We plan weddings around bye weekends, put on our Sunday best a day early; and set up makeshift living rooms under tents complete with our great-grandmother’s silver, floral arrangements and flat-screen TVs outside the stadiums. Welcome to tailgate season in the South.
Where I’m from, tailgating isn’t just a way to kill time before kickoff. It’s a daylong ritual, a family reunion, class reunion, fashion show, foodie’s dream event and cocktail hour all in one.
No party is complete without a spread of good food. Tailgating food can range from burgers and brats on the grill to things I typically found my grandmother serving to her guests, such as deviled eggs, chicken salad, cheese straws, beautiful pies and cakes (with icing the color of your team, of course).
So, grab your pearls, the perfect outfit in your school colors, and get the guys’ bow ties and gingham ready (SWEET MERCY! Don’t let your man show up in a shirt without a collar. People will ask “Where are you from?” all while assuming you’re a Yankee). Make these delicious hors d’oeuvres for the hungry football fans in your life.
Ham-Stuffed Biscuits with Apple Butter
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (get it just over 100°)
2 cups buttermilk
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup shortening
2 pounds thinly sliced cooked ham
Apple Butter (we have a community apple butter making day, so I stock up)
Combine yeast and 1/2 cup warm water, and let it stand 5 minutes. Then, stir in buttermilk.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, soda and sugar in a large bowl; cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk mixture, stirring with a fork just until dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t overwork it.
Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead 4 to 5 times. You can count this as your workout for the day.
Roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch round cutter (I use my grandmother’s cutter, because it makes them taste so much better) and place on lightly greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise in a warm place for one hour.
Bake at 425° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. I usually brush on some melted butter at this point. It’s optional, but I highly recommend it. Split each biscuit and spread evenly with Apple Butter. Stuff biscuits with Petit Jean peppered ham.
Adapted from a recipe that K Mac catering made at one of my social media conferences years ago. My friend Georgeanne (southernfriedsoprano.com) took the biscuit pic!
Fourteen years ago, Finn was born and he changed our world. For the better, the oh so much better. Three years and one miscarriage later, Hays came along. We poured our life into our children. Homeschooling them, creating an amazing life full of adventure and fun while preparing a firm foundation in Christ.
During these years, many of my dear friends we adopting. Both abroad and domestically. Sweet Mercy, let’s make this clear: I never had a heart for adoption, fostering, adding any more kids into our home. Not a bad thing, just never felt that is where we were called as a family. Then, out of necessity, we took in a nephew a year and a half ago. His age is right in between our boys. He is a sweet hearted, kind boy whose foundation was a bit shaky with a few issues that are natural with his background. After seven months of banging my head against the wall because I could not figure out why homeschooling was so hard, I was given the background on his previous years’ schooling issues. Yes, some important information that would have helped in the beginning. So, I bobbed and weaved, trying new curriculum, different teaching methods.
I have cried out to God regularly during this time, alright, screamed at Him a lot. He is a big guy, He can handle it. I was trying to “FIX” the boy, and, I was exhausted. The other two children were put on the back burner because the new boy’s life was on fire. Up until then, they had a pretty ideal life, this adversity has not been bad for them. You can’t grow during the easy times. But, admittedly, it’s hard to watch.
Two weeks ago, after doing school with our new boy until 6:30 p.m. three nights of the school week (as homeschoolers, we were usually done by Noon every day), my husband came in and said, “Enough!!! Your health, your well-being, and the boys can’t withstand this anymore. I need my wife to not be so stressed out and unhappy.” (paraphrase) So, we found a small Christian school that allows our new boy to do work by subject on his grade level and enrolled him. He is doing well, and likes it. It’s a good fit for him in this season.
Well……that’s not the shocker. My husband then asked, “Well, what about Finn?”
With my most innocent, bewildered face, I asked whatever was he talking about?
