Monday, February 28, 2011

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, there was a movie studio that spun classic fairy tales into silver-screen gold. But now the curtain is falling on Disney "princess movies."

Even though they have been a part of Disney since the 1937 debut of its first feature film "Snow White," the clock is ticking toward midnight for the genre. And I'm not sure a glass slipper will save the day.

We were in Omaha with our own princess when I read an article that the Disney release of "Tangled" would be the last fairy tale produced by the Disney animation group for the foreseeable future. "Tangled" is a retelling of the Rapunzel story.

"Films and genres do run a course," Pixar Animation Studios chief Ed Catmull told The Los Angeles Times. "They may come back later because someone has a fresh take on it .. but we don't have any other musicals or fairy tales lined up."
Who needs a Wicked Queen when you have company movie executives in the villain's role?

Or is the real villain a society that thinks it's OK for little 5-year-old girls to look and act like Britney Spears?

Maybe it's a little of both. But I still find it sad on this morning after Oscar night.

Jill and her friends loved playing dress-up.

Even my boy went through a phase when he couldn't get enough "Peter Pan." (I'm sure he'll be thrilled I shared this photo, but it's one of my favorites.) He watched the Mary Martin version of "Peter Pan" so many times the video tape wore out in one spot. (Sorry Disney. He preferred the stage version.)

The article goes on to say:
"With the advent of 'tween' TV, the tiara-wearing ideal of femininity has been supplanted by new adolescent role models ... By the time they're 5 or 6, they're not interested in being princesses," said Dafna Lemish, chairwoman of the radio and TV department at Southern Illinois State and an expert in the role of media in children's lives. "They're interested in being hot, in being cool. Clearly, they see this is what society values."
Being "hot" at age 5? Yikes!

Maybe we need to hit the pause button, America! Sometimes progress isn't really progress.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chockful of Chocolate

Not everyone knows that you don't put 3/4 of a cup of salt in a cake recipe. You'd think logic would prevail. But I am here to tell you that I learned that lesson the hard way.

No, I wasn't the one using 3/4 cup of salt in a recipe. But I was the reporter who mistakenly typed CUPS instead of TEASPOONS in a recipe long, long ago.

Unfortunately, before I realized the misprint, I know of at least one casualty. When I went on assignment with a photographer from The Hutchinson News, he informed me that his wife had tried the prize-winning chocolate cake recipe from the Kansas State Fair. It certainly wasn't a prize winner in their book. It tasted awful, he told me.

A little investigative reporting revealed the problem: Using 3/4 teaspoon of salt makes sense. Using 3/4 cup did not. But she followed the recipe. And bless her heart, she wasn't the most experienced baker. You've heard the saying, "Don't believe everything in print." Well, she shouldn't have believed me.

I apologized profusely. And I began reading and rereading and rereading recipes again before I published them.

That's not to say I never made another mistake. And I won't guarantee I won't ever make a mistake here either. But, if there's ever any question in your mind about a recipe I publish here, ASK! I check comments on the blog and on Facebook often, so let me hear from you if there's ever any doubt or if you have a question.

When I was looking for a recipe to make the chocolate cupcakes for PEO, I found that long ago recipe for Icewater Chocolate Cake. It was a state fair blue ribbon winner in the 1980s. It's a great recipe - as long as you use the 3/4 teaspoon salt.

If you don't have cake flour, you can make a substitute. I don't usually have cake flour on hand and this substitution works well:

1. Place two tablespoons of cornstarch in a 1-cup measure.

2. Fill the rest of the cup with all-purpose flour.

3. Use in place of the cake flour in any recipe. One cup of substitute is equal to one cup of cake flour.


Icewater Chocolate Cake
1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups ice water
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla; cream until fluffy. Add eggs and beat thoroughly. Sift together cake flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add alternately with ice water.

Put batter in three greased and wax-paper-lined 8-inch cake pans OR fill about 24 cupcake liners. For layers, bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. For cupcakes, bake 18-22 minutes or until the cake tests done.

If making a layer cake, let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out to cool completely. Frost as desired.

I wanted to try a chocolate ganache because that's what I thought the Cupcake shop used. I found a recipe for ganache and it even had photos.

My plan was to pipe it like I'd done the cream cheese frosting on the red velvet cupcakes. But I guess I let it set up too long. It was pretty firm by the time I pulled it from the refrigerator. When I went back and re-read the recipe and comments, it said not to let it get too firm or it would be like "clay." I concur.

So, to "fix" it, I added butter, powdered sugar and some additional milk to make the frosting. Even though it wasn't exactly the plan, it tasted and looked good.

