Sunday, December 16, 2012

I pray for peace

Friday started normally for many of us. We woke up early, went through our normal routine of breakfasting, dressing and beginning our day. Some of us went to work, some of us stayed home, but for many, we went to school.

My son and I arrived early, as we normally do after a long commute from Madison to Ixonia. I walked with him to the doorstep of the school, where I left him while I signed myself in as I do every Friday. I chatted with the school secretary, wishing her a happy holiday as I admired how festive the school looked. I said hello to the nurse and gave her an update on my sons condition, as he had been home sick with the flu for the last three days. After a quick pitstop, I returned to the entrance of the school, where I met up with the 4-k class on our walk into the classroom.

We walked down the steps single file, hung our coats up in the appropriate cubby and made our way into Mrs. R's cozy classroom. Just like children all across the country, we gathered together after the bell rang. We rose together to say the pledge of allegiance, hands over our hearts; taking a moment to correct a few little hands, crossed over the wrong side of their chest. We listened to the Principals announcements and started our routine.

Our day continued, after this point, but at Sandy Hook Elementary, time stood still. A lone gunman forced his way into the school. Moments later, tragedy. So many innocent lives were lost so quickly.

My mind races to think what we would have done if it was our classroom effected. My heart sinks and my stomach flips at the thought. How ever could this happen?

I say a prayer and run to my son. I hug him like I never have before and tell him I love him. I hold his precious little hand in mine before he quickly pulls it away to get back to his legos.

I pray that he and I never have to face a situation like this. I pray that we stay safe in the chaotic place this world is becoming. I pray for the families effected.

I pray for peace.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Spread the news!

Well, it's official folks. Not only is my artwork for sale at the Mineral Point Artist's Annex, but it is now available on Etsy! Check out my shop here to see my first few listings. More to come in the future. You can search for my shop by looking up @ValeriesWorkshop.

Just in time for the holidays, I've listed Christmas postcards and framable prints. I even listed my beanstalks, for those of you who have friends or family with growing children.

Please feel free to share this page with friends. And make sure to check back often for additional listings.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

Did you vote yet? I did at 8 o'clock this morning and was voter number 185 at my local polling place.

Please take some time today to make your voice heard and your vote count.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sharing a smile

As I was serving coffee to the residents at work last Saturday, a woman who is commonly quite grumpy stopped me in my tracks and asked me if I always smile. I filled her mug, smiled back and told her that I try to smile as often as possible. As I worked my way around the table, I explained to her that if I wasn't able to do anything else all day, all I wanted to do was make at least one person smile. I looked up from the last mug I filled and turned to her, inquisitively. Low and behold, a smile crept across her face and my heart filled with appreciation. Her rigidity melted away and for the rest of the day, I could tell he mood was a little more lighthearted than previous days. Each time I walked by throughout my busy day, a little chuckle would escape and she would shake he head in confusion. Why would little Miss Valerie keep smiling all day?

From a very young age I've been an uncontrollably optimistic person. I always try to make the best of every situation, find the good in the bad, and look for the sweet amongst the sour. Part of that optimism might come from the challenges I faced growing up. I never had a cookie cutter life, and overcoming obstacles became a rewarding challenge. I try to learn from every situation and take advantage of every opportunity to grow as an individual. Without optimism, I could have easily succumb to a fatalistic attitude but that just ain't my style.

So here I am today, working with the elderly in an assisted living facility. Each day I work with individuals suffering from all sorts of ailments and diseases, all of which dampening their spirit. So, each chance I get, I share my optimism. Whether it's sitting with one of them, reminiscing about days gone by, or simply cheering them up on a bad day, my goal is to share the joy.

