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Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Perks of Work

I firmly believe that it’s important to maintain a positive attitude. So instead of complaining about how busy I am, how tired I am, and how much I miss relaxing with my kids at home, I’m going to focus on the positive – the perks of going back to work full time.

If you’re new here, you should know that I returned to work full time a month ago, after 5 years of part time work, part time stay-at-home-mom. I am now the social media manager for Iowa Corn, an organization that serves and represents Iowa corn farmers.

The Perks of Work

20150718_192857_resized10. The people I meet. Every once in awhile, I meet someone interesting. Like this guy. It was kind of cool to turn around and see him at an event this weekend. He’s a graduate of the Iowa Corn leadership academy, not to mention a corn farmer.

9. The people I work with. As any stay-at-home moms know, it can be lonely if you don’t have a lot of adult interaction. Now, I work with 29 other people in our office, and many of them travelled to DC last week, too. Traveling with your co-workers is a great way to get to know them, and thankfully, so far I get along with all of them.

2015-07-14 21.50.108. The places I go. I love seeing new cities, and I spent 5 days in Washington, DC last week. I had time to do a little sightseeing, but mostly, I dreamed about what it would be like to be Olivia Pope.

7. The events I attend. Iowa Corn sponsors an IndyCar race every year at the Iowa Speedway. Since IndyCars use ethanol, and ethanol is made from corn, it’s a great way to show people how corn farmers make a difference in their lives. The race was pretty neat, but the best part was…

6. The behind-the-scenes access I get. As the social media manager, I was live-tweeting and taking pictures throughout the race. That meant I was on the track during the pre-race annoucements, and standing in pit row when they waved the green flag. I got to hang out in the media room, with all the official reporters, and I was waiting in Victory Lane when the race was over. I’m not a big race fan, but it was exciting to be so up-close and personal with the drivers and their teams.20150718_215735_resized

5. The babysitters my kids hang out with all day. I can’t talk about my transition back to work without giving a shout-out to my amazing babysitters. The schedule is kind of crazy this year – I couldn’t find one person who could watch the boys all the time. So their time is split between my mom, Bart’s mom, and three high schoolers. And (sorry Grandmas) they LOVE the girls that watch them. And the girls do a great job. They take them to the park and to the pool, plan picnics and science experiments, and the boys love every single day with them. The girls have also been doing the dishes for me, since the boys are usually asleep when they get to our house, and I can’t tell you how amazing it is to come home to a clean kitchen!

4. The work I do. What do I do all day? As the social media manager, I’m officially in charge of Facebook, Twitter, etc. One of my friends asked, “They pay you to sit on Facebook all day?” Um, I wish that were the case. As anyone who has managed a page knows, there has to be some strategy involved in your Facebooking. So I’m working on developing a strategy – experimenting with types of posts, frequency of posts, times of day to post, etc. (My position is brand new, so this is the first time there has been someone dedicated to social media.) I also help with other projects the communications team works on – newsletters, our new website, communications for upcoming events (Iowa State Fair and Cy-Hawk Series are just around the corner!)

I also get to lead CommonGround in Iowa. After 4 years as a volunteer, I was really excited to take over the program for Iowa Corn. We have several events coming up this summer and fall, and are planning more for next year!2014_10_07_16_06_21(rev 1)[4]

3. The difference I make. Last year, when I was part of the Ag-Urban Leadership Academy, I identified my mission in life. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. My mission is to make a better world for my children and through my children.  And my work in agriculture fits in to that mission perfectly. My children are the future of agriculture, and I truly believe that my work helps ensure that agriculture is on the right path for them and others.

2. The sense of accomplishment. Besides the fact that I truly believe my work is important, it’s also very satisfying. I like having an end product and measurable results. When I was a stay at home mom, I had very little of either. The work that I did everyday was important, and it was hard, but there was nothing concrete to show for it. If I cleaned the house or cooked great meals, I guess that was an accomplishment, but I turned around and did it all over again the next day. It was like treading water – yes, I was working hard, but there was no finish line, no shore to swim to. I like having a finish line, and many of the projects at work provide me with that sense of accomplishment that comes with a finished project.

