Friday, August 18, 2017

Fun at the Omaha Children's Museum

*I received complimentary admission to facilitate this review.  
All views and opinions shared are my own.*

Last weekend my family and I traveled to Omaha, Nebraska for a family vacation, so this weekend I'll be sharing a few posts about some of the places we visited.  The first place we visited was the Omaha Children's Museum.  It's a place for your children to explore, create and have fun.

Omaha Children's Museum - a place for families to explore, create and have fun #OmahaWeekend

After entering the doors of the Omaha Children's Museum our kids could hardly contain their excitement and eagerness to explore.  The museum is nicely laid out so you can make your way throughout each floor and not miss a single exhibit.

Omaha Children's Museum's Super Gravitron Ball Machine
The Super Gravitron Ball Machine
Having kids ages 6 to 1 year old, I appreciated that the Omaha Children's Museum had activities where all of my kids could play in the same space.  One of those spots was the Charlie Campbell Science & Technology Center.  The main attraction in that space was the Super Gravitron Ball Machine seen above.  All four of our kids had fun putting balls into the machine, following the balls through the machine and then catching the balls as they dropped.

Omaha Children's Museum's Imagination Playground
Platte River Water Table in the Imagination Playground
Another area that was perfect for our family was the Imagination Playground.  Our youngest two, ages 2 and 1, couldn't get enough of the OCM Engine House No. 1.  They loved pretending to drive the fire truck and going through the firehouse climbing structure.  Our 4 year old Miss A enjoyed playing pretend at the Grocery Store, Omaha Steaks Grill Station, Farm House and Hospital.  Mr. K our 6 year old could have stayed all day at the Platte River Water Table.  In fact, after we went through the entire museum we let the kids go back to one exhibit and this is where he returned.  He loved figuring out how to change the direction and movement of the river to turn turbines and generate power.

Omaha Children's Museum's Moving with Light
Dancing and "Moving with Light"
The Omaha Children's Museum has a great mix of both permanent and traveling exhibits.  They also have a great line-up of special events, programs and camps available.  If you are traveling to Omaha or live close by, I encourage you to check out their schedule and make a visit with your family.  Our family spent 5 hours at the Children's Museum, which included having a picnic outside of the museum at some of their tables and benches available.  At the Omaha Children's Museum your family is guaranteed to have a fun time and you may even luck out by having a couple sleeping kids by the end of your visit. 😉

So much fun at the Omaha Children's Museum, it may lead to sleeping kids
Miss R and Miss L had so much fun at the Omaha Children's Museum
they couldn't handle anymore and had to take a nap 😉
What do you look for in a Children's Museum?  Be sure to check out the Omaha Children's Museum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and remember to Comment for a Cause.

Omaha Children's Museum - a place for families to explore, create and have fun #OmahaWeekend #funatOCM

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Easy Freezer Sweet Corn #FarmersMarketWeek

The beginning of August in Iowa might as well be known as "sweet corn freezing" season, because by this time everyone has been eating corn on the cob for about a month, the sweet corn left in your patch is nearing being too done, and you don't want to pass up not being able to have sweet corn all year long.  So you gather some friends, family, neighbors, etc. and you have your own little "Freezer Sweet Corn Party".

Picking Sweet Corn - Throw a Sweet Corn Party with Easy Freezer Sweet Corn recipe #FarmersMarketWeek

The party starts in the sweet corn patch picking your ears of sweet corn.

Husking Sweet Corn - Throw a Sweet Corn Party with Easy Freezer Sweet Corn recipe #FarmersMarketWeek

After you pick your sweet corn you then need everyone to help husk it.

Husking Sweet Corn - Throw a Sweet Corn Party with Easy Freezer Sweet Corn recipe #FarmersMarketWeek

Age doesn't matter.  You can find a job for everyone.

