Friday, June 27, 2014

Factory Farm or Family Farm? You tell me.

As a kid I spent a lot of time hanging out with my grandparents on the family farm.  My sister and I would get off the school bus in the afternoon there and spend time with Grandpa and Grandma until our parents could pick us up.  On those days, Megan and I put countless miles on the golf cart checking cows with Grandpa and probably ate thousands of strawberries that Grandma grew in her garden!

Family Farm

After Grandma passed away and Grandpa retired to town, my dad took over the farm and our family moved to 'The Home Place'.  Moving to the farm meant I spent even more hours with the cows, fixing fence (that the cows inevitably would run through), hauling wagons to the field, baling hay and everything else that living on a farm requires.  It was these activities that bestowed on my sister and I our shiny 'Farmer's Daughter' badges!

Recently, there has been a campaign to raise money and buy drones to fly over so called 'factory farms' and expose all the "dirty secrets" that are being kept.  For cripes, sakes.  Really? 

In an effort to counter all the negativity surrounding farms and agriculture two bloggers, Nurse Loves Farmer and The Farmer's Wifee, have created a campaign 'Factory Farm or Family Farm?  You Decide.' in support of family farms. 

They are asking for participants to create a photo collage with an aerial photo of your farm and pose the question “Factory farm or family farm? You decide.” You can even hashtag #MyFamilyFarm on other forms of social media!

I couldn't help but create two collages.  One is of 'The Home Place' and the other where Matt and I live now.  The farms themselves are different, but neither are factory! 
Family Farm
We are family farmers!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

More Like 8 to 4:30

9 to 5

Helene and Sarah are back at it again for another round of #totalsocial and this month they want the scoop about our 9 to 5 j-o-b.  Well here's some details for ya on that...
  • I work for University of Illinois Extension.
  • Extension was established 100 years ago as an outreach organization to bring information discovered at the University to people throughout the state.
  • We offer educational opportunities in five areas: health, food security/safety, environmental stewardship, wise use of Illinois agricultural land and maybe our most well known, 4-H!
  • I proud to say that I actually use both my animal science (BS) and agriculture education (MS) degrees.
  • I generally roll in to work at about 8:05am and only work 'til 4:30pm.  You can bet that I'm out the door at 4:30:01!
  • Each day is different, sometimes it's meetings, programs, meetings, programs, but other days it's just brainstorming for the coming months.
  • I work with some awesome people, one of which I'm related to!
  • My favorite programs to bring to the community are horse related (obviously) or ones that introduce people to something they might not have ever learned about without our input!  Recently, we've had huge success with backyard beekeeping, encouraging women to take a more active role in farming and local foods and small farm tours!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Front Porch Decor

It's a rainy, cool day here in Illinois and all I really wanted to do this morning was stay snuggled up in bed!

Unfortunately, that wasn't a reality so I'm sharing some pictures of the pretty flowers and tasty herbs I've potted up and have sitting on my porch at home.  While I don't always appreciate the rain, they sure do!

herbs in old canning pot

Potted Plants

Twig Stars and Potted Pansies

Hand Painted Wood Signs and Potted Plants

Linking up with Tuesday Tea!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Five on Friday v.16

Hiya everybody!  Isn't Friday just the best?!?!  This week didn't suck, but Friday is always a welcome sight no matter what.  Shockingly, we have a pretty empty calendar this weekend and I'm looking forward to some down time in the hammock or maybe even an impromptu date night with Matt?

My five things for today's Five on Friday are just a few things that either a) I'm looking forward to or b) something I'd like to accomplish this weekend.

Tickets for the National Finals Rodeo go on sale this time next week!  We're headed back to 
Las Vegas this winter.

My pal Maggie and I are taking her new horse to a show and I'll be going back to my barrel racing roots!  Although Six is enjoying his well deserved retirement I do miss 'chasin' cans'!

After spending all last weekend making food for the graduation party I have got to catch up on a few things at home like laundry, yard work and house cleaning.  Real exciting stuff.

As a reward for all the boring tasks mentioned above, I hope to spend several hours in the hammock catching some rays and reading my new book.  


Have you read The End of Your Life Book Club?  I'm finding it to be a relatively quick read that delivers a great message!

In addition to reading in the hammock this weekend, there's no doubt in my mind I'll also be doing some daydreaming about my trip out to New Jersey next month.  I'm headed out to visit some friends for a few days and spend the holiday on the water at Toms River!

With a view like this, it's cool they're Yankee fans!

What are you up to this weekend?  Are you traveling, being productive or just relaxing?


Linking up with April, Christina, Darci and Natasha.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bella, The Water Dog

Last night before I started cleaning up supper, I let Bella out in the yard to play.  She doesn't usually get into too much trouble (aside from chasing bunnies and bugs) if we aren't out there with her so I didn't think much about it.  

