Help Us Raise the Roof! 

When I first met Nate 14 years ago, he told me he grew up on a farm. But being a suburban gal, I had no idea what that meant. 

It meant he and his family are hard workers, determined people, and have a strong sense of community. (To name a few things.)

Nate’s mom does even more with the farm: she hosts weddings and seasonal festivals in the main barn and on the property. 

Of course, when I first visited, I didn’t appreciate like I do now. That’s because the farm is a part of me as it has been for Nate and his family since they moved there 30 years ago.

My love of the farm only grew. Harvesting fresh produce (or almost picking a praying mantis), eating home cooked feasts (usually from the garden, when possible), visiting the shed to see if Grandpa Ted is around or in the field…these are all normal now. 

Every fall, we return to Knoxville for the Scenic Drive, an event that gets me in the mood for my favorite season: autumn. I love seeing familiar faces of artisans and friends, checking out new vendors, and eating my father-in-law’s signature beef stew that he cooks in a kettle on the fire outside. I’ve done a lot of odd and fun jobs, from grilling to apple pressing to selling Grandma Jan’s wreaths and arrangements. And I leave a bounty, too: decorative flint corn to hang on our fence, pumpkins to stack by the front door, freshly made candy for the ride home, and other goodies from the farmer’s market on-site.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, we return again for the Christmas event. This time, it’s colder, and we can do Christmas shopping! One year Nate’s aunt and grandma made ornaments out of Grandpa Len’s old work clothes to sell. These are now some of our most treasured decorations on the tree. Pottery, hand-knit hats, and Grandma Jan’s wreaths and swags, are also some of our favorites.

These events are special year after year, but we also hosted our wedding on the farm almost five years ago. We were married in the walnut grove, dined under the stars in a tent, and laughed and cried and danced in the barn until the floor boards shook! It was a perfect day with the ones we love, and I hope I never forget how magical it all was.

So why am I telling you all of this? The barn needs your help. This beautiful historic barn is in need of a new roof. It’s expensive, but necessary, and will keep the barn going strong for years to come. This barn means so much to so many. To me, it’s home.

Whatever you can contribute, I sincerely appreciate your consideration. My family works so hard to bring these wonderful events to Knoxville, and I want to make sure to keep the tradition going strong. For me, Ellie, our family, and the community.

5 Lessons from My Dad for Father’s Day

I’m pretty blessed to have a lot of amazing dads in my life. I know everyone isn’t as lucky, and I don’t take it for granted.

For this Father’s Day, I thought it would be nice to share some lessons from my Dad. He’s always been a good teacher and wants to give advice. So, here are just five of the many lessons from my Dad (in no particular order).

1. Put family first. My Dad’s family life as a kid was less than ideal, and he made sure that when he was a father, he would be an active part of our lives. We were fortunate because my Dad worked mostly from home growing up, and my Mom was a full-time mom, so we were together all of the time. My Dad was my soccer coach, went to my holiday concerts, and was there for dinner every day. 

2. Education is important. My Dad always pushed us to do our best academically and to take advantage of all our extra-curricular activities. I liked school from a young age; we used to “play” with my sister (she would make my younger brother and I do her homework!). But working hard had its benefits. I had a 4.0 GPA all of high school, and enjoyed things like choir, cheerleading, year book, class council, and more during high school, and my siblings were just as motivated. I wouldn’t be where I am now without the academic support and motivation of both of my parents.

3. Travel. My family is big into travel, and we’ve experienced a lot of vacations together. Skiing, going to Disney World, cruising the Virgin Islands, driving the road to Hana in Maui, sailing in Mexico–my Dad instilled the importance of traveling, seeing the world, and learning about different cultures. I’ve been bitten with the travel bug and it’s in my veins. It’s not a coincidence that I work for a study abroad non-profit now! 

4. Work hard. My Dad has literally made a life for us out of nothing, and showed me that I can do the same. In conjunction with #2, I knew I didn’t just have to be good in school, but also get a lot of work experience. For example, my senior year in college, I did all of my class work, was the co-editor and a writer for the Latino newsletter, was a writer for the school newspaper’s magazine insert, and designed page layouts for the newspaper, too. It wasn’t always easy, but I knew if I wanted to be a journalist, I needed the experience. I still have this same work ethic, and I’m grateful for that.

5. Follow your heart. When it comes to love, my parents have a pretty amazing story of how they met at 15 years old, and have been married for 40+ years. They’ve been a great example of what true love is, and have urged us to find the same. When I fell for Nate at the end of freshman year at U of I, I knew he was special. The more I knew him and spent time with him and his family, the more I wanted us to be together. Thirteen years later, I still feel the same way, and love him more now than I could have before.

Nate is going to be a dad again (don’t forget Georgie!) very soon. I’m due with our first baby in five days (ah!), and look forward to sharing this advice with our child. What a journey it’ll be, and I’m so excited to share it with my Dad, Nate, and all of you.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads! Know that you are special and loved! XO

Spotlight: Cookbook Club Featuring Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie at Home”

This year, some of our friends started a Cookbook Club, in which we all make recipes from the same cookbook and have a potluck to feast on the delicious recipes. Our first book? Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home.

The cookbook is divided into the four seasons, so this meeting we mostly chose recipes from spring. (I missed the January meeting, where all recipes were from winter; Nate made the winter veg coleslaw.) In the cookbook, the main ingredients unique to spring are eggs, asparagus, lamb, and rhubarb.

Now, there are two important things to note:

  1. All of our friends/family who we hang out with are awesome cooks.
  2. I am not as much. 🙂

Knowing that I’m a little nervous about my talents in the kitchen, I opted for Nate and I to bring an easier option: Rhubarb and Sticky Ginger Crumble. I shopped for all of the ingredients on the Wednesday before last Sunday’s event, just needed to pick up the rhubarb. Or so I thought…

My mother-in-law grows rhubarb, so I should have realized that rhubarb is only available in late spring, right? Wrong! I went to/called/stalked about seven different grocery stores looking for rhubarb. Jewel almost had it; a produce employee at Trader Joe’s in the burbs didn’t even know what rhubarb was. Needless to say, I needed to act fast. 

 Our backup? We decided to make one apple crumble and one strawberry crumble, which meant I had to adapt the recipe…and fast. My plan was to use Jamie’s crumble recipe (which Nate was in charge of making), and this Strawberry Crisp recipe for the strawberry part, and this Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp recipe for the apple part. And I thought it turned out okay! The crumble part of Jamie’s recipe was so delicious. When we arrived at my brother and sister-in-law’s apartment (our hosts for this month), there were so many beautiful dishes—my pictures do not do it justice! (I couldn’t try all of the recipes because of my pregnancy diet, so some of the great recipes are missing from my plate photo.) Some of the dishes included:

After everyone ate their salad, soup, and main dishes, we warmed up the crisps and served them with vanilla bean ice cream. Both crisps went completely, but the consensus was the strawberry one was a hit! It was so easy to make—we’ll definitely do that one again! 

 I highly recommend starting your own Cookbook Club. It’s not only a way to challenge yourself, but also to try new recipes that you can make again at home, and to spend time hanging out with friends and family. Can’t wait for the next meeting!