Open your hearts and your world expands

This post is about our experience volunteering with the Helping International Students program. Our international friends are Brazilian and a fun fact about Brazilians is they speak Portuguese. You’ll notice after every paragraph there will be the Portuguese translation. We did this so friends and family of our Brazilian kids could read and learn more about our experiences.

Este post é sobre a nossa experiência de voluntariado com o programa Helping International Students (Ajudando os Estudantes Internacionais). Nossos amigos internacionais são brasileiros, e um fato divertido sobre os brasileiros é que eles falam português. Você notará que após cada parágrafo haverá a tradução para o português. Fizemos isso para que amigos e familiares de nossas crianças brasileiras pudessem ler e aprender mais sobre nossas experiências.

Imagine living in a place where nothing is familiar. You don’t understand the language well. You aren’t connected to anyone in the city you called home.

Imagine morar em um lugar onde nada é familiar. Você não entende bem a língua. Você não está conectado a ninguém na cidade que você chamou de lar.

Would you thrive?

Você prosperaria?

This is what it’s like when students from other countries come to K-State.

É assim quando alunos de outros países vêm para o K-State.

A local ministry called Helping International Students or HIS is a community organization in Manhattan that is sponsored by more than 25 local churches and K-State campus ministries. They serve more than 2,500 international students from more than 100 nations.

Um ministério local chamado Helping International Students ou HIS é uma organização comunitária em Manhattan que é patrocinada por mais de 25 igrejas locais e ministérios da igreja na K-State (Kansas State University). Eles atendem mais de 2.500 estudantes internacionais de mais de 100 nações.

Our church has long been a supporter of this ministry, and we’ve had friends who have done amazing work welcoming international students to our community. We have seen them lead by example but never felt the call ourselves.

Nossa igreja tem sido uma grande apoiadora deste ministério, e nós tivemos amigos que fizeram um trabalho incrível recebendo estudantes internacionais em nossa comunidade. Vimos o exemplo deles, mas nunca nos sentimos chamados (por Deus) a participar

Last fall our church shared a video of students looking for American friends, and when we walked out the door one of our friends said, “Here take this piece of candy.” Attached to that piece of candy was a sign-up form to become a HIS partner.

No outono passado nossa igreja compartilhou um vídeo de estudantes procurando por amigos americanos, e quando saímos pela porta um dos nossos amigos disse: “Aqui, pegue este pedaço de doce!” Anexado àquele pedaço de doce estava um formulário de inscrição para se tornar um parceiro HIS.

While eating lunch (our favorite after-church activity), we talked as a family and thought it might be a fun thing to try.

Enquanto almoçávamos (nossa atividade favorita depois da igreja), conversávamos como uma família e achamos que seria divertido tentar.

One of the questions on the form was what ethnicity we preferred. The girls asked for a Chinese or Brazilian friend. Chinese because “they’re so cute,” and Brazilian because they were featured in our church video.

Uma das perguntas no formulário foi a etnia que preferimos. As meninas pediram um amigo chinês ou brasileiro. Chineses porque “são tão fofos” e brasileiros porque apareceram no nosso vídeo da igreja.

A few days later we received an email saying our new friend was from Brazil and his name was Victor (we soon learned his name was actually Vítor). We chatted with one of our friends at church who has volunteered with HIS for many years, and they were excited to hear we had a Brazilian friend. They said, “You will have so much fun! They are just like us!”

Alguns dias depois recebemos um email dizendo que nosso novo amigo era do Brasil e seu nome era Victor (logo descobrimos que o nome dele era, na verdade, Vítor). Conversamos com um de nossos amigos da igreja que se voluntariaram com a HIS por muitos anos, e eles ficaram entusiasmados ao saber que tínhamos um amigo brasileiro. Eles disseram: “Você vai se divertir muito! Eles são como nós!”

First dinner with Brazilian friends

This was our first dinner with Vítor. He brought his Brazilian friends Thaís and Roberta. Este foi o nosso primeiro jantar com Vítor. Ele trouxe suas amigas brasileiras Thaís e Roberta.

From our experience I can tell you they were not wrong. Becoming a friend to an international student has changed our outlook on America and the world. We have gained sons, daughters and multiple families (who live in another country) we cannot wait to meet.

Pela nossa experiência, posso dizer que eles não estavam errados. Tornar-se amigo de um estudante internacional mudou nossa visão sobre a América e o mundo. Nós ganhamos filhos, filhas e várias famílias (que moram em outro país) que mal podemos esperar para conhecer.

Sharing our experience will take more than one blog post. I plan to share some of the awesome things we experienced in the hope that other Americans will step out of their comfort zones to befriend someone.

