Monday, October 24, 2011

Perspectives from the plains

I was thrilled to see an article in the latest Smithsonian magazine about a young author's time in Lincoln, Nebraska.  She talks about how the plains gave her perspective and peace.

A transplant from New York, she reflects on the beauty and starkness of the prairie and farm ground.  It was an excellent read.

Check it out!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

One of my favorite items in the kitchen is the giant chalkboard we picked up at an auction shortly after we moved to this house.  It was a whole $3 and a real find since I had been scouting similar items in the big home decor catalogs for months.

My memories with my nieces from family dinners usually have two elements - one of them asking to be the one to write the menu on the board and the other being enamored with some place card holders shaped like little purses.

My hostessing philosophy has several basic elements, one of which is that people will not eat what they cannot identify.  Makes sense, right?  Having a posted menu helps people know what to expect when they get to the table and they are usually warmed up to something they might not know right away.

This menu is from the farm visit we hosted a few weeks ago.  Any menu I associate with a good party stays up for awhile to remind me of the good time.

Sometimes we will post a quote for us to consider.  This chalkboard is the first thing you see when you enter the kitchen from the back of the house.  It's always a good way to start the morning to either think about time with family and friends or to be inspired by wise words.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

For another purpose

From this angle, it's hard to tell, but you are looking at an acrylic plate stand from The Container Store.  A magazine recommended it as an excellent iPad stand, so I thought I would give it a try.

It's really just the right size and just the right angle to help when you are reading, cooking from a recipe or watching a video.

If you have an iPad and have ever wondered how you could do a little better than the cover that folds into a low stand, here is a great option!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blueberry Oat Muffins

1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin pan. In a small bowl, mix the oats and orange juice together. Set aside.
2.In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Thoroughly blend in the oil and egg. Stir in the oat mixture, and fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups.
3.Mix 2 teaspoons sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, and sprinkle evenly over the tops of the muffins.
4.Bake 18 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

This recipe has been on my wishlist for several months.  I had a few minutes to bake these muffins today and the exceeded my expectations - super easy to make and really delicious.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


 Garlic is an incredibly easy thing to grow.  I was always intimidated by garlic - it seemed like a mystery and it wasn't something that we grew in our family garden when I was a least that I remember.  Our top billing crops were the basics - tomatoes, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, beans, peas, and more.  We would occasionally grow something as an experiment - like okra, but I don't remember garlic.

A few years ago, I thought learning about garlic was a necessity.  We were using it in cooking and I was curious if it was that much different from growing an onion.  I found Mary Jane's Farm an awesome magazine about farm life.  She also carries products that support an organic farm life, including delicious, hardy, easy to grow garlic.

Her advice gave me confidence to order a few garlic bulbs and to try it as a new crop in our garden.

Fall is garlic planting time.  For us, we try to plant in October to give it time to establish before winter.

The first step is to take bulbs and break them down into individual cloves, keeping the paper-like peeling on the clove.

I try to separate the cloves at least 24 hours before planting, though I have seen recommendations for one week between separating and planting.  We store the cloves in a box or an enamel pan on a paper towel until we are ready to plant.

We dig a trench along the edge of our raised beds.  This location has been great to keep the garlic undisturbed and to leave the center of the bed open for spring crops.  Each clove is planted pointed end up/root end down, around six inches apart and about one to two inches deep.

Some people will recommend mulching the beds before you have the first freeze - some years we have, some years we haven't mulched.  If we do mulch, we make sure to take off any material that hasn't broken down when the ground starts to warm up to give the garlic shoots some sun.

Harvest is usually in early July or the end of June.  We pull up the bulbs when the bottom couple of leaves begin to turn yellow.  We dry the bulbs on old window screens extended over yard furniture. It's not very sophisticated, but it works!


I met a mini-me at a conference last weekend.

I had the privilege of leading some workshops at the National Leadership Conference on Student Government for college student leaders and advisors.  The attendees were awesome - people who really care.  The energy and enthusiasm for making a difference made the three days very special.

At the end of a session, I caught sight of a student sporting this beautiful example of organizing her learning.  Check it out!

