A Super Soup Supper

It started with a random comment at a 4H meeting.

The swing set at the park in our small rural community was in sad state and the baby swing was broken.

“We should take it on as a 4H project!” they said.

Great idea! But we’re a very small club. We would need to raise some money.

The easiest fund-raiser for a club of six kids? A soup supper.


Excitement built as we set a date, planned a menu and and printed hand-outs.

The kids made posters and the leaders and the moms (all five of us) started baking, cutting veggies, and making soup.

The food started arriving early on the night of the supper.

And so did the community.

Lots of them.

On a raw March evening with the skies threatening snow, we packed the tables in our community hall.

Moms dished the soups, but our 4H kids were a part of everything else – keeping veggie plates filled, plating desserts, pouring drinks, busing tables, washing dishes.

And they were excited! You could see it in their eyes. This was big. Way bigger than we imagined.

Half way through we started adding to the soups to stretch them.

And still they came.

A cross section of community. Retired couples, young families, grandparents with grandchildren.

All there for the kids. For the park. For the future.

Some even brought desserts to add to our offerings.

The tables were never empty and our donation box was filling up.

When the last guest buttoned up and headed out in the cold and those now exhausted kids had helped clean up, we opened up the donation box and counted the money.

Their excitement was infectious as the pile of bills added up!

And up and up.

The total surpassing our expectations by many, many dollars.

This went way way beyond just a new baby swing and some fresh paint!

This could get memorial trees for our two 4H members killed in a car accident last summer!

This could get a handicapped swing!

The ideas were flying as we turned out the lights and headed home.

Exhausted but exhilarated.

Those six kids learned some very valuable lessons that night.

About having an idea and how to make it happen.

About working hard and serving others.

And about community and what can happen when we work together.

It was a pretty super soup supper!


“Our state fair is the best state fair…”

I love the Iowa State Fair.

Maybe because it has something for everyone!

10433261_10204549168908520_7474021879587634149_nLike a mechanical bull for Dagmar. She stayed on for longer than 8 seconds.

Now she wants to ride a real one.

Oh dear.

IMG_1179And there was the free music.

Here’s Buddy enjoying a steel drum concert while we ate some lunch.

Notice his smile? Not only is he loving the drumming – but he also just found out his infamous yeast rolls earned a blue ribbon!

This momma sighed a huge sigh of relief!IMG_1192Then there’s our tradition of watching the local 5:00 news LIVE from the Fairview Stage!

We got there late and had to stand the entire time – but we saw everything – even the weather green screen and flub ups.

Didn’t catch any of the free food they were throwing out though…

And what’s the perfect way to end a day at the Iowa State Fair?

A ride on the Ferris wheel with your sweetie as the sun goes down and the lights go up.

Gotta love the Iowa State Fair!

The Tale of the 4H Yeast Rolls

BunsBuddy had to be up at 5:00 am to start making his yeast rolls for the State Fair.

That meant that I needed to be up a 5:00 am to make sure that Buddy was up to make his yeast rolls for the State Fair.

This is way too early to make anything.

I’ve always teased the kids when they work on 4H cooking projects that I want them to know it so well they could do it in their sleep.

It worked.

Buddy mixed up the dough with one eye open, set it to rise and went back to sleep.

I, however, was now wide awake.

I got to sit and watch the dough rise and wake him up when it was ready to make out into buns.

it was at this point that things started to get a little hairy.

You see – my oven is broke. And one needs an oven in which to bake yeast rolls. Our solution – Grandma’s house.

And since Grandma was currently in Minnesota – her oven would be free.

So – Buddy made out the rolls, quickly got dressed, and ran out to do chores.

And it started to rain.

Meanwhile I slipped on my flip flops (this detail will be important later) and proceeded to gather up the trays of rising buns and head to the mini van. In the rain. Dodging the chickens who had just been released from the coop, in flip flops that were getting more and more wet.

I should note that we now have three kids driving – with three different vehicles – all of which were currently parked in my driveway directly in my route to the mini van which was – of course – parked the farthest from the house.

I somehow managed to get the first two trays in the van and ran to the house for the next two,  again dodging chickens and rain drops in wet flip flops.

Buddy finished chores and jumped in the van with me.

We were on a very tight time schedule so I went over the baking time with him again. And again. And one more time just in case.

I pulled the van as close to the Grandma’s house as we could, each of us grabbed two sheet trays of beautifully formed and rising yeast rolls and headed to the porch.

When I hit the door I realized that with a sheet pan in each of my hands – I couldn’t open it. Thinking quickly, I balanced one tray between my elbow and chin, using my free hand to open the door.

it was just as the door opened that my wet foot slipped in my wet flip flop causing me to hurtle through the door sending one sheet pan of perfectly formed and rising yeast rolls to go crashing to the ground.