Cutting Sweet Corn - Throw a Sweet Corn Party with Easy Freezer Sweet Corn recipe #FarmersMarketWeek

Next, the party can move home so you can start cutting off all of the kernels of sweet corn.

Cutting Sweet Corn - Throw a Sweet Corn Party with Easy Freezer Sweet Corn recipe #FarmersMarketWeek

My preferred method for cutting the sweet corn kernels off the cob is the "bundt pan" method.

Throw a Sweet Corn Party with Easy Freezer Sweet Corn recipe #FarmersMarketWeek

Watch out for people eating on the job...

Throw a Sweet Corn Party with Easy Freezer Sweet Corn recipe #FarmersMarketWeek

Then you take all of your sweet corn kernels and mix them with sugar, salt and ice water.

Throw a Sweet Corn Party with Easy Freezer Sweet Corn recipe #FarmersMarketWeek

Then you place the mixture in freezer bags.

After a days work of freezing sweet corn, a nap might be in need.

So, there you have it - how to throw your own "Freezer Sweet Corn Party".  We enjoy doing this every year and the work of one day pays off when you're able to enjoy sweet corn all year long.

Recipes for freezing sweet corn can be more work than they need to be, but mine is simple and gets the job done.  There is no need to cook the sweet corn - you'll do that when you get it out of the freezer in the winter to enjoy it.  Also, add to your sweet corn as you prepare it from the freezer anyway you like - butter, pepper, seasonings, etc.

Throw a Sweet Corn Party with Easy Freezer Sweet Corn recipe #FarmersMarketWeek

Easy Freezer Sweet Corn

20 cups sweet corn kernels
1 cup sugar
1/8 cup salt
5 cups ice water

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl or pan.  Mix and Freeze.  It really is just that easy and simple.

What do you like to freeze and can?  Remember to Comment for a Cause and check out all of the other great recipes being shared this week in celebration of National Farmers Market Week!

#FarmersMarketWeek - A week of #FarmFresh recipes

#FarmersMarket Thursday Recipes

Easy Freezer Sweet Corn by Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids
Farmers Market Freezer Fruit Cocktail Mix by Frugal Pantry
Crisp & Spicy Cucumber Salad by Jolene's Recipe Journal
Pecan Honey Butter by Family Around The Table
Pasta with Saffron Pepper Sauce by A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures
Santa Fe Pork with Peach Salsa by Palatable Pastime
Summer Vegetable and Chicken Stir Fry by Cooking with Carlee

Monday, August 7, 2017

Aunt Mary's Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles #FarmersMarketWeek

Did you know that today is the start of National Farmers Market Week?  Farmers Markets stimulate local economies, increase access to fresh food, and support healthy communities.  I personally love going to my local Hampton Farmers Market as much as possible, and a heads up for local readers - I'll have a booth at tomorrow night's market celebrating National Farmers Market Week by passing out cookbooks, grocery lists, and other goodies!

I'm also celebrating this week by sharing some recipes inspired by the fresh fruits and vegetables you can find at farmers markets with several other bloggers.  Be sure to follow along all week by checking out the #FarmersMarketWeek hashtag!

Now onto today's recipe!  For the last few weeks making my Great Aunt Mary's Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles has been part of my weekly routine.  My family loves these pickles and prefers them over store bought.  Each summer I try to plant enough cucumbers in my garden and make enough trips to my local farmers market so I can make enough jars to last us a year.

Aunt Mary's Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles - the perfect quick, easy and crunchy sliced pickle for any sandwich #FarmersMarketWeek

These Bread & Butter Pickles are quick, easy and crunchy!  I love their slightly sweet flavor, yet still have that salty tangy flavor you crave from a pickle.  My family loves these sliced pickles on any sandwich - pork loin, shredded pork, and I wouldn't hold it pass any of them eating these simply with bread and butter.  Suppose that is how they got their name?  My family has been making this recipe for generations, so you know it's good and a recipe you need to keep!

