Saturday, February 17, 2018

34 Ways to Pay It Forward

Today is National Random Acts of Kindness Day and since my birthday in late October I have been on a mission to complete 33 Random Acts of Kindness in honor of my 33rd Birthday, and I am proud to say that I have completed 34 as of today!

34 Ways to Pay It Forward for National Random Acts of Kindness Day

Having the Pay it Forward mindset over the last few months has opened up my eyes of simple ways to show kindness, generosity and giving.  Doing these acts hasn't only been a benefit for others, but every time I complete an act I feel blessed.  In fact, I've enjoyed this so much that I didn't stop when I reached 33 and plan on continuing past the 34 I've completed.  Here is a list of what I have done so far:

  1. Tipped generously at restaurant.
  2. Brought donuts to co-workers (I brought a couple boxes to the shop for all of our employees on the farm).
  3. Brought donuts to church staff and volunteers (I guess I love spreading smiles through donuts...).
  4. Donated to a friend's Facebook non-profit support campaign.
  5. Donated books to local Little Free Library.
  6. Sent gas card to family traveling for cancer treatments with a thinking of you card.
  7. Participated in a birthday card shower for a friend's mother.
  8. Brought flowers to great-aunt just because.
  9. Donated board games to nursing home.
  10. Brought donuts to nurses and staff taking care of loved one in the hospital (there I go again with the donuts...).
  11. Wrote a note to the hospital sharing about individuals who gave outstanding care to loved one while in the hospital.
  12. Dropped off food to a family with a new baby.
  13. Gave my Fleet Farm Black Friday stuffed animal to woman who wanted one but didn't arrive early enough to get one herself.
  14. Donated to every Red Kettle I walked by during the holidays.
  15. Sent Advent devotions to a couple of friends.
  16. Donated toys to Operation Santa drive.
  17. Supported friends who had Giving Tuesday Facebook campaigns.
  18. Set out drinks and snacks for delivery drivers at house during holiday season.
  19. Participated in my children's school's food drive.
  20. Paid overdrawn school lunch account for a family at my children's school.
  21. Sponsored a local family in need over the holidays.
  22. Donated items to the Ronald McDonald House through local McDonald's giving tree.
  23. Donated hams to a couple local families in need through La Luz Hispana and Hams Across America.
  24. Reconnected with old friend.
  25. Sent thinking of you card to friend.
  26. Left positive reviews for three businesses online.
  27. Ordered champagne for two people I saw get engaged.
  28. Helped a friend's cousin with getting settled in new home after going through some hard times by donating some house supplies.
  29. Left positive review for resort that we visited on our anniversary trip.
  30. Participated in National Wear Red Day to bring awareness to women's heart disease.
  31. Supported friend's Cookies for Kids Cancer campaign.
  32. Donated to local grocery store's MDA campaign.
  33. Left Valentines in public restrooms wishing everyone who saw the hearts a great day.
  34. Donated to a family's medical/health issues Go Fund Me account.

So I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and celebrate National Random Acts of Kindness Day.  Be sure to comment and let me know what you did to celebrate, or share ideas so we all can pay it forward.  And remember to Comment for a Cause.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Slice of Iowa Pizza

It's National Pizza Day and why not celebrate with my Slice of Iowa Pizza, with two of Iowa's top agricultural products and "the sauce America loves to eat."

Slice of Iowa Pizza - full of Iowa flavors and perfect for a fun family night

When I found out that today was National Pizza Day I couldn't pass up the chance to:
  • #1 eat pizza
  • #2 share my love of Iowa
  • #3 talk about my farm 😊

Who doesn't love pizza?  My family and I have a weekly tradition of having pizza every Friday night.  We make a couple pizzas (because one doesn't cut it anymore for my growing kids), pop a bag of popcorn and throw it in our "official" popcorn bowl with some M&Ms, and have a picnic in the living room and watch a movie.  Pizza always hits the spot for people of all ages and I love how you can top your pizza with anything.

When we make homemade pizza at home the kids usually ask for one of our go-to favorites - pepperoni or sausage and mushroom for one of the pizzas and the second is deemed "the parents" pizza, so we usually do a little more with it.  So I decided it would be fun to make an "Iowa" pizza topped with some of our favorite Iowa foods.

The first thing I thought of was shredded pork.  I love making shredded pork with and for everything.  Plus it is a great make once, eat twice freezer staple of our house.  We raise pigs on our farm so we always have a lot of pork on hand.  And did you know that Iowa has more pigs than any other state in the nation.  In fact, Iowa raises nearly one-third of all pigs in the United States.

The second ingredient that I added was sweet corn.  Now, Minnesota is actually the top producer of sweet corn, but Iowa raises the most corn total (field, sweet and pop) in the nation.  A large majority of that corn Iowa raises is field corn, which primarily goes towards livestock feed and ethanol.  But I figured I couldn't claim to have an Iowa pizza with out sweet corn on it!

