Thursday, January 31, 2013

Kansas Day

Tuesday was Kansas Day, our state's 152nd birthday.

I am not aware of another state that makes a big thing out of their state's birthday.  It seems like this is another unique characteristic of Kansans.  We are all sort of bound together by many things, and one of which is that each January, we tell everyone that our state was founded 150 plus years ago.  And, we do so with a lot of pride.

One of my friends posted the following quote on Facebook.  I love it.  It speaks to this indescribable love of a landscape - the prairie - and a place - Kansas.

You can never really escape. It goes with you, wherever you go. Somehow, the prairie dust gets in your blood, and it flows through your veins until it becomes a part of you. The vast stretches of empty fields, the flat horizons of treeless plains. The simplicity of the people—good, earnest people. The way they talk and the way they live. The lack of occurrence, lack of attention, lack of everything. All that—it’s etched into your soul and it colors the way you see everything and it becomes a part of you.

- P.S. Baber

Here are some views of our beautiful state.

 This photo was taken near Living Water Ranch, north of Manhattan.
 We love this little piece of land just west of our home.  We have tried to purchase it a couple of times, but it just hasn't worked out.  Someday.
 Directly across the road from our home is this lovely little creek.
 Another view of the land west of our home.
This road is several miles west of our home.  While my husband has run it several times, I first discovered it on a very long walk we took about two years ago.  This picture makes me long for spring.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Celebrating life and family

Today was the funeral for my husband's grandmother.  It was a beautiful service that honored her commitment and love for her family.  Her legacy includes many children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren, plus a lot of friends.

One of the wonderful and very strange aspects of family funerals is the combination of emotions - grief and sadness alongside the laughter and fun of gathering with family.

A particularly funny moment was when my husband remarked on a photo of his grandparents.  His grandfather was wearing a powder blue suit and my husband said he wanted one.  His uncle said, "That is a leisure suit and they were really comfortable, but they went out with disco."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

True friends

Where Women Create sends a weekly inspiration via e-mail. The messages and images are always interesting and I was especially taken with this one from last week.

I am so thankful for my friends and their support and encouragement, especially amidst the chaos.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An update on my word for this year.

My word for 2013 is Thanks.  I made a commitment to send one letter a week to someone in my life who is important to me.  I am three weeks in and have three letters delivered.  Gold stars for me!

I also made a commitment to practice acts of kindness.  This has been more organic and low key.  I haven't executed any awesome, big, noteworthy acts of kindness, but I would like to think that I have been more patient when driving, pushing a grocery cart through the store, talking on the phone with what could be frustrating customer service situations, and other everyday kinds of things.

I am still excited about this challenge and excited about the new year!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The good reads continue

The new year has started with some great issues of some of my favorite magazines.  The latest issue of Garden and Gun is full of things I love - music, food, great photography, profiles of craftsmen and artists, and great writing.

I have always felt a little like an imposture as a subscriber to this magazine.  Though I don't live in the South, there is something about this magazine that really hits home.  I originally bought an issue because it caught my eye and since that first issue, I have fallen in love with it month after month.

This version brought me a lot of inspiration - new music to download, restaurants to try in Chicago (since this isn't a Southern city, that might be my biggest surprise), and a heartwarming article about a family and their dog.
Meet Holly Williams, daughter of Hank Williams, Jr.  She is from country music royalty with a great voice.   You can sample her music here.
 Connie Britton is the star of one of my new favorite shows, Nashville.  I love her in her role as Rayna James and was excited to read her interview in this issue.  Isn't she's gorgeous at 45? An inspiration! 
 I knew nothing about the giant wooden trays used to serve a barbecued whole hog.  The story of this barber who crafts these trays on the side is really neat.  I love these.  I have absolutely no use for one because I have no future plans to barbecue a whole hog, but if I did, I would want to serve it on one of these beautiful trays.
 I want to tell all my friends in DC to seek out this couple, become their friends, and then invite me for a visit.    That's not weird, right?  The article is about their renovation of an old carriage house.  Their passion for preserving history and creating a great space for entertaining is inspiring.
Eight pages on Chicago!  I can't wait to seek out some of their recommendations from Chicago's Southern Soul.

What a beautiful issue!  Pick up your copy.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Where Women Create - February/March issue

 It is no secret that when a new issue of Where Women Create drops in my mailbox, I wait to read it until I can savor every article and photo.  I take the issues in page by page and enjoy every second.  No issue has disappointed!

