Kansas, Life Notes

Hail, Hail, Hail, Alma Mater.

Last fall my little sister transferred to a four-year school from her community college. As a student-athlete, she’s worked really hard on her grades and even made the President’s list for her GPA. {Insert SUPER PROUD sister moment here.}

janci presidents list

I laugh, because between high school and college, we completely switched roles. Once upon a time I LOVED school, and while deep down that never really changed, my college grades didn’t not reflect that sentiment very often. Janci on the otherhand, was a good student in high school but she didn’t love it like me. Who knows if she actually LOVES school now, but she’s sure working hard, and it’s paying off.

Over this last semester I’ve been trying to help out in any way I can. My virtual red pen has been lighting up her papers and when finals week rolled I dished on all of my old tried and true studying skills. I joked one day that all of this talk about college stress, studying and late nights ALMOST made me miss it all.

Because let’s be honest, I don’t think there is a single thing that I would change about my college experience. None of the all-nighters, failed tests, tears, pointless classes, uncertainty, rejection, TEARS or sleep-deprived antics. None of it. Because walking across that stage to receive my degree, from Kansas State University was worth it. That, and the experience and memories made along the way. I’ve said it a million and one times, but as a stubborn, bright-eyed 18-year old I could have never predicted how my decision to move 1,700 miles away from home to attend K-State, would be the best decision I could have ever made for myself.

Class of 2013. Picture by DLC Photography
Class of 2013.
Picture by DLC Photography.

My college experience was what everyone deserves to have. A place that embraces you, before you’ve even made up your mind about it. A world that pushes you toward growing up into who you’re meant to be and challenges you to stray from your narrow, safe way of thinking – but provides plenty of cushioning for you to not get it right the first time. An environment that provides plenty of fun. The purple-shouting kind, the boot-stomping kind, the lazy weekend kind, and even a little of the questionable kind. An education that gives you more than you need and helps you figure out exactly where your place is. A family of mentors, to dish out a lot of tough love, but mostly just love. A family of life-long friends to share all of it with.

It’s been almost two years since I graduated from Kansas State University. And while I think I’ll pass on those all-nighters in the “Harry Potter room” at Hale Library, I sure do miss it all sometimes.

All of this is my cheesy, long-winded way of sharing that I recently became a  Lifetime Member of the K-State Alumni Association. I’m thankful for my experience and proud to be an alumna, and for me, this was an important way for me to make that statement. I couldn’t say all of that though, without mentioning that without the support of my grandparents, I wouldn’t have been able to do this yet. I might be biased, but this is one the best kinds of Christmas there is. Thanks Grammy and Grampy, for understanding how important this was to me.

IMG_1163And with that I think we can all agree (all Wildcats at least,) that the license plate it pretty rad.

“I know a spot that I love full well, ‘Tis not in forest nor yet in dell, ever it holds me with magic spell, I think of thee Alma Mater. KSU, we’ll carry the banner high, KSU long, long may thy colors fly. Loyal you to thee thy children will swell the cry. Hail, Hail, Hail Alma Mater.”

Friendship, Kansas

Bowling with the Cats

bowl trip 2
Jess, Joe, Nathan, Kyla and I at the K-State Pep Rally.

So the bowling trip wasn’t quite rainbows and sunshine. Literally.
It rained the entire time we were in San Antonio. The Cats lost. And that car ride was a bit too long.

But the rest was pretty great.

After spending two weeks at home in Oregon for the holidays, I flew back to Kansas just in time to jump in a car headed to San Antonio, to watch my K-State Wildcats play in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

Our group of 14 got into town in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve on the Riverwalk.
People, put that down on your places to visit. I don’t know if it is decorate with Christmas lights year round but it was beautiful. And I sure do love pretty lights. There are so many fun little restaurants, beautiful architecture and history. Be prepared to do lots of walking though, and getting lost a time or two, or eight. It’s definitely on my vacation list to go back a enjoy at a bit slower pace.

It never ceases to amaze me how dedicated the K-State family is.
I know they say every year that K-State fans travel well but seriously, EVERYWHERE you looked there was purple. In many ways it really did feel like a home game.

On a side note: As a communicator I was pretty darn excited to see the stats that my tweet below got.


Despite the disappointing loss, the game really was fun. It wasn’t fancy, but the Alamodome was a nice facility and we were SO thankful that there was a dome covering us at game time.
This year’s senior class is the last group of players that I recognize from being a fellow student, so it was a little bittersweet watching Tyler Locket & Co., play in purple for the last time.