From time to time, though, I forget my own goal. I let the world bring me down. I focus on the here and now and forget about the big picture. With the election nearing, Hurricane Sandy battering the East Coast and the weak economy, it's easy to find something to worry about. That's when I take a moment to sit back and refocus on what really matters. I stop sweating the small stuff and thank heaven for what I have. A happy, healthy family, a safe home to take shelter in, food in my belly and clothing on my back. What do I need besides that? Maybe just a smile on my face!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mother Nature

Mother Nature, herself ... Valerie

Something I'm not often able to share with the outside world is my love of the outdoors. Over the last few years, my love for nature has been allowed to blossom, mostly due to the fact that I live with hunting, fishing, mud tromping, gun slinging, manly-men twins, that inspire my almost five year old to trom through mud, sling plastic guns and fish until he's on the verge of tears. (Please don't let them know I'm flattering them this much. It might go to their heads!) And we do this all with two high energy dogs that love the woods more then we do.

On an almost weekly basis we pack our backpacks with snacks, water, hats, sunglasses, and my camera gear, and head to the sight of that days adventure. This past week we went pheasant hunting in Spring Green, West of Madison, and despite all the times my little man asked 'are we to the farm yet?', I was thrilled. Each week I am pleased to realize what an amazing family we've become. Some of our most cherished moments have been shared under the canopy of oak trees, our in the middle of a rustling sea of prairie plants. Our best selves shine through when we are out here, because we are finally comfortable to be ourselves. We tell silly stories, play 'til we can't stand up any more and even let a few belches slip here and there. I live with boys, after all!

When we get back home after days like that, I can't help but feel claustrophobic, closing the door behind me as I enter the house. My spirit feels as free as a bird when I'm outside, and I can't help but feel like I'm in a cage when I go inside. I guess I'll have to listen to Free Bird today, let my hair down, and breath some fresh air.

a flashback to my childhood

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Time to slice

The final step of prepping all of my artwork for sale was creating and attaching tags for everything. I designed, printed, cut, whole punched and tied bows all day for the last two days. What a process! I now have everything done and packed in a box waiting to take the journey to Mineral Point. In the meantime, I'm going to run to St. Vinnie's to try to find some display boxes of some kind and design an artist's statement to be displayed by the artwork. Maybe by the end of the week, my products will be in stores! Keep your fingers crossed, everybody.

And, besides all my paper and wood crafts I've been creating lately, I've been a busy photographer, too. This past weekend we went hunting at a beautiful hunting preserve in Spring Green. To help this growing business, I'll be photographing hunts and events at their property over the next few weeks. I might even help with a bit of graphic and web design. I'm so happy my freelancing has been paying off lately. If I keep going at this rate, maybe by this time next year I'll be able to work from home full time. Again, we'll all keep our fingers and toes crossed.

And, if all goes as hoped, I'll be starting two new part-time jobs next week. A short time ago I stepped down from my fast paced, chaotic management position realizing that I needed to focus on the home front a little more. My life was getting away from me, and with Bodie starting school, I really needed to re-prioritize my life to focus on what really matters; a happy, healthy lifestyle for me and my family. So, to allow myself to make this change, I realized two things; one, I needed to start creating and selling my own artwork; and two, I can't work a full-time job while doing this and keeping up with my life. Well, low and behold, Craigslist connected me with a few job listings, and after a bit of patient waiting, I was called in for several interviews and already offered one part-time job. Next Monday I'll start at Hitters Sports Complex in Middleton as a childcare assistant and graphic artist. And, in the meantime, I am waiting to hear back from All Saints Assisted Living & Memory Care. They are in need of someone to help with the Activities Department and in their Kitchen. As my skillset really matches their need, they all felt like I was a really great fit. So let's hope my background check clears and that I get a positive phone call from them in the next coouple of dyas.

Even as a small girl, I had great fashion sense and a need to chat!

Which brings me to my little rant before I get back to the workshop. With all this excitement my life, I've become quite phone dependent. Well, yesterday, I get back home, go to check my voicemail and am greeted with a busy signal that just wouldn't go away. So, this morning, after almost 24 hours without service (gasp!), I decided to instant message customer service at Charter to see what the issue was. As is usual, I was bounced from one service agent to another. An hour after our chat session began, and after I run up and down the stairs about 20 times, disconnecting and reconnecting the phone and phone modem, I was ever so politely told that somehow, mysteriously, Charter switched the phone number listed in my account. So, now, I must wait again, for the geniuses on their tech team to fix the problem. Is Charter going to give me a job if All Saints can't contact me since my phone isn't working?

