Sunday, March 1, 2015

Comments for a Cause - Children's Tumor Foundation

It is a new month and time for a new cause to support.  But before I get into the details for March, I'd first like to talk about last month.  During the month of February I had 81 comments, creating a donation of $40.50 for Room to Read.  Thanks for helping me support childhood literacy worldwide.

In the month of March I am paying tribute to my late friend Amy by supporting a cause she was very supportive of, the Children's Tumor Foundation.  For the last couple of years Amy participated in the Mason City Cupid's Undie Run, which is a fundraiser for CTF.  She had so much fun at this event and always was encouraging more people to join her.  So I am joining her now in spirit by donating $0.50 for every comment on my blog during the month to the Children's Tumor Foundation.

Amy before this year's Cupid's Undie Run
on Valentine's Day this year
which supports the Children's Tumor Foundation
The Children's Tumor Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding effective treatments for Neurofibromatosis (NF) through research.  NF is a debilitating genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow all over the nervous system which can cause blindness, deafness, learning disabilities and severe chronic pain.  Amy personally had a few people in her life who have struggled/struggles with NF, so that is what she got so active with the Cupid's Undie Run.

The Cupid's Undie Run takes place every year on Valentine's Day, where millions of people strip down to their skivvies and run for kids with NF.  Amy wrote a great blog post about her experience after this year's run that you should check out, along with a video she made after the event:

Have you ever heard of Cupid's Undie Run?  Or do you know anyone who has NF?  Be sure to comment all month long to not only help kids with NF, but also to help me honor Amy.  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Country Fair Blog Party: March Madness

It is the first of the month, so that means a few things on my blog, one of which, it's time for a new Country Fair Blog Party!  But before I share about March's blog hop, I'd like to share my favorite posts from February's LOVE party:

Farm Fit Mama's Raising Kids: Two Bottle Babies in 2015
One thing I asked for people to share to last month's blog hop was products they loved, and I loved Farm Fit Mama's Raising Kids: Two Bottle Babies in 2015 post.  She was of course talking about goat kids and shared some of her favorite milk replacers and bottle supplies.  Plus, she shared some cute goat kid photos!

Little Blog on the Homestead - Holland, Michigan
Another thing I asked for people to share to last month's blog party was places they loved, and I loved that Little Blog on the Homestead shared why she loves her hometown of Holland, Michigan.  I loved all the heritage aspects of Holland and would actually love to visit someday!

And I asked for people to share some recipes they love to last month's blog party.  Now, this was hard to choose a favorite but I'm going to have to go with Simple Suburban Living's 5 Ingredient Flour Tortillas.  My family loves Mexican food and actually my son LP even simply loves eating tortillas plain, so this easy and simple recipe was right up my alley.  Plus she includes a step by step video!  How cool!

I can't wait to see what great posts get linked up this month as celebrate March Madness.  Throughout the month of March we are looking for your posts to help you make it through the madness of March - from spring cleaning, to preparing spring gardens for planting, to Easter recipes or crafts.  Anything to help you make it through March is welcomed!  After all, this March is definitely coming "in like a lion" and hopefully you'll find some helpful posts to assist March go "out like a lamb."

This blog hop is a great opportunity to check out new blogs, and if you blog yourself, have your posts reach a new audience.  Bloggers, feel free to link up to 3 posts this month and be sure to visit some other party goers and let them know you are stopping by through the Country Fair Blog Party.

Also, be sure to visit my fellow co-hosts:
Belong with Wildflowers
Country LINKed
Dirt Road Charm
High Heels and Shotgun Shells
Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom
This Uncharted Rhoade
Tip Garden

We're excited to see everything you share this month!  What new blog did you discover through this month's Country Fair Blog Party?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Amy's Gift of Friendship

I just don't know where to start, so I'm giving you all a heads up that this post might be a little random and scattered, but I know I need to write something now, because there is so much I want to write.  This past Wednesday was a snowy day, so the kids and I decided to stay at home, rather than doing our normal library and grocery trip.  We were having a great day and that afternoon's quiet time was turning out to be pretty productive for myself until I got "the call."  One of my fellow North Iowa Bloggers, Donna, called me.  I figured she was calling to let me know that our group wasn't going to meet for our supper and local business tour that night anymore because of the weather, but instead I heard a quiver in her voice and I could hear tears in her eyes.  I thought what happened?  She told me that one of our fellow North Iowa Bloggers, Amy of Modern Rural Living, had passed away in a tragic multi-car accident that morning.  I said "What!".  Donna repeated it again, but I knew what she had said, I just couldn't believe it.  So I said "What!" one more time.  Donna knew I was in disbelief, just like she was, and though we were 50 miles apart from each other, she could tell what I was thinking and said, "I know."  We just sat on the phone with each other mumbling disbeliefs back and worth, or even just saying nothing.  But we knew we were there for each other and we knew we were there for the rest of our North Iowa Bloggers, Amy's fiance Spenser and Amy's parents and brother.

