It isn’t everyday that you find yourself surrounded by so much love, but over the last four months that is exactly what I’ve experienced from professionals, friends, family, businesses, and farmers market customers that I see out and about.
It was in 2003 that I took my first shopping trip to the Columbia Farmers Market as a college student at Mizzou, and I fell in love with the market lifestyle! Fresh veggies, smiling farmers, amazing foods, and the sweetest beekeepers…ever! I would frequent market many times my senior year in college, until marrying my high school sweetheart, Charlie, and moving to Jefferson City, MO.
There, I worked for the Brownfield Farm Radio Network and learned so much about online marketing, social media, event planning and public relations. It was my first job, fresh out of college and it was a good one, filled with amazing people, and luckily I was still only 35 minutes away from my favorite place- the farmers market!
As a young professional and married woman, I worked on perfecting many dinner meals that I prepared with my husband with foods from both the Columbia Farmers Market and the farmer friends I made like Lowell Mohler at the Jefferson City Farmers Market. My husband and I would even help Lowell harvest his amazing asparagus from time to time!
Then, in 2007, I had a friend at the Missouri Department of Agriculture ask me if I was interested in possibly switching career directions. A position opened up with the department in the local foods sector. I decided to take a chance and it paid off. I began working at the department as a Marketing Specialist in the area of local foods, agritourism, organics and specialty crops. I oversaw farmers markets across the state, assisted small farmers in marketing and business planning and presented numerous workshops and presentations around the state. I made friends all over the state, helped to organize conferences and educational workshops for farmers, almost tripled the number of farmers markets in the state of Missouri, grew the organic cost-share program, presented 53 presentations on local foods, and loved every bit of my job!
In late 2009, I was awaiting the birth of our first child, Caston, in October. My husband was offered a very exciting opportunity that would move our growing family back to our home area of Southwest Missouri and closer to my family farm. We moved in January 2010, to Taney County and I slowly begun to build my business, Agri-Comm Services, which provides grant writing, business planning and marketing focused on agricultural and local foods.
Why am I looking back on my earlier career? Because the past has lead me to where I stand today. The past tells a story of how we became the people we are today, the choices we make and guides our future. I recently posted about ending a very important chapter of my life. It was the chapter after I moved to Taney County and helped establish a local foods pillar in our region, Farmers Market of the Ozarks.
When I moved back to Southwest Missouri my main goal was to somehow, someway build a local foods community in Springfield. And, I knew it could be done because our region was rich in local foods, home to an array of progressive farmers and foodies that were all searching for the same circle- a local food community circle where both farmer and foodie could meet. Thus, Farmers Market of the Ozarks was created. I owe Amanda Millsap Owens the biggest kiss for teaming up Matt O’Reilly and myself. After many meetings, hours of research, too many drafts to mention…Farmers Market of the Ozarks came into reality in 2012. The market has received numerous awards over the years and I have enjoyed working alongside some of the most hard-working, kindest, loving and generous people in my entire life. I am grateful to have learned so much from my farmers market vendors, and I wish the market only the best in its future!
I decided it was time that I focus on my next chapter this past fall and resigned as the Executive Director of market. It seemed fitting that as I close out an important chapter in my life, that I learn that I am being nominated for an award that celebrated my contributions in growing local foods in our state. I was nominated by a former intern and now friend of mine, Kelsie Young, and two MSU professors to be inducted into the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame. I feel very thankful that these individuals believe in my work in local foods to be nominated and grateful to the Public Affairs committee for the award in which I will receive this coming spring.
I’m super honored to be inducted into the annual Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame with Peter Herschend, Jean Carnahan, Phyllis Washington and General John J. Pershing. Just to be part of this group of amazing individuals is humbling.
As for my next chapter, I am working on writing it currently. Stay tuned…
I recently posted on my Instagram page a video of beeswax melting over a double boiler. I said, “If you would have told me a year ago that I would be watching beeswax melt as my job, I would have laughed at you!” But, it’s true! I spend my days melting beeswax, infusing organic olive oil, and creating amazing all natural products with family in mind! Follow my @417localista or @MamaLanes for updates.
I have to admit, I truly enjoy the slower pace of this life, than the hustle and bustle of “climbing the career ladder,” and missing out on cherished time with my family. For years I helped to build a successful farmers market that brought in over $255,000 in grants and sponsorships in 6 years, managed the marketing and public relations of the business, answered phone calls and emails constantly, presented speeches on local food and marketing and helped others build their businesses, while all the time yearning to find my “own” niche. I loved my career in local foods, I helped many get their footing, and I was truly blessed to have the career I did, but times change and so do we as humans.
I resigned from a career that has brought me much joy, but I knew there was more for me and my family. The juggling act between family and career had become too much for me to give 100% to both, and I was not going to let my family take second place.
