Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Lately, my anthem has been Casting Crowns' latest hit, Thrive.

Whenever it airs on K-LOVE radio, I turn it up and sing my heart out.  Check out this chorus.

Just to know You and
To make You known
We lift Your Name on High
Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive

God intends for us to live a life different from others!  He made us for more than merely existing from day to day.  He doesn't want us to get bogged down by the routine, by the mundane.  We were made to THRIVE!  What a beautiful message!!!

Make today different. Get out there and THRIVE!

DIY Cake Picks

I love homemade desserts!  Who doesn't?!  I especially love seeing how desserts are presented.  People definitely unleash their creativity on dessert plates.  Birthday parties are no exceptions.

Cake picks have become HUGE in the party industry... and they aren't cheap!  I have taken to making my own cake picks to help extend the theme.  Thus far I have crafted flowers with numbers on them, Peppa and George Pig, monsters, tractors, Minnie Mouse, and most recently farm animals and pirates.  With a few items and a little bit of time, it is absolutely easy to create your own cake picks.

Here's how...

1.  Gather your materials: card stock, images, sandwich picks or coffee stirrers, hot glue gun, hot glue sticks, and Cricut, scissors, or a craft punch.

2.  Design your images and print onto card stock.  I am not a design expert but I can use Microsoft Publisher.  I usually troll on Google Images for a graphic I like and bring it into the document.  For my son's upcoming Pirate Party, I used this adorable pirate found here to design the front of the pick.  I copied the image to fill a page for printing. 

Once printed onto card stock, cut out each circle.  This can be done by hand or with an appropriately sized round craft punch.

3.  Cut the backs of the picks out of another color of card stock, sized slightly larger than the first.  My pirates were 2-inches in diameter so I sized the backs at 2 1/2-inches and used a Cricut to cut them from black card stock.  A punch could also be used.

4.  Using hot glue, run a bead 1/4th of the way down one side of the wooden sandwich pick.  Quickly apply and center the image to the bead, then press into place.

5.  Apply a bead 1/4th of the way down the other side of the wooden sandwich pick.  Quickly apply and center the backing, then press into place.  This hides the mechanics well.

6.  Use one image or add one or more to mix it up.  I used crossed swords, a cute skull and crossbones and a parrot guarding treasure.   These picks are ready for their tempting cupcakes!

7.  These picks also work great using coffee stirrers in place of sandwich picks for placement in guests' drinks, much like that iconic umbrella!

It's Summer!

I must admit I was a little saddened at having to take down the Independence Day decor at our place.  I absolutely adore all things Americana... with Old Glory at the pinnacle of my adoration.  Heck, my wedding was on Flag Day and was decked out in red-white-and blue!!  (This is not my house but I soo wish it were!)

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As soon as the bunting, wreaths, flags and banners came down I couldn't stop staring at the emptiness.  It was as if all of the cheer had left the building!  In fact, it felt a little like the day after all of the Christmas decorations are packed away.  Sad.

To fill the feeling of loss, I spent about an hour making a new banner with items around the house.  Pulling out the Cricut, and gathering my scissors and glue, I produced a banner in the spirit of the movie Frozen.

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That's right!  As if the world isn't already on a Frozen overload (I know at the mere mention of that movie's title, everyone belts out "Let it Go!" in their own heads), here is another way to continue the magic!  I mean, it IS summer... right?!

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I gave the activity an academic twist by getting my soon-to-be-five-year-old involved.  I had three colors of bright card stock and asked her to create a pattern.  Together, we came up with the orange-green-pink pattern.  She loved it, especially since I told her it was to help get her ready for kindergarten.  She can hardly wait for kindergarten!