After dishes, I got sidetracked and kind of forgot I put her outside until I heard her whining at the screen door.  Just before letting her in, I noticed she was soaking wet?!?!  She hadn't been in her baby pool since we emptied it and put it away because of the strong storms that we got on Tuesday.  

Then the light bulb went off!  This video below will give you an idea what she was probably up to while I was busy inside.  


With all the rain we had the night before she had resorted to entertaining herself because she's one Black Labrador that just can't be kept out of the water! 

And she doesn't discriminate.  

Baby pools, swimming holes or farm ponds.  

She just LOVES the water... and treats, car rides, sleeping in our bed!

So tell me, do you have a dog?  Are they crazy in love with anything particular like Miss Bella? 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Wise Guy Cupcakes

Cupcake Decorating Tutorial

I adore these cupcakes!  They just make me smile.

They were the centerpiece for the graduation party I catered this weekend and everyone thought they were a hoot!  Pun totally intended.  Ha!  The school mascot is a 'Sage' or owl and I couldn't resist making these little guys!

And really, while they're a bit time consuming to put together, they're very easy to make.You'll start with 24 baked and cooled cupcakes.  I made mine Saturday morning and didn't get around to decorating them until Saturday afternoon.

The most tedious task is seperating all the chocolate sandwich cookies.  You'll need to carefully seperate 48 cookies, setting aside the cookie without the cream filling.  If you have trouble with the cream breaking, you can smush it back with your fingers.

Yes, smush is a technical term.

Cream Filled Sandwich Cookies

For the noses and eyes I used 24 orange chocolate candies and 48 brown chocolate candies.

Orange and Brown Chocolate Candies
Stop counting the candies!  I said STOP!!

To affix the eyes on the cream covered chocolate sandwich cookie, use a tiny dab of frosting.  You only need a little.  Too much and you'll see it spill out from underneath the candy.

Attaching The Eyes

After you get all the candies attached, you'll frost the cupcake and carefully place two of the cookies on top.

Cookie Eyes

Then grab one of the orange candies and place it on it's side in the 'V' below the eyes.

Orange Candy For The Nose

Now use your knife or small offset spatula to pull the frosting above the eyes into the shape of little horns.  You can easily manipulate the frosting.  There's not a science to this, just go with it.

Owl Cupcake

One cupcake completed!  23 more to go.

Wise Guy Cupcakes

24 Chocolate cupakes, baked and cooled
Chocolate frosting.  I cheated and used canned.
48+ Cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies.  Grab a few extras just in case!
48 Brown chocolate candies
24 Orange chocolate candies

Carefully separate sandwich cookies, setting aside the wafer without the cream.
Use a small dab of frosting and affix the brown chocolate candies to the top of the cookie halves with the cream.  Set aside.
Frost cupcakes with chocolate frosting.
Place 'eyes' centered on each cupcake.
Take an orange candy and put just below the cookie eye.
Use an offset spatula and pull the frosting to make horns for your owl.

Cupcake Decorating Tutorial
Whooo are you looking at? 


Linking up with Delicious Dish Tuesday and Tuesday Tea!

Monday, June 2, 2014

I Could Use Another Day

I don't know about you folks, but I would have been totally open to an extra day sandwiched between Saturday and Sunday!  All in favor of instituting mandatory three day weekends, raise your right hand.  Opposed... your vote doesn't count.

Friday afternoon I go off work and headed home to start prepping for the graduation party I was asked to cater.  But as I was pulling in the drive I did get sidetracked because my peonies FINALLY bloomed! 

In Full Bloom

Aren't they lovely?!?!

Okay, back to the task at hand. Food and decorations for the party. 

JC's Graduation Party

This is just the stuff that didn't have to go in the refrigerator.  I didn't get a pic of everything crammed in there, but it was chalk full too!

Friday night I made a double batch of my So So Good Chex Mix and finished up all the paper decorations for the party.  I also loaded up all the serving dishes, utensils and drink dispensers so I wouldn't have to do that Saturday. 

Saturday morning I was up bright and early to bake chocolate cupcakes, cut fruit and veggies, make dips and BLT bites.  Thankfully the family I was doing all this for have an extra fridge and I was able to run everything down Saturday afternoon and make room for what I had to prepare on Sunday!  I spent the rest of Saturday decorating the chocolate cupcakes! 

Tutorial coming soon to a blog near you...

JC's Graduation Party

After getting the cupcakes done, I was happy to relax with some wine (and food I didn't have to make) at a friends cookout!  Burgers and brats on the grill, pasta salad and a baby announcement to top off the evening! 

Sunday I was up and at 'em early again.  With Matt's help, I finished up meatballs, baked ham and cheese sandwiches and black bean and cilantro salsa.  After loading up the last of the food, I headed to Wilkin's for the party.  From this point, everything becomes a whirlwind of hanging decorations, icing beverages, displaying and refilling food and because I pulled it off, LOTS of smiling!