Advice, Blog, Blogger, dinner, dinner party, entertaining, Event, hostess, hosting, How To, organize, plan, planner, Planning, The Farmer's Wife, The Fit Farmer's Wife, Tips

Entertaining 101: Part II

If you haven’t already, read Part I of my two part series of Entertaining!

Part I Overview… Over the past few years, one of my favorite things to do (even though I don’t do it as often as I’d like because of busy schedules) is entertain. I love having a big crowd of people over, sitting around the table or island and enjoying good food and conversation!

I grew up having a grandmother who loved to entertain. Almost every weekend, after church her and grandpa’s home would be filled with the smells of amazing meatloaf in the oven, a table full of people, and wonderful conversation. It just seems that these days, entertaining is a lost art.

No one does it. No one goes visiting after church anymore. I mean, I totally am guilty as well, and I completely understand the need for family time with your own family, as well as busy, hectic schedules. I have to say, I miss those days…

After covering some of the things that goes into PLANNING an event, today I am sharing some things that are hostess duties on the day of the event and during! Not matter if you dinner party is formal or not, you always have to be a good host. People will either like how they are treated while in our home or not. I am sharing with you five tips that I do every time I have people over. These are things that can be done either a week before or some the day before and others the day of!

  1. Set the Mood. Right after planning the menu, you need to set the mood. You can do this a few weeks before or the day of. Make sure your home is comfortable. Clean up, organize, and make things look and smell pretty! Light a few candles, set some mood lighting or twinkle lights on the china hutch or buffet cabinet. Those throw pillows that you stuff beside the sofa on a normal night, set them out! Organize the bookshelf to look pretty and organized. Just the small things can have a huge impact on how guests feel while at your home.
  2. Define the Feeding Line. At our home, we have a big main island in the center of our kitchen. I would be completely lost without it. Taylor and I always sit and eat there instead of the table. When guests come over, it serves as seating and a buffet line. I set all the food out and let people go through. That way, your aren’t constantly passing the pots along. It just works more smoothly.
  3. Smile and be Hospitable. Relax!!! Finally, this is the day you have planned and planned for! Enjoy it! When your guests ask if they can help with anything or getting things ready before eating or clean up, take them up on their offer! Most likely they actually want to help! Plus, getting the dishes out of the way makes the eating area less clutter-y and more comfortable for guests. Your number one priority is to make sure your guests are comfortable and happy…. Oh, and full! 🙂 Your guests are your priority!!
  4. Be Prepared. Be prepared for SOMETHING to go wrong. Not everything will go smoothly. Maybe you’ll be short a spoon or someone will want a toothpick, which you forgot to purchase at the store. Be prepared for something to happen or not go perfectly.
  5. Relax and Have Fun. This tip is HUGE! It may not seem like a dinner party is relaxing, especially as the host, but ENJOY your time with your family and friends! Visit, laugh, and have fun! Your guests can tell when you are stressed and running all around the kitchen fussing over the meatloaf. Just don’t! As the host, you set the attitude and mood of the event! Don’t ruin it by being a bad host!

There are my top tips of being a host and some duties of making your guests comfortable! It’s all about being yourself, being a great host, and enjoying the party!

Beef, Chicken, crockpot, crockpot recipes

My Tips and Recipes for Harvest

Harvest season is soon upon us, which means fast meals, fast part runs, and pretty much fast everything. I love fall and harvest, but not the busy, fast paced part of it. This year on our ranch, will be extremely busy because the way things are going, soy bean and corn harvest will run together. It’s an early harvest this year, which is okay by me. Then, my hubby will be done sooner, cows will be home in a few months, and time will move more slowly.

  
As a farm wife, every spring and fall is a battle to find fast and easy foods that are filling and make great left-overs. I don’t know how you do it at your farm, but with me working in town full time, I don’t bring food out to the fields. I just make sure I cook enough over the weekends so that, in the evenings if and when Taylor comes in and he is hungry, he has something he can warm up. For the most part, he packs a cooler for his entire day, but he does like something hot late at night when he gets home.