Aunt Mary's Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles - the perfect quick, easy and crunchy sliced pickle for any sandwich #FarmersMarketWeek

Aunt Mary's Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles

4 cups sugar
4 cups vinegar
1/2 cup salt
1 1/3 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/3 tsp celery seed
1 1/3 tsp mustard seed
3 yellow onions, thinly sliced
10 cucumbers, approximately, thinly sliced

In a large saucepan mix the sugar, vinegar, salt, turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed.  Bring pickling liquid to a boil, making sure the sugar and salt have dissolved.

Layer sliced cucumbers and onions in an alternating pattern in your canning jar til the top.  Ladle in the pickling liquid til the cucumbers and onions are covered.  Wipe the rim of your jar, place the lid on top, and secure with metal screw band.

This recipe makes approximately 5 pints of pickles.  Pickles will be ready to eat after a week.  Store pickles in a refrigerator up to 1 year.

Aunt Mary's Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles - the perfect quick, easy and crunchy sliced pickle for any sandwich #FarmersMarketWeek

What is your favorite thing to can?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

#FarmersMarketWeek - A week of #FarmFresh recipes

#FarmersMarketWeek Monday Recipes

Aunt Mary's Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles by Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids
BBQ Corn on the Cob with dilled butter by Red Cottage Chronicles
Beef Tacos with Peppers, Onions & Salsa Verde by Books n' Cooks
Blistered Tomato Dutch Baby by A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures
Blueberry Crisp for Two by Family Around The Table
Blueberry Scones by The Freshman Cook
Cherry Stout Jam by The Redhead Baker
Farmer’s Market Breakfast Casserole by New South Charm
Freshly Dug Potato Salad by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Intro post by Bear & Bug Eats
Israeli Salad by Caroline's Cooking
Marinated Mozzarella and Tomato Appetizers by Jolene's Recipe Journal
Peach and Blueberry Overnight Oats by Simple and Savory
Peach Bourbon Jam by Feeding Big
Peaches and Cream Overnight Oats by Cooking with Carlee
Strawberry Mango Jam by Palatable Pastime
Summer Veggies & Kielbasa Sheet Pan Dinner by Tip Garden

Aunt Mary's Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles - the perfect quick, easy and crunchy sliced pickle for any sandwich #FarmersMarketWeek

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Back to School #Celebrate365

August is here and it is time to start thinking and planning about going back to school.  For our family school starts at the end of the month and Mr. K will be going into 1st grade and Miss A will be going in PreK!  I'm excited for both of them and I'm looking forward to having my afternoons "free" with two napping children at home and two at school.  What to do, what to do?  I'm sure I'll find something 😉

Back to School link-up #Celebrate365 - a great list of back to school tips, tricks and treats!

To celebrate this time of the year, I have partnered up with my Celebrate 365 co-hosts (Carlee from Cooking with Carlee, Jan from Tip Garden, and Nicole from Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom) to throw a Back to School Blog Party.  Bloggers are encouraged to link-up their best tips, tricks and treats for back to school.  This should be a great party for parents, teachers and really anyone to get some fun ideas and recipes!

What is your favorite thing about the "Back to School" season?  Remember to Comment for a Cause all month long to help families in need in my community get ready for school.  This month's program is supporting my local CAL School Supply Closet.

Bloggers, leaving a link gives Celebreate 365 permission to use a photo and/or link with proper credit in a future post and/or social media promotion, including our Celebrate 365 Pinterest Board.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Comments for a Cause - CAL School Supply Closet

Comments for a Cause - CAL School Supply Closet
It's August 1st and that means it is back to school time.  Thank you to everyone that commented last month to support the Families Helping Families of Iowa's School Supply Campaign.  Due to everyone's comments, I have sent a $28 donation to help them with their Back to School Rally on August 10th.

Inspired by last month's Comments for a Cause, this month I am donating $0.50 for every comment made on the blog to the CAL School Supply Closet.

