Fall Barn Party

Fall barn party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Barn Party

Last week, we had a barn party.  We had been talking about having one for three years now and decided that this was the year.  A picture in a Country Living magazine of a table set up with hay bales for chairs in the main aisle of a barn was the inspiration for our party.  We started working on it a week before so we didn’t have to do everything the last minute.  B-u-t, we still had a ton to do and were busy running around getting everything done right up until guests arrived.  Of course.  That just seems to be how we roll.  And we couldn’t ask the horses to quit pooping for a week, so what’s a girl (or two) to do!

hydrangeas
Beautiful hydrangeas from mom’s yard made the perfect decorations
The barn all decked out and spider web, manure, and almost dust free!

Also, since it was set for September 23rd, we thought it would be perfect fall weather, and a perfect way to celebrate the beginning of the season.  So we envisioned cool, crisp air and thought a soup bar would be an easy way to feed a lot of people.  Wrong.  Mother Nature did not cooperate at all!  It was 90 degrees and hotter than heck.  Who would have thought?!  We sure didn’t, since that kind of weather is extremely rare in the summer here in Michigan, let alone late September.

The chalkboard wasn’t big enough to list everything on the menu!

Well, all week we swept, vacuumed, dusted, knocked down cobwebs, strung lights (zillions!), hauled tables and chairs, decorated, and followed behind the horses with a manure rake to pick up every little poop (okay, not quite, but almost).  All while we sweated our bras off and wondered if it would all be worth it.  And despite the heat, it surely was.  For one, the barn was cleaner than our houses last weekend.

wheelbarrow with mums and pumpkins
An old wheelbarrow is the perfect container for mums and pumpkins

 

Fynn and one of the barn cats

Fall Barn Party

We also had a great turnout!  It was so fun hosting the party at the barn with the horses being nosy and hanging out by the fence checking everything out.  Adults and kids alike enjoyed each other’s company visiting with one another and eating lots of good food.  We made six different soups that were all delicious…chili, taco soup, stuffed green pepper soup, cheesy potato, chicken noodle, and white chicken chili.  We had bread, cornbread, cheese, and crackers.  And between us, Kendal, and our mom, we had a huge dessert table!  Mom made peanut butter fudge and Kendal made apple crisp.  Mardi made sweet and salty Chex mix, almond bars, scotcheroos, sugar cookie bars, and pecan pie bars.  Megan made monster cookie bars, smore’s brownies, and southern pecan praline cake.  We also had some friends bring dessert, too!  It was like dessert heaven!

Fall Barn Party
The bales were a little low…but it just made us all feel like kids!
Manon and Jenna enjoying the hay ride!
More Hay Ride Fun!

We set up a craft table outside for kids, which stayed busy pretty much the whole night.  The older boys played football and the older girls helped out with the little kids.  Chris drove the tractor and gave hayrides through the woods and down the road.  And once the sun went down, we were all much more comfortable.  The trees down the drive were lit up, as well as the inside of the barn, and it just looked so pretty.  We clipped hydrangeas from our mom’s yard and they made the prettiest centerpieces, especially since they were free!  A clipped branch from the woods strung with fairy lights provided decoration for the food tables, along with little baskets of apples and cattails.  Cornstalks adorned the barn inside and out.  And the string lights hanging from the ceiling provided just enough light to keep it festive.  I wish we had beautiful pictures to show you all, but we were so busy visiting that we failed to get great shots.  You’ll just have to use your imagination, as these pictures just don’t do it justice.

Colin wants to make a craft, too! He stayed by the fence all night, trying to join the festivities.
Bryce giving Baby Rye some love.
Milla having fun helping out with our little guests
Can’t beat a good old-fashioned hay ride!

Whew!  You probably weren’t interested in all of the little details, so forgive us.  We are just having fun reliving it, especially since it might never happen again!  Okay, we’re joking…we loved it.  We just haven’t quite forgotten how much work it was yet!  Give us a year!

Fall Barn Party
After the party

Fall Barn Party

Fall Barn Party

In case you are interested in any of the recipes we used, see below for links to any we used online.

No-flour Monster Cookie Bars by Together as Family make a whole jelly roll pan, so they are great for a crowd!

Fudgy S’mores Brownies by Mandy’s Recipe Box…I cheated and used a brownie mix, but they were still delish!


Southern Pecan Praline Cake by The Country Cook uses a cake mix, so easy peasy!

The Best Pecan Pie Bars

The Best Pecan Pie Bars by Rockrecipes.com

 

Almond Bars by Sometimeshomemade.com

The Best Sweet Cornbread from thegirlwhoateeverything.com

And stay tuned for a post on the soup recipes we used, since soup season is finally here…even if it wasn’t the day of the party!

