Friday, August 1, 2014

Red Dirt Friday, Vol. 16

This blog post is a long time coming ....

In fact, it's about three weeks in the making.


image courtesy of the Windy City Smokeout Facebook page
Today, I'm FINALLY talking about the Windy City Smokeout - a concert and BBQ fest in "the city" ... aka Chicago. My friend Rachael and I bought these tickets back in MARCH, and I could hardly contain my excitement. Rachael and I have been friends for 12+ years, at least. Probably because we both love [good] music and [good] food.

You may remember her family (husband Eric and son Huck) ... they're frequent highlights on this blog.

Boyfriend and I went up to the city to meet our friends, with our dog in tow. Cougar got to hang out with her Uncle Mark (Boyfriend's brother), while we attended the concert and ate our weight in BBQ.

I think next year, (assuming the music acts are as soon), I'd like to make a whole weekend out of it!

We decided to get VIP tickets, for only $100/each, we got primo seating unlimited BBQ samples, private bathrooms and a super speedy (also) private bar.

The Redd's Apple Ale was delicious, as always...

Besides the food and company, the music was divine and the company didn't suck.

Serious pictures were not going to happen. But I like him anyway.
You all know how I feel about red dirt music (obviously), and Saturday one of my absolute favorites was playing - RANDY ROGERS BAND! [You may remember this post about RRB.] Josh Abbott Band & Kevin Fowler also played and I sang along to every single song.

We were pretty close to my boy Randy :)
I mentioned before that we really like food. And because we didn't get enough BBQ (jokes), we decided to leave a little early to make it to XOCO, Rick Bayless' fast Mexican restaurant, in order to get churros. I snapped this picture of Kevin Fowler as we were leaving.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Blueberry Picking

My friends and I are always looking for wallet-friendly entertainment. I met up with my two friends from high school, Rachel & Kim, this past week. In addition to our spending limits ... we're not wild, crazy party people and we wanted a central location to meet up. Where I live is about an hour south of where Rachel lives. There's not too much entertainment wise in between.

Welcome to Indiana, right?

So, this week we decided to go blueberry picking in DeMotte, Ind., a nearby town. Partially because we had never gone, partially because we like blueberries and partially because we're always up for an adventure!

We chose Eenignburg's Berry Farm, and even though a few mosquitoes were a bit pesky - we had a great time! And perfect weather, sunny and 75ish :)

Check out their website or Facebook page for more info.

Rachel modeling her bucket!
The people at Eenignburg's have got a system down pat. 

You can bring your own containers, or use their handy buckets outfitted with ropes to tie around your waist. They'll weigh the container and then they lead you to a row of bushes and show you the most effective way to get the berries. Then, you're off! It took us about 45 minutes or so to get all the fruit we wanted. Then we returned to the stand, weighed our harvest and paid. They even included a few recipes with great tips for using the blueberries!

For about $20, we got a little more than 10 lbs. of blueberries to take home and share with our families.

I've got my berries home and washed them real quick. Some of them have been bagged and placed in the freezer ... handy to take out when you're CRAVING blueberry muffins in the winter. (Do other people get cravings like me?)

I've also made a double batch of blueberry muffins to share and am planning on making myself blueberry pancakes this weekend as well.

There's lots of tart, delicious berries in here!
I'm curious about what other cost-friendly activities you do with your friends? I think we're going to try hiking, going to the beach at Lake Michigan and maybe apple picking later this year.

Regardless of what we do, it's always great to meet up with old friends and catch up. Rachel is a teacher and Kim just finished pharmacy school and will be moving to Washington state in a few weeks. WOW! When did we grow up?

Look at us, all American and stuff! L to R - Rachel, Kim and Me

Until next time,
Robin

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Balance

I am a do-er. I go to bed thinking of all that needs to be done tomorrow, and I wake up thinking of how I'm going to get it all done. [As a side note, I really dislike procrastination ... ]

In a small way, I'm a little bit of a daydreamer. I daydream about being productive and crossing things off my to do list. You may remember a previous post about being a morning person here - Recipe for Early Morning Productivity.

But then, I have this sort of inner struggle --- where's the divide between productivity and personal time?

As part of my job, I manage the Pinterest account for Focus Marketing Group, and one of my favorite boards is this one - Quotes to Make You Feel Good.

(As like any girl) I really enjoy collecting quotes. Sometimes you just find one that speaks to you and your mood.

But I find myself divided and looking for balance --

Do I want to be the driven, hard working individual?

Image courtesy of bodyrock.tv

 Or do I want to the person who savors downtime and embraces it?

Image courtesy of Beyond Blessed



I'm not saying there's a right or a wrong way to live. And I'm certainly not saying I've got it figured out. I'm just wondering if other people feel the same way? Does finding this balance ever get easier?

I'm filled with questions today, but such is life. I'm excited to see where life leads me, and maybe finding a balance between ultra-focused and ultra-relaxed will come easier.

Please leave your comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,
Robin

Friday, June 6, 2014

Red Dirt Friday, Vol. 15

Back when CDs were cool, I was the queen of the mix CD. I spent hours every summer creating new mixes to play in the barn while my brother and I were working cattle. I had creative names, like "WC YA HEARD!" --- because we were headed to the Will County Fair. [I cringe at the lack of creativity now.]

The Kleines were famous for loud, potentially offensive music at these shows. On more than one occasion we were asked to turn down the music and change the song. Growing up in NW Indiana, we thought we were pretty gangster. Actually, Joe still does...

