Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours!

We have so many things to be thankful for this year. I am thankful for each new day, for the comfort of home, for my health, for my family, and for my friends.

Sometimes it may be difficult to see the good in a day, or to see the blessings in your life. We get so focused on the things we long for, that we can’t see what it is we have.

We have been given a new day. How can I do my best with it?

We have a place to call home. What can I do to make it warm and welcoming?

We have food on the table. Who can I break bread with?

We have friends and family who love us. How do I treat those around me?

My wish for you is that you will always find the blessing in each day.



30 Things I Love: Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I love the time spent in reflection of all the good in our lives. I love the time spent with friends or family or both. And, let’s be honest, I love the food.

As we pause to give thanks for the food on our tables, remember those who have labored to grow the food so we can stuff ourselves silly. Let us also remember those who are not with family…our military, those who are working, or those who could not travel home to be with loved ones.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you, my readers, for your comments, likes, and for reading my posts. I am grateful for your support.

Wishing you a day filled with blessings!

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage


Day 7: Black Velvet for Photography

Day 8: Strong Coffee and Strong Hairspray

Day 9: Peacefulness

Day 10: Winter’s First Snow

Day 11: Freedom

Day 12: Dairy

Day 13: Jonathan

Day 14: Coffee

Day 15: Seasons

Day 16: Scones

Day 17: #AgNerds

Day 18: Playing in the Dirt

Day 19: Friends

Day 20: My Church Choir Family

Day 21: OxyClean

Day 22: Small Town Celebrations

Day 23: Clouds

Day 24: Thanksgiving

Click here to go to Holly Spangler’s blog, and see the link for other 30 Day Challenge Bloggers



30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 29: Faith

CarolynCares Faith

I am thankful for the people in my life who have nurtured my faith. My parents were great examples of how to live your faith. There were many times when things didn’t look good financially, but dad would trust and pray, and our needs would always be met. That’s not to say our wants were met, but our needs were.

In my adult life, there have been a few times when life got hard. I could have shut everyone out, and wallowed in the why us, why our family…but Jonathan gently reminded me that everything is in God’s hands. He will take care of us. I still worry, though. I will freely admit that! At the same time, I am confident that some of the good things that have come out of Anna and Jonathan’s MS diagnoses are from God. We were able to get Anna into the Mayo Clinic, and have a really good neurologist and medical team that we trust. She has done well in school, and has been an inspiration to many, even when she has had issues with her physical strength. Jonathan’s MS hasn’t kept him from being a chaperone for junior high and senior high youth gatherings, nor from going on a short term missions project in Tanzania.

I was thinking about how I wanted to write this entry when I was getting ready for the day on Wednesday. Just when I was thinking I knew how I wanted to shape it, I received a phone call from the head clinic in our clinic system. They wanted to know if I could come in at 2:00 that day to have another mammogram to check on a suspicious area that the radiologist found from the mammogram I had on Monday.  I was able to reply that I would be there, but my heart started racing. At that point, all I could do was pray. It was the only thing I could do. Then, I sent Jonathan a text, explaining what I needed to do. My company for the weekend was supposed to be arriving around 3:00, but I couldn’t concentrate enough on my to-do list to accomplish much. The appointment time rolled around, and I had a series of scans taken, as well as an ultrasound. Fortunately, it was just a cyst that will never amount to anything serious. I wanted to hug the ultrasound technician! I got home again after my family had arrived, but they didn’t mind. We had a great Thanksgiving, with even more thanks to God for good health. My prayers are stronger for those women who are fighting breast cancer.

When I moved to my new home after Jonathan and I were married, I also moved to a new church home. I was welcomed into this new family immediately, which really helped me feel a part of the community as a whole. I am thankful for the many examples of faith that I have seen in our church family. There have been many families touched by tragedies, illness, and brokenness, yet they also have been blessed with faith, hope, and love. Faith that God is walking with them, and will never leave their sides. Hope that things will be better again some day, and the love and support of an extended family of faith.

I am so thankful that when I feel weak, worried, discouraged, or fearful, I have the ability to turn to God in prayer. I am also thankful that when I feel happy, joyful, grateful, or blessed, I have the ability to give credit to God in prayer. My faith is very important to me, and I am so thankful for the people in my life who have helped, and continue to help nurture that faith.


Want to see other 30 Day Challenge blogs? Head over to Holly Spangler’s blog to find the link!

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 28: Anna

CarolynCares Anna

Happy Birthday, Anna! Today, on Thanksgiving Day, our oldest turns 23. When she was born, Jonathan’s mom said, “Oh, good. Being born so late in November, she won’t have to worry about celebrating her birthday on Thanksgiving Day.” Her first birthday fell on Thanksgiving that year!