I cut the 8 1/2 by 11 inch bright paper in half and set it aside.  Then, I cut 5-inch letters from card stock using a Cricut.  The kids and I went to Google Images and looked for pictures of Olaf we thought were cute and of good quality.  We printed out two to flank our banner.  Once everything was prepped, we glued our letters and images to the bright card stock.  Finally, we punched holes in the top of the flags, laced them onto a string and hung it in our window. Oh, and pay no attention to the nails from the previous banner.

Wallah!  The house now sports a bit of seasonal cheer and we can celebrate the rest of SUMMER!!!  (Yes, I do know you are now singing that tune in your head.)

Thursday, July 03, 2014

ANOTHER Pinata?!!

I swore in my last pinata post I would likely never make another. 

I caved.

The daughter turns 5 this summer and despite her endless pleas for a princess party, I convinced her to go with a farm theme.  How did I do the seemingly impossible?  First, she has many boys in her class and we felt they may not appreciate pink and sparkly the way she does.  Second, as an agricultural educator, I felt compelled to cram a little ag literacy into these kiddos before they head off to their respective kindergartens this fall.  Always teaching and advocating for the industry I love.

In order to increase my daughter's level of excitement, I gave in and told her I would make a pinata.  I am not going to go step-by-step through the process here.  Feel free to use my previous post as a reference.  Rather, I thought I would show off the form and the finished product. 

Yep!  It is a chip box!!  I like the thinner cardboard because it shouldn't take as long to get into.  I reinforced all of the edges with masking tape, then added a folded piece of cardboard to serve as the roof.  I secured it to two of the box's flaps with staples and of course, more masking tape.  Then, I proceeded to cover the entire thing with red and black tissue and embellished with a couple of sets of barn doors and cute animals.

I am still considering putting straw or raffia in the barn loft.  I think it might add to the authenticity, as well as hide the mechanics used to hang this beast.  Overall, not bad!

Just a couple of weeks until it gets smashed to bits.  Until then, it will remain in my office to protect it from little hands.  :-)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Disappointment - What does it take to be an Agvocate?

I received a phone call today.  The call came after a post I made on facebook featuring a picture of a menu from a local restaurant.  Here's the situation...

I love this particular restaurant.  They bill themselves as a "wholesome cafe" and I am fine with the moniker.  I have always been satisfied with everything I have tried.  My favorites might just be their blackberry scone filled with big, juicy berries which burst in your mouth with every bite and their yogurt parfait with layers of fresh fruit and homemade granola.  Despite my love for the place, I am not a regular.  It is not a convenient location for me and I tire of all of the people hanging around trying to gain hipster points and be seen.  I know, I am getting old.

Anyway, my post essentially said...

I love (name of cafe).  I have enjoyed everything I have tried immensely and highly recommend you give them a try too.  However, I am disappointed with their marketing.  Don't they know all US produced chicken is already hormone and essentially antibiotic-free?  (Person A), (Person B) and (Person C) have you ever talked with them about it?  What are your thoughts?

Well, Person A gave me a call and told me he was extremely uncomfortable with me tagging him in the post.  He wondered why I would have done so.  I told him I tagged all three because I know they each enjoy eating there, have relationships with the owners, and are all agvocates!  He asked if I would remove the post.

I was a bit conflicted but in the name of respecting the wishes of a friend, I obliged.  Soon after, I was disappointed with myself for having done so.  Why couldn't he just ignore the post, make a statement, or even pose a question then just leave it at that?  Why was this kind of post soo unsettling to him?  Was I wrong for including him in the conversation?  I genuinely wanted to know his thoughts.  I was looking to him... to get him involved... to act as a bridge among the agricultural industry, the consumer, and the cafe.  I guess he wasn't ready for such a role.

We spoke at length about the importance of having open, respectful conversations about food with others.  I wondered aloud if the owners were taking the route Chipotle and Panera have by using similar scare tactics.  Such terms only cause consumers to reflect on chicken they have eaten elsewhere, wondering if it too was "hormone and antibiotic-free".  If it was not clearly labeled as such, they may not choose to eat in those other restaurants.