I launched Mama Lane’s All Natural in October 2017 after a friend of mine suggested I sell my Vapor Rub and other goodies I made for family and friends. (Thanks Stac)
I sold 53 jars of Vapor Rub in two weeks! My kiddos helped me in my kitchen unscrewing the tins, laying them out on a table for me to pour what friends like to call “liquid gold” (aka vapor rub) into each little tin, then patiently waiting for the mixture to harden, so then my kids could screw the lids back on the tins and add a label, while I cleaned up the kitchen. (I’ve learned to clean up fast, nobody has time for harden beeswax!)
And the rest is history…
I spend my days in my kitchen making products with my family, on the road meeting new potential retail customers, on my phone or Mac adding to the online marketing for my little business or experimenting with new products (I currently have 27 products I make.)
These are two of my displays at Hy-Vee’s Natural Beauty aisle in Springfield (left) and Sunfest Market in Branson (right). That’s my handsome little guy, Caston, pointing at his mama. I had to surprise him one night after a basketball game and let him discover this sign on his own- he decided we had to stay and watch a lady put two of my products in her shopping cart.
Besides my little business, I am also helping to grow my family’s farm, which is another reason I decided to turn-in my office gloves for a slower pace career. My family operates Grassland Farms in Seymour, MO., you can also find our farm on Instagram and Facebook and follow our journey there. We currently produce pastured-raised chicken and pork and will be pursuing our goal of constructing hydroponic greenhouses to produce lettuce and herbs. My parents, brother David and I run the family farm and have big goals for 2018!
All of these big life changes have allowed my family the time we need- together! My son put everything into perspective just a few weeks ago as we were on our way to a basketball game. He and I were discussing athletes that he admired and why and I was telling him about who I admired as a kid, and I listened to him and he listened to me. Then, after a moment of silence he told me he really loved that “I decided to choose him and sissy.” At first, I didn’t know what he meant, so I asked. “You quit your job so you could be with us more and now when we talk, we REALLY talk,” he said. That was all the perspective that I needed…out of the mouths of babes. They hold SO much in and do not tell us. He was correct. Being an active listener is difficult when you have so much weighing on your mind between balancing work and family. I do not have it all figured out, but I am working on it!
When it comes to gift-giving during the holidays I always try and include something unique, handmade and meaningful for the recipient. That could be a batch of my family’s fudge, bath salts, an artisan find made by a local, handmade ornament, favorite bottle of wine or even cooking classes. Gifts are meant to be special and make those receiving them feel important.
Luckily, here in the Ozarks we have an array of locally-made products to choose from, including my own handcrafted health and beauty product line, Mama Lane’s All Natural. From lip balms and lotions to vapor rub and hand salves- I’ve got a great product line-up that will score you a win with your next Christmas gift.
Whether you are looking for single products to add in stockings or other gifts, or maybe you are needing a ready-to-go gift set, I have options for Mommy-To-Be, Gents Trio Set, Ladies Duo, Ladies Trio and I can even custom make you a set with your favorite things.
Lip and Hand Salves are popular options for this time of year, as these products protect lips and hands from getting chapped, the wind and cold. Or, you can choose between body butters or lotions for extra moisturizing, which is something we all need a little extra of in the winter. The Rose Petal Lotion is a soft, subtle rose scent that has become a favorite of my customers, as I infuse organic olive oil with rose petals in a slow process to create an aroma-filled oil. For the guys I offer a Coffee Lip Salve, Men’s Cedarwood and Cedar Leather Lotion and even a Beard Balm.
You can shop online on my Etsy store or message me on Facebook for a specialty order.
Merry Christmas to your family and Happy New Year!
(Photo credit: E.Marie’s Boutique)
That’s exactly how I would sum up 2017. Our little family seems to be on a constant whirlwind of practices, ballgames, meetings, school activities, farm duties, work duties and occasional playdates with friends. It’s something that I think most parents with young children go through at some point. (At least that is what I have learned on the occasional mommy playdate with my girlfriends.)
But, what do we do when it all seems to be stressing the entire family out? What if all the activities are causing havoc on much needed family time? What do we do when we worry about how other moms judge our decisions within our own families? Why can’t our friends just be REAL? What if you are overly concerned with ensuring that the kids are perfectly taken care of, but forget you have a marriage to take care of as well? What if you forget it’s the small stuff in your crazy everyday life that truly matters? What do you do when you realize that you have not been putting God first, nor have you been teaching your children to do so? What if you’ve been living a life that you think you have to keep up with in today’s society, but really just want to be an okay mom with happy kids and genuine friends? What if you realize you’re heading towards a rat race that you don’t want to be in?
You stop, breathe and say FORGET THIS! And, MAKE A CHANGE…
How? Heck if I know. But, I will say this, two books have made a a big impact on how I am focusing on living my life and guiding my family’s life. Sarah Knight’s The Life-Changing Magical Art of Not Giving a F*ck and How to Get Your Sh*t Together. Yes, those titles might raise a brow or two, but you know what…you can take your judgmental brow elsewhere.