During the past year and a half, we have been to several homeschool groups/co-ops because Finn, bless his heart, is so much like me and loves to be around people and involved in things. We live 30 miles from any town, so that makes it hard sometimes. He has a friend Caleb that lives 45 minutes from us and we do not see him often, but that is about it. The diligent seeking of friends and activities for the boys has not gone well. Many of the groups did not have kids around the same age, or we lived too far away to get together often or have VERY different lifestyles. We do have a wonderful community on our mountain who have taken us in as family, but they are an older, retired community. So, no kids around.
If you ask our children what we want them to be when they grow up, they will say “to love Jesus, to love people, and to be happy.” Finn was not happy. He wanted friends. He was having a hard time adjusting to the new child in our world and other issues. He wants to be in a robotics club, maybe be in a play one day. He wants to go to ballgames and even a dance.
So, this homeschooling mom of 14 years took her oldest to an academically challenging and hopefully FUN school for his very first day of school outside of our home this morning. He was excited, yet nervous. I have not cried today as I know he will thrive. He is ready for this new adventure.
Well, I cried for three days straight last week. I might have got it all out. Maybe.
Hays will start school in January at the same school as his brother. He is excited to play sports and make friends. He is academically ready, but I want the next 9 weeks with just he and I, to enjoy some of the time missed over the past year and a half and to just enjoy what a cool kid he is.
So, the Lord has a new thing for our family. I never thought I would be here, but I am. Some days I feel like I failed as a mom, as a teacher. This has been very humbling. And then, I pick myself up and make sure Finn has a clean school uniform and see the smile on his face because again, I just want him to love Jesus, love people and be happy.
I will sacrifice whatever I want or need for that to happen.
When I started blogging over NINE years ago, I never thought I would be where I am. Sometimes you take a chance and amazing things happen. That chance was to open my heart, online, and attempt to write a love letter to my children. Back in the old bloggy days, there were not that many of us. So, I started a group in my home state trying to find any others. there were only a handful. Now I hear there are 31 million blogs in the U.S. alone. And, we have over 725 bloggers registered through Arkansas Women Bloggers. Sweet mercy!
It has been an amazing journey full of women, bloggers and businesses, that I now call friends. I was recently interviewed about my journey by the amazing Taylor Bradford of Boss Girl Creative. Taylor heads up my Texas Women Bloggers community and I am blessed to have her as my real life friend. Take a listen when you have time. Click on graphic below. @theparkwife
Growing a huge garden progressed to starting a farmers market which then turned into putting my love of writing and blogging together with the local food movement becoming the content provider/blog editor for Arkansas Farm Bureau’s Taste Arkansas. Then there is the Grass Roots Farmers Cooperative that hired my Arkansas Women Bloggers company for content (blog coming soon), my work with the farmers of Riceland, oh, and hanging with my friends at P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm frequently promoting Arkansas agriculture.
Wow, from putting those first seeds in the ground, a lot has grown.
@TheParkWife selling at Old Washington Farmer’s Market which she founded with some amazing local farmers and friends.
My local food journey and promotion started back about six years ago, and through it all I have worked closely with and promoted the Arkansas Grown program. Today, I live on a state park where I do not have the ground space to grow for market, but I am at the farmers market at least once a week. I miss my garden, but love to support my farmer friends.
In addition to using my dollars to support local agriculture, I use my voice, my platform, my storytelling. I was the keynote speaker this year at Arkansas Women in Agriculture and frequently do social media trainings for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension.
Robin DeVore, marketing director at Riceland (and now my friend).
I urge you all to learn more about the Arkansas Grown program, look for their logo at the farmers market and at your grocery store.
What is more Southern than deviled eggs at a picnic? How about Pimento cheese deviled eggs? Head over to Taste Arkansas and grab my recipe, it’s the perfect picnic food for this beautiful weekend in the Natural State.
A whole lot of Southern history and joy in one bite.
The Park Wife
Where I have been hanging out lately on the Internet (since I evidently have not been hanging here on The Park Wife).
I am thankful that Arkansas Farm Bureau has entrusted me to be the content provider/editor for their Taste Arkansas blog. I am able to bring along some of my Arkansas Women Bloggers where we get to talk food and Arkansas, two of my favorite things. Here is what you have missed from me if you have not been over there lately.
