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About the Farmers

December 25, 2013

About the Farmers.

Photo Journal of our trip to Italy

January 8, 2010

My husband, Jim, is an awesome photographer, and while we have been snowed in he has been categorizing photos, organizing slide shows, and making movies of still photos.  I think he did such a good job on our Italy trip, that I wanted to share them with you on my blog.  Jim took most of the photos–I may have taken one or two, and the ones that we are in, were taken by our friends, Tom and Susie, who went with us.

We took this trip in October, 2008–over a year ago, and my memory is not good enough to write good narratives about the trip.  I do have information about our transportation, hotels where we stayed, and would be happy to respond to comments and or/questions from anyone who is planning a trip to Italy.

We used just about every mode of transportation in existence during this trip–planes, boats, trains, car and driver, busses, vaporettos, water taxis, and even a funicular.  It was an amazing experience, and we enjoyed the sights of every place that we visited.  Our particular favorites were in the rural areas–we loved Tuscany–the vistas, the food, the wine.

If you have been to Italy, please comment about your favorite spots.  If you are planning to go, let me know if you have questions.

The movie is 12 minutes–sit back, have a glass of Italian wine, and enjoy!

The Best Butcher Shop in Kansas

December 29, 2009

 

I  found the Best Butcher Shop in Kansas by accident.  We were spending the weekend at the farm, and I was going to Atchison, Kansas–just a short drive away to visit the famous home furnishing store, Nell Hill’s, owned by Mary Carol Garrity.  You may have seen her on the Today Show.  This is a fabulous store in a quaint little building in downtown Atchison–well worth a visit.  I love going to Nell Hills–you can find furniture, art, great home accessories, table settings, and things that you cannot find anywhere else. 

Nell Hill's, Atchison, Kansas

As I was walking out the door, the husband asked me to pick up some trash bags while I was out.  I thought to myself–I do not know where to get trash bags in Atchison–in my earlier visits, I did not remember seeing a grocery store.  But, off to shop I went. 

Atchison is a quaint town on the Missouri River–it is the birthplace of Amelia Earhart, and there is a museum in the home that she lived in  while in Atchison.  There is also Amelia Earhart memorabilia in the Visitor Center in downtown Atchison.  It is a fun place to visit, and there are many restaurants and cafes for lunch.  After spending a pleasant couple of hours in Nell Hills, and purchasing some “treasures”, I asked my Garmin to find me a grocery store–which it did–Van Dyke’s Grocery–just a couple of blocks away. 

 

Van Dykes Grocery is located in a residential neighborhood on a brick street.  There is no parking lot–you simply park at the curb in front of the store.  It has been in Atchison for over 100 years, and is now owned by Kyle and Kevin Van Dyke.  When I went into the store, it reminded me of an old-fashioned neighborhood grocery.  I easily found my package of trash bags, and was headed to the check-out, when I heard conversations coming from the back of the store–better check that out.  I followed the voices, and found several customers milling around a butcher counter, filled with wonderful looking fresh meat of all kinds! 

What a find!  This was not supermarket meat!  It is all fresh and cut on the premises.  Roasts, and steaks, and pork chops, and even scallops–big, plump ones!  What a wonderful selection!  (Note:  the scallops are frozen–after all, this is Kansas)  And if you do not see exactly what you are looking for in the case, they will cut it to order.  Their filets are exquisite, but our personal favorite is their T-bone, cut at a 1 1/2 inch thickness–Yummy! And the filet side has a good-sized filet.  Their pork chops are very good.  Honestly, we have never had their ground beef–why buy hamburger when they have so many prime cuts to choose from!  They have done Tenderloins for us in the past, which are the best we have ever eaten, and this year we ordered a 12 pound prime rib for Christmas. 

Christmas Prime Rib from Van Dyke's Market

 The prime rib was absolutely delicious, and the best part was–we had lots of leftovers for sandwiches! 

If you are in the St. Joseph, Missouri or Atchison, Kansas area, take a detour to the Best Butcher Shop in Kansas.  You won’t be disappointed.

Just Say No! to Moreton Island, Australia

December 22, 2009

Oh, heck!  Just say no to Brisbane, Australia, as well (but that’s another story).  Brisbane and particularly Moreton Island were the low light of our Great South Pacific Adventure!

We had booked a day trip to Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island, and we were pretty excited about going.  Moreton Island is the largest sand island in Australia, and the tour information stated that there were 75 activities available at the resort ranging from golf to snorkelling to boating, and lots of bars and restaurants.  I was looking forward to a great day at the beach, a great resort lunch of Moreton Bay Bugs, and working on my tan.  Oh, my!