These are terrific books that will have you laughing and planning your escape to an entirely new life worth living, for yourself and your family. And, when you finish these books, pass them on to a friend that needs a swift kick in the butt onto a road leading them into a happier, more peaceful tomorrow!
You’ll find yourself implementing strategies learned from the first book in every facet of your life: at the supermarket, at school field trips, with friends, with family during the holidays, at meetings, at home, on the phone, on Facebook, at ballgames, at random places like the bank (true story), the list never ends.
And while you are feeling more liberated in your changing world, I suggest figuring out how your kids schedules and activities are stressing you out, while doing the same to your kids. Its true. We want to be the best parents we can be to our littles. We want to give them every opportunity we can, but that shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of our family’s time together. We can consume ourselves with ensuring every minute of everyday is spent going to the next activity, or on a playdate, or to a practice or wherever- BUT what’s best for your family and kids is time spent together with no schedule. And, that could be just at home playing freely outside or having a simple night in watching movies and eating popcorn and ice cream, laughing on the couch, making memories that will stick with your children when they become adults one day.
In the midst of this total transformation, look at your marriage and remember that even though you now have littles to contend to and ensure they are taken care of, you also have your spouse that needs to know they are loved and appreciated! It’s easy to forget about each other while you are raising little ones, because let’s face it- parenthood is HARD. It’s work! But, you can’t forget to WORK on your MARRIAGE too. Find time for each other every single day to talk about your day, talk about the week’s plans, about your feelings, about the kids, about your hopes and about why you appreciate the other SO much!
Lastly, but most importantly, ensure God’s teachings are present daily among your family. Even if you can’t make it to church every week, find a way to bring HIM into your family and show your children how you believe and live through HIM.
It’s okay to not be perfect. This I have learned. All I need is a happy life full of love, family and friends to make my soul complete. Find a circle of friends that encourage, not compete. Throw the judgement of others and busy filled schedules out the window. Live a life meant for purpose.
Tomato Bisque is one of my family’s favorite soups that always pairs perfectly along a grilled cheese sandwich for a quick and easy weeknight meal. This is one meal I remember my mother making me on cold winter days for lunch after I had been playing in the snow all morning long and needed to “thaw out.”
With any recipe that has few ingredients, only use high-quality seasonings and ingredients. You will notice the difference. If you are afraid of the half-and-half, well I can’t help you there. It’s a bisque and isn’t meant to be a “skinny bisque.” It’s meant to taste rich and divine, not bland and lifeless.
1 medium onion-thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
2 cans stewed tomatoes with Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons chopped chives
In heavy saucepan, sauté the onion in butter for 5 minutes, Add tomato, bay leaf, brown sugar, basil, cloves, salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes.Remove bay leaves and cloves. Puree rest. Strain if you want a very smooth soup. (I like the little pieces of tomato) Add cream, milk and heat well, do not scald. Serve sprinkle with Parmesan and croutons.
Have you ever had bread pudding? No-Then you are missing out. There are a lot of recipes for bread pudding out there…just go and Google bread pudding and see what pops up. I recall even watching Paula Deen once make a bread pudding from Krispy Kream donuts. I never tried it myself, but I’m sure it was tasty too!
This pudding is a very old dessert that was known as the “poor man’s pudding” way back when it was made with stale bread. The English would moisten the bread with water, add some sugar and other spices and fruits and maybe candies if they had them.
This pudding is made from lots of different breads such as croissant, French, brioche….any type of bread works. Another change to the recipe from then to now is that the bread is soaked in a rich custard mixture, instead of just water.
This recipe is one that I came up with over 10 years ago, after much experimentation in the kitchen. My favorite bread to use is brioche bread, but croissants will do. You can also vary this recipe to add more flavor with such things such as nuts, dried fruits, alcohol, zests, chocolate and fresh fruit, or even a drizzle of caramel. I use this recipe as a base, then add to it depending on what I have in the cupboard. Apples and caramel for all, cranberries and white chocolate chips for Christmas and everything in between.
Day Old Bread Pudding
3 extra-large whole eggs
8 extra-large egg yolks
5 cups half-and-half
4 tablespoons of melted butter, cooled
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 croissants, preferably stale, sliced horizontally
1 cup raisins and chocolate chips
1 large peeled and cored tart apple, diced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a mid-sized bowl, whisk the eggs, half-and-half, butter, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Set aside.
Slice the croissants in half horizontally. In a 10 by 15 by 2 1/2-inch oval baking dish, distribute the bottoms of the sliced croissants, then add the raisins apples, and chips, then the tops of the croissants (brown side up), being sure the raisins, apple and chocolate chips are between the layers of croissants or they will burn while baking. Pour the custard over the croissants and allow to soak for 15 minutes, pressing down gently.
Place the pan in a larger one filled with 1-inch of hot water. Cover the larger pan with aluminum foil, tenting the foil so it doesn’t touch the pudding. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape.
Bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40 to 45 more minutes or until the pudding puffs up and the custard is set. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.