Congrats to Coach Bill Snyder for being selected to the College Football Hall of Fame 2015 Class.
This makes him only the sixth active coach inducted.
I can’t speak for Coach Mora, but it would be an honor to shake that man’s hand.

Happy 2015!

Friendship, Kansas

Luna the K-State Puppy.

Warning: If you have puppy fever, you should definitely look away.

Meet Luna.

She’s a red heeler x corgi, 10 weeks old and just as sweet as can be. And she’s all not mine. (But I did help name her.)

My best friend Megan adopted her up here in Manhattan earlier in October, so they spent the weekend with me and did some K-State tailgating for Luna’s first adventure.

My work was hosting its annual pork tailgate so I had my fancy work camera with me all afternoon and got some good practice in on my friends, both furry and human.


Career/Professional, Friendship, Kansas

That’s a lot of bacon…

My job is so much cooler than yours.
Well at least this past weekend it was.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.
Bacon. Is. Hot.
So much so, that it gets its own festival in Kansas City.
That’s right, a whole day dedicated to that salty, savory strip of wonderful. And because of my job, I got to go.

Ladies and gents, I present to you: Bacon-Fest: The Other Fundraiser


Bacon Fest is an annual fundraiser for the Rehabilitation Institute of KC, an organization that provides physical rehabilitation services to youth and adults in the Kansas City area. The event features dozens of eateries, caterers and companies who all bring their bacon inspired dishes for hundreds of bacon lovers and enthusiasts to sample. There were pulled pork sandwich bites, tacos, pizza, jam, cheddar meatballs, yogurt, various desserts and appetizers and more – all featuring bacon in some form. There were even two bacon inspired drinks, including a bacon bloody mary (I passed) and a bacon breakfast shot (definitely did not pass.) And Farmland Foods rounded out the bacon menu with simplicity, featuring eight or so different cuts and seasoned strips to try. The bacon is paired with a featured micro brew beer station, live local music and to round out the fun there is a bacon eating contest (we’ll get to that in a minute) and a bacon recipe contest.

So here’s where I come in. Kansas Pork is a sponsor at this event and this year we also featured a fun bacon photo booth that was complete with various signs and props that attendees could snap a picture in front of with their friends and then enter to win bacon by uploading that picture to social media, using the hash tag #baconfarmers.  Pretty cool, huh? The bonus for me (besides unlimited bacon to sample of course) was that I was able to bring along a few friends to enjoy the day with me. A huge thanks to Megan, Kyla and Elliott for tagging along with me and helping out here and there when we needed it. Overall the day what a pretty big success and a whole lot of fun. It’s still a little crazy to me that there is a whole food culture and fad built around this beloved breakfast food. There were so many crazy costumes, funny t-shirts, and fun giveaways. I think we decided that overall our favorites were the bacon cheddar meatballs, chocolate covered bacon, bacon jam, steak seasoned bacon strips and the bacon bloody marys.

And going back to that bacon eating contest… Now I’ve been to a bowl game, witnessed some buzzer beaters and am competitive to a fault, but I have to say, sitting front and center for a bacon eating contest is quite the experience. Competitors are given a pound of bacon and five minutes. The person who finishes first or eats the most (in weight) in that time period is crowned the champion – and people take this competition very seriously. If you know me, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find me mocking this a slight bit, and I did, until this 120-something lb spunky middle aged woman won! This chick beat out 30 or so other competitors (mostly big burly guys) and won over the crowd at the same time. That’s the last time I’ll mock an eating competition.

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If you are in or near the Kansas City area I encourage you to look into attending the event in the future. It is held near the end of August each year and goes toward helping out a great cause and organization. And…chances are, I’ll be there again. My roommate Megan is already eyeing her calender to make that weekend available to tag along next year.

As for me, I’m never going to think of bacon the same way again.

Agriculture, Career/Professional, Kansas

In The Eye of the Beholder…

This summer, as I have started my full time role at my new job, I have hit the ground running, offering support on a really cool project.

Yes, jumping from bale to bale is as much fun as it looks.
Yes, jumping from bale to bale is as much fun as it looks.

We are waiting until National Pork Month in October to share the full details, but many do know that it involves some on-site farm video shoots. I am having a blast traveling around the state, meeting some wonderful farm families and spending some time with my favorite critters. Each family and their farm have their own personality and unique story to share, and I have walked away from each one with boosted sense of purpose for my job and respect for those that I represent.