1. Cleaning your wood cutting board. I have a gorgeous cutting board, monogrammed of course, from my friends at Paul Michael Company of Lake Village. I displayed it for a long time for fear of ruining it, but now I use it and love it! Go read about how I clean it and admire its beauty on my wall.
2. How Southern are you? If you cook a mess of greens often, you get my “y’all” stamp of Southern-ness approval today. If you do not, go check out how to clean and cook up some Southern Collards on Taste Arkansas. Of course, there was bacon involved.
4. Not to be outdone by pie loveliness, I talked about making a cheese platter and also about local cheese artisan Kent of Kent Walker Artisan Cheese. He produces delicious cheeses using old-world, handmade methods from all Arkansas ingredients in downtown Little Rock.
I was blessed to meet Rhea Lana Riner a few months ago. She is the founder and owner of Rhea Lana’s Children’s Consignment Events. I love the spirit behind why her business started and how she runs it. Her business began as a ministry to young families, and in many ways, it still is. It Rhea Lana’s heart’s desire to add value to the lives of families by providing excellent quality merchandise at affordable prices. And it is also her desire to help women learn to gracefully wear those hats that we all wear – and to mature personally, professionally, spiritually and emotionally. So, when she called and wanted to hire me to get some bloggity awesome going on her blog with my The Women Blogger ladies, seriously, how could I say no? She and I are soul sistahs. Here is what I have done over there this month.
5. It is time to get the perfect outfit ready for Easter, I help give you a little inspiration with some fun fashion boards for kids. I know, the boy one does not have mud and tears in the knees, so it is not my real world, but one could only hope for them to look this good until after the Easter pictures are made.
8. Do you like to go to flea markets? I visited some along Hwy 65 in Arkansas and am sharing some shopping tips on OnlyinArk.com today. No, I really do not NEED another vintage lantern nor cast iron skillet, but I will go looking for them anyway.
Thanks for hanging with me in this online bloggy world, it is a beautiful thing.
The Park Wife
The Duck Commander family is the real deal. Seriously, the real deal.
I recently attended the Heart to Home Women’s Conference in West Monroe, LA featuring the women of Duck Commander. It was amazing. I have a lot to share on parenting, mentoring, and marriage that really spoke to me and filled my empty cup.
The event was hosted by Dr. Joneal Kirby, founder of Heartfelt Ministries, which is a gathering place for God’s daughters that hopes to help us join hands and hearts in friendship. Joneal and her team did an amazing job sharing their passion for helping women connect in authentic relationships and grow spiritually. There was a whole lot of amens coming out of my mouth. Tears shed. Prayers happening.
I will share more about the content of the conference, but today, I will share a few pictures and thoughts from the trip because my mom in Mississippi will ground me if I do not put them up soon. She can not wait to see and read all about it.
We started out the day on Friday with a little shopping. Rebecca Robertson’s store Duck & Dressing was precious. It reflects her personality; simple, chic, edgy with a Southern twist. As I walked in, I wondered if my Junk Gypsy friends had a hand in decorating it.
We then headed to the Duck Commander warehouse. Everyone was warm and welcoming. We were able to take a behind the scenes tour. It’s exactly like you see on tv.
Jase was evidently out fishing (there are not any hunting seasons in right now except squirrel I think) so I helped out a bit at his desk. Willie, you can send me my pay in the mail. Thanks.
Then it was time to eat. Hello, it’s Louisiana people, food is the love language. So, they took us to Willie’s Diner. We were served some delicious meatloaf, chicken, mac & cheese, and banana pudding. It was all wonderful. I would have liked to try the bologna sandwich, hoping of course that Willie chose Petit Jean bologna since it is the BEST! And from Arkansas.
Miss Kay and Willie stopped by to welcome us and Miss Kay gave us all signed cookbooks! If you have not tried to make her biscuits, do that today. Your family will thank me.
The conference began Friday evening. I was lucky enough to be on the front row right by the family. I got to see them interact with each other and again, they are the real deal. I was also back stage several times and saw them interact with one another, they truly are a loving family. And, I know exactly why. I will share that in a future post. Hint: it has to do with the matriarch.
