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Sunday, April 26, 2015

April Showers bring Rainy Day Activities

* This post has been sponsored by YOXO.  
All views and opinions shared are my own. *

Over the last week we've had several rainy April days.  I don't know what it is about rainy days, but after the kids have had the taste of being able to play outside, having Mom tell them that they have to stay inside seems to drive them (and Mom) a little stir-crazy.  So here is a fun list of rainy day activities for your family the next time you find yourself stuck in the house.


Read-A-Thon - My kids love to read, or should I say, have me read to them.  A rainy day is the perfect excuse to hop into some pillows or a big bean bag and make a little reading corner for the day.  LP's favorite book currently is This is Spider-Man Level 1 Reader (Even though he can't read yet, he is interested in the letters and words in this beginning reader book and he loves Spider-Man right now!).  MP's favorite book currently is Go, Dog Go (This is a great book that talks about colors, over/under, up/down, etc. - plus it reads like a Dr. Seuss book which makes it fun to read).  JP's favorite book currently is Baby Faces (This book has been a favorite of all three kids when they were a baby - it is an accordion-style book that can stand up with baby faces on each page.  It is perfect to set up for tummy time.)

Bake something special with your kids on a rainy day
Baking - LP and MP are my two big helpers in the kitchen.  They love helping me cook and bake.  So on a rainy day, why not take some time and make some cookies or a pan of brownies.  Make it an extra special day by having everyone put on aprons and make your child's favorite baked treat.  It is also a great excuse to try a new recipe!

Dress-Up - When LP turned 3 years old he got a big box of dress up clothes and props.  This has been one of the best presents he's ever received.  We have added to it over the years and now have fun dressing up as pirates, to cowboys with stick horses, to superheros.  The kids love playing dress up!

Get Crafty - A rainy day is the perfect excuse to make crafts.  Over the last week's rainy days we have made handprint flowers, made rocket ships out of old oatmeal containers, and built a robot from a YOXO kit, to name a few.  Our son LP loves building things and this YOXO construction kit we got at Target was easy to use and lots of fun. The cardboard pieces are Ys, Os or Xs and fit together by slits in them.  Before we built the robot the kit was intended for, LP loved using his imagination and was putting the pieces together to build other robots, a house and a car.  The only thing that was frustrating, was that they had a couple extra pieces in the kit to make a shield and head for the robot out of a thinner cardboard.  The pieces don't stay or fit as well with the rest of the construction and we ended up just taking them off.

Go Camping - That's right, go camping - inside.  My kids love their tent and tunnel they got for Christmas.  The only downside about the tent and tunnel is that it takes up a lot of space - but the upside is that it was perfect incentive for them to get the play room cleaned so we could put it up.  Top off the camping experience with s'mores!

These are just a few things we've kept busy with on our rainy days.  What do you like to do on a rainy day?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ham Balls: An Iowa Classic

This story starts off with a simple beginning, a group of friends (aka the North Iowa Bloggers) were getting together for an evening of fellowship and taste testing (something we've been known to do).  This particular evening's gathering center around the Lay's "Do Us a Flavor" Chips campaign so everyone talked about all of these cute little salads and fruit trays they were going to bring to compliment the potato chip taste test.  I thought to myself, if I am going to participate in a chip taste test I'm going to need something more than roughage, I was going to need some MEAT!  So I brought what any good ol' Iowa homecook would bring to a potluck - Ham Balls.  Little did I know I'd be bringing something very special for my friend Jeni from Jeni Eats, I'd be bringing her, her very first ham ball - a culinary classic unknown to her before that beautiful summer evening and what now has led to, dare I say, an obsession since then.

Enjoying Ham Balls - an Iowa Classic
Jeni from Jeni Eats and myself
enjoying our Iowa Ham Balls earlier this week
So fast forward over the last few months and Jeni still can't get my ham balls out of her culinary palette.  She has tried making her own version, has checked her collection of church cookbooks for recipes, and has tried her local butcher's version and a local grocery store's version, but still can't forget her first true Iowa ham ball.  So Jeni asked if she could come over to my house to see a "real Iowan" makes Iowa ham balls.  I of course said "Sure! Come on over!" and began to frantic.  See the thing is, I didn't know what recipe I used on that beautiful August night - the only thing I did remember was that I pulled them out of the freezer, threw them in a crock pot and put what was left of a bottle of bbq sauce from the refrigerator on them...  The only thing left to do, was to start from the basics, and make my own Iowa Ham Ball recipe to share with her and you!


