Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cookie Dough Brownies

I made these sweet little morsels on New Year's Eve.  JC had to work the weekend so we decided to just stay home and take it easy, our niece Peanut spent the night with us.  It may not have been the best idea to serve these sugar-laden goodies to two little girls... sugar high much?

I found this recipe courtesy of Pinterest.  Made it pretty true to the original recipe, but as anyone knows me, I'll be making some changes to it the next time. 

What You'll Need:


4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour


3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips

What You Do:

Prepare the brownies: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with nonstick spray. In a medium glass bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave in short bursts of 30 seconds; stir after each burst and remove from microwave when melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, mix butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract. Mix in melted chocolate. Blend in flour and mix just until combined (don’t over-mix). Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 25 to 35 minutes. Watch closely and remove from oven when toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Prepare the cookie dough: In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to combine butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Mix in milk and vanilla. Mix in flour just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spread cookie dough over the cooled brownies. Refrigerate until the dough is firm and serve.

These are so sweet, I can only eat about a 1/2 a bar, but they are definately good, and the kids LOVED them!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: A Time To...

Christmas, it's a time to give and a time to receive. 

It's a time to share with friends and family.

It's a time to eat until your stomach literally can't handle any more. 

But most of all?  It's a time for aunts and uncles with no children to buy inappropriate gifts for their nieces and nephews. 

Thanks Bonnie & Cory.  While I hate for toys to go to waste, this is one that I'm hoping she gets tired of quickly! 

For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reindeer Donuts

I don't remember where I came across this fun idea, but I knew that we would be doing it for a treat to leave for Santa on Christmas Eve.  Monkey had a lot of fun making them and can't wait to see if Santa gobbles them up!

What You Need:
  • Chocolate Covered Mini Donuts
  • Pretzel M&M's 
  • Round Pearl Sprinkles
  • Mini Pretzel Twists
What You Do: 

Press a red M&M into the hole of the donut.  Some holes weren't quite big enough, so I used a little dab of red icing for those to make the M&M stay in place.

Press two sprinkles into the donut for the eyes.

Break a mini pretzel in half and insert them into the top of the donut for antlers.

And that's it... easy enough a two-year old can do it!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tis the Season of Maker's Mark!

I love the gifts Maker's Mark sends around Christmas time, always so cute! 

For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Harvest for a Cure

A friend of mine made this video of some farmers in her hometown, doing what they call “Harvest for a Cure”. Glenn Bolander was having a hard time getting his crops out of the field because he was spending most of his time in the hospital with his wife, Carol, who has been battling breast cancer.

Nearly 100 volunteers came together to help the Bolander’s clear their crops. It brought a tear to my eye to see people pull together to help a friend going through a hard time. With 11 combines, 26 trucks, and 18 tractors and grain carts it took only 5 hours and twenty-one minutes to harvest 350 acres of corn! Simply amazing. But that’s what farming is all about.

You can read more about this story here

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Come 'Er Boy!

Monkey loves to call the horses in at Papa Jim and GramC's house.  It's the cutest thing when she yells, "Come 'er boy" and wiggles her little fingers back and forth.  Makes this momma's heart melt. 

For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I explained to Monkey what Thanksgiving was and asked her what she was thankful for, here is her response:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Opening Day with Big Results

I was going to save this for a Wordless Wednesday, but might as well put it up now.... It's been a good day! 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Of all the pies featured during the holiday season, pecan pie is the last one I would choose off the dessert table.  Cheesecake, though?  Well, it would be the first.  So why not improve on the dreaded pecan pie by combining it with the cheesecake?  And the pecan pie cheesecake was born!

What You'll Need:
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pie crust, unbaked
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple flavoring
What You Do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place pie crust in greased pie pan.

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and vanilla, and beat until mixture is light and fluffy.  Spread over unbaked pie crust.

Arrange pecan halves on top of the cream cheese mixture.

In mixing bowl combine the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Carefully pour over the pecans.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.

Refrigerate and serve chilled.

Friday, November 11, 2011

From the Bottom of My Heart, Thank You.

Thank you to all of our service men and women. For those currently fighting, those who have defended us in the past and those who have paid the ultimate price.

"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave."