  
That’s why crockpot meals are great! I seriously love my crockpot!! I actually have two, but I could have three or four! Maybe that is a little over kill, but you get the point! So today, I am sharing with you some of my favorite crockpot meals, along with a few tips for us farm wives to survive harvest!

  1. Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings:
  • 2 packages of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can of cheddar cheese soup
  • 2 cans of cream of chicken soup
  • 2 packages of Pillsbury Biscuits
  • Frozen Veggies like corn, carrots, and peas

Put everything in the crockpot starting with the chicken on bottom. Combine soups with frozen veggies and pour on top of chicken. Top with biscuits. Cook on high for four hours or on low for 6-7 hours.

  

  1. Tip One: Plan Ahead. Make sure to have your freezer well stocked with meals that can be reheated in the crockpot. Make sure to have grocery lists ready for unplanned store trips, when you go to town for a parts run. Keep extra snacks, cookies, crackers, and fruit snacks on hand at all times. Put the snacks and other food items in a specific drawer or cabinet so your farmer has easy access to it and doesn’t have to search the house for his Snack Pack Pudding cups! Plan ahead with other things like cleaning and doing laundry! When you have a spare moment, which is probably not too often, get household things done!
  1. Crockpot BBQ Beef Brisket:
  • 3 lb Beef Brisket

For the Rub:

  • 1 tsp. Chili Powder
  • ½ tsp. Garlic Powder
  • ¼ tsp. Celery Seeds
  • 1/8 tsp. Black Pepper

For the Sauce:

  • ½ cup Ketchup
  • ½ cup Chili Sauce
  • ¼ cup Brown Sugar
  • ½ tsp. Dry Mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ tsp. Liquid Smoke

Put in crockpot and cook 8 hours on low.

  1. Tip Two: Make time for each other. No matter how busy it gets, always make time for family or an occasional date night, even if that means a combine date! Plan a quick family game night on the weekend or even a home movie night. Something quick and easy, just as long as you are able to spend time together. I know harvest gets crazy and busy, and sometimes both at the same time! It’s important to stay connected as a husband and wife and as a family. It helps everyone work together better and everything run more smoothly!

  

  1. Crockpot BBQ Shredded Chicken on a Bun

 

  • 6-8 Skinless, boneless Chicken Breasts
  • Your favorite BBQ Sauce

Place in the crockpot and smother chicken with bbq sauce. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Place chicken in electric mixer bowl and mix on low until chicken is shredded. Place on bun and serve with potatoes and corn.

  1. Tip Three: Be prepared for anything and everything to happen. Always keep first aid kits on hand and plenty of band-aids. This is the time of year when so many of us are on the go and it seems like things happen when we are in a hurry and not fully paying attention. Be prepared, you just never know if a paper-cut or a full on stab wound will be coming through your door!

  

  1. Crockpot Mac’n Cheese

 

  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled to room temp.
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Grease the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray.

Combine milk, evaporated milk, butter, eggs, and salt in slow cooker and whisk until smooth.

Add the Italian cheese and macaroni and sprinkle with pepper to taste — stir gently to coat evenly.

Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.

Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to low and cook for 1.5-2 hours, until center does not jiggle and pasta is tender.

Place this cheesy goodness in a bowl and eat like you’ve never eaten before.
Have a wonderful and safe harvest!!

  

Blogger, Burlap, decor, Decorating, Decorating Tips, Design, Farm Wife, Flowers, Fun, Ideas, Interior, Lifestyle, Pumpkin, Seasonal, Tips, Wreaths

Autumn Decorating Basics

It’s officially fall here on the Z Ranch. Autumn has grown to be one of my favorite seasons. It’s when I can get my fill of pumpkin everything, flannel, leggings, boots, and fireside coziness. And not to mention, one of my favorite things, DECORATING!!