Immanuel UCC, Latimer School Supply Closet

Back to school is a fun time of the year, but it can also be a stressful time of year for many families.  I was inspired by Families Helping Families of Iowa's Back to School Rally in Cedar Rapids so much I decided to put together a similar event for my local community.  Last month at my Church's Christian Education Committee meeting I brought up the idea and everyone thought it would be a great benefit for our community.

We are currently collecting a select list of school supplies: scissors, glue sticks, pencils, pencil boxes/pouches, notebooks, crayons, large erasers, rulers and backpacks.  Anyone interested in donating can drop off the school supplies in the Narthex of Immanuel UCC in Latimer in the designated tote.

We will then be hosting our School Supply Closet on Saturday, August 12th from 10 a.m. to Noon, Wednesday, August 16th from 5 to 7 p.m. and Thursday, August 17th from 5 to 7 p.m.  The supplies will be limited and available on a first come, first serve basis.

This month's Comments for a Cause donation will go to support this year's School Supply Closet and any end of the month dollars will go towards helping my church's CWS (Church World Service) School Kits.

What is your favorite part of the "back to school" season?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Reflections on a Lifetime of Farming

Thirteen years ago when My Farmer first brought me home to meet his family I got meet his Dad, his Mom, his sister and Merlin.  While Merlin might not be family by blood, he is definitely a huge part of our family.  He is a close family friend, neighbor, honorary grandpa to our children, one of our landlords, and is one of our seasonal farm hands.  This week Merlin turned 80 years old and we are celebrating his milestone this afternoon.  In honor of his 80th birthday, I sat down with him at his kitchen table, in the same house he grew up in, to reminisce about the last 80 years.

Reflections of a Lifetime of Farming
Merlin, a self proclaimed auctionaholic
His favorite things to look for at auctions are corn sign and cloth corn bags
Born in 1937, Merlin was the third generation of his family to farm the ground that he still lives on today.  His Grandpa bought the home place in 1899.  Growing up in the 1940's, Merlin describes his family's farm to be a typical farm of that era.  They raised a little bit of everything: cattle, pigs, chickens, milked some cows by hand, and they had some sheep while he was in 4-H as a feeder lamb project.  They also raised corn, oats, hay, had some pasture ground, and they even raised hemp during World War II that was used for the fiber to make rope.  His Mom also kept a large garden and the family had a personal orchard with apples and grapes.  The entire family, his Dad, Mom and himself, were involved with daily tasks of the farm.  He especially remembers helping with feeding the cattle and helping with field work during his youth.

Merlin graduated from high school in 1955 and then went to Eagle Grove Community College for one year, followed by one year at Iowa State University, before returning home to farm and get married to Margo in 1957.  (Side note, Merlin and Margo's first date was on New Year's Eve after they graduated high school.  She went to a neighboring school, but he knew her through 4-H.  He asked, she said yes, and the rest is history. 😉)  He farmed with his Dad and gradually worked into the operation by buying equipment when needed.  Merlin raised pigs, chickens and had feeder cattle on the farm, as well as raised corn, oats, hay, had some pasture ground and eventually added soybeans to his operation in the 1960s.  Merlin retired from farming in 2002 after farming full-time for 47 years.  At that time he rented out his farms to My Farmer's family and continues so today.  (But like any farmer, they can't fully get away from it, so Merlin helps us with seasonal field work every year. 😊)

One thing that I have always been impressed with about Merlin is that he went back to finish his Bachelor of Science degree at Iowa State in 1986.  He graduated in 1991 with a double major in Agronomy and Horticulture.  I asked him why he went back to finish his degree and he said he always felt like it was something he should do and finish.