Thursday, November 10, 2011


In November, American’s focus on thankfulness: for their country, their blessings, and their families.  I am going to spend one day here focusing on being thankful for my FARM family and the laughs and lessons they provide.

My dad, Bob, grew up on a livestock farm in McLean, Illinois, with his four younger siblings, Susan, Marcia, and twins Jack & Jill. With my grandparents, Carl and Dorothy, they raised beef cattle, hogs, chickens, and sheep and grew corn, soybeans and alfalfa. I can never get enough of hearing the stories they have to share, here are a few:

When I sit and think about my favorite memories, it occurs to me that most of them involve animals… and me being ornery. Two specific instances with skunks come to mind. One time I was mowing hay with a sickle mower and the tractor I was using didn’t have a good seat so we fashioned up a wadded up gunny sack for a cushion. With every pass I made, I could see a momma skunk with her babies hanging out on one end of the field. As it was getting close to noon, I started to drive the tractor home for dinner, I decided that those babies would make some pretty good pets, so I stopped and picked up two of them and put them in the gunny sack. When I got home, Mom was standing on the side walk. I walked right up to her with a big smile on my face holding the sack of skunks and said, “Guess what I got!?” She could smell them before I even got half-way up the walk and was none too happy about it. I put them in a rabbit cage, but the next morning they had escaped. I’m guessing they might have had a little help.

 We had one ram that was really mean, I mean downright MEAN. One time I was out feeding the sheep and the ram started to chase me, I jumped up on a rack of wood and was stuck, he wouldn’t let me down. After a while, I started throwing 2x4’s at him to get him to leave and he just deflected them with his head. I remember being up there for a long time before getting down, but I can’t remember how exactly I was finally able to.

When I was in grade school we had a really gentle Angus bull. He wasn’t bottle-raised but you wouldn’t have known it, he acted more like a pet than a bull. Whenever we moved the cows I would just jump up on his back and ride him!

There are so many great memories it’s hard to just pick a few, but I do vividly remember Jack holding my hand while he held on to the electric fence, that was a real hoot! I also remember having to bottle feed a calf that we named Bobby. This was during the time Bob was in Vietnam, thus his namesake!

A simple, but favorite memory was playing in the haymow with new kittens. I loved my time doing that! Living in the country we didn’t have close neighbors, but I did like to ride my bike up to my friend's house which was on the other end of the country block.

A very important lesson learned was to never go near an electric fence with Bob... I can remember him sticking my foot on the electric fence when we were with our Dad out checking the fences.

Some of the days spent working were also some of the most fun, we spent many hours riding on the hayrack wagon stacking hay as we baled and then sending them up in the barn and stacking them yet again. While this doesn’t sound like much ‘fun’, we also played up in the barn a lot. We had ropes tied to the beams and would swing across from one bale pile to another.
I remember all of our 4-H projects. From planting flowers in the garden, in fact they were marigolds and I planted them in the design of 4-H, to our cattle for showing. Bob always had the one with the curly hair and mine was always straight. I tried to make waves on mine with the curry comb. We fed them their feed mixed with STICKY molasses. And I of course can’t forget breaking them to lead. Sometimes I didn't know whether the cattle or the tractor was going to win.

Mom would always have fried chicken for us on Sunday Dinners. I remember my Dad wringing their necks and they would be running around the barn lot, then Mom would clean them down in the basement in boiling water. Once the feet were cut off, I would take them and stand them on the counter so I could paint their toenails. The stinky chicken feathers were not very appetizing, but when the chicken was done it was always good!

From playing in the hay mow to electric shocks, I think it’s pretty awesome that I have a lot of the same memories as the generation before me on the exact same piece of ground. And for that, I am thankful.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

To Grammy:

Monkey has a message for someone VERY special today....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Halloween!

Batgirl, Toto and Dorothy!

For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Vampire Cookies

Monkey and I got into the Halloween spirit over the weekend by making these cookies.  Not only were they scary, but they tasted good too!

What You'll Need:
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies (you can use your favorite recipe or buy the refrigerated pre-made kind)
  • Red Frosting
  • Miniature Marshmallows
  • Slivered almonds
What You Do:
Prepare cookies as directed.  Let cool completely.

Cut each cookie in half.

Frost bottoms of all cookies.  Place 6 marshmallow "teeth" around the outside of 1/2 of the cookies.  I found it useful to place an extra marshmallow behind the "teeth" to add support. 