So maybe you'll have more success with the original recipe (click on the word "ganache" above) or here's the version I ended up with:

Chocolate Ganache Frosting
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (good quality)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups powdered sugar
2 - 3 tbsp. milk (if needed for consistency)

Place chocolate in a large bowl. Heat heavy cream on medium high until it comes to a boil (I did this in the microwave.) Remove from heat and immediately pour cream over chocolate; stir until completely mixed and glossy. Allow ganache to cool and set up. Add melted butter, powdered sugar and milk until it's a consistency conducive to piping.

I decorated each frosted cupcake with mini chocolate chips.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

O Pioneer!

The weatherman said a dirty word.


I prefer to delete that word from my vocabulary. And while we're at it, let's skip "freezing rain," too. And unless we're talking about tea, I could do without "ice."

Time will tell which of these will fall from the skies during this round of winter weather. The frozen precipitation is hard on new baby calves. It can be hard on farm wives, too ... especially if it means no electricity.

I would not have made a good pioneer woman. I like my modern conveniences way too much.

I certainly don't want a repeat of the December 2007 ice storm. We were without electric power for 12 days. Electric lines and poles toppled under the weight of the ice.

Crews have been working in the area replacing power poles and electric lines. With some sporadic outages as they switch equipment, I've been reminded about how dependent we are on electricity. Like most rural folks, we also don't have water when the electricity is out.

As long as I get a little advance warning, I can handle it. It's just those unexpected four-hour stretches when I have to channel my inner Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I must admit: I like reading about The Little House on the Prairie more than I like experiencing it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Everyday Miracles

Each day is a different one. Each day brings a miracle of its own. It's just a matter of paying attention to the miracle.
Paulo Coelho

At this time of year, miracles are all around us here on the County Line. When circumstances are difficult, maybe it's a little tougher to see the miracles. And, admittedly, Randy worked hard for those miracles during two winter storms, battling snow and sub-zero temperatures to help mama cows care for their new babies.

We lost a few babies during those frigidly cold and snowy days, just like many ranchers across the Midwest.

The weatherman this morning says the next few days will include sun, rain, sleet and snow. I don't think hail is on the agenda, but who knows in Kansas?

There's nothing like adversity to make you appreciate the times of "sunshine," both literally and figuratively. All but six of the heifers have calved. We are more than halfway through the calving season for the older cows. We have 61 new baby calves on the ground. It seems that almost every time Randy comes back into the house, he adds to that total.

It's a pleasure to watch the baby calves play in the pasture and enjoy the sun ...

... and take time for a little snack.

Seeing the miracle of new life never gets old.

Monday, February 21, 2011

By George!

When George Washington was a teenager, he discovered a booklet of 110 maxims describing how a well-mannered person should behave.

The book was The Young Man’s Companion published in London in 1664. It included a list of rules for proper social behavior that had been developed by French Jesuits almost a century earlier.

The 14-year-old George Washington spent hours filling the pages of a notebook with copies of these rules, many of which he modified to better fit his own view of proper behavior. He entitled his writings, the Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior In Company and Conversation.

George's first maxim was:

Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

By George! Washington's notion of manners and civility may seem quaint and old-fashioned. But should manners and etiquette go completely out of style?

I don't think so.

Bad behavior is all around us. We are bombarded with tactless, nasty and cruel remarks on the internet, daytime talk shows, dating games, courtroom shows and reality programming. We've become immune to it. It's become the norm.

If we care about the world we're making for our children and our children's children, we need to be less tolerant of mean-spirited, discourteous and impolite remarks.

It's up to us to do a better job of teaching and modeling civility.

President's Day was celebrated yesterday. But today - February 22 - is truly George Washington's birthday. My Grandma Leonard shared this birthday with the Father of our Country. If she were still living, she would have been 100 years old today.

My grandma and me when I was 5 weeks old

I grew up with parents and grandparents who taught me right from wrong and did their best to guide me on a path to become a good person and good citizen.

So, on this birthday shared by Washington and my Grandma, may I remember those lessons ... and model them, too.

As Washington said in his 110th maxim:

Labour to keep alive in your Breast that little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.

I had seen this video, entitled Get Service before. But a friend posted it on Facebook yesterday (thanks Sarah!) and it made me think about George Washington's model for living. (I promise it's better than the view of the guy's head in the teaser might indicate.)

A Fairytale Ending?

The little dollops of blue in the wheat field looked like Hansel and Gretel had dropped bits of cotton candy to mark their way to grandmother's house.

Just like the fairytale brother and sister's dropping of breadcrumbs, the Kanza Co-op was marking the path. It wasn't the way to Grandma's house, but it was to show where they been and guide them to where they were going next. On Friday, crews sprayed a combination of liquid nitrogen fertilizer and Finesse herbicide on some of our wheat fields. (By the way, the blue droplets aren't the fertilizer and herbicide. It's a biodegradable marker to help the rig driver know where to make the next pass through the field.)

