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Thursday, December 18, 2014

They Only Know What We Teach Them

I have spent my time recently with people from several different generations.  

It has reminded me that we need to appreciate, not only each other, but what each generation brings to the table.

We took this photo of "Four Generations of the Thomas Family" long ago but it means so, so much these days because only 1 generation remains on this earth.  

The rest of them are up in heaven teaching, playing basketball, and farming.

Earlier this week, my friend posted this picture of her son in an old Campbell Seed jacket that was once worn by her dad.  This young boy never got to meet his grandfather before he was called up to heaven.  But his mom is preserving the legacy of her father who was a farmer and a Campbell Seed Salesman.  

My dad was a farmer and former Campbell Seed Salesman.  

So this young boy and future farmer inspired me with his willingness to know not only about that old, faded jacket but about the man that wore it.

  His mom, the older generation, is teaching her son about the generation before her.  And her son will then teach the next generation about it....when the jacket really becomes faded and worn.

So as you sit around the table this Christmas with several generations make sure you share your stories and learn from each other.  Appreciate the old generations and what they sacrificed and appreciate the new and future generations for the life they will live.

So even though his farmer grandpa is gone, we can all take the opportunity to teach him about agriculture and about the man who is watching him learn from above.  And even though my dad is gone, I still learn from him and will preserve his legacy for the next generation.

Each new generation only knows what we teach them.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Give an Orange this Christmas

It's that time of year when we spread Christmas Cheer!

I mean that's what Christmas is all about.

Or wait, should we really be spreading cheer all year long.  
Should't we take some time throughout the year to spread cheer and to give up something that we have (time, money, passion, gifts) to someone else?

When I was younger, the Marsh girls from Little Women were my heroes.  They taught us a forever lesson when they woke up on Christmas morning in the middle of the Civil War with cheer and delight to enjoy their Christmas meal and their orange.  Their precious, exotic orange that Miss Amy did not want to give up.

But she eventually did and they packed up their fancy Christmas meal to take to the Hubbell Family who had fallen on harder times than the young women.

  They sang and had plenty of Christmas Cheer during the cold, dark war and found the time, courage and passion to give to others.

So this holiday season, don't forget to buy an orange for someone who is not 
as fortunate or gifted, as rich or loved as you may be.

Winston Churchill said it perfectly, "We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give."

While you're at it, share a little of your family traditions along the way.  It was my dad's idea to stick a peppermint stick in the exotic orange in the middle of the cold, Indiana winter and suck out the good juices.  

And when the sweet juices were gone from our orange or we didn't get what we wanted for Christmas, he would say what he would always say, "that's just part of it.  Not everyone gets or has what they want." 

Which is another reminder this holiday season.......

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Peaks & Valleys of Pies

"There's a lot of peaks and valleys on the days you make pies, honey."
"A lot of foot stompin' over there sometimes," he says.

Well, yes, sorry there is crying and yelling and stomping while I try to perfect an All-American dish.

My Pie Adventure 2014 is in it's last month and I have so many things to tell you about pie.  I think December calls for lots of pie baking so I will write more after we get through all 12 months of pie baking.

The first month was definitely a valley.....when my husband came home to me crying because my crust wasn't quite working out.  Like the good man he is, he opened up a bottle of wine for me and then just stayed out of the way.  That was until I cried some more and then he ran to town to buy crust for my already made, delicious filling.

Someone called this my french fry pie.
Definitely a valley moment.

This fall I somehow perfected making my own caramel for this peanut-caramel-apple pie.

I mean it event looks pretty.  A peak moment for sure.

Then there was the time that I started making a pie and then had that awful moment when I realized  the recipe was really for a custard pie.  I don't really do that nor do I have the ambition too.
I think I called my mom crying this time.

The bacon and peanut butter cookie crust was so, so good and a peak moment for me.

The custard, a low.....low....runny valley.

Then a total peak moment happened last week.  

I was talking to grandma about the Thanksgiving Day meal and she uttered those words I thought I would never hear, "So....are you bringing a pie, Katherine?"  

"Well, I was thinking about it, and thought I would ask you first. 
 But YES, I can bake a pie for Thanksgiving, grandma!"  

And just like that, I was a grown-up bringing pie to Thanksgiving. 

My pie crust was too thick....valley.  But the apple, pear and raisin filling was good and the brown sugar crumble topping was delicious....another peak during the Pie Adventure 2014.

The months have seemed to fly by during this adventure, just as they do in life.

I have learned that each pie crust and pie filling are unique in their own ways and that they aren't perfect.  I will never perfect the art of making a pie, but many of them will be delicious and some will make grandma's pie hutch for the holidays.

I will always have peaks and valleys with my pies, just as in life.  But it's all an adventure, right?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

He'll Take You When He Wants You

I have always known that.....
"He'll take you when he wants you."

But when he does, sometimes it is unexpected.  And not all unexpected things are great.

My dad died 5 years ago today, November 27, 2009.

Unexpected and not so great were just words that feelings can't express.