1. The paycheck! Let’s face it, that’s a pretty big perk. Smile

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hosting a Garage Sale: Tips & Tricks


I have to admit, I LOVE garage sales, but usually I’m the buyer, not the seller.  In May, I reversed roles and actually had two garage sales of my own. I made over $1000 between the two sales, and got rid of multiple truckloads of furniture and “junk.” And of course, I learned a few lessons along the way.

garage sale tips


Have a Garage Sale: 9 Tips & Tricks

1. Make AWESOME signs. And display them all over the neighborhood.

2. Hold your garage sale on Friday & Saturday.  Friday afternoons are prime time for garage sales!

3. Location, location, location. The first garage sale was at my friend’s house in a really nice neighborhood in a larger town. And we had SO MANY SHOPPERS who were willing to pay a little bit more.  The second garage sale was at my sister’s in a smaller town, and not only were there fewer shoppers, but they were thriftier, too.

4. Price things to sell (LOW!) Ask yourself what will make you feel better? Making a TON of money? Or getting rid of a TON of stuff?  Both? Then price low! You’ll get rid of more and still make a amount of money!

5. Have lots of change on hand. Especially dollar bills. And if you have a lot of items that are a quarter, have quarters, too! I don’t think we used any dimes, nickels or pennies, though.

6. Use a notebook to keep track of sales. When you’re doing a sale with others (which I definitely recommend) you need to keep track of who sold what. We made columns in a notebook for each of us and just wrote down the amounts for each transaction.

7. Price everything or nothing. I suggest pricing everything, but I hate pricing things, so I usually end up with some priced and some not. An article I read suggested not pricing anything. That is very rare in our area, so maybe it is a regional thing. But I know that if you price some things and not others, you’re way more likely to sell the things that are marked! People just don’t (or won’t) ask for prices on things that aren’t marked.  I think they believe that the unmarked goods just aren’t worth the effort (or price!) if they have to ask.

8. Advertise on Craigslist and your local Facebook swap groups. We posted some pictures on Facebook swap a few days before and made it very clear that we would not have any presales or sales through swap. We did not post prices or the address. The day of the sale, we updated the post with the address.

9. Have your garage sale early in the season. People are more excited for garage sales in the spring after a long, cold winter.

Both of my garage sales were held BEFORE I started my #konmari process, so I may end up having another one before the snow flies!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Blogger Book Club)

Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up #konmari

This month, we did Blogger Book Club a little differently. Instead of reading the SAME book, we all read a different self-help book. Because of my transition back to a full-time job, I chose The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo (aka #konmari) with hopes that it would help me get organized before my new job began. And I’m happy to say that it worked.

I began reading the book a few weeks ago, and as soon as I read the chapter on clothing, I started in. At first, I counted the items I discarded, but after getting rid of more than 200 articles of clothing (all mine! And not including socks or accessories) I lost count. But it doesn’t matter, because my bedroom and closet are the visual proof of my “tidying-up” and they bring me more joy than ever before.

After tidying up my clothes and the boys’ clothes (3 garbage bags of hand-me-downs to Bart’s cousin!) I moved on to the books. Again, I was able to discard hundreds of items, and the boys helped me with the children’s books. Many of the kids’ books I owned were from my classroom and meant for kids much older than my own. I always thought it was good idea to save them in case the boys liked them when they were older. But now I realize that being able to easily locate favorite books brings the boys and I much more joy. (We donated the books we discarded to some of my teacher friends.)

Next comes “papers” – I’m still working on that. #konmari is a process, one that may take months. But as the momentum builds, so does the joy.

Marie Kondo’s positive attitude towards “tidying up” makes a huge difference in the process. By focusing on joy and thanksgiving, “tidying up” becomes something to look forward to. That’s important if you’re starting with a house as full of clutter as mine is. Kondo says, “I believe that tidying is a celebration.” I’m definitely celebrating the success I’ve had so far!

I will admit, however, that some of Kondo’s suggestions seem a little wacky.  For example, I don’t believe that my belongings or house will actually respond to my declarations of gratitude, but I do believe that my attitude may change because of them. I feel less guilt when I acknowledge an item’s purpose before discarding it, and thanking my house for providing me with shelter helps me keep things in perspective.

Kondo suggests “tidying-up” by category, starting with clothing because it’s the easiest and leaving mementos for last, until you’ve really honed your “tidying-up” skills.  One part of my clutter issue is toys, and the #konmari method doesn’t really address the issue. So I am waiting to tackle them. I want to work on my own clutter first, and model tidying-up for my boys before I ask them to help me tidy-up their toys.

