it on attitude. I share the view. I wasn’t raised on a farm in Wisconsin, but my parents were raised on a farm in Wisconsin. The work ethic and approach run deep even for the next generation! Keep up the lovely posts. I love reading them.
Great getting to know you! Never would’ve guessed you grew up on a farm! But I totally love that, being a country girl myself.
It was fun to read about you! I always love to read more about bloggers. Looking forward to read your next chapter!
Thanks for sharing. It was fun and easy to read. You are an interesting girl and you are hilarious! Keep doing what you are doing!
Thanks for sharing! I’ve been reading your blog for a while, so it was nice to hear a little about you!
Hey, girl! Wow, that was awesome!!! I never would have guessed that D stood for Dusty, too cool, way cooler than Sarah. Man, I always thought growing up on a farm would be sweet. Crazy that there are so many different lifestyles out there, huh? I would love to experience a couple days of haying season:) Thanks for sharing, and as always, you make me laugh. You rock!
YOU GREW UP ON A FARM? No effing way. I never would have guessed that.
This post was great – I loved learning about you. And I LOVE that your name is Dusty!
I’ve enjoyed browsing many of your decorating projects so far – I think my favorite is the orange entryway with the Ikea mirrors, it adds such great interest to the walls! Closely followed by the free-form empty frames above the bed in the guest room. This is the second time I’ve stumbled across your blog coming from younghouselove.com (i.e. thisyounghouse.com).
Small tip: I think in your “Related Antidotes” section on this page, what you mean is “Anecdotes”: short little side-stories. Thought you might like to know!
@PeaceLoveMath–That’s exactly what I mean, lol! Thanks for catching my typo! I’ve fixed it now. And thanks for your wonderful comment. I’m happy to have you as a reader!
Just discovered your blog. Very cute and I’m looking forward to reading more!
ok, so i almost never comment on blogs, but i keep saying i’m going to start writing one and when i do i hope people will comment…so even though it’s the 3rd (embarassed gasp) comment today, i wanted to say thanks for such great writing, hilarious anecdotes, and great photography. love it all.
Thanks so much Classic Twist and Jennifer!
new reader here! such a fun blog! I will be following along – but am wondering (since my every day hair is worse than your bad hair day) how you keep your hair so perfect …?! do you have naturally sleek straight hair?? do you flat iron it daily? Trim it regularly??
Thanks Mommy Moreno–you flatter me! I have naturally stick-straight hair (which of course means I’d KILL for a little texture and some curl!!). Up until a month ago I had never used a flat iron in my life. I’d just blow dry and then style the ends with a large round brush. Now that I’ve been introduced to the world of flat irons I blow dry and then run a flat iron through the ends. It looks the same as what I was doing before, but I’ve found it’s much quicker. I get trims about every 10 weeks or so, and I don’t like product in my hair so the only thing I use is root-lifter, and only occassionally. I wish I had more tips and tricks to share, but mostly it’s just the hair God gave me, and I’ve finally learned to stop fighting it and just go with it.
Just found your blog through your guest post on Jen’s blog. Love your sense of humor! I live in the Madison area as well. Now I must go check out your archives!
Thanks Jackie! I’m so happy to have you as a new reader!
Hi Dusty! I just found your blog and I’m in lurve. I also grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and hated it! I’ve been living in Chicago since I graduated from college. I can’t wait to go back and read all your past entries. I hope you have your baby soon. So exciting!!
Thanks Chicago Mom! And welcome!
Hi Dusty. I have just discovered your blog and love it. I grew up in Wisconsin too. My mom was a farm girl with a very similar story to yours. I spent the summers on my Granparents farm and can relate to many of your experiences. I went to school in Madison and have many fond memories of my time there.
@Carmen–Sounds like we have a lot in common. Thank you so much for dropping me a line to say hi!
LOVE LOVE LOVE you blog and now check it daily. Your style is awesome and your sense of humor is the same! We jsut built our home and decorating starts…NOW! I’m using your space as inspiration and have some questions (if you don’t mind). First, where did you get the scroll wall art in your dining room and how did you end up hanging it? TIA!
Ahh I love your blog.. and my husband and I are trying for a little one ourselves. My question relates to wine.. when did you stop drinking it? I have heard so many different theories.. We have tried for three months no luck.. so now I’m in that in between period where we have tried but I am not sure if I am pregnant or not yet.. when do you stop drinking/decrease/ etc.?
@Amy and Rick–Hi, thanks so much for your sweet comment, and congratulations on your new home! The iron scroll in our dining room is from Pottery Barn. Feel free to email me with any other questions you have!
@The Mohl Hole–I stopped drinking wine during that “2 week window” that started when I ovulated and lasted until I either got my period or tested positive for my pregnancy. But once I got my period I was pouring myself a big ol’ glass of vino! I needed the consolation, lol! Good luck to you and your husband–I hope you get good news soon!
