Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pop, Pop, Pop Goes the (Pop) Corn in the Pan!

Does it confound anyone else that I can remember a poem from grade school, yet I sometimes can't remember a name that's right on the tip of my tongue? Or, when I'm watching Jeopardy!, and I know the answer. Really, I do! But I just can't transfer the answer from the depths of my mind to my mouth quite fast enough.
The yield may not be good, but Randy loves to be on the combine.
We started cutting corn yesterday afternoon, and as I rode with Randy in the combine, I kept thinking about a popcorn poem I learned at Byers Grade School. We are cutting field corn, not popcorn, but the corn coming into the bin behind Randy still reminded me of the poem.

Pop - pop - pop!
Goes the popcorn in the pan.
Pop - pop - pop!
You may catch me if you can.
Pop - pop - pop!
Says each kernel hard and yellow.
Pop - pop - pop!
I 'm a dancing little fellow.
Pop - pop - pop!
I can whirl and skip and hop.
Pop - pop - pop - pop - pop - pop - pop!

Maybe I can't remember that other stuff because my brain is cluttered with nonsensical trivia like that! (My sister, Lisa, also remembers the poem, too, so it has stood the test of time.)
Our dryland corn will not be a bumper crop. It won't even be an average crop because of dry and hot weather during pollination and grain filling stages. But it's still a job that has to be done. The first field we're cutting is at 16 percent moisture, which is dry enough to haul to the elevator.
You can find "gold" in every situation.  So I did.
I didn't like taking photos of the field we were cutting from the combine cab because it looked weedy and sparse. But I liked the Corn Palace-like mosaic that Randy's shadow cast against the backdrop of a filling grain bin.
Because Shawn was swathing sudan on a custom job for a neighbor, Randy was both combine driver and semi driver. I went along for the first trip to the Zenith elevator for Corn Harvest 2017.
Once we arrived a Zenith, Randy untarped the load ....
 ... then pulled onto the scales to be weighed. 
 A sample is taken to test for quality and moisture, using the probe at the office.
Then it was time to go to the dump pit. This time, they sent our truck to the outside dump site.
The grain is dumped via gravity from the bottom of the semi.
And then it's "See ya later!" to the guys at the elevator pit.
Back to the office we go to weigh on empty.
Ask the truck driver to pause so you can get creative with the rearview mirror shot.
Do a quick check of the prices (pretty much all down - sigh).
Attach the scale ticket to the magnet clip and head back to the field.
And repeat!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Confetti Cupcakes

"It takes a village."

I know there are people who don't like the phrase, since it seems indelibly linked to a certain female politician. But I think there's some value in the notion - no matter your political bent.

Sometimes, it requires a team effort to get things accomplished. So when my friend emailed and asked if I'd make cupcakes for a Back to School bash at our town's elementary school, I agreed right away.

It may have been awhile since I've had elementary-aged students living at my house, but I remember being that person who was looking for volunteers to make cookies or soup or cupcakes for an event or fundraiser. I remember making 10 phone calls to get that one "yes" from someone who'd help at Vacation Bible School. And back then, I vowed I'd never be that older person who said, "No, I've done my time. It's someone else's turn."

The assignment was easy. I could make any kind of cupcakes and frost them with a white frosting. The organizers would add a Superhero decoration later to go along with the school's theme for the year.

I decided it would be fun to make homemade confetti cupcakes, but I didn't have a recipe. Some of the options required separating eggs. I wasn't a fan of using 9 egg whites and then trying to find a use for the abandoned yolks. So when I saw this recipe that used whole eggs and could easily be multiplied, it moved to the top of the list.

It didn't disappoint. Since I volunteered to make 2 dozen, I knew I needed to double the original recipe. And then I figured I'd better triple it so that I'd have some to sample to make sure they were edible. It was a bonus for the guys' supper meal runs, too.

The recipe uses buttermilk and sour cream, making it nice and moist. I had a tube of "confetti sprinkles" in the cabinet. They were thin, round discs, and they seemed to work well. I mixed the sprinkles with a tablespoon of flour, trying to get them to stay distributed in the batter. They sank to the bottom a little, but they still provided a festive surprise when broken open. Since I multiplied the recipe, I didn't have triple the amount of sprinkles needed, so the confetti is a little sparser than ideal. But I still hope they were a fun surprise during the Back to School event!

