Friday, September 25, 2015

On the Calendar for Sunday: Lamborn Farm's Fall Festival

I simply can't believe it's almost October. Maybe it's because we are still experiencing more sweat-soaked days than breezy, cool ones. Or perhaps it's because I blinked and we almost missed apple-picking season. (We did manage to score 1/2 bushel at Cider Hill last weekend but they ran out of cider doughnuts and cider slushies so I still feel my autumn is somewhat incomplete.) Regardless, fall is right around the corner so let the festivities begin!

Although Oktoberfest at Merritt Lake kicks off the weekend tonight, the first official fall festival that I'm aware of, locally, is Lamborn Farm's Fall Festival this Sunday, September 27, from 11AM-6 PM. There are a couple of ways to get to Lamborn Farm:

1) Throw all caution to the wind and follow your GPS blindly down Metropolitan. Get increasingly frustrated that Metropolitan seems to be perpetually torn to pieces and you can't make a left until you get all the way down to 20th (all the while, your Google Maps has been chiming in every 3 seconds to make the next immediate left, starting at 10th Street) and then completely throw your hands up in despair when you realize you have to take 155th St. for about a mile. 155th Street is mostly gravel.


2) Take 4th Street all the way to Lansing (it will become Main Street) and turn right on 4-H Road, past Freddy's (c'mon, we ALL know where Freddy's is...I don't judge) and just past the Lansing Public Library. There are signs and the GPS should start acting right to bring you in the rest of the way. But the address is technically in Leavenworth. Three cheers for paved all the way!
I had the chance to chat with the farm's owner, Joseph Lamborn, about the festival on Sunday, as well as other events they host on their 138-year old farm. You may remember him from PAIR Day. He was set up in one of the tents right across from the Harney Gym bubble. If you don't remember much from PAIR Day, that's also understandable. I felt like it was my wedding, the birth of my child and all 4 PCS's squeezed into the same day. And I walked out with enough paper to reforest the Amazon. But one of them was his brochure about the farm's fall festival. I jotted down the date in my planner and then promptly forgot about it. Until this week.

You can read about the farm's interesting history and how it has evolved to meet changing agricultural needs here. It is still a working farmstead (offering grass-fed beef and free-range pork) and was just added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.  The barn, which hosts weddings, receptions, reunions and group parties, is over 100 years old and it was just restored in May 2012. The Lamborn Family continues to improve the festival and the farm, which seems to perfectly anticipate the needs and wants of the community.

Sunday's Fall Festival will include bounce houses for the kids (I feel utterly deprived that bounce houses were not a thing during my childhood in the 80's), local arts and craft vendors (*ahem* 90 days until Christmas), a concession stand (featuring taco salad, pulled pork sandwiches and root beer floats), a pumpkin patch (already picked, thank goodness, because I've had enough of my toddler wiping out repeatedly on pumpkin patch vines), entertainment, and MUCH more! It's basically a party on the farm and there's a reason they sing country songs about that. What a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I was able to visit Mr. Lamborn's farm this week and my first impression upon walking up was simply how homey it feels. It's not perfectly manicured lawns or shiny new barns that are open only for the month of October. It's not the commercialization of pumpkin patches (and the prices they charge) or individually ticketed activities for the kids that make the whole experience seem economically driven. It is the beauty of a working farm that has opened its doors to the community. It is a family who wants to share their land, their bounty and their vision with anyone who is up for a tiny taste of farm life.

Unexpected charm can be found around every corner.

 And so many ways to share in good ole fashioned farm fun with your kids.

(For the record, this is a goat. I truly thought it was a sheep. Don't sheep have horns? Anyway, Mr. Lamborn's goats are sheared regularly by a lady who knits sweaters from the goat hair. Jackie and I have made it our mission this year to own a goat hair sweater by the time we leave Kansas. For real.)

Mr. Lamborn and his daughter (because this truly is a family owned and operated farm) were unloading the newest addition to the inventory while I was there.
There are several of these face cut-out, farm-themed stand-ups (almost all painted by a local artist) and I love every single one of them. Although my toddler isn't quite as amused, some of my favorite pictures involve our faces behind plywood.

While you're there, take a peek inside the barn. The bottom level is the ideal spot to capture a canvas-worthy photo of your kids.
And the top level houses the reception area, complete with tables, chairs and the perfect amount of white Christmas lights.

This Kentucky girl thinks no gathering on the farm (or, uh, anywhere) is complete without at least one bourbon barrel. They have two.

If you are interested in getting married (or re-married now that there's Pinterest), I can't imagine a more idyllic setting than Lamborn Farm. Mr. Lamborn put a bid in on these pews from a Baptist church in Topeka and, to his surprise, won the bid. They sit on a gently sloping hill, nature's ampitheater seating. And holy cow, they are gorgeous...especially under the setting Kansas sun.

