Friday, December 15, 2017

Holiday Survival Guide from a Mom of 4

Anyone else feeling like it's crunch time with only 10 days to go before Christmas?  With Christmas programs at school & church, holiday gatherings & parties filling up the calendar, and the need to still wrap all 22 of my gifts, it can be a little overwhelming.  And when Mom is overwhelmed, the whole house becomes chaotic.  So to help everyone out during this crazy, I mean wonderful, time of year, here is my Holiday Survival Guide:

Holiday Survival Guide from a Mom of 4

Organize and Make A Plan

It's not too late to start making a plan for the holiday season.  With places to be, food to make, and all while trying to keep a clean house, you need a plan.  A couple years ago on my blog I created Holiday Check Lists starting the week before Thanksgiving.

Holiday Survival Guide from a Mom of 4 - Organize and Make a Plan

This week make sure you have a menu in place for all of your Christmas gatherings and then buy all of your groceries.  The grocery store is a busy place the week of a holiday, so do your big shopping trip now, so if and when you need to go back, it can be for a quick trip!  Also, if you are like me and haven't wrapped any gifts, start wrapping!  No one likes wrapping gifts the day of a party to only find out you don't have enough wrapping paper.  So start now, wrap a few every night and before you know it you'll be done.  Be sure to check out the full check lists for 1 Week Before Christmas and Christmas Week to help you get organized.

Become a Minimalist

The minimalist lifestyle is a big trend these days, and part of the reason why is so you can declutter your life and live simply and happily.  You can take these principals when it comes to the holiday season too:
  • Make a budget for Christmas gifts, and scale-back on gift giving.  This might be the year to talk with family members about gift giving during the year.  Last year my sisters and I decided that we wouldn't give birthday gifts anymore for our generation and instead plan a birthday supper with the whole family.  We knew none of us needed stuff just because it was our birthday, and that getting together was more rewarding.
  • Don't buy holiday decorations.  Use what you have and if you want something new, make something with your kids.
  • Don't feel like you have to go to every holiday party you are invited to.  It is easy to say yes to every dinner and get together, but sometimes being away from home a lot, especially over the holidays, can be exhausting.  
  • Enjoy and evening at home.  Throw in a Christmas movie, pop some popcorn, and snuggle up on the couch with your family and simply enjoy a night a home with the Christmas Tree lights on.

Do those Extra-Special Things

So I know I just said, don't feel like you have to go to every holiday party you are invited to, but at the same time, make time to do those extra-special things and make memories with your family.  As my six year old son told me before we decided to go see the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train come through town, "this doesn't happen every day."  Go see Santa.  Go to a Christmas Tree Farm to pick out your tree.  And always, go see the Holiday Train if it comes through your area.

Holiday Survival Guide from a Mom of 4 - Do the Extra-Special Things and Create Memories, like the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train in Mason City, Iowa

Bake Cookies

Baking Christmas Cookies isn't only delicious, but it can be a fun tradition to do with your family.  Now at the same time, there is no need to get overwhelmed by cookie baking, so make your favorites, or try some simple cookies.  Here are some of my family's favorites:

Holiday Survival Guide from a Mom of 4 - Bake Cookies including family favorites like Peanut Butter Balls

Holiday Survival Guide from a Mom of 4 - Bake Cookies including family favorites like Rum Logs

Holiday Survival Guide from a Mom of 4 - Bake Cookies including family favorites like Homemade Chocolate Mint Oreos

Remember the Reason for the Season

Lastly, always remember the reason for the the season.  Like I have said, Christmas can be a busy time of year, but take time to reflect with your loved ones about Jesus's birth.  Do simple things every day like family Advent devotions.  Make Christmas gifts simple by giving three gifts to represent the three gifts Jesus received.  Also, think about ways your family can give back or pay it forward during the holiday season to share God's love.  And incorporate your birthday traditions on Christmas Day to remind everyone why we are celebrating during the holidays.

What are your tips for surviving the holiday?  Be sure to share and Comment for a Cause.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Peppermint Sandies #ChristmasCookies

I can't believe it is already Friday of Christmas Cookies Week!  I hope you have been following #ChristmasCookies on social media to see all of the delicious cookie recipes from over 30 bloggers.  When I first found out that Nielsen-Massey was sponsoring Christmas Cookies Week I was excited to try their different vanillas and extract flavors and was drawn to their Peppermint Extract.  Afterall, how much more festive can you get than peppermint!