I wondered aloud if the owners were simply marketing to their customer base, knowing they expect to see such labels.  The cafe is located in a "trendy" party of town... the downtown area where a lot of consumers (those who view the "organic, vegan, sustainable, raw, grass-fed, etc..." food movement to be a lot like wearing the latest designer's clothes) enjoy congregating. 

I also wondered if the owners were unaware US produced chicken is already "hormone and virtually antibiotic-free" and labeling it as such is not only redundant but perpetuates the misconceptions rampant in our nation.

Person A agreed with my wonderings but continued by saying this cafe has supported many of his own business clients and he did not want to damage the relationship.  He also said he had had conversations with them before about their use of the term "local", wondering what they meant by it since not all items labeled as such came from the community.  Rather, a few things had traveled nearly 100 miles or more.  He later admitted he didn't know enough about the use of hormones and antibiotics to be able to communicate effectively.  We both agreed it is confusing ground.

I know hormones are not permitted in poultry or pork production and growers do use antibiotics (regulated by the FDA) to keep animals healthy and to treat diseases.  This is much like what I do when I am sick or one of my kiddos gets sick.  I also know there is a withdraw period before those animals can be harvested for consumption.  This prevents the antibiotics from being passed on to the consumer.  (SHAMELESS PLUG:  By the way, I learned this when I was in 4-H and FFA.)  Antibiotics prevent suffering and death.  Saying you want none to be used on animals is a pretty cruel choice.  When you get sick, do you get a prescription?  Yeah... that's what I thought.  :-)

As the conversation wore on, I realized something.  Person A may have a degree in agriculture but does not possess the confidence or the competence to be able to communicate effectively about the industry.  Don't get me wrong, I don't know everything either but I know the basics and have enough good contacts I can call upon to get more detailed information when needed.  I also possess the willingness to have good, open, respectful conversations with others.

Now, I know Persons A, B & C will likely see this post and I did not publish it with malice in my heart but rather with the intent to engage in deep reflection about agricultural education and agricultural communication.  As a result of this meditation, I pose two questions...

First, what does it mean to be an agvocateJust Farmers had a great post about the terms Agvocate versus Agtivist.  I like what they proposed...

Agvocacy is not about targeting any selected group, such as media or elected officials – it’s representative of ag proactively telling our story.

I believe our industry, Person A included, is filled with amazing AGVOCATES... people to communicate and educate about the agricultural industry.  Our society is the furthest removed they have ever been from the farm.  They don't know much about agriculture.  They are buying into the latest hot trends in food and eating, more than ever before!  They are intelligent.  They want to know more.  The problem is, they aren't getting the RIGHT information WHEN and WHERE they need it.

Agvocates, we need to extend ourselves even if it isn't comfortable.  Blog, post, speak, host, help, question, offer... we must do whatever we can to exert an influence in our local communities. (FFA members will remember this little gem within the FFA Creed.)  If we work together to chip away at these inconsistencies, redundancies and miscommunications in a calm, respectful tone, we might just have a better shot at being heard!  RISK BIG, friends!

My second question has me wondering, what is the problem here?

Being a professor in a College of Agriculture, I believe I am required to critique my own program.  Are we doing enough to prepare our students to brooch such topics?  Have we given them adequate practice with responding to viewpoints unlike our own?  Have we taught them to listen first and speak second?  Have we taught them to begin where the consumer is... sharing what they want to know rather than what the industry wants them to know?  Have we given them enough feedback so they feel confident filling the widening and, in some cases, fragmented gaps between the consumer and the industry?  Have we helped them develop their own unique style in hosting such conversations so they can effectively share their stories, their personal connections to the industry? 

I am not sure but I do know...

There is so MUCH work to do!!  
Stand up!  Speak out!  Let your light shine!
If not you, who?  If not now, when?!  

Our industry depends on YOU!!