The latest magazine came at the end of last week and I was anxiously anticipating the three day weekend because I was sure I could find time to do some reading.

There are a lot of great artists profiled in this issue.  I am especially fond of some of the quotes offered for inspiration.

"To love what you do and feel that it could anything be more fun?"  - Katherine Graham

"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home." - Twyla Tharp
 The photography is amazing!  The table of contents always shows off some of the best images and gives you a preview of what to expect.

Side note:  I am someone who reads a magazine from cover to cover, beginning on the first page and going through to the end.  I used to think this was the only way to read.  Later, I met friends who (prepare yourself) skip around from article to article (gasp!).  What is your preference?
 The feature on Jenni Bowlin Studio is fantastic!  I think Jenni and I could be good friends.  I have come to this conclusion because everything in the photos looks like something I would buy or collect or scavenge at a tag sale/flea market/auction.

And, her favorite quote is actually lyrics from The Avett Brothers, some of my favorite music of the moment.

There was a dream.
One day I could see it. 
Like a bird in a cage 
I broke in and demanded
that somebody free it.
 Do you see those little wooden drawers and the skeleton keys on the pin board?...the wooden boxes and crates?  Sigh.  I could spend all day going through her inventory.
The vintage cabinet with wire baskets on top - love!  Star garland on the child mannequin - precious!  The old door with faded paint - stunning!  

Check out her website and blog.  And, catch the latest issue of Where Women Create.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A perfect, junking and chocolate!

 We enjoyed a beautiful Saturday.  The weather was gorgeous - around 60 degrees in January in Kansas.  We had a great day planned - watching basketball games for two of our nieces, shopping for unique finds and chocolate, and hanging out with family.  And, to top it off, it was the start of a three day weekend.

The basketball games were great.  Both of my nieces' teams came  up short in terms of a win, but both girls played hard and we really enjoyed watching them play.

My oldest niece played in the same auditorium where I played my high school league tournaments.  Being back in that place and watching basketball made me feel really nostalgic.  And, apparently, protective of my niece.  Her assistant coach should never yell that she needs more out of her when she is playing her butt off.  I may or may not have yelled back at her, "What did you say?"
After the first game, we had a short break before my other niece's game and we decided to take in some stores downtown.  My husband earned the eagle eyes award for the day by spotting a cute little store on the corner.  He insisted that it looked like a place I would like, so we found a parking spot and walked back up the block.  He was right!

Studio 11 is everything they promise on their website - they "make junk look good," offer a wide variety of "funky, junky, recycled, and handmade things", a great atmosphere (the historic building is awesome!), and friendly customer service.
The sign in front of the store promises Pinterest classes.  Doesn't that sound like fun?! You can follow all of their boards on Pinterest.
Their door has a sign that says, "Push it, push it real good."   I always laugh when I see that on a shop door.  This sign was indication that I would like the vibe. 

Our finds included these two awesome bowling pins.  They are lovely with chippy paint and great color.  We had always looked at vintage bowling pins and finally made the purchase.  I also grabbed some of their 'keep it junky' stickers to share with friends who are just as crazy about vintage and handmade.

Our other find was these great pendants.  One side says, "Vision is the art of seeing things invisible."
And, the back is this beautiful floral.
This one says, "starlet."

And, the other side has a cute little bird.  This color of blue is one of my favorites.

We bought one for my mom, too.  Hers says, "Gram."  The staff was really great about shortening a chain to just the right length for my mom.

It is safe to say that if Emporia was a little closer, I would be spending a lot of time and money at Studio 11.

Our next stop was the Sweet Granada.  I have blogged about this great store before from quick stops this fall and last fall.
 Even though the day was unseasonably warm, the sign in the front window promised that some chocolate would chase away winter blues.
And, this stuff does the trick!  The Pop Choc is delicious and the perfect balance of sweet and salty.  We also bought a selection of other items from the case and some of their homemade fudge.
 My husband was a good sport to go shopping.  I think the chocolate helped. 
 And, my mom was a good sport to pose in a picture with me, even though she didn't want to be in front of the camera.

We had an awesome day.  We even made it home in time to knock out some of our backlog of outside chores that we save for warm weather.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Brilliant marketing - To Sell Is Human

 Shortly before the holidays, I learned that there was a new book by Daniel Pink that was soon to be released.  The book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, was available for pre-order and the author was offering some really cool incentives.