My obsession with iTunes had just started, but ripping off music from the library was my preferred method of getting my favorite "old" songs. I would hear a song like "The Sign," by Ace of Base. I would make a list and head to the CD collection at the library taking approximately 10 CDs home, just to add them to our growing music collection. These days, my computer doesn't even have a disk drive.

But, to celebrate summer, sweet sweet summer ... I thought I'd throw it back a little. I've created a list of 5 songs that I would definitely put on my summer barn mix (if I could.)

1. Novocaine by Sean McConnell. Catchy lyrics, and a nerdy looking dude with glasses and a smokin' voice ... I'm in.



2. Your Last Broken Heart - Eli Young Band. Their newest album, 10,000 Towns is really good. Die hard fans and those that just liked "Even if it Breaks Your Heart" will agree.


3. Change Is - Ryan Bingham. Sexy, gravelly awesomeness. [Excuse the f-bomb drop in the song. The words alone are worth it.]



4. Sealed with a Kiss - Kimberly Dunn. Homegirl can sing! I love hearing a female voice on Red Dirt radio.

5. Set Me Free - Reckless Kelly. Ahh, the voice of a Braun brother. There's nothing better. Also, apparently, this video is for an outdoors company, so enjoy the view!

This is a solid mix of old and new. In a past life, I must have been a DJ.

Also - if you know what's good for you ... download the Homemade Tamales - Live from Floores album from Randy Rogers Band. Live albums are my FAVORITE.

But, I want to know ... what songs are on your summer playlist? 

I'm always looking to add new music to my collection -- you never know when I might want to make a mix CD again :)

Best,
Robin

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

... And We're In!

We've officially spent more than a week in our new home. I can sum up the moving process in two little words --

It. Sucks.


How do two people and a dog accumulate so much stuff? That's what I want to know.

Most of it has made it into our humble abode ... but a few key items have not.

The walls are actually a shade of "Robin's Egg" Blue.
LIKE OUR BED. Apparently full size beds do not fit up our stairs?? So we have a box spring in our kitchen. Not cool. This little problem will need to be solved via a tractor and loader. We are also hillbillies.

AND OUR WASHER / DRYER. The move kept getting moved back because of the plumber. As of this week it's officially done and now we just need to get those bad boys over here.

There's still boxes everywhere!

The only room that is mostly together is my office (a necessity for working at home).

We also got a gas stove and it's wonderful ... but I am having a hard time adjusting. We've had a few burnt meals. Whoops!

That's what's happening in my life. I apologize for the crappy iPhone photos. I promise there will be more to come with that high dollar machine I usually wield, a Canon.

Despite all the complaining above, I really do like the new place! We certainly have more room and it's exciting [and scary] to be in control of all the decisions regarding our house.

I like the place, even if the dining room looks something like this ...

Tell me moving experts, what advice do you have for getting everything in place in a timely manner?

Until next time,
Robin


Friday, May 16, 2014

My life in Images

Like many people my age, I am documenting my life in pictures (and occasionally the written word on this blog).

Here's a little bit about what's happening -

1. I have a bottle calf - Orphan Annie. Annie's mom died a week ago, and now I'm her "mom." I feed her twice a day and give her hugs and pets on the head. I love her.


2. We are moving this weekend / early next week! So much crap to do yet.

Floors are done! Now to put stuff on them ...

3.Cougar is still perfect. She likes to "help" by eating sticks, running around in circles and then sitting on your feet. I love her too.



I want to write more in-depth posts about each of these pictures, so stay tuned. But boxes don't pack themselves, videos don't edit themselves and websites don't update themselves. DANGGG.

Any moving advice?

Until next time,
Robin

Monday, May 5, 2014

Bucket List, Progress?

You may remember a post from earlier this year, where I posted 25 Things I Want to Do Before I Turn 25. Well, buying a house wasn't on the list, so the bucket list has taken a bit of a back seat.

Regardless, here's an update ... on the list and on my life. 

--

Cougar Fleming on our "hike." Notice the muddy paws.
Domestic Things
1. Go on a spending freeze. [Go 1 month w/o shopping (food and healthcare items excluded)]
2. Craft with my old 4-H ribbons [I've been collecting ideas on Pinterest at least]
3. Put all of my CDs onto my iTunes account
4. Make a budget [and stick to it for at least 2 months!]
5. Volunteer to babysit for one of our friends. I need to get over my fear of children


Career Things
6. Fix my rkkcommunications website
7. Book 12 photo sessions [not being picky - livestock or human] - 3 in April
8. Blog at 4 times/month for 6 months

Good Citizen Things
9. Help out a 4-H or FFA judging team
10. Donate clothes two times [once in the spring and again in the fall] - 1/2
11. Shop for a church in or around Rensselaer.

Family Things
12. Take Cougar to a dog park - took her to Stoney Run on 4/26
13. Teach Cougar a new trick
14. Host a family event
15. Take more pictures, not on my iPhone

I've also been making a conscious effort to take more photos. These pasture pics were fun!

Traveling Things
16. See Stoney LaRue (carryover from my college list)
17. Go fishing
18. Visit Joe in Stillwater, Okla.
19. Have a girls only weekend, not in one of our current zip codes
20. Go to a baseball game

Personal Things
21. Make 3 recipes from Saveur, a magazine subscription I bought in 2014.
22. Lose 20 lbs.
23. Buy a new camera.
24. Watch The Godfather movies. These are apparently classics I am missing in my life?
25. Get Nick to eat Chinese food at least once. His hatred of rice is ridiculous in my eyes.

