Sunday, January 25, 2015

Clean Eating is a Dirty Word

I dusted off the suitcase for a trip to warm and sunny Austin, Texas.  Leaving the farm and the kids behind to spend two days learning about how to better engage consumers about the food coming from farms.  The chance to get-away and learn something new has a narrow lead on my feelings of guilt and anxiety about leaving the crew behind.

Speaking of consumers, the latest buzz word among food-savvy folks is clean eating.  It’s the trendy way to say you’re choosing less processed, reduced salt and sugar, and lower fat meals that boast plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

It’s the way I’ve been trying to cook for years.  Now it has a name.  And a hashtag.  It’s trending.

Follow me.  I’m going somewhere with this.

In a push to cook a few extra meals and leave plenty of leftovers for the crew while I’m gone, I made a Chicken Broccoli Quinoa recipe.  Clean eating?  Absolutely.  Right down to the home-made, low-fat milk cheese sauce.  Kid pleasing and husband pleasing?  It was a 66% success.  Right on track with my new recipe average.

What’s a farm girl like me doing with a trendy food like quinoa in the house?  Well, I have a cookie problem.  A 2 o’clock in the afternoon cookie problem.  Love to bake ‘em almost as much as I love to eat ‘em.  So, I’m trying a homemade chocolate chip granola bar.  It’s working.  So far.  But I had oodles of quinoa left over.  When Chicken Broccoli Quinoa appeared in my Pinterest feed, I clicked.

As I pulled a few (home grown, home butchered) broilers from the freezer to roast for the quinoa casserole, it occurred to me – clean eating is not very clean.

We raised those broilers from baby chicks.  Cleaned their pens.  Fed and watered them.  Cleaned the chicken poo from their feeder and waterer.  (That’s a legit farm girl word; emphasis on the second "er.")  Killed them, gutted them, plucked their feathers and froze them. 


I roasted those chickens.  Skinned and deboned them.


I cooked quinoa.  Made a cheese sauce.  Satueed panko bread crumbs for the topping.

Three dirty pans.  (Not counting the roaster and the cutting board where I chopped the freshly roasted chicken.)

Had I actually retrieved the broccoli from our own garden, washed it and chopped it, instead of buying a $1 bag of frozen chopped broccoli, then we’re talking a major kitchen mess.

Clean eating – among other foodie phrases – is misleading. 

Sure, you’re putting clean, wholesome meals on the dinner table, but it took a lot of getting dirty along the way to get it there.

The business of growing and producing food so that you can choose clean, colorful produce at the grocery store, clean shiny eggs, and neatly packaged fresh meats is full of folks willing to get their hands dirty.

And the responsibility of providing clean, healthy meals on the tables for our families means we’ve got to be willing to dirty more dishes and more countertops.  And spend a little more time at the proverbial kitchen sink.

It’s my hope that after two days in sunny, southern Texas, that I return home better able to reach Common Ground with consumers - to reach an understanding that clean eating means getting dirty.  And getting dirty means 66% of your family is happy.  100% healthy; but 66% happy.  That's trend-worthy.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Party Girl 2015

It’s unlike me to be unprepared. 

Sure, it happens from time to time.  I forget to return papers to school here, key ingredients forgot at the store there.  I’m a list-maker; day planner; set an extra reminder on the iPhone kinda’ gal.  These lapses in preparedness leave me utterly frustrated.

So when I arrived at my parent’s house for a three day stay over Thanksgiving without a toothbrush, a clean bra, pajamas, or underwear – yet remembering absolutely every stinkin’ thing for every other member of my family, not to mention an extra batch of dinner rolls and a gallon of soup and dozens of eggs – you can only imagine my utter frustration.

Arriving on the eve of Thanksgiving, there wasn’t time to drive to the big city for my forgotten essentials.  I scavenged for an extra toothbrush, slept in some of Brent’s extra clothes, and washed my undies each morning. 