There were two different spraying rigs in our fields on Friday. One was marking the way with a blue "trail" and the other used white. A "nurse" truck came to the field to replenish the rigs.

This saves time and fuel, since the spray rigs can replenish their supply of the fertilizer without having to drive back to the Zenith base of the co-op to refill.

Just like Hansel and Gretel, Randy is hoping for a happy ending. If we get a little of the rain forecast for later in the week, the rain will incorporate the mixture into the soil. That would be good timing.

On February 11, the wheat field across the road was covered with between 8 and 9 inches of snow. The snow helped insulate the crop from the sub-zero temperatures.

With the quick turnaround of temperatures, the melting snow produced about an inch of moisture for the wheat crop.

There was great debate at the end of the week: Had the 95-degree temperature swing harmed the wheat crop?

If the wheat crop breaks dormancy (wakes up, in layman's terms) and then we get a hard freeze, there's a chance for freeze damage. That would drop yields for the summer of 2011 harvest.

Just like in a fairytale, there are a lot of pages between "Once upon a time" and "They lived happily ever after."

The plot thickens. We'll just have to stay tuned to see how the story turns out.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde aren't any more changeable than the Kansas weather.

Was it just a week ago that we had 9 or 10 inches of snow on the ground?

Yet yesterday, I could comfortably walk outside at 7:15 in the morning. What a treat to get off the treadmill and back outside!

And then the weatherman reminded me of another tidbit: There was a 95-degree swing in temperatures from last Thursday to this Thursday - from -17 degrees to 78 degrees.

It went from a record low to a record high in a mere seven days. The February weather could certainly be defined as having a split personality, just like the famous Jekyll and Hyde.

A week ago, the water hydrant looked like it had frosting slathered on top.

Just seven days ago, the barnyard looked like a busy interchange for animal tracks.

A winter wonderland glimpse of the grainery ...

... doesn't look nearly as picturesque when the sun melts away the Currier and Ives moment.

And a weed is just a weed ...

... instead of a work of art.

Our 78-degree temperatures are gone today, but it's still supposed to be unseasonably warm for February. Get out and enjoy your weekend: It could very well look like this again before we can truly say hello to spring.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


“Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see Life with a clearer view again.”
Alex Tan

One of my bridesmaids died a couple of weeks ago. I met Denise at K-State. She was also a home economics and mass communications major, so we had lots of classes together. She was a farmer's daughter, just like me. She loved to write, just like me.

Thirty years ago, we were obviously good friends, since I asked her to be in my wedding.

But, through the years, we lost touch. And I regret it.

Regret is an odd emotion because it comes only upon reflection. Regret lacks immediacy, and so its power seldom influences events when it could do some good.
William O'Rourke

She moved to Germany for awhile and the Christmas card I mailed her came back as undeliverable.

She moved back to the States after a divorce. Then she got multiple sclerosis about the same time I was having children.

And in my busyness, I lost track of her. Her parents didn't move. I could have found the address if only I'd pursued it.

I went to her funeral. And as I sat in the sanctuary, I vowed I'd do better. I'd be a better friend.

In this Facebook world, it's easy to click the "Like" button on a friend's status and think you're making a connection. It's easier to zip off an email than actually call and talk to someone. And I have parents in Sunday School class tell me that the younger generation may very well be texting the person they are sitting next to - literally.

But this isn't about the younger, techo-savvy generation. This is about me.

I must do better. Life is too short. I've had way too many reminders of that recently. Little Elise was back in the PICU at Kansas City's Children's Mercy Hospital for a couple of weeks with problems breathing (though she was able to go home a couple of days ago. Praise the Lord!). But another family we know is just starting the cancer fight with their 7-year-old boy at Children's Mercy.

It's not fair. And it doesn't make sense. And I don't like it. And I can't see how anything good can possibly come from all the pain.

But I still have to trust. And I still have to do better.

As Elise's mom, Kelly, says:

"Even though we knew it before, a lesson we have learned from this journey is that time is precious and finite. LOVE YOUR FAMILY! Take the time now, today, to tell the people in your life how much they mean to you!

It's true for family. And it's true for friends. I am your cautionary tale today. Don't wait until it's too late to reconnect.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Plantation Turkey

Back when Jill and Brent were little, I judged The Hutchinson News recipe contest several years. Randy and I always loved it. It was like torture to the short people who lived here.

"What's this recipe? What's all this stuff on the ham? Can't we just have a sandwich?" Those were all things I heard from the kids and then reported in my At Home with Kim column.