Top with remaining halves.

Insert two almond slivers in between teeth for fangs.  If they don't stick, dip tips into frosting.

Here is Monkey demonstrating how easy it is!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Apple Pie

With the weather around here this week, I'd say fall has officially reared it's head.  My favorite things about fall?  Let's see... cooler temps, bonfires, the changing colors of leaves, and apple pie.  And when I say apple pie, I don't mean the kind you bake, I'm taking about the kind you boil and drink!

This is an adult beverage that is awesome served warm or chilled.  Give it a try!

What You'll Need:
  • 2 gallons of Apple Cider
  • 1 gallon of Apple Juice
  • 6 cups of sugar
  • 8 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Liters vodka
What You Do:

Pour all ingredients (except the vodka) into a large pot.  Bring to a boil.

Shut off and let it cool down to room temp.

Once it's cool, add the vodka.

Ration to container and chill.

Enjoy with friends or hoard it all for yourself.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Thirteen

1. Ummm... it's cold.  Not chilly, but COLD.  When our fireplace kicks on automatically you know it's cold. 

2. I'm pretty sure I've said it before, but I'll say it again... I hate winter.  And it's supposed to be fall right now, where is the jeans and sweatshirt weather?  This is calling for a parka!

3. Speaking of how cold it is... I'm SO happy that we are finally done with sand volleyball and only play indoor games now! 

4. Tomorrow marks two weeks of Monkey being completely potty trained!  No more diapers, woo hoo!  (Well except at bed time, but that doesn't count in my book.)  So proud of the little nugget!

5. A co-worker made this adorable hat for Monkey...

6. Don't you love it?  She certainly does.  The other morning she came strutting into our bedroom with nothing but her big girl undies and that hat on! 

7. This weekend I'm flying down to Oklahoma to visit Scott & Annie.... and their new baby Cort!  I can't wait to meet the little guy! 

8.  I'm missing a friends bachelorette party here because of my trip.  JC is going to the bachelor party as well, and since I'm such a great wife and friend I made a batch of Apple Pie for everyone.  I'll have the recipe up tomorrow.  Seriously the best fall beverage EVER.
9. I actually started my Christmas shopping early this year!  I saw a few things on sale so went ahead and picked them up.  I'm sure I'll still be doing a few last minute things, but hey, it's a step in the right direction.

10. I went to my alma mater's homecoming this past weekend and got to hang out with some great friends that I haven't been able to spend much time with recently.  Such fun!

11.  Does anyone else use yahoo mail?  I've had the same address for years and don't want to change it, but I really despise the new inbox system they have going on.  It's slow and doens't work half the time for me.  What is the deal?

12. I had thawed out some pork steaks in the fridge over the weekend thinking we would grill them one night this week.  Since it's been raining and crappy that didn't happen.  So I went on a search for a recipe to use it with.  This is what I ended up going with and it was pretty tasty.  I scratched the rice and served it with rolls instead. 

13. And the best for last... WOO HOO, GO CARDINALS!! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordles Wednesday: Make Up

Turn my back on the kid for 30 seconds in the bathroom and this is what I see when I turn back around.  Guess it's time to put the 'war paint' somewhere out of reach.

For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chicago Moms Taking a Field Trip

Today is the day that ten Chicago-area moms who have questions about food, farmers and farming are going on their first farm tour. These ten “Field Moms”, as they’ve been named by the Illinois Farm Families will get the chance to see firsthand how their food is grown and raised, as they meet Illinois farmers and tour their farms.

As a farm girl myself, I think this effort to give suburban moms a glimpse into the farm life and how their food gets to their table is great. There are far too many people that have no idea where their food comes from, or what goes into getting it on the shelves of the supermarket.

Like one of the Field Moms, Julie Barreda, says, “Just like money doesn’t come out of an ATM, food doesn’t just arrive at your table each day. There’s much more real story behind it – that’s what I want my family to know and appreciate. As city people, we often forget that Illinois is an agricultural state, and a lot happens outside of the city. The Field Mom program can really help bridge the gap between farmers and consumers.”