The praise team (with Missy Robertson) from White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ was amazing. The speakers were inspiring, thought-provoking and challenged me.
Oh bloggity world. I have been in this blog world for over eight years now. I have met some amazing people in real life from all over the US that are bloggers, social media influencers, businesses working with bloggers. Also, there are mutual blog world friends that hear we will be somewhere, tell their friends, and bring us together. Jana (top right in below collage) was working on media for the conference. She is friends with my friend, blogger legend @alli Worthington. Jana invited me to come back stage to meet and interview Missy Robertson. Another new friend as a result of blog world connections.
It was wonderful. Missy is genuine, kind, and on fire for Jesus. There was a lot happening around us, but she answered my questions (yes, interview coming up on a parenting blog post soon) completely focused on me. Her eyes never left mine. If she was not so kind, I would be upset with the fact that she is around my age and looks like a teenager.
Seven years ago, I wrote a post here on The Park Wife about my mentor mom friends. WOW, seven years ago. Although I went to the conference not knowing anyone attending, my mentor mom friend Lydia and her family now live in Monroe. We had dinner on Thursday night and then sat and talked and talked. She mentioned that she and their daughter AC were going to be at the conference on Saturday evening to man the booth for Show Hope, a movement to care for orphans, restoring the hope of a family to orphans in distress around the world founded by Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth.
AC was born in China and her forever home is with Lydia and her husband Charles. She ran up and hugged me during the conference and told me that she was going to get to model during the fashion show. Rebecca Robertson saw her in the lobby and asked if she would model for Duck & Dressing. I went backstage to snap a few pictures.
Again, these Robertson ladies are the real deal sistahs!
And, then there was Mia. The youngest daughter of Jase and Missy Robertson, this 5th grader is AMAZING. Born with a cleft lip and palate, this young lady is one of the strongest and most courageous young ladies I have ever met. Her positive energy and love for the Lord radiates from her. And, her Grandma Kay adores her (and all her grandchildren I am sure).
Go check out the Mia Moo Fund which is dedicated to raising awareness and funds towards research, treatments and causes of cleft lip & palate.
Mia gave her testimony, there were many tears a flowin’ in that room. And then, she sang. She was blessed with the gift of music like her mother.
Let it shine Mia. Yes, always Let it Shine.
Again, I will have a lot more blog posts coming up about the content from the conference from my new soul sistah Shellie Tomlinson to parenting guru John Rosemond to more Duck Commander women teaching/mentoring.
Until then, I am Happy, Happy, Happy and truly blessed,
The Park Wife
As the owner of The Women Bloggers, over 3000 WOMEN bloggers strong, I have been blessed with some truly amazing women that teach me something new about life and myself daily. However, the balancing act of being a help meet to my amazing husband, a homeschool mom, and running these networks has been the greatest lesson into who I am and who I want to be. And, to be honest, a little overwhelming.
I have a lot of conference options in the social media world in 2015 and I actually put one on~ our 5th Annual Arkansas Women Bloggers University. I am also scheduled to speak at several conferences; first up, the keynote at Arkansas Women in Ag, helping women tell their farm stories through blogs and social media. Y’all know I love farmers, farm wives and of course, promoting Taste Arkansas and Arkansas Grown.
HOWEVER, over the past few weeks I have been yearning to be surrounded in real life, in one place, with women who are seeking to have more of Him and less of themselves in their hearts, minds, worlds. A place where I can be encouraged and feel that I AM ENOUGH, I am His masterpiece just as I am, that being a mom is an amazing calling. And, a place where Miss Kay hugs me and tells me why I can not get my shrimp grits right.
Yes, I am going to Heart to Home Conference in West Monroe. The conference will feature the Women of Duck Commander (I wrote about my families love for the Robertson’s in a post promoting their Season 4 Premier), Dr. Joneal Kirby (who I can’t wait to meet and soak up her knowledge, love, and heart for the Lord and women), and then there is Tracey Eyster. Oh Tracey, the creator and host of MomLifeToday.com will be the emcee. If you are one of my Arkansas Women Blogger gals, you will remember Tracey as one of our speakers from the 2013 conference in Little Rock. I could gush on and on about how Tracey’s nuggets of wisdom were given to me right when the Lord planned and how her heart for supporting and encouraging me and so many women has made all the difference. Check out the videos of Tracey interviewing me for MomLife Today over in the sidebar of my blog. This woman. When I think of her, it just makes my heart happy.