Plantation Turkey is one of the recipes that has survived the test of time. I hadn't made it for a long time, but it made an appearance at a recent noon meal.

And, ironically, when Brent found out I made it, he was sorry to have missed it. This is a little different from 3-year-old Brent's evaluation of recipe testing back in 1991, when I wrote the column:
"The Fritzemeier family has again survived Randy's favorite time of the year - and Jill's and Brent's culinary catastrophe. You see, Mom tested recipes like Honey Walnut Chicken, Polynesian Meatballs and Cranberry-Glazed Ham. It was an adventure for Randy and me. But the two short people at our house were begging for chicken nuggets or a ham sandwich by the end of the month."
That year, I sifted through 118 recipes and tested 20 of them. For six years total, I judged the main dish portion of the holiday contest.

In a 1993 column, I wrote:
"After I agreed to judge again, Randy tried to convince me to call back and request desserts instead. No deal, I told him. If I made and judged desserts, I'd still have to come up with a main dish every day for dinner and supper. And we need 19 desserts sitting around about as much as we need swimsuits in November."

A few of the recipes I chose as winners through the years still make appearances at the Fritzemeier dinner table, even 17-plus years after I tried them for the first time. Plantation Turkey is one of those.

Hope it does for your dinner table, too. Enjoy!

Plantation Turkey
1 pkg. corn bread mix
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups milk
1 tsp. salt
2 cups grated Swiss cheese
1 1/2 cups ham, chopped
2 1/2 cups cooked turkey or chicken breast, chopped
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese

Prepare corn bread according to package directions and bake in a deep, 9-inch baking dish. (I used a 11- by 8.5-inch this time because my 9- by 9-inch pans were in the freezer. It worked just fine.) Melt butter in large skillet or saucepan; blend in flour, making a roux. Stir in milk and salt. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add 2 cups cheese. Cook until melted, stirring constantly.

Layer 2/3 cup of sauce over corn bread. Top with half of turkey. Put additional 2/3 cup of cheese sauce. Add ham. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted, golden brown and bubbly. Serves about 6.


Taco Pizza is another recipe from a long-ago recipe contest from The Hutchinson News. It's another favorite and easy to get on the table quickly. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Library Love

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
Maya Angelou

Well, I hope Maya is right. I'm not sure she was talking about a book about Taylor Swift.

Maybe a book by Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver's Travels. (Their hair is similar, don't you think?)

But a book about a teenybopper country and pop icon? That might be a stretch.

Still, noted American autobiographer and poet Maya Angelou says
"any book" so we'll hope my book fair purchase for my adopted "grandchild" helps develop that habit of reading.

I spent part of my day in the Stafford Schools library yesterday where I was a volunteer for Grandparent Day. If a real grandparent or family member wasn't there to spend time with a student, we volunteers stepped in to listen to them read, share a cookie and visit the book fair.

It is never a hardship to spend my day surrounded by books or children. And I got a dose of both.

Yes, it was Valentine's Day, but my first grade charge, Laura, chose to read a Christmas book. And that was just fine with me.

But I will have you know that I am not a pushover in this grandparenting thing. On our visit to the school book fair, Laura was enticed by a basketball pen and a calculator that looked like a Hershey bar and other junk ... I mean lovely merchandise.

I was willing to fork over a little dough for a book. But I wasn't springing for the equivalent of a prize found in a McDonald's Happy Meal.

I led her over to the Easy Readers. I had my eye on these titles:

She had her eye on all things teenybopper.

"It's not exactly Tip and Mitten, is it?" my friend, Debbie, lamented as she perused books with her real-life grandson.

Nope. It's not Dick and Jane either.

Laura had gotten the book about Justin Bieber on a previous trip to the book fair. So we added to her library of biographies of people who haven't been on this planet for a quarter of a century.

It's better than an exploding pen, isn't it?

My next charge was third grader, Alex, who read to me from the book, Bad Kitty Gets a Bath.

I told him that my husband would have loved that book since we have a whole farmyard full of cats. We have not, however, tried to bathe any of them, which is a good thing, according to the book.

Alex chose a science book from the book fair. And, I have to admit, it wasn't so hard to part with my cash for that book selection.

But whether it's a science book or even a book about Taylor Swift, I hope my adopted grandchildren develop a love of reading. When I was a third grader - just like Alex - I read 166 books. I have the certificate to prove it.

To celebrate my reading achievement, I got a book called Best Friend from my teacher, Mrs. Hemphill.

Other award books I got during my grade school years were Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses and a collection of Aesop's Fables. One summer, I read the most books in the summer reading program at the Pratt Public Library and got to attend the Peace Treaty at Medicine Lodge.

Reading was my favorite pastime then ... and now.

Let's just say I didn't collect any math awards.