Tuesday, February 28, 2023

It's Not National Geographic, But ...

I was feeling really excited about my latest photos of a bald eagle ... until I saw the winning photo from the 2022 National Geographic Picture of the Year.

A bald eagle arrives to steal a perch on a tree log that offers a strategic view of the shoreline at the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in Alaska. When other eagles drag freshly caught salmon in from the water, these bystanders swoop in to take a share. (Photo by Karthik Subramaniam) To see all of National Geographic's contest winners, click HERE.

In reality, I've entered eagle photos and other photos of birds in the Stafford County Fair before. They rarely get any ribbon at all. However, all my bird photos have been the equivalent of portraits - birds sitting still on a branch or on my backyard fence or, in the case of some visiting bluebirds four years ago, perched on dried grasses in our pasture.

There's no action like that spectacular photo taken in Alaska. (On the other hand, I know how hard it is to capture even these still photos with a small camera sans a tripod and telephoto lens. But when you enter a photo contest, you don't get to plead your case about how many clicks of the shutter it took to get a few photos in focus. The judge didn't know that in all my years as a Kansan, I'd never seen a bluebird before. Whether it was a ribbon winner or not, I still love the bluebird photos.)

See more photos from February 2019 in our pasture, by clicking HERE.

In contrast, photographer Karthik Subramaniam told National Geographic that he'd camped out near the shore of Chikat Bald Eagle Preserve in Alaska for a week to capture the perfect shot.

My single eagle was hanging out near the mama cows and their babies. Randy had taken a solo trip to drive through the cattle lot. But he called and told me about the eagle. We figured by the time he came back home to pick me up, the eagle would have flown the coop - or, the cottonwood tree, in this case.

But it was still there. It stayed for a little bit, then flew away. We saw it again in other trees, but it departed before we could get close enough for my camera's little telephoto lens. But, when we got back to the road, the eagle had again perched in the cottonwoods near the road, giving me another chance at some photos. We were there when it flew away both times, but I wasn't fast enough to capture the majestic bird in flight. I never am!

So - no camping out for days in the Alaskan cold for me. But I still was thrilled to get close enough to our Kansas eagle to take some "portraits" - whether they are National Geographic material or not.  

To see all of National Geographic's contest winners, click HERE

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Baby Face


Check out the eyelashes on this little one!

We were sightseeing in the cattle lot, and a song drifted into my head: 
Baby face
you've got the cutest little baby face
there ain't nobody can ever take your place
you baby face
my poor hearts jumping
you started something
Baby face ...
I never need no shove
cuz I just fell in love with your
pretty pretty baby face.
Sung by Bobby Darin
It doesn't take much for a song to get stuck in my head. And I'm definitely not alone. 
More than 100 years ago, Germans coined the term öhrwurm—earworm—to describe the experience of a song stuck in the brain. Scientists call it other names, like “stuck tune syndrome” and “musical imagery repetition.” But the creepy image of an earworm crawling into people’s brains caught on.  
Your Brain on Music from The Kennedy Center

If Randy is feeling ornery, he makes it his mission to begin the earworm process. Maybe he'll hum "Take Me Home, Country Roads" under his breath. Or "The Long and Winding Road." Gee, thanks, honey!

Usually, my brain continues to sing along after I get out of the car and the radio quits playing. Or after the final hymn is sung at church. Or when an advertising jingle refuses to go away after the 60-second commercial is long gone.

TV and radio ads are a common source of earworms. Advertisers do their best to compose jingles or short songs they hope will turn into earworms. If they succeed, that means they have done their job to get customers to remember their restaurant, breakfast cereal, or other product. Another advertising strategy is to add classical or pop music that has already gained fame. For example, Bob Seger’s hit song “Like a Rock” was the theme song for Chevy trucks for many years.

from the article, Your Brain on Music 

I'm a sucker for a catchy tune ... and for cute little bovine babies. Thankfully, this tourist spot doesn't charge admission for the photos or the incidental music playing in my head.

(I'd better not say that too loud. Todd and Tye may start charging us in a "pay-per-view" plan.)

 I couldn't resist this little one. Check out the milk mustache!  

I have always been a sucker for babies with facial markings.

But, in these days when we strive not to offend anyone, I decided to feature another cute face, sans markings. 

This little one wasn't ready for any paparazzi. Snack time is much more important.