Thankfully only four rolls actually landed on the ground, in the doorway, and on the porch. The rest stayed on the tray – but they were no longer perfectly formed. Nor were they rising.

I brushed off my dignity – chucked the four errant rolls into the ravine hoping some varmint coon would choke on them – and rearranged the remaining ones, praying that they would be okay.

Buddy got the rest of the trays successfully in the house and the oven preheating. I went over the baking time with him again – this time pointing to the clock for added emphasis.

Then I left my baby alone to bake his yeast rolls and I took my slippery wet flip flops home to clean up.

Buddy got them baked right on schedule and Angel Girl and I were right on time when we picked him up. Things were looking up!

But then I realized that I had forgotten to grab the paper plates we needed from the table – where I put them so that I wouldn’t forget them.

This meant that we had to stop back at the house.

Which made us late.

Now we needed to make tracks.

But Angel Girl was driving.

Her top speed was 45 mph.

So I said, “Floor it Missy!”

She floored it – we hit 56 mph.

We made it to the extension office with 3 minutes to spare.

We handed off the precious yeast rolls to the county 4H coordinator who took them to the State Fair.

And there they were judged by a judge who knows nothing of the drama involved in getting them there!

Oh if those buns could talk!

A Blue Ribbon Week

My week in two words –

County Fair.

As a 4H Leader and a 4H mom – this week means crazy.

But slightly less crazy as in years past when I had 5 kids who were all doing projects. This year I had 2 and they were both pretty independent.

And – of course – they waited till the last minute to finish them.

Which required a last minute stop at the grocery store to print a last minute picture. But we weren’t alone – there was a line of 4Her’s with their stressed out mom’s waiting to do the same thing.

And it was worth it – both Angel Girl and Buddy had projects chosen to go on to the State Fair.

And I kept my cool and my smile all afternoon. 🙂

Now to manage the continual coming and going the County Fair brings – starting with 4H pictures in a few minutes.

Oh and the meals. We’ll be eating on the run or in shifts.

Speaking of running – I gotta find my 4Her’s and hit the road!

It’s County fair Week!

Christmas Grab Bag Gift Exchange- Wampum Version

Our Christmas season kicks off tonight with our 4H Christmas party. It will the seventh one that we’ve hosted.

So – what exactly does a successful 4H Christmas party include?

Food – definitely food.

Seasonal is good. Lots of sugar is better.
PopcornTonight we have homemade caramel corn to hand out, mini sugar cookies and a big batch of elf food to share.

A craft is always a good idea – something they can do to keep their hands busy and take home with them. Angel girl has a Christmas tree craft ready to share.

And of course – you need a grab bag gift exchange.

That’s when things will start to get a little crazy.

Every member will need to bring a wrapped grab bag gift and then you will need to find a way to exchange them.

Sometimes we play Bingo – similar to my our White Elephant Bingo Gift Exchange at my family’s Remix every spring.

And other times – if I’m feeling very adventurous and brave – we play Wampum.

PresentsIt’s pretty simple and loved by kids of all ages.

All you need is a newspaper rolled up and taped together to make a club-like object that looks cool but doesn’t cause injury. We call it the Wampum stick. (Pretty creative – huh?!)

Choose one person to be It – everyone else puts their chairs in a circle and puts their wrapped gifts under their chair.

The person who is It can put their gift to the side.

Starting with the person who is It, go around the circle and have each person choose something from Christmas – Santa, shepherd, tinsel, lights, etc..

Everyone must choose something different.

Then give It the wampum stick. Choose one child to start things rolling by saying their Christmas item along with another one. For example: Tinsel likes snowman.

The person who is It must then try to wamp the person who is snowman with the wampum club (on the legs – of course!) before they say their Christmas item with another one – snowman likes star.

The game continues: star likes tinsel, tinsel likes manger, manger likes angels, etc… until It manages to wamp a person before they can finish.

If they wamp the person in time – that person goes to the center and becomes It while the previous It sits in their chair and starts the game with their item and another:  shepherd likes tinsel.

If they call the person who just called them – tinsel likes star, star likes tinsel – they become It.

And if they accidentally call the item of the person who is It – they automatically become It.

Things can get a little wild – depending on how much sugar you’ve served! 🙂

Then – when everyone is hot and sweaty and has moved into a different chair – you call the over and let them unwrap the gift under their chair they are sitting in.

Then I would highly recommend you send them home quickly with bags of homemade caramel corn, clean up the mess, grab a mug of hot chocolate with double whipped cream and curl up on the couch – thankful the 4H Christmas party is over for another year!