Thanks for reading to the end, friends!  Happy Fall to you all!

Megan and Mardi

Labor Day Shrimp Boil

How was your Labor Day weekend?  Ours was nice and pretty low-key.  We don’t usually make big plans for Labor Day since this mom needs to get mentally prepared for the start of school.  And not just mentally.  Oh, the organizing of backpacks and school supplies and paperwork.  And grocery shopping for all of those cold lunches (can you hear the whining?  I hate making cold lunches…well, actually I kind of hate making any meal, but I guess I just don’t like doing them even more the same time as breakfast!) .  And don’t forget about picking out the First Day outfit and actually getting it ironed the night before!  Picking out clothes and ironing them the night before usually lasts about two or three days, and then we are winging it again.  Or we just don’t iron at all…  But hey, they always have clothes on.  So you can see why this procrastinator needs the weekend to prepare.  No camping for me!

My mom and dad usually have a little picnic on Labor Day, but this year they had the nerve to go on vacation without all of their children and grandchildren.  I still can’t believe it.  So Mardi, Kendal, and I had to take matters into our own hands and plan a little get together with just us and Mardi’s in-laws.  We’ve been wanting to do a shrimp boil all summer and just haven’t made it happen, so we decided Labor Day was a good excuse to try it out.  I have to say it turned out pretty well.  We used this recipe from Hearth and Vine, but doubled it.  Chris boiled it in his deep fryer, and Rob made homemade hushpuppies in another one.  Kendal also made coleslaw and grape salad.  And we rolled brown paper on the tables so we didn’t need to use plates, but I still had to anyway.  Just habit, I guess.  It made for easy clean-up, though!  It was nothing fancy, but it was different and fun, and I’m glad we tried it.  I think it might be a fun new tradition.  And maybe I’ll eat it right off the table next time!

Please excuse the horrible picture-taking and lack of pictures.  I guess I was in such a hurry to eat that I neglected to take decent pictures!!  Oh, and I’m sure you are super impressed with the high quality paper plate, too!

I made a peach dump cake for dessert with canned peaches and a cake mix.  I added about 1/2 cup of oatmeal on top, and it was really good for being not-quite homemade,  Best of all, it was super easy!    Which was good, because I had to do all of the school prep stuff that I had waited until the last day to do.  Maybe now that summer vacation is over, I will be a little more organized and disciplined…well, one can only hope!

If you’ve never done a shrimp boil, give it a try.  It’s a great way to feed a crowd, and also a nice alternative to the “if-I-eat-one-more-hot dog/hamburg-this-summer” feeling you get by the end of August.  Here’s wishing you all had a great end to the summer and a successful jump into a new school year!

Megan

 

Hay Day

hay wagon, hay bales
Kimball and Sander resting up before the unloading begins!

We recently had our first hay day of the year.  It involves hitching up a trailer to the truck, going over to the next town and stacking the truck and trailer with hay.  Like, 130 bales or as much as we can fit.  It was almost like an emergency because we were down to 6 bales.  We were close to having the horses graze in our front yards.  Sander would have loved it, because he’s not fond of mowing.  Anyway, this was the first time we ever had use of 2 trucks and trailers.  It was awesome!  David, Sheldon, and I took one and Chris, Megan, and my Dad took the other.  David and Sheldon filled one truck and trailer up while I counted bales (well, I tried….I lost track a few times and had to start over).  Then the other truck came and we took off to unload into our barn.  Having two trucks and trailers meant we can make half the trips we normally do to get the 1,000 bales that we need.  We have a borrowed hay elevator we use to get the bales into the loft.  It was the perfect temperature, too.  Usually our timing is impeccable and it’s in the 80’s and muggy.

hay wagon
Megan stacked the trailer up to the rafters.
hay, stacked hay
Chris looks a long way down from Megan’s view at the top of the stacked trailer
Fynn running through a field of wheat
This is what Fynn does while the trailer is loaded.