Anna just finished her student teaching, and will be officially be a graduate of Augustana College. She has many interests and talents, and can’t wait to see where God leads her. We are so proud of her!

Anna’s strong faith, and positive attitude have helped to carry her through tough times. Typically, junior high girls are trying to navigate a new school schedule, boys, and hanging out with friends at football games. Anna was dealing with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and the loss of friendships due to a misunderstanding of what it means to have MS. Her classmates weren’t always very kind to her, but that only made her push harder. She doesn’t want to be defined by this disease. She wants to be known for her sunny personality, her music, and her faith.

Hanging out with Anna is always fun. She has my sense of humor, and her dad’s sense of adventure. Jonathan and Anna have a great bond, and I love that they can have so much fun together. It doesn’t matter if it is the Alpine Slides in Keystone, SD, driving go-carts, jet skiing, or playing Rummy, they will find a way to have a good time.

I am so thankful for Anna! I am thankful for the sunshine she spreads to others, for her heart of compassion, for her stubbornness when she could have just given up. I am thankful for her friends that have seen past her limitations, especially the boy she brought home this weekend. I am thankful that her dreams are becoming her vision. Happy Birthday, sweet Anna! I love you!

Check out Anna’s blog – Smiles Squared


Want to see other 30 Day Challenge blogs? Head over to Holly Spangler’s blog to find the link!

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 27: Thanksgiving

CarolynCares Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day will be here before we know it. The next 24 hours will pass in a whirlwind of cooking, cleaning, and greeting guests. Even though the day can be a little stressful with food preparations and dealing with family dynamics, I think it is important to enjoy the chaos. There are so many people in our communities who will be spending Thanksgiving alone, and many who cannot afford to prepare a full meal.

This year, I was able to donate a bag of food to our school for a program that was started this year. There are about 9 homeless families in our school district. All of the food donated gets sent home to students in need on the last day of school for the week. The food is put in their lockers discretely, to save them from embarrassment or ridicule. This weekend, extra food was sent home to make sure these children would have something to eat over the holiday weekend. This program is helped out by our local Wal-Mart, but in December, our local school families will be encouraged to donate as well. I applaud the teacher who started this program, and I really hope the community will support it by donating money or food to the school. As the prayer says in the graphic above, “For food and raiment Thou dost give, That we in comfort here may live.” I really believe that God works through communities to be his cheerful givers. I am thankful that I was prompted to donate through #FoodThanks. I never would have found out about this program otherwise. I plan on donating at other times during the school year as well.

As for our Thanksgiving plans? We’ll be hosting Thanksgiving this year. All of the family (my side and Jonathan’s side) that live in Minnesota will be there. We’ll have one nervous person at the table this year. Anna is bringing home her boyfriend. He’ll be meeting most of the family on Thursday. He might appreciate a few prayers! We’ll be thinking and praying for family members who are living too far away to join us this year. I am so thankful for all of the members of our family!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


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30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 12: AgChat


Some of you may be thinking “what in the world is AgChat, and why is Carolyn thankful for that?” AgChat is the reason I joined Twitter. I have made many friends from all over the world by participating in Twitter #AgChat conversations on Tuesday evenings.

There is much more to the AgChat Foundation than just the weekly Twitter chats. In February, I attended a regional conference where I was able to meet some of the people I had been communicating with over social media. You could choose from different presentations on improving your blogging, photography, Facebook fan pages, Twitter, and more. The networking and learning sessions were great for encouraging us to tell our stories using more than one social media platform. The Portland Regional Conference is coming up, so if you live in the Pacific Northwest, I encourage you to check it out!

The AgChat Foundation also encourages us to give back when possible. Next week starts the annual #FoodThanks celebration. This year, we have been asked to show our appreciation for good food, and to those who grow it, by using the #FoodThanks hashtag while sharing photos of food or recipes online. I plan on pledging to donate a bag of food this holiday season. For more ideas on how to share your Food Thanks this holiday season, check out the #FoodThanks website.

I am really thankful that my friend, Emily, introduced me to the AgChat Foundation. I am thankful for all of the people I have met while participating in the AgChats on Tuesdays (and #FoodChat on the 3rd Tuesday). Thanks to you all for putting up with me!

For more 30 Day Challenge Blogs, click here.



