My Spirit Season: Christmas


I love Christmas. 

Christmas is my spirit season.

Is that a thing? If we have spirit animals, can we have spirit holidays too?

(Sorry, Tax Day. You're nobody's spirit ANYTHING.)

I love the trees and the food and the decorations and the music and the snow (as long as it's only an inch in accumulation and melts the next day, but other than that, I'm not at all particular).

I love traditions and memories and family and taking all morning to open presents and giant Cracker Barrel-esque brunches and trash bags of wrapping paper and the clinking of wine bottles against glasses and how it used to take us roughly 11 weeks to handwash all of the Spode Christmas dishes after every meal (I'm looking at you, MOM!!)

(JK I love you)

(PS Can I have all that Spode when you don't want it anymore?)

(K Thanks)

(Sorry, sisters. You snooze you lose.).

I love it all.

(Side note: I hope that you all know this by now, but of course the thing I love most about Christmas is the remembrance and celebration of our Lord's birth.)

But, guys, it's December 5, and we don't have a tree.

I'm not saying that -- as Alicia Hutchinson called it -- "mama's lost her merry." I'm just learning that Advent teaches us to pace ourselves in all sorts of (immensely) humbling ways.

In reality, I'd love to have all sorts of people over for supper during the holidays. I'd like to make antipasto platters and cheeseballs in the shape in pinecones. But instead, I'm making a handful of freezer meals for friends who have their own stuff they're dealing with in life right now and dropping it off on their doorstep with reheating directions and the hope they enjoy just one night off from cooking.

I'd like to have my tree planted firmly in front of the window with the perfect tree topper situated just right and white lights glimmering in the snowy darkness outside. But instead, I'm trying to teach my one-year-old that he can't muscle the Christmas village around the house in his giant man hands.

I'd like to host a wrapping party and a soup swap and a cookie exchange. But instead, I'm taking my presents to my mom's house for her to help me wrap them, and making my own dang chili, and forgoing cookies this year because my husband introduced me to the deliciousness that is a pomegranate five years ago and those have just seemed so much more festive and exotic instead.

I'd like to go wander through the Christmas aisles at Target with my sisters, sucking down a mango smoothie from Panera and laughing so hard people start to look at us like we're weird. But instead, I Marco Polo them and they give me tours of their houses all decked out with beautiful decorations and then we all laugh and pretend we don't live on different continents. (Well, technically we don't but it basically feels that way if you want to get nosey about it.)

I'd like to pack the kids in the van and make them eat cheese sandwiches and carrot sticks like we had to do when we were kids while on our way to go Christmas shopping or caroling or to see the Christmas lights. But as it turns out, they're asleep by 7, so I turn on my own twinkly lights and eat a slice of American and call it a day.

Mama's not losing her merry this Advent. Mama's not even turning into Krampus.

I'm just being realistic about what's possible when little people are, well, little, and I don't think that's so bad.

Then again, compared to hearing Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is YoUUuuUUUUuuUU" for the 37th time today, nothing is bad. Nothing at all.

So here's to enjoying the holiday season -- its smells and tastes and sounds or complete lack thereof -- Spode dishes, soup swaps, cheese sandwiches and all!

How are you keeping it real this Advent and Christmas?


I call this one, "Dear Winter, Please Stay Away and Leave Us Alone. We Prefer Sun and Warmth and Fall Leaves, and In That Regard, You're Basically Nothing But a Killjoy," (2018).

Paperless Post: Keeping Card Writers and Card Receivers Happy Since Forever


I am all about the hand-written thank you card . . . mostly because my mom would give my sisters and me the kind of stink eye only moms can give if we didn't write them. 

Birthdays. Christmas. Confirmation. Sometimes for no reason at all other than to say, "Thanks for being just plain great."

But I also know some people don't NEED to receive thank yous. Mom may demand you write them, but others are content getting a phone call or a text of acknowledgement -- no thank you required. 

The happy medium in all this is Paperless Post. Mail sending addicts still get to indulge in card writing, and the people who would rather not have to throw paper in their trash . . . don't have to throw paper in their trash. 