We’ve learned a lot about stacking hay these past few years.  Like, what to wear and what not to wear.  Megan knows what to wear and I know what not to.  She always wears jeans and I usually wear yoga pants….no more, though.  Hay sticks to yoga pants like lint to a lint roller. Like flies to a flystrip.  Like white on rice….you get the picture.  I once went into a gas station to get a pop in between loads…..with so much hay stuck to my pants, I was embarrassed.  But my thirst won out over my pride.  As far as shirts go, that’s a tough one.  It’s such hot and sweaty work, it’s tempting to wear a tank.  But the hay is so scratchy, and it has uncanny ability to get into the craziest places.  As long as I live, I’ll never forget the discomfort of hay stuck in my bra.  It doesn’t matter what shirt you wear, hay will get underneath it.  Maybe a turtleneck would work if it wasn’t so hot!  Don’t even get me started on hay stuck in our boots….

unloading hay bales
Kimball and Sander unstacking for Grandpa to send it up the elevator
Milla and Papa enjoying a break at the end of Hay Day

Megan and I don’t mind hay days, probably because we didn’t grow up having to do it (like David did).  It’s a family affair….many hands make light (but scratchy!) work.  One year Megan made these amazing brownies, so now it’s a must..  On Pinterest, they’re called ‘Slutty’ brownies (gasp!), but we named them ‘What the Hay?’ brownies.  They’re super delicious but calorie-laden, but we figure, why not?  After all that work, we’ve earned them.  We’d be happy to share them with you if you help us on our next hay day.  We’ll probably have at least two more of them!

Milla and Fynn enjoying their What the Hay brownies

 

what the hay brownies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we will see you at the barn, right?

Mardi

 

An Old Fashioned Fourth of July…And a Few Recipes!

Hey guys!  Happy Monday!  I know, I know…that sounds entirely too peppy for a Monday following a holiday that pretty much spans a week.  Well, if you live in Michigan, it usually does because, well, the weather is nice and it’s America’s birthday, and lots of employers shut down for the week, and people go up north or camping, or to the beach.  It’s just what we do.  At least I hope all of you got to do at least some of those fun things.  Mardi and I and our families celebrated the Fourth of July as usual at my parents’ annual party, followed by a trip up north.

The party was huge this year!  My mom and aunt counted over 200 people!  We had some new faces this year, some I didn’t even know.  But I am so glad they felt comfortable enough to come, and I hope they all felt welcome.  The weather was absolutely perfect…80ish and sunny.  The kids were in and out of the water all day right until dark.  One of my favorite things about this day is seeing the kids, many who only meet up once a year at this party, instantly act like old friends from the minute they arrive.  And I didn’t see kids on electronics literally the whole entire day!  And they lived to tell about it!

We ate around 4, and let me tell you, I think it was better than Thanksgiving dinner.  Since it is a potluck, the choices are amazing!  I always love the deep-fried shrimp that the guys make, and my mom’s smoked sausage cooked in crushed pineapple, and Danya’s crab salad.  Then there are Mrs. Vogel’s homemade cinnamon rolls that are always a party staple.  Can you tell I’m really into health food?  One of my new favorites this year was a corn salad with chili cheese fritos.  I’m not even sure who brought it, but it was so yummy.  Luckily I found a recipe on Pinterest.  Here is one that looks similar.  You should check it out if you haven’t had it before!  I think I will definitely make this in the future.

I actually made the little fruit tarts with the star cut-outs that I mentioned I might make in the previous post.  I added blueberry pie filling as well, and then sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on the top.  They were super easy and tasty too.  I also made the Six Sisters’ Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars.  They are sooooo good, and the recipe yields a lot of servings.  Mardi made scotcheroos, sugar cookie bars, and a really good snack mix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We ended up dragging the kids out of the water for a sack race, a three-legged race, and tug of war.  They were having so much fun swimming that they didn’t seem to mind the simplified games this year, which was nice.  Most of the kids are getting older now, too, so we don’t have as many participants. Sniff, sniff.  Especially the boys…they have graduated to letting off their own fireworks.  Always a little scary, but there is no coming between boys and bottle rockets.  Sometimes you just gotta let boys be boys, I’m learning.  But sometimes I just can’t really watch too close, either.  Thankfully, they all have wonderful guardian angels (Thank you Jesus!), and no one was hurt.

Mardi and our friend Kathi decorated the pontoon boat this year to participate in the annual Wolf Lake boat parade.  They did a fantastic job getting it all decked out, but when it was time to leave the dock, the darn boat wouldn’t start.  The battery was dead.  Sigh.  Oh well…the parade went on without us, but it’s always fun to watch anyway!  Better luck next year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The evening ended with an awesome display of fireworks that my dad and a friend went in on together.  They even let some of them off from an old pontoon boat off shore!  It was just an amazing way to end a perfect day.  And I’m so thankful to my mom and dad for opening their home to everyone and getting to celebrate such a special holiday with so many wonderful people every year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did you spend your Fourth of July this year?