But as dad would say, "that's just part of it."

It is part of life and something that you just have to deal with.

I can hear him now, "stop mopin' around about it and go do something.  
Stop thinking about it, you think to much.  It's just part of it, Katie."

So as we celebrate Thanksgiving today and spend time with friends and family, we celebrate him.

We celebrate the athlete he was and tried to make me be.....as he told me to run the hills of our country road.  He instilled teamwork and a passion for winning and a respect for the lessons learned in losing.

We celebrate the fun-loving, crazy guy he was at my mom's 8th grade birthday party.
(Do we think he is trying to impress her with those moves and that hair?)

And we celebrate the party animal he continued to be as he "grew up".

 We celebrate his strength.......and sarcasm.

The strength he had physically, mentally, for his family and friends, for his work on the farm and the land and his love for Christ was a force to be reckoned with.  Don't forget the strength he had to have in order to share a house with three passionate women!  His strength was an example of how to live your life, and still is.

(Look at that farmer's tan!)

We will celebrate the fact that he met these two guys in college and remained friends with them until his death.  Among their differences and very different backgrounds, they were friends and taught each other things throughout their lives.
(We can only imagine what's happening in this photo......)

And we celebrate the fact that even though one lives on the east coast and the other on the west coast, we still get together and share stories of dad.

On this Thanksgiving as I lay down for my nap in my "spot" at grandma's, I will celebrate that sometimes in life we are in sync with one another like dad and my sister, Sarah, always were.  Being in sync and alike are great at times.

And sometimes we are out of sync with each other like dad and I always were with each other.  This is okay too.  I think our differences made us stronger.....learning from each other and pushing each other to be better.

So when I heard the guy I was dating say those words, "he'll take you when he wants you", well I knew he would be my husband someday because that's exactly what dad would have said.  And we were in sync about the way we thought about life and death.

God took him when he wanted him because he can.

And it wasn't great and it still hurts but didn't we always know that?

So today we celebrate, just as he would have wanted because
"that's just part of it."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Farmer & Fancy in Paris!

After one week away, I'm back to share more about my fancy in the country lifestyle.  
Except today it will be about my fancy in Paris trip. 

My wings took me away last week across the pond with the farmer to enjoy a post-harvest trip.
Remember, it's important to have both roots and wings.

Well our roots brought us home and the jet lag just got to me on this Tuesday so today I will share some photos and highlights of our trip.

We stayed on the Ile St. Louis which is one of the two natural islands that are in the middle of the Seine River.  The other is the Ile de la Cite which is where the Notre Dame is located.  This is one of four bridges that connects the island to the banks.  It was our first sighting of the Eiffel Tower on our first walk in Paris.

Instead of a hotel, we stayed in an apartment and decided to live like Parisians.  This is our beautiful front door on the island which really felt like a village.  More on the small, cramped, we couldn't stand up in the bedroom apartment later.....

Cheese.  It really could be considered an addiction.  We took a cooking class and went to the market to buy our supplies.  While we were there, we picked up some cheese for our french dishes and learned about "forbidden" cheeses in the United States.  This orange looking cheese is called mimolette.  This is a craggy, hard cheese that has kind of a citrus flavor to it.  Why is it forbidden?   Well....cheese mites are present during the aging process and then removed one it has ripened.  However, sometimes there are some left behind in the weathered rind.  The FDA didn't really like that though......therefore forbidden cheese that I made our chef buy so I could try it!  We loved it!

The Louvre Museum is a must on a trip to Paris.  It's collections and exhibits are unbelievable and intriguing.  The farmer loves history and art that teaches us something about our history so he could have been there for days.  My favorite part about the museum?  Finding an art class and standing close enough that I could hear the instructor speak about the masterpieces.  Yes...I was that creep.

Yes, I am on a carousel.  When I studied abroad in London in college, we took a weekend trip to Paris and stumbled upon a carousel on our first day.  I mentioned this to the farmer and how I love carousels and how they remind me of my childhood (and Mary Poppins).  He found it and gave me a coin to take a ride.

The Shakespeare and Company Bookstore was a highlight of the trip for us.  Lovers of literature could spend hours in this old bookstore filled with all the great works.  Everything is in English, don't worry.  We were there for a few hours on two different days.  The guy in the green jacket in the distance?  That's the farmer headed to the history section, I lost him most of the time we were there.

Leave it to the American farmer and hunter to find the Museum of Hunting and Nature located in a random neighborhood of Paris on our first day of the trip.  It was pretty amazing and one of our favorite things.

 Another one of our many walks lead us to find this group of young musicians playing under an arch near the Place de Vosges in the Marias district.  It was a nice place to stop and listen while the rained poured down.  As they played, the farmer said, "look up to the left, see the etching on the wall?"  

It was wheat.  When we are away, flying our wings, our roots, agriculture and the farm, are still with us.

Our view of the Notre Dame on the first day and our first walk.