Reflections of a Lifetime of Farming
Merlin helping us this past fall with tillage
There has been a lot that has happened and changed during the last 80 years.  One thing that Merlin kept on coming back to when reminiscing with me was how much the speed of communication and information has increased over time.  He grew up with a rotary dial phone on a party line and remembers when they got their first black and white TV.  He now uses a smart phone that he can call and text his children, grandchildren and great grandchild on who live in three different states, can access the internet on it and can even check in on the latest auction that is going live online (remember, I mentioned he was an auctionaholic - his words, not mine 😉).

Technology and information has changed on the farm too.  Merlin started farming in a cabless M Farmall, and now drives the quad-track tractor (seen in the photo above that he is seen standing in front of) with autosteer, GPS, air conditioning, heated seats, radio, bluetooth and a cab!  Merlin said that his friend and fellow auctionaholic, Leon, and him talk about the changes their fathers saw in agriculture, compared to what they have seen.  Their fathers began farming through all hand labor, to finishing by using tractors with mechanized equipment.  Merlin and Leon have seen the development of tractors and equipment, as well as the progress of crops.  He says that he thinks he has seen as much change and progress as his father did.

Merlin believes that the progress of corn and the development of hybrid corn was the biggest agricultural advancement during his lifetime.  Before hybridization, farmers saved the biggest ears of corn with the biggest kernels to plant the next year.  They were searching for the best strains, but in an unscientific way.  With the development of hybrid corn, plant breeders were working to crossbreed specific corn plants to create a higher quality plant.  Merlin said that open pollinated corn had a poor stand (weak stalk) and had a low yield.  But with hybrid corn, farmers immediately saw an increase in yield, as well as the corn plant was stronger, which allowed their mechanical pickers to harvest the corn easier and better.  Hybrid corn increased production and decreased labor needs.  When Merlin was born, less than one half of one percent of the United States land planted in corn was planted in hybrid seed.  By the time he was a teenager, that number had risen to over 50%.  Now virtually all corn planted in the United States is hybrid corn.

So what advice does Merlin have for My Farmer and I and other farmers?
  • Pay attention to new things coming down the pipeline.  There have been a lot of changes in his lifetime, but there are lots of new things coming yet.
  • Time goes faster than you think it does.
  • Get involved in your community.  You will get a lot out of doing something beyond yourself and will meet good people no matter where or what your community is.  Community is bigger than it used to be due to transportation and communication.  So find your community and get involved.
Thank you Merlin for letting me sit down and interview you for your 80th birthday.  I feel honored to have this opportunity and privileged to have you as a good friend and part of our family.  Here's to a great day today celebrating and to many more Cyclone wins, auction finds, and memories made with our family!  Be sure to Comment for a Cause and wish Merlin a Happy 80th Birthday!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

12 Summer Salads for a Crowd

If you have a BBQ or Potluck coming up, or if you simply feed a family of six everyday like I do, summer salads are the perfect way to help feed a crowd, and they are a great companion to your grilled main dish.  Here are 12 Summer Salad recipes linked up to the latest Celebrate 365 Summer Dinner Ideas Blog Party:

12 Summer Salads for a Crowd

Overnight Salad, Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids
Sweet Maple Bacon Pasta Salad, My Fearless Kitchen

12 Summer Salads for a Crowd

Macaroni Salad, Recipe Treasurers
Heavenly Baked Beans, The Frugal Pantry
The Ultimate BLT Pasta Salad, Cooking with Carlee
Jen's Chili Cheese Corn Salad, Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids

12 Summer Salads for a Crowd

Cheesy Potatoes with Bacon, Cooking with Carlee
Spinach & Feta Quinoa Salad, Health, Home & Heart
Sweet & Spicy Hog Wild Baked Beans, Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids
Easy Taco Salad, Recipe Treasurers

12 Summer Salads for a Crowd

Be sure to check out all of the great Summer Dinner ideas from the latest Celebrate 365 Blog Party here.  There are tons of great main dishes, salads and desserts linked up!  What's your favorite type of summer salad?  What do you love to bring to a potluck?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

12 Summer Salads to feed a Crowd