Peppermint Sandies are buttery, crispy and have just the right balance of holiday flavor. #ChristmasCookies #sponsored

These buttery, crispy, Peppermint Sandies have just the right balance of flavor and are the perfect refrigerated cookie to add to your Christmas Cookie platter.

Peppermint Sandies are buttery, crispy and have just the right balance of holiday flavor. #ChristmasCookies #sponsored

Peppermint Sandies

1 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Butter
1/2 cup Shortening
2 eggs
3 cups Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 cup Peppermint Baking Chips

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugars, butter and shortening.  Add eggs and peppermint extract and combine till light and fluffy.  Mix in flour and baking soda well.  Stir in peppermint baking chips.

Divide cookie dough in half.  Shape each half into 2 inch diameter log.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill 2 to 3 hours, or until firm.

Cut logs into slices. Bake cookies at 350°F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges are light golden brown.  Cool completely before storing.

Peppermint Sandies are buttery, crispy and have just the right balance of holiday flavor. #ChristmasCookies #sponsored

Now it is your turn to make these cookies by winning the Nielsen-Massey Flavor Extracts Package!  Be sure to enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What Nielsen-Massey flavor extract would you like to try?  Be sure to Comment for a Cause and check out the rest of today's Christmas Cookies Week recipes:

Peppermint Sandies are buttery, crispy and have just the right balance of holiday flavor. #ChristmasCookies #sponsored

Monday, December 4, 2017

Rum Logs #ChristmasCookies

♫ It's the most, wonderful time, of the year🎝 
otherwise known as Christmas Cookies Week!  
All this week I'm joining with other bloggers 
to share 130 Christmas Cookie recipes.

I love making Christmas Cookies throughout the month of December and I love sharing Christmas Cookies at family gatherings, with neighbors, and with friends.  Besides Christmas Cookies being delicious, festive, sweet treats, they are also a favorite family tradition of mine.  Every year the first Christmas Cookies I make are Peanut Butter Balls.  I love making these with my mom and sisters after Black Friday shopping.  Another cookie I love making with my family are my Great Grandma Mae's Rum Logs.  Not only do these cookies make me smile because they were one of my Great Grandma's recipes, a woman who I loved and cherished very much (in fact our oldest daughter's middle name is Mae in honor of her).  But these cookies are also one of my Mom's favorites and always makes me think of her.  For the longest time I felt like she was the only one that could make them right, but after a little tinkering with the recipe, I feel like I can make a pretty good batch of Rum Logs and now you can too!

Rum Logs are the perfect addition to any Christmas Cookie Platter.  They're light, slightly sweet, soft and will melt in your mouth! #ChristmasCookies

Rum Logs are a light and slightly sweet cookie that are a perfect addition to any Christmas Cookie Platter.  I love how they are soft and will melt in your mouth, especially if you pair them with a glass of egg nog.  Plus, the kids love decorating them with sprinkles!

Christmas Cookie Helpers
Miss L and Miss R had a lot of fun decorating
the Rum Logs with sprinkles
Rum Logs

1 cup Butter
3/4 cup Sugar
1 Egg
1/4 cup Milk
2 tsp Vanilla extract
2 tsp Rum extract flavoring
1 tsp Nutmeg, ground
3 cups Flour

Cream butter and sugar together.  Then mix in egg, milk, vanilla, rum, nutmeg and flour.  The dough will be stiff.  Roll dough into 2 inch long "logs".  You can place them fairly close together on the cookie sheet as they won't raise much.  Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies appear dry and bottoms are just golden.  Do not let the bottoms of the cookies brown.

Rum Logs fresh out of the oven

Then to make the glaze for the top of the Rum Logs whisk together:

1 cup Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp Rum extract flavoring
1/4 tsp Vanilla extract
1 Tbsp Milk

Rum Logs with Rum Glaze

Dip the top of each cookie in the glaze and decorate with colored sugar or nutmeg.

Rum Logs are the perfect addition to any Christmas Cookie Platter.  They're light, slightly sweet, soft and will melt in your mouth! #ChristmasCookies

I hope you try a batch of these festive cookies soon!  And I hope you check out all of these other great cookies shared today as part of Christmas Cookie Week:
What Christmas Cookie sparks your interest?  Do you have any Christmas Cookie traditions?  Be sure to Comment for a Cause!
Rum Logs are the perfect addition to any Christmas Cookie Platter.  They're light, slightly sweet, soft and will melt in your mouth! #ChristmasCookies

Sunday, December 3, 2017

#Celebrate365 Cookie Exchange Blog Party

Peanut Butter Balls.  No Bake Cookies.  Sugar Cookies.  Gooey Wonders.  Peanut Butter Blossoms.  I really could go on and on, but I think you get the picture... It's Christmas Cookie Week!  And to get things started I am partnering 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 host a Cookie Exchange Link-Up Party.