And the last ingredient that completes the Slice of Iowa Pizza is Cookies BBQ Sauce.  Cookies is made in Wall Lake, Iowa and they make several flavors of BBQ Sauce, other sauces, seasonings and salsas.  I use their Flavor Enhancer on everything and love their Sweet & Spicy BBQ Sauce and Wings-N-Things Hot Sauce.  Using one of the BBQ Sauces as the pizza sauce was the perfect way of pulling the Iowa pizza all together.

Slice of Iowa Pizza - full of Iowa flavors and perfect for a fun family night

Slice of Iowa Pizza

1 prepared Pizza Crust (in true Iowa fashion I used Fareway's Crispy Pizza Crust mix)
1/2 cup Cookies Sweet & Spicy BBQ Sauce
1 heaping cup Shredded Pork
1/2 cup Sweet Corn kernels, drained
2 cups Pizza blend shredded cheese

Prepare pizza crust as directed by package, or use your favorite homemade recipe, and bake at 425°F for 3 minutes.  Then top the crust with the BBQ Sauce, Pork, Corn and Cheese.  Bake 10 to 12 additional minutes until the top is brown and bubbly.

Slice of Iowa Pizza - full of Iowa flavors and perfect for a fun family night

Are you hungry now?  I love the flavor combination of BBQ Sauce with the shredded Corn, and the sweet corn gives a nice little sweet pop in each bite!  I hope you gather with your family and enjoy a Slice of Iowa Pizza soon!  What is your favorite flavor of pizza?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Slice of Iowa Pizza - full of Iowa flavors and perfect for a fun family night

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Comments for a Cause - The Do More Agriculture Foundation

Comments for a Cause - The Do More Agriculture Foundation
It's the 1st of February and time to introduce my new Comments for a Cause recipient.  But before I share about February's organization, I need to recap January's cause, Quilts of Honor.  In the month of January I had a total of 45 comments, creating a donation of $22.50 to help provide "quilted hugs of gratitude" to veterans and warriors across the nation.  As a member of a military family, I want to especially thank everyone for their comments and interest in January's Comments for a Cause program.

I'm excited to highlight a new organization that is aiming to help farmers called The Do More Agriculture Foundation in February.  I am donating $0.50 for every comment made on my blog to help their efforts.

Comments for a Cause - The Do More Agriculture Foundation, championing mental well-being for all Canadian producers

The Do More Agriculture Foundation is a non-profit organization focusing on mental health in agriculture across Canada and was started on January 30, 2018.  The four founders, Kim Keller, Lesley Kelly, Himanshu Singh and Kirk Muyres saw a need to build awareness about mental health in agriculture and provide support and resources to those impacted.

Mental health is a huge issue for all communities, including those in agriculture.  Farmers are known to be hard workers, resilient, independent and private.  While all those traits can be good, they also can become barriers for speaking up and seeking help.

Farming can be a stressful job.  It is physically and emotionally demanding as farmers usually live where they work and have a hard time ever "leaving the office".  Farmers work from sunrise to sunset (and sometimes longer) and have jobs that require they are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  Farmers take pride in their land, animals, families and communities, and can feel the weight of providing for all them, during good and bad times in the farm economy.

Do More Ag is focusing on "creating awareness about mental health in agriculture and breaking the stigma that currently exists while building a community of support and resources for those impacted and affected."  Farmers don't have to feel alone or that they are letting anyone down.  Instead, they have an entire industry behind them, supporting them.

Help me give best wishes to this new foundation as they work hard to make changes in mental health for farmers.  I hope that they get so much support they expand to helping farmers in the United States too.  Remember to Comment for a Cause all month long to "do more" and help spread awareness of mental health in agriculture.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Get ready for the Super Bowl with #Celebrate365

The game has been set and there will be an Eagles and Patriots showdown in two weeks for Super Bow LII.  To help you get ready, I have partnered up with my Celebrate 365 co-hosts (Carlee from Cooking with Carlee, Jan of The Tip Garden and Nicole of Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom) to host a Football Party Food Blog Party!

Get ready for the Super Bowl with #Celebrate365

No matter if you're going to a Super Bowl Party to cheer for your favorite team (or root against your least favorite), the commercials, or the half-time show, we've got you covered for delicious food for the entire game.

Bloggers are welcome to link-up all of their best football party foods from snacks and dips, to sandwiches and drinks, all are welcome as long as they are party friendly.

What looks good for your Super Bowl party?  Remember to Comment for a Cause and link up your best recipes!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Comments for a Cause - Quilts of Honor

Comments for a Cause - Quilts of Honor
Happy New Year!  After sharing my Top Blog Posts from 2017 & my Goals for 2018, I can finally share about the new month of Comments for a Cause.

