Friday, August 15, 2014

Stitch Fix #2 with pictures of course!

Last week we took a quick camping trip with some good friends. I will post about that later but imagine my anxiety when I learned my Stitch Fix arrived while I was gone and I had to wait till I got home to get it. Crazy! But the line, "good things come to those who wait," would apply. Another great box and yes I am excited to show you.

Maybe you are new to the blog or maybe you have no idea what Stitch Fix is? Check out my first "Fix" here complete with an explanation of the program.

As for box #2, it contained a pair of jeans, which I requested, a dress, two shirts and a bracelet. Everything fit which in the world of shopping is monumental in my opinion. First up this comfy and bright faux wrap dress. And as the handy style card suggests, dress it up or down.

It really is the right kind of dress for a girl with chest.And it's flattering too if you ask me. I would probably never pick up this color myself had I been shopping in the store but it came in the box so I tried it on. Love the dress and the color too. And yes, this one is husband approved too. He also commented on the color. 

Next up the peachy cowl neck top. Again probably not something I would have picked up in a store off of a hanger. It is a 3/4 sleeve and it is still really warm outside right now so that makes it a challenge to wear it this month but this will be in the Fall rotation in a few months. 

Also in this picture is a pair of skinny jeans from Level 99.
I requested jeans from my stylist after my last Fix. The fit on the jeans was awesome. They felt good and hit in the waist just right. I don't really have a waist or call it thick if you want but these felt nice. The only problem is they really hugged my entire leg and made feel like I was wearing leggings and not jeans. 

Next up is the white 3/4 sleeve blouse. I love white but rarely wear it. Kids and white don't mix well. Even more exciting is this blouse had no buttons, again another point I mentioned to my stylist after my last fix. Having a chest makes tops with buttons a challenge.  

Love this one. My first reaction was to the quality of this top. It included a white camisole to wear underneath it. Both the cami and the top fit me and my chest and in fact I wore it last night already. 

Lastly there is a cute silver bracelet that looks like a buckle and I didn't get a picture of it before I sent it back. In fact I sent the bracelet back and the jeans. If I am going to pay more than $100 for a pair of jeans, (and I am okay with spending that for good jeans) I want to love them and I just didn't love these that much. Oh well, next time. I did however keep the dress and the two tops. 

Special thanks to my photographer helpers this time around. Husband snapped a few on his way out the door to work. When I realized I needed an additional picture, I enlisted my 4 year old seen below. He snapped the one with the white shirt. Maybe photography is in his future?

So all in all I am pleased with Fix #2. I changed my delivery schedule so now they will come every other month, look for the next reveal in October. Who knows, maybe they will try the jeans again, but this time something with a straight leg or boot cut please. 

Have you signed up for your Stitch Fix yet? Try it today. You can sign up here
Thanks for reading! ~mrs. c

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Soapbox: Marriage, Government and Water

Disclaimer: This is my soapbox today. I am not a psychologist. I am not an expert on marriage or politics. But I am married and I am a voter and I have an observation today. Random and out there? Maybe. But it’s my blog. Some days you get farming and food on this page. Some days you get fashion and family. (Tomorrow will be fashion. I got my 2nd Stitch Fix, stay tuned.) But today you get my random soapbox on the water bond negotiations being discussed in Sacramento right now. By the way, I’m not a water expert either but I know just enough to make this observation and I’m annoyed by it enough to spend my lunch hour penning this.

What is the key to a successful marriage? What is the key to a successful government? Strangely enough it’s the same thing. It is also now apparent why the divorce rate is ridiculously high in this country and why the success rate of our California legislature getting anything remotely helpful done is so low.

Lack of communication and compromise. The process and outcome are the same whether you have an “R” or “D” after your name or husband or wife on your (pre-2008) marriage certificate.

One might argue that there is plenty of communication going on in marriages and in Sacramento these days but this talking is worthless if no one is listening. For decades now, we in agriculture have criticized the legislative majority and special interest groups for not including money for new water storage in previously passed water bonds. Yesterday the Governor’s office came out to tell us about the latest version of a water bond that includes $2.5 billion in continuously appropriated funds for water storage. While this is not the $3 billion “all” of agriculture would like, you must admit that it’s pretty darn close! Better yet the Governor supports it.

