May Day

May Day

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Trouble with Kittens

The trouble with a kitten is that
eventually it becomes a cat.

~Ogden Nash

Since Randy's favorite animal is Big Cat, I'm sure he would disagree with Ogden Nash. I, on the other hand, think the poet was on to something. 

Our latest crop of kittens has taken up residence in the window well outside my basement office. I know when they are hungry. They protest rather loudly until their mama comes for dinner. 
But even I have to admit they are pretty cute.
However, I have decided that taking pictures of kittens is a little like taking photos of toddlers. Rarely do you get everyone looking in the same direction with a pleasant expression on their little faces. Case in point: Our five newest critters on the County Line were not ready for their closeups.

"Really? Not one of you wants to look at the camera?"
 Gray Kitty wants to play "King of the Mountain."
The golden kitten seems to be Mr. Personality. (Actually, I don't know whether it's a "he" or a "she." Time will tell.)
Kinley and Brooke got to meet the kittens when they were here a couple of weeks ago. It was perfect timing. We knew that the mama had delivered her babies. But she didn't bring them up to the house until the day before the girls arrived.
That's another thing kitten have in common with human babies: They grow and change so quickly. So far, the kittens have not replaced Cozy in Kinley's affections. But just give them time.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Meringue-Topped Chocolate Chip Bars

Where has May gone? For teachers and their students who are counting down the hours until the end of school, perhaps it's moved less swiftly. But, I look at the calendar and I see that June is barreling its way toward me. With June, comes a four-day church meeting in Topeka, which I hope gets finished up before harvest starts.

While television weatherpeople have started complaining about the rain and cooler temperatures, I'm thankful that the more moderate weather may have helped me avoid a head-on collision of church obligation and farm duty.

But, before we say goodbye to May, we have Memorial Day coming in little more than a week.
Memorial Day weekend just isn't the same as it was back when I was a kid. We still do the annual cemetery tour with my parents, putting flowers on loved ones' graves. We also try to meet Randy's sister and family to decorate graves for their family.

Look closely to see the rainbow in the clouds!
But back when I was grade school age, we sometimes had a picnic in Lemon Park in Pratt with Grandma and Grandpa Leonard and often with my Great Aunt Helen and Great Uncle Mike Stauth before we'd make the cemetery rounds.

As a kid, I didn't think about the preparation that went into toting a meal to the picnic shelter. I just looked forward to playing on the playground equipment and the novelty of eating a meal outdoors.

These days, we usually let a local pizza parlor do the cooking for us. And, as the chief cook around here, that's fine with me, too.

This recipe for Meringue-Topped Chocolate Chip Bars would be good at a picnic or for an after-the-cemetery-tour snack. They 'd be a fun treat at a camp-out with family or friends. They'd even be a little fancier chocolate chip bar to include on a cookie platter for a special gathering.

I found it in Calvary Baptist Church's most recent cookbook. It's a recipe from Alda Hildebrand, who always brings home her fair share of the ribbons in the open class division at the Stafford County Fair. The crunchy meringue top is the perfect way to offset the chewy cookie layer underneath.
Meringue-Topped Chocolate Chip Bars
Recipe adapted from Alda Hildebrand
Calvary Baptist Cookbook: Celebrating Our Heritage
Bar Cookie:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup miniature chocolate chips
2 egg whites
1 cup brown sugar
Chopped nuts (optional)

Cream butter, brown sugar and sugar. Add egg yolks, water and vanilla, mixing well. Sift together flour, soda, baking powder and salt and add to creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread into a prepared 9- by 13-inch pan. Set aside.

Topping: Beat egg whites. Gradually add in brown sugar, beating well, until a meringue forms. Spread over cookie batter. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped nuts, if desired. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Today, I'm linked to Weekend Potluck, hosted by these bloggers. Check out the tried-and-true recipes from them and other foodies!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Million Dollar Rains

Randy says these timely spring rains are "million dollar rains." Now, before anyone starts lining up for a loan, he's not saying that it will put a million dollars in our bank account. But after a dry winter, the 6 inches of gentle rain we've had during the past month will improve the Kansas wheat harvest overall. (And, on a personal note, it will help pay down our operating loan at the bank.)