Thank you to everyone that commented last month to help me support The Michael J. Fox Foundation and for all the care and concern for my mother-in-law.  I am happy to report that she has returned home and is doing very well!  She is one of the strongest women I know and she's not going to give up.  That is one reason why I respect and admire the Michael J. Fox Foundation so much.  They aren't just working to find ways or things to help people with Parkinson's, they are dedicated to research for finding a cure.  Last month I had a total of 63 comments, equaling a donation of $31.50.  Thank you all for your continued support!

And thanks to everyone's continued support I am continuing my Comments for a Cause program for the 5th year!  To start off 2018 I am donating $0.50 for every comment made on my blog to Quilts of Honor.

Comments for a Cause - Quilts of Honor

Last year I learned about Quilts of Honor after a group of Veterans in an area Care Center received quilts through the nonprofit organization.  I thought the gesture was very honorable and I love to support any group that values the contributions of our veterans and current service men and women.

After years of quilting patriotic quilts for veterans, Quilts of Honor was officially founded in 2010 by Gail Belmont.  As a veteran herself, she had a passion and mission for providing comfort and healing to veterans and warriors.  One way of doing that was by providing "Quilted Hugs of Gratitude" to those who had served in the military.  To date, over 700 quilts have been awarded to veterans and service men and women across the country.

So help me and Quilts of Honor show our appreciation to our veterans and warriors for their sacrifice and service by commenting all month long.  Do you have a special veteran in your life?  You can request a quilt for them through the organization.  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Monday, January 1, 2018

6 Goals to Accomplish in 2018

Happy New Year!  I'm motivated and excited for 2018, and I wanted to share with all of you some of my goals I have set for this year!

Family, Farm and Individual Goal Setting for the New Year

Family Goals

Family has always been one of my top priorities and in the last year I have actually started making some changes so I can focus on my family and be at home for them even more.  My family goals aren't anything new for us but I guess I want to refocus and put greater importance on these goals:

In the New Year I want to re-establish having family meetings on Sundays.  A couple years ago we started doing this but kind of let it go by the wayside over time.  Sunday nights for our family is a great time to go over the week's plan and schedule, talk through things that need to get done, and also talk about goals and ideas.  Our kids especially love giving supper recommendations each week, and thinking through BIG things like birthday party themes, vacation destinations and family fun activities.

In 2018 I also want to re-focus on creating individual time for each kid daily.  I know my kids do better if I have taken some time with them one on one, to do something special with or just for them.  This can be anything from reading a book, baking in the kitchen, or playing outside.  When you have four kids it can be easy to group them all together for activities and even have them just help each other out, but taking time separately with each kid isn't only a benefit for them, it is also a benefit for me to get to know and appreciate them as an individual.

Having individual, quality time with my husband is also a goal too!  He is the most important guy in my life and I never want to take him for granted.  Sometimes with young children it is easy to just focus on their needs, but taking time each day for us is important.  For Lent my husband and I have done nightly devotions together, but an idea is to do that all year long, rather than just Lent this year.

Creating Family Goals for the New Year - Weekly Family Meetings and Daily One-on-One Time

Farm Goals

My Farmer and I have been talking through goals and dreams for our farm ever since he started farming 12 years ago.  This year I want us to take some time to actually prioritize our projects and put a realistic time frame on these ideas.  We've had some plans on our to do list for the last few years but have never accomplished them.  What do we need to do to actually finish the task?  What will our budget actually allow us to execute this year?  These are things that we need to sit down and take time to work through.

Another goal that will help us on our farm in the New Year is if we both make more time to be in the office.  When you farm it is easy to concentrate on the outdoor tasks - feeding and taking care of the pigs, working in the field, getting machinery ready for the field, etc.  But taking time to file paperwork, track inputs and outputs and organize our records, will not only help us come tax time, but it will also help us with marketing, making daily business decisions, and can help us accomplish those projects that I just talked about.

Making Farm Goals for the New Year - Plan for Projects and Increasing Office Time

Individual Goals

Finally, I can't do any of the above if I'm not taking care of myself.  I talked the other day about how I feel like 2018 is my year to make healthier choices and changes.  One of first things I'm going to do in order to make those healthier choices is to wake up earlier.  This is not a new concept, and isn't even the first time I've made this a New Year goal.  But when I have done this, I have found myself more productive, am able to take more time for myself and in general am happier.  I know waking up early works and I'm determined to make it my routine.  I even have an accountability partner in place to give each other morning texts and encouragement to get up and get going.