If you are a messy mom like me, struggle to keep the house clean or keep up on basic chores, or just feel overwhelmed by stuff, this book may be just what you need. I’ve read other books about getting rid of excess, and this is the first that has really made a difference in my life. It has changed my house and changed my attitude – truly life-changing magic! (I do suggest you actually read the book, though. There are some great videos and explanations of #konmari, but I don’t think you will really “get it” unless you read the whole thing.)

I plan to do more blog posts about my #konmari progress, so stay tuned!

Now, be sure to check out the other Blogger Book Club book reviews. Remember, we all read different self-help books in June!

Cassie @ Primitive and Proper
Kirby @ KirbAppeal
Jessica @ Gourley Girl and Guy

And for July’s book: First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett. The author is Kirby’s neighbor, and I am SO EXCITED to read this!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Big News and Big Changes

For the past 5 years, I’ve been working part time, first as a Talented and Gifted teacher, then at The HomeShed, then for the Iowa Turkey Federation. But this week, I started a new full-time job as social media manager for the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

Working part time definitely had its perks, especially since my boys are young (4 and 6) and my husband is very busy with the farm. But there were a lot of factors that went in to my decision to “go back to work.” The biggest reason? This job is absolutely perfect for me.

I’ve developed a passion for agriculture over the past few years, and as a blogger, I am a huge social media nerd. My new job allows me to combine both passions and do what I love everyday.

I’m three days into my new job, and I can already tell that my new schedule will be a big adjustment for my family.

But I’m also really excited for this new season in life.

Any other working-outside-the-home mommas out there? Any tips for me?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Do you use RoundUp in your garden? (And a Garden Tour)

A few weeks ago. I shared my free, green weed barrier, and I mentioned that I used RoundUp in my garden.

One of my readers emailed, concerned about the safety of RoundUp . She said, “Please find any alternative to weed control besides using RoundUp .  You have young boys and, frankly, even your husband or you should not be spraying this deadly product.”

roundup garden
I am emailing her back personally, but I want to clear some things up here, too. But let me preface it by saying that I’m generally not scared of “chemicals.” And as a farmer, I actually have a high amount of a trust in the industry and the chemicals that are widely used by farmers.

Of course, I know that other people have a different level of comfort with “chemicals.” (I put chemicals in parentheses because everything contains chemicals…water is a chemical, oxygen is a chemical…but most people think of chemicals as something artificial and scary.) And that’s okay. We all have different things that worry us. One of my friends only wears closed-toed shoes in grass because she’s afraid of spiders and snakes. One of my friends won’t let her children near large dogs. We all have our own things.

Personally, RoundUp is not something I worry about. I use RoundUp (glyphosate) in my flower garden, around the sidewalk, and in the driveway.

There are a few reasons I feel this way (and have a low level of fear associated with other “chemicals” as well.)

Why I Feel Okay Using RoundUp in My Garden:

Is roundup poison?1) The dose makes the poison. Most “chemical” exposure happens at very low levels.  And, compared to other “chemicals,” glyphosate (RoundUp ) is only “slightly toxic.” (Caffeine, on the other hand, and copper sulfate, an organic compound used in organic production as a fungicide, are “very toxic.”) Click on the graphic for a more in depth explanation of toxicity & RoundUp .

2) Pesticides are fatal for pests, not humans. We are not the same as bugs. We are not the same as plants. Glyphosate targets a specific enzyme found in plants that does not exist in humans or animals. (The ratings used in the graphic are for toxicity in rats.)

3) “Chemicals” including glyphosate (RoundUp ) are subject to a LOT of research and strict standards for safety.

Here is a blog post from my friend Jennie, a registered dietician and farmer in Maryland, about the organic and synthethic pesticides she uses on her crops.

Ultimately, everyone will have a different comfort level with different risks and everyone can choose whether or not to use RoundUp in their gardens. If you’re not comfortable using it, then there are many other ways to get rid of weeds.

If you’re on the fence, I hope this blog post gives you a little more information and insight into why I feel totally comfortable using RoundUp (glyphosate.)

June Garden Tour

Now, let’s get to the fun stuff!