It was a bit of an adventure just getting to Moreton Island.  A bus picked us up at the hotel, and took us to the transportation terminal, which was actually a pretty efficient way of getting tourists from their various hotels to a central location where busses were waiting to take people to specific locations.  It seemed like the greatest number of people were going to the Steve Irwin zoo–which we should have taken as a sign.

We boarded our bus which took us to the Tangalooma wharf, where we boarded a ferry to the island.  The ferry was very crowded, with the passengers composed of some tourists like us, but the greatest majority was families with young children.  After a ride of slightly more than an hour, we disembarked on a long pier, and began our walk to the resort.  At the pier, staff was friendly and welcomed us to the island. 

Moreton Island Beach

I must admit, the beach was lovely–blue water and lovely white sand–wide, wide sand.  A landscaped, turfed park area separated the beach from the buildings comprising the resort, and there were wide paved sidewalks throughout the resort.  The weather was a little chilly–to cold for me to venture into the water, but it was a lovely day to sit on the beach, relax, and watch the waves.  Except, there were no beach chairs!   Not even a chair for rent! 

So we thought we would sit by the pool–soak up some rays, and they must have chairs there!  There are two pools at the resort–we checked out the first one–small, very crowded, lots of activity in the water–mostly toddlers in diapers.  Not very appealing–so we moved on to pool #2, which was a repeat performance of pool #1.  We decided it was not going to be a pool day.

What next?  Well, there is a golf course!  Let’s play golf!  It took us a while to find the golf course, which really was not a golf course at all–just a net where one could hit balls!  What a disappointment!

Golf Course Moreton Island, Australia

 

 All this fun we were having made us hungry.  We set out in search of lunch.  We found a buffet restaurant, a snack bar, and a restaurant that looked promising, so we went in, or tried to go in–found out that it is only open for dinner–so back to the buffet.  Food was plentiful at the buffet–unfortunately, it all reminded me of a school cafeteria. 

It was a long, long day at Moreton Island.  Sometimes, I have thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a day just to do nothing?”  After spending the day at Moreton with nothing to do, my answer to that question is a resounding, “NO!” 

The highlight of our day was when we saw the ferry returning to Moreton Island.  We immediately walked to the pier to wait for it, and were the first to board.  We wanted to make sure that we didn’t have to stay one moment longer than we had to.

Tips for Travelers to Tangalooma Resort, Moreton Island

  • Don’t Go!

Have you ever experienced a dreadful day in an otherwise wonderful trip?  What was it?  Leave me a comment and share your experience!

Playing Golf in New Zealand

December 21, 2009

We selected Millbrook Resort as our destination in the Queenstown, New Zealand area because it had a golf course! And what a great choice it was!  The accommodations were super–living room, bedroom, fireplace, and a patio with a private garden and great view of the mountains, and our own pet duck.  We were on the tee box of hole number 8.    We had been told that the golf course was very popular, so made our tee time at the pro shop right after we checked in.  Because it was a little overcast and chilly when we arrived, we made the tee time for noon, to give Mother Nature time to warm up the day.  The staff at the pro shop was very friendly and accommodating, and agreed to let us play as a two-some.  Most golfers elect to walk the course, but we reserved a golf cart, to provide some shelter in case we encountered rain during our round.    The course was designed by Sir Bob Charles, a British Open winner, and New Zealand golfing legend.  We played the amended course layout, which included 14 of the original holes, with the remainder on the two new nines that are under construction.When we checked in for our round, the staff at the pro shop asked which tees we would be playing from.  There are four sets of tees.  My choice was easy–the forward!  Jim chose the white tees, Par 71, Rating 69.4, Slope 123.  The reason that we had to declare our tees is that the score cards are tee specific–something I had never seen before! We each had an individual score card, And a funny-looking score card it was!  Take a look!    

Scorecard

 

Front of Scorecard

 

  Another funny thing that we noticed about the scorecards, is that was no clip on the steering wheel of the cart to hold them.  So we stuck them in a compartment, and had to pull them out after every hole to write our scores.  After loading our rental clubs on our cart, we made our way to the driving range, which was quite a distance from the pro shop.  We kept going and going, and were very glad we had chosen to rent a cart because it would have probably taken us twenty minutes to walk to the range.  After our warm-up, and acquainting ourselves with our rental clubs (Taylor Made, nice set, but way too stiff for me), we made our way to the first tee, where the group ahead of us were preparing to tee off.   The group ahead of us was (gasp!) a fivesome, and they were walking.  Jim and I looked at each other, and realized that we were in for a very lengthy round.  But, one of the fivesome members noticed us, and asked, “Is it just two of you?”  We said yes, and he invited us to go ahead!  Yay!  Golf is a polite game!  

