Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Drop in the Ocean

May your joys be as deep as the ocean,
your sorrows as light as its foam.


We are no strangers to vastness. Kansas skies seem to stretch from here to eternity - whether the bright cerulean blue of a summer day or the rainbow-tinged hues of twilight.

But the ocean's vastness defies definition. I suppose it's because this Kansan has spent her life landlocked in amber waves of grain instead of with waves lapping at my feet during weekends at the beach. I wouldn't trade my life for anything, but I must admit my fascination with the ocean.

We were staying in Savannah, Georgia, before going to visit Brent for Thanksgiving in Columbia, South Carolina. Two days doesn't begin to scratch the surface of touring such a historic city. But I opted for a rerun at Tybee Island anyway.

The Atlantic Ocean's vastness is in the blue of the water as it bleeds into the blue of the sky. The sound of the surf is the white noise that makes you contemplate life and blessings and the immeasurable power of God and His creation.

I was content to roam the fringes of the water. A kayaker entered the foam and the fray. (Do you see him hidden in the marsh grasses?)

The ocean certainly wasn't as warm as a bubble bath, though the frothy foam made it look it that way. And yes, Randy, you do get wet when you visit the ocean (see the video). Yes, we are definitely Kansans!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

God's Fingerprints

The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water.
A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth.
Life is but an endless series of little details,
actions, speeches, and thoughts.
And the consequences -
whether good or bad of even the least of them -
are far-reaching.

A sunrise is a little like a fingerprint. Just like the whorls and ridges of the human fingerprint leave behind different impressions, each sunrise leaves an individual stamp all its own.

Just over a week ago, I watched the sun rise and color the beach of Tybee Island, Georgia. I'm used to "amber waves of grain" on a farm in south central Kansas. The waves of the Atlantic Ocean provided a different kind of music. Instead of the gentle rustle of ripe grain in the wind, the new day roared in with a symphony of the ocean swells.

The fingerprint of the sunrise changed as the waves ebbed and flowed. Even though the day was the same, the view evolved with a simple change of direction. Without the light's direct impact, the day took on a rose-colored-glasses tinge to the north.

This morning - the first full day we've been back home - I watched the sun rise. A windmill provided the focal point instead of a sea shell.

This morning, the music was the call of geese flying overhead and the rustle of the wind in the trees.

And again, the scene shifted subtly. The inky darkness was penetrated incrementally as the seconds ticked toward the sun's arrival on the horizon.

Life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts.
And the consequences -
whether good or bad of even the least of them -
are far-reaching.

How do my actions and words color another's day? Just like a change of perspective in the morning sky, my word of kindness may offer an inward glow to someone else. And, conversely, a word spoken in anger or thoughtlessness can darken another's day. An act of kindness paints a rainbow on the day. Something left undone may cloud another's horizon.

Today, let me reflect the light of Christ. In spite of my busyness and weariness and human frailties, O Lord, help me to remember that little things mean a lot: Tiny drops of water make up the ocean. Tiny grains of sand make the mountains.


I'm linking today to Chatting at the Sky's Tuesdays Unwrapped.

and to:

I'm also linked to Farm Photo Friday.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thoroughly Modern Millie

Yesterday, I left my baby behind in South Carolina. After an overnight stop at the Ladd bed-and-breakfast (plus supper!), I'll leave my other baby behind in Topeka.

It doesn't seem like a fair exchange, but later today I'll be home to see my other baby. Millie the Dog seems to have skipped through the baby years and scurried right into adulthood - at least in appearance.

I suppose it's a metaphor for life. Sometimes, when you're winding up the swing to try desperately to get the baby to sleep, you think that it will never end - the sleepless nights ... the diaper changes ... the piles of laundry... figuring out yet another meal ... the toys littering the living room ... the teenage angst.

But then it does. And you miss it. And you wonder where the time went because it just flew by.

Perspective is a funny thing indeed.