Sadly not all of agriculture is happy and they are throwing each other under the bus on social media and in the news. 

So a large group of interests (agriculture included) sat down and came up with a plan (which by the way is still being negotiated) and agreed support. This is called compromise. Is it the perfect solution for agriculture? No, but its more than we had going for us before. And it has a greater chance of getting us where we need to be than ever before.

Do I always get what I want went I ask my husband? No. But we talk about it, discuss the options and come to a compromise that is best for our marriage because that’s what we signed up to do when we got married. I look forward to practicing this model many times over as we prepare to build a house.

Communication and compromise people. Because keeping your position will afford you just that. You’ll have a position and nothing actionable to show for it. Isn't that why we are where we are right now? A drought and not enough water storage to support our population and an annual divorce rate that is greater than the marriage rate in this country. 

Agriculture can't fix divorce but if we in agriculture stop thinking of ourselves as individual industries - almond, walnut, rice, citrus, dairy, cattle - and think of ourselves as just agriculture we might get somewhere and get a little more respect too. 

As a reminder, my blog and my opinions. Thanks for reading. ~mrs. c

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Letter: From the Old Homeowner to the New Homeowner

Big things happened last week. I started this blog back in 2008 to chronicle our journey on raising our kids like our parents raised us - as farm kids. All along, part of the plan would be to sell our home in town, the one where we planned our wedding, began our life together and brought our new babies home from the hospital too.  The goal of course would be to build our new home in the middle of our young walnut orchard on our little piece of dirt in Orland, CA. We have the kids, bought the dirt and planted the orchard. Last week we took the next step in the process and we sold the house and moved. Who knew it would be so hard? Not because we loved that house but only because what that house represented - our family. I wanted the new homeowners to know what that house meant to us so I wrote them a letter.  The letter probably means more to me than it ever will to them but I did it anyway. Today I'm sharing it with all of you. ~mrs. c

August 8, 2014
Dear Mr. and Mrs. New Homeowner,

Congratulations on your new house! We are sure you are eager to make it home.
I’m pretty certain that leaving a note for the new homeowners from the old homeowners is more than likely rare. But knowing what I know about the house and the neighborhood, I felt it might helpful to have a glimpse of what it is at your Denali Drive house that could not be explained in a real estate listing. And frankly, I know I would personally enjoy such a head start on getting to know where I was moving too if I were in your position. So here goes.

We love Amber Grove and we are sure you will too. Where so often it seems these days community is missing, you are sure to find it here. People say hi as they walk down the street. Neighbors chat at the mailbox, and folks wave as they drive by. But what is at your Denali Drive house is what I really want you to know.
Being married to a farmer, it goes without saying that taking care of the yard was more enjoyable than it was work. Rather than try and guess what might be planted out there I wanted to give you a little heads up of what you are going find. Along the west fence, you have three of young cherry trees. The back fence offers an apricot tree and two peach trees and a grape vine that when cared for produces some sweet green grapes. The peach, apricot and cherry trees should produce their first crop next year. In the northwest corner there is a very productive Fuyu persimmon tree. You are sure to get a crop that will more than serve your taste buds and those of the birds too. These persimmons eat just like an apple and were really sweet last year.

Jake has very successfully grown tomatoes, corn, potatoes, onions, zucchini, squash, peppers, herbs and artichokes in the backyard. In fact, don’t be surprised if onions pop up along the east fence. I will guarantee that potatoes will pop-up in the flower bed running along the house closest to the master bedroom. To the left of the white arbor is a small patch of chives growing. And while we were never successful in an actual harvest, you should have asparagus pop up in between the persimmon and the redwood trees.
The maple tree will give you lots of shade in the summer and will provide you those beautifully colored leaves they are known for in the Fall. But don’t blink, last year it seemed like those leaves fell off all in one day! 

The palm tree was a gift from my parents and the redwood trees along the west fence started out as 12 inch saplings. I think you would agree they have come a long way. Also along the back fence, a really tall flowering plant will eventually pop-up.  Those are called Hollyhocks and are one of Jake’s favorite flowers.

