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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Comments for a Cause - Make-A-Wish Kansas City

It is a new month, which means it is time to introduce a new cause!  Before I talk about July's cause, let's talk June numbers.  Last month I had 66 comments, creating a $33.00 donation to Retrieving Freedom.  I had a great time exploring their new Waverly, Iowa facility in June.  If you weren't able to go to their open house last weekend, I encourage you to reach out to them and check out how their new facility doesn't just help with dog training, but the training of the new owners - veterans and autistics, as well as an entire community.

This month is going to be an exciting, yet emotional month for my family.  It has been ten years since my cousin Jake passed away.  And to honor him, in the month of July I will be donating $0.50 for every comment on my blog during the month to the Make-A-Wish Kansas City chapter.

When my cousin Jake was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer when he was in high school my entire family came together to support him and his immediate family.  We also came to know and love groups that came together to support him as well.  One group that made a huge difference to Jake (and in turn our entire family) during his year long battle with cancer, was Make-A-Wish.

Jake on his Alaskan Wish Trip
Jake received an Alaskan fishing trip through the Make-A-Wish Kansas City chapter in July of 2004.  When he came back from his Wish he expressed how much it meant to him.  As time went on during his battle, he always referred back to his time in Alaska and how it was one of the best experiences he had during the last year of his life.  He said the trip let him be himself, away from doctors and hospitals.  He felt free and at peace.  And for those reasons, he asked his mom that his ashes be scattered in Alaska.  When my aunt, his mom, realized that 2015 would mean it had been 10 years since Jake passed away, she said that was that, and said this year, would be the year that we would and needed to scatter his ashes.  So my entire family is preparing this month to do just that.  The trip is going to be fun and emotional all rolled into one.  I hope we will feel the same peace and freedom in Alaska that Jake reminisced about so much.

Any words of advice or encouragment for our family as we prepare to scatter Jake's ashes?  Remember to Comment for a Cause.

Country Fair Blog Party: All American

It is July 1st and time to showcase some new blog posts through the Country Fair Blog Party, which I'm happy to be a co-host of.  Before we talk about this month's theme, I'm going to share my three Blue Ribbon winners from June's Summer Lovin' Blog Party:

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner:  Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars
I don't know if I have just been craving blueberries lately or what, but any recipe I see with blueberries in it I have to pin to try later.  When I saw Jenn's Random Scraps's Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars I knew I had to try them!  What a fresh and sweet treat for summer get togethers!  I think what gives this bar the little added something and taste of summer is the lemon zest.

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner:  12 Things My Kids Did When I Let Them Get Bored
Do you ever hear your kids say "I'm bored"?  Well LC of Chaming Farming responds to her kids with, "So, what are you going to do about it?".  She shares in her 12 Things My Kids Did When I Let Them Get Bored post things that her kids did last summer, as well as her thoughts about letting our kids become creators of fun, rather than us as parents always supplying and preparing the craft, game, fun, etc and our kids turning into just consumers of fun.  Let your kids use their imagination, explore and have fun!

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner:  7 Ways to Fit Exercise into Summer
Our summer schedules can get busy before we even know it, but Farm Fit Mam shares 7 Ways to Fit Exercise into Summer on her blog.  She recommends to get in 30 minutes of exercise daily ranging from waking up earlier to get a jump start on your day, to going swimming to gardening.  Exercise is one way to enjoy your summer a little more this year.  I recommend you check out all of her practical ideas and tips.

I can't wait to see what great posts get linked up this month as we have an All American blog hop.  Throughout the month of July we are looking for all of your patriotic posts, or posts that share your American pride.  I can't wait to check out your red, white & blue recipes, crafts, hometowns, places to visit, etc.  Show us why you are proud to call America home.

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:
Country LINKed
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!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip at North Iowa Drive-Ins

As June Dairy Month comes to an end, I thought I'd better share about my family's last two stops of our 2nd Annual Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip.  The final stops are similar in many ways.  They are both located in North Iowa where we live.  They are both "drive ins".  They are both open only seasonly during the summer.  And they both serve soft serve ice cream.  They are the Viking Drive-Inn in Ventura and Stan's Drive-In in Osage.

Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip to Viking Drive Inn in Ventura and Stan's Drive In in Osage

Viking Drive-Inn in Ventura, Iowa
The Viking Drive-Inn is located in the town of Ventura, which is located on the west side of Clear Lake.  Did you know there are more than one town that Clear Lake goes through?  We finally visited this local ice cream shop for the first time earlier this month and it lived up to its popular status.  When arriving we had to park down the road and then once the kids and I got to the front door, we could barely open it up to get in, to order.  Like I said, the place is very popular and on a nice, Saturday afternoon, the place was packed.  Inside is room for six people to sit up at the bar, but there is lots of seating outside, where there are several picnic tables to sit at.

Black Raspberry Ice Cream at the Viking Drive-Inn in Ventura
The small Black Raspberry cup offered
BIG flavor and a BIG serving
I made ordering simple by asking what their most popular flavor was.  The gal who assisted me said, "Black Raspberry".  So that is what I got, a single Black Raspberry for myself and classic chocolate cones for the kids.  I liked the Black Raspberry ice cream's unique and rich flavor.  The kids' chocolate cones also had a nice, smooth chocolate soft serve flavor.  I ordered small portions for everyone, but the sizes were anything but small.  I'm not complaining, I love ice cream, but just so you know, their servings lean to the large side of the scale ;)

If you are biking or driving around Clear Lake be sure to stop by this little ice cream shop.  They also have a classic drive-inn food menu too if you're hungry for more than ice cream.

MP and LP enjoying chocolate ice cream cones

Stan's Drive-In, Osage
Stan's Drive-In in Osage is also another popular ice cream stop in North Iowa.  This is a fun place to eat and have ice cream with your family with a little bit of nostalgia.  I mean, how many drive-ins can you drive to today where you can have a car hop come to your car, take your order and deliver it to you in minutes?  The first thing that really impressed me about Stan's was the speed of service.  The place was packed of cars under the drive-in awning and back by the picnic table sitting area.  No matter where you were, the two car hops got to everyone fast and friendly.

Stan's Drive-In, Osage
Just like at our other ice cream destinations this summer, I asked the car hop what their most popular items were.  She told me the chicken breast filet sandwich with their special sauce and their arctic delights (think DQ's blizzards).  So that is what I went with.  My chocolate cookie dough arctic delight was exactly what I was looking for.  The soft serve ice cream was thick, rich and smooth.

Have you been to either of these popular drive-ins in North Iowa?  What's your favorite flavor of soft serve ice cream you've ever had?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!  Also be sure to check out our other destinations this month to Snookies Malt Shop and Heyn's Ice Cream.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Red, White & Blueberry Yogurt Pops

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

Want an inside look at how my brain works?  Well...  Last week on Facebook I asked my fans for summer kid snack ideas, which inspired me to create my Kid-Friendly Trail Mix.  It also gave me the idea of freezing yogurt.  One fan commented that they put yogurt in a piping bag and pipe out dots on wax paper and freeze, creating Fro-Yo Bites.  I decided to combine that idea, with my kids love for making homemade popsicles, along with this weekend's Independence Day holiday, and created Red, White & Blueberry Yogurt Pops!

#ad Red, White & Blueberry Yogurt Pops featuring AE Dairy Greek Yogurt

Red, White & Blueberry Yogurt Pops

3 6oz AE Dairy Greek Yogurt containers, vanilla flavor
1 1/2 cups AE Dairy Skim Milk
8 medium-large Strawberries
1 medium Banana
1/2 cup Blueberries

In a blender, mix one container of yogurt with a 1/2 cup of milk.  Blend in strawberries til smooth.  Pour mixture to the 1/3 line of each mold.  Next, blend another container of yogurt with another 1/2 cup of milk.  Blend in the banana til smooth and fill molds with the mixture up to the 2/3 line.  Lastly, blend the final container of yogurt with the last 1/2 cup of milk.  Blend in blueberries til smooth.  Fill each mold full.  Set popsicle sticks (that have been soaked in warm water for 30 minutes to keep them from floating up in the molds) in each mold.  Freeze for at least four hours.  Yields 12 popsicles (plus a little extra for immediate sampling).