I LOVE fall decorating! This year, literally half of my garden was designated for pumpkins and squash! I am now blessed to have a variety of green, white, and of course the most beautiful orange pumpkins you’ve ever seen. It’s so fun to have a variety of fall colors to decorate with!

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For fall decorating, I love to start with the interior of the house, to get me in the mood to move to the outside, if you will! Today, I am sharing with you some great tips that I use personally to decorate my own home for the fall season!

  1. Candles! If you don’t, load up on great fall scents like pumpkin spice, autumn leaves, apple pie, caramel latte, and crisp air! Sent helps set the mood of your home and it is inviting and welcoming to your family and guests. I get most of my candles from Walmart, Bath and Body Works, and Yankee Candle. I also, recently purchased some great fall soy, wax beads from Pink Zebra! If you haven’t heard of them, all of their scents are amazing! I personally love, Toasted Marshmallow, Pumpkin Bread, and Farm House Cider.
  2. Pumpkins! Whether real or fake, you need a good combination of both! I use both inside and outside of my home. They accent the fall colors and the entire “Pumpkin Everything” season. I love being able to grow and raise my own pumpkins! If I could, I would have an entire garden dedicated to pumpkins!

3. Twinkle Lights! For my buffet table in my dinning room, I have a fall garland that I delicately wrapped and intertwined battery operated twinkle lights. The lights add a sense of coziness and warmth, especially on those cool, crisp fall evenings!

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4. Vintage Items! Nothing screams fall like something vintage! I love finding thrift store, cheap, vintage items. They are unique and personal and some, one of a kind. Even something that looks “old” will work! Hobby Lobby or your local thrift store is sure to have something funky and vintage for your fall decor needs! I have a vintage cream can from my mom-in-law that I love using to put my dried sweet corn stalks in! Perfect fall look!

5. Natural Items! Natural items like drying corn stalks, Indian corn, mini pumpkins, gourds, straw bales (yes, there is a difference between hay and straw) and squash are perfect additions to fall decor, inside and out! Plus, it adds warmth.

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6. Baskets! I love decorating with metal, wire, wicker, or wood crates or baskets! You can add in some decorative pumpkins or fall fillers and add a burlap bow and you are set! It’s a perfect way to make it cozy and seasonal at the same time.

7. Autumn Flowers! I love the look and feel of autumn flowers. Plus, it’s the last call to have some fresh flowers to decorate your home with before the winter! I got multi-colored Mums to decorate inside and out with! They are the traditional fall colors and super warm, cozy and add that added POP of color!

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8. Handmade Items! Last year, I had my dad make me a wood sign from a wood palette. I saw something similar on Etsy for almost $100! I knew I could make my own for a lot cheaper! For under $10 (with some painting supplies), I made my own! I hand stenciled my own lettering and mixed paint colors to get the perfect fall color palette! After I sandpappered it to make it look rough, tough, and tattered. It’s perfect for our front porch!

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9. Seasonal Soaps! I take my fall decor seriously to the point of even having seasonal scented soaps in our bathrooms! I love the Bath and Body works foaming fall soaps! They are anti-bacterial and are the perfect scents for our master bathroom and guest bathroom! Guests also love the fall smells!

10. Wreaths! The last and final great fall decor is a handmade, burlap wreath! Burlap wreaths are easy and fun to make! You can add small signs and other fall decor! It looks great on your front door to welcome guests for that fall dinner party!

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There! You have my fall decor ideas and tips for a great autumn home, inside and out! Happy Fall, Ya’ll!

XoXo

Family, Fun, Roadtirp, Summer, Summer Roadtrip, Tips, Travel, Vacation

Top 6 Midwest Summer RoadTrips

As summer is slowly winding down, it’s crunch time to get that summer road trip in! Summer goes by so fast, granted, for us in North Dakota, we only get 3-4 months of summer, it least it feels that way! Fortunately, the hubby and I were able to escape the demands of the farm and ranch to get away a couple of times this summer. Once, to the Southwestern part of North Dakota, to Medora and our second road trip will be next week to my brother-in-law’s Minnesota lake cabin.