I frosted the cupcakes with a homemade buttercream frosting. For the ones I took to the school, I left them plain. But if you're serving for a birthday party or other event, top the frosted cupcakes with additional sprinkles. 

I volunteered to make them for granddaughter Brooke's 3rd birthday party next weekend, which has a rainbow theme. Miss Brooke - who definitely knows her mind - wants a cake, not cupcakes. But this recipe can be used for either. Mommy is going to make the rainbow cake. I just need to bring some extra cake pans and some food coloring.

 Easy Homemade Confetti Cake or Cupcakes
Adapted from Averie Cooks blog
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Measure flour. Remove 1 tablespoon of flour and mix with 1/2 cup sprinkles. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, sour cream, oil and vanilla. Add the wet mixture to the dry, mixing until just combined. Don't overmix. Add sprinkles that have been mixed with 1 tablespoon of flour. Gently stir into cake batter.

This recipe makes 1 8-by-8-inch cake layer or 12 cupcakes. If making cake, use cooking spray before pouring batter into the pan or line with parchment or waxed paper, if you want to turn it out of the cake pan after baking.  If doing cupcakes, line tins with cupcake papers before pouring batter. Fill each cupcake tin about 2/3 full.

Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. When done, place pan on wire rack to cool. Frost as desired and sprinkle with additional sprinkles.

NOTE:  This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to make a full-size cake or additional cupcakes. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Higher Than A Grain Elevator

We were 1,030 feet in the air and 94 floors up. Thankfully, we didn't have to walk the 1,632 steps to this bird's-eye view but rode the elevator instead. The elevator was no slouch: It traveled two floors per second, just about 20 miles per hour. Yes, my ears popped.

You realize you're a farmer when you start wondering how the height of the John Hancock Building in downtown Chicago compares to the Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op.  (I Googled it without much luck. But my farm fact expert thinks the elevators around here are approximately 150 feet tall.)

One of our tourist stops during our Chicago weekend August 11-13 was Chicago 360 in the John Hancock Building. On the day we arrived in Chicago, we'd gone to the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) to view the city from its Skydeck. However, with a 2-hour wait predicted and limited time, we opted for a bus ride instead and had planned to return early the next morning.

However, we decided to try Chicago 360, since it was an easy walk from our hotel. We arrived when it first opened, and we didn't have to wait long for our 40-second ride to the top. The views were spectacular from every direction ...

East (Southeast)
We could have paid a little extra for a ride called "Tilt," which inclines riders over the city. Even though I'm not afraid of heights, I decided I liked the more sedate view from the windows, thank you very much.

I had purchased Chicago Explorer passes before we left home, and this was included among the attractions.
We also used our pass for the Architectural Boat Tour. 
My parents also went along for the ride on their 64th wedding anniversary - yes, 64!
Not everyone thinks these buildings look like corn cobs, but we farming folk aren't the only ones who see the resemblance, according to our tour guide.

Can you tell that the tour guide said "This will be one of the best views on the tour."? Just like lemmings, we all had our cameras up and clicking!
I moved and got this one without all the other paparazzi!
After our boat tour, Randy and I went to Millennium Park.
After we took our photo with "The Bean" (along with hundreds of our closest friends), Randy crossed another item off his bucket list by buying a hotdog from a food truck. (Sad, but true! Can you tell we watch Food Truck Wars on the Food Network?)
We then rode the Big Bus Chicago Hop-On, Hop Off bus. It included history and commentary, plus it offered an easy way to see some of the major sites. We had hoped to go to the Field Aquarium, but when we arrived, there was a long line. So we settled for a walk along Lake Michigan instead.
I guess we'll have plenty of places to explore the next time.
Our reason for the Chicago trip was to be part of Darci and Andrew's wedding reception. (For some reason, they didn't invite us to Greece in May - ha!)
We were glad we were there to celebrate!
 Darci and Andrew honored our parents on their 64th wedding anniversary by sharing photos and a chocolate cake. It was a special night - celebrating new and "seasoned" love.
And an interesting sidenote: The flower girl for my parents' wedding was also at the wedding reception. She is a first cousin to my dad. How many people get to have their flower girl help celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Looking at the Sky

