Thursday, April 29, 2021

To Greener Pastures


Some days are just like this: They seem to have a little extra organic matter.

Honestly, the first couple of days of moving cattle to summer pasture is not reflected by the unfortunate, messy circumstances for No. 100, our first baby calf born this winter. Those in first place get their comeuppance eventually, I suppose.

Here is No. 100 in cleaner circumstances, soon after its birth in January.

In fact, driving the cows and calves from the Peace Creek pasture to the corrals a half mile away went smoother than it's ever gone before.

The pairs came out of the pasture and clomped their way over the wooden bridge.


And they went down the road, never once taking a snack break in the lush green wheat along the way. It helped that a neighbor had just fenced off his wheat field with electric fence. I don't think they realized there was an open buffet as they got closer to the corrals. 

The biggest problem was the blustery wind. We ended up with a face full of dirt as we followed the procession to the corrals.  

But after we got done sorting mamas and babies for their separate chauffeured rides to the Ninnescah pasture, there was a little time for some baby portraits while I waited on Randy to get the trailers hooked up.


It will be awhile before we see these faces in close proximity again.
They'll be checking out greener pastures - literally.

 But not before a little nourishment to explore after being reunited with mama.
Milk - it does a body good (as the old ad slogan used to say).

We'll move the final group to the Big Pasture on Saturday, May 1. In the meantime, it's corn planting time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Microwave Mug Cake for a Zoom Celebration

My favorite flour company posted a photo of a mug cake recently. Hudson Cream Flour has a baking community on Facebook. Hudson Cream Flour is produced right in our home county - Stafford County, Kansas, by Stafford County Flour Mills. (We actually live on the Reno County side of the county line, but we identify as "Stafford County." That sounds like a buzz-worthy thing to say these days, don't you think?) You can become a member by checking out Hudson Cream Baking Community on Facebook.

Anyway, it reminded me that I had never posted a recipe of a microwave mug cake that was part of a 100-year-anniversary celebration for my Stafford PEO group.

On March 23, we celebrated 100 years of Chapter BK, PEO, an international organization that advocates for education for women, as well as other philanthropic endeavors.

I agreed to chair the anniversary committee. But with the regulations still in place for meetings due to Covid-19, we opted to have a Zoom party, rather than gather in person.

The 12 founders from 1921 would probably have been appalled. On their initiation day, the 12 Stafford ladies gathered for a formal meal, prepared by the Stafford High School home economics students. Then, for the chapter's 50th anniversary, the women had a luncheon at the Brown Tea Room in Stafford. The Golden Girls (the remaining 50-year members) arrived to the festivities in a limousine, chauffeured by one of the husbands. They had a meal of escalloped chicken, glazed carrots, creamed peas in timbale shells, perfection salad, rolls and lemon chiffon pie. (I had to look up "timbale." I'd never heard of it before, but it sounds fancy to me!)

I'm thinking that a microwave cake and a paper bag of party supplies would not have sufficed for the gentile ladies of yesteryear.  Of course, back in 1921, there were no microwaves anyway!


The committee members prepared "party packs" that were delivered to each members' front porch ahead of time. It included a commemorative mug in which to make the microwave cake, a cake "kit" (complete with candle), a craft kit to make a paper daisy, party hat, party blowers and a daisy napkin. (Our PEO flower is the marguerite - a daisy.)

I experimented with several recipes. Randy wasn't complaining. Eventually, I came up with one in which our committee could supply all the ingredients except for 1/4 cup of milk, which each member provided on her own.

My friend, Betty, packaged the dry ingredients into snack-sized plastic bags. She put the liquid ingredients in a 2-ounce plastic cup. I provided a 2-ounce container of prepared buttercream frosting, tinting it yellow and using a star-tip to swirl it for a "party" effect. (I thought I'd gotten a photo, but I guess not!) We added a small baggie with extra sprinkles and a candle to make it party-worthy!

This is one of the  pages from A Century of Sisterhood, a book I made to celebration the anniversary, and shows our Zoom party and mug cakes.

Then the ladies made their own cakes at home and ate them while I gave the program. 