Ugh! Maybe, like my post title says, it's time to slice Charter. This isn't the first time mystery changes have occurred on my account. We'll see how they make up for this one!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Carving Break

So my hands don't cramp, I thought I'd take a break to show you what I'm working on today. In order to look more official, and to carve yet another linoleum block, I decided I'd make a linocut stamp/block of my new logo for Valerie's Workshop. Nothing huge, the block itself is only 2"x3", but super detailed. As I sat there carving, I wondered to myself about how my style has become too intricate. My next block is going to be something simple. Geometric shapes, here I come!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I have been hard at work, folks! In the last week I have put countless hours in creating art in the workshop, kitchen and garage, and I am proud to say I feel like I'm actually getting something accomplished. Colorful card sets have been compiled, 8"x10" prints have been photographed, and the Etsy store is being refilled piece by piece. And, with any luck, I will even have my products for sale at the Mineral Point Artist Annex in the next week or so. Before I get back to work, here's a peak at what I've been working on and what will be available for purchase sometime soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Holy Cow!

My blog has almost had 3000 visits! I can hardly believe it. In honor of the occasion, I've decided to spruce things up around here. Don't be surprised if there's a new look, shortly.

And please, share my blog with your friends. Monthly reader give-aways to start in October!

I know, you can hardly contain yourselves ...

On a completely separate note, here are a few things that have me smiling this afternoon:
- It's sixty degrees, overcast and drizzly. Autumn is arriving and today is the first day it has really felt nice in a while. Jeans, wool sweaters and boots, here I come! Not to mention our fall mushroom hunting season is here, grouse hunting is just about to begin up North (and I can legally hunt now!) and  our cabin is getting an addition. Just a few more weeks and I'll be lost in the north woods. 

- I have a crock of pumpkin chili with rib eye steak simmering away in the kitchen. When my other half gets home, I'll heat up the cast iron skillet and make us a bit of corn bread and crack open the last two bottles of New Belgium's Red Hoptober from our fridge. Comfort food season has arrived. I think the crock pot might just stay out of storage for the time being!

- I helped my Grandma customize her first computer. At 90 years old, she has a laptop and can send emails from the comfort of her own home. Before I know it she'll be setting up a Facebook account!

- My other half got home. Time for dinner :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Keepin' Busy

As this summer comes to a close, the sun setting earlier, the days cooler and refreshing, I find myself busy with all sorts of projects. Whether inside or outside, brief or time consuming, these tasks have been satisfying. For the first time in what feels like years, though is actually months, I'm taking time to do things I enjoy and that make our home feel more ... home-y.

The kick-off project was overhauling the back yard. I spent three days pulling, digging up and all together obliterating the weeds from the gardens, and gave them a satisfying kick to the curb with what used to be a patch of overgrown hedges. Once the back yard was complete, I turned inwards, to the house, that is. I put away all the flip flops and Chacos that littered the floors and then corralled all the army men, cowboys and action figures back to their baskets. As the house returned to it's organized state, a sense of calm settled over everything. (Or maybe that was just the breeze coming in the open window, wafting a candle's frangrence my way). 

We even had a couple of dinner parties on the deck, putting the proverbial icing on the cake for me. I filled the yard with candles and our bellies with hot food ... we grilled Burgundy pepper steaks from our favorite local deli and a basket of lemon butter asparagus. For dessert, we had the best chocolate cake ever, a rich, dense layer cake topped with semi-sweet ganache that I baked earlier that day and a couple sips of red wine to rinse it down. Some of my favorite moments are spent sitting 'round that table with friends. The most amazing tales seem to be shared after the sun sets, once dinner is finished and the only light that remains is from the candles in the center of the table. Our voices and laughter trail off into the darkness as we enjoy the comfort of each others company.