It seems we are all a bit obsessed with the solar eclipse that will travel across the U.S. today. In my part of Kansas, we'll only experience a partial eclipse. But that didn't prevent a run on eclipse viewing glasses in Central Kansas. When I was in Hutchinson last week, I went to five different stores, trying to find the special viewing glasses. I had no luck, even at the Cosmosphere. I guess we'll settle for Randy's welding helmet.

It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a fact TV newscasters have been telling us all summer. (So I should have looked for eclipse glasses earlier, right?!) Not many people are still around who would have experienced the last one in the U.S. On June 8, 1918, a total solar eclipse crossed the United States from Washington State to Florida in a path similar to today's event. That was the last time totality crossed the nation from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

I guess eclipse glasses were a "thing" back in 1918, too. This ad from The Denver Post was found on The Great American Eclipse website.
Looking to the sky is nothing new for me. Though we don't often experience this phenomenon when the Sun, Moon and Earth line up in just this way, I am always fascinated with the sky. I love the sunrise, the sunset and the daily variety of clouds and sky.

Once I get past the shelterbelt trees west of our house, a summer sunset in my part of Kansas pretty much stretches from horizon to horizon with very little interruption. I love the beautiful and unique nightly masterpieces created on our Kansas plains, where the only interruption in the sea of color is a strategically-placed tree or windmill to create a silhouette.
In the past month or so, I've gotten to experience new sunset views as we've traveled away from the farm.
When we were in Estes Park, I told Randy I wanted to witness a sunset in the Rockies. We arrived at the Lake Estes walking path one evening during our Colorado stay.
It was a beautiful evening as we walked the path along Lake Estes. The calm lake surface reflected the mountains and the sky (and some high-line poles, but they were easily ignored). 
Wildflowers decorated the riverbanks of the Big Thompson River in a few places, adding visual beauty to the musical notes of water rushing over rock.
Looking away from the sun, we were rewarded with the beauty of the so-called golden hour and a view of the 9-hole golf course where Randy had played. 
Later, geese impersonated actors in a old-time Western, as they left the Lake Estes Golf Course and traveled off toward the sunset. I thought sunset would happen more quickly in the Mountain Time Zone. But it seemed to be on a lazy tourist schedule, and it took its own sweet time.
Worth the wait? Though the backlit cloud bank seemed to create another level of Rocky Mountain "high," I think Kansas sunsets have the Colorado version beat. But I'm still glad we did it.

Then, from August 11 to 13, we traveled to Chicago for a wedding reception for my sister, Darci, and her husband, Andrew. On our first night in the big city, they invited us to their apartment for Greek food, a nod to their actual nuptials in Greece.
When we arrived, I snapped a photo of the view from their balcony.
Their apartment faces east, so they don't have a direct sunset view. But as the sun started to set, we still experienced "sunset" through the reflections on the buildings. 
And I completed the trilogy with a snapshot after dark, but I could still see the remnants of the sun reflected on some wispy clouds (in the upper righthand side of the photo).
It just proves there is beauty to be found, no matter the location. But I always love the quiet solitude and the ever-changing colors of sunset on the Kansas plains.


I think I prefer the daytime glimpses of the mountains. Here are a few "leftovers" from my previous Colorado posts.
 Mountain view before rain shower

One day, we had planned to drive to Beaver Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  However, as I like to say, nature was full. The parking lot for that particular spot was at capacity and they were turning back vehicles. We don't know what we missed, but we did see the beautiful Moraine Park. 

The valley was once the melting basin of the Thompson Glacier. The huge mass of ice deposited loads of rock debris or lateral moraines that are now the forested ridges.
I'm a fan of leftovers - whether they simplify the next meal or provide another glimpse of God's beautiful creation.

I have been on a bit of a hiatus from Kim's County Line, so this post may seem a mishmash of photos and thoughts. I hope to get back on a more regular schedule after my gallivanting about!