Iowa Ham Balls

2.5# Ham Loaf
2 Eggs
1 1/2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 cup Milk
1 can Tomato Soup
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Vinegar
1 tsp Ground Mustard

With a food processor, grind your ham loaf into small chopped pieces (or buy ham loaf mix from local grocery store or butcher - this mix usually contains ham and ground pork, and sometimes ground beef too).  Add the eggs, graham cracker crumbs and milk.  Mix together with your hands and form fist-sized ham balls.  (If the mixture seems a little dry, you can add 1/4 cup of milk at a time, up to 1 1/2 cups of milk total.)  Place ham balls in a 9"x13" pan.  They fit nicely three across and five down.

Then mix the soup, brown sugar, vinegar and mustard til smooth.  Drizzle the glaze over the ham balls for the classic ham ball sauce.  (Or, if you're in a rush like I was this past summer - drizzle your favorite bbq sauce over them!)

Bake at 350F for 1 hour.

Yield:  13-15 ham balls

To check out a video of these Iowa Ham Balls being made, check out Jeni Eats!

These ham balls freeze well and can be warmed up in a crock pot if desired.  Ham balls are the perfect Iowa potluck treat!

Have you ever heard of ham balls?  How do you make yours?  When you think of classic foods for your homestate what comes to mind?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Repeat: I will not cry, I will not cry...

Ok, so it wasn't that scary or that sad, but my family did reach a new milestone yesterday - LP went to Preschool Roundup.  I know what you're thinking, she's getting emotional about Preschool roundup!  Well, for this stay at home Mom this is a huge milestone.  Starting next fall I won't have all my kids with me all day, every day.  My kids are like my little posse or sidekicks.  We go everywhere together and do everything together.  LP will leave every weekday before noon to head to Preschool and then gets to ride the school bus home in the afternoon.

A Mom's reflection and words of advice as child goes off to school for the first time
LP standing in front the school sign where
he will not only go to preschool at,
but throughput his senior year in high school
I thought yesterday's roundup might make me sad, because of the realization that come this fall I won't have my posse with me all day.  Also, on the first day of school I will have two little girls who are probably going to be confused and sad that their big brother will be away from us for a few hours.  But in the end, the Preschool roundup made me really happy!  Both LP and I (and the girls too, because like I said, we go everywhere together) got to learn about the Preschool "stations", share and tell, field trips, birthday celebrations, holiday parties, Grandfriend's Day, and snack time - to name a few.  How fun!  We also got a chance to meet his teachers and explore his room.

When I was a child my Mom stayed at home with my sisters and I too.  I loved being at home with my Mom and sisters and always aspired to do the same some day.  But I also loved school.  I had so much fun with my friends and some of the same activities we talked about yesterday at roundup, were some of my highlights of the school year.

I asked my Facebook fans for advice or words of wisdom for sending your child to school and this is some of what was shared:
  • It is great to see how much fun they have at school and with their friends.
  • It is hard not getting to be or seeing every part of their day, but if feels good when they are excited to tell you about their time in school when they get home.
  • The hardest part about kids going to school means they are growing up.  Read the book The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn!
What advice or words of wisdom do you have this Mom sending her oldest off to school for the first time in the fall?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Easy as Pie

When the idea came about to have a "pie making day" to support the North Iowa Bloggers and friends cope with the loss of our friend and fellow blogger Amy, it was easy as pie to simply say "When".  I not only wanted to be there for my friends, but I feel that being in the kitchen, and baking in particular, is very therapeutic.  So last week myself and four other friends packed up our pie supplies and headed two hours south to Cristen Clark of Food and Swine's home for a day of laughter, fellowship and pie therapy.