Maybe Millie has been a good reminder of the fleeting nature of time.

Here she was in June. We had just discovered that she had dug up the petunias at the front of the house. She'd been living with us about a week at the time.

June 10, 2011
(Even Ralph looks rueful!)

And these days, she's nearly as tall as Ralph (though she has a tendency to still act like a kid most of the time).

November 2011

She's discovered artifacts in the netherlands of the farmstead. This faded K-State ball appeared in the backyard one day.

It was probably lost at some point in time by this cast of characters. Its arrival made me smile and remember all those backyard games and the boys in the basement, playing yet another round of Xbox.

Millie has been my own personal archeologist, helping dig up memories from my own backyard.

And, as we approach the birth of our granddaughter in January, Millie has reminded me again of the fleeting nature of time. She's been proof positive of how quickly babies change in that first year of life. She's been the reminder of how toddlers turn into kindergarteners and how high school seniors soon pack up their cars and drive away to new adventures.

That's the nature of life. We need to enjoy the moments - especially the moments we thought would never end as we were living them.

(More to come this week from our adventures during Thanksgiving week. We traveled to South Carolina to spend Thanksgiving there with Brent.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wrapping Up the Leftovers

Do you have leftover turkey in your fridge today? You're probably not tired of turkey sandwiches just yet. But if you are looking for a different way to use some of your main dish leftovers, here's a recipe that's become a favorite for our whole family.

Jill was the instigator. She kept telling me I should try Southwest Chicken Salad. It only took once for me to be convinced that it was a great addition to the recipe box. Now that Brent's on his own in South Carolina, he, too, uses this recipe often.

Usually, I use grilled chicken for the meat, as I did for a recent PEO luncheon. I marinated the chicken breasts before grilling (You can use a grill seasoning packet, use prepared Italian or balsamic vinegar dressing. Or you can make your own with oil, vinegar and seasonings. Because I am always concerned about calories, I usually don't use all the oil called for in a marinade - whether I'm using a packet or it's homemade. But if you do use oil, use olive or canola oil.)

But turkey would be a great substitute for the meat in this recipe. (And using leftovers means one less step.)

Here's the recipe:

Southwest Chicken Salad
3 cups diced chicken (or turkey!)
1 1/2 cups, frozen corn thawed
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 can black beans (optional)
1/2 cup - 1 cup minced fresh cilantro

3 tbsp. lime juice
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Optional: Fresh avocado

Combine all the chicken salad ingredients. Combine the dressing ingredients and whisk together until well blended. Pour over the chicken salad and mix well.

Southwest Chicken Salad can be used in a myriad of ways.

You can serve on top of lettuce and veggies for a salad.

Or make wraps, like I did for that PEO luncheon.

Spread a little low-fat ranch dressing or light salad dressing/mayonnaise on the tortilla and sprinkle with shredded cheese. (You can use a whole wheat tortilla for extra nutrition. That's Jill talking.)

Then top that with about 1/2 cup of the chicken salad. If desired, top with lettuce, tomato, thin avocado slices, etc. Then roll up and serve.

They really taste like a sandwich you would get for lunch at a fancy little cafe. Best of all, it's at a fraction of the cost! For crunch, you can also serve with fresh veggies or with whole-grain chips on the side.

Jill has also used the recipe in pita pockets:

In lettuce cups:

In a quesadilla:

She also developed Jill's Chicken Enchiladas:

Spray baking dish with cooking spray and lightly cover bottom of pan with your favorite canned enchilada sauce.

Warm up tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds and dip each tortilla individually in warm enchilada sauce. Place 1/2 cup Southwest Chicken Salad and some shredded cheese in the tortilla, roll up and place, seam down, in baking dish.

Top with cheese, extra cilantro and green onions.