If you are interested in learning more, check out these resources.
  •   You can find the US Poultry and Egg Association's video series on YouTube here!  There is some GREAT information offered from the mouth of a veterinarian on the topic of antibiotics in poultry production!!  He explains what an antibiotic is, how it is created and approved, the use, and the withdraw period.  Very clear!!

          Egg laying hens are not given hormones. Some egg cartons say that the eggs are hormone
          free; however, this is true for all eggs in commercial egg production in the United States.

         Some egg cartons say that the hens were not given antibiotics. This statement is true for all 
         eggs produced in the United States, even if it is not specified on the carton. Hens may be given 
         antibiotics for therapeutic purposes when ill; however, when they are ill, hens typically stop    
         laying eggs.

  • Dairy Carrie is a dairy farmer with a very popular blog.  She recently took Panera to task for similar scare tactics used in their marketing.  Check out her posts

Celebrating the Pre-K Graduate with a Candy Lei!

My first born graduated from preschool last week.  Weeks before the event, my daughter began counting down to the big day.  She even practiced her songs and revealed all the special surprises her teachers had planned.  She was giddy!  I thought I was emotionally strong when we arrived to the school but as she filed onto the playground with her classmates and flashed a shy smile, the tears were instant.

To celebrate her big day, I made a candy lei.  What a fun, easy way to honor our special little graduate!

The process:

1.  Gather your materials:  Candy, cellophane, yarn or curly ribbon, and scissors.  Be sure to select non-chocolate options if the event is held outdoors or during warmer temperatures.

2.  Cut the cellophane slightly larger than the candy used.  Be sure to securely wrap the cellophane around the candy, leaving room to tie the ends.  The seam of the cellophane should be at the back of the wrapper.

3.  Use the yarn to tightly tie each end of the cellophane wrapper.

4.  Link individually wrapped candies by their ends.  Link them so the wrappers face the same direction, tying knots at the back.  This makes for a more attractive finished product.  Continue until the lei is the desired length, then link the two ends to close the loop and form a necklace.  Trim the ends of the yarn or curl the ends of the curling ribbon.  Add bows or other decorative embellishments between candies on the front side, if desired.

5.  Drape the necklace around the neck of the special graduate and wait for the smiles.  (Pay no attention to her hairdo.  Shortly after the ceremony, she ripped the hair bow off of her head.  Lovely.)

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Grover Beach. California is home to an old growth eucalyptus forest.  Every spring, Monarch Butterflies return to lay their eggs and hatch the next generation.  The tree tops are filled with the most glorious orange wings.  Stunning!  If you are ever traveling down the central California coast in early spring, stop in to check it out.  Volunteers are often there with their telescopes to help the public catch a closer look.  What a treat!

Easy Holiday Tees

I love to make the holidays special for my family.  Crafts are huge in our house and when I can put the kiddos to work to make their own holiday attire, I do!  They are always soo proud to wear their creations.  These holiday tees are not only easy but totally adorable! 

The process.

1.  Gather the supplies.  You need a cardboard box, packing tape, image copied onto card stock, plain tee, scissors, plastic lid, new pencil with attached eraser, fabric paint, and embellishments if desired.

2.  Prep the tee.  Slip a cardboard sheet into the tee, and fold the shirt around the box, and tape to secure. 

3. Cut out the desired image from the card stock and tape securely to the front, center of the tee.  These tees were for Easter but a shamrock for St. Patrick's Day, a heart for Valentine's Day or a tree for Christmas would all be lots of fun!

4. After placing a little fabric paint into a plastic lid, let the kiddos paint around the outside of the image using the eraser end of the pencil.  Make sure the kids get paint around the entire edge of the image so it will show clearly once the image is removed.

5.  Allow tee to dry then remove the card stock image.  Send through the wash, then wear!  Add embellishments like a bow on the bunny's head or under the chin, if desired.