Get this...and, it is brilliant!

If you e-mailed proof of pre-ordering the book, you were promised access to online resources, a New Years Day webinar, and a packet in the mail.  It was a booked I planned to buy anyway, but we all know how it goes.  You save a list of books to buy and may or may not get around to ordering them.

What a brilliant marketing strategy to move people to action!

The online resources and webinar were cool.  The webinar even left me with more books on my list of books I want to read.  And then, the packet arrived.

Cool brown envelope with great signed bookplate...and my new favorite thing - Field Notes!

Reasons why I love Field Notes:

1.  Writing on graph paper makes me feel smart.  I really like to take notes on graph paper and I picked this up from a friend who often records her notes on this medium.

2.  The text and graphics on the cover - cool and funny!  On the inside, bottom left page:  "In the event of misplacement:  If found, please contact (and a place for your e-mail).  Hence, There [] is [] isn't a handsome reward waiting.

3.  On the back cover, the story hits me right in the heart!  "Inspired by the vanishing subgenre of agricultural memo books, ornate pocket ledgers, and the simple, unassuming beauty of a well-crafted grocery list, the Draplin Design Co., Portland Ore. - in conjunction with Coudal Partners, Chicago, Ill. - brings you 'Field Notes' in hopes of offering 'An honest memo book worth fillin' up with 'Good Information'."  My grandparents always had the free memo books from the coop and seed companies in their pockets and purses and on their dashboards.  These memo books kept everything from tag numbers of cows who had calved to grocery lists and a lot of reminders.  The memo books even kept restless grandkids entertained during church and in waiting rooms.  I remember these books fondly.

4.  The list of practical applications makes me laugh out loud.  Some of my favorites.  03. Inspired Ramblings, 05. Shoddy Sketches, 06. Half-Ass Calculations, 15. Hate Mail, 17. Escape Routes, 24. Treasure Maps, 29. Tall Orders

You can order them, three for $9.95.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Baked French Toast

Morning breakfasts at my husband's school are my favorite.  I don't actually get to attend and eat with everyone, but I do get to have fun making some of our favorite dishes to send with him.

We live really close to his building, and that means we can volunteer for hot dishes.  This prospect is much more exciting than some of the cold options.  My breakfast casserole borrowed from Emeril is a favorite.  Yesterday morning, we tried our baked french toast, too.

I found this recipe on a blog, gave it a try and have not been disappointed.

Baked French Toast

1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
1 cup brown sugar
1 loaf Texas toast
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Melt butter in microwave & add brown sugar, stir until mixed
Pour butter/sugar mix into bottom of 9 x 13 pan, spread the mix to cover the bottom of the pan
Beat together eggs, milk, & vanilla
Place the Texas Toast in the bottom of the pan in a single layer
Pour half of the egg mixture on the first layer of bread
Add the second layer of Texas Toast
Pour the remaining egg mixture over the second layer of bread
Cover and place in the refridgerator overnight
In the morning, preheat the over to 350 degrees
Bake for 45 minutes, covered for the first 30 minutes
Sprinkle with powdered sugar (optional)
Serve with warm maple syrup (optional)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Peace and light.

When I was a child, I attended the church in our small town.  When I say, the church, I mean the only church in our small town.  When I say our small town church was small, you might wonder exactly how small?

Our church was (is) so small, we didn't have our own preacher, we shared one with the neighboring town.

Our church was (is) so small, we had a piano in the church, but no piano player.  One of the ladies in the church would find someone to play the hymns and she would tape them on her little cassette recorder.  During the service, she would cue up the hymn and then fast forward to the next hymn.  The preacher had to stay on schedule or we would all have to wait until the hymn was cued.

Our town was (is) so small, that on 4-H Sunday, the day that our 4-H club would attend one of the member's church services, our preacher would be so excited that he could hardly speak. He actually had an audience!

While the church was small, it was filled with spirit.  The light shining through the stained class windows and the simple alter decorations will forever stay in my mind.  It was the place that first taught me "God."  And, to me, as a young child, God was rays of sunshine through clouds.  I knew this because it was a common image on the front of our church programs.  All through the service, I would look at this large, too good to be true nature photo with scripture and think that this sight must be God, right?  This image is still symbolic for me.