Cookie Exchange #Celebrate365 Link Blog Party - pin your favorite Christmas Cookie recipes

All bloggers are welcomed and encouraged to link up their favorite Christmas Cookie recipes.  I can't wait to see what everyone shares, as I love making a few different cookies each week in December leading up to Christmas, that way I have well rounded Christmas Cookie platters with lots of favorites and variety.  

Also, be sure to stay tuned for Christmas Cookie Week by following #ChristmasCookies on social media.  I'm excited to be sharing a family favorite recipe tomorrow as part of the week long festivities, and a new recipe I created that is full of holiday flavor on Thursday!  Be sure to follow along and check out the 130 recipes!

What is your favorite Christmas Cookie?  Be sure to link-up the recipe and Comment for a Cause!

Comments for a Cause - The Michael J. Fox Foundation

Comments for a Cause - The Michael J. Fox Foundation
This last month has been a whirlwind and I'm hoping to find my groove now that December has arrived.  I'll get more into that later, but to start off, let's talk about my Comments for a Cause efforts in October and November for Farm Rescue.  Through all of your comments, I'm excited to donate $39 to help farmers in need with donated labor and equipment.

In the month of December I'm excited to be supporting The Michael J. Fox Foundation.  I will donate $0.50 for every comment made on my blog to help their Parkinson's Disease research and treatment efforts.

Comments for a Cause - The Michael J. Fox Foundation

My mother-in-law is an amazing woman.  She is caring, attentive, witty and one of the strongest women I know.  I feel so fortunate that I first got to know her fifteen years ago.  Our relationship has grown stronger and closer through the years, as I went from her son's girlfriend, to son's fiance, to son's wife, neighbor and friend.  Through this time her life has also changed as she was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease 14 years ago.

For the first few years the main symptom she had was that her feet didn't cooperate with her going on her daily run anymore, so she switched to primarily doing yoga, which has been great for her to help with her strength.  Then in 2008 she had Deep Brain Stimulator surgery, which is a procedure that implanted a brain pacemaker.  The DBS sends electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain to help with movement and other areas affected by Parkinson's.  The DBS helped her with quality of life for many years, and still helps some today, but I will admit it's effectiveness has warn off some.  I'm not sure if that is because she's had it for almost ten years, or if it is because we are now ten years farther into her Parkinson's, or a combination of both.  But none the less, I know the DBS has been a benefit for my mother-in-law.

One of my all-time favorite photos from our wedding reception
My Mother-in-Law said her doctor insisted she carry
a champagne bottle with her at all times to help her with her balance πŸ˜‰

So then we find ourselves at the beginning of November and my mother-in-law became hospitalized with her first major complication from her Parkinson's.  She was diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia and had a feeding tube placed to help her have less aspiration of her food and liquids.  She is currently in skilled care working on physical, occupational and speech therapies so she come back home.

Through all of this I am still amazed by my mother-in-law's strength.  If she wasn't a strong person, she would have given up a long time ago, let alone in this last month.  But I truly believe one of the things that keeps her going is the love for her family and her love of God.  I talked about how my mother-in-law and I have grown closer through the years and that is partly due to her Parkinson's.  I help her get groceries, or run errands, or take her to appointments, which has allowed us to get to know each other better.  I feel so fortunate that I am able to help her and that I have gotten to know her on such a personal level.

My Mother-in-Law and six of her seven grandkids
(this photo was taken about a month before #7 was born)

I also love seeing the care and affection my children give her.  I know my husband (and I) think back and wish what could have been for my mother-in-law as a grandma.  And while yes, our kids aren't able to run around or get down on the floor to play with her, but the relationship they have with her is one of a kind.  Our oldest Mr K. loves reading her books which is great for him because he's working on his reading skills, and great for her because she is a book lover.  Our oldest daughter Miss A is always a big helper for her grandma, always offering to carry her purse and help her out in anyway when we run errands together.  Miss L is so warm and tender with her grandma.  Every time we see her she gives her a hug and does this soft rub of her hands.  It is so precious to see.  And finally Miss R; she loves to give her grandma big hugs and big cheesy smiles that then give a smile to my mother-in-law.

