7 Awesome Things That Happened This Fall

We have had a big fall.

Both kids are in school full time! At the same school! It is the small things in life to get excited about.

Both kids played soccer at the exact same time. Literally the majority of Saturdays they played at the same time at fields that were on the opposite sides of park.

Then you throw in ballet and swim and tumbling and all I did was drive back and forth from home to town. Many days two or three 50 mile round trips. But swimming has been so worth it!

Boo loves it and has built up his self esteem. Now if only he would be able to drive himself to all the practices. But seeing the smile on his face makes it so worth it!

And in the midst of our craziness, we have taken all of our bikes to training wheel free status.

And of course we had to order her a new bike because cars and bikes don’t seem to coexist in our world. It seems stores don’t carry large supplies of 16″ bikes. So, thank you Amazon and your prime shipping!!

But just when we didn’t have enough going on, we moved. The people buying our house offered to lease our house from us. They got to move in sooner and we got to move closer to school sooner. Double win…except the two week window to move.

To cap off the crazy circus life, we decided to take the kids to a Colts game. Since the Colts are doing amazing with their new rock star quarterback, we figured now would be as good of a time as ever! We surprised the kids with new jerseys when we got out of Sunday School and told them we were going to the game. Excitement was so huge that Boo actually cried. Cried tears of happiness. It was better than Christmas morning!


Affiliate links were used in this post.

My food tribute to Leontien

I know a lot of you have followed along with Leontien’s blog. I guess a day doesn’t go by that quite a few of us farmwives and friends pause to pray for her. Think of her. Text her. Smile about the gift she has been to us. I know sometimes we have all felt helpless on how to help ease her pain, both physical and emotional.


But, as I moved a few weeks ago, a friend was helping me pack up food in my pantry. She came across a box of dark chocolate sprinkles. Seems pretty simple. But they froze me in place. I felt a lump develop in the back of my throat. Sort of like the one I have right now. It was a box of the sprinkles from that February day we drug Ms. Leontien with us to meet The Pioneer Woman. We also took her to Jungle Jim’s. And there she found her sprinkles. And ketchup. And cookies. All from home. All from The Netherlands.

There is something about food that triggers comfort. Whether it is a smell or a taste, it is crazy how food can take us back to days when we were young. And that day, as Leontien picked up a bottle of her favorite ketchup, which is actually German, we all saw that memory on her face. It was as if she was back home again.
As we all continued to walk up and down the aisles of Jungle Jim’s, she pointed out other foods she loved. Then she nonchalantly walked by what seemed like thousands of bars of chocolate and pointed to the top row where two types of chocolate sat. She looked at us and said, “This is the best chocolate.” It was as if she had let the hounds out to go hunting. We attacked that chocolate. It was as if she was the global chocolate czar. We were her minions. I am sure the checkout workers thought we were crazy.
Now, when someone makes a trip to Jungle Jim’s, I beg them to pick up a few bars for me. I smile as I savor the chocolate. I smile not because the chocolate truly is the best I have had, but I smile because God blessed us by letting us have Leontien for a while on earth.

Bastiaan and Leontien

Girl, you are such a blessing. You have given so much more than we have been able to give to you. We cherish what we have learned from you. We bask in the rays of your light you give this world. We are all better people because of you. Love you, Sweetie.


Tips for Buying Meat on a Budget

It seems like Meatless Monday isn’t a fad. Yet, I can’t seem to convince my family that no meat all day long is a good idea. Maybe it is because we have two full freezers of meat that was raised by our family. Maybe it is because we enjoy B-12. If you are like me and not totally convinced going meatless is reducing anything, except maybe your budget, here are some tips for reducing your meat budget.

Meatless Monday

1. Buy in bulk

Whether it is at Sam’s club or from a farmer directly, buying in bulk reduces your cost per pound. I can buy pork shoulder in 20 pound whole pieces for $1.77 a pound at Sam’s. I paid my brother $2.75 per pound for a half of a beef. Either way, it is cheaper than buying beef or pork in smaller sizes. Beef is more expensive because it comes down to numbers.





These are the average feed efficiencies. What does that mean? The pounds of feed an animal has to eat to gain one pound of weight. So, these numbers are in order of most efficient to least efficient, of fish, chickens, pigs, and beef cattle. Yes, fish will gain a pound for every pound of feed they eat. Chickens will convert half of the feed they eat into body weight gain. And, cattle eat a lot to get one pound of weight gain. It cost more to get one pound of beef than pork or chicken or even fish.