Later, I came to a prayer - Peace and Light.  I pray this prayer often when I am wrapped in fear, grief or sorrow.  Or, on those really powerful moments when all three emotions join together.  Moments like those at the side of my grandparents' beds before they each passed.  I also say this prayer when a loved one needs strength.  I prayed this prayer in earnest when my brother gave the eulogy at my Uncle George's funeral.  Peace and Light.  Strength to endure.  Strength to get through.

When I say this prayer, I think of the rays of sunshine through clouds.  The prayer and this image fit together so perfectly for me.

I am saying this prayer now as my husband and his family say good-bye to their mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother.  My prayer for us is for Peace and Light in a time of grief and sorrow...and a time of celebrating, remembering, and circling together as a family.

Image source:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Winter in Kansas

 Our farm still looks like a winter wonderland - well, sort of.

By now, we have trudged over most of the snow and have left footprints.  We have had some melting and a few patches of grass are starting to show through.  It is nowhere near as magical as the first moment when you step out the door and everything is covered in a blanket of pristine snow.  I think it seems so magical because you know that the landscape will never be that perfect again, once you blaze a trail across the least until the next snow.

Last week, I helped with chores in the morning and was the first to mar up the snowfall.  My husband had sidewalk snow removal duty.

I remembered to tuck my camera into my chore coat pocket and say a silent prayer that the dogs wouldn't knock it out or I wouldn't spill it out bending over to pick up something.

It was cold and quiet and beautiful. The chicken coop door even looked kind of lovely with a little snow resting on the window.
 People often ask how the alpacas handle the cold.  They are much better in the cold than the heat as they have a warm blanket of fiber.  We still take extra care to make sure they have hay and fresh water in the winter.

This year, they didn't like the snow drifts near the barn, so my husband shoveled paths for them from the barn to the hay bunk.  The first morning when the drifts blew high against the fence, the alpacas put on a funny show of first hesitation and then some crazy jumps over and around the drifts.
Just before feeding, we run all of the alpacas out of the barn to set out their food buckets.  They keep watch and jockey for position to be the first through the gate for feeding.  This particular morning, Scout had snow on his face and a lot of hay jammed into his fiber.  What a clown.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Where Women Create Business

 Where Women Create Business is another great magazine from Jo Packham.

Similar to Where Women Create and Where Women Cook, this magazine celebrates women entrepreneurs, crafters, and artists who are making a living doing what they love.

As with the other magazines in this publishing family, I love the photography!  The women and their business that are profiled are inspiring.  The advice for business owners is wise and based on experience.  It was definitely worth the read.

Enjoy this example of one article featuring Design Lab, a beautiful store in Mesa, Arizona.
I love the alphabet wall.  And, did you see the saying on the wall in on the left page?

because life is an experiment

Check out the wall of pillows on the right page.  Love them!
The left page shows their gift basket materials - cool totes, caddies and bins.

  I really like so many things featured on the shelves, including the pins or juggling clubs on the top shelf. Check out the cards in the photo on the left page.

And, this awesomeness is repeated throughout the whole magazine!  I hope you have the chance to enjoy a copy of your own.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Depression-era cookbook

While in Chicago and shopping one of my favorite little stores, P.O.S.H. on State Street, I found another cookbook to add to my collection.  You might know that I was under a self-imposed ban on buying cookbooks and then I broke it twice right before the holidays.  Both cookbooks are great finds and will result in a lot of good recipes and fun times while cooking and baking from their pages.  In the end, I am glad that I broke my rule.

First let me rave about P.O.S.H.  It is a little boutique in a historic building with vintage wares and a European vibe.  The inventory includes vintage hotel glassware, old postcards and maps, new linens, great stationery, and a lot of cute gifts.  We stumbled on this store a year or so ago while walking to one of our favorite restaurants.  We try to stop by when we are in the city.

This cookbook is both about the recipes and the story of the Great Depression.  As you read through the book, you will find sections of food (and a whole section devoted to pickles!) and stories from people who lived through the Depression.  Some stories drive home exactly how tough it was for some families and others share a funny memory or details about life at home, school or church.
The recipes are easy to read and very straight forward.  The style of cooking reminds me of dishes my grandma considered staples in her kitchen.
I really enjoyed reading the cookbook during the flight home.  The stories made this time in our history come alive and the personal accounts were heart warming and heart wrenching at the same time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013