I went through history books and other anniversary programs and ultimately did a 26-page book.

It included biographic information about each founder and photos when available. The book also had information from the 25-, 40-, 50- and 75-year anniversaries. I also included summaries about what the world was like at each of those milestone anniversaries, which occurred in 1921, 1946, 1971 and 1996.

This was from the silver anniversary and showed the remaining founders at that time.

This was a double-page spread from the 50th anniversary at the Brown Tea Room.

And here's a photo from the 40th birthday. Things were definitely more formal back in those days. They didn't plan a special event, yet look how dressed up they all were for a regular meeting!

As I said, I'm not sure our microwave cake would have passed inspection back in the day. But we 2021 ladies were surprised how good they were. (Of course, warm cake is good anytime. And the buttercream frosting certainly makes anything taste better!)

Microwave Mug Cake
for a Zoom Party
Put the following dry ingredients in a snack-sized bag:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon sprinkles

Put the following into a 2-ounce plastic cup with secure lid:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond flavoring
1/4 cup milk
1) Wash & dry your mug.
2) Have 1/4 cup milk available to use.
3) Have a match or lighter available to light the candle!

TO PREPARE MUG CAKE (We will do this during the party!):
1) Put measured (provided) dry ingredients in the provided mug.
2) Add plastic container of wet ingredients (provided.)
3) Add 1/4 cup milk. (YOU PROVIDE.)
4) Stir well with one of the forks, thoroughly combining wet & dry ingredients.
5) Place mug on a plate or paper towel in your microwave (just to catch any overflow).
6) Microwave 90 seconds. It WON'T look like a cake baked in the oven because it doesn't brown. But it should "spring back" like a "normal" cake. If it doesn't seem done, put back in for a few more seconds. However, don't overcook. It will continue baking after removing from MW.
7) It's hot! Use a potholder to remove.
8) Top with provided frosting, light the candle & ENJOY!
I also provided a 2-ounce container of prepared buttercream frosting in each partygoer's sack. We had 22 possible participants, so I used 1 1/2 times the recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction.
Vanilla Buttercream
Recipe and commentary from Sally's Baking Addiction blog
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream, half and half or whole milk at room temp
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
Food coloring (as desired)

With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, and extracts. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to medium-high speed and beat for 2 full minutes. Taste. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. I always add 1/8 teaspoon.

Adjust if needed: You can control the consistency at this point– add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or more heavy cream if frosting is too thick (add only 1 Tablespoon at a time, beat together, then taste and add more if desired).

Use immediately or cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. After thawing or refrigerating, beating in a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the frosting out again, if needed.

  1. Quantity: This recipe is enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes or a thin layer on a 9×13 inch quarter sheet cake. Follow these ratios for a 2 layer cake and these ratios for a 3 layer cake.
  2. Confectioners’ Sugar: If your confectioners’ sugar is particularly lumpy, I recommend sifting it 1-2x before measuring and using.
  3. Heavy Cream: I love using heavy cream for the creamiest consistency. You can use half-and-half or whole milk instead if needed. The lower the fat, the less creamy your buttercream will be. Whichever you use, make sure it’s at room temperature. Otherwise your frosting could separate or appear grainy.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Diametrically Opposed


It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.
Andre Lorde
I love staying connected with people via Facebook. It's a way to interact with people from my past and present in a way that wouldn't be possible from a solitary dirt road in south central Kansas.

But a friend and I were talking on Tuesday about the contentiousness we also witness on Facebook. There are people who feel strongly about lots of things - whether it's the current occupant of the White House and his second in command (yay or nay)... Covid and vaccines (yay or nay) ... racism ... the thin blue line. The list - and the "sides" - go on and on.

Of course, it's the beauty of America that we can disagree - even with our own government. But my friend and I were lamenting the seeming inability to objectively listen to another's point of view ... and then perhaps think about something in a new way.

