A Day at Devine's Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch

Taking my girls to the area apple orchards and pumpkin patches is one of my most favorite fall activities. I love spending the day outside, and the girls love the farms and the playgrounds. Every year, we make the rounds through Boyds Orchards, Evans Orchard and Cider Mill, and Bi-Water Farm.

This year, we discovered a new one: Devine's Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch. Devine's is located in Harrodsburg, Kentucky--about a 40 minute, beautiful drive from Lexington through the Bluegrass Parkway.

My daughter and I went to Devine's on a class field trip. I'm used to extremely crowded farms this time of year, packed with kids from all over central Kentucky on their own field trips. There are generally rows and rows of school buses in the parking lot. At Devine's, there was one other bus there besides ours. It wasn't crowded at all.

Like most of the area farms, Devine's offers tractor rides, pumpkin picking, a petting zoo, a playground, and concessions. And then, there's the corn maze.

The Corn Maze has three levels: the kiddie level, the first-timer/4-H level, and the featured FFA level. Since I was with Lauren's class, we went through the kiddie level. I'd love to go back and explore the FFA level. It seems like such a classic, fun fall activity that I've never gotten to do before. The corn stalks are much taller than me, and I'm absolutely, 100% positive I would get lost in the middle of them, but even that sounds fun. (Also, they turn the corn maze into a Field of Horror on Halloween weekend and the next weekend--I'd love to check that out sometime.)

The kids' favorite part, of course, was the play area. They had several of the attractions I've seen on playgrounds at other farms--large slides, human hamster wheels, tire mountains, tricycle paths--but the absolute best part was another Devine's exclusive: the bouncing pillow.

Just so you know, dear readers, I did a highly scientific study of the bouncing pillow just so I would be able to adequately describe it for you here. It went like this:

Me: Are adults allowed to jump on that too?
Staff: Sure.
Me: Like, right now? With the kids on there?
Staff: Yep.

It was basically the most fun I've had in weeks. If you go, you have to jump on it. It's a must. Adults can jump REALLY HIGH, you guys.

I'm thrilled that Lauren's school discovered this place. We'll definitely be adding it to our yearly tour of area farms. What are some of your favorite local fall activities?

The HerKentucky Guide to the Keeneland Dress Code

Happy Horse Racing Season, y'all! One of the questions that we receive most here at HerKentucky is "What should I wear to Keeneland?"  We hear from a whole lot of folks who wonder about the dress codes for the Paddock, the Clubhouse, and all spaces in-between. Tomorrow is Opening Day -- one of Lexington's biggest autumn holidays -- so we thought we'd revisit the HerKentucky Guide to Keeneland's Dress Code to get you ready.  

Of course, if you're still in doubt, you can always visit our favorite Lexington boutiques -- AJ's CasualsBella RoseMonkee's and The Peppermint Palm -- and get some ideas! Most of all, I hope you look nice, win big, and enjoy the races!! -- HCW

Every year, in springtime and autumn, it seems that tons of new visitors arrive at HerKentucky  with variants of the same search: "What should I wear to Keeneland?"  I always want to reach out through Google, find all of y'all in Jacksonville, Ontario, and everywhere in-between, give you a hug and say "look nice and be yourself."

Now, the dress codes for Keeneland vary pretty wildly according to your location.  That really is my favorite thing about this racetrack.  There's a way to have fun at any budget, and at any level of dress.  But, as we've said before here at HerKentucky, visitors to Keeneland just try a little harder.

If you're going to stay near the Paddock -- General AdmissionGrandstand, or Equestrian Room -- there's no need to dress up very much.  Guys are fine in khakis and polo shirts, and girls can wear slacks.  In fact, you may even see folks wearing (gasp!) jeans.  These are the areas nearest the track itself, and people are truly there to watch (and bet on) the horses. With that said, don't be surprised to see a lot of dresses and sport coats in the lower-levels.  In recent years, a culture of dressy tailgating (think Steeplechase) has popped up among college students and twenty-somethings, and the second floor (General Admission) Sports Bar often resembles a campus bar or fraternity semi-formal.  While the dress code says "casual", there's plenty of Vineyard Vines and Lilly Pulitzer to be seen.

If you'll be dining in the upper-level, enclosed dining rooms-- The Lexington, Kentucky, or Phoenix Rooms-- then expect to dress for a business event.  The Lexington and Kentucky rooms -- dining rooms often reserved for business and social gatherings-- have a "business formal" dress code; these areas require men to don a coat and tie, and skirts/dresses/dressy slacks for ladies.  The Phoenix Room-- another reserved dining room-- is "business casual", requiring collared shirts and slacks for men and dresses/pantsuits for ladies.  During the week, many professionals take long business lunches in these areas, as is reflected in their dress code. 