An afternoon snack was important for this guy, too. And speaking of brains, I'm still getting "This does not compute" messages when I see mismatched mamas and babies. They definitely take after their daddies. (I can relate to that, too. Jill has never looked anything like me.)

This one seemed more interested in a game of hide-and-seek than the lady with the camera.

We watched this poor mama with three babies trying to nurse off her at the same time. 

Only one of them was hers. Maybe she had the song, "Crazy," going around in her head.

 I would have. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Amazing Grace - Amazing Race!


 It seems there is a "special" day for just about everything. There are days delighting in doughnuts. There are days for savoring sandwiches and hallowing hamburgers. Pie even gets more than one day.

At our house, it's always a good day to flip for pancakes. But if you need an excuse, International Pancake Day is today - Tuesday, February 21.  These Apple Spice Pancakes could be the choice today - for breakfast, lunch or supper.

Pancake Day is a moveable feast whose date is determined by Easter. It's celebrated exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday (April 9 this year). 

2023 Youth Short Sleeve Shirt

Down the road in Liberal, Kansas, the 74th International Pancake Day will pit pancake flippers from Kansas vs. women from Olney, England. It's been a tradition for 74 years to have women race down the streets of their respective communities, flipping pancakes and running against the clock and each other. The race is always on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. It's the only race of its kind in the world.

"Shrove" is not a thing, but a verb. "Shrive" (shrove, shriven) comes from the Old English verb scrfan, "to decree, decree after judgment, impose a penance upon, hear the confession of," according to the dictionary. Shrove Tuesday is a day to reflect, to seek penance and get ready for Lent.

In Olney, the Pancake Race tradition dates back to 1445. Legend has it that a woman was busy making pancakes and using up cooking fats, which were forbidden during Lent at that time. Hearing the church bells ring to announce the Shrove Tuesday service, she grabbed her head scarf and ran to the church, with pancake-filled skillet in hand. In following years, neighbors joined the race to the church. The first to arrive collected a Kiss of Peace from the bell ringer.

A TIME magazine picture of the Olney women racing each other to the church caught the eye of Liberal Jaycee’s President, R.J. Leete. He contacted the Rev. Ronald Collins, Vicar of St. Peter and St. Paul's church in Olney, challenging their women to race against women of Liberal.  With that, the two communities were off to the races - so to speak - back in 1950. 
Photo from the International Pancake Day Facebook page: Liberal's Billie Warden crosses the finish line in 1950. Billie won the local race with a time of 1:18 but lost to Olney's Florence Callow, who finished in 1:10.4.  
This 74th year of racing also marks the 250th anniversary of the writing of the familiar hymn “Amazing Grace”. The words to this hymn were first spoken during a service on January 1, 1773, by John Newton, curate of Olney’s St Peter and St Paul’s Church, the very church where the Pancake Day Race was born, according to Liberal's International Pancake Coordinator, Kara Howery, in a press release.

 This year's Liberal winner gets a special gift from Olney to commemorate the Amazing Grace anniversary - a plate and a hymnal. Photo from the International National Pancake race website.
 On both sides of the Atlantic the race still culminates with Shriving Services that feature the singing of “Amazing Grace” as an integral part of the service. That will again be the case on this 250th year of the hymn's writing.

Racers must still wear a head scarf and apron. Each runner flips her pancake at the starting signal and again as she crosses the finish line to prove she still has her pancake after running the 415-yard course.

Photo from the International Pancake Day Race Facebook page

According to the book, America Celebrates! A Patchwork of Weird & Wonderful Holiday Lore, some superstitions have evolved among Liberal racers:

  • It is considered good luck to carry a past winner's skillet in the race or wear a past winner's apron.
  • One year, the stack of concrete pancakes marking the starting point of the race was stolen. This was considered a bad omen, but the stack was later returned.
  • Although the women practice running 415 yards, it is considered bad luck to run the official race course during the practice sessions.

If you're looking for your own International Pancake Day treat, Apple Spice Pancakes are good for breakfast ... or for a breakfast-themed lunch or supper. They are packed with grated apples, pecans and spices. 

I served them with Cinnamon Cream Syrup. Jill lived in Nashville, Tennessee, while she was completing her dietetics degrees. The Cinnamon Cream Syrup is a copycat for the syrup served at the Pancake Pantry there, a favorite stop when we visited Nashville. Since it echos the pancake spices, it was the perfect topper, especially for someone like me who isn't a real fan of maple syrup.