30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 1: Family

CarolynCares Family Blessing

The best decision I ever made, was to accompany my college friend on a night with her cousin and his friend. Her cousin was coming up to our small Christian college in the Twin Cities to introduce her to his friend. She was uncomfortable hanging out with two boys, even though one was a relative. Her solution was to invite me to tag along, since I pretty much had no social life. (Small campus, and I was quite shy at the time. Really!) My instructions were that if she liked her cousin’s friend, then I could hang out with her cousin. If she didn’t get along with him, than I could hang out with him. Either way, we all would have fun.

The night arrived, and I met both of these college guys for the first time. We started with small talk, then went for a walk around campus. I’m not really sure how my friend’s evening went with her cousin’s friend. I really didn’t care. Her cousin and I hit it off immediately.

Jonathan and I have now been married for 25 years. It hasn’t been easy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. When we were first married, and we moved into a tiny house on a gravel road in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, I had a bit of culture shock. If you have read the book, “How To Talk Minnesotan”, you would understand that moving to Southwest Minnesota was like moving to another state. Being three hours away from my family, friends, and church family, I was very dependent on Jonathan as a spouse and as a friend. We did a lot of growing up in the first few years of our marriage.

Jonathan is the calm one in our marriage. I am so thankful for his patience in teaching me how to run farm equipment, and for believing in me when I was sure I would fail miserably. After 25 years, that hasn’t changed a bit. I still hate not being perfect on the first try when I’m working outside with him. I like to worry and fret and get my undies all in a bundle. He reminds me that all we have are blessings from God. We can’t worry about what the weather is doing, if we have a breakdown, if the crops are not yielding as expected, or if the Vikings defense isn’t stopping the opponent on 3rd downs. He loves me unconditionally. That is the best gift!

We have three beautiful daughters, who bring such joy to our lives. I love when we are all together. Mealtimes bring laughter, jokes, and bad puns. The girls all have their own interests, yet they enjoy getting together as sisters and as friends. I am so thankful for each one of them. They make me a better person.

I am so thankful for this family of mine! We may be a bit nutty, we may get the giggles in church, and we may be a bit loud at times, but that is exactly how I like it.

Introduction to the 30 Day Challenge

Follow along with Holly Spangler here, and the rest of the 30 Day Bloggers below.

Love this Crazy Life

Time flies when you are having fun, right? I can’t believe how fast the last month has gone!

Jonathan and Laura returned from Tanzania full of stories, videos, and photos.  I’ll let Jonathan tell you about his experiences in another blog.

After the travelers returned home, we jumped right into a full schedule. Laura wanted to head back to college right away to try and catch up on more assignments, so I took her back to USF just a day after they returned home. A day later, Jonathan and I had an organic farming seminar to attend a few hours from home, so he basically hit the ground running as well.

The following week was Thanksgiving. We were hosting this year, so I was able to plan the event how I wanted it. My rule this year – nobody brings anything, and everyone stays out of the kitchen until time for dishes. The exceptions were Christina, who made the dinner rolls, and Laura, who was my sous chef.  The day was awesome. It was the most stress-free Thanksgiving I have ever hosted!

Our menu was partly traditional, and partly not. As in, we didn’t have any cranberry anything, and no marshmallows made an appearance on sweet potatoes.

We started the meal with a Squash Soup appetizer. While our guests were eating their soup, Laura and I set the rest of the meal on the table.


The rest of our menu looked like this:

Apple Cider Brined Turkey

Mashed potatoes

A Simple Gravy made with chicken stock (no drippings)

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Green Bean Casserole

Dinner Rolls (recipe follows)


For dessert, I made a pecan pie, double layer pumpkin pie, and chocoflan


After our meal, everyone pitched in on dishes, and then we relaxed. We took our Olson family photo (minus one nephew who is currently studying in India) so Grandpa could send out his Christmas letter.  It was nice to celebrate with Anita and Charles, who will be heading back to Canada in a couple of days to celebrate Christmas with Charles’ family. They will be heading back to the mission field after the New Year.

I am so thankful for my family, my in-laws, the outlaws, my friends. The list could go on forever. I have been so blessed this past year! Thank you, my dear readers, for being a part of my life for the last two years. I look forward to sharing more stories about my family, my farm, and successful ventures in the kitchen.

Fly Off the Plate Dinner Rolls

1 egg

1 1/2 cups warm water

4 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons instant dry milk

3 Tablespoons oil

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

Mix egg with fork. Add ingredients in order recommended by your bread machine manufacturer. Put pan in bread machine. Select dough cycle, push start. After about 10 minutes, push finger into dough. If it is sticky, add more flour. When bread machine is done, shape into buns. Allow to rise about 20 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake 10-15 minutes