We were off!  When we got to the green, we had another surprise.  Jim was the first in the hole, and instead of the nice “clunk” sound that I am used to when the ball hits the bottom of the cup, we heard a “ping!”  The cup was made of tin!    

The course was enjoyable, but the scenery was so distracting, that it was hard to focus on golf sometimes.  The beauty of this course reminded me once again, why a golf course is my favorite place to be!  A memorable feature of this golf course is that from some roughs, herds of sheep grazed in the background.

 

Millbrook is a special resort and golf course.  We heartily recommend it!

What’s on Your Bucket List?

November 28, 2009

A Guest Post From Nicholas  Z. Cardot

Life is so short. I mean think about it. If we’re lucky we can live as long as 70, 80 or even 90 years. Compared to those numbers, I’m fairly young. I’m only 25. But compared to the thousands of years of recorded human history, our life spans are almost nothing. They’re short.

But here’s the deal. I’m not writing that to discourage you. I’m writing this to encourage you. Way too many people are simply wasting their time away accomplishing nothing. Life is too short to spend it all on the couch. Let’s get out and accomplish something in our few short years on this planet.

Let’s build up a list of things that we want to get done before we kick the bucket. Here’s the best part. Your goals can be personal accomplishments, charitable donations, community service or anything else that your passionate about.

I’m only 25 years old, but I’m racing to accomplish as many things as I possibly can before my time is up. I’ve had a specific list of goals since I was in high school and I’m proud to say that I’m working hard to get them all accomplished.

Here’s my bucket list:

  • Graduate college with a Bachelor’s Degree (Accomplished)
  • Receive an honorable discharge from the military. My father had a dishonorable discharge and my goal is to make my family’s name meaningful again. I’ve now served for 2 1/2 years and have a 1 1/2 left.
  • Have two kids. I have one so far so I’m half way there.
  • Be married for 50 years to the same woman. This coming May, my wife and I will be 10% of the way there.
  • Graduate college with a Masters or better. I plan on using my G.I. Bill to return to college when I get out of the army.
  • Be the pastor of a church. I have a passion to help people and I know of no better way than through the ministries of a church that reaches out to people.
  • Get Site Sketch 101 (my blog) to be one of the top 10,000 sites in the world according to Alexa.com.
  • To actually own my dream house and stop dreaming about it. I’d love to have a nice farm house back home in northern Illinois with wood floors, a finished basement, about 5 or 10 acres of land.
  • See my daughter and any future children get married. I would love to live long enough to walk my little girl down the aisle.

There’s more goals but these are the big ones. Some of them are things that I hope to accomplish in the near future and some of them are a very long way off.

So how about you? What are your goals and dreams that you hope to accomplish during your lifetime?

Nick uses his blog Site Sketch 101 to express his passion for helping people learn how to blog with awesome content, brilliant designs and commanding influence.

Working to Make my Blog Better

November 28, 2009

Probably, the kindest thing that someone would say about my blog is, “It has potential.”  I know I have a lot to learn.  Fortunately, there are tremendous resources available on the web to help fledgling bloggers hone their craft.

Some bloggers are so helpful that I follow them regularly on Twitter, and subscribe to their blogs. 

Darren Rowse aka Problogger has written an e-book entitled 31 days to a Better Blog, and slowly I am working through his chapters and homework assignments.  Problogger writes at www.problogger.net

I also read Marco Saric, a Londoner who produces www.HowToMakeMyBlog.com  He has some great ideas without being too technical for me. 

Recently, I came across a link for a blog post entitled “Ow! Ow! It’s so boring it hurts my head!”  What a catchy title–I had to give it a click.  The first paragraph read, “Hey.  I was just reading your blog and I got so bored that it actually hurt my head.”

That reeled me in.  I had to read the whole post to see if he mentioned me by name.   And that is how I met (figuratively) Nicholas Cardot.  It was a great post, so I subscribed to his blog www.sitesketch101.com by email.  Soon I received his next post entitled The Great Guest Post Ultra-Marathon, in which he offered to write a guest post for anyone on a topic that they select.  This sounded like a super idea to me, so I shot him a quick email saying, “Count me in!”, and he did.

Since my most recent posts have been about our Great South Pacific Adventure– which is on our Bucket List, I asked Nick to write about his Bucket List.   And he did.  It is quite a different perspective–Gen Next vs. Baby Boomer.  It follows this post.  I hope you enjoy it.  Nick, thanks for being my very first Guest Poster.