From holiday cards to thank you notes, invitations to save the dates, housewarmings to cocktail parties, Paperless Post has a card for prettttty much any occasion. And their designs are adorable!

You can upload your own picture or choose one of their well-crafted images. Plain or busy, simple or glamorous -- you name it, they've got it. Use their template or create one of your own. Pick from unique fonts, choose an envelope color, sort through postal markings, and even add a reply card. 

It's legit like getting a beautiful, cherished, hand-written card or invitation -- envelope, stamp and all -- that's delivered Paperless Post style to your inbox instead of your  mailbox!

Mom, don't you worry. Handwritten notes and invitations aren't going anywhere. They've just -- somehow -- gotten a whole lot cuter, a whole lot faster, and a whole lot more colorful and fun (and more affordable too!). 

So now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to send you one. 

*Although this post was written at the invitation of Paperless Post, all opinions are my own. 


National Farmers' Day: To My Favorite Farmers

I don't know what most people envision when they imagine farmers today, but if it involves bib overalls and American Gothic, they maaaaaaay be a little offbase. 


The two guys on the right -- they're farmers. Pigs and cows, seasoned and younger, Redwing boots and cowboy boots. 

And neither of them chews on straw or wears bibs.


Today is National Farmers' Day. And while I'm blessed to be the daughter of a farmer and married to a farmer, not everyone else gets to see farming up close and personal like I do.

But today, even though this life -- your life -- is mine too, I simply want to tell my favorite farmers thank you . . .

for getting up early and staying up late,

for studying the way the land lays and the water flows,

for taking care of animals, their health, their well being,

for loving the outdoors, the smell of the soil, the way the air feels before it rains,

for the freedom farming allows and the pride that comes with being your own boss,


for the steadiness that comes with tilling up and planting and harvesting the same ground your families did for generations before you,

for the humor that's needed when things break at the worst possible time and the way that you always find an answer and a solution because there's no one else there to discover one for you,


 for being able to operate machinery and help cows calve and listen to employees,

for knowing how much risk is the right amount of risk to take and reminding yourself that if farming was easy, everyone would be doing it,

for knowing where you've been but never giving up on the dream of where you might go,

for being food producers in a country that has one of the safest food systems out there, for knowing that your farm will feed thousands of people you've never even met,

for being you.

To all the farmers -- and especially to my two favorites -- thank you.

Iowa Corn Chowder

as featured on Cheeserank's 50 Best Cheese Recipes from the 50 Best United States
Because the weather can't decide if it wants to be fall or summer or neither or both, I'm officially calling it: It's fall, and we are eating soup, darn it. 

Even if it WAS 93 degrees only a couple days go. 


Enter Iowa Corn Chowder. 

I am a pig farmer's daughter. I'm married to a dairy farmer. So if we're all going peacefully to co-exist here, it's clear we need both bacon AND cheese in this recipe. 

Maybe every recipe. Can you name me one dish that wouldn't be better with either one of those? 


Me neither. 

Is it 90 degrees at your house? Or 30 maybe? Raining? Sunny? Are you sweating? Freezing?

It doesn't matter because -- say it with me -- BACON AND CHEESE. 

Break out the corn muffins, slather on some butter, serve yourself up a heaping bowl of chowder, and revel in all that bacony and cheesy goodness. 

Take your time. 

Shed a little tear. 

We know it's a beautiful sight.

Iowa Corn Chowder

3 cups H20
2 cups cubed potatoes (skin on)
1/2 cup carrots
1/2 cup celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cans creamed corn (Remind me to tell you about the time I learned that creamed corn came in cans. Pretty sure I was about 25 years old.)

Combine the first seven ingredients in a large pot. Cook for about 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

Let that concoction simmer while you melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat and stir in 1/4 cup flour. Slowly add the milk and stir until it thickens up. 

Then add 2 cups of cheese and stir until it's nice and melty.