--

Obviously, I'm just getting started on this list. I hope to revisit it soon, once we get moved it'll be considerably easier :)

I am looking for any and all suggestions on how to make these things happen. Thanks for baring with me folks!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Recipe for Early Morning Productivity

An important part of my morning routine.
I require more sleep than the average person. I can do about two days in a row of less than 6 hours, and I am a hot, cranky mess the next two days. I try to hide this from people who don't know me too well ... but unfortunately boyfriend has been on the receiving end of the crankiness a lot.

I am fully aware of the problem and have tried counseling. No such luck.

I'd much rather go to bed at early and get up at 5am (or earlier), than stay up until 1am trying to finish something. It's just not my style. [This is also a public apology to my college roommates for my crazy study habits ... I promise I tried to be quiet when I was showering at 4:30am ...]

Here's my basic recipe for a "good" morning routine:
Get up immediately (snoozing makes me feel lethargic all day), take a shower, put on a little bit of make-up (I like the feeling of being put together), make the bed and pick up the bedroom, make coffee, look at my to-do list and come up with a game plan for the day. This last step also takes some prioritizing skills, like weighing deadlines and estimating how much time each project will take. 

This article from Entrepreneur.com really rang true to me - The Power of Mornings: Why Successful Entrepreneurs Get Up Early.

Author Lisa Evans states, "Tapping into the power of mornings, a time of day when there are less demands, might be the key to increasing your productivity."

Here's why, according to Evans - 

You are less likely to get distracted in the morning.
You have more willpower during the day.
Mornings give you the opportunity to set a positive tone for the rest of the day.

Evans also shares four tips for using your mornings better -

1. Keep a time journal to see where your inefficiencies are. (Mine: laying in bed catching up on social media. As a social media manager, it is my job to monitor the happenings all day.)

2. Imagine your perfect morning. Every morning I always "dream up" my ultimate day and all the productive things I will do. Now, my day doesn't always go to plan and that was a hard less on to learn. But it's good to have goals, right?

3. Plan your morning. Come up with a game plan for the day ... priorities, people.

4. Build the habit slowly. The part about making the bed and de-cluttering the bedroom is a fairly new development in my life. Because I work from home, I see the bedroom on my way to the bathroom. If it's a mess, I usually can't focus until it's presentable. I have issues...

But, some days ... my mornings start like this. I once asked boyfriend if he wanted me to put "noodles in a box" aka lasagna to take for lunch. My words were just not working ...
In addition to this planning part of my routine, I also highly recommend good tunes (I like to live stream The Red Dirt Rebel on my computer) and relaxing smells (the Leaves candle from Bath & Body Works is a good one).

Sometimes I get discouraged if my day doesn't go as planned. So, one thing I've been working on is acceptance. Some things are unavoidable and schedules can be rearranged.

I'm interested to hear others' take on early mornings. I know routine is good, but sometimes being flexible is better. How do you adjust if something doesn't work out the way you had it in your head?

Until next time,
Robin

Thursday, April 17, 2014

You Can Do Anything ...

I've made no secret that I think home renovation is scary and hard. We haven't even moved yet, and my stress level is super high.

You may remember this post from a couple weeks ago, and just as update ... my little laundry room project still isn't finished.

After an afternoon and evening spent priming trim yesterday, I came across this post from wanderrgirl.com via Pinterest, and thought it fit the bill (and my crappy mood).

Image courtesy of wanderrgirl.com

Like I said, we're not moved in yet. And the date we want to move is looming in the 10 day range - W.T.F. Our current house isn't packed up. The laundry room isn't finished. The flooring guy hasn't come yet. The plumber hasn't run gas lines or water lines. ... and and and and and and ...

You get the point.


Right now, I'm dealing with a lot of what-ifs. For those of you that know me, you know I hate loose ends, I hate not finishing a project and I hate not having a clear deadline. I like to set my goals and then work towards them.

Each of the quotes above have reminded me that I am not super woman. And just because I want things to be a certain way, doesn't mean that they will be.

Here's what I've learned -
  • It's okay to take a break and spend the evening watching The Big Bang Theory with boyfriend.
  • Just because we want to move someday, doesn't mean I have to kill myself to get it all done right now.
  • If the paint lines on the ceiling aren't perfect ... no one is going to notice. These are just little obstacles and pressures I am putting on myself.

And finally, like David Allen says above, "You can do anything, but not everything."


That's the truth isn't it?! I am perfectly capable of painting the laundry room, and working a full-time job and getting supper on the table. But I can't do it all at once.

Breathe Robin. It'll be okay. That's a hard lesson to learn. This posts also serves as a public apology to boyfriend, who I have been rather cranky with lately. [Sidenote: He'll probably never see this.]

What do you do to calm yourself down in situations like this? What brings you back to reality?

Until next time,
Robin

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What DIY Websites Don't Say

We bought #FlemingFarm about 4 weeks ago. Progress has been slow, but we hope to be moved in by May 1 ... as in 29 days from now. WHOA.

In the mean time, we have been attempting to do some things in the house ourselves -- like my most recent project of painting the laundry room. When I thought to myself, "Hey, I can paint the laundry room no problem," I must have been intoxicated. I think Pinterest made me do it.

DIY stuff is hard! Here's what they don't tell you -

My house looks like this right now...
1. Painting makes you feel muscles you didn't know you had. My sides ACHE. The middle of my back is SCREAMING. And my triceps ... WOWZA.

2. These blogs never say how long things REALLY take. Yeah, I can read all the steps online - Wipe down really well, vacuum, patch any holes, sand rough spots, tape, prime the walls, paint two coats, touch-up, enjoy your work - but it takes about 3 times longer than you think it should.

I originally had my laundry room project done by Sunday afternoon in my brain. Instead, it's still ongoing. I haven't even painted the floors, trim or cabinets yet...