The front yard also has a few special surprises in store. If you walk out the front door, the rose bush on the right is called Hot Cocoa and it will be a beast! Jake had a yellow lab a number of years ago and he sat right smack in the middle of that rose bush when it was newly planted. You would have thought that stress would have killed it. Not this rose bush. It grows stronger and taller each year, even after generous annual prunings. In the flower bed to the left of the front door, spring bulbs will pop up under the window. A beautiful Easter lily will bloom hopefully before Easter. Right now you will see a Calla Lilly taking shape. It has grown back now each year for the last five years even after Jake attempted to destroy it. It was not his favorite but I loved it. There are lilacs and daffodils in front of the windows and spring should bring you a variety of gorgeous Iris’ too.
The kitchen hosted many friends and family for our annual clam chowder feast in January. The window above the kitchen sink offers lots of afternoon sun and is a great place to grown a few herbs, a sun loving plant and will also brew the perfect jar of sun tea.

Inside the coat closet on the right wall you are going to find a switch. That switch will make turning on the Christmas lights a breeze. There is electric plug outside the front door up towards the eaves of the house in the entryway that is operated by that switch. There are already hooks all along the front of house that will make hanging lights really easy. And yes, many in the neighborhood will decorate right after Thanksgiving and lots of people will drive by during the holiday season.
So what about the neighbors? Jerry and Valerie Converse live to your East and are wonderful neighbors. We always let Valerie and Jerry know when we would be gone for an extended time and they were sure to watch for anything unusual and throw our paper to the front door so they didn't pile in the driveway. The Smiths live to your West and have two young children and the Monroe’s live directly across the street.

You should also know that Amber Grove is very popular at Halloween. Even though on average we handed out three-five Costco size bags of candy, it is a lot of fun to see the kids and their costumes out walking together with their families. In fact, we will probably bring our boys back to the neighborhood to trick-or-treat this October since we know our way around.
Lastly, if you ever wished ice cream could be delivered to your door, rest assured Schwan’s does deliver every other Tuesday. If you happen to be home, Ken is your driver and he is a really nice man. And if you like French fries, they make the best baked crinkle cut fries.

Baby Cecil's Nursery circa January 2012

We are really excited for you and know that while today it is a house, we are sure it will soon be easy to call it a home. Jake and I started our life together in this house and it will always hold some really fabulous memories for us. Like hosting our wedding rehearsal dinner in the backyard in 2008, decorating the first bedroom as a nursery before our oldest son was born in 2010, keeping a bountiful garden in the backyard each summer to share our love of farming and food with our two boys and too many birthday parties to even count. 
Dalton's 2nd Birthday in March of 2014.
We hope you too will create lots of memories at your Denali Drive house . I know we are rich with memories that are sure to last our lifetime and that of our boys too.

Wishing you all the best,
Jake, Colleen, Clayton and Dalton Cecil

So what's next? We are renting until we can build our new home. Stay tuned for more updates on the growing orchard, growing boys and what it takes to build a new house from the ground up. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Meet the BlogHer14 Farm Team

Remember the anticipation of going to summer camp? Who will I share a cabin with? Will they be nice to me? I may be 40 years old and I was not going to summer camp but preparing to attend the BlogHer 10th Anniversary Conference in San Jose last week gave me butterflies like those I remember before attending 4-H Camp so many years ago.

So what is BlogHer? You can see for yourself here but BlogHer is an online community dedicated to sharing the passionate, informative, thought provoking, controversial (at times) and educational blog posts of women from all over the web. Each year the writers behind the words gather for three days of inspiration, technology updates, motivation and lots of networking.

It is no secret that food, farming and agriculture are important to me and my family so when my North Dakota social media sister Katie Pinke called and said we needed to be at BlogHer14 to try and bring a greater understanding of food and farming to our blogging counterparts, I said sign me up! As a women who has worked in agriculture professionally since graduating from college, I realized upon registering for this particular conference that this would be my first main stream conference experience. Every other conference I have attended (and there have been lots of them) have revolved around agriculture and my job. Now this is not a bad thing but what I did learn after three days at BlogHer is I have been missing out!