On the way to the lake, we plan to go through Wahpeton, where I went to college for a pit stop and then North Dakota’s biggest city, Fargo on the way home. We will only be gone three days, but it will be a nice mini-vacation.

Growing up, my dad wasn’t a rancher, so it was a little easier for him to take time off and the three of us would go on roadtrips to Medora, Big Sky, Yellowstone, and The Grand Tetons. It was a fun experience that I’ll never forget. For as young as I am, I am a well seasoned traveler, thanks to mom and dad. Now as an adult, I have that same travel itch they passed down to me.

Today, I am going to share with you some of my favorite roadtrips for Midwest Summer Vacations!

1. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone

Yellowstone has always been a family favorite of ours! From Old Faithful and the Old Faithful Lodge to spending long, lazy afternoon hours at Yellowstone Lake Lodge to the Upper and Lower Falls, Yellowstone has a variety of beauty for everyone.

Welcome to Yellowstone

Things to Do: Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Hiking in the Canyon, White Water Rafting, Horseback Riding, Colorful Hot Springs, Wildlife, Helicopter Tours

Where to Stay: Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone Lake Lodge & Cabins

Yellowstone

2. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Teton

The Grand Tetons is another family favorite and it does not disappoint! These are some of the most beatiful mountains in the U.S. Towering to almost 14,000 feet, I can almost guarantee that you’ll be impressed enough to come back! Jackson Hole not only provides sweeping views, but it’s also a great skiing lodge and shopping extravaganza!

Jackson Lake

Things to Do: Teton Village and Ski Tram, Horseback Riding, Shopping in Jackson Hole, Jenny Lake, Jackson Lake, Hiking, Wildlife, Rafting, Town Square, Sled Rides, Skiing Paradise in winter, Grand Teton National Park,

Where to Stay: Jackson Hole Lake Lodge

Teton Village

3. Black Hills, South Dakota

Black Hills

The Black Hills of South Dakota will always hold a special place in my heart. I came here many times growing up with  my grandparents and it’s where Taylor and I honeymooned after our wedding. It’s only 6-7 hours away from our ranch, but it seems much farther because it is stunning and a relaxing escape.

Mount Rushmore

What to Do: Mount Rushmore, Shopping, Custer State Park, Hot Springs, Crazy Horse, Pigtail Road, Sylvan Lake, Keystone, Rapid City Waterpark, Rapid City, Hill City, Salt Water Taffy, Caves, Custer, Hiking, Helicopter Tours, Wildlife, Black Hills National Forest

Where to Stay: Rushmore Express, Sylvan Lake Lodge

Sylvan Lake

4. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minne

Minneapolis is for your inner, big city lover! I don’t get here very often at all, but when I do it is always fun! What girl doesn’t love to spend hours and hours at the Mall of America?! The Minnesota Zoo is always a wonderful way to spend the day. And, Valley Fair!! The best part, the funky,

What to Do: Valley Fair, Mall of America,

Where to Stay: The Foshay, Hilton Garden Inn, Marriot

5. Craters of the Moon, Idaho

Craters of the Moon

Have you ever wanted to visit the moon?! Well, Craters of the Moon will take you there! It’s not far from Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons, and so worth the drive! It is amazing! It literally seems like you are in the middle of the moon (not that I know, since I’ve never been there 🙂 ). The amazing frozen in time lava formations will have you in awe. It is unbelievable until you experience it for yourself!

What to Do:  Hiking, not far from other National Parks, Twin Falls

Where to Stay: Wood River Inn

6. Medora, North Dakota

Medora

Year after year, summer after summer, this is probably every North Dakota familys’ summer vacation. It’s fun and a 4 hour drive for us.