 Apple Spice Pancakes

2 cups flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tbsp. maple syrup
2 Gala apples (or similar), cored and grated
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Cinnamon Cream Syrup (recipe below)

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt and spices. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and maple syrup. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and stir to combine (don't overmix). Stir in grated apples and pecans.

Heat a skillet to 350 degrees. Lightly coat with cooking spray. Using a 1/4-cup measuring cup, scoop batter onto hot skillet, a few pancakes at a time. When pancakes start to bubble on top, flip and cook until pancakes are cooked through all the way. Makes about 20 pancakes. 

Serve pancakes with Cinnamon Cream Syrup (or other favorite syrup).

 Cinnamon Cream Syrup

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 5-oz. can evaporated milk

In a saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, water and cinnamon. Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil and stir for 2 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Stir in milk.

Serve over pancakes, waffles or French toast.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

CrockPot Swiss Chicken and Stuffing

I'm a fan of Crockpot cooking. 
Fix it.
Forget it for several hours.
Add some sides.
Enjoy a hot dinner with minimal effort.
I saw the recipe for CrockPot Swiss Chicken and Stuffing from Plowing through Life in a Facebook link. Thinking it might be a nice alternative for a "holiday" meal for just Randy and me, I tried it out. Though beef is our usual go-to meat, it was a tasty addition to the CrockPot meals I keep on standby.
I made it again when chicken breasts were on sale at my local grocery store. I put it in before going downstairs to work, and the CrockPot did the work for me.  I added green beans and a salad and viola! Dinner was ready with minimal effort and mess.

Crockpot Swiss Chicken and Stuffing
Adapted from Plowing Through Life 
3 to 4 chicken breasts
6-8 slices Swiss cheese (or equivalent amount of grated Swiss cheese)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup chicken broth (or water with bouillon)
1 box stuffing mix
1/4 cup butter, melted
Line Crockpot with liner or spray with nonstick cooking spray. 
Put chicken in bottom of crockpot in a single layer. Place at least one slice of cheese on each piece of chicken. (I had some Swiss cheese in a block leftover from another recipe. I just grated a good amount of top of the chicken. I probably used more cheese than the original recipe called for.) Mix cream of chicken soup and the broth. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle stuffing over soup layer. Pour melted butter over stuffing.
Cover and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours. 
Note: This was the second time I made this recipe. The first time, I cooked it 3 hours or so and the stuffing didn't get as dark on top. This time, it cooked at least 4 hours. (I should have checked it a little earlier.) It tasted great; it just got a little dark on top.
Plowing through Life (a blog from a farm in Ohio) says you can convert this recipe to the oven. Use 6 to 8 small chicken breasts and the same amount of stuffing and other ingredients.  Bake in a 9 x 13 pan for 45 to 55 minutes or until a digital meat thermometer reads 165ºF.
Serve with veggies and a salad.  

This was when I left it to cook about 4 hours. I would suggest the 3-hour cooking time - or, at least, check it. I was downstairs in the office and didn't check it until noon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

A Heart-Shaped Box of Memories

When I was a child, a heart-shaped box of candy marked our place at the breakfast table each Valentine's Day, courtesy of my mom. 

Russell Stover Valentine's Assorted Chocolates Photo Heart product image 1 of 4 slides

So, when I was looking for Valentine's gifts for Kinley and Brooke, I couldn't resist adding a miniature heart-shaped box of chocolates to their bag - even though I knew it wouldn't be their favorite treat. And I told them that Grandma Moore always made the day special with that little box of chocolates. (They got some other things in their Valentine's sacks from me besides a history lesson.)

Eric's mom, Christy, says their family also had that tradition, though her dad was the Valentine candy buyer. The children got the miniature boxes and her mom got a larger assorted heart box. 

Those little boxes held more than confections. The outside of each candy didn't usually reveal the flavor contents of each confection. There's a lesson there, too - how we shouldn't judge what's on the inside just by looking at outside appearances.

When we were in Topeka earlier this month, I went along for the ride as Brooke chose the Valentines she would give her classmates. She chose purple Skittles, which didn't even exist back in my grade-school days. 

Some of the Valentine's from Jill & Brent's era

Back in the 1960s, our Valentines were usually of the paper variety. Once in awhile, a classmate would include a heart-shaped hard sucker, but that was a rarity, not the norm. 