Compartilhar nossa experiência levará a mais de uma postagem no blog. Eu pretendo compartilhar algumas das coisas incríveis que experimentamos na esperança de que outros americanos saiam de suas zonas de conforto para fazer amizade com alguém.

In the end, it’s just like our pastor said…what YOU gain from it is much more than you could ever imagine.

No final, é como nosso pastor disse … o que você ganha com isso é muito mais do que você poderia imaginar.

Posted in God, Thankful, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Food, Farming and Fun

I have the privilege of working for Kansas farmers and ranchers in my position at Kansas Farm Bureau. Part of my job (and my most favorite) is connecting non-farm folks with the people who work their tails off to feed and clothe us everyday. One of the projects I work on is our annual #FarmFoodTour. KFB partners with Kansas Soybeans to bring influencers to the Wheat State to meet real-life farmers and ranchers. My dear friend Jancey (who works at Kansas Soybeans) put together this piece about our 5th annual Farm Food Tour. This work wouldn’t be possible without her heart and energy and I am so thankful for her!

Every fall I have the incredible opportunity to host online influencers in Kansas for the #FarmFoodTour, sponsored by the Kansas Soybean Commission (KSC) and Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB). Our influencers, Meagan Cramer with KFB and I on behalf of KSC journey from border to border visiting farms and ranches across the state talking food and farming.

Very simply, our mission is to have meaningful conversations about food and how it gets to the table. To do this, we strive to create a culture in which all questions are welcome. I make a point to share some of the ”stupid questions” I’ve asked my farmers over the years so they feel comfortable in opening up a sincere, trusting dialogue with someone who has gone through a learning curve just like they are.

People in agriculture often see the misinformation out there. We’ve had to deal with regulations that impact how we grow our products–the nation’s food, fuel and fiber supply. Frustration mounts further because these regulations are frequently put in place by those who have never stepped foot on the farm. It’s easy to get upset and yell at each other, but our goal with this #FarmFoodTour is to start with a conversation, not a yelling match.  Every farm is different and each farmer puts different practices in place that work for them and their operation. Yet, even with these differences, they all have a similar mission – to grow food for a growing world while taking care of the land and livestock entrusted to them.

Jancey Hall and friends on the Farm Food Tour

This is Jancey and the Farm Food Tour attendees. She’s amazing!

To begin our tour, Meagan and I always ensure there is delicious food along the journey and provide ample snacks, because frankly if someone’s hungry or has bad food, it’s hard to be friends. From there, we choose diverse farms to stop at and just let conversations happen.

Although  we are always sure to have the bus stop at a soybean field, the number one consumer of soybeans is animal agriculture, so we see a lot of livestock. Over three days, we stopped at a pig farm, numerous cattle operations (from ranchers to the feedlot), a dairy, saw some of Kansas’ top row crops (soybeans, corn, and sorghum- no wheat because of the timing of the tour), and a vegetable farm. From the soybean field to the pig barn to a vegetable farm to the picturesque Flint Hills, we talked about sustainability, GMOs, pesticides, hunger, food waste, antibiotics, weather, the cost to own a combine, added hormones, labor, family, and so much more.

Kansas Farm Food Tour attendees in the Flint Hills

We cover lots of ground in the #FarmFoodTour including learning about the Flint Hills.

After five tours, I shouldn’t be so amazed, but I am always in awe of how much those from very different backgrounds than me love farmers just as much as I do. Putting someone on a farm, with a farmer telling their story (and being incredibly transparent about it) is a powerful thing. I am grateful to the farmers who open their farms, for those who speak up and tell their stories in person and online, and for these bloggers who take time away from their lives to hear our farmers’ stories firsthand.

I’ve seen what these tours can do in moving the needle for a greater understanding of agriculture, in having conversations (even when they are tough), in bringing those of diverse backgrounds together in a world that seems to be more and more siloed. I’d love to share more of those stories, but for now, I’ll leave you with the links to connect to their stories and takeaways of those from the fifth annual Kansas #FarmFoodTour.