Medora Musical

Medor

What to Do: Horseback Riding, Taffy, National Park, Hiking, Biking, Shops, Mini-Golf, Historical, Medora Musical, Pitchfork Fondue

Where to Stay: AmericInn, Rough Riders 

Burning Hills Amphitheatre

Gift Ideas, Gifting, Gifts, Honeymoon, Married, Tips and Tricks, Wedding

Non-Traditional Wedding Gift Ideas

We are once again quickly approaching wedding season for 2015. I am not sure how many weddings we will be invited to this year, but it seems in the last two years, every one that we know has gotten married! I am not at all complaining, but my wallet was.

Taylor and I got married almost two years ago and since then, I have definitely learned a few tips and tricks to wedding gifting. We registered a few places. I had lived on my own a few years before we got married, so I had a lot of “stuff” or basics anyway. A lot of the stuff we registered for was cool kitchen gadgets or stuff that I didn’t have yet, but needed for a full sized, non-apartment kitchen.

Now, that I am married, I feel that I am better shopper for wedding gifts. I know the wedding gifts we use the most and the ones we hardly use at all. I love practical gifts. With that being said, here are some tips for this years wedding season or if you are completely stumped on what to get the couple who “has everything”!

1. Look First. My first and biggest tip is, to look on the couple’s registry!! They created a registry for a reason! If you feel that things are too over-priced or you procrastinated too long and all that is left is a $400 vacuum cleaner or $200 sheets, or a set of spatulas, then it is time to get creative! Whether you know the couple very well or you don’t also can make the difference of how creative you can get, so here are some ideas!

2. First Married Date Night! A great and practical gift is a gift card to your local movie theater or the couple’s favorite restaurant (maybe where they had their first date!). Say something in the card like “let your first married date night be on us!” This is a great gift if you don’t know the couple that well and don’t know what else they really need.

3. Grocery Gift Card. This is another great and practical gift idea that anyone will use. When we first got married, I wasn’t working yet and thankfully several people had given us Wal-Mart gift cards so that helped out with groceries and stalking our pantry and kitchen. Or you can also get them a gif card for the sites where they are registered, so they can use it towards that $400 vacuum cleaner.

Get a gift card at your local grocery store, this way it is more specific than Wal-Mart and you know they will use it on groceries only! You can pretty much do gift cards for anywhere or anything. If you know the couple needs or is looking for new furniture, you could also help out in that area, it all just depends on how much you want to spend.

4. Pre-Paid Honeymoon Credit Card. Someone gave us a pre-paid credit card that we could use anywhere, Wal-Mart, date nights, or even on our honeymoon! It was a great idea, especially for the couple that do take a honeymoon right away! We used ours on a meal or two on our honeymoon!

5. Collage.  There were two different people that gave us two different, but similar gifts. One was a vintage-y plaque with our last name and wedding date, you can find similar things on Etsy.com! It still hangs in our main, front entry! The other thing is to save the couples invitation and get it framed for them! Someone did this for us and it hangs in our bedroom with some of our wedding photos! You could save the invitation and or programs as well, or other momentous and have them framed for the couple after the wedding. Yes, that would mean the gift would be a tad late, but I am sure the couple would understand once they saw their keepsake gift! Plus, it is something that not a lot of people think of doing!

6. Tupperware. I just had a Tupperware party last summer and even though I had some great containers from Wal-Mart or from wedding gifts, Tupperware is quality that is forever lasting. Seriously, everyone needs and always uses Tupperware! Tupperware has tons of new products not only for food storage, but for organizing those horrible junk or food cabinets! Not only is it a good investment for the couple, but it is quality and will last for many years!