One of the Facebook photos I posted of Amy and I.
We were on a social media panel together just last month.
That evening after Amy's name was released publicly, I shared photos of Amy and myself on Facebook.  The support from my Facebook followers was amazing.  Those that didn't even know Amy sent their prayers for her family and friends - AND to the North Iowa Bloggers.  I was astonished that people would be thinking of me during this time, along with the rest of my North Iowa Bloggers community.  My Mom called me that night to make sure I was alright.  She mentioned how lucky I was to have the North Iowa Bloggers.  And that is when I think it really hit me, the North Iowa Bloggers was more than just a group of people that got together to talk social media and support our local community, we were friends.

One of my favorite #NorthIowaBlogger events
Lays Potato Chip Taste Test (which has then spurred more taste tests!)
Living in rural Iowa, let's just say, there are limitations to finding friends.  There isn't a huge population to begin with and then if you look for people that have the same interests as you, that pool gets even smaller.  And I know and appreciate the friends I have, but the North Iowa Bloggers are something different, there is something special there, they're friends.  Does that make sense to anyone else?  They are an unbelievable support system that I am so lucky and fortunate to have, and Amy was such a big part of that.  Amy was always so welcoming to anyone that joined our group, she had such an excitement and zest at every gathering and event we participated in, and her smile - what I can I say about her smile?  Number one, she was always smiling.  Number two, her smile instantly made you feel comfort.  Number three, you could tell what she was thinking by the way she smiled.  So, I guess in the words of Amy, her smile "Rocked".

Amy Hild - September 9, 1987 - February 25, 2015 #amysgift
Amy Elizabeth Hild - September 9, 1987 - February 25, 2015
The North Iowa Bloggers, Spenser, Amy's family and the rest of her friends are going to miss her smile and friendship for awhile.  There are going to be holes in our lives and hearts for awhile.  But the promise of Easter gives me assurance that I will see that smile again.  Scripture always gives me so much fulfillment and I ran across this verse that I think embodies Amy, plus goes well with some of the things My Farmer and I have been praying with each other about this Lent.

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." #amysgift

What words or songs of support do you turn to in time of loss?  Remember to Comment for a Cause (and be sure to check out next month's Comments for a Cause tomorrow - I'm doing something special for Amy!), and be sure to check out these other great tributes to her.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Sisterly Love

On Sunday, we had our baby daughter JP's baptism.  (We must have been taking too many photos because both girls MP and JP were asleep for our family photo after church.)

We invited all of our family to our house after church for dinner and our son LP's birthday party.  While we were waiting for the homemade ice cream my Mom captured a couple photos of my girls' sisterly love that I am blessed to see everyday.  And I just had to share with you today.

You might be a little worried if you see a pre-toddler or a toddler 
hunched over a baby rocker...

But I know that it means there are plenty of hugs and kisses 
being exchanged between two sisters. 

What are some blessings in your life?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Blasting Off to LP's 4th Birthday!

Today our son, LP turns 4 years old!  My Farmer and I talked today about how we can't believe we have a 4 year old in our house, but at the same time it seems like he has been apart of our family for a long time.  LP is a curious and busy boy who loves to use his imagination.  He loves building things about of old containers and cartons, paper, really anything he can get his hands on, and he has been building a lot of robots and rocket ships lately.  So, at the beginning of the month when we asked him what he'd like his birthday cake to be this year we didn't really know what he'd say.  He excitingly said - a rocket ship!  We had a great time celebrating with family this past Sunday.

4 year old boy rocket ship birthday party

Rocket Ship Birthday Invitation
The first thing I always do is work on the invitation.  LP loves doing crafts, so making the birthday invitations with him was a great activity for the two of us.  We used a lot of materials we had in our craft supplies but did splurge and bought some black glitter paper to make the invitation out of this world.  For each card I cut a rocket ship and a porthole out of foam, that LP then assembled together.  We then put the black glitter paper on the front of each card and LP then stuck down the completed rocket ships on top of the card.  For the inside, I wrote the party's information on one side and LP drew a rocket ship on the other.  We put all of our invitations together in just an hour and had a great time doing them!

Name rocket - rocket ship birthday decoration
The next thing I got ready for the party was the decorations.  For all of our kids' birthday parties I like to do something simple to help show the "theme" and also to show photos of the child throughout the last year.  We've been working a lot at home on name recognition and letter recognition, so we made a name rocket.  I then showed LP around a dozen photos of him over the past year and he picked his favorite four to put on stars.

Rocket ship birthday cake
The final thing to take care of, and probably the most important was the food!  We actually had our baby daughter JP's baptism Sunday morning at church, so following church we had everyone to our house for crockpot chili and crockpot chicken and dumpling soup.  I also made an overnight salad and shrimp pasta salad to serve on the side, along with beer bread, corn muffins and crackers to go with the soup.  Following dinner, we opened presents and then had cake and homemade ice cream!  To make LP's rocket ship cake I made a 9x13 chocolate cake and simply cut the top at a curved angle to make the point of the rocket, and then I moved those two pieces to the bottom of the cake to make the fins on the bottom of the rocket.