The members-only Clubhouse similarly requires coat and tie for men and dressy pants/skirts for ladies.  I find that a skirt suit or a dress paired with a pretty cardigan or wrap is always appropriate for the upper levels.  In general, if you'd wear it to church or a business meeting, you're golden.  Most of all, remember to look nice because you'll see plenty of people!

What do y'all wear to Keeneland?

{all images via Keeneland.}

I heart Kentucky

I love Kentucky. I am not originally from Kentucky and may have hemmed and hawed when we moved to Paducah, Kentucky my freshman year of high school but when people ask where I am from, I proudly say Kentucky.

A few weeks ago, I was in Lexington and I locked myself out of my friend’s house as I was packing up my car to go to Louisville. I only had my car key and my car.  So after about 10 minutes of panic, I got into my car and found the nearest establishment to see if I could use their phone.  I pulled into Rose and Jim’s, a biker bar off of Georgetown Road, and was met with southern hospitality. They let me use their phone, patrons bought me beers and I met my freshman year roommate’s high school teacher.  Their kindness really turned a terrible experience into one I will never forget.  

One of my new friends from work decided to go to the University of Kentucky for undergraduate on a whim and will be leaving for Lexington in two short weeks. I was so excited when I heard this and told her to read up on the rules of basketball!  She inquired about Kentucky because she has not been to Lexington yet and I talked her ear off. I told her that I have never met a state that is more beautiful and if there is a state that has more state pride, I have never found it.  I told her about the story above and her jaw was on the floor.  I told her about Keeneland and tailgating. I told her about Ramsey’s and Cheapside. I also told her to check out HerKentucky…the premier source for all things Kentucky!

I am putting together a Lexington guide for my new friend but I have not lived in Lexington for over 10 years. I am using HerKentucky as my main resource for all things awesome in Lexington, but wanted to know what is your favorite new thing in Lexington? What should I recommend?

Thanks for your help y’all! I really appreciate it!

Lilly Pulitzer Commemorates the Lexington Junior League Horse Show

The 77th Annual Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show kicks off tonight at 6:30 at the Red Mile
Image via Lexington Junior League
Now, as I've said many times, both here on HerKentucky and elsewhere, Horse Show is my very favorite charity event in the Commonwealth. There's absolutely nothing else like it, and it's so uniquely "Kentucky"-- not only is it a significant fundraiser for the Junior League, it's also an elaborate, week-long Saddlebred horse show. In recent years, the event has become the world's largest outdoor Saddlebred show; it even serves as the first jewel in Saddlebred's Triple Crown. In addition to the various shows, there are nightly special events and an elaborate vendor hall full of equestrian-themed gifts. It's a fixture in Lexington's summer. And, I can honestly say that I've never seen more Lilly Pulitzer in one place.

Our friends at The Peppermint Palm know that Lilly and Horse Show go hand in hand, too. I recently chatted with Katherine Anderson, of the Lexington Peppermint Palm location. Katherine, who's also a member of the Lexington League, told me that she'd been inspired by the limited edition t-shirts that Lilly Pulitzer created for the Carolina Cup steeplechase event. When the folks from Lilly headquarters were in Lexington for a special shopping event with League members, a great idea was born. The designers at Lilly came up with a gorgeous t-shirt commemorating this year's horse show. 

image via Peppermint Palm.
When I stopped by The Peppermint Palm the other day to pick up my shirt, I simply fell in love. The Horse Show ribbon design on the front of the shirt is so richly detailed, and the Palm Girl (the new mascot for the Peppermint Palm -- I hear they're still deciding on her name...) icon is just gorgeous. Then again, I wouldn't expect anything less from the Lilly team. The best part? A portion of the sale of each t-shirt goes directly to the Lexington Junior League, funding their remarkable work across Central Kentucky. 

I love this idea: a gorgeous, limited edition t-shirt you'll actually wear which actually contributes to a great cause. All that for $25. You can contact The Peppermint Palm via their Facebook page to order your own.

If you're heading to the Horse Show this week, here's a link to the schedule of events.

Kentucky's Regional Cuisines

Have y'all read your July issue of Southern Living yet?