Leanette runs a blog called Funtastic Life and is one of the most fun, lively, and just down to earth humans I’ve ever met. Her love of eating good food and desire for adventure was my favorite and her zest for life was contagious:

Silvia hangs out online at Garden in the Kitchen. At first she was quiet, but the more I was able to talk to her, the more I wanted to be her best friend. She laughed and laughed at me as I ate chocolate cake first for one meal (it was delicious). I can only dream of having her photography skills.:

Shashi is Savory Spin and I loved her strong faith and how she so soundly connected with the farmers over it. Her love of food and family was palpable, and she posted three incredible recipes inspired by each day of the tour. Here’s one, but be sure to check them all out:

Anna-Marie is Beauty and the Beets and I loved talking about the difference between our lives with her. She is bold and laughs with abandon. Also, I loved her takeaway about Amazon:

Lisa with Low Carb Yum retired from engineering to blog, and her story keeps me in awe. She is incredibly kind and had some insightful observations. I loved her perspective, and although I am on a full-carb diet, her recipes are divine and simple enough for me:

Madi is Mildly Meandering and a college student with a pet hedgehog. I loved talking about life with her, and her recipes have me itching to get into the kitchen even though that’s not where I spend my time. She is such a kind and creative soul:

Jessica is a farm girl, so A Farm Girl’s Kitchen is where she lives on the internet. She loves farm to table and she makes me believe I can make anything on my own. She’s a cookbook author and you’ll love her passion:

Vaishali with the Kitchen Docs is well, a Kitchen Doc. She has her doctorate and is incredibly smart. She asked questions the farmers loved answering (yet were well above my head), and I loved her passion for trying new things:

These women are remarkable, and I learned so much from them. If you’re from an ag background, I hope you appreciate their takeaways. If you’re not, I hope the same. No matter our differences, coming around the table together, enjoying food, and seeing farms firsthand has an incredible way of bringing us together.

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England, Scotland, Ireland, Oh My!

Corey and I returned last Thursday night from an 11-day trip to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It was our first experience traveling outside of the States, Mexico or Canada, and it was pretty amazing.

I participated as a staff member for Kansas Farm Bureau and Corey joined me as a tourist (although he worked a lot helping me, too!).

We covered a lot of ground, and I’m “borrowing” an idea one of our participants shared with me to show you just how much!

In total we traveled:

  • Almost 9,000 miles in an airplane
  • About 1,500 miles in a coach (or what we would call a bus)
  • More than 60 miles of walking (we averaged about 11,550 steps per day)

For a better visual of all the ground we covered, here’s a map I put together from MapQuest.

UK trip

Here’s a quick overview of the places we visited…

  • Day 1: London
  • Day 2: Basildon (east of London), Royston (north of London) and then back to London
  • Day 3: Tour of London and then north to Harrogate
  • Day 4: North to Richmond and then to Endinburgh, Scotland
  • Day 5: All day in Ingliston for the Royal Highland Show, Britain’s premier ag event
  • Day 6: Tour of Edinburgh, north to St. Andrews and back to Edinburgh
  • Day 7: Head south to Dumfries
  • Day 8: West across Scotland through Rainton and then jumped on a ferry in Cairnryan to head over to Belfast in Northern Ireland
  • Day 9: South into the Republic of Ireland and in to Dublin
  • Day 10: South of Dublin to Kildare and back to Dublin

Kansas Farm Bureau partnered with K-State’s Master of Agribusiness program to offer this trip, and we had almost 70 folks join us! Because our numbers were so large, we set up two legs of the trip. Our group started in London and ended in Dublin and another group started in Dublin and ended in London.

The trip was a really good mix of farm stops, history of the various countries and a few fun, touristy stops.

I plan to cover some of the amazing things we experienced (think food, whiskey tasting, farm stops and shenanigans) in later posts that will include lots and lots of photos.

If there’s something in particular you want to know about, drop me a note here and I’ll be sure to cover it.

If you’ve ever traveled to England, Scotland or Ireland tell me what your favorite thing was!

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Giving (Your Body) Thanks

Do you ever take a second and think about the million things our body does for us EVERY. SINGLE. DAY?

Let’s move past the every-single-day part. How about every single minute? According to this article from HuffPost and CVS,

  • our heart beats around 66 beats per minute
  • 600 million bits of visual data are interpreted by your brain
  • and 20 percent of your blood is cleaned by your kidneys

In one minute!

That’s a lot of amazing things we don’t even have to think about!

It’s easy to take all this work for granted.

But you know what? I think we should all take a minute and give ourselves and our bodies a little pat on the back.

Many of us are juggling families, jobs, volunteering and running ourselves ragged. It’s easy to rush around and forget to take a second to appreciate what’s happening.

Today I took a time out and grabbed a 30-minute massage. It was wonderful! Corey and I have been working really hard on 80 Day Obsession (almost to phase 3!) and the program reminds us how important it is to take care of our bodies.

I was lucky to get a massage, and maybe that’s not possible for you today.

