Make It Christmas

Jeff & Lori Maurer

Jeff & Lori Maurer

Like many farmers, Lori Maurer of Royal in western Iowa repurposed old equipment and household items before #DIY was a trend on Pinterest.  Stepping into her warm kitchen is like walking down memory lane.

Windows salvaged from an old hog barn have become window pane photo frames, showcasing some of Lori’s favorite memories while her own three children were young.  The large bowl her grandma used to make homemade bread hangs on the wall next to the photo pane.  Nearby, an old wooden ladder from her parents’ farm has found new life as a decoration.

“I’ve always enjoyed finding new uses for old items.  It’s a fun way to preserve memories plus it can help decorate on a dime,” says Lori, who’s the youngest of 10 children.

Being resourceful is something Lori grew up doing and it’s something she and her husband, Jeff, have passed along to her children.  They’re the proud parents of three: Kevin, 26, who graduated from Iowa State University and recently joined the family farming operation; Mandy, 23, who also graduated from ISU where she met her husband Cole Danner; and Mitch, 19, who’s a sophomore at Iowa State where he’s majoring in Ag Studies with a minor in Agronomy.

20131213_135907.jpgThis year the Maurer’s are literally “making Christmas.”  Now that their children are either married or have significant others, they decided to eliminate some of the stress and expense from everyone buying something for eight other family members.  Instead they drew names and will make a gift for that person.  Jeff is making something so special for Mandy that she’s sure to treasure it for a lifetime, and Lori’s gift for Cole is extremely thoughtful.

Providing experiences is a Maurer holiday tradition.  One year they gave their children a puppy named Pepper, who still makes her home on the farm although she prefers to stay on the porch rather than run with the younger dogs.  Another year Santa left a Kitty Cat in their living room; the Maurer kids couldn’t imagine how Santa got down the chimney with that!

“Our kids had so much fun riding their little snowmobile through wide, open spaces,” recalls Lori.  “The freedom to explore on their own is one of the best things about raising kids in the country.  Living on a farm with livestock also teaches them responsibility and life lessons.”

The Maurer’s also credit 4-H for helping their kids develop life skills.  All three showed club calves.  They were responsible for doing chores, balancing a budget and marketing their show stock.  Showing cattle helped them develop communication skills and allowed them to meet other youth with like interests from around the state.

“There’s always something to be done on our farm, but there’s always someone help,” says Lori, whose family raised hogs and crops when she was growing up.  She and Jeff feel blessed to be farming with two of their children, and Mitch comes home from college to help whenever he can.  He’s hoping to join the family farming operation in a few more years.

When everyone gathers together, Lori likes to whip up hearty, stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal that’s perfect during fall harvest or a cold, winter’s night.  Today she’s sharing one of her family’s favorite casseroles on

P.S.  If you’d like to try making homemade gifts for the holidays, we’ve created a Pinterest board with several fun ideas.  Below are a few links to ideas for family activities.  Even if you don’t get them made before Dec. 25, you could make them over Winter Break and treasure them in years to come:

Busy Day Corn Casserole



  • 2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
  • 1 bag of frozen hash brown potatoes
  • 2 cans creamed corn
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese



  1. Layer into casserole: beef, followed by potatoes and then creamed corn.
  2. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes; then top with cheddar cheese and return to oven until cheese is melted.
  3. This can be made ahead, frozen and popped in oven on a busy day.


From the kitchen of Lori Maurer