I just loved the Letter from the Editor this month. Lindsay Bierman, who has done a great job with giving the magazine a hip and relevant edge, addresses the big issue of Southern food. It seems a small-town newspaper criticized the venerable publication for using "exotic" ingredients like fennel, and claimed they should get back to the basics by including more traditional Southern recipes like fried chicken, grits, and so on. Mr. Bierman does a lovely job of countering those complaints. He notes that Southern food is an inclusive cuisine, encompassing styles from Cajun to Lowcountry to Appalachian. I loved this manifesto so much that I mentioned it on Twitter. And, no big deal, the editor of Southern Living tweeted us back.

Now, if you write about Southern lifestyles, there are three gospels to which you adhere: Southern LivingGarden and Gun, and the Oxford American. Getting a tweet from the editor of one of these publications... Well, it's like one of those Belieber kids hearing back from The Biebs. It made my day: Lindsay Bierman liked what we had to say!

Mr. Bierman's manifesto also got me thinking about the foods that define Kentucky. There's Western Kentucky's mutton barbecue. There's Central Kentucky's beer cheese and burgoo. There are the Louisville foods I traditionally think of as "Derby Recipes" -- benedictine and hot browns. As the holy trinity of Southern lifestyle magazines are starting to tell us, there's the stack cakes and soup beans of my youth, now re-branded as Appalachian cuisine. There are country hams and tomatoes. And that doesn't even count all the ways we can cook with bourbon. There are so many tastes that are unique to the Commonwealth. As Mr. Bierman articulated in his "manifesto", there are new tastes and old tastes and room for inclusion. And they all taste pretty darn good.

We'd love to hear from y'all. What foods are your idea of "Kentucky Cuisine"?

Kentucky Winery Wedding

If you're like me and got married in the pre-Pinterest age, you probably wish you had it back then. Just think of all those awesome projects you could do!

In reality though, so many of those projects are super stressful, and if I were getting married again, I'd probably take on way too many things and then get frustrated or disappointed when I couldn't do ALL THE THINGS!

I had a small wedding at Chrisman Mill Winery in Nicholasville back in October 2007. Other Lexington-area wineries that have weddings are Talon Winery in Lexington, Equus Run in Midway, and Acres of Land in Richmond. At the time, Jean Farris was offering weddings but I don't think they do them anymore.

To push the fall theme, we used oranges and browns as primary colors to compliment the turning colors of the leaves. Part of the appeal of having an outdoor wedding was the colors and decorations that Mother nature provided. This meant we could use fewer flowers and save some money. Instead of fresh cut flowers along the grass aisle or under the gazebo, we opted for large potted mums, which were really inexpensive and in-season. Some of our guests took them home and planted them, which was awesome because they didn't go to waste.

Since we had a small wedding (less than 80 people), that meant I could do some things like make some of the favors. To continue the wine theme, I wanted to give away wine glasses, but with a personal touch. I found someone on the local message board for The Knot (great resource) who had extra wine glasses left over from her wedding. I purchased all that I needed for about half the price if I would have gone to a restaurant supply shop, and she was happy to get them off her hands.

I bought beads and wire to make wine stem wraps, and my friends and I made all the bead strands in one night. We added a printed tag to the stem wrap that was a note of thanks for attending. That was probably the most DIY project I did, and it was enough for me!

We kept things simple but added some Kentucky flair and personal touches. My husband's aunt made our cake, which we decorated with live flowers. The guestbook was a photo book of our engagement photos that people signed over. It's now a permanent fixture on our coffee table. We had Lexington's famous Spalding's Donuts as our grooms cake. For the ring bearer that was too young to walk, we had our bridesmaid pull him in my old Radio Flyer wagon down the aisle. The day before the wedding, we took some of our bridal party and guests out to Keeneland. We loved that our wine was local from the winery, and we had beer from Kentucky Ale (I worked for Alltech at the time - owners of Kentucky Ale.) 

Caught in the act of donut eating prior to the ceremony.
All of these things made the wedding more special than anywhere I might have relied solely on Pinterest project suggestions and becoming overwhelmed about not having things perfect enough. 

Some considerations when looking at having a Kentucky winery wedding:
  • Most wineries have restrictions on serving alcohol, so if you're determined to have bourbon or other spirits at your wedding, check the restrictions of the venue before booking.
  • Check that the area is handicap accessible if you have elderly or disabled guests. To get to the area for our ceremony, there was a large hill with steps. We rented a golf cart and had an enthusiastic usher drive those who wanted up and down the hill. 
  • Have a backup plan. All outdoor weddings are a gamble. Make sure to have a backup plan in case of rain or cold. This means having tents with walls and heaters (or fans in spring or summer) on standby. We had our wedding and reception outdoors, and the threat of inclement weather was probably the most stressful thing about the entire wedding (thankfully it was perfect.)
  • Guest safety: Many wineries are located in the countryside where narrow back roads have to be taken. Consider your guests and their alcohol consumption and plan for ways to get them home from your reception safely. We had designated drivers that stayed until the end of the event to drive people home if that was needed. You could also hire a car service to handle this.
What did you do for your Kentucky-themed wedding?