3. Wood paneling is really the worst thing to paint ... ever. They tell you to prime it (check), buy a good quality paint (check), and the buy a heavy nap roller to really get in all the crevices (check). But, it still took 3 coats of paint on the ceiling and I'm not sure I'm happy yet.

I wanted to buy these at Menard's ... but I didn't.
4. Make your own decisions at the home improvement mega-store of your choice. I ended up with a giant roller for the ceiling and tiny paint trays ... because that's what the semi-adorable 19 year old paint department worker handed me. So, the roller doesn't fit in the tray and you have to kind of wing it until you get enough paint on the roller. Of course one doesn't realize this until the roller is open and you've already committed to the idea. Oh! And said roller is for the ceiling and weighs 4534 pounds when filled with paint. (I think I know why my triceps hurt).

5. Painting with your significant other is challenging in and of itself. Last night we put coat 3 on the ceiling and walls and although boyfriend only helped me for about an hour ... I think I counted at least 50 eye rolls on my part. Let me tell you something -- boys want to rush,rush,rush and girls want to take their time and make sure it looks good.

I know I was wrong for assuming (and I apologized for my bratty behavior), but when someone tells you they like painting and are halfway decent at the chore, you assume they know to go with the grain of the wood when painting paneling. You assume they know to smooth out their brush strokes and to get all the way to the edge. NOPE. But don't worry, we worked through our issues and hopefully all we have left is the floor and cabinets and trim...

My favorite part of the project? The wall color is called "whiskers!"

This is a vicious cycle people.

The project isn't done yet. So I promise to post more pictures when it's actually "camera ready."

Tell me folks, what are your painting or DIY tips? Comment below with what you wish the blogs and self help people would have told you.

P.S. - Thanks to my friends and mom for helping me paint this past weekend. Turns out I am not very good at making decisions on the order of things. My mom is a saint and has all kind of patience. My friends are awesome for driving all the way to Rensselaer just to smear some paint for a few hours.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An Excuse for Not Meeting Customers' Demands?

I am a connoisseur of ag related blogs. Lots of my friends and colleagues write, read and comment on these blogs and I like to stay up-to-date on what's happening in my beloved industry.

There's plenty of blogs to choose from ...
But lately ... I haven't been able to digest anything I've read. 

I am tired of hearing this phrase - "we feed the world" as an excuse for why I should stop eating at Chipotle. I've also read it in blogs talking about conventional vs. organic/naturally grown foods and in the GMO debate.

To me - a lover of Chipotle's food, a proponent of GMOs and someone in favor of cashing in on niche marketing - "We feed the world" is the "my dog ate my homework" of the ag industry.

Why do we insist on making excuses? Yes, farmers in America are working hard every single day to raise crops with higher yields than last year, raise livestock humanely and preserve the land for the next generation. I get that. And yes, it's something to be proud of ... but it's our job to do it better and to give the people what they want.

If the automobile industry didn't keep improving their product, we'd all be driving 1966 Ford Mustangs ... because they are about the coolest looking car in the world. Instead, we now have vehicles equipped with things like cupholders, airbags and anti-lock brakes to name a few. Heck, I've even got a fancy back-up camera in my truck and a sunroof. Ford could have just stopped after the 1966 Mustang, and our sodas would have flown all over the place when we take corners at 35 mph. [Then again, not everyone drives like I do...]

I would look so cool in this!
We in agriculture keep working to better our products, just like the automotive industry. We want to use less resources (like water, pesticides, herbicides, etc.), improve our bottom line and ultimately produce more corn, wheat, alfalfa, beef, chicken, apples, berries, cucumbers, etc., because the population is growing. Why did Henry Ford perfect the assembly line? To streamline the process. To make it easier for Americans to own a car. Again, similar to the car makers, we couldn't stay in 1966 because ultimately our CONSUMERS wanted more and they want options while grocery shopping like low fat yogurt, Certified Angus Beef, wasabi flavored crackers or blood oranges.

That's right, the consumers (those who buy our products and feed them to their families), demand more from those that grow their food.

  • They demand safety. Luckily for them, we have the safest food supply in the world ... but there's always room for improvement.
  • They want choices. Think about it people, we're not all driving Toyota Prius or Ford F-250s. Similarly we can't expect everyone to enjoy Filet Mignon, twinkies or gluten free sustainably grown kale chips equally --- there has to be something for everyone.
     
  • They want to know the people who grow the food. Why do you think there's lots of car commercials showing the people who work in the factory smiling and doing their jobs? Because the people want to know and trust those that are growing (making) our products. By providing an open dialogue and explaining what happens on our farms and ranches, we are making strides here folks.
People like my brother and the rest of my family are working hard on the farm.
Now, you can hate on Monsanto and other biotechnology companies all you want. But their innovations and research create jobs, and a few years down the road farmers plant these products and they make their way to your table. It takes all kind of kinds. Without companies investing in biotechnology research, we would all be attempting to crossbreed tomatoes in our backyard. I don't think it's feasible for every family to grow their own food. Because boyfriend and I would starve ... I have tried to grow a garden, and turns out my thumb isn't green. But I do trust vegetable farmers to grow something healthy and delicious to serve alongside my home raised beef at supper time.

Feeding the world is a group effort. If the consumers demand more from their food, it's our job as agriculturists to give it to them. If they want GMO-free, grass fed pork and hand-picked wild rice ... it's our job to figure out how to grow these products and get them to the customer. But, those that demand these products will more than likely be willing to pay a premium. To those of us in marketing, it's our job to capitalize here.