What would you caption this photo???
This is cold...
It is sunny outside...
Mom, stop taking photos, I'm trying to eat
Don't have a popsicle mold?  Put the yogurt layers in tall glasses creating a fun and colorful smoothie!  No matter how you enjoy this festive treat, you'll love the tangy, yet sweet flavors.  Each layer has its own spotlight as you make it through the popsicle.  I asked our son LP what his favorite flavor was and his exact words were, "The strawberry, and the banana, and the blueberry."  So there you go - it is all good!

Do you have any Red, White & Blue recipes you're going to make this weekend to help celebrate Independence Day?  If so, I'd love to hear about them!  Be sure to share below and remember to Comment for a Cause!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Kid-Friendly Trail Mix

Summertime for our family means going on mini-adventures, playing outside as much as possible, and visiting family and friends both near and far.  Last week we had a play date with some neighbors and wanted to bring a kid-friendly snack along.  Our usual go-to is puppy chow, but with it being warm outside I thought it'd be best to switch it up so we wouldn't have one giant chocolaty mess.  I decided to make this salty and sweet Kid-Friendly Trail Mix.

Kid-Friendly Trail Mix Recipe - perfect for your next summertime playdate

Kid-Friendly Trail Mix

4 cups Puffcorn, original
2 cups Bugles, original
2 cups Teddy Grahams, chocolate chip
1 cup Ritz Bits, cheese cracker sandwiches
1 cup Goldfish, cheddar
1 cup M&M's, plain

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to evenly distribute.

For a fun red, white and blue snack this 4th of July, try Patriotic Custom M&M'S in the Trail Mix!

Kid-Friendly Trail Mix - a sweet and salty summertime snack for the family
This is a fun, summer snack for kids, and those that are kids at heart.  In fact our family has enjoyed this Kid-Friendly Trail Mix so much in the last week we are on our second batch!  Our 4 year old son LP loves the Teddy Grahams in the Trail Mix, where our 2 year old daughter MP's favorite is the Puffcorn.  I personally love the Bugles and My Farmer enjoys the Ritz Bitz.  And you can't go wrong with Goldfish and M&Ms, right?

What would be your favorite part of this Kid-Friendly Trail Mix?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

And a big thank you to my Facebook Fans for helping me think through summer kid snacks ideas and for helping me decide what to post this week!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip at Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City

It's June Dairy Month, so that means our family is celebrating by visiting iconic Ice Cream Shops and Parlors around the state of Iowa as part of our 2nd Annual Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip!  During the first week of June we visited Snookies Malt Shop in Des Moines.  Week two we traveled to Iowa City for a wedding so we figured we'd better make it a blogging experience too by visiting Heyn's Ice Cream!

Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip at Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City #JuneDairyMonth

Heyn's Ice Cream is in the heart of Iowa City, or at least it felt that way for this Cyclone family...  To tell you the truth we've never really been to Iowa City and have definitely never drove that far in to Iowa City.  But I'd have to say it was worth it!  Heyn's Ice Cream was delicious!

Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip at Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City
My Farmer making his decision...
Upon entering the ice cream parlor we couldn't help but check out the cute Holstein dairy cow decor and the wide variety of ice cream flavors and serving options!  Heyn's makes over 40 flavors of hard ice cream, so you should be able to find something that fits your taste buds.  I wanted to try several flavors but decided to go with their top seller - Monster Mash!  Monster Mash is a vanilla ice cream with monster cookies mixed in it.  It was perfect for me since I love cookie dough ice creams.  My Farmer went with Kara's Creation (which is an Oreo cookie, caramel, peanut ice cream) and gave it a two thumbs up review!

Ice Cream cone options at Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City - Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip
Cone options at Heyn's Ice Cream
Like I said earlier, they have a variety of serving options for their ice cream - shakes, sundaes, twisters (think Dairy Queen's Blizzard), parfaits, banana splits, and of course several cone options.  We decided to splurge and go with one of their hand dipped Dream Cone options.  Both My Farmer and I enjoyed their Butterfinger Dream Cone.