We are working with a fun-loving, positive thinking and insanely creative, agency team, whom I have really enjoyed getting to know. They are not a agriculture based agency, and really, I think they’d appreciate me saying that “traditional” and “typical” aren’t in their vocabulary either. But they understand consumers and people, and in turn, I have really appreciated their eagerness to learn more about agriculture and their respect for farmers. My job throughout this project, aside from providing direction and support wherever needed, is to photograph and capture the ‘behind the scenes.’ Now I’ll be the first to admit that photography is not the skill that makes me a communicator, but I do enjoy it and even more so, enjoy being the viewer,  especially when its a simple country scene or anything that represents the agricultural life. I believe that agriculture is beautiful, but I also understand that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ which is why something that a member of the agency team said caught me by surprise.

At each of the shoots, we often lost track of the two main camera men and when we would find them someone would inquire about what they could possibly be taking a picture of. Another member of their team would then explain that they could see the opportunity for a good picture when we might not be able to. Understanding this a bit, I was curious of what they thought of their surroundings so I asked one of them later what he thought. His response?

“I could spend all night and day out here. This right here, this is the good stuff.”

It took every bit of self control to not let my jaw drop. He could not have responded better, if I had scripted it myself. Then, to top it off, later that evening the team showed us some of the footage and stills that they have started to work on and instantly I knew, this guy gets it.

My theory is that The Good Stuff is different for everyone and that’s the beauty of it. I have no doubt that this guy’s version of the good stuff is very different than mine, but his comment and the fact that we had this bit in common made me smile. If I wasn’t excited to share this project with you before, I definitely am now!

Here are a few favorite “details” from one of our visits. I honestly could have taken a million and two pictures of just the pigs if I had been there all day!


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“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” – Margaret Wolfe Hungerford

Agriculture, Friendship, Kansas

Down at the Farmer’s Market

Saturday’s are my day to sleep in. Unless I’m getting up for a K-State football game or I’m off on some adventure, the world should not expect to see me until at least 10 a.m.

But a few weekends ago my curiosity finally got the best of me. I finally made my way down to the Manhattan Downtown Farmer’s Market. And I drug Nicole, my favorite fellow ‘Eastern-Oregon-native-turned-KStater’ with me {we’ll work on smoother title for her later.}

Farmer’s markets have always intrigued me. I think that fascination partially comes from growing up in a family retail business and the enjoyment of attending random flea markets and antique shops with my family. I think that there’s something admirable about an entrepreneurial spirit and poetic about finding a treasure amongst other people’s trash. Combine that with my passion for agriculture and the fact that there are many hot topics that revolve around farmer’s market, it really is a surprise that this was my first time. When I lived in Wichita and Kansas City each for a summer, I was disappointed that I was never able to make it to either of the ones held in those cities. So once I got a bit more settled into Manhattan being my new long-term home, it went to the top of my “good year” bucket list.

Nicole and I had a great time seeing all of the odds and ends, colors and of course, interesting characters. The market has everything from food and handmade jewelry and paintings to spices and a variety of bees wax products. {Note to self: learn more about bees.} I think my favorite part was the sunflowers and the lady with the table of spices and herbs. I think she could have talked to us for the rest of the day if we had stayed. Now with Nicole and I being a student and recent graduate in agricultural communications, we took a lot of interest in the food aspect of the market. The organic foods and local foods movement {which can be two different things} have  a large stake in farmer’s markets. When it comes to this whole organic business, most know that I have my opinion and respectfully choose to purchase what is referred to as conventional foods. I will say though, that I don’t say that with fighting words prepped and ready to unleash. Right now those are reserved for a certain deli that is making some poor marketing decisions. {Yes, I’m looking at you Panera.} Organic farming has found itself a successful niche market and when it comes down to it, if there is a demand for it and a profit to be made, well then part of me can’t stand in the way of giving the people what they want. And when it comes to actually becoming certified organic as a farmer, it is a long and expensive process, and so , I can summon up some respect for someone who invests hard work and dedication into what they believe in. Remember, he or she is still a farmer, trying to make a living off the land to contribute to the food supply and often resembles the farmers that we carry a flag for, they just choose to go about it a little differently. Now before it starts sounding like I’ve gone soft, I assure you, my opinion to not buy or eat organic food as a consumer and agriculturalist remains the same. Don’t bail on me yet friends. This week the hot article across social media came from Henry Miller’s Forbes article, Is Organic Agriculture Affluent Narcissism?  I agreed with what Miller said and with my friends who shared it and echoed their support. It was refreshing to see the article garner that much attention. But I will rise up to voice my subtle concern that while it was a strong, factual article and did a great job of rallying the troops, I think that at times, its tone might of caused us to lose some of the audience who needed to read it the most. Sorry sir, but calling Whole Foods a “rip-off artist” and practically telling those who choose organic that they might as well be a cult isn’t going to help anyone. It’s a hard position to be in. I too get frustrated when we’re standing with the science in our hands and still it turns into a argument of values and what’s hip, not knowing the whole story and trying to convince others that they aren’t even using the definition of organic correctly. And when someone tries to tell me that we can continue to feed a growing world population on that system, it leaves me just about speechless. But I truly believe we have to be having conversations and sharing the facts on a level that means something to the average consumer, and we can’t give up. Let’s just work on getting them with a bit more kindness instead. I encourage everyone to ask lots of questions and see the whole picture. You can start by listening to Nicole’s interesting perspective over on her blog.