I don't understand the animosity often witnessed if a Facebook friend or acquaintance disagrees with a post - or with a commenter who has a different opinion than the one they just shared. Most often, I mutter an opinion under my breath and then scroll on by. But there are plenty of people who will share their opinion ...and share it loudly and clearly and often.
I thought about this inflexibility as I wandered around my farmhouse yard this week. On Monday afternoon, I ventured out to take photos of the blooms that punctuated our yard with springtime color.
 The purple and white lilacs were just beginning to bloom.
Most were still tightly holding onto their blooms in their buds, but a few were peeking out to enjoy the sunshine.
Our redbud tree lifted its "arms" toward the bright blue sky. 

Colorful tulips were poised to greet any guests who might arrive at our front door ... and give us joy in the meantime.

I knew that if the weather forecasters were right, the overnight hours might spell a premature end to the riot of spring color.
My pear trees loaded with bountiful blooms would likely be wearing a white "sweater" by morning. 

And they were.
But the beauty was still there. I had an 8:30 AM district church meeting via Zoom, so I hurried with my radio report and blog post so I could venture outside to snap a few photos before the snow melted away with the forecasted sunshine. 
There was plenty of beauty in the pre-snow and post-snow landscapes. (I can find the beauty as long as it didn't hurt the wheat crop either Tuesday or Wednesday morning with the dip of the thermometer below freezing.)
But, the snow-covered blooms were undeniably pretty - even if it caused me to lament a possible outcome for my pear crop and the wheat.

And it again made me think about looking at things from a different perspective. 

We don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is true with people.
Steve Goodier
As an amateur musician, this quote rang true for me (so to speak). I love hearing harmony. When I'm singing along to the radio in the car, I often harmonize with the singer. A few weeks ago, during a Palm Sunday service, I led the congregational singing from the lectern. It had been a year since the community's ministerial alliance had gathered for a joint service. The wave of four-part harmony coming toward me from congregation members from several different churches singing "All Glory, Laud & Honor" literally gave me goosebumps. 
Those congregations don't have the same views about every aspect of theology and polity. But you sure couldn't tell that as we sang those familiar songs in harmony.

It's something for me to ponder. I know it's a simplistic analogy. But maybe it's a start.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

A Map to Zoo Fun: A Book for Kinley & Brooke


It was a roaring good time!

We met Jill and the girls at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita on March 5, the first day of their spring break. The last time we were there, Kinley was just a toddler, and Brooke hadn't made her appearance in the world yet. (Kinley was the reporter for the day on the blog post here.)

I've written several books for the girls through the years. I did the first version of a farm ABC book while Jill was still pregnant with Kinley and gave it to her at a shower. I added a farm counting book to the mix a few years later. 

But I've also done several books based on day trips we've taken together - to Rolling Hills Refuge near Salina, to Exploration Place at Wichita, to a horse farm and the Sternberg Museum at Hays, Tanganyika Wildlife Park and the Kansas State Fair. I've also done a couple from their visits to the farm, including wheat harvest and a solo visit from Brooke when Kinley was with her Ladd grandparents and cousin. When I started digging through the book shelves, I discovered 9 books! Most of them are done in rhyme, and all feature my photography.

When we were in Topeka at Easter time, Brooke brought me a couple of "our" books to read - the farm counting book and Zoobilation, a book from our Rolling Hills Zoo visit. She made my day!

As she cuddled on my lap, she asked, "Grandma, are you going to write a book about the Wichita zoo?"

Well, at the time, it wasn't in the works. I'd been in charge of a 100-year celebration for my PEO group, and I'd done a 26-page book for that, too. 

Cover of the PEO book

March also brought several extra days of cattle work. But how could I refuse that request? I'd certainly taken plenty of photos. And when a little girl asks so beseechingly right after wanting to read together? It didn't take much convincing!

So, a week or so later, I hit "publish" on A Zoo Map to Fun with Kinley & Brooke. In addition to my verses, I added some facts from the Sedgwick County Zoo website. The girls love the behind-the-scenes TV shows about zoos and the people who care for the animals, and I figured a few facts might make it more interesting for Kinley, too. (She also reads the National Geographic Junior magazine cover to cover.)

To read the 20 pages, you'll probably have to pull up each photo separately. It shows each individual page. The completed book hasn't arrived yet. I can hardly wait to share it with the girls!

Front cover





Back cover