My First Open House in My New Home

Heidi & Chuck Berry

This weekend I hosted an open house to let friends in St. Louis know I was mostly unpacked, organized and I’m totally excited about having friends over. I spent time Friday evening doing some grocery shopping and prepping some dishes and Saturday morning I got the rest of my prep and cooking done. As I did a lot of the getting ready for folks to come over, I had lots of time to think about how lucky I am. Here are a few of the food-related reasons for my gratitude:

  • There was the fact that I was feeling a bit distracted with several things going on all week so I hadn’t spent as much time planning a “menu” as I should have. I only had a couple of ideas on what I wanted to do. Rather than stress about it, I sent a quick message to family and friends for ideas and reminders on which of the cookbooks I should pull out. I got responses quickly that were not only helpful, but also motivating!
  • As I did my grocery shopping, I was reminded of the years spent working in one. And with the new store, I of course don’t know where some specific items are. I found multiple people really helpful. Really. The produce guy who helped me find garlic, a guy giving out tastings of a local wine, the guy who helped me find pimentos, the guy who helped me find tahini… I should have gone back for a few more tastings but instead I bought a bit of wine! LOL!
  • Fixing some of the recipes, I got to think about where they came from…. I made some cookies that our family has fixed FOREVER! Chocolate oatmeal cookies that brought memories of childhood, of grandparents and great aunts and lots of good times. New recipes were fun too — wondering whether they would taste as good as they sounded.
  • I gave thanks for some of the containers I was serving in — especially the pottery pieces I had made that were so similar to the ones my grandmom made decades ago.

Thanks for My Ag Friends with Diverse Jobs

As time came and friends began arriving, I was reminded of the different food-related jobs. There were lots of faces of people who work in agriculture… people who work in jobs I had no clue existed when I started working in the ag industry. I have learned a lot by working side-by-side with people who have such varied roles and I give thanks that we have the efforts of these people to help us accomplish such incredible feats as we get seed products to farmers!

The friends who were with me have had jobs writing about food for magazines & newspapers, networking with key industry associations, developing key areas of protein research, planning for seed supply to meet sales needs, working in biofuels, assisting with the purchase of facilities, putting together packages for regulatory scrutiny, and of course, other people who work in agricultural communications. I’ve got great colleagues! Its amazing to me how many people are engaged in agriculture and how many of those jobs are invisible to others. And I give thanks that so many of them came armed with wine to add to the evening’s enjoyment and to the wine cabinet for future visits!

The #FoodThanks that Made me Grab My Camera — Packaging for Freshness

But maybe the most interesting conversation was with my friend Heidi from my New York days who now calls the Chicago area home. (That’s her with the Chuck Berry statue.) She drove down to help me celebrate the new house. And stayed over so we could catch up. On Sunday morning, we chatted as I emptied & refilled the dishwasher. And as we turned to having breakfast, I was reminded that Heidi’s current job is a bit different from the agricultural PR she and I did when we lived in NY. But she gave me a cause for #FoodThanks I hadn’t even considered! People who figure out how to keep food fresh!

I had a new box of cereal and after I poured some in my bowl, I searched the kitchen for a clip to close the bag to keep the cereal fresh. And Heidi began telling me about developments in packaging. My cereal was being returned to the original box, but a little mishapen and I had to figure out a way to keep it fresh. But the granola I have eaten so many other days and the pistachios I had for a snack (one of the RARE TIMES I wasn’t eating almonds of awesomeness) were in bags with self-locking zippers built in. But the night before, I had put some leftover chips in Ziplocs.



Although there are several ways to keep foods fresh, what is most convenient for the consumer AND protects the brand equity of the food processor? It was a good thought to run through as I threw another container in my recycle bin…. sure wish more of the packages I had in my house were the win-win. But for now, I give thanks for the people who have made so many advancements in packaging to keep food fresh. I give thanks for the people who figured out how to recycle so many of the containers I use and the ones who pick up all those recyclables so they can be reused.

There are lots of other folks who help get food to me and make life better for me. I can’t possibly think of them all not can I thank them individually. Who do you guys think I’ve missed in the last week of posts on #FoodThanks? I’ve tried to be inclusive but the perspectives will keep coming!