Any way you use it, I predict Southwest Chicken Wraps will become a new favorite. (Or, if you're using leftovers, Southwest TURKEY wraps will be a favorite!)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Spirit of Thanksgiving

As grade school children, we carefully colored the scenes of the Pilgrims and the Indians sharing the first Thanksgiving. We used bright oranges, yellows and reds to color the feathers decorating the Indian warriors' heads, while leaving the Pilgrims bonnets and hats in solemn black and white.

We all heard the stories of the Pilgrims and the Indians sitting down together after harvest to give thanks for their bounty. After arriving in Plymouth in 1620, the Pilgrims had endured hardships but managed to survive, in large part due to the help of Squanto, an Indian who taught the Pilgrims how to fish, grow corn and farm the land. At the end of their first year, the Puritans held a harvest feast celebrating the bounty and honoring Squanto and their friends, the Wampanoag Indians. The feast was followed by three days of "thanksgiving," celebrating their good fortune.

When we were in Wichita for a Kansas Wheat meeting back in July, our morning walks took us along the riverwalk, where the Big and Little Arkansas rivers join together. This land between the two rivers is sacred ground to the Native American people. At its center is the Keeper of the Plains, an Indian warrior sculpture that was created by Wichitan and Native American artist Blackbear Bosin (1921-1980). The 44-foot statue was erected in 1974.

Who knows how accurate the portrayal of the first Thanksgiving is? But on a beautiful morning, with the sunrise lighting the Keeper of the Plains, perhaps it's important to consider how the Indians of that day approached thanks. One website says:

"Every act, every thought was carried out with thanksgiving."

Wouldn't our little corner of the world be a better place if that's how we approached each day? Every act, every thought carried out with thanksgiving ... It shouldn't take a November holiday we call Thanksgiving to remember that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Heath Brickle Coffee Cake

Do you have overnight guests coming for Thanksgiving? This coffee cake is a yummy way to wake up your guests.

But don't try to get all impressive and put it in a Bundt pan. I speak from experience. It sticks. Half of it remains in the pan. Then, if you're making it for a church gathering, you have to do it again. I wrote it in big letters in my cookbook: Don't put in a Bundt pan. So I'll save you the trouble.

Even if it's not as fancy as the Apple Butter Coffee Cake I took to the church brunch, it's just as tasty. And just think: You can learn from my mistakes. What a deal!

Heath Brickle Coffee Cake
1/2 cup butter
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. soda
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup Heath Bits o' Brickle chips

1/2 cup Heath Bits o' Brickle chips
1/4 cup pecans

Blend the flour, sugars and butter. Take out 1/2 cup of this mixture; set aside.

To the rest, add the buttermilk, soda, egg, vanilla and 1/2 cup brickle chips. Blend well. Pour into a greased and floured 9- by 13-inch pan. Top with topping, which you make by combining the 1/2 cup of reserved crumbs with the additional brickle chips and pecans. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until done. I made a glaze with melted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and a little milk and spread over the warm cake. Then I sprinkled it with additional brickle bits.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

I got a new cookbook, and it wasn't even Christmas. My Mom gave me a cookbook assembled by her Pratt PEO IF Chapter. It's called Incredible Food. I guess I'd have to concur after trying three different quick bread recipes.

The new addition to my cookbook collection came just in time for my marathon baking sessions for the UMW Bazaar bake sale. This Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread recipe would be a good one for your Thanksgiving table ... or anytime.

I love cookbook collections like this one. These are recipes that come from Kansas small town kitchens. No wonder I can relate. No fancy weird ingredients. Just down-to-earth recipes I can create from my home pantry.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
3 cups sugar
1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, water and eggs. Beat until smooth. Blend in flour and spices. Fold in chips and nuts (if desired). Fill 3 loaf pans 1/2 to 3/4 full. Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Note: I didn't use the walnuts this time, since I was sharing some with Jill and she's not a nut eater. The original recipe called for a tablespoon of nutmeg. I reduced that to the 2 teaspoons I listed in the ingredient list.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dancing Angels

The breeze through the open kitchen window made the wind chime angels dance and sing. And each random melody reminded me of the angels in my life. During this month of Thanksgiving, I've been thinking about those angels - both past and present.