2. Cut and grind at home

If you are buying all of your meat at the grocery store, it will be cheaper to buy it all in whole pieces of meat. Buy whole pork loins and slice them at home to make pork chops. Buy a beef chuck roast and grind it at home to reduce the cost of ground beef. Whole chickens are cheaper per pound than boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The store adds cost to the per pound price the more they handle the meat to cut it, remove bones or grind it up. You can do it at home to save money.

3. Go Lean

While it may look like an 80/20 ground beef is cheaper on the label, 20% of the beef will be poured out when you cook the meat. The 20% is just fat. This is why your hamburgers shrink or you have so much grease in your skillet when you brown beef. If you don’t want to through away 20% of the fat, buy leaner meat products.

4. Buy quick sales

I have noticed that most grocery stores have meat that is expiring the day we are shopping. They will have this meat marked down at great prices. This meat is still perfectly safe to buy and freeze at home. Don’t be afraid to pick up a cut of meat you haven’t tried before either if the price is right.

5. Buy out of season

Have you noticed that you don’t eat as many post roasts in the heat of summer? Or that you don’t grill as many steaks or brats in the dead of winter? Many times, there may be a large supply of “out of season” meat so grocery stores will be encouraged to run sales on these cuts of meat. Buy them up and freeze them for later or eat them for a change up! I have noticed chicken wings get mighty expensive the closer we get to the super bowl. I always buy them six months out and freeze them!

6. Know your labels

It seems that the marketing world has filled our food packages with lots of labels. But what do they all mean? Educate yourself. Labels like all-natural or hormone free are bogus labels that are not regulated and have false meaning. All meat has hormones in it. Meat comes from animals. Animals, just like you and me, have hormones that naturally occur in it. It has been illegal to feed hormones to chicken and turkeys for over 50 years. So, all poultry is free of artificial hormones. All meat chickens and turkeys are also raised in cage free environments. All of them. So, if a commercial or label says chicken meat is cage free, it isn’t anything special.

Additionally, all meat, eggs, and dairy is antibiotic free. Animals that have been treated with antibiotics have strict withdraw periods and processing facilities follow guidelines and rules that are enforced by the FDA and USDA to guarantee the products do not have any antibiotics in it. So, once again an antibiotic free label is meaningless. All of the products are antibiotic free. Now, if you want to have meat, eggs or dairy that came from an animal that was never given medicine, you may just want to stick with certified organic. However, this will cost you, since organic farms can’t treat sick animals with medicine.

Be sure to check out the other tips and food tidbits as part of the 30 Days on the Prairie Farm Series.

30 days on the prairie farm

5 Gifts for the Foodie {or food, wine & coffee addict}

I am not a fancy cook. I just like food. A lot. I like good food with good wine. And let’s be honest, I am a coffee junky. I could live a long time without a lot of things, but coffee is not one of those things. While, I am not counting on getting any of these items, I have a short list of gifts I would recommend to any husband looking for ideas for their wife.

1. Crock-Pot 6-Quart Programmable Cook & Carry Oval Slow Cooker

Every busy mom must have a programmable crock pot. What I love about this one, it also can be transported without a big mess. If you don’t have one and are crock pot lover, get one now.

2. Cuisinart Brew Central 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker, Black/Brushed Metal
Every coffee junky has to leave their college coffee pot in the past at some point. I wrestled this coffee pot when I visited my friend, Katie in North Dakota. It did make some great coffee. Now, I have coffee pot envy.

3.Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven, Cherry

I have wanted this, well, I don’t know how long I have wanted this, but I drool over these cast-iron puppies every time I see them on display. Their color names are even enticing: Flame, Caribbean, Marseille, Cherry, Dune, Fennel, Cassis, Dijon. I want one. Pretty, pretty please with a CHERRY on top!

4. Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler

This thing is just cool. From burgers like it shows to panini sandwiches to eggs and bacon, the griddle is the answer to a woman’s winter blues. When the outside grill is buried in snow, this would be a great pinch hitter.

5. Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator

I have a confession. I have this already. I have been known to carry it with me. I have no patience to wait on a decanter. This is a must for the red wine lover.

foodie christmas gift ideas

Do you have any other gift ideas for the busy foodie?