It's tempting to dig out that dress and do it all over again!

Lamborn Farm isn't just open for the festival or weddings, though. They are happy to host just about any event you can imagine. Previous autumn events have included group pumpkin carvings, build-a-scarecrow, campfires and wagon rides. Their annual Haunted Hay Ride (and more kid-friendly "spooky" hayride from 8-9 PM)  will be held October 16 & 17 and 23 & 24. But if you can dream it, they can probably do it! Personally, after perusing their Facebook page photos, I'm trying to assemble my own scarecrow building crew!
And the farm is open for the season everyday, from September 26-October 31, if your Sunday is already booked. They are also available by reservation year-round for campfires, small animals, barrel train, chuck wagon meals and birthday parties.

The Important Stuff:
Address: 25761 151st Street, Leavenworth, KS
Phone number: 913-727-5666
Email address:

Fall Festival: Sunday, September 27, 11 AM-6 PM  
Admission for Fall Festival: Ages 2-12: $3.00
                                                Ages 13-adult: $5.00
Haunted Hay Ride: October 16 & 17, 23 & 24 
Admission for Haunted Hay Ride: Children $5.00
                                                            Adults $7.50 

A special thank you to Mr. Lamborn for the chat (he is, as my Papa used to say, "quite a character" who loves to talk, show off cell phone pictures of the many beautiful weddings they've hosted, and crack jokes until the sun goes down) and to Jackie for letting me post photos of her 2 adorable children! 

I hope to see y'all on Sunday! My mouth is already watering for pulled pork and a root beer float.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Flutter By

Every year I feel some obligation to write this post and every year I make some half-assed attempt at being poetic and powerful. Every year I fail miserably because, if I'm being honest, I am still too raw. And what I'm writing is not deeply personal or even all that inspirational to other Angel Moms because I still haven't found enough distance to impart some great wisdom. Basically, I just don't want to talk about it. Or think about it. But all of that avoidance hasn't gained me any great comfort over the past 6 years. I still feel like we are living a lie, this family of 3.

How many children do you have?
One. Just the one. (No, two. I have two children. One runs, one flies....Man, that looks so much better stamped on a necklace than it sounds aloud to a complete stranger.)

So, I don't say it, of course. I say one. The nosier ones ask when we will have more. If you press me hard enough, I will tell you that we actually have two. And I will make you feel like horse poo for saying anything at all.

I'm clearly not in my happy place.

But I don't know if I will ever, on this earth, find my happy place. Last year, I heard of a couple who was in the process of adopting a newborn. Adoption is competitive so they created a book to show the birth mom how important adopting her baby was to them. In the book, they explained that their dining room table has 4 chairs but they are only a family of 3. They felt incomplete. It was proof to me that their family was serious about expanding and would endure any heartache if it meant they would, one day, be whole. They were able to adopt and complete their family shortly thereafter.

It's a beautiful story and speaks to the life-altering potential of adoption, but I feel like the opposite holds true for us. To me, our family is always incomplete and will only be whole again when the 4 of us are in Heaven (OK, I'm assuming we will all be in Heaven...I need this hope, even if everything goes sideways and we end up in Hell...or it turns out there is no Heaven or Hell just worms. But I've placed all my bets on Heaven). Having another child, biological or otherwise, will not change my feelings about our family. It will not complete us or make me feel less guilty about ignoring one member of our family every time I'm asked. It won't erase this date from my memory or make me wonder any less about what life could be like.

The whole thing just sucks. And that's as elegant as I can be today. Ask me tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will tell you about time healing open wounds and being a light to those in the darkness. I will tell you your angel is always near and that God has a plan. But tonight, the open wound and the darkness and the angel and the plan don't make any sense. And I don't want to be poetic or powerful. I don't want to be wise or inspire. I just want to hold my family of 4.

This afternoon, as Blue and I were leaving the house, headed for the nursery to buy our annual mums, he spotted a black and blue butterfly in the grass. "Look! Mommy! A butterfwy!" Blue has a keen eye for butterflies and can spend hours chasing them. I tend to let him because I've always felt butterflies were Shep's way of communicating with us. And when Blue takes off after one, it's just 2 brothers playing tag. Today, Shepherd, you're it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Queen Supreme: The Candle Kitchen and Tunnel Tour with Leavenworth's Candle Queen

It began innocently enough with one of those Facebook fan page contests. Share and tag 2 friends who would like to do this and you could win a tour through the candle kitchen and tunnel! Jackie, my neighbor and frequent sidekick for adventures around here, tagged me and that's how it popped up in my newsfeed. I have no idea what a tunnel tour is, I thought, but it sounds like fun. However, I never win those things so that was the extent of my thoughts about it before moving on to something a little more laundry.