Now that the house was in order, and we were all feeling jovial and content, I deemed myself ready to work on a few fun projects. Out came the sawhorses, jig saw and clamps. On went the new, cute safety goggles, ball cap and shorts. And away I went. I cut curves and straight lines, zigged and zagged, cursed a few times and changed a saw blade. By the time I arrived at the sixth plank, the sun was slipping behind the maple trees and sweat was dripping down my back. Saw dust covered my black shorts and, conveniently, the puddle from the power steering fluid leak in one of our trucks. 

In a few minutes, I'l get back to my wood working, sanding and staining, but not until I finish the cup of coffee that's patiently waiting for me. Hopefully, tomorrow, I'll be able to start on my next project ... a bicycle themed lino-print using my 1967 Schwinn Collegiate as inspiration.  It feels so great to have the creative juices flowing again. With any luck, they'll be allowed to flow freely for a while.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Milestones and Memories

As I sit here typing, I can't help but gasp as I think how fast time flies. It feels like just a short while ago I was changing my son's diapers and taking him for walks in the stroller on crisp fall afternoons. But just like that ... poof ... five years fly by, and, boy, how things have changed!

Yesterday, I dropped my son off at his first day of four-year-old kindergarten. To say I was having a mommy moment is an understatement. I have never felt more proud of being a mother and have never been more proud of my little man. I am so happy he has reached this milestone in his life. I feel like the entire universe is at his fingertips now, and I cannot wait to see how he grows.

And as I realize all of the other things he has experienced in his short life, I cannot help smiling. We have shared so many incredible things as a family. From bike rides to the park on sunny spring days, camping trips on the Wisconsin River in the summer and sledding trips in the winter, we do it all ... together. 

I'm so happy I can share so much of my life with this special boy. He has such an incredible way of lighting up my world and spreading his joy of life with others. If only we could all have the optimism of a 4.75 year old! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A moment of clarity

Earlier on this dull and dreary Thursday, I was lucky enough to sneak in a hot shower while Bodie was sleepily watching cartoons. As I stood there under the water, snarled red hair clinging to my shoulders, I was reminded of the title of my friends blog, and the idea of finding 'clarity in the chaos'. That's exactly what I've been doing lately; trying to make sense of this crazy thing we call life.  I've found it to be extremely empowering and cathartic to share my story, so here's a little more ...

 ... The day before Valentine's, I ended my position at the inn and started my transformation. For months, if not years now, I've been suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Since I'm not one to sit on my laurels and let the world take me for a ride, I decide to take bake the control of the reigns of my life. I began talk therapy with a great counselor, returned to my Survivors of Suicide support group, started meditating and most profound of all, rekindled my yoga practice.

To say the last two months have been transformative would be an understatement. I feel like a different person from my head to my toes. My renewed relationship with yoga, and it's ability to reconnect my body and mind, has been simply amazing. I am inspired on a daily basis to let my true self shine out. I'm loving life, loving living, and best of all, loving simply being me.

Here's to finding what makes you happy,
what allows you a moment of zen,
what allows you to simply be

With love and peace,

Monday, April 9, 2012

Calling all Bike-lovers

As hard as it is to do, we have finally decided to off-load a couple of bikes. As the seasons pass our garage fills with more and more toys, and we've begun to run out of room. Below are two of best bikes from our collection that we must bid farewell. 

The first, a custom Sherpani Trek Wasabi, complete with embroidered leather saddle and grips.  This is a well taken care of, but well loved bike, perfect for a cruising down to the the farmers market or coasting down the streets of your neighborhood. View the Craigslist Ad here.

The second bike for sale is a vintage Schwinn Collegiate circa the 1960s. With it's bright blue paint job and slick, classic frame you're sure to be noticed on your ride to campus. Complete with the original seat, this bike will help you ride in vintage style. Click here to see the ad on Craigslist.