Now that you have an idea of what BlogHer14 is, lets get back to the title of the post, the Farm Team. I was not the only farm girl who was encouraged to register for this conference. There were eight of us in total. If you ask the BlogHer14 organizers about the "Farm Team," they will probably have no idea what you are talking about. You see, by way of social media, a Facebook page was created for us farm women to begin our conversation and get to know each other before we arrived in San Jose. It was with this page we dubbed ourselves the BlogHer14 Farm Team. Some of us had met, some had not but we all had something in common. So without further adieu, allow me to introduce to the rest of the BlogHer14 Farm Team.

I mentioned her above but Katie from North Dakota blogs over at the Pinke Post about her fabulous life growing up and living on the prairie, raising three great kids and running the family business with her husband. Katie is also an agricultural speaker.

Sara blogs over at Sara's House HD. Sara and her husband live in Iowa where they are raising two adorable boys on a farm that grows corn, soybeans, hay and a cow/calf operation.


Kristen is from Ohio and she blogs at Local Farm Mom. Kristen and her husband are also raising two adorable kids on their farm where the raise Dorset sheep and Christmas trees amongst a few other things. Kristen is also a talented chef and enjoys preparing meals using locally sourced ingredients and then shares the story of the food with the guests who are eating it.

Debbie is a wife, mom and rancher in Kansas and she blogs over at Kids, Cows and Grass. Debbie and her husband have five kids and run a cow/calf operation on the Flint Hills of Kansas.

Leah is from Indiana and blogs over at Beyer Beware. Leah keeps a very extensive collection of everyday, easy and practical recipes on her blog and adds to it regularly. Leah and her husband previously owned a dairy but the struggling economy forced them to sell and now they raise corn and soybeans along with a couple of fabulous kids and pets too.

Janice is a self proclaimed lover of all things cotton. In reality though she really is a lover of all things agriculture and she blogs about her travels and adventures over at Janice Person - A Colorful Adventure. When she is not exposing everyone she knows to agricultural adventures she is the Social Media Director for Monsanto.

Bren blogs over at and while she admittedly will tell you she is not a farmer she is a lover of the land, grows a beautiful garden and is proud of a John Deere green riding lawn mower. It's my opinion but its only matter of time before she adds farmer to her resume.

If you add me to the list, that makes eight pretty fabulous women dedicated to food, farming and our families. We divided and conquered BlogHer14 making many new connections and putting a face on the American farmer to those we met. We learned a lot about ourselves but we also learned that the Farm Team needs to be bigger next year and have a larger voice. The conversation of food impacts us all at least three times a day yet many know little to nothing about where their food comes from or who is growing it. 

It really was a delightful long weekend getting to know the dynamic women above but it was also a tremendous experience for myself personally to attend BlogHer and meet women bloggers just like me and learn about their passions and perspectives. 

I encourage you to take a few minutes and visit the sites of my Farm Team friends above. And stay tuned. There is so much more about BlogHer14 I still have not shared and will do so in future posts. In the meantime the Farm Team is already plotting our path to get back to BlogHer in 2015 with a larger presence and bigger Farm Team. 

Are you interested in being part of the Farm Team? Thanks for reading. ~mrs. c

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Vacation in Pictures

I took over 400 pictures during our summer vacation this year. I picked out my favorites and that was still more than 50. I decided that was still a few too many for the blog so here is just a sampling of what we did during our time on the Northern California Coast and the Southern Oregon Coast.

Eureka, California has a great little zoo. All the boys - big and little had fun. 

The little boys mastered the spider web. 

Cutest spider I have ever seen!

The Sequoia Park had the most gorgeous dahlia garden. This one was larger than Clayton's head! 

 A quick stop for the Sky Trail. Up, up and away!

 And then we made it to the ocean. Hello Oregon!

 Fresh oysters were destined to be on our menu and they were a couple nights. 

 We traveled back to California to spend the morning in Crescent City, California 
for a fun small town 4th of July parade. 

 Of course I found my fellow Farm Bureau folks in the local parade. 

 No small town parade is complete without the Shirners. I think every parade I have ever seen in a small town has had the Shriners as a participant.

And old cars too!

 Back at our Oregon Vacation Rental, we had front yard fireworks. The boys enjoyed them and Jake had a great time setting them off. 

We hope you found time to enjoy family this summer and the 4th of July holiday too!
Thanks for reading! ~mrs. c

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Vacation Home Rental - Tips and Hints

In my last post, I offered my thoughts on why your family might want to rent a vacation home and where you can go to find the right one. If you missed that post you can read it here.Today I want to share my strategy for packing, prepping the house and enjoying your vacation in a vacation home rental.

