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!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Warm Up with Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding

* This post has been compensated through the AE Dairy Blog Ambassador program.  All views and opinions shared are my own. *

Snow is falling and it is the perfect time to go out and enjoy AE Dairy's seasonal milks by making this warm, fudgy Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding.

Warm up with this baked Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding with a sweet cake top above a rich fudge sauce #AEdairy #sponsored

Every Fall AE Dairy rolls out their seasonal milks, including my favorites Egg Nog and After Dinner Mint.  A new milk they added to the line up this year was Chocolate Hazelnut.  I loved this new flavor combination.  The chocolate milk has a subtle hazelnut undertone to it but at the same time, made me think of biting into a Ferrero Rocher hazelnut chocolate!  The rich flavor comes from the three European cocoas AE Dairy uses to create their chocolate milks, along with the balance of the hazelnut they added to create this seasonal milk.

After drinking a couple quarts of the milk I thought about how great the milk would be in a baked chocolate pudding.  My Grandma Marilou would make this baked fudge when I was growing up for special occasions and I stumbled acrossed the recipe several years ago.  If you like Chocolate Melting Cake you'll love this baked pudding!  Perfect for a crowd, this baked pudding forms a cake top over a rich fudge sauce with a subtle hazelnut flavor.  Add a scoop of ice cream and you've got the perfect warm, sweet treat to curl up with on a snowy, winter night.

Warm up with this baked Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding with a sweet cake top above a rich fudge sauce #AEdairy #sponsored

Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding

1 cup Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
5 Tbsp Baking Cocoa, divided
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 cup Sugar, divided
2 Tbsp Butter, melted
1 tsp Hazelnut extract
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2 cups Hot Water

Whisk together Flour, Salt, 2 Tbsp Cocoa, Baking Powder and 1/2 cup Sugar in a 2-quart baking dish.

Combine melted Butter, Milk and Hazelnut extract, and then mix into the dry ingredients in the baking dish til well incorporated.  It will create a thick, wet dough.  Spread evenly over the bottom of the baking dish.

Mix the remaining 3 Tbsp Cocoa, remaining 1/2 cup Sugar and Brown Sugar, and then sprinkle over pudding batter.  Pour hot water over top and bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes.

Warm up with this baked Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding with a sweet cake top above a rich fudge sauce #AEdairy #sponsored

Have you tried all of AE Dairy's seasonal milks?  Which one is your favorite?  Be sure to run to your grocery store quick before they're gone.  This would make a great New Year's Eve dessert for your family or small get together of friends.  And remember to Comment for a Cause!

Warm up with this baked Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding with a sweet cake top above a rich fudge sauce #AEdairy #sponsored

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Healthy Eats #Celebrate365

Now that all of our Christmas gatherings are over, it is now time to get organized for the New Year, and I'm not just talking about how to fit all the new toys into our house...  The most popular New Year's Resolution is making healthier choices, so my Celebrate 365 co-hosts (Carlee from Cooking with Carlee and Jan from Tip Garden) and I have decided to host a Healthy Eats Recipe Blog Party!

A collection of Healthy Eats recipes just in time for your New Year's Resolution, link-up your healthy recipes today!

The New Year is a great way to have a fresh start and as I have been thinking through my goals for 2018 I have been thinking about making healthier choices.  2018 actually marks the first year in many years that I have not been pregnant or nursing.  One of my body's main jobs has been taking care of kids over the last six years literately and while yes, one of my main jobs will continue to be taking care of four kids, my body at least isn't physically supplying nutrients for more than one person.

Now while I said for the first time I'm able to concentrate on my body, I am still feeding my growing family three meals a day, so I would love to see all bloggers link up their healthy meals and recipe ideas for individuals and families.  Feel free to share all of your 21 Day Fix, Keto, Paleo, Weight Watchers, high-protein, clean, etc. recipes so we all can get inspired to be healthier in the New Year!

Are you making plans to be a healthier you in 2018?  What is your favorite healthy recipe or food to eat?  Be sure to link up in the Blog Party and Comment for a Cause!

Monday, December 18, 2017

22 Family Favorites for Your Christmas Cookie Tray

With Christmas just a week away it is time to make sure I have enough goodies to fill Christmas plates for our neighbors and Christmas Cookie Trays for all of our family gatherings.  Thankfully, with over 130 recipes shared on the #Celebrate365 Cookie Exchange I have no short of inspiration of how to fill the trays.  Here are 22 recipes that were linked up that have been family favorites for generations!

22 Family Favorites for Your Christmas Cookie Tray #Celebrate365

Almond Roca, Kelly Lynn's Sweets and Treats
Grandma's Peanut Butter Cookies, Vickie's Kitchen and Garden
Grandma Joan's Gooey Wonders, Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids
Fudge Dipped Crescent Cookies, Cooking with Carlee

22 Family Favorites for Your Christmas Cookie Tray #Celebrate365

Chocolate Crinkles, Oak Hill Homestead
Marlene's Sour Cream Cookies, Cooking with Carleee
Peanut Butter Balls, Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids
Cut-Out Butter Cookies, Canning and Cooking at Home
Homemade Caramels, Flint & Co.
Muddy Snowballs, Family Around the Table

22 Family Favorites for Your Christmas Cookie Tray #Celebrate365

Sour Cream Cookies, Big Rigs 'n Lil' Cookies
Rum Logs, Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids
Tender Italian Sugar Cookies, Jolene's Recipe Journal
Butterball Cookies, My Fearless Kitchen
Cherry Chews, Red Cottage Chronicles

I love how many of these recipes have been handed down from generation to generation through the years.  What is your family's favorite Christmas Cookie?  Remember to Comment for a Cause.

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.  Go on a drive to check out Christmas lights.  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.