Sailing on Synergy II to the Great Barrier Reef

November 27, 2009

We selected Synergy as the company to take us to the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas.  We chose them because Synergy II is a sailboat, and because they book only 12 guests on each cruise.  Synergy is not the least expensive of the tours–their brochure rate is $260/person, but our reasoning is that we may never visit the Great Barrier Reef again, and we wanted our memories to be the best possible.

We sailed from Marina Mirage at 8:30 AM, after meeting our crew,  Captain Stephan and Serena, introducing ourselves to our fellow passengers, and enjoying morning tea, coffee, and pastries on board.

The passengers consisted of a group of 3 couples from Perth, Australia, a couple from Port Douglas, and their house guests from Cognac, France who also have a home in Sydney, Australia, and Jim and me from Kansas.  The group became well acquainted during our sail to the reef and was a very congenial and fun bunch to sail with.

I was glad that our fellow sailors were Australians.  It gave us an opportunity to talk to them about their country, and get their ideas of things that we should see and do while we were there.  One of the ladies from Perth, named Nadilla, is a pastry chef, and she was a wealth of information about Australian food.  Having met a fellow “foodie”, I realized that this is the person who could teach me about Vegemite.  I knew about Vegemite, and I had been eyeing it in the restaurants, but I had not got up the nerve to try it yet!  Nadilla answered all my questions–yes, Australians really like their Vegemite;  yes, they believe that it has a health benefit.  And, according to Nadilla the best way to eat it is on buttered toast, with just a small smear of Vegemite!

The ship captain selects the snorkeling site on the Great Barrier Reef each day based on weather conditions, tides, and the snorkeling skill level of the passengers.  We went to Tongue Reef, which was about a 2-hour power sail from Port Douglas.  There was absolutely no wind that day, so sailing was not possible.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the boat ride itself was pleasant.

As we motored out (on Autopilot), Captain Steph and Serena outfitted us with our gear, and gave us a brief refresher in snorkeling.  Five minutes after we arrived at our site and anchored, we were in the water!!

I can’t begin to describe everything that we saw underwater:  lovely colored corals, giant clams, hundreds of brightly colored fish.  No matter which direction you turned, you saw something else remarkable.  None of us had an underwater camera, so no photos were taken undersea.

I think that one of the top experiences of the trip for all the passengers was meeting, playing with, and petting “Ruby”, a 3-foot long Napoleon fish that is Synergy’s pet fish at Tongue Reef.  Ruby is just a juvenile, and will reach a size of 10 feet when fully mature.  One remarkable feature about Napoleon fish, is that during the first 10 years of their life, they may select their gender.  Ruby is a people lover–she would swim up to you, and let you pet her!

Ruby the Napoleon Fish

After our snorkel, we had a lovely lunch grilled on board that included breads, salads, chicken, shrimp, and my new favorite fish, Spanish Mackerel–YUM!  Then dessert…

After lunch, Steph took those in the group who wanted to snorkel some more out for a special guided snorkel.  Those that went with him commented that they really enjoyed seeing the things he pointed out. Those of us who had wine with lunch, stayed on the boat and socialized.  Either way, it was a great time.

Crew Member Serena

Enjoying the Ride

Sunset at Port Douglas, Australia

It was time to leave our mooring and head back to the Marina.  Steph put the jib (sail) up to provide shade to those on the front of the boat, but we still had no wind, and had to motor back.  Much as I love sailing, I could not complain–the ocean was beautiful, the sun felt lovely, and the company was good.  What a perfect day at the Great Barrier Reef.

Tips for Travelers to Port Douglas

  • Sea Temple is the major resort that is top drawer, and it has a golf course, but it is a long way from town (not walkable).  Choose it only if you have a car, or if being close to the action is not important to you.
  • Be careful about the outfitter you choose to take you to the Great Barrier Reef.  Find out how many people will travel on the boat with you, where they go, if they actually go to the reef or just to a pontoon station, and if they are a “snorkel only” trip or also take divers.  The snorkel/dive trips put the divers in the water before the snorkelers can leave the boat.  Don’t select your reef trip based on price alone–the old saying, “You get what you pay for”  is so true in this case!
  • The “Walk-Up” bottle shop on the main street has the best prices on wine.
  • Check out the menu at the Peninsula Boutique Hotel.  Their Thursday “Seafood Night” was spectacular.  Owner Sharyn is a wonderful hostess.
  • Have dinner at the “Tin Shed” (also known as the Combined Club).  It is on the water, is a great place to watch the sunset, and has live entertainment on Friday nights.  Try the Seafood Extravaganza for two, a bargain at $68.50, which includes a bottle of wine.