Related posts:

Family Pauses for #FoodThanks Over Homemade Pizza

Todd winning second place in BBQ

I have another guest post giving #FoodThanks! This one is from Heather, a college friend that I kept in loose touch with til I started spending more time in St. Louis. :) Since then, we’ve had several chances to spend a bit of time together. She and I had some journalism classes together and even worked in the publications office at the same time. Our lives have changed dramatically since! Her kids Abby, Matthew and Peter keep me on my toes and  cause they are smart! And her husband Todd does a great job making sure I always want to go back to their house cause there is always a great piece of meat on the grill! Heather wrote this Wednesday night:

We are all sitting around the family table chowing on homemade pizza discussing how to reply to your challenge.  Pizza night is a tradition where we make homemade whole wheat crust (usually with parmesan and spices) and then decorate our own pizzas.
From the kids:

  • Abby – I’m thankful for the salmon farmers so we can have sushi.  Most people probably wouldn’t think to thank them.
  • Peter – I’m thankful for the green onion farmers.  (Peter currently has 1-1/2 green onions on his self-made pizza and used three of them in the chicken-vegetable stir fry he made last night for the family.)
  • Matthew – I’m thankful for olives – ALL kinds.  His favorite? ALL KINDS!

We also discussed going to Grandma and Grandpa’s in Oklahoma for Thanksgiving, our annual tradition.  The kids are very much looking forward to turkey and Grandma’s famous sausage stuffing.  Matthew’s tip is to put butter, dressing and turkey in the middle of a croissant. I pretty much just eat stuffing and gravy on Thanksgiving.  Mom gave me the recipe long ago but I just can’t bring myself to make it outside of Thanksgiving day.  Oh – and Braum’s pumpkin ice cream – the ONLY ice cream worth eating!!

Tonight we’re missing Dad as he’s out of town for work.  But we always think of him when we think of our favorite meat.  Peter recalls prime rib on the grill – YUM!  Matthew has worked out a system at school where he trades Dad’s BBQ for delicacies such as Twinkies.  Abby’s favorite Dad meal is extra spicy hot wings.  Dad  makes his own sauces and competes with his brother, Scott, as SmokiBros.  It’s always fun to see them in action.

I’m sure Todd made it home and is probably darting around with hockey practice and other things the family has going on…. one of those things is hopefully a stop at my house. I’ve already been working on the foods we can enjoy while they are here!

My other #FoodThanks blog posts this week are: 

Lots of Stuff to do on a Family Dairy Farm

making hay - cutting bales open

batting practice to work on his swing

I have to tell you that my visit to Ray-Lin Dairy recently was shaped a lot by Ray’s son, 11-year-old Bryson (remember him from the Flat Stanley series?). It was the weekend so Bryson wasn’t at school. He was at home so he was having what sounded like a bit of a typical day in the life for him, but wasn’t at all typical for kids I know.

Well, I have to admit… that Bryson was enjoying doing some of the things that is familiar….. he slept in a bit, watched some early morning TV, worked on baseball at batting practice and seemed to delight in messing with his little sister. That all seems SO FAMILIAR! (No, I don’t go to batting practice and I mess with my sister a lot less than when I was 11 but I do have nephews).

moving hay in the feed barn

Bryson was also doing the kind of thing that my nieces and nephews do, that I did as a kid… he was lending a hand. It just that lending a hand on a dairy farm can be pretty different than lending a hand at a small house in the city. When I got there, Bryson was dashing off to a shop to find and haul back a really long hose that needed to be run from the water source into one of the pens or corrals. One of the cows was “down” and time was of the essence. Bryson wasn’t totally sure what he needed to be doing some of the time because they don’t have the problem too often, so he was watching his dad to see how he could help and Ray gave him some tasks to do. That seemed familiar but the urgency created by a cow is depending on you seems to change the situation from when I’d help my dad by handing him a wrench while he worked on something.

After batting practice and lunch, Bryson took a relaxation break as Ray went back to giving me a tour and helping me understand the farm. When we were heading back from the manure ponds, Ray said we needed to go back to the feed barn to see how Bryson was doing. See, along the way with the phone calls, was one where Bryson was telling his dad he wanted to go untie bales of hay for feeding. It was a new chore that he was still learning so Ray wanted to be sure Bryson was remembering all the things to think through as he moved bales, got rid of the ties and dropped them to a place where the feed mixers could get it for mixing.

How did you lend a hand growing up? What sort of chores do kids in your family do?

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An Easy Way to Eat Healthier

fresh fruit delivered to the office

This one will be a quick post, but I have been trying to make sure I encourage healthier choices rather than the easy choices. One of the things for me is snack foods. I love them. And there are so darn many unhealthy options available that its really easy to choose those instead of something better for me. So I’ve been stocking my office with a few things that are better for me and then I found out about Fruit My Cube! The website tells you what’s in the upcoming box & you choose whether you want that and or an add on. Monday, my first delivery arrived as scheduled. For $10, I got this:

What a great option! I get fresh fruits (and the bag of veggie chips) delivered to my office & its here all week for me to snack from. I’ve been enjoying the oranges, bananas and grapes. Taking a bit of it home too. That way, fruit becomes the easiest thing to snack on! This is just my first week, but I’m willing to say its a great success so far as I have not been visiting the vending machine that is so close by when I hit that late afternoon craving for something extra! Oh and speaking of “something extra” I got an add-on of a pound of grapes too!