On Black Friday afternoon, my sister and I made a quick trip to the big city.  I had an errand to run at the mall; she said she had coupons for Victoria’s Secret.  Praise the Lord.

I headed straight to the back of the store, where they keep the plain, cotton panties.  I reached for the bottom drawer, way in the back, and pulled out five pair (because it’s always a better deal when you buy five; every girl knows that): two greys, a navy blue, a white and a beige.  I paused for a moment and thought about a red pair, challenging my inner Sarah Plain & Tall, but noticed there was some writing on the back side and quickly put down the red panties. 

We stopped at HyVee on the way home for Mucinex, a bottle of wine and peppermint mocha coffee creamer.  That’ll cure what ails ya.

Fast forward to early, dark early, Saturday morning.  I’m digging clothes out of my bag and getting dressed for a fun day in the even bigger city with my mom and sisters.  By the light of my iPhone, I pull out my clothes for the day.  The light of my phone caught something that shimmered.  Strange, I didn’t bring anything that’s shimmery.  I don’t even own anything that shimmers.

I tip toe downstairs to the bathroom to get dressed.  I reach for a clean, new pair of plain grey undies, and that something shimmery is staring right back at me.  In large, shimmery script letters across the rear-end side of the plain grey undies, is the phrase…

party girl 2015.

I can’t believe what I’m seeing.  I’m without words.  Wholly embarrassed.  Sensing the self-deprecating humor.

I tip toe to the kitchen to show Brent and Mom my shimmery undies.  They spewed coffee and peppermint mocha creamer across the kitchen table.  I tip toe back upstairs to find the actual plain grey undies.

I still have the party girl panties.  They’re in the back of my drawer, and serve as my emergency pair for the day the washing machine breaks down.  Which will inevitably happen on the same day I end up in the emergency room wearing the party girl panties much to the surprise of the local doctors.

You can bet I’ll never forget to pack my undies again.

So whether or nor we're prepared for what 2015 has to offer, when we find ourselves surprised by something shimmery and unexpected, just remember, it’ll make a great story.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dried Basil Gift Set

My herb garden overflowed with basil this summer.  And somewhere in the middle of harvesting all those fragrant leaves, a savory little idea struck.

I should dry all this basil, sew up some simple little muslin pouches, attach a pretty and tasty recipe, and sell these for Christmas.

And so I did.

The first product of the Potted Goose is now available to you.

Each pouch contains 1 tablespoon of basil straight from our garden - enough to make two batches of my favorite spaghetti sauce.  And once you make your own spaghetti sauce, you'll never buy a jar from the grocery store again.

Nothing against store bought spaghetti sauce.  But when your house fills with the savory aromas of tomatoes and herbs, you'll completely understand.

The recipes and attached basil pouches will make simple gifts for teachers, neighbors and friends.  Or, they'll stuff nicely in the stocking of your favorite mom, grandma, or anyone who has loved ones to feed.

Ready for delivery or shipping this week.  $5 each.  (Shipping available, and charges will vary.)

Contact me soon - only a limited quantity available.

Have a savory and saucy Christmas, my friends.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

To everything there is a season

We were 200 miles into the 219 mile trip to our Thanksgiving destination.  I had seen a handful of Christmas lights strung on houses, far too many blow up snow-men in front yards, and listened to countless Black Friday ads on the radio. 

By the look and sound of things, we had skipped right over autumn and Thanksgiving and moved into Christmas.

And here I am, early on Thanksgiving morning, the coffee’s brewing and the turkey’s on its way to the oven, wondering why we hurry so much to the next season, while the joy of the current season is right under our nose.

I spent the better part of 10 years helping with a leadership program for college student called Changing Seasons.  I was blessed to work with a team of creative and talented people who developed the concepts behind this conference.

The essence of the leadership event was that each season of the year evokes an element of personal growth.  Rooted in the seasons of agriculture, these concepts easily play out in the lives of every one of us.

Winter is a season of preparation; spring a season of emergence; summer of growth; and fall of harvest.