(I'm second from the left, and it appears I'm wearing the red tights!. From left: Jeff Berry, Kim Moore, Carol Beberstine, Lorraine Frisbie, Eugene Stotts)

One thing that hasn't changed is the universal teachers' edict that everyone in the class receive a Valentine. Maybe your friend and you had a spat the day before and you were not feeling too loving. Or maybe you'd prefer not to give that annoying boy a "sweet" message. Even if "that boy" teased me unmercifully about my weight or my hair or my green tights, I was supposed to put a Valentine in his box. (I must admit that I would find the least sappy Valentine from the box I'd carefully selected from the dimestore at Pratt. I would adhere to the rules, but I didn't have to give him the best Valentine.)

But equal opportunity Valentine distribution was a requirement - then and now.

A few years ago on Valentine's Day, I recalled The New York Times bestselling book from 20-some years ago, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  

I didn't learn a thing in kindergarten because Byers Grade School didn't have kindergarten. But that's not the point. In the book, author Robert Fulghum explains how the world would be a better place if adults adhered to the same basic rules as kindergarten-aged children, like sharing and being kind to one another. What a concept, right?!

As Robert Fulghum would say:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Be aware of wonder.
  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we would remember those principles? 

Happy Valentine's Day, all! 

For the record, today's Valentine's Day includes driving Randy to Hutchinson to get a root canal this morning. Then, we're off to Great Bend to see the accountant. Doesn't all that say romance?


Thursday, February 9, 2023

A Treat for Your Sweet: Strawberries and Cream Cookies

I read that Americans are expected to spend an average of $175.41 per person on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2023. Last year, it was $167.76.

Who are these people polling? 

Well, at our house, that does not happen. And I don't want it to happen. I have enough Midwestern thrift in me that I can't fathom spending that kind of money on a Hallmark-inspired holiday. And I seem to remember that the whole thing is tied to a massacre. (Spending that kind of money will massacre your pocketbook, all right.)

Randy usually has to settle for a treat from our kitchen. I don't hear him complaining.

If that's closer to the budget, I have an option for you: Strawberries and Cream Cookies. Freeze-dried strawberries provide the flavor bomb, along with white chocolate or cream cheese baking chips. I found Hershey's brand cream cheese baking chips one time. I'm now searching for them again. But white chocolate chips are tasty, too.

I initially tried a new recipe. But I ended up liking my old standard cookie recipe better. As I've shared before, I usually triple a standard cookie recipe and let that serve as my base. Then, I divide the dough into three or four portions and add different mix-ins. That way, I make one mess and end up with a variety of cookies. I LOVE that. (Get it: I LOVE it for Valentine's and for any time I need a bunch of cookies.)

And, yes, I use shortening. I like the texture that shortening provides. Plus, you don't have to refrigerate the dough before baking. However, if you want to substitute butter, you can do that. You'll need to refrigerate the dough before baking to prevent spreading. Recipes that use butter usually say to refrigerate at least 2 hours, then let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.

Forbes magazine said that 53 percent of U.S. consumers plan to celebrate Valentine's Day, and more than three-quarters believe it’s important to show some love on Valentine’s Day given the current times.

Show some love: Make cookies. (For more Valentine treat ideas, go to the bottom of this post for more tried-and-true recipes from Kim's County Line.) And Happy Valentine's Day!

Strawberries and Cream Cookies

1 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup roughly chopped or lightly-crushed freeze-dried strawberries
1 cup white chocolate or cream cheese chips
Combine dry ingredients; set aside. Cream sugar and shortening in mixer until smooth and well-combined. Add vanilla and eggs; mix well.  Add dry ingredients. Stir in freeze-dried strawberries and white chocolate chips. 

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Use a cookie scoop to portion out cookies and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned.
Here are some other ideas for Valentine treats: 

Why not start with breakfast? Cranberry Apple Coffee Cake

Homemade Pretzels

My Valentine would prefer a blueberry pie.

There are lots of other tried-and-tested dessert recipes here on Kim's County Line for everything from snack mixes to drop cookies to bar cookies to cakes to pies. I don't post them unless we like them! There is a search function at the upper left of the blog. Or, you can always ask. Just post a comment here or email me at rkjbfarms@gmail.com

Happy Valentine's Day!