One of the interesting things I’ve also seen is that several coworkers have been asking about it. Like me, they didn’t realize this was an option before — thankfully I noticed a new teammate’s box & asked questions a little while ago. (Yeah, Tina rocks!)  I’m sharing a bit of the fruit I bought and hopefully more get on board because it makes things so easy!

What tips do you have for making eating healthy really easy? Do you have some healthy snacks that keep well in an office a little longer?

What Almonds Look Like on the Tree & On the Farm

almond shells & hulls

I love almonds. Love them. By themselves by the handful or carefully laid out in chocolate. (Now I feel like I need a snack break before I can blog anymore. But I will power on.)

I’ve had friends who’s families grow pecans (I am SO SOUTHERN) but almonds are not something we grow down south. And even though I had seen almonds before, I hadn’t had the chance to talk about the basics of growing almonds — that’s where Brent Boersma enters! Brent and his family have the Fourth Generation Boersma Farms near Ripon, California where they grow several hundred acres of almonds.

Yes, I will have to do a couple of posts about what I saw and learned, but first, I want to show you how the farm looks and how almonds look on the tree. Here’s a shot of one of the farms with beautiful trees lined up.

The hulls on these almonds are still a bit green. As they dry down, they are ready to harvest.

Closeup of almonds showing the hull pulled back from the shell as it dried. 

I have a bit more to share from my visit with the Boersmas, but you don’t need to wait for those…. feel free to check out some of their recent posts on

The Cotton Belt is Picking Sides — I’m Pulling for the Cardinals!

STL Cardinals on a cotton module

There is something about the World Series. I can’t put my finger on it but it draws me in time and time again. Even if I haven’t watched much baseball during the season, the playoff season tends to grab me even if my team is totally out of it. I admit it. I am a baseball fan. I love agriculture and the two things sort of merged in a post I wrote this spring cause it was clear that spring training was much like farming to me. And as we look at the final few games of major league baseball this year, it seems appropriate that farmers are harvesting their crops across the country.

But across the Cotton Belt, and actually across farms across the U.S., farmers are picking sides. I see it in my Facebook feed and my tweets every game. On the surface, most people would assume cotton farmers divide their allegiance between the teams in the heart of the Cotton Belt. The teams that come to mind are the Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks…. but you may not know how many in the Cotton Belt are also fans of the St. Louis Cardinals. There are a few reasons:

  • A lot of Southerners came through St. Louis when they migrated north seeking jobs. This was especially the case with industrialization.
  • There is a big gap in the “Mid-South” where there are no major league teams. St. Louis is the closest drive for many people in the southern area of the Mississippi River states.
  • Several players have come from the Mid-South.
  • Memphis has the Cardinals’ AAA farm team — The Memphis Redbirds — that has sent several players up.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that farmers in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and other states are pulling for the Cardinals…. and some of them are showing it in unique ways. Check out what my friend Tracey Sullivan saw while driving on Highway 51 near Ripley! I’d say that cotton farmer really loves the Cardinals! (If you know cotton farmers who are cheering for the Rangers in such dramatic fashion, I’d be willing to give them a nod too.)

How do you show your pride in sports teams?

STL Cardinals on a cotton module

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Travelers Tuesday To Remember

paddle boating in Forrest Park

I had to stop and take photos of the license plates at my house tonight to share them with you. Its hard to believe I have people from four different states here visiting for a bit all of them were here though I realized later I didn’t get a photo of all of us together. So let’s see what I have….

My sister Cheryl is here from just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Our friend Cathy came with her from Knoxville, Tennessee. 

Today, the three of us had an awesome time goofing off — you can tell in this photo of the three of us in the paddle boats at Forrest Park.

When we got back to the house, it was to greet a couple of college friends. Jenny drove in from Chicago.

And Joy came in from Norman, Oklahoma.

Jenny and Joy are doing a long-awaited cycling trip — we just hope that they don’t get too much rain!

Too bad Wednesday means returning to work. Although Cheryl & Cathy head home tomorrow, its fun knowing Jenny & Joy will be back to visit some this weekend. Anyway, I’d say having four guests from four different states in one day is certainly a day to remember!