A few days later, Jackie texted me. Hey, what are you doing Saturday afternoon? Want to tour the candle kitchen with me? I was more excited about winning something vicariously through her than the actual tour but sure, why not? I like candles. And tunnels. And because Candle Queen Candles didn't participate in the charm hunt this year, it was one of the downtown stores I had not yet visited. After a morning of perusing the post-wide yard sale (where I accepted my Mom of the Year award for scoring a boatload of Hot Wheels cars for only $2.50), Jackie and I headed down to the shop at 500 Shawnee Street in downtown Leavenworth.

We had no trouble finding free, on-street parking right across the street, as it's not quite on the main drag. The Candle Queen's curb appeal, with her sweet, pink ride and spray-painted invitation to sparkle & shine (but of course, is there any other way?) literally sets the tone for the entire experience. The Candle Queen (AKA Stacy McCowen) is everything that's wonderful about being a girl. Her sense of style, sense of humor and southern hospitality (I'm not sure if she's from the south but she would fit right in) create an oasis for all who enter, but especially for frazzled moms who are taking their own time-out (we call this Mommy Time in our house and it's as sacred as the Sabbath).

We arrived a few minutes early, so there was time to shop before the tour began. We may have planned it that way. The shop is stocked with beautiful clothing, hand-crafted jewelry, unique home decor and, of course, candles!
This shirt says "I may not be Wonderwoman, but I will do things that make you wonder." Fabulous. 
The "melters" are Stacy's hottest sellers and the focus of our kitchen tour. 
When we signed in at the counter for the tour, we were offered a free Candle Queen cup for "checking in" on the Facebook page
And done!
Stacy called the group together and lead us into the first room, behind the scenes and, quite literally, behind the curtain. She explained that this was her prepping and packaging area, where flats of Mason jars are opened and readied for candles and products are boxed with bows, ready to ship. This part is a family affair and her kids are paid 50 cents per box of Mason jars to open and prep them. I'm fairly certain my son would much prefer this task to many of the things I ask him to do around the house! 
The next room is usually for storage, Stacy explained, but it had been cleaned out and spruced up just for the kitchen tours that weekend (one on Saturday and one on Sunday). It was transformed into a tasting room, complete with dips from The Set Table (she was at the Spouse Super Sign-Up and her spices and dips can be found on Etsy with local pick-up) , as well as margaritas and fruit-infused water. Yes, I know...I had you at margaritas. Me too. Call me crazy but a little tequila makes everything better. But also...water. Because Kansas humidity is no joke. 
It was around this time when we realized that the cups change color when something cold is poured into them. This is the second time I've encountered color-changing cups in Kansas and it's far more entertaining to me than it probably should be. This is also the moment when we noticed there were more margaritas than people. So, as women who hate to see good cocktails go to waste, we drank those, too.

Then Stacy brought us into the main hub of the production, where the wax is cooled and huge sheets of melters are cut and packaged. Mason jars filled with various oils were scattered around and one labeled Fabulouso caught someone's eye.

"Is that..."
"YES!" Stacy confirmed. "The scent of Fabulouso!" 

OK, this is what I get for being all crunchy granola and cleaning with a spray bottle of distilled vinegar. My house smells like...well...distilled vinegar. Apparently, it could smell like a field of lavender. But I had never heard of Fabulouso, which is a cleaning product used almost exclusively by pretty much everyone in Mexico. It has, therefore, become the unofficial smell of Mexico and evokes sun-soaked memories for anyone who has vacationed on their shores. But chances are, even if you have simply eaten in a Mexican restaurant around closing time, you've smelled this stuff. I really need to eat more Mexican food. Stacy now has an oil that smells exactly like Fabulouso and she'll be incorporating it into candles and melts sometime soon. So now, as Jackie pointed out, your house can smell clean, even when it's not actually clean. I'm claiming this as a win for moms everywhere.

One of the highlights of the kitchen tour was Stacy's offer to take home a baggie of melts for free. She had 4 trays of melts to choose from and, not wanting to be greedy since we had already finished off the margaritas, we only took a couple of cubes from each tray. But Stacy invited us to fill the bags. She really is the hostess with the mostess.

I can tell you that the Vanilla Pumpkin melt knocked that Infantry Barracks smell right out of my kitchen. Built in 1903 but smells like a Pumpkin Spice Latte, all day everyday. Stacy's wax contains a higher concentration of scented oil than most store-bought candles and melts. I've never really understood how the melts work, although I've been using a burner instead of candles since the day our son started walking. The wax never goes away, but the oil burns off. With more oil in the wax, it takes longer which means each cube can be used for longer. However, as Stacy explained, when the oil has burned off completely, throw the wax out or it will begin to take on a stench of its own...not something you want, regardless of how many boys live in your house.
Stacy, a fellow Army Wife with 22 years of Army life under her rhinestone belt, retired to Leavenworth with her husband, who is her shop "project manager". She is Mom to 4 amazing kids, one of which is severely handicapped and that lead her to create a home-based business. She tells a brilliant story about her first craft fair and how she came to be the Candle Queen. You can read her story under the About Us tab on the website, but it's far more amusing to hear Stacy tell it!