This latest rain brought another inch of valuable moisture to our 2016 wheat crop.
 The cool temperatures have been ideal for filling the wheat heads with grain.
 Our alfalfa fields are looking much more lush and productive than they did earlier this spring.
Randy plans to start putting down alfalfa next week, depending on the weather forecast.
Earlier, we had the co-op spray the hay fields with insecticides after they were being chomped by weevils. An army of ladybugs is now feasting on aphids in the alfalfa.
The rains have provided the moisture Randy needs to plant forage sorghum and some milo. That's on the agenda for today.
I took this photo last week when Randy was having to replant in a corn field.
Since we are dryland farmers, our 2016 corn crop wouldn't have happened without the April rain, and the subsequent rains have helped bring it up.
Peace Creek during the "golden hour"
The rains also have helped fill ponds and creeks, as well as bolstering the grass in our pastures, where are cows and their calves are "vacationing" for the summer. 
And, speaking of "vacations," my farmer likes spending his time off at the golf course. The spring rains have really made the Stafford course look beautiful.

Some people complain about rainy days. But for farm families, a good, gentle rain is just about the best antidepressant there is.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Prayer Jesus Taught Us

At church, I've been hearing a sweet little voice behind me recite the words to The Lord's Prayer. The higher-pitched voice joins the chorus of adult voices and, for me, has added a whole new dimension to the unison recitation of "the prayer Jesus taught us."

We recite it together every week during our worship service at Stafford United Methodist Church.  It's one of those things that - if we're honest - we may even say by rote, not even thinking about the words and what they mean.
Byers United Methodist Church, Pratt County, my childhood church
I've been going to church since my parents carried me through the doors of the Byers United Methodist Church more years ago than I like to admit.  I don't remember intentionally learning the words to The Lord's Prayer. Perhaps I did, but it's also possible that I learned them vicariously while sitting in a pew marked with my ancestors' names, and hearing them repeated, week after week.

Byers United Methodist Church
For that young worshiper, learning something new forces her to concentrate, to think about the words that are so familiar to the rest of us.  My friend, Debora, helped me to look at The Lord's Prayer in a new way, too. At church, Debora's mom handed me a 14-day devotional, "Praying The Lord's Prayer at Noon" (Prayer Point Press, 2015) and told me that Deborah thought I might like to read it. (Deborah is from Stafford, but now lives out of state. We keep in touch on Facebook and when she comes to visit her mom.)

The devotional is written by Dr. Terry Teykl, a United Methodist pastor in Texas who also works with a Christian radio station, KSBJ. He proposed praying The Lord's Prayer at noon daily, calling it "Pray Down at High Noon."
Stained glass in the Via Christi, St. Francis, chapel. Taken when we visited a friend in the hospital in April.
In the devotional, Teykl says:
"It's a challenging time to be the Church of Jesus Christ. There are a lot of things that we, as Christians, don't agree on. But one thing we can do is offer the prayer Jesus taught us to pray back to God in humility and unity. The brief passage, roughly 21 seconds when spoke, is simple enough to be prayed by children, yet rich enough to have fueled volumes of literature. It was Jesus' instruction to His disciples, and, as a result, it holds a sacred place across many denominations. Maybe it can be a gathering point where we can lay down our own personal or political agendas and simply ask God to come."
The Lord's Prayer covers it all, Teykl asserts, "large things, small things, material things, spiritual things, inward things and outward things."
Stained glass at the Via Christi, St. Francis, Chapel of the Sorrowful Mother
In the devotional, Tekyl breaks down The Lord's Prayer's phrases and creates a two-page reflection for each of the 14 days. He also includes a different Biblical translation of the familiar prayer each day.

It is believed that the early Christians regularly spoke The Lord’s Prayer at morning, noon, and night.

Would the world change if we committed to this simple plan ... praying The Lord's Prayer each day at noon? Maybe. Maybe not. But maybe the thing it would change is me. It might be worth planting the seed and seeing what happens.
Via Chrsti, St. Francis, Chapel of the Sorrowful Mother
"Imagine the Body of Christ praying The Lord’s Prayer all around the world. As it becomes noon in each time zone, our sisters and brothers will be praying for God’s Kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven." 
Larry Bauman,
Ardmore UMC District superintendent
Maybe I need to approach it with child-like wonder, like that little voice behind me in the church pew.
Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, Concordia, Kansas

Friday, May 13, 2016

One-Pan Pasta Pot

I like cooking and baking. I'm not as fond of the clean-up. Who is? So when I see a recipe for something I can put together in one skillet, it's appealing.

We like spaghetti and cavatini as much as anyone. But it's kind of nice to try a little something different for a pasta dish. This rich and creamy tomato sauce covers the pasta, as well as fresh spinach and halved cherry tomatoes. It also includes two kinds of cheeses - ricotta and freshly-shredded Parmesan. You can't go wrong with cheese!