Single scoop Monster Mash Ice Cream in Butterfinger Dream Cone at Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City - Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip
The finished product!
Single scoop Monster Mash in a Butterfinger Dream Cone

A friendly Hawkeye family guarding the entrance to Heyn's Ice Cream
So, if you are ever in Iowa City, or anywhere within an hour... you should make the trip to Heyn's Ice Cream, even if you're a Cyclone.  Don't be scared of the Hawkeye families that guard the outside of the store.  You can buy the homemade ice cream in take home containers of pint, half gallon and gallon sizes if you feel like you need to make a quick exit! ;)  But seriously, it was very good ice cream - it was rich, flavorful, creamy and fresh!  Heyn's now holds my spot for top hard ice cream in Iowa.  (My pick for top soft serve in Iowa is the Whippy Dip in Decorah.) And the people, Hawkeyes and all, were friendly.

Have you ever been to Heyn's Ice Cream?  What is your favorite flavor if you have been?  Do you prefer soft serve or hard ice cream?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Over the Rainbow in Love with MP's 2nd Birthday

Just over a week ago our daughter MP turned two years old and we celebrated with immediate family at an afternoon birthday party at our home.  Two years old is the last year I feel like you, as parents, can really guide and ultimately decide on a theme for a birthday party, so we decided to do something fun, bright and colorful just like her - a rainbow themed party.  (Last year for her first birthday we had a butterfly themed party).

Our best attempt at a family photo at MP's birthday
Left to Right: MP, My Farmer, LP, JP, myself
I love entertaining and hosting family and friends at our home, so throwing birthday parties for our kids is a fun treat for me.  I remember several birthday parties that I had as a kid and helping my Mom decide on a cake and theme.  I love incorporating the kids in the planning of their parties too.
Kid-friendly, Painted, Colorful Rainbow Birthday Party Invitations
Creating MP's Rainbow Birthday Party Invitations
 After deciding a date and to go with a rainbow theme the first thing we had to do was make an invitation.  I had MP (and her big brother LP) help make the invitations.  We used cotton balls to paint a rainbow of the front of each card.  I pinched clothes pins on each cotton ball to make it easier for the kids to grip.  In the inside of the card, we had a simple, colorful poem inviting them to the birthday party.

Rainbow Birthday Party Food - Rainbow Fruit Tray and Rainbow Veggie Tray
Rainbow Fruit Tray: Strawberries, Mandarian Oranges, Pinneapple,
Green Grapes, Blueberries, Purple Grapes
Rainbow Veggie Tray: Cherry Tomatoes, Carrots, Yellow Peppers,
Broccoli, Celery
While the invitations might be the first thing we prepare for the birthday party, the biggest and probably most important thing is the food.  We served a nice supper for our family of shredded pork sandwiches, my famous baked beans, a rainbow fruit tray, a rainbow veggie tray and chips & dip.  It was so nice out, that we set up tables outside and had a picnic.  

Homemade Rainbow Birthday Cake
MP's Rainbow Birthday Cake
The focal point to any birthday party of course is the birthday cake.  Since we went with a rainbow theme I decided to make a double batch of white cake, and split each batch into three layers, so I could make a six layer rainbow cake - red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.  I used my basic frosting recipe to stack each layer together and to frost the outside.  I then had some multi-colored sprinkles from my pantry to put on the cake in the shape of the number two.  I just cut out a two from a piece of paper to make a stencil in order to keep the sprinkles in the correct area on the cake.  The cake was a hit!  We served the cake with our traditional homemade ice cream.

The best part of the cake was that MP loved it...
she even asked her Dad if she could have a bite of his!
Rainbow Birthday Party Decorations - Photo Clouds
We made photo clouds for decorations
The last thing to think about for the birthday party was the decorations.  I always keep birthday decorations simple.  We put some red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple streamers on our deck since we had most of the party outside, and we made some photo clouds.  The photo clouds were simply free-hand clouds cut out of poster board that had photos from over the last year on them.  I then used the streamers to make a colorful loop so they could be hung from doors and windows.  I always love looking back at photos over the last year when it comes birthday time and enjoy sharing those photos with our family by displaying them around the house.  We also had a bright and colorful flower bouquet for our dinning room table.

The party was a great time and I know MP felt very loved.  The best part of the party was when we gathered everyone to sing Happy Birthday so MP could blow out her candles, she started the song and was the first to say Happy.  It was very cute!  I guess she was excited to have some cake.

When it is your birthday, what is your choice of sweet treat?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!