It's a vicious cycle! But, I think our industry is up to the challenge. We have buckets of smart people graduating with agriculture degrees across the country very soon and I hope they're up to the challenge of meeting the consumers' demands.

We'll need to work together to raise the organic, natural, non-GMO, hormone-free, gluten free, etc., products that the public wants and figure out how to .... you guessed it .... feed the world.

This growing population will still need to be fed. Just because there are still a few 1966 Ford Mustangs left, doesn't mean I'm driving one. Instead I have a late model Ford F150, because I enjoy anti-lock breaks and cupholders. Plus, I will trust the automotive industry to provide me with a newer vehicle when the time comes. I just bet it'll be safer, be better for the environment and maybe even a few colors to choose from --- similar to the produce, grains, meat and poultry that my fellow agriculturists will be growing to fill the grocery stores at that time.

Until Next Time,
Robin

P.S. - I've thought about writing this blog for a while. I opted not to quote any of the "annoying" blogs, and instead make it more of an opinion piece. Please respect others in the comments below.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

#FlemingFarm

We bought a house.

It's a precious old farm house, built in 1910 or 1912 (depends on which piece of paper you look at). It's so cute.

We signed the papers last Wednesday. It was a scary, awesome, exciting feeling. We own a house!

It looks like this. [Please excuse my iPhone photos below. I plan to break out the real camera soon.]

Notice the seafoam green ceiling on the front porch? Seafoam green will be haunting my dreams.

We have already started remodeling. As I stated above, there's seafoam green on the porch ... and in the living room, the dining, room, the upstairs hallway, the office and the basement. Little by little, seafoam green will be disappearing.

Here's a fine specimen. Also, anyone need an organ?
There's also different colors of (ugly) carpeting in each room. It will be going away to dumpster heaven this weekend.

Electric blue carpet and periwinkle walls. My neutral palette is going to be a shock!
We have lots of painting and planning and packing and unpacking and junk throwing away to do. [Probably not in that order.] But it's exciting ... and it OURS! We hope to be moved in May.

Stay tuned for more photos and updates. Also, you can always follow me on Instagram here, or the #FlemingFarm hashtag to see progress.

Until next time,
Robin


Friday, February 28, 2014

Red Dirt Friday, Vol. 14

Today we're going to dig a little deeper into the red dirt genre.

The guys of Whiskey Myers have done it again with their album "Early Morning Shakes." Buy it here on iTunes.

Photo courtesy of www.whiskeymyers.com

I heard the title track from their latest album on XM 60 (Outlaw Country), and loved it! It's a great song to jam to while cruising down the interstate. Plus it makes me feel pretty sassy - uh huh!



The last verse is definitely my favorite, if not a little raunchy [sorry mom]! Lyrics found here.

"Jack Daniels in her coffee
Ice water in her veins
Bleach blond hair with a rose tattoo
Maybelline and White Rain
I took her back to the woods
Listening to “When the Levee Breaks”
I reached over and took her hand
Then I gave her the early morning shakes"


Of course the first thing I did when I got home that day was go to iTunes and purchase the newest Whiskey Myers album, released on February 4th. They've already gotten some great praise for the album here from savingcountrymusic.com and "Early Morning Shakes" was the #1 selling country album on iTunes.

Author Trigger says, "But the real star of the show are the pipes of Cody Cannon. The guy’s voice is built for Southern rock. Without a hint of fake inflections or put-on’s, he sings effortlessly and straight from the heart, growling and confident when he needs to be, and willing to express emotion and vulnerability when it’s called for." This is why I love the whole Red Dirt / Americana / Southern Rock genre.

What have you been listening to lately? Please share below.

Best,
Robin

P.S. - If you're looking for a good "party" song, I recommend "Kyle Hope" from Whiskey Myers' first album - "Road of Life." I just love singing along to Cannon and crew to this one!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Middle Child Syndrome

Yes people, this is a real thing. Not just some pop-psychology bologna. And in our house, between me (middle child) and boyfriend (the baby of his family) ... you can often hear these words come out of my mouth -
"Gah! You're such a youngest child!"

A prime example of boyfriend not doing something simply because he "doesn't want to"
I'm a compromiser, an eternal people pleaser and I get an intense feeling of joy when someone tells me they're proud of me. And apparently, so do other middle children. But because of the 13 year gap between my older sister and me, I have some qualities of an oldest child as well. Regardless, sometimes when boyfriend and I squabble, I can see his needy, youngest child ways coming out. And I like to bring up this bit of information, while he rolls his eyes.

Not that it's our parents fault ... Birth Order Psychology is serious stuff folks. I've read that every child is parented differently, and I think that all of my siblings would agree that happened in our house. How about yours?

Here's a nice article from Parents called Birth Order & Personality. Author Jocelyn Voo breaks down birth order and their respective personality traits for us here -


Information from Jocelyn Voo
I see parts of my personality in both the firstborn and middle children lists, and I specifically see "manipulative" in boyfriend's personality profile. I think that's an awful scary word for his need to get me to do things, like lace his boots or make him nachos for breakfast ... he always says please and thank you folks. Fun-loving and uncomplicated are also great adjectives for his personality. I just think the science behind our actions is interesting!

One part of the middle child syndrome I personally identify with is this bit from Everyday Family - "Middle children often feel left out and invisible, a contrast from their older and younger siblings. While older children get the benefits of all of the “firsts” a child accomplishes, younger children benefit from the emotional impact of being the baby of the family, often being spoiled and coddled. Middle children, however, often feel as though they have nothing special that is just “theirs.”