The original recipe was meatless, but that doesn't go over too well with my meat-loving husband. So I added some smoked sausage. It would be good with chicken, too. But that's Randy's least favorite meat. Well, he probably likes liver less. But since I don't like liver either, there's no danger of it appearing on the table anytime soon.

This, on the other hand, will definitely appear on our table again.

One-Pan Pasta Pot
Adapted from Call Me PMC
7 oz. smoked sausage
12 oz. rotini pasta
1/4 cup basil pesto
1 tbsp. minced garlic
24 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup enchilada sauce
1 1/4 cups water with 2 tsp. chicken bouillon powder dissolved into it
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
4 oz. ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Cut smoked sausage into rounds and gently brown in a large non-stick skillet. Add pasta, pesto, garlic, tomatoes, enchilada sauce and water to the skillet. Bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover with the lid and continue cooking until the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in vinegar, cream, ricotta and Parmesan cheese. Stir until melted. Toss in spinach and cherry tomatoes. Serve with additional shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Note: You can use regular diced tomatoes. I bought fire-roasted tomatoes, but I really couldn't tell the difference. Next time, I'll just use regular canned, diced tomatoes from my hometown grocery store.

Today, I'm linked to Weekend Potluck, hosted by these bloggers. Check out the tried-and-true recipes from them and other foodies!

Looking for another pasta alternative? Try Spicy Sausage Pasta, also a tried-and-true recipe from The County Line via Brent.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How Do Giraffes Sleep? (And Other Google-worthy Questions)

"Why do fish like worms?"
"How do giraffes sleep?"
 "Why does rain fall from the clouds?"
Inquiring minds want to know. At least, 4-year-old minds do.

I kept Google at the ready last week when Kinley and Brooke visited the farm for a few days. Brooke is talking more all the time, but I'm not getting rapid-fire interrogations from her - at least at this point.
Her sister more than makes up for it.

When I was noticeably pregnant with Jill at the Kansas State Fair many, many moons ago, an encyclopedia salesman who was angling for a sale asked me how I'd be able to answer my child's questions.

"How will you answer, 'Why is the sky blue?' " the intrepid salesman queried.

Who would have thought I'd be able to type a nonsensical question into my phone and come up with an answer in seconds. Not me.

Kinley's interests evolve as quickly as the questions, it seems. Because she's currently interested in space, we included a trip to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson. 
She says she wants to be an astronaut and a Mommy.  Maybe there will be a sister team in space, who knows?
On second thought, that rocket looked really, REALLY big, Kinley decided.
Maybe Grandpa could visit Kinley on the International Space Station. He might help out with the scary parts.
Astronauts have to be in good physical shape.
Kinley got in a workout at the Hutchinson Zoo's spider web, besides checking out the animals.
Or maybe we'll have a veterinarian in the family. Both she and Brooke liked the baby kittens. (Thankfully, Grandpa found the newest litter of kittens just the day before the girls arrived.)
But they liked the bigger cats, too. Brooke appeared to be figuring out the proper ratio of feed. Kinley liked getting reacquainted with her favorite cat, Cozy.
Zoos (like Rolling Hills Zoo near Salina) need veterinarians, too.

Little sister seemed more interested in the transportation field. She wanted to push the stroller - not ride in it.
In the meantime, Kinley watched a little family make their way across a pond. "Oh! They're so cute," was quickly followed by, "Where are they going? Why? Can those babies swim that far?"

I thought of the age-old "Why did the chicken cross the road?" But I did my best to answer.
Or maybe we'll have a chef or two ... or at least a couple of good cooks.

During this trip, we also visited the Hutchinson Public Library. I read a couple of Berenstein Bear books and two Amelia Bedelia tales multiple times. We also checked out a book on space and several others, too. Grandma is ALWAYS willing to read.

We made potholders for Mommy's Mother's Day gift and we decorated foam door hangers. We also decorated frames and included photos from the girls' trip to see Grandma and Grandpa.
The girls and I watched the guys round up some more mama cows and their babies, and Kinley helped deliver them to the pasture.
Little sister wouldn't get in the photo.

We took the short drive to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. We gave wide berth to the wildlife there - a snake on the trail! And we also tried to keep away from the bird droppings.

We visited the Stafford Mercantile for ice cream after fishing. We played in the Stafford City Park, which is across the street from where the girls' great-great-grandparents lived when Randy was growing up.

You'll just have to take my word for it. I didn't get photos of everything. (Hard to believe, right?!)