Color-coded flags to mark ideas and programs she wants to implement or pass on to others.  Beautiful!

I was thinking about her possible strengths - maybe learner, achiever, maximizer....?

Brilliant for sure!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Donut truths

A few truths about donuts...

We have new local donut shop and they are causing a lot of buzz.

I thought I would treat the office to donuts to celebrate a great (and long) week of work.

Everyone who has had donuts from this little shop only has good things to say.  Things like, "delicious" and "wonderful" and lots of other good adjectives.

The choices are out of this world - donuts with your favorite childhood cereal nestled in the icing. How can you go wrong?

Plus, donuts just soothe the soul.

Donuts might cure much of what ails you on any given day.

Nothing causes a stir in the office like a giant box of donuts.  It was a good way to begin a Friday.

Check out Varsity Donuts, Aggieville.

The garden might have been a bust this year, but we added some new garden decor.

These cute letters were on discount and we really liked them.  The photo doesn't do them justice.  Each letter is covered with remnants from tin can manufacturing.  So, a couple have Spam cans and others are from international food cans.  The result is great color and interesting details when you get up close.

We thought we might hang the letters directly on the fence, but decided to recycle part of an old wood table we had in our scrap pile.  Jeremy put it on a couple of rocks and we now have a spot for it until we put away all of the outdoor furniture and fixtures.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Decorating for fall

I am conditioned that when we have company, we really clean house.  We really clean house - as in move the furniture, deep cleaning kind of clean the house.   We also begin to knock out things on the list we have put decorating for a holiday.

Since we had farm visits scheduled for last Saturday, I decided we were putting out fall decorations.  And, it happened!

The past couple of years we have bought pumpkins for the porch and that has been all we could muster for the fall.  This year, we got out the storage tub and put out our small stash of fall decor.  I love the fall and am so glad we made it happen.

I am convinced that hosting company may be a new strategy to be more productive at the house.  If only I can connect cleaning and painting the spare room (also known as the war room in this house) to having company over...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Farm visit: Tiger Cubs

 On Saturday afternoon, we hosted the second farm visit of the day.  We had been promising several friends we would host groups and when considering calendars, it seemed like a good idea to host both groups in the same day.

Our second group was around 10 awesome Tiger Cubs from the area.  They had parents and siblings along, so it was one of our largest groups we have ever hosted.

We had a great time talking to them about alpacas and sharing information about the animals and the fiber they produce.  The kids had great questions and  were really, really good with the animals.  I loved hearing my husband talk to them.  He's a natural teacher and he made everything make sense for them.  He also has a gift for setting expectations in a way that is so respectful and clear.

They each got to lead an animal and feed them by hand.  We had so much fun hearing their reactions.

Thanks to my mom for being the photographer, handling the passing out of treats and helping with leading the animals.  She deserves a medal.

I think we all slept like rocks on Saturday night.  What a great day!

Farm Visit: Flint Hill Chapter of American Agri-women

 We began our Saturday by hosting a really great group of women with a mission close to our hearts - education about and advocacy for agriculture.

The Flint Hills Chapter of American Agri-women were a small, but mighty group of visitors who brought great curiosity and a generous spirit.  We had an awesome time with them!

We started with a farm tour where we talked about our adventure with alpacas.  The group had great questions!

 We had wonderful weather.  I had been having some stressed out moments thinking about a possible plan for wet or cold weather.  We were so thankful for a cool morning with beautiful sunshine.
Jeremy did so much to get the yard and animals ready.  I spent more time preparing the brunch, but he had the hard job of mowing, trimming, putting on halters and all of the other items on the chore list.  Kobe was one of the animals we wanted to highlight for the groups.  He was a little antsy.

 We were so pleased to receive this adorable hand painted gourd with chocolate alpacas.  A super cute gift (and tasty!).

I love that this was handmade and from the heart - my favorite kind of gift.

Our thank you was also a repurposed feedsack bag.  These are such an innovative way to reuse and recycle and it's a very durable (and waterproof) material.  I love the detail on the inside with the sweet cotton print fabric and the pockets.  This will get a lot of use!