Sometimes at *family events I feel like I have no "home." I can't keep up with the farming talk going on with the old men, I'm too old for college talk with my cousins, sports don't interest me, I don't watch any popular television (unless Food Network counts) ... so unless someone is talking about livestock or online shopping or food, I just stare and try to participate.

*Family: this is not an insult, just a fact. I'm trying to work on getting better at small talk. Please help me.

Another disclaimer, I may have started writing this blog as part of my perpetual need to be "right" in our relationship (and no, I didn't find anything about that particular quality in my research), but I decided to hit publish for another reason. I think this philosophy applies to our interactions with others and may help you understand personality differences among your peers and co-workers.

This is a perfect example of #birthorderissues - Joe is mad about something and my mom is concerned about him. I am clearly in pain and no one cares. Deana is just wondering when we're going to get this show on the road. The dudes on the end (my step dad and brother-in-law are just wondering why they ever wanted to be a part of our family..)

In this post from Babble about Middle Child Day (Aug. 12 - who knew?), author JulieMinor says of middle children - "You are flexible, empathetic, innovative, and successful - basically the most awesome person in your family. All the characteristics that make being a middle child hard as a kid also make you an independent, resourceful and happy adult." -- DUH :)

JulieMinor also says, "It turns out that middle children make awesome parents, being more likely to value the balance between rules and structure with permissiveness, promoting independent, happy kids"

Things are looking up for my non-existent children. [One thing at a time people.]

How do you feel about birth order in your family? Think you fit the mold? Do some of these findings align with your own experiences?

Until next time,
Robin

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

24 Things Recap

Regular readers of this blog, you've seen this list before - "24 Things I Want to Do Before I turn 24."

I posted this list originally on May 1, 2013. I've done a lot of these things. But not all.

Domestic Things
1. Start a garden - check. Success rate, debatable.
2. Go 1 month without shopping (food and healthcare items excluded)
3. Craft with my old 4-H ribbons
4. Make chocolate oatmeal cake - check. Always delicious. Note to self, use cocoa instead of flour in the pan.
5. Put all of my CDs onto my iTunes account 

Career Things
6. Fix my rkkcommunications website
7. Book 5 human photo sessions (not family) - 3/5
8. Judge a show - check.
9. Enter a photo contest - check.

Good Citizen Things
10. Help out a 4-H or FFA judging team
11. Get a library card - check.

Family Things
12. Take Cougar to a dog park
13. Ride in the tractor with my Dad, just like 6 year old Robin did - check. I rode him while combining soybeans and picking corn this past fall.
14. Teach Cougar how to play dead
15. Introduce my family to Nick's - check.

My most recent visit to Manhattan, Kan. We bleed purple!
Traveling Things
16. See Stoney LaRue (carryover from my college list)
17. Go fishing
18. Visit Joe in Stillwater, Okla.
19. Return to Manhattan, Kan. - check.
20. Go to a baseball game

Personal Things
21. Read 3 non-fiction books - check.
22. Lose 20 lbs.
23. Buy a new laptop - check.
24. Watch The Hatfields & McCoys - check.

Part of me feels like a failure, but then I remind myself that I have a job. I have responsibilities. These are just mere suggestions of what to do in my spare time. And I think they're still pretty good goals, even if they happen after I turn 24.

Well, I reached that 24 year old milestone on Jan. 26th. I think birthdays have considerably less meaning once you turn 21. So, the day itself was rather nondescript.

But since that day more than two weeks ago, I've been thinking about a new list of goals.

--

So here goes -- "25 Things to do Before I Turn 25."


Domestic Things
1. Go on a spending freeze. [Go 1 month w/o shopping (food and healthcare items excluded)]
2. Craft with my old 4-H ribbons [I've been collecting ideas on Pinterest at least]
3. Put all of my CDs onto my iTunes account
4. Make a budget [and stick to it for at least 2 months!]
5. Volunteer to babysit for one of our friends. I need to get over my fear of children


One of the photos I took for Lambright Club Lambs this past fall.
Career Things
6. Fix my rkkcommunications website
7. Book 12 photo sessions [not being picky - livestock or human]
8. Blog at 4 times/month for 6 months

Good Citizen Things
9. Help out a 4-H or FFA judging team
10. Donate clothes two times [once in the spring and again in the fall]
11. Shop for a church in or around Rensselaer.

Family Things
12. Take Cougar to a dog park
13. Teach Cougar a new trick
14. Host a family event
15. Take more pictures, not on my iPhone

I have my eye on this beauty.
Traveling Things
16. See Stoney LaRue (carryover from my college list)
17. Go fishing
18. Visit Joe in Stillwater, Okla.
19. Have a girls only weekend, not in one of our current zip codes
20. Go to a baseball game

Personal Things
21. Make 3 recipes from Saveur, a magazine subscription I bought in 2014.
22. Lose 20 lbs.
23. Buy a new camera.
24. Watch The Godfather movies. These are apparently classics I am missing in my life?
25. Get Nick to eat Chinese food at least once. His hatred of rice is ridiculous in my eyes.

What are your goals? How do you measure their success?

Until next time,
Robin

Friday, January 31, 2014

Red Dirt Friday, Vol. 13

As you all know, I love social media. I also follow all of my favorite artists and bands on Facebook, so I can keep up with their lives and maybe hear new songs or find out about shows somewhat close to my home.

Now that's soul. Photo courtesy of the official Cory Morrow Facebook page.

This came from Cory Morrow, a red dirt artist. Check out his Facebook too.

Fans of the genre, you may recognize this song, "Lonesome." It's a goodie --



Last week, he posted this question on his Facebook page.