Then, when you're good and ready, add two cans of creamed corn and stir until it's heated through. 
Frankly, I could just eat this mixture right here, but that's not how the recipe goes. 

Add the mixture to the vegetables and stir until the chowder is warmed through. 

Sprinkle with bacon bits. (The hog farmers among us thank you.)

silage 2k18


I love and loathe silage time on the farm. I love it because there's a lot of activity and people are (generally) excited for something new and different. Adrenaline runs high, and everybody bands together during the long (long!) days to get hundreds of acres of corn chopped for cow chow. 

I mean, they don't actually call silage "cow chow" but I kind of feel like there's a PR company out there somewhere who wishes they'd have thought of that instead of me. 

Unless someone else actually DID think of it before me, in which case let's forget we ever had this conversation. 

But it also means long days for everybody, including my farmer, and that part I don't love so much. I'm all, "Well, see you in two weeks when silage is over. Be a good boy. Don't forget to write. Remember I love you" when I hand him his lunchbox every morning. 

Maybe not quite like that.


Some years, my sister and her kids come for a week. Her boys get to ride in the silage chopper and stay out too late and wear pliers pouches, which makes them happy, and I get to hang out with one of my sisters and have some company during my farmer's 18-hour days, which makes me happy. 

This year, my sister-in-law and her little boy came for a week.


 We spent the first few days of silage drinking mimosas, dipping our toes in the kiddie pool, watching our children play quietly together and getting caught up on each other's lives. 


Aaaaaaactually, we both had sick kids who found it fun to haul off and deck one another while we tried to sip just a slurp of coffee to help counteract the getting-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-with-said-kiddos-who-couldn't-sleep-or-breathe-due-to-junky-noses tiredness.

And you know what? WE STILL HAD SO MUCH FUN. 

If being a mom -- and silage -- have taught me anything, it's to be flexible. Kids get sick. Silage choppers break. Toddlers melt down. Trucks fall apart. They're just going to happen. And getting worked up about it doesn't help. You just roll with it.

Basically, silage season is like parenting. That's what I'm getting from this. 

In unrelated news, I struggle every year to know what to fix Chris to eat while he's driving the chopper. He told me once the only thing he has to look forward to during the day is what he's going to eat. Otherwise, it's corn. All day. Every day. Back and forth. Corn. Just corn. 

He also needs food he can eat with one hand because the other hand is busy driving and adjusting the chopper spout and hitting the radio button to tell truck drivers to back up or move over. He also tells me the food has to fit in a cup holder or be something he can wolf down while driving.

NO PRESSURE. Just make fun food that brightens his day that he can eat in about two bites.  


So this year, in an effort not to feed him sandwiches and chips for two weeks straight, I bought out Aldi's snack aisle. Nuts, pretzels, dried fruit, chocolate -- all the things. 

And my sister-in-law used her creative wizardry to whip up five different kinds of trail mix . . . without using a recipe, I might add. 

I'd be all, "Let's see if Pinterest has any idea what I can do with this massive pile of dried goods. Otherwise, here you go, honey: a giant bag of banana chips. See you in two weeks!"

I also packaged up mini cucumbers and sweet peppers the first week and popped a couple of those in his lunch box each day. 

My sister-in-law -- again with the awesomeness -- made up some protein bites with craisins and walnuts and chia seeeds, and those have been the hit of silage season thus far. 

(Sarah, you might be sorry you made these because you're probably going to be on tap for doing it next year too. Please don't hate me.)


And because this is the year of silage revelations, I also learned from my friend Megan than you can make meat and cheese sandwiches and freeze them.


This means no more making a gabillion sandwiches every night after the kids are in bed.

My world: revolutionized.

Instead, we put the sandwiches in the freezer, pulled them out the night before, added some veggies and pickles and lettuce, and voila!

But wasn't the bread soggy, you're wondering? No. No, it was not.

Now go and do likewise.

(Also, runzas for the one-handed-eating-in-the-chopper win! Again, my SIL. I'm not even sure I'm needed for meals at silage at the rate she's going.)