Cristen with her award winning recipes

One of the best parts of our "Pie Day" was all the stories and laughter shared.  Cristen started things off by welcoming us to our home and breaking out her award winning secrets on good ol' notebook pages.  I love how real Cristen is and that she felt like she could just be herself around us.  One of Cristen's best quotes from the day was "At this point in my life, butter is where it's at."  I couldn't agree more!  Who doesn't love butter!



Jeni from Jeni Eats, Jessica from Belong Create,
Cristen from Food and Swine, Mary from A Natural Plus and
Shannon from The Field Position and Enchanted Acres preparing pie crusts
I loved the fellowship we shared around Cristen's kitchen island.  It was fun to exchange our own pie tips and baking stories with each other.  One of the best tips I learned from Cristen was to "perfume" your sugar with lemon zest for fruit pies.  We used the zest from half of a lemon and rubbed it with our sugar for our fillings.  The aroma and taste was amazing.  It gave the pies that added something!  It was also a lot of fun to be apart of both Jessica and Mary's first pie baking experience!

I'm an official Blue Ribbon Baker now!
And at the end of the day the sweet reward was being able to divulge in a little pie therapy.  I chose to make Cristen's two crust pear pie with a lattice top!  When initially talking to Cristen about our "Pie Day" she recommended that everyone choose to make either a berry or a pear pie.  I had never made a pear pie before and was very intrigued!  It is similar to an apple pie but has a slightly different texture and flavor.  Cristen actually may have made me a covert - I think I actually might prefer pear pie over apple!  But now only if I had a pear tree that produced like my apple...

Our finished pies!
Me, Shannon, Mary (with JP), Jeni and Jessica
Our "Pie Day" was a success and was exactly what we all needed.  Now I think we need to head down to Cristen's again for a bread class.  (She says that's what she loves to make the most.)  Do you have any pie tips?  What's your favorite flavor of pie?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Comments for a Cause - Caring Pregnancy Center

Comments for a Cause April 2015 - For each comment on Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids blog all April long $0.50 will be donated to the Caring Pregnancy Center
One of my favorite things about starting a new month is that I get to introduce a new cause to my readers.  Before I talk about April's cause, let's talk March numbers.  Last month I had 43 comments, creating a donation of $21.50 to the Children's Tumor Foundation, in honor of my late friend Amy.  I'm so happy to support a cause that was so near to her heart.

In the month of April I'm happy to not only support, but also bring awareness to the Caring Pregnancy Center of Mason City's Community Baby Shower by donating $0.50 for every comment on my blog during the month.

I feel very blessed to be able to provide all basic needs for my family - food, clothing, shelter and love.  But I realize that not all children are that fortunate.  Each year in North Iowa, many babies are born into poverty.  There are also many women who receive late or no prenatal care, many times resulting in babies that are pre-term or have a low birth weight.  The Caring Pregnancy Center helps these moms and children through various programs, such as their Baby Bucks Program.

The first annual Community Baby Shower helps the Baby Bucks Program and is happening today, April 1st through May 2nd.  The Baby Bucks incentive program is a way for at-risk mothers and other mothers to earn essential baby items by going to doctors appointments, taking parenting classes, having and keeping a job, breastfeeding, etc.  These supplies and support programs give both moms and children help needed for a healthy beginning and early childhood needs.

Jo Hafermann, executive director of Mason City's Caring Pregnancy Center, says they are looking for the following items:  diapers (all sizes besides size 1), pull-ups, wipes, baby acetaminophen, baby cereal, bottles, bottle liners, bottle brushes, formula, teething medicine, baby toys, bibs, baby shampoo, baby powder, baby lotion, baby bath wash and shampoo, baby clothes through size 5T and onesies.  They are also in need of furniture items:  new cribs, pack-n-plays, strollers, high chairs and new car seats.  All furniture items must be new or up to current safety standards, clean and in great working conditions.

You can make a difference by hosting your own "Baby Shower" item drive with friends or co-workers, or donate money towards the purchase of supplies.  You can drop off your Baby Shower gifts at the Caring Pregnancy Center at 830 15th St SW in Mason City during scheduled hours or by coming to the Community Baby Shower on Saturday, May 2nd from 9-11am at the Willow Brook Mall in Mason City.  For more information on the Community Baby Shower service project you can contact Jo Hafermann at 641.424.2237 or jhafermann@cpcmasoncity.org.