Please feel free to pass this post on to friends! As sad as we are to see them go, we'd like them to go quickly. What grad wouldn't love one of these just before summer?

Monday, January 30, 2012

I will forget-me-not!

Few things bring me more joy then receiving packages in the mail. What I received today was no exception. Quite frankly, nestled within the folds of a recycled paper envelope, was one of the most heartfelt, moving gifts I've ever received. My dear friend L., who recently moved to New Zealand, mailed a locket, adorned with a forget-me-not.

Forget-me-nots have a very special meaning to L. and I. Both of our brothers commit suicide. Although we no longer have our brothers in our lives, we have each other. Something that we both recognize and appreciate greatly. Our friendship has grown so intensely over the last year that we are beginning to feel like sisters. We wear our lockets not only to remember the love of our brothers, but to draw strength from each other. L. ... if you are reading this, I love you! Thank you for being a part of my life. And thank you for reminding me to give in every once and a while.

Which leads me to the image above; my afternoon snack. I gave in and indulged this afternoon! I am a dark chocolate addict and have not had any in quite some time. As L. recommended I do something for me this afternoon, I picked up a bar of dark chocolate at the grocery store. 

I went back home, settled on the couch, broke off a square of the salted chocolate, and took a bite. I let the rich, smooth chocolate melt on my tounge, leading me into a cocoa induced trance. As I nibbled on the remaining chocolate, I could feel a little bit of my worries drift away and a smile creep across my face. 

Between the yoga, the chocolate, and making a homemade bath scrub, recipe below, (not to mention, putting in several hours of work at the home office), I was darn near happy! By the time dinner rolled around, I was on cloud nine. I got compliments on an experimental recipe and had two picky eaters completely empty their bowls. (Now, if only I could get this head ache to go away. Oh wait, I have an idea. Look away from the computer ... )

So, thanks, L., for making my day! Your package was exactly what I needed. Thanks for being you!
Now, good night all! Time to close down the computer and give two operating systems a much needed rest. Until next time.


Val's Vanilla Bath Scrub
1 1/2 cups coarse salt
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients in bowl with wooden spoon. Mixture shouldn't be too oily, so adjust salt/sugar if needed. (Use more sugar for sensative skin.) Store in a mason jar. Use in the shower/bath by gently scrubbing all over body, exfoliating skin while moisturizing. Or, dissolve under running water while filling bath for a moisturizing, scented bath.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I started this year with lofty ambitions, just like many others. I made a list of resolutions and hoped that this would be the year I'd actually follow through with them. But a few hours into the new year, things seemed to unravel. I broke down mentally and physically. I realized I was feeling worn down, trampled,  defeated, invisible. I had been pushing myself so hard, so long, that I reached my breaking point. What was I doing with myself? To myself? Why wasn't I trying so hard to make myself happy as I was to make everyone else?

So, finally, I gave in. I let the emotions out (read: I cried, and blubbered, and cried some more) and got real with myself. I was just as worthy of true happiness as the next gal. And, I am in control of that happiness. Not my family, not my friends, not my neighbors.  


So, here we are, almost a month into the new year, and I am resubmitting my resolution for the year. As much as I'd love to stick to my original list, I've realized that they won't be possible if I don't follow this new resolution. My new years life resolution is to love myself as much as I love others.

I need to care for myself and my soul. I need to nurture it, protect it, and fuel it, just like you would any other living thing. If I myself am truly happy, it will be so much easier to share that feeling with others.

Before,  I would just put the happy mask on every day and hope those around me wouldn't see through it. Well, the mask is off now. No more hiding.

I am Valerie. 

I am a woman.
I am honest. 
Some days I am happier then others.
I am resilient.
I am a dreamer.
I am willing to take a risk.
I have an extraordinary amount of love to give.
I am one of a kind.
I am not alone.