For the rest of your life, you are allowed to listen to music from ONLY: 1 male artist, 1 female artist and 1 band. Chose from any genre. What are your 3 choices?

I've spent the better part of the week thinking about my answer ...

Band: Randy Rogers Band
Female Artist: Mariah Carey
Male Artist: Ryan Bingham

Truthfully, I based my decision on if I skip their songs when they come on my iTunes when I'm working.

I own every album from RRB, including live albums. I wouldn't dare skip. A personal favorite, "Tommy Jackson" from the Like it Used to Be album.

And Bingham's voice is so sexy and gravely. Plus, his lyrics are phenomenal. I find myself thinking about the words, even after the song is over. Like the "Weary Kind" from the Crazy Heart soundtrack. He won an academy award for this song people! Watch the video here.

Your heart's on the loose
You rolled them sevens with nothing to lose
And this ain't no place for the weary kind
You called all your shots
Shooting eight ball at the corner truck stop
Somehow this don't feel like home anymore
And this ain't no place for the weary kind
And this ain't no place to lose your mind
This ain't no place to fall behind
Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try
Your body aches
Playing your guitar, sweating out the hate
The days and the nights all feel the same
Whiskey has been a thorn in your side
It doesn't forget
The highway that calls for your heart inside
And this ain't no place for the weary kind
This ain't no place to lose your mind
This ain't no place to fall behind
Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try
Your lovers won't kiss
It's too damn far from your fingertips
You are the man that ruined her world
Your heart's on the loose
You rolled them sevens with nothing to lose
This ain't no place for the weary kind

Female artist was the doozy for me. But I decided that years of singing in the car and trying to sing like Mariah and nailing it failing. I'll let her awesome voice continue to amaze me forever. I mean seriously, how does she get that high? Listen to "Always Be My Baby" if you need a reminder.


Most of these artists fall in the "red dirt category." But, hey -- I love all music.

Tell me friends, what three artists would you choose?

Until next time,
Robin

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wanted: Crafting Skills

I've been having a difficult time coming up with interesting blog post ideas. I love writing, but sometimes I can't think of, well ...
  1. anything nice to say
  2. something that you would find entertaining
So I had to look for some outside inspiration. I came across this list - 365 Days of Writing Prompts - on Pinterest

Today's entry was this - 


If I could have any skill, it would be craftiness. I wish I were able to create beautiful things with my hands (and maybe a hot glue gun or a sewing needle). I mean, I've got a computer and Photoshop / InDesign ... but it's just not the same as THIS -

Photo courtesy of sugarhi5105 on Photobucket
I have a whole Pinterest board filled with things I want to make entitled, "Crafts ... leaving comfort zone now".

I've been a Pinterest user since 2011, and I have yet to create any of the things on this board.

I go to Hobby Lobby like any average American 20something female. I usually buy picture frames or Christmas decorations. I don't make my own.

Why you might ask?

I am afraid of making something ugly. Or ruining perfectly good crafting supplies in the process.

For some reason, I have little faith in my crafting abilities. 

Don't blame my mother. She tried to teach me how to sew. I even made pajamas one year! I took the 4-H gift wrapping, wreaths and ceramics projects. All of her hard work (and many other volunteers and family members) and none of it stuck. [Homeboy gets mad I can't sew on his buttons...]

Maybe one day I'll get brave and try again.

Things I want to make include
And a project of some kind with all of my ribbons from showing cattle - similar to the pillow above. This was one of the 24 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 24.

So tell me crafty friends - where do you get your inspiration? What lessons have you learned while wielding your glue guns and needle/thread? What's a good starter project?

Until next time,
Robin

P.S. - Guess what folks? I turn 24 on Sunday, but I'll save my post about this "bucket list" for next week.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Success

I think my measure of "success" varies everyday. Sometimes, success is just brushing my teeth twice a day and other days it's crossing every single thing off my to-do list, landing a new client or mastering a new recipe.

Earlier this morning, my friend Jake shared this article, "Hard Things You Need To Do Everyday to Be Successful".

Now Jake is a really successful dude in my eyes. [Go check out his photography blog - Urban Prairie - if you don't believe me.] He is creative and entrepreneurial and interesting. I can only hope I come off that way to others. So if he shared this article, I knew it would be good.

I'll argue any day that these people (my family) make me want to be successful in one way or another.

Family inspiration aside, let's look a little deeper at the list featured on Business Insider. The first thing on the list from author, Dan Waldschmidt spoke to me.
You have to make the call you’re afraid to make.
Sometimes (okay all the time), I get nervous talking on the phone to people I don't know. I get clammy hands and do awkward half laugh things. I also end sentences with "...so..."

Not my proudest moment.

But, I still make these calls. Whether it's to someone about some cattle I'm interested in purchasing, or someone who wasn't exactly pleased with my latest photo shoot, or to a new doctor's office --- I have to make these calls. No one else is going to do it, and it's not anyone else's problem. But, sometimes with these difficult calls great things happen.

Like you get a job! Last year, I got hired over the phone to work for Focus Marketing Group.

Another on Waldschmidt's list -
You have to look like a fool while you’re looking for answers you don’t have.
This happens. In my line of work, people will ask you to do things (photos, design work, etc) that you've never done before. A little part of me wishes there was a step-by-step tutorial for everything that we do.

But, then I remember that the creative part of my job allows me to follow my guy. Sometimes it's just intuitive that I take a step to the left or ask the child that I'm photographing to tell me a joke in order to get a giant smile on their face, or I flip the flyer from landscape to portrait style. Often times, these strokes of genius notions lead to the best results and happy customers.

So, it might seem crazy to our customers that I suggest something off-beat. These strokes of genius notions usually pay off.