Maybe it’s the season of life I’m in right now, maybe it’s the holidays; maybe it’s the cold that just won’t quit pestering me, but whatever it is, I feel myself holding fast to the current season, while change is coming at me faster than a Black Friday blow-out sale.

My little family is in an intense and extended season of growth.  The kids are outgrowing shoes and clothes daily.  They’re losing teeth; gaining vocabulary and social awareness; dribbling basketballs; writing in cursive; reading chapter books; Britta’s even insistent on putting on her own shoes and brushing her own teeth.  It’s a summer-time kinda fun - watching our little garden bloom and grow.

But on the horizon, the seasons are changing.  A time of preparation is nearing for this momma Goose.  Our extended season of growth will march on, blooming and surprising me every day.  But the day that all of my children spend all-day, every-day in school is coming at me just as fast as those Black Friday sales.  My mind wanders into a season of preparation often. 

I try my best not to hurry this current season along.  Even in the hurried, hectic moments when I’m rushing to prepare the next meal, helping with multiplication homework, consoling #3 who was just whopped by #2, and wiping up spilled milk, while Brent walks through the room, muttering, “16 more years, 16 more years.”

And so, for the balance of this Thanksgiving Day, my heart will be on savoring the season under my nose.  The kids are up now, the coffee pot is empty, it’s time to put together some breakfast, begin the final holiday meal preparations, get everyone dressed and keep 10 kids outta the kitchen so my mom, sisters and I can get this meal to the table in time.

My mind will surely wander to Christmas lists, decorations, party preparations, shopping the sales, and the next set of holiday travel plans.  Even while the most joyful moments are right under my nose.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, my friends.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A little longer...

Nell was so eager to start Kindergarten that the mere mention of the word school made her entire little body shake.

She bounced out the door that first day, eager and fearless.

So when the call came around lunch time on the fourth day of school that Nell had fallen from the playground equipment and likely broken her arm, I knew the time away from school would hurt her almost as much as the pain itself.

And while I was sad for her; frustrated at risky playground equipment; and unsure of how to care for her; I see those days now as a small gift of time to hold my baby girl a little longer.

Nell was the kind of toddler and preschooler that was fun to have around the house.

Another trip to the grocery store?  Smiling Nell preferred to sit in the back surrounded by the groceries.

Bathroom cleaning day?  She loved to scrub the toilets.

Dishes, dishes and more dishes?  It was her job to rinse.  And provide the musical entertainment.

Of course, there was cookie baking, sand-box playing, coloring and reading.  Her zest for life wasn't just for the fun stuff; she made the mundane a little brighter.

When she left for that first day of Kindergarten, I wasn't sad.  I was happy for that bouncy little girl. And thankful I had the chance to spend every day with her in preparation for life as a school-aged girl.

A broken arm just may have been God's way of giving my bouncy little girl and I a few more special days together.

A few days to cuddle, to paint her nails, to wash her hair in the kitchen sink, to carry her from room to room.  A few more days as a little girl close to her momma; one final reassurance that my bouncy little girl is ready to take flight as a school girl.

Broken arms are sometimes so much more than broken arms.  They're a chance to hold our babies just a little longer.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Clearing the air

Let's clear the air about a few things.

Phenomenal Fashion was not an attack on high school girls.

If you read my piece and believe that to be true, then I'm sorry.  No harm intended.


Did my piece say these girls lacked in accomplishments, athletic talent, musical abilities, character or compassion?  Absolutely not.

Did my piece say that today's clothing choices detract from all the good that young people represent?  Absolutely.

I used my experience as a mom of young girls in watching fashion trends to be analogous to what's happening across the country.  And across the country, teenage fashion blurs the line between stunning and sexy.  My preference is for teenage girls to look stunning.  Sexy (albeit unfortunate) belongs elsewhere.

I believe in challenging young people.  To study harder.  To stand in front of a room and exude confidence.  To practice harder for the next game.

I find it hard to believe I'm the first person to challenge young ladies to employ some modesty.