I know it is going to an amazing weekend. I will get to tour Duck Commander, eat at Willie’s Diner, be encouraged, rejuvenated, listening and learning what the Word says, delving deeper into this amazing job I have been given. For I do know, much is at stake.
If you are going to the Heart to Home conference, let me know. I would love to meet up with you and hug your neck! Of course, there will be a lot of Instagramming and Tweeting happening from my end.
A wife and mother, it is who I am,
The Park Wife
Note: I purchased my own ticket to this event, I have not received anything in return for this post. This is about my heart for women and using the gifts I have been given to shine His light.
We love living on an Arkansas State Park. However, one thing we have to be diligent about is leaving it. Y’all come here for vacation, we leave for vacation. We do spend a lot of our weekends at our cabin in the woods. But then sometimes things like this happen that bring along an WOWZERS moment……
Isn’t it beautiful? In just over 24 hours, we received 4.1 inches of rain here at the park and the waterfall was ROARING. We all went to the overlook to check it out. Little Buckaroo sat in wonder and amazement. He did not want to leave. He looked up at me and said, “mom, Arkansas is so beautiful.”
That evening at the dinner table, Big Buckaroo asked us what we wanted to do on his day off. I mentioned a Sunday drive up toward Ponca to see the elk. The boys have not seen them, so off we went on a Sunday drive adventure.
First stop, the Ozark Burger Barn. In true Ozark hospitality, the gentleman told us we only needed two orders of fries (not four) or we would be wasting our money becasue they were plentiful and then said with squinty eyes “of courses we have sweet tea” (and it came in a HUGE cup compared to other drinks). The burgers were delicious.
We drove the twisty, turny roads with beauty overwhelming us. I kept hearing the word AMAZING coming from the back seat. Now friends, we live on a beautiful mountain, our property is in the Ozarks, the boys go with me all over the state for blogger/social media related work. This is not the first time they have experienced Arkansas.
Here is what was happening; kids live in the moment, truly look around and see with wonderment that which is front of them. A great lesson for us all.
Then we came upon the Boxley Valley Mill Pond which is best known for its huge trumpeter swans that are visiting this time of year. They are beautiful from afar. Yes AFAR.
They are a little scary to me. Just ask my friend Mimi that works for P. Allen Smith. Allen’s swans have a vendetta against her and they will chase you down.
TRAVEL TIP: Just be sure you can run faster than the friends you go with and you will be fine.
And, we found some elk! Rocky Mountain Elk were introduced here a few years ago to replace the somewhat smaller Eastern Elk that had been hunted into extinction. The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission exchanged smallmouth bass for elk with Colorado. Today, the Buffalo National River has elk ranging throughout its length and a herd population of more than 700 animals.
Elk tend to feed in the fields that lie along the Buffalo National River between Ponca and Boxley, just after sunrise and then again in the late afternoon. To find them, as we did, simply drive from Ponca down Hwy 43 to the south, keeping an eye on the fields on the east side of the road (watch for traffic, too!). Elk can be anywhere from the Ponca access to the trailhead for the Buffalo River Trail on Hwy 21, about a 7-mile range.
The Arkansas Game & Fish Elk Education Center is a must stop. The exhibits are wonderful, they have amazing books in their bookstore (at 20% off the retail price), a knowledgeable staff and it is FREE! Just watch out for bears.
The exhibit room, complete with full-body mounts of elk in natural settings and an Arkansas black bear. There are hands-on displays of hides, skulls and other interesting artifacts, a geology display, interactive computer quizzes, as well as a birding window to view the many species of birds that frequent the feeders.
It was an amazing adventure, right in our own backyard. Get out and show your kids the world around us.
Nice to be the tourist every once in a while,
The Park Wife