My other individual goal goes along with being healthier too, and that is to drink more water.  This is another thing I have been good at in the past, and then have fallen off track with, especially since this last fall it seems.  When stress has gotten high and sleep has been minimal I have fallen into drinking more pop than I know I should be drinking.  The New Year seems like the perfect chance to get back on track and concentrate on drinking more water daily.

Making Individual Goals for the New Year - Waking up Earlier and Drinking Water

What are your goals in the New Year?  Be sure to share and Comment for a Cause!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top Posts of 2017

One of my favorite parts of the New Year is that it is a great time to reflect on the past and make goals for the future.  Today I'm reflecting on the past year by sharing some of my top read blog post written in 2017.  As a lifestyle blogger I have a lot of areas I write about, so here is a breakout of my top farm, family, recipe and Comments for a Cause posts.

Look Back at the Top Farm, Family, Recipe and Comments for a Cause Blog Posts from 2017

Top 3 Farm Posts
  1. Reflections of a Lifetime of Farming:  I love that the interview I did of my good friend and neighbor Merlin, in honor of his 80th birthday, turned out to be my top farming post of the year.  It was a lot of fun to reflect on how farming has changed during his lifetime and I'm so happy to have him as a part of our farm family.
  2. Ladies Night Out in the Field:  In September I was apart of the inaugural CommonGround Iowa Ladies Night Out in the Field event.  This event brought together 40 women from Central Iowa to talk about food, farming and family, all while having a beautiful dinner party at the Kellie Blair Farm.  The conversations and connections made at this event were awesome and I can't wait to be apart of the 2nd Annual event next year.
  3. I'm an #ActualLivingFarmer:  This winter there was a hashtag, #ActualLivingFarmer, that caught my eye and became trending on Twitter.  The hashtag was meant for farmers to share their story of who they are and what they do, as less than 2% of the US Population is a farmer.  Included in this post is my initial tweet and links to several posts that share about my family's farm.

Top 3 Family Posts
  1. Clear Lake's Yurts - A Family Bucket List Must!:  This was my overall top read blog post written in 2017 and I'm not surprised.  Immediately after this post was written it was shared hundreds of times on Facebook.  The Yurts in Clear Lake, Iowa are a unique camping option in North Iowa that my family loves going to and can't say enough good things about.
  2. Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip:  For the last four years my family and I have been going on an Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip every June in recognition of National Dairy Month.  This year on National Ice Cream Day we shared all of our stops over the last four years and hopefully inspired some others to go out and discover these fun and delicious ice cream shops.
  3. 6 Truth About Being a Mom of 4 Kids:  This was a fun post I wrote about life as a Mom with four young children.  It was fun to share about how life and my parenting style has changed through the years and as we have added more kids to our family.  Being a Mom is something I love and am very proud of.

Top 3 Recipe Posts
  1. Rum Logs:  My top recipe post was a family favorite that I shared during Christmas Cookies Week earlier this month.  This recipe was handed down from my Great Grandma, who I loved and admired and was lucky enough to have as a part of my life for over 20 years.  Rum Logs are a light and slightly sweet cookie that will melt in your mouth and that are a perfect compliment to a glass of Egg Nog!
  2. Easy Pecan Sticky Buns:  This is one of my go to recipes that I love to make when we have family and friends over for breakfast and brunch.  It is easy to make, a hit with all ages and you've got to check out what the secret ingredient is that make these rolls extra sweet!
  3. Apple Oatmeal Coffee Mug Cake:  This recipe was shared during this year's Apple Week and is a perfect recipe when you want to indulge a little.  I love making this Mug Cake anytime of the day - breakfast, snack or as an evening dessert.

Top 3 Comments for a Cause Posts
  1. Ashland Community Foundation Fire Relief Fund:  This Spring there were some devastating wildfires that affected ranchers in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.  During April I raised awareness and donated to one of the hardest hit areas.  The damage and losses from their wildfires were horrible, but the outpouring of support from farmers from across the nation was amazing.
  2. Houston Food Bank:  My heart hurt for everyone that was affected by the Hurricanes at the end of the summer, including Hurricane Harvey which hit the Houston, Texas area hard.  As a way to help those affected, I donated money to the Houston Food Bank's Harvey Disaster Relief fund.  I also joined up with some other food bloggers to share some Texas inspired recipes to help raise awareness for relief needs and efforts.
  3. Franklin County Freedom Rock:  My home county is getting ready for our Freedom Rock to get finished as part of the 99 County Freedom Rock Tour.  This winter the official rock was moved to it's final home and the rock is scheduled to get painted in 2018.  My family even went on a mini-tour of other area county Freedom Rocks to get excited for ours to get finished!

What was your favorite post from 2017?  Did you discover any new post from the top 2017 lists?   Be sure to check out my BestNine Instagram photo too!  Remember to Comment for a Cause!