So here's to a new year, a new attitude, a new Valerie. As much as I am going to be real with myself, I will be with you. No more fluff, no more bullshit. Just the truth. (Speaking of the truth, here's one: I left my job at Wisconsin Cutlery, finally! More on that in another post). The blog may take a different turn for a while, but if anything, I hope to write more. It has been quite a challenge just to verbalize this, let alone publish it for the world to see, but has been a crucial step in my therapeutic process.

True to form, though, I will leave you with a recipe. I haven't been in the kitchen very much lately, so posting a recipe would be a challenge. But, yesterday, something wonderful happened; my new camera body arrived, while I was cooking, none the less. I had been preparing a hearty beef stew and just threw a spiced apple bread in the oven to bake when the mail man showed up with the package. So after slicing, I snapped a few pics to test out my new toy. What resulted was a moist, dense bread, ever so slightly sweet, with hints of ginger and cinnamon. And the photographs weren't too bad, either!

Spiced Apple Dutch Oven Bread

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 apple, finely chopped or grated (I used Suncrisps that I purchased at the Farmers' Market)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 3 tablespoons oil
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Mix in medium bowl: flour, sugar, apple, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
3. Mix, in separate bowl, milk, eggs and oil.
4. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour wet mixture into well. Mix from center until lightly blended.
5. Pour into well greased dutch oven (I used a 4 quart dutch oven). Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. 6. Bake one hour or until top of loaf is golden brown. When done, remove from oven and turn top side up to cool. Cut into wedges to serve.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Belated Gingerbread Men

I am a few weeks behind on posting this recipe, but better late than never, right?

This winter, one of my closest friends made a special request in a letter she wrote to me. She is fortunate enough to be working as a chef in New Zealand, but the warm summer weather and lack of free time left her cookieless and craving a holiday pick-me-up.

So, my son and I pulled out the digital cook book (a.k.a. my laptop) and found a satisfactory recipe for gingerbread men.

We measured, whisked, patted and chilled.
We rolled, cut, baked and decorated.

Before we knew it, we had a legion of gingerbread men and snowmen. We picked out a dozen of the strongest looking fellows, wrapped them in waxed paper and nestled them in a tin. Along with a few other items, we shipped our batch of Christmas Cheer to the other side of the world.

As of our latest update; our package arrived safely in New Zealand, ready to induce a highly contagious case of Happy Holidays. The gingerbread men have been going missing, one by one, since their arrival.

Keep this recipe in your file for cookies to bake next Christmas.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year & Season's Greetings!

Recipe from Joy of Baking.

Gingerbread Men
Makes about 3 dozen cookies depending on the size of cookie cutter used.
Note: We doubled the recipe and used half of the dough to build a gingerbread house.

Gingerbread Men:
3 cups (390 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup (160 ml) unsulphured molasses (To prevent molasses from sticking to the measuring cup, first spray the cup with a non stick vegetable spray.)

Confectioners Frosting:
2 cups (230 grams) confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons milk or light cream

Gingerbread Men:
In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, (or with a hand mixer) beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture beating until incorporated.

Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least two hours or even overnight).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Use a gingerbread cutter to cut out the cookies.  With an offset spatula lift the cookies onto the baking sheet, placing about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. If you are hanging the cookies or using as gift tags, make a hole at the top of the cookies with a straw or end of a wooden skewer. (If cookies are a little soft, place the baking sheet (with the cookies) in the fridge for about 10 minutes. This will prevent the cookies from losing their shape.)

Bake for about 8 - 12 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. They are done when they are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for about 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. If desired, you can press raisins, currants, or candies into the dough for eyes and buttons while the cookies are still warm. Otherwise, confectioners frosting can be used to decorate the cookies. Store in an airtight container.

Confectioners Frosting:
In an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until smooth and well blended.  Add the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beater. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add a little more milk if needed. Tint frosting with food color, if desired. Place the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and decorate the gingerbread men as desired.
Note: We added buttons & other decorations to our gingerbread men. Sprinkles, red hots and more can be found in the baking isle of your grocery store and help add color and character to your cookies.