If you haven’t yet today found a way to say thanks, here are a few ideas:

  • Go for a short walk or long run
  • Sit down for a 15-minute stretch
  • Lock yourself in the bathroom and take a bath
  • Read a book or a special poem
  • Grab a hug from someone special

It’s important to thank you and your body for a job well done today.

How do you show yourself love?

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21 Day Fix Pizza

If your family is anything like ours, they LOVE pizza. This pizza recipe is perfect for a variety of reasons including:

  • It’s easy to make at home
  • It’s healthy and yummy
  • Each family member can decide what they want on their pizza and customize it
  • It can be on the table in 20 minutes

Our girls prefer meat and cheese while Corey and I load it up with spinach, tomatoes, basil and red onions (along with the delicious meat and cheese).

If you’re a 21 Day Fixer, here are the measurements:

  • 1 yellow container (whole wheat naan)
  • 1 red container (Italian seasoned ground turkey)
  • 1/2 blue container (mozzarella cheese)
  • 1/2 green container (spinach)
  • 1/3 green container (onions)
  • 1/3 green container (tomatoes)
  • 1/3 purple container (pizza sauce)

21 Day Fix Pizza

Our family loves pizza and this one is delicious and 21 Day Fix approved!

  • 1 ½ pound Italian seasoned ground turkey
  • 2 whole wheat naan pieces (The ones at our store are long and circular instead of short and round. We cut ours in half to make them fit the 1 yellow serving size of carbohydrates for 21 Day Fix)
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 1 1/3 cups red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/3 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 1/3 cups tomato sauce (look for tomato sauce with no added sugar. It can be hard to find, but it’s there.)
  • 1 cup low moisture shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Cut your naan bread in half. Place it on a baking sheet and bake for five minutes. This will make it crispy just like a pizza crust.

  3. When the naan is done, remove it from the oven and spread your tomato sauce across the top. 

  4. Add your spinach and then spread your tomatoes across the naan bread.

  5. Next, sprinkle your cheese (you can save a little for sprinkling on top).

  6. Grab a slotted spoon and sprinkle your Italian sausage over all the other goodies.

  7. Finally, add your red onions.

  8. If you have cheese left over, sprinkle it on top. 

  9. Bake in the oven for another five to seven minutes. Seeing how melty the cheese is, is a good way to gauge if it’s done. 

  10. Remove and sprinkle some fresh basil over the top. Eat and enjoy! 

21 Day Fix Pizza ingredients

All this deliciousness goes on the 21 Day Fix Pizza: spinach, tomatoes, ground turkey, cheese, red onions and basil

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Three secrets for easy to peel hard boiled eggs

If you’re a fan of hard boiled eggs like we are, I have three tips you need to know. This will save you from losing half the egg (and your patience) when it sticks to the shell.

Since my hubby and I started our quest to eat better and exercise daily, we’ve been eating two hard boiled eggs every morning. We love them because you can fix them ahead of time, they’re easy to eat on the run and they’re a great source of protein (each egg packs more than 6 grams) that keep you filled up all morning.

Every Sunday we meal prep and that includes boiling 20 eggs (two for each of us every morning) for the week.

I’ve learned three tips that help peel the shell right off. You’ll definitely want to try these! I promise it works…I’ve had lots of trials and errors figuring out the best method.

1. After they’re done boiling, run them in super cold water.

I used to let our eggs sit in the hot water and cool off, but I’ve found that running them immediately under cold water helps the shells come off much easier. Once they’re done boiling, I pull them off the stove immediately and run cold water on them. I also bang them around in the pan to crack the shells a bit.

2. Pop them right into the fridge.

This goes back to getting them cooled off right away. There’s something magical that happens when they’re moved directly to cold storage that helps the shells pop right off.

After running them under cold water, we put them back in the carton, write “hard boiled” on the top and get them right into the fridge. We learned to write “hard boiled” on them because it’s a pain to crack an egg for a recipe only to find out it’s already cooked.

3. When you’re ready to peel your egg, grab a spoon.

The curve of a spoon is perfect for sliding right into the crack of an egg. It fits perfectly around the egg and helps give you leverage as you peel the shell right off.

I like to see how big I can get the piece of shell to be before it falls off. Sometimes I get really lucky, and it comes off in one, big piece.

What’s your favorite kitchen hack you’ve learned through trial and error?

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Getting healthy with Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix & 80 Day Obsession

Hubs and I have made 2018 the year of the ROCKIN’ BODS (we have a ways to go, but everyone should have goals, right?). We were tired of the mom and dad bods and decided it was time to do something about it.

In January we jumped on the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon and started working out. I had joined Beachbody On Demand in November and really enjoyed being able to work out in my basement when I wanted to. I found out first-thing-in-the morning worked best for me. I got up, worked out and knew I was set for the rest of the day.