Airport, Bahamas, Flying, International, Island, Tips, Travel

Review of The Bahamas Part II

We just got back from our eight night stay in Nassau, Bahamas. It was a late honeymoon/vacation for us. You read Part I of my review, and today is the final part of the review. See the link to Part I below.

https://thelifeofthefitfarmerswife.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/review-of-the-bahamas-part-i/

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1. Don’t Panic. We did have a couple of bad experiences when getting to the Bahamas. We missed our connecting flight at Atlanta, (which is the hugest, biggest, gigantic-est airport, ever) because of some guy overdosed on pills and was throwing up and having a seizure in the back of the plane, which delayed us by two hours. When we got to Atlanta, we sprinted, and I mean sprinted across Terminal B to Terminal E. I ran so hard, my arthritic knees were killing me for the first few days of our trip, and I am a summer runner! It was tough, but we missed the plane by five whole minutes. I cried. We didn’t know if we would even make it out on the last flight from Atlanta to Nassau later that afternoon. And the next flight didn’t leave until noon the next day. Turns out, we just barely made the 5:00 PM flight into Nassau with exit row seating. It was a fully booked flight. Then, once we arrived, we were getting our bags from baggage claim, we had one bag left, the bag with our shoes, my make-up, soaps, hair brush, etc… And it never came. It never left Atlanta with us. It was hard to stay calm, especially with everything that happened and since my husband doesn’t like to travel (mainly fly), I figured he’d never want to go on vacation again. But you have to stay calm and try to enjoy your vacation as much as possible. Finally, after a day and a half without a shower or beach shoes, after two concierges flat out lied to us about checking into our bag, we took matters into our own hands and went to the airport. Turns out, the bag was delivered while we were at the airport! My hubby was so wonderful, he did everything he could to help make me less crabby and tried to get our bag back ASAP. In the end, we learned patience and to stay calm. And how much we appreciate a good shower and make-up!

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2. Splurge on a Big Meal. I know, I know. This whole time I have been preaching about saving and value of eating. At least once during your vacation eat at the expensive restaurant. Splurge for one night. One night, we ate at our restaurant in our hotel, The British Colonial Hilton’s Aqua. I ordered rack of lamb with a guava reduction sauce and Taylor had mahi-mahi and we both had a glass of wine. For two of us it was over $100, but it was worth it. Most expensive date night ever, but worth it! It is vacation after all!

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3. Dolphin Encounters. We were beyond blessed to go swimming with dolphins during our trip! It was amazing! I had never done this before, even though I have been to Hawaii many times. Let me tell you, it was worth every penny! Dolphins are so amazing and smart! The trainers never make the dolphins do anything they don’t want to do, so sometimes, the dolphin would just leave and come back in a few minutes when she was ready to work again. And then there were the baby dolphins!! There were three babies about one and two months old. They were so precious and little divas showing off all the time! We got to kiss, hug, dance, and get pushed by the dolphins. By the way, Ladies, dolphins love toenail polish!

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4. Do As The Locals Do! You are in the Bahamas! Try a Pina Colada or a Bahama Mamma! If you don’t drink, there are plenty of virgin drinks too! Try the local fish and eat LOTS of it! This is probably the freshest fish you will ever have, and it is wonderful! We didn’t have time, but I would have loved to attended a church service there! The picture above is a church from the late 1600’s!

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5. Don’t Rent A Car. You have been warned! Bahamians drive crazy! Everything is European there! They drive on the opposite side of the road and have round-a-bouts, and drive like mad men! We learned quick that no one stops for pedestrians, the pedestrian must step out on crosswalks in order to cross the street. It’s scary and dangerous, but it is the only way. It feels like cab drivers want to kill you. We have some really great ones too, but our first night going to our hotel was pretty scary. It normally takes 25-30 minutes to get from the airport to downtown (where our hotel was), but it took about 15 minutes. At one point, Taylor and I looked at each other and just thought, “this is it”. We made it though! Just be prepared for crazy drivers.

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6. R&R! Finally you are on vacation! Relax and enjoy as much as possible. We basically did everything we could with the time we had. It was a great time, but it goes so fast. See everything, do everything that you can while you are there! You’ll have lots of stories to tell when you get home!