 The Sainte-Chapelle is more magnificent than most other cathedrals I have seen. While it is not big, the stories it tells are better than anything you have seen.  The stained glass windows tell the stories of the New Testament.  

When in Paris, you must eat escargot!  And the farmer did just that a few times.  Delicious! 

And on the last night, we had the most beautiful sunset as we walked the Tuileries Garden and walked towards the Champs Elysees to find some wine and do some last minute shopping in the Christmas shops.  

And when we returned home this weekend, the farmer started cleaning his guns and I cleaned my make-up brushes.  Oh the difference our priorities are in this fancy in the country life.

Our wings were good to us on this trip.  However, we are obviously back to our roots and still loving it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Unspoken Lesson from the Farmer: Roots & Wings

Dad used to shake his head at me a lot.  I mean.....a lot.  
It was like he didn't get me or something (which is what some people say about me).  

But looking back now, I realize that he didn't always get me because we were so different and that was okay.  He raised me to be different, but to appreciate where I came from and where I was going.  

Unspoken Lesson from the Farmer:  Have roots and wings.

I pretty much grew up tall and grew up right with that Indiana corn on those Indiana nights.
And  I have always appreciated it.

But these days I see a lot of this, our nation's capitol. And a lot of cities which I also appreciate.

It was my parents that taught me to appreciate both; the roots and wings of my life.

They kept us grounded and let us run around barefoot to feel the dirt between our toes.

But it was my parents that let us spread our wings and fly. 
It wasn't just their words but their actions that supported our roots and gave us wings. 

And for that, I shall always be grateful.

Secretly, mom would have kept us all around forever and ever.  
Making us her famous homemade meals and sugar cookies while dad, Sarah and I sat around and watched "The Last of the Mohicans" was perfection to her.

Dad on the other hand, well dad tried to ship my friend Leslie and I off to mining country up in Canada when we were in college.  "There are lots of boys up there, you guys could have your pick!  Katie, there are no malls but they have money so there you go!  I can hire someone to take you guys up there."  

Oh thanks, Tim.  Some special wings you want to give us.  I think he wanted to ship us off because he wanted us to stop spending his money and to go and spend someone else's.

But he didn't get rid of us.  
Instead, we stayed and danced many nights away with him at weddings and drank beer with him around the fire.  Secretly, I think he wanted it that way instead of us in a random mining town with a bunch of boys! 

Dad used to always say, "there are too many cars around here anymore.   Too many people.  I am moving out west."  And I used to always tell mom, "when I am rich someday, I am going to buy dad a small ranch out west, in Montana."

Well, dad never got his wings to move west.  But he did get his wings to fly up to heaven 5 years ago this month.  

My friend Lindsay, over on Jeans Boots Blog, and I took one of our grounded gypsy trips west one fall.  
We went to Montana.  
And for my next birthday I received this.

Dad rode along on our wings during that trip.  Believe me, he was there because we ran into some pretty interesting characters and still made it back to our roots here in Indiana. 

So while he was always country and the center of my roots, I was his fancy and the wings that flew him west.  

And tomorrow I leave for Paris.  
And I guarantee you he is shaking his head at me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tales of a Harvest Widow: Her Critters & Her Washer

It's been a long harvest this year, but the end is in sight.  

In fact, I think I just made my last sandwiches for the boys' lunches last night.  I think I may only have to make cookies and muffins every so often from here until the spring.  

But what is not ever going to end are the critters and the laundry in our house.  

Let's be clear, I like certain critters.  
Especially when they serve two purposes and parts of them go in our freezer and other parts go on our wall to fancy things up.

But I do not enjoy little geckos that cross my feet at the table while I work.  But lucky for me the candy dish was close and I dropped the top of it on the gecko and kept a close eye on him until the farmer arrived.  Then he, being the smart man he is, concocted a way of capturing the gecko to get him out of the house!

Then there is Henrietta who stares at me while I do laundry.  Somehow she helps my husband with some of his hunting excursions, but yet somehow she got into my house....

.....and onto my vacuum!  Every time I turn, I see her and jump a little.  She always surprises me even though I know she is there, watching me do the loads of laundry.

When I married my farmer, I knew there would be lots of surprises.  
However, I didn't know there would be so many in the washer.

Like this baler twine that I found this summer.

And I always find lots of coins and random things like a paperclip.  And he ALWAYS forgets to take out his headphones.  I have found anything from a pocket knife to batteries to a memory card for his hunting cameras.

Looking back I should have known better.  I should have known that when I married a farmer, I knew I would experience lots of surprises.  I knew I would at least find some corn and soybeans in the washer.  My mom found lots of them in her washer from my dad--from her farmer husband.  

And I think she would say, "Tim, look what I found!"  
Just like I say, "Brett, look what I found!"

Even though it secretly ticks me off because he can't check his pockets or shake off outside before he enters the house, I always end up smiling and shaking my head.  Surprises are sometimes just funny.

The surprises in the washer and the critters watching on are something I have always known and will always love.  Just like the surprises life brings to me every day.