We had a great time celebrating LP's special day on Sunday and all day today.  LP and I had fun doing a few simple DIY projects to make his party special for him and all of our family.  Check out these other great and fun DIY projects we have done for LP's previous birthday parties:
What was your favorite birthday party theme as a child?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Friday, February 20, 2015

AE Dairy - Passion for Quality

Yesterday I got the opportunity to meet these two, along with many others, as I participated in an Anderson Erickson Dairy immersion day, since I am a 2015 AE Dairy Blog Ambassador!  I had a great time learning about the dairy's history, going on a tour and participating in a taste test.

I started the day off by having breakfast with Miriam Erickson Brown, President and CEO of AE Dairy, and Kim Peter, Director of Marketing.  There was of course plenty of AE products to choose from and I opted for some chocolate milk and a piece of buttermilk streusel coffee cake.  I loved hearing Miriam's passion for dairy as she shared her family's dairy's story.  Her grandfather, Iver Erickson, and friend William "Andy" Anderson, bought a dairy for $15,000 and started AE Dairy in 1930.  At that time there were around 150 dairies in Des Moines, so after awhile the dairy decided to concentrate on specific dairy products - milks, cottage cheese and sour cream.  Andy Anderson was interested in butter, so he decided to go off on his own several years later to Minnesota and sold his shares of the company to Iver.  In the 60's Miriam's Dad, Jim got involved with the dairy and helped develop the company's yogurt line.  Yogurt was only found in health markets at that time, and Jim helped bring yogurt to grocery stores.  Today, Jim is the Chairman of the AE Dairy Board, Miriam is the President and CEO and her brother Warren is the COO and CFO.

After breakfast Miriam and Kim introduced me to John Just, Quality Assurance and Research Director, who led all of us on a tour of the 22 acre dairy.  This is where I learned about the over 25 lab and sensory tests done at various stages of the dairy products - from the initial stage of raw milk straight from the tanker truck, to tests ran on samples after the pasteurization and homogenization processes (like seen in the photo above and thanks to Annie for posing for me), to even tests ran after products reach their sell-by date.  Right now they said that over 99% of their production meets the end-of-code date.

One test I was lucky to participate in yesterday was their weekly taste test - a tradition since AE Dairy began.  Every Thursday at 11 a.m. members of AE's research, sales and leadership teams come together to test the previous weeks' production and to judge its taste, smell, texture and appearance.  It was fun talking with everyone around the table as they talked about new flavors (by the way, check out their new Hot Jalapeno Mexican Style Dip), product ideas in the pipeline and products that flopped.  It was also a great chance to try some products I probably would have never bought myself.  Before yesterday I thought I only liked Greek Yogurt in a tzatziki sauce on top of a gyro.  But now, I'm going to have to start buying some of AE Dairy's Greek Yogurts to keep stocked in our refrigerator.  I think my favorite was the Almond Creme flavor.

As a farmer, I found it really interesting to talk to members of the AE Dairy team about questions they receive from customers about animal treatment, to raw milk, to hormones in milk.  I may not be a dairy farmer, but as a livestock farmer, we all have concern and care for our animals.  As a Mom, I love the versatility of dairy, along with its great health benefits.  I know between drinking a glass of milk, to incorporating cheese into a sauce, to having cottage cheese as a snack - that my family has dairy at every meal of the day.

Miriam Erickson Brown, AE Dairy President/CEO on the dairy tour
I could keep going on and on, but I'll stop for today.  But I'll keep sharing about AE Dairy's story and their recipes throughout the rest of the year.  What is your favorite dairy product?  What dairy product do you enjoy cooking and baking with the most?  I'll be sure to keep your favorites in mind for future recipe posts!  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

And, if you are a AE Dairy fan who grew up enjoying AE products and moved away, or if you got a taste from a friend or family member and fell in love from a distance, you need to apply for AE Dairy's long-distance fans contest for your chance at a special prize pack full of AE Dairy items shipped to you!  You can apply yourself or you can nominate someone you know who would love a taste from "back home".

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Give instead of Giving Up this Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lent season.  Lent is a time for prayer and repentance of sins, as Christians prepare for Holy Week and the celebration of Easter.  A common practice during Lent is to fast or give up certain types of luxuries.  Now I may ruffle a few feathers here, but I am not a fan of this tradition.  I realize that fasting and giving up something is suppose to help you grow closer to God, and in a way symbolize what Jesus Christ did for all of us during Holy Week.  But there is no way we can even come close to the same giving up of ourselves that Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.  And are you telling me that people that give up alcohol, chocolate or swearing during Lent are really doing that in recognition of the glory of God?  That is why today, on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, I am challenging all of you to Give of yourself in the glory of God.

So what are some ways we can Give this Lent you are now asking?  Well, here is a list of a few ideas I have and I'd love hear your ideas.  Remember to Comment for a Cause!
  • Read the Bible daily
  • Practice daily devotions and share your insights with your spouse, children, friends, etc.
  • Start a prayer team with a friend or family member.  Send each other a text or call each other every day and pray with and for each other.
  • Volunteer at your church or in your community.  Help feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, etc.
  • Send letters to family, friends, shut-ins of your church and community, etc. and let them know how much they are loved by you and God (My friend Beth Ann has been doing this the last couple of years and I have been lucky to be on the receiving end of one of her cards.  It was very touching.)
I hope you all have a blessed Lent!