Be sure to check out the other tips and food tidbits as part of the 30 Days on the Prairie Farm Series.

30 days on the prairie farm

Affiliate links were used in this post.

I am Failing as a Mother

Am I alone or do you feel like you buy 742 pairs of socks and instead of having any in your the top dresser door, they are just strewn about begging to be matched up with their long lost soul mate?

pile of unmatched socks

But instead of matching socks I spend approximately 264 minutes each week running my kids to dance and cheer leading…

little girl cheeringAnd swimming and soccer.

swimming practice

boy in swim cap

My efforts to reduce obesity in America. Actually, my kids feel like they spend so much time in the car they pretend we are living in the van.

sleeping bag in vanIt is as if the book, Sh*tty Mom, was written for me. Some days I wonder if they brushed their teeth, wore clean socks or the same pair they wore the last three days, and if we actually turned in homework or left it sitting on the counter. I am sure my kids look like there mother didn’t look at them before they jumped out of the door so she could race to her meeting 60 miles away more than I think.

girl dancing in the rain

boys dressed up for 80's day

There are days I am on policy conference calls while in car line at school or talking to the school nurse about some mysterious object stuck in my son’s ear during a business lunch. And when I can’t find my lipstick I should just check with my daughter, she probably has it one of her my purses she carries with her everywhere.

little girl putting on lipstickI swear my colleagues have to think I am lunatic. They are just lucky I am not taking notes with colored pencils and mechanical crayons…

colleaguesBut then I am reminded…dirty socks and crazy hair and lost homework and conference calls and business lunches really will not matter in a month or a year or even a decade. But making sure that my kids know they are loved by not only me, but a very gracious and merciful God is so much more important. And this weekend, it took my seven year old son reminded me of this.

He nonchalantly told me as he was trying to stretch the time before lights out that while he was playing football at our neighbor’s annual fish fry, he asked one of the boys if he believed in Jesus. The boy responded yes, but he doesn’t get to go to church a lot. Boo was relieved. The very next day as he was playing with a boy from down the road, he noticed a bible sitting in his room. He asked this boy the same thing. And got the yes reply. Once again he was relieved. I was shocked. Both of these boys are considerably older than my son. Both boys don’t go to school with him or even live next door all the time as they split time between their broken up parents. But, Boo didn’t worry one bit of what they might think of him or even that they would think anything of his question. When I asked him why he decided to ask them this question, his answer was simple. “Mom, I just want to make sure they believe that Jesus died for them so they can be in heaven with me someday.”

Let the children come to me...Luke 18:16Well, it doesn’t get anymore important than that. And while I will be hard on myself about my parenting flaws and guilty about not being everything I see other moms be, I can sleep a bit more sound at night knowing I have shared the love of Jesus with my kids and one day, hopefully not soon, they will be in heaven with me.

Helping Kids with Friendships, Bullies, and Confidence

Some days I want to be that parent that keeps their kids home so they don’t have to encounter heartache, disappointment, and the pain of growing up. But, then what would I be helping my kids learn if I shelter them from anything that might hurt them. Today was one of those days. As I walked away from my son at VBS today as he was on the brink of tears because he is struggling with having friends, I kept telling myself this will make him stronger. Cue Kelly Clarkson.

Friends in no timeBut, I was on the brink of tears on the way home wishing for a cigarette and a six pack of beer. Wait, that doesn’t teach me how to cope either.

Instead I have spent the last hour praying prayers of thanksgiving for the blessing of friendships growing up. Friends who loved me for me. And then my friends in high school. The ones that when I see randomly today when I go back home feel as if we have never been apart. My college friends made me realize I wasn’t broken. They taught me to keep my chin high and not be wounded by hurtful things people who didn’t know me would say about me.

I will be honest, adult life has been a little more cruel in the friendship department. Which is why I probably ache even more for my dear boy. I know how your heart aches just to have someone make you feel loved for being you. I have been shut out, left out, talked about, put down, talked down to and scorn by people since leaving college. Unfortunately, many of these people are parents. And now, Leah is starting to get her groove back. I stopped worrying about what others thought or needed from me and started being me.

As we grow up, we realize it is less important to have lots of friends, and more important to have real ones.And then praying in turn for my son to find friends that will love him for just who he is, no pretenses, no false hopes, no mean spirits.