And maybe my favorite from the list -
You have to deliver results when making excuses is an option.
Every. Damn. Day.

I have people tell me that they're too busy to make something happen or change something in their routine. Or they complain on Facebook that they have no time to do anything. Excuse me - if you have enough time to post on Facebook ... you're not that busy. The world we live in today, everyone is busy.

Busy is an annoying word in my book. 

The definition of busy (according to www.dictionary.com) is -
1. actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime: busy with her work.
2. not at leisure; otherwise engaged: He couldn't see any visitors because he was busy.
3. full of or characterized by activity: a busy life.
4. (of a telephone line) in use by a party or parties and not immediately accessible.
5. officious; meddlesome; prying.
6. ornate, disparate, or clashing in design or colors; cluttered with small, unharmonious details; fussy: The rug is too busy for this room.
 
We are all busy, but a successful person won't let that be an excuse. Despite all of life's interruptions, they still make things happen.  I try to live by that. And, I'll never use "I was busy" as an excuse again.
 
I also wanted to add my own "hard thing" to the list.
 
You have to put your best foot forward, always. So put a smile on your face, no one remembers a sour puss.
 
With all the people I encounter, I try to treat them with kindness and fairness.  I try to block out the negative things I've heard from others and present myself for what I am - a strong, independent woman who is confident in her abilities, who shows respect and expects respect in return. Plus, a smile might brighten someone's day and I'd love to be that person for them.

Waldschmidt ends his article with this, "The simple truth about how ordinary people accomplish outrageous feats of success is that they do the hard things that smarter, wealthier, more qualified people don’t have the courage — or desperation — to do.

Do the hard things. You might be surprised at how amazing you really are."
 
I like surprises.
 
Until next time,
Robin

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Don't Be Quick to Judge

#2 on Elizabeth's list is Find your "thing" ...  I think I've found it.
This article has blown up my Facebook news feed lately - 23 Things to Do Instead of Get Engaged Before You're 23 from blogger Vanessa Elizabeth.

I read it, and I cheered! I was like "Yeah, this girl knows what's up."

Lines like this had me nodding in agreement - 

"It is a way for young people to hide behind a significant other instead of dealing with life’s highs and lows on their own. It’s a safety blanket. It’s an admission that the world is just too big and scary to deal with it on your own; thus, you now have someone that is legally obligated to support you till one of you dies or files for divorce."

I loved her words. I sent the link to my best friend. I was thinking to myself --- this girl gets me.

Elizabeth says, "We are not our parent’s generation.  I’m tired of hearing about how 'my mom and dad got married young and X, Y and Z' because they were raised with a completely different set of values, priorities, and without the anxieties and adulterous risks that comes with the worldwide web.  I’m speaking directly to the Millennials.
Millennials deserve the opportunity to develop ourselves, alone."
Image courtesy of www.apracticalwedding.com
But then I think ... being alone kind of sucks.

Some of you may remember an earlier post of mine entitled, "No, I'm Not Engaged Yet." Here, I visit about how I am getting some pressure from friends and family alike about getting engaged. I was SOOO nervous about writing it. Here's the sappy part of that blog --- Yes, I live with my boyfriend. Yes, we've been together a while. Yes, I like having him by my side. I couldn't imagine the last few years of my life without him.

Then, that blog got so much attention from my peers! You, my friends, were saying nice things to me --- both in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter and in text messages. I was happy to be understood and my opinion respected.

I was feeling less self-conscious about my bare left ring finger and that was awesome.

Then, I read a rebuttal to Elizabeth's blog from The Flower Girl - The Truth About Getting Engaged Before 23.

Remember how I said being along kind of sucks?

The Flower Girl says,
"having a teammate in life is not a bad thing. it’s not a “cop-out” or a “safety blanket”. it doesn’t make you weak and it doesn’t mean you’re looking for someone to hide behind “instead of dealing with life’s highs and lows” on your own. it means building a new life with someone else as a team. it means sharing hopes and dreams and responsibilities. it means braving life together, having someone on your team to encourage you through the lows and to celebrate with through the highs."
And you know what --- I get that too! Shoot, am I thinking all the wrong things?

She goes onto say,
"do i feel like i didn’t get a chance to find myself before marrying someone else? i spent the first 20 years of my life figuring out who i was and how to feel good in my own skin. it wasn’t until i figured out who i really was that i met someone who loved me for me. now i have someone to grow with me, to encourage me to be myself."
Myself, and my good friends Deanna & Beth at Deanna's Aug. 2012 wedding.
Now, I'm not married (duh) ... but never once has Homeboy told me I couldn't do something. He encourages me to take on projects, to go visit my friends, to try new things and to take a break! In fact, most of our arguments revolve around food and movies and who's going to take out the dog. I feel like together, we are accomplishing awesome things.

So I'm just sitting here realizing I am just as judgmental toward my peers that get married early. Maybe they really have found their soulmate. Maybe they're going to explore with their partner. Being married isn't putting a shackle around your ankle. You can still do fun stuff, right married friends?

Who are we to say that you have to be XX years old before you get married? Who are we to say you need to travel the seven seas and have sex with a stranger before you've really lived? I certainly have never done those things ... but I think I've done lots of shit stuff in my nearly 24 years.

So, I'm going to put my judgmental eyes away. Congratulations to all my friends -- married, single, graduates, dream-job landers, etc. You are doing big, great, exciting things. It might include a wedding ring and a white picket fence, or it might be quitting your job and backpacking around the world. That's what's so great about this life, there's no single, correct way to do things. And I think you're awesome for making your own decisions.

Best,
Robin