That took us on a bit of a detour, but considering the article came out soon after my visit, I felt like sharing was appropriate. The market didn’t only consist of organic food vendors, which was encouraging. We didn’t end up purchasing anything aside from Nicole’s sample stick of honey, but it was definitely a great experience and an enjoyable morning.

I’m pretty sure we are definitely planning on going back.

– Amanda

Kansas, Life Notes

“Home is behind, the world ahead…”

Picture by DLC Photography
Picture by DLC Photography

“Home is behind, the world ahead,
and there are many paths to tread
through shadows to the edge of night, until the stars are all alight.”
— J.R.R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings

So somehow I made it through 22 years of life without ever knowing the wonderful gift to film, known as The Lord of the Rings (don’t worry literature faithfuls, the books are now on my list.) I vaguely remember watching the first movie with my Uncle Josh when I was around 10, but my appreciation for good movies was still in its early stages of development then.

My post today is obviously not to go on and on about how I’ve been living underneath a rock. But I also very quickly realized that I was also missing out on some good quotes and words of wisdom from Mr. Tolkein, and the one above grabbed my attention in my wide-eyed post graduation state.

Speaking of graduation (notice my smooth transition there.) It all sort of came and went how I expected it to. There were tears, pictures, lots of cliche phrases and momentary bouts of anxiety. We laughed at the person next to us for obnoxiously waving into the sea of people in the crowd — of course until you found your own fans and joined in —commented a million times on how the caps and gowns really are flattering on no one and wondered how exactly that girl was successfully managing those heels.

If you were to ask me I’d tell you that I just graduated from the best college at the greatest university there is, but hey, that’s just me. K-State was the best decision that I have ever made, and everyone who knows me, knows that I could talk to the end of time telling you why. I’ve always said that I don’t believe in coincidences, and that couldn’t be more true today. I only wish I could go back and ask my 18-year-old self where exactly the courage to take that risk came from, so that I can bottle it up and save it up for days that I need a little push.

Looking forward, there’s a lot to be excited about. I am admist week four of my full time job and enjoying a beautiful summer with good people around me. I am excited to jump back into blogging, deciding not to put any expectations on what I’m going to write about, except to just to continue to practice and expand my writing, and see where that takes me.

I do though, want to reflect just a bit. The last few months have been a wild ride, busy to the point that I was just focusing on making it through each single day. But as always they were filled with good memories and great people.

Thanks to all who tagged along.

Alumni status.
Alumni status.
Smurthwaite sisters. Roommates. Best friends. Two of the best things that came out of my decision to attend K-State.
Smurthwaite sisters. Roommates. Best friends. Two of the best things that came out of my decision to attend K-State.
Blaine and I with our rocks at the College of Ag grad dinner.
Blaine and I with our rocks at the College of Ag grad dinner.
Shared my graduation day and party with Leah, my freshman roommate. The cowgirl and the hippie, we made it!
Shared my graduation day and party with Leah, my freshman roommate. The cowgirl and the hippie, we made it!
2013 Ag Communications graduates
2013 Ag Communications graduates
It meant so much to me to share my graduation with my grandparents, whose love and supports never fails to amaze me.
It meant so much to me to share my graduation with my grandparents, whose love and supports never fails to amaze me.
My parents and the reason I've stayed grounded during this adventure. Knowing I made them proud is the best feeling there is.
My parents and the reason I’ve stayed grounded during this adventure. Knowing I made them proud is the best feeling there is.
Got to spend two weeks at home in Oregon before I started my job full-time, which included lots of sister time and a weekend at the cabin.
Got to spend two weeks at home in Oregon before I started my job full-time, which included lots of sister time and a weekend at the cabin.
Celebrated the marriage of two of my favorite lovebirds! Congrats Drew and Laura!
Celebrated the marriage of two of my favorite lovebirds! Congrats Drew and Laura!
Second week on the job and I get to spend it on this beautiful family farm with an even more beautiful family. Is this real life?
Second week on the job and I get to spend it on this beautiful family farm with an even more beautiful family. Is this real life?