I know I have probably commented somewhere else on your blog, but….Gosh, I LOVE your home! It is my inspiration! It is so minimally beautiful. I love how your furniture speaks for itself and there is no need for clutter decorations. All of your pieces serve a purpose and are aestically fitting for the room. Additionally, your organization system is one to envy.
I like the baby talk, but I would love more decorating tips, pics, also.
I came about your blog when i was looking up pictures on ideas to update my own kitchen. And so i clicked on a photo that drew me. The one of your sisters kitchen makeover. I was amazed at what a few gallons of white paint could do. This is my next big project!
I Then clicked on the other photos, posts, handbags, pregnancy, etc. I am hooked, you are just too cute! And as with you Im in love with being a mother. Ive loved every minute of it since the pregnancy test. I have two Boys, 4 & 2, there’s no greater happiness than the smiles, kisses and i love yous that they give to me!
I found your blog through another and I liked it instantly. After reading this, I love it. It’s so nice to be able to really get a feel for someone by their back-story. I appreciate your candidness when you write. Especially about your Kate. I’m a mother of a toddler, so reading your posts about your baby make me really “feel” what you’re writing. Keep up the good work.
Thanks Young Mogul!
@Rosa–Two boys? Aww, how sweet. Thanks for sharing!
@Kara–Thank you for such a lovely comment; you just made my morning!
Found you through YoungHouseLove’s link love (they have not steered me wrong yet). I was just thinking I love your hair color when I read you’re from the Madison area. Me too! Where do you get your hair done? LOve it!
Anyway, looking forward to checking the rest out.
OH MY GAWWWWD, Dusty. I just found your blog via Sherry, and I feel like I just found muh long lost sista. Our brains are shaped from the same curly noodle. Can’t wait to follow you from here on out! Virginia @ livelovediy.com
Dusty, I just stopped by your blog to read more about you, and I think I just fell in love. FUNNIEST. ABOUT. ME. EVER. Fo’ real. ~ Virginia from livelovediy.com
LOL! Thank you so much, Virginia! I just started following you, too, and am looking forward to getting to know you! xoxo
@HudsonHero – Too funny! I love hearing from a local! I get my hair done at RZ & Company – love that place!
HI! Loved this post! Super funny! Great job!
Thank you Ida!
just found your blog and it’s so cute!
Thank you, Danielle!
Hooray! A blog by a working (outside the home) mom!!
Thank you Kirstin!
Just found your blog – adorable. I’m a fellow Wisconsinite. No farm experience here, but unfortunately I do know an underage (or two) won’t get you kicked out of college. Anyway, I’m loving this blog! We’re expecting baby #3 soon (have twin toddlers presently) and building a house – all while working full-time jobs – so I’m finding a lot I can relate to here! I hope you keep up the great work!
Thank you so much for your comment, Julie! I always love hearing from my fellow Wisconsinites. It sounds like you certainly have your hands full these days! Good luck to you with Baby #3 on the way!
Re-reading this and missing you! <3
Fellow Wisconsinite here!
Woot! Love it!
I dont usually add comments but i felt compelled to tell you that i admire your writing style snd your syory,hence i admire you. You sound like a remarkable young lady snd your mother should be proud of you.
So lovely of you to say, Kelly – thank you!
I was born in the lovely Central American country of the Caribbean called Panama (Land of the famous Panama Canal). My maternal and paternal family were raised in the country side and are both from huge families. I came to the US as a very small child with no recollection of my birth country but your upbringing was similar to my families. It brought back tender memories of how simple my parents lived. They did not have much money but they lived an abundant, happy and rich life. Eating fresh tropical fruits ripened by the tropical sun, playing with family members by the turquoise beach, Just living “La Vida Buena” (The Good Life). Just wanted to say that you are extremely blessed to eat natural real food. Eat dinner with your family, with meals prepared from scratch. To know what working cohesively as a family unit means. I totally agree that all we need as human beings is the joy simplicity brings to our lives. Because in the end that is what makes us happy. May God continue to bless your family with health and happiness.
Thank you so much for your wonderful comment, Dulce. Your comment touched my heart. It sounds like you had an upbringing and a family that was and is very rich in all the ways that matter!
Hi Dusty, just came across your blog. You & your family are beautiful. I really enjoyed the “long” version about you. It had me laughing. What a wonderful blog. Thanks so much for sharing with all of us in blog land.
Ann Marie from Philly
Thank you so much Ann Marie – so sweet of you to say! So fun to get a hello from Philly. I’ve never been there but hope to check it out someday!
Love your polka dot party….how did you make pillowcases?
Thank you so much, Nichole! Here’s a link to how I made the pillowcases: The Making of Kate’s Polka Dot Pajama Birthday Party