As you can imagine, after five different rentals in five different houses, I have a few tips and suggestions for making your stay feel like a vacation even if you have to cook and do laundry. 

All of the vacation homes (unless noted in their description) are equipped for you to just bring your clothes and toiletries.  Towels and bedding are always provided.  Kitchens are usually stocked with the basics - plates, pots and pans, cups, coffee pot, cooking utensils and silverware. 

Pay attention to the details. Do you like to grill? Make sure there is a barbecue at the property that you can access. Is the beach close? Do they mention beach towels? You may need to bring these with you. Is the lake close? Is there room to park your vehicle and your boat? Does the rental have phone, TV and internet? These details should be included in the online descriptions. If not, just ask.  An email or phone call to the property manager should get you the answers you need to whatever your questions might be.

The Kitchen
The pantry in a vacation rental will be sparse. You will probably have the basic spices - salt, pepper and whatever has been left by a previous renter. For example, I bought of bottle of vanilla to make some cookies while in Oregon.  The lid of the (really inexpensive) vanilla cracked. Rather than bring it home and risk it spilling, I left it for the next person to use. You will probably have access to some baking soda, flour, sugar and coffee. Your vacation rental should include paper towels, toilet paper, dish soap and if your lucky a roll of foil and plastic wrap. 

What you bring with you will depend upon your method of travel, how much you plan to use the kitchen for cooking and what retail establishments your destination offers. If you are driving like we did, you are only limited by the size of your vehicle. Additionally our destination had a large super center to shop at so we opted to buy most of our food stuffs when we got there.  We packed a small plastic tote with our favorite bottle of olive oil, our go-to grilling seasoning, some salmon seasoning (we were at the ocean,) crab cracking utensils, my hubby's favorite grilling tongs and a few sippy cups for the boys. I also grabbed a box of resealable plastic bags - I use these for some much more than food storage - and threw it into one of our suitcases. We also brought an empty ice chest to use on day trips and for bringing cold items home when the trip ended. 

After we unloaded our luggage we surveyed what the rental house had and didn't have that we knew we might want to have handy during our stay. Our first stop was the grocery store with a shopping list designed around a loosely planned menu.  We could have dined at the numerous restaurants that Brookings offers, and we did have a few restaurant meals, but we feel so much more comfortable making our own. After all if we didn't want to cook, we would have stayed at a hotel.  

Shopping Suggestions
  • Buy the smallest size container of necessary condiments - mayo, ketchup, mustard.
  • Ignore 2 for 1 specials. As tempting as they may be, you will likely only need one of whatever it is. 
  • Consider a 1/2 gallon of milk rather than the whole gallon. (With two growing boys, we still bought the gallon.) 
  • Cereal, crackers, lunch meat, cheese and salad dressing.  You only need one of each. Now is not the time for everyone to pick their favorite flavor or variety.  Unless of course you are prepared to 1) take it home or 2) discard whatever is remaining when your stay concludes. 
  • Get some paper plates. After all you are on vacation and this will ensure a few less dishes you will have to wash.
  • Reusable plastic cups. Our rental had beautiful glasses. I have two rambunctious boys. Plastic cups are a necessity. And since it is summer time you usually can pick up four for less than $2. 
  • Buy a small bottle of your family's preferred laundry detergent.  Their may be one in the vacation rental already but having the same one you use at home might save a family member from an unnecessary skin reaction. 
  • Choose food items that you can eat more than once. Fresh salmon one night became salmon cakes the next night. Steak and potatoes for dinner become steak sandwiches for lunch or steak, eggs and potatoes for breakfast. 
Does the town your vacationing in have a dollar store? This a great place to pick up those reusable cups, beach buckets for the kids or random kitchen utensils that the house does not have. Example - our last rental only had one pot holder. I bought two for $1 at the dollar store and left them for the next renter.