In the meantime how do you teach a seven year old to walk away from a bully who is making fun of him because he can’t catch a football as well as everyone else? Or how do you teach him that not everyone can be in the same group and sometimes you need to be in another group to be friends with another kid? How do you tell him that his friends are out there he just has to be patient.

FriendshipI know some of this problem has been caused by his mother. I work. Other people don’t always approve of the fact that some moms have to work or frankly choose to work. Sometimes our kids become the collateral damage.

But I can tell it impacts my extremely social kids when they rarely get calls to come play. Oh wait, maybe it is because we live in the middle of bloody nowhere 25 miles from the rest of civilization we go to school with…

I have been working on building my little dude’s confidence. Instead of playing baseball this summer and going to typical sports camps he is on the swimming team, doing summer reading and getting some tutoring help. Hoping that he has some personal feelings of accomplishment in the pool and hits second grade reading without any hiccups.

So far so good. He got moved up a level yesterday in swimming and registered to swim in two meets this summer. He is reading so well, he sends text messages for me when I am driving. Win-Win!! And to his pleasure, I am going to send him to a muli-sports camp. Mainly so he doesn’t fall completely behind on the playground causing more tears in the car on the ride home from school this fall.

Any pointers or tips to help this momma boost her boy’s confidence and self-esteem?


Leah’s Summer Must Haves

I have realized this week, I have a few things I no longer can go without this summer, beginning with my FitFlop sandals. I got my first pair of fitflops when I went to Hawaii and loved them so much I knew I had a new pair for Florida.

old pewter fitflopsSo, I got on my favorite shopping website for procrastinators, zappos.com, the week we left for Florida. And I ordered the whole family sandals for the beach including my new pair of flipflops, black lunetta!

Black Lunetta FlipflopWhy do I love these shoes? Well, because they have a lot of cushioning for a flip flop and can easily be dressed up or down. I have warn them to the zoo and to church. Either way, they feel awesome. Bonus, I always get complements on them.

I tend to also be living in one particular style of Under Armour T-Shirt. I have it in two colors, and I bet before summer is over I have it in more colors. Love this shirt and don’t know how I lived without it.

Love aviator sunglasses. It is becoming and obsession…

purple aviatorsI have purplish pink aviators.

avaiator sunglasses in goldI have them with gold rims and brown lenses. These even made it to sunny Florida!

wearing aviator sunglasses on the beachAll of my glasses are cheap. Less than $10 cheap. No tears when I lose or break them this way.

However, for about 3 days I had my friend’s Tory Burch aviator sunglasses. Then she came to reclaim what I had been trying to keep for myself.

Tory Burch Avaitor sunglassesBut, I now want expensive sunglasses. Specifically I want these sunglasses. It is my summer must have;)
Ray-Ban - RB3025 Aviator Large Metal Polarized (Gunmetal/Brown Gradient) - Eyewear


Click on the picture if you want to check them out for yourself:)

This is my newest love…

Keep Calm and Drink Wine NecklaceYep, got it this weekend at Vintage Indiana and now all I want to do is wear it. Thank to Elizabeth Alta Jewelry. She has awesome stuff. Check her out!

I might as well fess up, I am on a new diet plan. It is the don’t eat anything white diet I think. No flour, no white sugar, no milk, no white sauce, no white cheese, no staples of my life so now I know why I am fat. So to add flavor to vegetables this summer and meat too, this is my new favorite marinade.I marinaded eggplant, squash, mushroom and onions in it last night and the kids loved it too.

Lawry's Tuscan Sun-Dried Tomato MarinadeI think I am going to buy a case next time it is on sale.

Last month we got a new man van, please meet “The Silver Bullet.”

2012 Honda OdysseyIt is a 2012 Honda Odyssey and it is magical. It has enough cup holders for the entire Duggar family, it comes equipped with a cool box, DVD player, power sliding everything. I also bought this van by doing virtually everything online before coming in for a test drive. Pricing, questions, stalling, research, etc. Everyone should get one. Go to indyhonda.com and look for TK. She rocks!

So now the kids keep wanting to take Checkers, our Teddy Bear dog, with us whenever we go somewhere. This in turns into Checkers running all over the van..

doggie car booster seatYep, I got a doggie car seat. I know it is crazy. I have already began getting harassed from my friends. But no more crazy dog running around.

So, what are your summer must-haves? Do share!

Affiliate links were used in this post. Honda did not compensate me for my comments or give me a van:) Neither did Lawry’s. Both companies are getting free, unadulterated love from me.