You can also make a difference by commenting on any post blog post all month.  If you were to host a Baby Shower, who would you invite?  What would you bring as a gift?  What is your favorite Baby Shower game?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Country Fair Blog Party: Think Spring

How in the world is it April 1st already???  The last couple of weeks have flown by for our family doing extracurriculars outside of the farm.  I think everyone knows once April arrives we'll be spending long days in the field and won't be venturing too far from home.  Before I start talking too much about how Spring Fever has hit our home, I want to share some of my favorite March Madness posts from last month's blog party!

Monkey Butter - a fun, tropical jam to help you with your Spring Fever!
It is always hard to pick a favorite recipe each month, but I decided to go with Tip Garden's Monkey Butter!  This tropical jam with bananas, pineapple, and coconut just screams sunshine to me - just what I think we all needed to make it through March...  My kids love jelly (not peanut butter and jelly - just jelly) sandwiches, so this jam was a special sweet treat to try.

How to Test for Healthy Soil in your Garden
Another thing I was looking for during our March Madness blog hop was anything to help me get my garden ready.  I really appreciated Farm Fit Mama's How to Test for Healthy Soil.  I take soil samples in our fields all the time but have never thought about checking my garden's soil.  This is such an easy thing you can do that hopefully will give you some insight on your garden.

Sugaring 101: How to Collect Sap
I always learn so many new things through the Country Fair Blog Party and March's didn't disappoint.  The Old Trodden Lane had a whole series on Sugaring.  I really liked their How to Collect Sap post.  Up till this point the most information I knew about sugaring I learned from Curious George...  Hey!  I'm a mom of three kids ages 4 and under - it is a miracle I get to watch anything but Curious George some days!  And after reading Jabe's series I was made aware of a sugaring festival in our area and of some people in my community that collect sap.  The series was very interesting and educational!

I can't wait to see what great posts get linked up this month as we Think Spring!  Throughout the month of April we are looking for your posts that have anything to do with Springtime - from spring cleaning, to gardening, to spring recipes or crafts.  Anything to help you make it through Springtime is welcomed!


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!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Start Your Morning Off Right with Green Chili Egg Bake

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

Last night on Facebook I asked what foods come to mind when you think Easter.  The top three answers were:  Ham (or some other pork dish), Salads (Waldorf, Broccoli Raisin, Pasta, etc.), and Deviled Eggs.  I couldn't agree more!  I am hosting Easter this year and we have all three foods (plus more!) on our menu.  I'm planning on baking a ham and/or smoking a pork loin and making plenty of salads (including my Overnight Salad).  One other thing I'm planning on making is Green Chili Egg Bake.  I feel like it is only right to start Easter morning with an egg bake!  I have many memories of helping youth group make Easter Breakfast at church, so it only seems appropriate to carry on the tradition in my home.

Start Your Morning Off Right with Green Chili Egg Bake for Easter Morning Breakfast

This Green Chili Egg Bake is cheesy and buttery; plus, the green chilies give it that added something!  A surprise ingredient in this egg bake is AE Dairy Cottage Cheese!  The cottage cheese helps give the egg bake a creamy texture.  I used my favorite AE Cottage Cheese - their Old Fashioned variety, but any of them would work nicely.  It'd be fun to try it again soon with one of their flavored varieties: Mr. E's French Onion or Mr. E's Garden Vegetable.

Green Chili Egg Bake

10 eggs
4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups AE Cottage Cheese
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies, drained
Salsa for serving

Lightly coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until well blended.  Stir in the shredded cheese, cottage cheese, melted butter, flour, baking powder and salt; fold in the chilies.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (or until the eggs are set) at 350°F.  Cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serve with salsa.

So start off your Easter morning with this delicious egg bake.  It'll be a sure family favorite!  What food do you think of when you think of Easter?  Do you associate Egg Bakes with Easter morning like I do?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!