After the Field Moms return to the city, they will share their experiences through blogs, videos, and photos. I’m definitely going to be following up on what they think about their day on the farm. I encourage you to do so as well.  Who knows, maybe we'll all learn a little something!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Women in Agriculture

I have a friend who is in her senior year at Illinois State University.  Rosie is majoring in Agriculture Animal Industry Management and plans on pursuing a career in Ag Literacy or Ag Communications.  As you well know, I myself work in the field of Ag Communications and have a special place in my heart for all things ag related, not to mention I think Rosie is a pretty swell gal, so I wanted to pass along some videos that she has been working on.

This latest one is about women in ag.  There's no doubt that women have always been a part of agriculture, but many people don't realize it.  Check it out and take a look at Rosie's YouTube channel for her other videos as well!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chicks with Guns

It's never too early to start your Christmas shopping, right?  I came across this book on MSN the other day and happen to think it would make a great stocking stuffer. 

Chicks with Guns is by photographer Lindsay McCrum and it captures some amazing pictures as well as stories about gun ownership.

I love this picture of Alexandra and her son Truett, titled 'The magnificence of it all'.

She says “Guns, like everything in my childhood home, were considered treasures and works of art ... My parents taught me to appreciate the art of the hunt, the serenity of the outdoors, and the magnificence of it all. I now have two sons, Thomson, 5, and Truett, 3 years old. The bundled energy and palpable excitement in their eyes as they watch us pack the car with hunting gear is intoxicating! This book actually made me realize that the guns my father gave me when I was married will one day pass to my sons.”

And this photo, featuring Greta, titled 'Trained from infancy', I find so strikingly beautiful.

She says, "I was only 7 or 8 months old when I received my first gun, a gift from a longtime friend of my parents ... For my seventh birthday, my father gave me my first BB gun ... I studied hard with my dad’s help and completed the hunter’s safety course at the California Department of Fish and Game so I could receive a lifetime hunting license. I was so proud when the certificate arrived in the mail three weeks before my 10th birthday!”

Chicks with Guns is probably available in your nearest bookstore, but I found it on Amazon.  Buy it for your mom, your sister, your daughter... or hey, if you don't have any of those, you can buy it for me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Little Rant

I’m going to apologize right up front for what I’m about to do. It’s called a rant, and I know some people don’t like that sort of thing. So I’m sorry, in advance.

On the other hand, if you don’t like it, then stop reading. Apology retracted.

If you haven’t heard, today is National Eat Dinner with Your Family Day. While it sounds like a nice cozy day, something about it just rubs me the wrong way.

It’s not that I disagree with the concept itself, statistics have shown that the more often you eat dinner as a family, the less likely your kids are to smoke, drink or use drugs. However, it makes me sad. And to be honest, a little bit angry.

When I was growing up, we didn’t need a special day on the calendar to sit down and eat supper (yes, I know it’s Eat “Dinner” with Your Family Day, but we’ve always referred to the noon meal as dinner and the evening meal as supper. I think that’s a country thing, but it could just be that my family is odd.) It was something we did every day (excluding planting and harvest season when it was likely we’d be in the fields late), because we were a family and that’s what a family does.

Even now I sit down and eat with my husband and our daughter almost every night. There are definitely days when it doesn’t happen, but it’s not the norm. What makes me so sad/angry is that a day needs to be devoted to this. We as a nation shouldn’t NEED this reminder to spend quality time with our kids. Every time I see the commercial about this day and the 'helpful' reminder to eat with my family, it makes my blood boil.

Tell me, am I completely off-base here? Does it annoy anyone else, or am I the only one?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Zucchini Rice Bake

I've been experimenting with zucchini dishes as of late.  Our zucchini plant that produced about 5 zucchinis earlier in the year, up and died on us.  But it made a miraculous recovery and is producing again!  So now I'm making zucchini bread and trying out all sorts of new things as well.  Here is one of the new concoctions. 

What You Need:
  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 bag of quick cooking rice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 banana pepper, chopped (Any kind of pepper is fine, this is the only thing I had in the garden that day)
  • 1 can Italian diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
What You Do:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a baking dish with cooking spray.

Prepare rice according to package directions.

Brown beef.

Chop vegetables.

Combine beef, rice and vegetables in baking dish.  Pour tomoates in and give it a stir.  Season with salt and pepper.