     

    Seafood Extravaganza at the Tin Shed

  • Wear sunscreen at all times during daylight hours.

Planning 2009 Thanksgiving Dinner

November 21, 2009

 

I love cooking and hosting Thanksgiving Dinner–always have.  It is my favorite holiday–good food, good wine, good company, and you don’t have to buy or wrap a gift!  My two biggest challenges with the Thanksgiving meal are selecting the menu, and getting everything to come out at the same time, with the hot foods being hot, and the cold foods being cold.

I keep a Thanksgiving file, and throughout the year, I will throw recipes that I have cut out of magazines or newspapers  in the file as candidates for the big day.  A few days before, I will go through the file, pull out some cookbooks, and select the recipes that I will serve, and make the shopping list.

Many cooks will not serve a recipe to guests that they have never tried before.  Not me!  Jim and I were in a Cuisine Club for a few years, that assigned a dish to each club member for each Cuisine Club Dinner, and we never previewed the  recipe, and we never got burned.  I think the key is to thoroughly review the recipe, asking,  “Do the proportions seem reasonable?  Do the ingredients seem compatible?  Are the seasonings something that will enhance the flavor of the ingredients?  Do the cooking times seem appropriate?”  One can avoid a lot of kitchen mishaps by thinking through the recipe, instead of being romanced by the picture of the finished dish!

My menu is usually minimalist–if the group is large, I will add a second meat, salad, and vegetable, or if someone if coming that “must” have something (like Waldorf salad, Yankee Stuffing, or sweet potatoes) I will add that also.  But, my preference is to cook from scratch using  quality, fresh ingredients, and keep the number of items to a special few.  We are having Thanksgiving at the Farm this year, with a small group.

The Farm

Here is this year’s menu:

Thanksgiving Dinner at the Farm

Olive Tray with Stuffed Celery

Fresh Citrus and Cranberry Salad on Baby Greens

Bobby Flay’s Roast Turkey with Herbs

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Southern Style Herbed Cornbread Dressing & Turkey Gravy

Mashed Potatoes

Creamy Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Parker House Rolls

Apple Fruit Crisp with vanilla ice cream and warm caramel sauce

So, what do you think about the menu?  What are you having?  Are there any special traditions that you have for Thanksgiving?  Would you like a recipe?  Leave me a comment let me hear from you.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your friends and family!

Jim and Peach’s Great South Pacific Adventure

November 13, 2009

 

DSC_0467 peach blogI am new to this blogging thing, and I am learning as I go.  If I had more experience, or if I had thought this out better, I would have introduced the idea of our Great South Pacific Adventure before I started uploading posts about the trip.  I did a post about our Bucket List–that we have made a plan, and written it down  to visit certain places and see certain things (including Australia and Fiji–New Zealand was included because it is convenient and worthwhile on its own), but I really have not set the stage for the posts that will appear in the future.

I have written a journal for a long time–on an intermittent basis.  There have been periods of time where I have been faithful to the journal, and times that other things have taken priority (like an early morning tee time, or raking leaves, or Christmas shopping) and I haven’t opened the journal for months.  Since my morning routine includes a little computer time anyway to check email and Facebook and Twitter, it seemed natural to me to give up the paper journal, and blog a little each morning. 

I am writing about the trip because it is a good way to share pictures and stories with friends and family, who are interested in knowing about where we went and what we saw, but not so much that they want to sift through piles of printed photographs, or (horrors!) be invited to watch a dvd of all the pictures that we took.  Also, by writing about the places we visited, it disciplines me to sort and label the photos we took, so we won’t forget what we saw where.

I have always said that half the fun of a trip is planning the trip, so hopefully our stories and experiences will help others who are thinking about their own Great South Pacific Adventure, plan a trip that will work for them.  That is why I am including “Tips for Travelers”, so others can know what I wish I had known before we left the states.  And, I hope that people who read these blogs who have been places we have been or thinking about going to those places will leave comments and questions.  Because it is really fun to talk to others who have been to the same place, but seen different things or had different experiences. 

I would also like to hear from other bloggers about your blogging experience.  What works for you, and what doesn’t?  Why does a picture sometimes load upside down, and then you edit it and straighten it up, update your changes, and then it posts upside down?  Does this frustrate you as much as it does me? 

Thanks for reading my posts.  Please keep coming back, think about subscribing, and most importantly let me hear from you by posting comments.