Megan

 

Wishing You a Fabulous Fourth!

source: Pinterest

Independence Day is almost upon us!  It’s one of our favorite holidays…..and we love holidays.  There are so many things that come to mind when I think of the Fourth, and they’re all f-words (now hold on a minute, it’s NOT what you’re thinking):  food, family, friends, fireworks, fellowship, founding fathers, and did I say food?  Since we were kids, our parents have hosted a huge Fourth of July party.  They live on Wolf Lake, so the party includes swimming, boating, eating, and fireworks….lots of fireworks.  Our Dad has been a pyromaniac since his youth, so he is in his element on the Fourth.

As for our food, the guys deep-fry shrimp, chicken, onion rings, and French fries.  That is where all the guys hang out, by the deep fryers so they can taste-test.  Guests bring a dish to pass, so we always have a wide array of delicious food.  I’m hungry just thinking about the different potato and pasta dishes and salads, baked beans, and a long table full of desserts (my favorite part).  After we eat, it’s time for games for the kids.  The annual sack race is hysterical.  The other games vary, like water balloons, ring toss, limbo, etc.  Later, everyone changes into warmer clothes and loads up on bug spray in preparation for the fireworks show.  It’s spectacular!  I can actually enjoy it now….once when I was a kid, I hid the fireworks because I was worried that our house would burn down.  Let’s just say that my Dad was not amused.  Ah, memories.

Other than sack races, and various relay races, there are lots of other fun games that take almost no prep.  This year we are going to add a three-legged race (hopefully the adults will get in on this one), and tug-of-war again.  We also might add a bottle-ring toss since my mom already has the bottles in the crate.  Super easy, but the kids just love it.  We always put out the corn-hole games, too, which kids of all ages enjoy.  And lastly, I am going to put some sidewalk chalk out for this fun idea:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source:  Heart of Deborah

I also love making food for the party and pour over recipes, trying to decide what to make.  Always it’s a dessert, but sometimes I make snacks too.  Last year I made Sweet & Salty Cashew Chex Mix.  I found the recipe on Pinterest from Julie’s Eats & Treats.   Oh, it’s so delicious and addicting!  Sander likes it too, so he’s been known to sneak the leftovers upstairs to his room.  For many years I made scotcheroos, which never last long.  Megan makes the absolute best salted double chocolate cookies.  One year she made the cutest cherry pies on a stick.  As you can see, we take our desserts seriously.

And it is so fun seeing family (especially the ones that don’t live next door…although we always love seeing each other, too), and friends, old and new.  We usually average over 100 people every year!  It’s just the best time ever, and we are so thankful that we get to be a part of it

Wherever you are, whatever you do, may you have a fabulous Fourth of July!  We truly are blessed to live in this great country.  Thankfully, we reap the rewards of all that have sacrificed and gone before us.  I just saw a phrase on an Independence Day T-shirt:  “Party Like it’s 1776!”  Yes, let’s do that, but use electricity, drive our cars, put on sunscreen, not wear corsets, use paper plates……

Mardi

What are your favorite Fourth of July traditions?

Fun Fourth of July Food Picks

Fourth of July is almost here!  And I have to say, it is coming too soon.  I still have to figure out what dish I am going to bring to my parents’ annual Fourth of July picnic.  This year, I am determined to decide what I am going to make and buy the ingredients at least a whole day before the picnic.  Just call me a think-aheader, I know.  Seriously, I always wait until the last minute and it drives me crazy.

So to help me out of this dilemma, I took to Pinterest, of course, to gather some ideas.  I noticed that everything I was pinning was a dessert and red, white, and blue.  Probably because I typed in Fourth of July potluck…duh!  So here are a few patriotic food choices that stood out as easy, cute, and yummy.

These cookies are so pretty!  And I love me a good sugar cookie.  Although, the more I think about it, I’m probably too lazy to make the cool swirly frosting.  How about you make them and let me eat one?   Source:  Sugar Spun Run

These little fruit skewers are so cute…especially all lined up like the American flag.  And, my kids might actually eat these, along with all of the potato chips and brownies they are sure to consume!  Source:  Domino

Fruit pizzas are so delicious!  And this one is really pretty and patriotic, too!  And if you use a premade sugar cookie mix, it wouldn’t even be very time consuming to make. Source:  Crafted Sparrow

Aren’t these little cherry tarts the cutest!  They look pretty simple, too, but also look like you went to a ton of trouble.  Plus, I would score major brownie points with my dad, since he loves cherry pie!  Source:  Frankly Entertaining

Who doesn’t love chocolate covered pretzels?  This would even be fun to have the kids help make.  Source:  The 36th Avenue

Now, if I can only decide which one.  And then maybe I should figure out a non-red-white-and-blue dish as well, since it is okay to bring food that doesn’t match the color scheme!

So, do you have a favorite dish you like to take to potlucks and picnics?  Let me know what your tried and true favorite is!

Megan