Add some tea, some Red Bull, and some peanut butter with celery and carrots in the bottom of a cup to polish it off (See? Cupholders!), and the guys had meals fit for kings!

Scratch that. But at least good enough for hardworking, worn out, hungry farmers.


Silage is all about timing. The corn's moisture has to be just right. The corn has to be a certain maturity. All the machinery has to be ready to go. The weather has to cooperate. There have to be enough truck drivers. And caffeine.

Lots of caffeine.

And when all those line up, silage runs like a well-oiled machine.

Like a chopper, for instance.

Or the Eagle, which is that sweet semi pictured below with carpeted doors that leaves everybody wanting to sing C.W. McCall's Convoy and wear 1970s aviators and grow big mustaches.

We had a lovely week with my sister-in-law and her little boy, and now we've plowed through another week of the kiddos and me at home, listening to Dad on the radio and anxiously awaiting his return to normal life, packing lunches, watching the weather app and praying everybody makes it through safely. 

And while we do, we remember that on the days silage doesn't quite run the way it's supposed to, when it seems far from a well-oiled machine, when kids are sneezing or axles break or rain halts everything in its tracks, we still get it done.

The cow chow still gets packed in a pile to feed the cows until next year's silage season.

The children get well again and beg for Mule rides.

The Red Bulls and iced coffees do their job.

The sun still shines.

And it's all good. 

Here I Swap 2018: Registration Open


Guess what.

It's mug swapping time!

Year 1: 115 Lutheran mug swappers.
Year 2: 511 . . . in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. 
Year 3: TBD. (I'm scared. Yipe!)

This year, because some ladies were a little over all things fall -- turns out not every gal loves her some pumpkin spice lattes -- we're swapping Advent and Christmas mugs . . . and maybe even a recipe or two.

Also, not sure why Amy Grant doesn't sing that Advent is the mooooost woNDErful tiiiiiiime of the year but WHATEVER.

Now read this next part closely because things have changed a bit.

Here's how this swap is going down:

  1. You sign up here. 
  2. I pair you up with another gal and send you both the pertinent information you'll need to know about one another (names and adddresses, etc.). This is different from previous years. You're matched up with one person, and she's matched up with you. The end.
  3. You peruse that information, which will give you a glimpse into her style, winter drink preferences and personality. You can friend her on Facebook if you want or shoot her an email introducing yourself. If you'd prefer to stay behind the scenes until she receives your package so that it can be a surprise, that's fine too! Either way.
  4. You put together a little care package for her, based on that information. YOU MUST, AT THE VERY LEAST, SEND HER A MUG. Beyond that, you're free to add as many goodies to the package as you'd like -- as long as it doesn't cost you over $25.00. Again, this part is up to you.
  5. Stick that package in the mail!
  6. Channel some Advent penitence, and wait patiently by the mailbox for your buddy's package to arrive for you. 
  7. Eat, drink and be merry . . . but not too merry. It's not Christmas yet!

Are you game?

 If you're 21 or older, sign up by clicking this link and filling out the form. 

  • Sign-ups close September 30, and you'll receive information on your swap friend by October 30. (Yes. It may take that long to send all the emails out. I'm a wife and a mom of three under 3, so sometimes things take me a looooong time. Please be patient!)
  • Again, after reading up on your new friend, head to Walmart or Home Goods or any place in between to put her fall swap package together, which must include at least one mug.
  • Send the package -- along with a little note with your name and how she can connect up with you -- by November 15 so that she receives it in time for Advent and Christmas.
  • Post a picture of your swap package when it arrives. Use the hashtag #hereiswap2018 on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. You can meet even MORE Reformation-lovin' ladies that way!
  • Finally, I'm hoping this swap will be a fun way for Lutheran women to encourage each other . . . and enjoy a few Advent- and Christmas-themed goodies along the way, but unfortunately, I can't be held responsible for your partner's actions. If she doesn't send you a package, feel free to follow up with her! A good dose of the Law never hurts. :) 
  • Enjoy!


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