My approach is that of tough-love.  I expect much from my children.  And, in return, I strive to give them my best.  I'm just not into fostering a false sense of self-confidence.

And so, I'm just not into lauding young people when I know they're capable of more.

Back in "the day," my mom would have told me I had a good game no matter how lousy I played.  My dad wouldn't let me go to bed until we practiced how to seal a more effective box-out.

Young people need a dose of both: unconditional praise and a challenge to do even better the next time.

Every smart, beautiful, talented, compassionate teenage girl has the ability to stand-up to culturally accepted fashion standards and choose better.

And I'll remain steadfast in my challenge to be phenomenally fashionable.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Phenomenal Fashion

I've been taking my girls to our community's promenade since they were little. The girls put on dresses and necklaces and clip-on earrings and faux feather boas, and we go see the fancy dresses. 

At the end of the night, we pick our favorites.  Pink dresses and full skirts always score well with the girls.  The blue and grey shades always catch my eye.

Lately, it seems, the hem lines have been getting shorter.  The backs more open.  The neck lines plunging deeper.  The high heels taller and taller.

And each year, we've noticed.  Since about Kindergarten, Noah has expertly used the word "inappropriate."  Nell fumbles over the syllables, but it will soon be part of her vocabulary, too.

We return each year, the girls hoping for something poufy and sparkly, and I, quietly watching in the back for that young lady who’s willing to take a stand against teenage fashion trends and don something elegant, classy, and sophisticated.  The girl who’s ahead of her time; who’s fearless in the face of pop culture.  The girl I want my little girls to grow up to become.

So when this year’s Homecoming candidates rode past us in the back of pick-up trucks during the parade, I was once again watching for that girl.

And I was disappointed.

When I see Homecoming candidates, I see girls on the verge of becoming young women.  I see girls who represent years of hard work and achievements.  Girls standing up for our school; our community; our churches. 

But when their arms reach longer than their hem lines; when their back is fully exposed on a chilly October evening; when their skirt inches higher as they walk, it’s so very hard to see those accomplishments; so hard to see a role model for my little girls when they’re wrapped in barely enough fabric.

Fashion isn’t the absolute definition of a person.  But that old saying…

…what you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say…

…seems to apply here.

What you choose to wear can convey messages that are positive and driven and accomplished.  The right dress has the power to say, “I’m proud of who I am.  I’m proud of my school and my community.   I’ve worked hard to be standing here today.  And I will represent you well going forward.” 

Finding that dress is not so easy.  And especially not easy on a week’s notice in the midst of a busy senior girl’s schedule.  And even worse when you’re a tall girl with an athletic build searching for a dress in the juniors department.  (I am that tall girl with an athletic build.)

But it’s possible.

Thanks to my much more fashionable mom and sisters (and to watching dozens of What Not to Wear episodes while taking care of my baby girls), I know how to find clothes that fit, that are fashionable, and that express who I am.  I have learned how to choose clothes that flatter the good parts, and to hide the not so good parts.  And thanks to the internet, I don’t have to go far to find them.

Loft, Anthropologie, J Crew, Old Navy, Gap, Boden---are some of my favorite places to shop.  I look for sales.  Or, I find inspiration and recreate with pieces I can find at Target or Wal-Mart that suit my budget.

These clothing lines offer classic pieces that have staying power in my wardrobe, and offer plenty of modern fashion for even the most stylish among us.

I have warned Brent since the girls were little: we will drive farther and spend more money to find clothes that the girls and I can agree on in terms of fashion and sensibility.

He gets it.

But our influence will wane as the girls grow up.  They’ll be looking to pop culture, to the girls at promenade, to the Homecoming candidates for their influence.

So I’m asking you now: be a fashion leader, not a fashion follower.  Let your fashion sense show us the smart, independent, driven, compassionate girl you are.  Choose elegance.  Sophistication.  Stand up to the lesser standards and be something phenomenal.

Because my little girls are watching…and they wanna be just like you. 

(Here's a few homecoming alternatives I adore...)