Our Night to Remember

They say that June is wedding month. I'm not sure I've ever been to a wedding in June, though! After yesterday's near 100 degree temperatures swept across the Commonwealth, I think I know why.

Almost four years ago, we scheduled an October wedding. My husband and I are fall and winter people. I love Central Kentucky in the fall - the sharp chilliness of the mornings that blossom into beautiful blue skied afternoons full of a backdrop of brilliant leaves.

Our outdoor wedding was billed as a backyard barbecue party that just so happened to have a wedding thrown in. My husband had already done the wedding thing once before, so he gave me a few of his "must-haves" for our wedding/party and left me to go crazy. Funny enough, I was never a girl who spent her adolescence planning her nuptials. I had no idea what I wanted, but I knew I wanted something that felt authentic to us - fun and casual with touches of sentimentality that reflected our individuality.

While my wedding may have taken place before Pinterest, it did not take place before Martha Stewart Weddings, Rock n Roll Bride, or Weddingbee. I may not have had pinboards galore, but I had Google docs full of links, pictures and lists of ideas! Since we wanted to keep our wedding small and personal, I decided to do quite a bit of DIY. I also had lots of help from my wonderful family and friends. These are just a few of the personal touches that I feel made our wedding special for us.

The bridesmaids found dresses off the rack within the color scheme (green and brown) and rocked their favorite boots while groomsmen wore button-down shirts and their most comfortable jeans (as did the groom). I made my own wedding dress - wonky hem and all, I loved it.

photo by Clay Jackson 

I made our bouquets - sheaves of wheat with brown ribbon - from supplies in the bargain bins at the craft store.
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photo by Clay Jackson

The wedding took place in the backyard of my parents' home. We decorated with handmade votive lanterns along the fencerow - my family and friends saved all their salsa, peanut butter and spaghetti jars for months!
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photo by Clay Jackson
Luckily, we had a tent with walls that kept out the chilliest October day in recent memory (boo!). Also luckily, my parents had a supply of firewood for a late-in-the-reception bonfire. Of course, that bonfire was the site of quite a few rounds of bourbon passed around the circle - something of a family tradition. I, eventually, donned a pair of blue jeans underneath my dress because I got so chilly.

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photo by Clay Jackson

Inside, the tent was filled with lanterns, votives and table decorations that were simply squares of fabric topped with centerpieces that featured photos from our travels and favorite quotes.

photo by Clay Jackson 

With the help of the internet, our officiant (who also happened to be my cousin) and my own flair for the dramatic, I wrote the marriage ceremony and our vows. In true Jason-and-Lydia inappropriateness, we first sealed our marriage pronouncement with a high-five (we got to the more traditional kiss later).

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photo by Clay Jackson; I also made the banner in the background here

Food was handmade by my awesome aunts, uncles and friends of the family. We had some authentic, kick-ass, best-in-the-whole-world Western Kentucky barbecue (St. Augustine Catholic Church recipe) made by my uncles paired with potato salad, pasta salad and appetizers made by my aunts and served buffet-style. No one needs fancy flatware with that menu, so I made easy-to-carry and cute flatware packets.

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photo by Clay Jackson

My handy dad crafted a dance floor for the reception. On the backs of our RSVP cards, I asked our guests to write three songs that they'd request from a wedding DJ. I used those, plus our own favorites and family traditional wedding songs (we do an awesome number to Shout! but aren't big on The Chicken Dance) to construct a 3+ hour dance-til-you-drop playlist.

Wedding Dance
photo by Clay Jackson

Our wedding was a labor of love for me. I relished choosing and crafting all the little details. During one of our dances together, my not-always-enthusiastic-about-the-details husband whispered, "This is perfect. I'll never doubt any of your crazy ideas, again! Thank you."

In the end, of course, it was one day - one awesome day - but only one day of so many that make up a marriage. For us, it was the perfect way to publicly commemorate our commitment to one another and to share the love with our families and friends.

If you're planning a wedding, you don't have to DIY everything or have the biggest and best of everything for your day to be special. Look for ways to make sure that you and your relationship shine through. Make it meaningful, make it real and you won't go wrong.