Going Home
We didn't eat everything we bought when we arrived at our vacation rental home so it needed to go home with us. We also bought a few local foodie type items - cheese, cheese and more cheese - that we were taking home to friends and for our own indulgence. That's where the ice chest came in handy.  But what about all of the dry goods? Cereal, crackers, bread, chips and the other items were brought to begin with needed to be transported home so we picked up one of those 18 gallon plastic totes. The lid is locking so nothing was going to fly out from the back of our truck and I can always use another tote at home.How about you?

We did throw out a few things. We had one egg, a few pieces of fresh fruit (fresh fruit can't cross the state line into California,) about two scoops of ice cream left in the freezer and a few leftovers from previous evening. All of this went into the trash. There was a box of frozen juice popstoo and we had only eaten four of them. I wrote the date on the box and left them. Maybe the next renters would have kids that might like these. If not they could throw them away.

Unexpected Perks
While on our vacation, one of our little guys came down with a 24 hour stomach bug. Having the extra space of a real house made it easy just to hang out all day and watch movies (that we rented from one of those one day movie rental dispensers like Red Box.) No one was on top of anyone and my sick little guy could rest without having to share a space with his brother. Keeping his brother out of that space was a whole other story but we managed. 

And finally...

Take time to enjoy the vacation. 
We are already planning next years trip and looking for the perfect house online to rent. 

Do you have a favorite family vacation tip?
Thanks for reading. ~mrs. c

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vacation Homes - To Rent or Not to Rent?

We just wrapped up our week long vacation on the southern Oregon Coast. We also just completed our 5th successful vacation home rental.  If you have always wondered about renting someone else's house, I'm here to tell you this is a vacation option worth exploring.

You are probably wondering what do they cost and where do you go to find one? I hope I can answer a few questions and give you a few of our family's hints and tips for a successful vacation in someone else's house over two different blog posts. This first post will discuss finding a house to rent and what they cost.

Now keep in mind that these houses are second homes and investment properties for the owners; they are not their primary residence so you are not going to see family photos on the wall or clothes hanging in the closet. It really is just like a hotel without room service and daily housekeeping. And don't worry, you don't have to clean the toilets when you leave, housekeeping comes in after you leave to ready the house for the next renters. 

Vacation home rentals can cost as little as or as much as you are willing to spend. There really is something out there for everyone. Consider your budget. Maybe you have plans to stay in a hotel on your vacation. The per night costs of a vacation home are most times comparable or even better than the per night of a hotel. Rentals usually always require a refundable deposit and a non-refundable cleaning fee. You will also pay local tourism taxes too.  

Have you ever wanted to travel with another family or members of your extended family? For instance maybe Grandma and Grandpa want to go too. Just need to find a bigger house. Rental options include apartments, condos. townhouses, cottages and homes with as many rooms as you will need. 

Finding your perfect rental
To begin your search I recommend or You might also do an internet search for local real estate or property management companies in the city you plan to visit. Here is the link to the house we just rented in Brookings, Oregon. You can check a homes calendar and book the days you want directly from the website. You can also see pictures of the properties, read about the local sights and read the reviews from former renters.

The Great Escape in Brookings, OR
So why do we choose the vacation home rental over hotel accommodations?
We are a family of four with two young boys and hotel living for a week is not as luxurious as I might like it to be but the vacation home is ideal! The boys have their own space, mom and dad have their own space, we can cook if we want to (and we do) and I can keep up on the laundry. Doing laundry may not seem like a chore you want to deal with while on vacation but trust me, this makes unpacking awesome! 

There is usually a yard for our active kids to play in and a refrigerator that I can stock with the snacks a two year old, four year old and their 40 year old father demand. We always choose homes in locations close to the activities we enjoy. For our family this is the ocean. For your family it might be the lake, a riverfront or downtown in a city with bright lights.

Here are pictures and links to the other four rental homes we have rented in the past.

We rented this one on our honeymoon. I hope to go back to this one again someday. Maybe for our 10 year anniversary? Hint, hint if you are reading Jake. 

It was just the two of us for this trip and we just needed to get away so this little condo was perfect. 

This was the first vacation with a baby. He was 5 months old and traveled so well for this lengthy car ride. 

This trip we invited my parents to join us. The house was large enough to accommodate our then family of three plus my parents. 

In my next post I will offer some tips and suggestions for packing for a vacation rental stay. What to bring and what to buy when you get there. Stay tuned. 
Thanks for reading! ~mrs. c

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