Monday, March 03, 2014

When Calls The Heart

Since Downton Abbey has wrapped for the year, I have a divine little recommendation for you.  The Hallmark Channel unveiled its new show, When Calls The Heart earlier in the year.


Being a fan of Little House on the Prairie, I have been watching since day 1. The show is about Elizabeth, a well-to-do young woman who took a teaching assignment in Coal Valley.  Upon arrival, she has been dealt a great number of character building opportunities but maintains a positive, can-do attitude.  Also sent to the town is Jack, a mountie.  As constable, he has been asked to investigate a great many cases in the town (church burned down, the mine caved in, etc.) but is REALLY there to look after Elizabeth.  He is not happy about the last responsibility but has no choice.  Elizabeth's family has got money and connections. 

What makes this family friendly show so wonderful is the sweetness of the scripts, the sumptuous costuming and set design, and the chemistry of the cast.  Remember Lori Loughlin from Full House... Uncle Jesse's wife?  Yep!  She is in it and is always the voice of strength and reason.
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Elizabeth is played by Erin Krakow, a Hallmark Channel regular.
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Daniel Lissing plays Jack... and he is one dreamy mountie.  I love the play between Elizabeth and Jack, their witty banter makes me smile.  This show makes for a great Saturday night.
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There are a number of episodes left in this season so jump in and watch!  It airs on The Hallmark Channel at 9/8c... but check your provider in case you need to catch the East Coast feed like I do. You can also catch previously aired episodes!

Seriously, who can resist this?!

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Monday, February 03, 2014

A Super Bowl that wasn't terribly SUPER

So, the entire 2014 Super Bowl was a bit of a dud.

Seattle's blow out score was painful to watch. (I don't like to see any team to get creamed.)

Bruno Mars gave the best Super Bowl show I have ever seen but I wanted to see more of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Admit it, you did too!!

While the commercials as a whole were so-so, I did find a couple of gems.  What do you think?

Chevy Silverado's Romance

What can Tim Tebow do with no contract?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Gingernuts... It's Downton Day!!

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The third episode of Downton Abbey this season left me a little, well, flat.  Anna's agony continued quietly.  The storyline for Lady Edith and Rose were just starting to do something, and Lady Mary was had to endure some awkward moments.  I am still smiling about Mrs. Hughes' moment in the sun... and soo hope she and Mr. Carson hit it off romantically.  Wouldn't that be just wonderful?  

Okay, onto food.  Since last week's Downton viewing recipe was more elaborate, I wanted go a little more low-key this Sunday.  I found this recipe for gingernuts, an English ginger snap cookie that is perfection with tea.  Harboring a deep seated love for all things gingerbread, I had to give it a go.



2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup fine sugar 
1 Tbsp molasses
1/2 cup golden syrup (I got mine at Cost Plus World Market)
2 cups flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Use a baking stone or line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.  Place the brown sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and fine sugar until light.  

Add the molasses and golden syrup. Continue beating the mixture until well incorporated. Aren't the colors stunning?

In another bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, allspice, coriander, baking powder, and baking soda.  The scent is intoxicating!

Add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture to form a soft dough.  

Form dough into walnut-sized balls. Roll the balls in brown sugar.  

Place 2-inches apart on the baking sheet.  Press down gently to flatten slightly.  

Bake  5 minutes at 350 degrees F, then reduce heat to 325 degrees F and bake another 10-15 minutes.  The cookies are done when they have cracked, are slightly firm to the touch and golden brown all over.  

Cool on the sheet for few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an air tight container.  Makes 2 1/2 dozen.

This spicy cookie has a crunchy outside, a soft inside, and is absolutely delicious with tea and a little Downton drama.  While the cast attire was stunning yet again, I am just in agony for Mr. Bates and Anna.  Let's hope she is on her way toward healing and he doesn't murder Mr. Green.  I am excited to see how Mary handles this new guy... and what was the deal was with Edith and the doctor's office?  Until next week!!