Today, head on over to Lovely Branches Ministries for my November blog at Food for Thought. And find out why these photos represent some true "angels" in my life this month. I am filled with Thanksgiving for all of them!

While you're there, check out the newly redesigned Lovely Branches Ministries website. It's still under construction, but it's looking great!

You'll also want the recipe for Herbed Turkey Breast.

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cranberry Cream Cheese Bars

I was skeptical. Cranberries and cream cheese sounded good. Chocolate and cream cheese sounded good. But I wasn't so sure that combining cranberries, cream cheese AND chocolate was a good idea.

Still, I trusted my source. Jill made these bars quite some time ago. They went in a "to-be-tried" pile, and I uncovered the recipe when I was looking for a cookie to take to the Frog Hollow open house.

And my source didn't steer me wrong. The cookies were a colorful addition to the serving trays. The three seemingly unrelated "C"s combined with the buttery crust to make a scrumptious cookie. The cranberry adds a colorful and classic taste of fall.

With time ticking down to holiday celebrations, the ease of a bar cookie is always a welcome shortcut. Enjoy!

Cranberry Cream Cheese Bars
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups mini M&Ms, divided
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 16-oz. can whole berry cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan with baking spray. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine flour, oats, 3/4 cup brown sugar and butter; mix until crumbly. Reserve 1 1/2 cups crumb mixture for topping. Stir 1/2 cup M&Ms into remaining crumb mixture; press into prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes. Cool completely.

In bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Mix in condensed milk, lemon juice and vanilla until smooth. Pour over crust. In small bowl, combine remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, cornstarch and cranberry sauce. Spoon over cream cheese mixture.

Stir remaining 1 1/4 cups mini M&Ms into reserved crumb mixture. Sprinkle over cranberry mixture. Bake 40 minutes. Let cool; chill before cutting. Store covered in refrigerator.

If you're looking for another fast, good-looking cookie, try Macaroons. You can use multicolored "chocolate" discs to add color to any cookie tray. They were my other offering for the open house event. I also made them for our church bazaar's bake sale.

This post is linked to The Real Farmwives of America and Friends.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Power of Community

(Jill, second from the left, with sister-in-law Jillian at left,
cousin Paige and friend Anessa, the shower hostesses)

She's not even born yet, but she is already surrounded by the power of community. Smalls, our first grandbaby, isn't due to arrive until January. But this past weekend was a testimony to the power of belonging.

Smalls and Jill were the honorees at a Sunday baby shower. As the living room filled with people, I was struck by the interconnecting circles of love that will envelop a new little person. Jill's and Eric's families were both well represented. There were several of Jill's college friends. And two of Jill's friends from childhood made the effort to come, too.

Sure, there was lots of cute and practical "stuff" unwrapped.

But the most valuable asset in the room wasn't a high chair or a car seat or a Diaper Genie. It wasn't about bedazzled pink outfits or a pile of books. It was the reality that people gave up a Sunday afternoon to come together and care about a new little life and her parents.

Smalls will have new little buddies in this adventure we call life. Eric's brother, Brian, and his wife, Jillian, are due 10 days after Smalls. Anessa, another of the shower hostesses, will deliver her first baby in March. And Paige, Jill's cousin, already has 7-month-old Neelly to offer a playmate on the maternal side of the family. Eric's Grandma Carol will go from two great-grandbabies to five by the end of January. And the grand total will climb to six by mid-March!

With every birth and every union, the circle grows.
Every joy shared adds more love.

Every obstacle faced together makes the circle stronger.


The best part is that we aren't limited in finding our community. It's in family, in a neighborhood or at church. It's on a team or at school. It can be in the workplace or in a community organization. In this changing world, it can even be found on the internet or on Facebook. Community is there if we open our hearts and minds to it.