Parkinson's is one of the hardest diseases I think anyone can go through.  It has always been on my mind obviously for the last fourteen years, but is has pretty much been the only thing I've been able to think about the last month.  Simply put, Parkinson's is a sad, debilitating disease, and The Michael J. Fox Foundation isn't just there to help people figure out how to live with the disease, but they are dedicated to finding a cure for it.  So this month I am going to be supporting their efforts by donating $0.50 for every comment made on my blog to their foundation.  Please help me and my family by commenting all month long!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

3 Things I've Learned This Harvest

It is the first of November and this is when I always talk about Comments for a Cause.  Last month I shared about the organization Farm Rescue, which provides labor and equipment to farmers in need.  And since my life has revolved around harvesting our own corn and soybeans this last month, I've decided to continue supporting Farm Rescue again this month by donating $0.50 for every comment made in November on my blog, along with October's 43 comments.

We hopefully, knock on wood, have just a couple more weeks left of harvest and then hope to finish all of our field work by Thanksgiving.  But over the last month, I learned a few things this year:

#1 Always Take Care of Yourself

3 Things I've Learned This Harvest - Always Take Care of Yourself

You know the saying when you're on an airplane that "in the event of an emergency, please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others"?  Well, the same goes for the hustle and bustle and excitement of harvest.

A couple weeks ago I started to not feel well while out in the field doing what I love, driving tractor.  But I carried on, taking breaks whenever I was ahead of the combine.  Well, I ended up pushing myself too much and ended up needing to get help from my doctor because my body couldn't catch up.  Rather than being out for just a couple days for the flu, I ended up being out of the field for a week.

Sometimes being a Mom I feel like I can, or that I should, be doing everything, and as a Farmer, there is a crunch time during harvest where I don't want to slow down.  Well, I learned the hard way that I can't do it all, and this is the first big take away I'll remember from this harvest.

#2 Instagram Stories Are So Much Fun!

So I never got into Snapchat because I never really understood it.  But this fall I have fallen in love with Instagram Stories.  Between sharing little videos, or fun photos with the kids, or happenings out in the field, I've really enjoyed making my own stories and checking out other people's stories.  Instagram Stories have been great to engage with my followers and I love the authenticity of the Stories feature.  If you don't follow me on Instagram yet be sure to follow me and check out my Stories (like the one from earlier today posted above).  You can find me at plaggeval.

#3 The Tractor is the Best Place to be in the Fall

3 Things I've Learned This Harvest

Simply put, there is no place I'd rather spend my days in the fall, then behind the wheel of a tractor, helping bring in our corn and soybean harvest.  Driving a tractor has been something I just simply have loved since I first learned when I was 10 years old.  Maybe it is the cool factor of driving a big piece of equipment, or the inclusion aspect of being a part of my family's harvest crew, or the excitement of bringing in the "fruits of labor" from the past year.  Whatever the reason, out in the field is my favorite place to be.  I've had a great time over the last month helping with the harvest and look forward to our last couple of weeks.

What questions do you have about my family's corn and soybean harvest?  Remember to Comment for a Cause and help out Farm Rescue, who is helping farmers in need harvest during this time of year.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

33 for my 33rd

Today I turned 33 years old and I have to say 33 feels pretty good.  I have been married for almost 10 years to my best friend and have four healthy, growing children who give me constant entertainment and love.  My Farmer and I continue to grow our farming operation and have even been recognized for some of our accomplishments.  I feel comfortable where I am in life and at the same time am inspired to do more, do better and help others.

And that is how come, to celebrate my 33rd birthday, I'm vowing to help others and give back through 33 random (and not so random) acts of kindness.  I already have ideas written down and am going to put my plan in action tonight when I run to town to go on a parts run (because when it's your birthday during harvest, you take any excuse to run to town to treat yourself for supper. πŸ˜‰)

Celebrating my 33rd Birthday through 33 Random (and not so Random) Acts of Kindness

So now this is where you come in to help:  First, please comment below with any random (or not so random) acts of kindness ideas.  If you know someone in particular that could use some encouragement, feel free to reach out to me, as I would love to help that person through you or anonymously.  Secondly, reach out to someone and perform a random act of kindness yourself.  When we help others we not only uplift them, but make our own hearts full too.

I can't wait to hear your suggestions, as well as learn how you paid it forward!  Remember to Comment for a Cause!