After Christmas, I talked Corey into joining me. We started with 21 Day Fix  and loved the 30-minute workouts. We started doing them faithfully every morning. After we’d gone through a couple rounds of 21 Day Fix, we moved up to 21 Day Fix Extreme. It pushed us a bit more, and we loved it. We were feeling stronger, eating better and seeing a difference in how our clothes fit.

In January, Beachbody released 80 Day Obsession and just like the name implies, it’s an 80-day program. Each workout is 45 to 60 minutes long so I knew it would take awhile before I could talk Corey into jumping in.

By March I had convinced him we should give it a try. He wasn’t as excited as me, but I told him if we didn’t like it, we could go back to 21 Day Fix.

Today we’re at day 45 which is the last week of phase 2 and we’re still going strong! Next week we’ll head into the final phase.

We’ve had to miss a few days because of my travel, but they’ve been few and far between. A handful of the workouts only require loops and sliders which means I can throw them in my bag when I’m on the road.

We are losing inches and pounds, but we’ve decided to hold off on any measurements until the end. We can tell we’re stronger and our clothes are fitting better which keeps us motivated and moving forward.

I’m going to share some of our favorite recipes we’ve found that fit the 21 Day Fix plan. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

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(Re)starting a blog in 2018

I returned from the Everything Food Conference this Sunday (happy Mother’s Day to me!) and I learned so much! Although I was attending for my day job, I was inspired to dust off this ol’ blog (my last post was three years ago).

It was so fun to be around people who were overflowing with knowledge, and while I was sitting in workshops learning all about creating videos, shooting beautiful photos and getting on Facebook Live, I thought “I can do this. I know about this.”

I know how hard my blogger friends work so I don’t presume to think I know that MUCH,  but I feel pretty comfortable with SEO, writing and photography so I’m going to give it a whirl.

I’m also excited to have some more real-world experience I can share with my farmer friends as they start their own endeavors in social media and blogging.

If you’ve read this far, thanks a ton! I look forward to sharing more!

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A piece of coal in a glittery sea of diamonds

This weekend I spent time at a blogger conference to network and learn. I went with lots of excitement. I was looking forward to connecting with folks who blog and want to blog. I wanted to pick their brains about everything–why they blog, how can I work with them on connecting folks with farming, what makes them tick. I was stoked!

I left feeling like a square in a round hole. A piece of coal in a glittery sea of diamonds.

I heard farming is bad. Clean food is the only way to go. Milk causes your intestines to inflame. You’re only human if you don’t eat meat.

I learned a new word.Pescetarianism. According to Wikipedia it’s “the practice of following a diet that includes fish or other seafood, but not the flesh of other animals.” Not the flesh of other animals? The flesh of other animals? What the??

I don’t want to paint a broad brush in saying everyone was this way. I met some awesome gals who were so welcoming, so open and wonderful. Even some that didn’t feel agriculture is all great, but they were willing to talk and discuss and connect.

The more I dive in to connecting with people over food, the more feel like if it’s not wrapped up in a pretty package or a slick documentary, people don’t want to hear it or believe it.

Food production is hard work. Farming is hard work. It’s easy for Dr. Oz to talk about the “global conspiracy” of GMOs (what a crock of crap).

It’s easy for us as consumers to get caught up in eating “all natural” and “hormone free” chicken (all chickens are hormone free).

It’s easy for us who want to have a real discussion about food to throw our hands up in this world of falsehoods and mistruths.

Am I going to give up? No way.

Am I going to go back to that blogger conference and try again? Yep.

Is it going to be easy? Nope.

But nothing good ever is.

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Talking about ‘Sticky Situations’


I posted this Instagram on my Facebook page and it seemed to connect with folks. It’s a book I found on Amazon that provides a “sticky situation” for every day of the year. The girls really enjoy doing this–so much in fact they will remind us to do it and have actually said, “I like reading those. Can we do another one?”

I found it while searching for small group ideas/curriculum for parents with adolescents (haven’t had much luck with that so shoot me a note if you have a favorite).

I felt like we were missing out on connection time with the girls where we could have fun, talk and learn about the Bible.

I’ve kept in mind the idea of our church which is TRU. That stands for Timeless (the Bible), Relevant (really needed help there with 9 year old girls in today’s world), and Unconditional (sometimes need help with that too so God’s word is always helpful).

The girls take turns reading the situation, the choices and the Bible verse. It’s worked so well we even have our 9 year old neighborhood friend participate when he eats with us.

What things do you utilize in your house for family connection and Bible study?

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