Sanity Checkes Come in the Form of Blondes Sometimes

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel completely alone in the world? You feel like you don’t have any friends that “get you” or if you do they are 25,000 miles away. And even if it is only 2500 miles away it still feels like 25,000 miles.

Or is it just me?

I have been known to have a few poor me moments, privately of course, in the past few months. And then like a little ray of sunshine God brings me an answer to my cries. And, ironically, he seems to send blondes.

Let’s begin with my recent sanity check in India. When I found out that my Grandpa died she just hugged me. She didn’t dwell on it. She let me have my little weep fest and then made me laugh.

Meet Sarah. I think she might kill me for this photo, but I thought it captured her essence;)

This one hopefully will make up for the first one.

She has become my love you through thick and thin even if what you just said was little too honest friend.

She is my cigarette and coffee for lunch accountability partner:)

When I had my birthday last month and was wishing I was 23 instead of 32, she took me out for shrimp cocktail and prime rib sandwiches.

She loves me unconditionally, my circus and all.

Her texts roll in just when I need them.

She is an answer to my prayer for someone who gets the hidden little inside of me and loves me for it.

Then there is my dear friend, Katie.

My sister from another mother who lives in North Dakota. I can remember the night we had our “Ah ha” moment over martinis at the American Farm Bureau Federation meeting.

We unloaded on each other about our pains from youth, fears about raising daughters, being a traveling mom, keeping our marriages together, finding time for God, finding time for self.

She is the one mom who has a longer commute than me to the office in the mornings with her 90 miles haul across the North Dakota Prairie. And it is then that we find ourselves both racing from our homes to our jobs all while talking with each other. Those early morning phone calls have literally pulled me through the day more than once.

We help each other with both personal and professional advice. We have called midday with a work question and said, “Hey, your on speaker, my colleague wanted to hear what you had to say on this topic too.” We know the other will have the $500 an hour question next week, so we share our knowledge, advice and opinions freely.

She is stuck with me forever. I love her.

Every working mom married to a farmer needs to find another woman she can just look in the eyes without saying a word and know that she too understands what is going on.

I bring you Heather.

Heather too married a farmer who lives hours from her hometown. Heather too has a career that leaves her away from her kids at night from time to time. Heather too more than anything would trade her full-time job for a part-time job that would leave her more time at home.

But she too was blessed with opportunities to provide above and beyond for her family.

We share a lot, too. For starters a housekeeper. I know we both take a big sigh of relief when we walk in the house on the day our housekeeper has been there. That gal is a gift from God for both of us.

We also share an inability to say no. We both are volunteer extraordinaire, especially if it has anything to do with agriculture. Not for us, but because we look at our precious babies and want to make sure there is a farm for them to come home to someday, if they so choose.

We get a little fired up when people don’t understand us or attack our friends.

It seems like the little time we make for each other over a venti Starbucks is never enough.

For her truth. Her honesty. Her loyalty. She will always be my dearest friend.

And now there is new world I have entered. Parent of a school aged child. And let me tell you, this momma is CLUELESS in this new world. Since I do work full-time, I am not able to volunteer a whole bunch for school activities. So, when I do I am so out of the information/gossip loop I don’t even realize that a loop exists!!

And then there is this kind, smiling face who lets me in on what I need to know. There is Abby.

She doesn’t judge me for not being able to be at everything.

She lets me in on the back stories.

She seems genuinely interested in what I do for a living even though when I rattle on about some testimony I have to give to the Foreign Affairs Committee on trade opportunities to Europe she thinks I am speaking Greek.

She is raw with me. She, too, is willing to have fun with me and not have a care in the world.

She has been my soccer buddy, happy meal totting supper pal, ballet time waster. She too understands what the term farmer’s widow means each spring and fall.

I can’t wait for the next 12 years knowing she will be right there with me.

And sometimes you just need to feel right at home. Comfortable. Grounded. Balanced.

And that is what Cindy does for me. She is my yang to my ying. While many me think we are as opposite as they come, that is precisely why we work.

She knows my bad habits.

She knows I have always been messy.

She knows my exes.

I know hers.

She knew me when no one else did. And loves me still.

We have traveled together. Covered for each other. Helped each other out in a pinch.

And now we are watching each other become mothers. And for this I am most thankful.

On to the next great adventure.

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