With melts in our pockets and margaritas in our tummies, it was time to go underground.
There are Christmas lights and pastel-painted stairs. It can't be that scary, right? 
Um...yeah...OK. Never mind. There are bodies in the basement... least margarita-loving mannequins. That Jackie, such a giver. 
Stacy has very limited history on the tunnel under her shop because, to be quite honest, there isn't much to be found about it. Originally built as a saloon in 1858, it has seen many changes over the years. And, to Stacy's credit, much of that history can still be found in the rooms that jut off to the left of the main walkway. A newspaper dating back to 1912 is still stapled to one wall and a few wood planks from the Chase Candy Company in St. Joseph, MO can be found in the main passageway. 
Stacy is always collecting memories about her shop from Leavenworth residents. These recollections from grandchildren and great-grandchildren have helped to expand her theories on the purpose for the tunnels...from a means for transporting illegal alcohol and cigars into Leavenworth to a stop on the Underground Railroad to an entire underground city that was built up to combat the constant flooding of the Missouri River. There is, so far, no historical proof but lots of interesting possibilities. Perhaps most intriguing is that tunnels like this one snaked out all over Leavenworth in the 1800's, but the city has filled in all except 2; Stacy's and the one beneath the State Farm office. Stacy's tunnel is the only one you can tour. And it is a little bit famous. It was featured on the nationally syndicated show, Plainspirits, which can be viewed here.

Ultimately, the question had to be your tunnel haunted? No, Stacy quickly answered. But...there's always a but. The Plainspirits film crew had brought 4 cameras with them. When they entered one of the rooms, all 4 camera batteries died simultaneously. According to the crew, that had never happened. OMG, which room? As Stacy showed us in, we heard the distinctive beep-beep of a cell phone dying. So, that can't be a coincidence, right? Whose cell phone dies at 2 PM?

And then there was the mannequin room. Stacy has had several people approach her about purchasing the mannequins but she refuses to part with them. I agree. When you start moving bodies, you just never know what you are going to find.
I know...creeeeepy. Not enough margaritas in the world to make this not creepy. 

We paused for one more picture with the gatekeeper before heading back up.
That lady's American flag t-shirt reads "United We Sip" and the stars are tiny wine glasses. I think that might be the best thing I've ever seen. 

Back up top, we said good-bye to Stacy and thanked her for her time and her hospitality. And then we shopped. 
Jackie got a deep whiff of Butt-Naked...
...and confessed that it actually smells AMAZING. 
I had to have this t-shirt because, really, when you move like we do, home is wherever you are at the moment.
And Jackie chose this rustic metal sign for her living room. Admittedly, I have sign envy. There's one more. It might be calling my name.

Stacy doesn't offer tours of the kitchen and tunnel very often simply because she is so busy working, but she has started doing more as she loves the interaction with the community. To encourage that interaction, she is in the planning stages of several events, including a Beauty Bar with Jessica Parish (a cosmetologist on staff at Candle Queen Candles and a graduate in the top of her class at the Paul Mitchell School). More details on this event to come soon, but if the kitchen tour is any indication, every detail will be perfect and you will get so much more than you expect!

Stacy also hosts the annual Candle Queen's Romp 5K in April, which benefits area charities chosen by Candle Queen Candles Facebook fans. In 2014, Candle Queen Candles presented a check for $10,000 to The Farmer's House in Weston. Tiaras, tutus, terrific cause!
And recently, Stacy began a Candle Queen Shopping Facebook group called Candle Queen Candles Shopping Queens! It's a group so you must request to join, but Stacy's cool and all are invited to the party! Since Facebook has changed its algorithm, Stacy uses the group to post everything new...clothes, events, candles...because you get a notification when she posts. This is the best place to stay-up-to-date on all things Candle Queen...AND win a kitchen/tunnel tour!

If you go:
*Plenty of on-street parking
*For shopping and the tour, Stacy is certainly a kid-friendly kind of gal, but you will have more fun if your child is a girl over the age of...8? Or it's Mommy Time with your girlfriends. I love my toddler but for 2 hours, I didn't miss him at all.
*Check-in on Facebook, get cool free cup.
*Ask Stacy about the leather shavings in the tunnel.
*Shop for a Pandora charm or 2 from their Pandora counter in the corner of the store.
*Take home some Butt-Naked. You won't be sorry.

Have you been to Candle Queen Candles? What did you think? Have you been on a kitchen/tunnel tour? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments! I approve them daily.