Top with mozzeralla cheese adn bake for 30 minutes.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

5K for the VA

This past Saturday was the 5K for the VA that my sister and I have been planning for the last few months.  We were really happy with the turnout and hope to have it again next year.  Here are a few pictures from the race and the kids fun run: 

1st Place Finisher... check out that time!

Youngest Fun Runner showing off his dog tag

A BIG thank you to all the sponsors and participants, we couldn't have done it without you!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Look What I Caught!

Monkey came into the kitchen the other night while I was making supper, she was very excited about what she caught in her butterfly net and wanted me to see it....

Leroy may chew up EVERYTHING, but I think he must have a heart of gold to let her do this kind of stuff to him! 

For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ernest Thorp - American Hero

Well, I've had a busy couple of weeks at work and at home.  Things are FINALLY slowing down a little bit (until next month, when I have another big work obligation to take care of).  While I have a few minutes today though, I wanted to touch on the Guns Save Life meeting that I went to last week.  

The main speaker was a WWII hero that actually lives just a few miles from me.  Ernest Thorp had an amazing story to share with us about his time as an Air Force pilot, how his plane was shot down and he was rescued from the ocean to only be taken as a POW.  This 90 year old veteran is truely an inspiration.  He has a memoir that he kept while in the prison camp that I hope to read soon.  

Not only was I completely captivated by his stories, but it also turns out that he was friends with my grandpa!  It was really great to have him there, I think I want to plan a coffee shop date with him once a week now. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Homemade Granola

We love granola.  Unfortunately granola cereal isn't cheap.  So I decided I was going to make my own.  It turned out great and was a lot cheaper than buying boxes of it from the store! 

What You Need:
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts and almonds)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup water
What You Do:
Preheat oven to 300ยบ.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, nuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the oil, honey, and water. Toss the mixture until the ingredients are well combined, then spread it evenly on a cookie sheet.

Bake the granola for 40 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring every 10 minutes to keep the mixture from sticking.

After it is cooled, you can stir in dried cranberries.  I would have done this except for the fact that Monkey loves cranberries and has eaten every last one in the house.

Eat as a cereal, sprinkle over yogurt, or throw in a ziploc bag and munch on as a snack.  Delicious.

Friday, September 9, 2011

50 Rules for Dads with Daughters

I came across this blog post today and it brought a tear to my eye.  It could be because I'm a little extra emotional this week, a lovely couple that I work with lost their youngest son in a car accident and it brings back many memories of two specific friends that I've lost in the last few years.  All great guys gone before their time. 

But I really don't think that this is the reason this post affected me so much.  I think it's more that as I look at this list, I see all the things MY dad did for me as I was growing up and all the things he still does for me as an adult.  And I'm guessing he did them without anyone ever telling him he should.  And that means the world to me. 

I hope that when Monkey is grown, she can compile a list like this about JC. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Ear Plugs

It's not easy convincing a 2 year old that she needs to wear ear protection when around firearms.  But when Grammy does it too, then it's cool!  

For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Watch This!

Monkey did a lot of running around at the Appleseed over the weekend.  One thing she wanted to do over and over again was this:

Ready, set.....

I'm not sure how great of an idea that was to get started, but oh well, it kept her occupied for a long time!

Monday, August 22, 2011


We had another Appleseed shoot at my parent's range over the weekend.  The turnout was great and the weather was fantastic.  If you weren't there, you missed out!  Here are a few pictures from the weekend. 

The firing line.
 This is Olivia.  She's eight years old and could tell you everything you need to know about shooting a rifle. 

My brother Buck

My Dad helping out a young shooter.

And this is Elaina.  Elaina is an exchange student from Germany who will be staying with my aunt and uncle for 10 months.  She has never even held a firearm before and was excited to have her chance at it.  Here she is taking intructions.   

And here are her FIRST ten shots, not too shabby!


"Neighbor" Joe, glad you could join us again!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Just a Dog

Along with the awesome Warrior Dash this past weekend, we had some heartache as well.  Poor Leroy and Lucy were both hit by a car.  Leroy is pretty sore and badly bruised, but he's doing okay.  Lucy on the other hand, didn't make it.  Three dogs in a year's time.  Our batting average here, isn't looking so great.   

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Warriors!

We made it!  My sisters and I are officially warriors!  This race has officially taken the top spot for my favorite, I'll be doing it again next year, I do believe.

For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.