I decided to take some pictures of my flower gardens as they are right now. They’re not perfect, and there are weeds. But it’s fun to see the gardens change over time, so I plan to do semi-regular “tours” of our landscape for you to see!

June Garden Tour
Iowa farm house gardens

On the southwest corner of our house, we have a small retaining wall. In front of the wall you can see (from left to right) a red twigged dogwood, evergreen vinca, a pretty hosta and coral bells (I think these are the “Hollywood” variety.)

On top of the wall, three more hostas, hydrangeas, and a juniper.

red twigged dogwood, vinca, hosta, coral bells, hydrangeas, juniper

Another view of the upper section in front of the bay window. This part of the garden is slightly more formal than the rest. The back row is made up of hydrangeas, then there are some new (little) barberry bushes, daylilies, and catmint.

hydrangea, daylilies, catmint
Speaking of catmint, it’s one of my favorite perennials. Drought tolerant, easy to divide, and keeps the deer away! What more could you want?
This catmint is part of a small bed on the southwest corner of the yard.
Victorian farmhouse garden
Last year, I had a small container herb garden over here, and I think that fluffy thing is a volunteer herb.  Anyone know what it is?
2015-06-16 16.32.52-1
2015-06-16 16.29.49
2015-06-16 16.30.21

View of the house from the west side…

Boothbay blue house

The north side…some pretty hostas, a hydrangea, a ninebark bush and a red twigged dogwood, then more hostas.

2015-06-17 08.17.17

And the northwest corner:

Mini iris, two pulmonaria (there were supposed to be three, but one didn’t come back,) a couple of daylilies, and an arborvitae. And a vintage concrete turkey. Why not?

2015-06-16 16.35.09

I hope you enjoyed the garden tour.  If you’d like to chime in about RoundUp , please follow the rules: Use Nice Words.

Related Posts:
potted plants tips[3]

weed barrier[2]

Our Exterior Makeover

before and after porch and bay window

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Girl’s Night Out at West End Salvage


Why not combine good friends, great coffee, and some good old fashioned junk?


You might remember that last March, a few Iowa bloggers met at the West End Architectural Salvage coffee shop and I shared a LOT of pictures from the shop that day.

Well, I’m part of a small group of ladies that has a monthly “Girl’s Night Out.” And when we were brainstorming ideas for our May GNO, I suggested West End Salvage.  So, instead of a GNO, it was a SAO (Sunday Afternoon Out) but West End Architectural Salvage (featured on the HGTV show of the same name) was a great place to catch up with friends and get a little upcycling inspiration.

Speaking of upcycling inspiration – check out this piano bar.

west end salvage piano barwest end salvage piano bar

Does it remind you of anything? I wonder where the fellas at West End Salvage got their inspiration for this project.  I’m pretty sure I mentioned my repurposed piano (below) to them when I was there in March 2014.

repurposed upright piano - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

They say imitation is the best form of flattery. But let’s face it…I’m way more likely to imitate them than vice versa.

And I’m pretty sure I could imitate this coffee table pretty easily, don’t you think?

barn wood coffee table at West End Salvage - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

But some of the other pieces…well, those would be worth buying in the store.

Check out these three pieces – metal frames with antique crates as drawers, lined up to make one long sideboard.  Yes, please.

West End Salvage - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

And this ceiling tin, made into mirror frames and architectural wall art? I’ll take some of that, too.

Ceiling Tin at West End Salvage - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

There is just so much to see, and I love all the texture. This photo shows off a pretty neutral color scheme, but the textures and patinas add so much interest.

West End Salvage - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

And of course I love the old signs. The “sweaters” one is cute…

West End Salvage - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

But this one seems super appropriate, given the bird flu situation.

Biosecurity Sign at West End Salvage - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

Before we left, we asked an employee if we could check out the “shop.” Since it was Sunday, the guys weren’t there. So we giggled like school girls while we looked around at some of their raw materials and tools.

West End Salvage Workshop - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

More giggles…pretty sure this was a joke. Menards has NOTHING like West End Salvage.

West End Salvage Workshop - On the Banks of Squaw Creek

And more giggles…

West End Salvage Workshop - On the Banks of Squaw Creek


If you’re a West End Salvage fan (or love to go picking!) check out more pictures of the shop here.