Thanks be to God for the power of community ... the power of love and caring.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Power of Thank You

They are two little words. You can count the letters without even using your toes to help your fingers out. But they are oh so powerful.


I was again reminded of the power of "Thank You" when I opened my mailbox recently. It looked like a regular old manilla envelope. But when we opened the flap, we found a rainbow of colors and carefully penciled words.

A cover letter read:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Fritzemeier,

Thank you so much for being a part of the 4th grade Farm Ag Day! The kids left with a wealth of information and some even chose new future careers. We appreciate you preparing meaningful lessons for our students. We have been working diligently during our writing class each week to explain our favorite parts of the day. As the kids illustrated and wrote, they enjoyed the information presented, especially when they had hands-on or visual examples. Thank you again for assisting us in teaching these students about agriculture in our area!


Ms. Tina Landon, Mrs. Kendra Ploutz and Mrs. Laura Vague

Included were 10 handwritten and illustrated notes, some in cursive and some in block letters. Each thanked us for taking the time to make a presentation at Ellsworth County's Ag Day in September. They mentioned everything from Antarctica to tasting the wheat kernels.

They obviously listened to us, even when we didn't have a cute baby calf or a dairy cow that needed milking (though we did have a bushel of wheat they loved getting their hands in.)

Each note made this farm couple smile.

I was amused by this one. It had some erasures underneath, right after it talked about a station where they played with "goop." I have to wonder if the author really liked the goop station better. But she drew a colorful photo that truly illustrated the day, complete with a few raindrops and our most popular attraction.

There is power in THANK YOU ... especially when it comes fully illustrated in crayon and painstakingly-formed letters.

A random note: One of the teachers, Tina Landon, was our daughter's teacher at Stafford. She was the reason all the little girls wanted to become teachers at the time. One of Jill's classmates now teaches at Ellsworth with Ms. Landon. It is indeed a small world.

(Even though I only scanned 4 of the 10 notes, we loved each one of them. Click on the notes so you can read the text.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

I know there are some poor, misguided souls who don't like pumpkin. My sister is one of them.

Fair warning: This post is not for you.

It's hard to be a pumpkin hater at this time of year because everyone (me included) thinks that pumpkin is the ingredient of choice. I usually try to consider this affliction when making fall desserts for gatherings. But this time, pumpkin won.

I made this Pumpkin Bread Pudding for a recent Nu Lambda meeting. All that warm, bread pudding deliciousness just seems like a dessert for fall, doesn't it? And when you add pumpkin to it? It just increases the autumn dessert quotient exponentially.

Enjoy! (Unless you're a pumpkin hater. Then you should fix something else.)

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
4 1/2 cups croissants, cut into large cubes
6 eggs
4 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, divided
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups milk
1 pint whipping cream
15-oz. can pumpkin
1/2 cup pecan halves
Optional: Butter Sauce and Ice Cream

Arrange croissant cubes evenly in a 13- by 9-inch pan sprayed with nonstick vegetable spray. Place eggs and yolks in a mixer bowl; beat on low speed until well blended. Add 3/4 cup brown sugar, spices, salt and vanilla; mix until combined. Add milk, cream and pumpkin; mix well. Pour over croissant cubes; stir briefly so that cubes are moistened. Sprinkle remaining brown sugar and pecans on top of cubes. Bake at 350 degrees until custard is set and knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Serve warm.

Top with homemade butter sauce and ice cream, if desired. (I used a Caramel Crunch frozen yogurt.)

Butter Sauce
1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)
1 cup sugar (Can be part or all brown sugar, though I used regular sugar this time)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Bring butter, sugar and whipping cream to a boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Serve warm over bread pudding, apple cake, ice cream, etc. Store leftover sauce in refrigerator, and rewarm to serve.

Fresh from the Farm Recipe Swap with Farmchick