Be My Valentine

Be My Valentine

Friday, February 12, 2016

Heart to Heart

It has been a long time since I've helped make a Valentine box. But with a little help for ideas from a Google search and expert sticker placement from a willing and able 4 year old, Valentine's Day 2016 will be the cat's meow!
Jill says when Kinley carried it into her classroom, one of her friends said, "Oh look! It's a cat!" Mission accomplished. (Yes, confirmation from an unrelated 4 year old is validation for the quality of our work. Sad, but true.)
The school Valentine box was just one of several holiday projects that the girls and I accomplished during our time together this week. Jill was at a conference in Wichita, so Kinley and Brooke got a trip to the farm.  Do you think we got enough sprinkles on these Rice Krispie treats? I was going to go around the outside with frosting or candy melts to define the heart shapes. But I reconsidered after trying to keep two girls on chairs while helping mold and unmold cereal treats. (Yes, I kept them in their PJs during the cooking session to reduce the laundry needed after this sticky project.)

I should have gotten photos of both girls trying to sweep up the sprinkles from the floor. It's good I had two brooms for two big helpers. Brooke also tried to climb into the dishwasher to help me unload the top rack. That's dedication!

Grandma didn't just promote sweet treats. The girls also were our pizza chefs for the evening. I wonder why they didn't eat much at supper: Could it have been that they ate the ingredients along the way?
Our craft projects weren't done. Kinley also made decorated this wooden heart. Grandma didn't realize that the flowers weren't stickers. So Kinley held each tiny flower while I dabbed them individually with a little glue. Then she put each into place, creating the pattern herself. She was meticulous and very patient. It turned out better than I could have imagined, especially since I was also trying to keep Brooke entertained at the same time. Stickers, pipe cleaners and the kitchen Tupperware drawer distracted the littlest helper. (And I may have also had to keep her from climbing some shelves at the same time.) Some day, she may be gluing decorations, too. But we'll see if she ever sits still long enough. Busy, busy, BUSY!
Case in point: We hung the heart on our back door to get a photo before Kinley took it home. Brooke was a little too interested to suit Kinley. The photographic session was cut short before I could get a posed photo with both girls. It seems to be the story of my efforts to photograph the girls together!

Brooke's busyness may also be why I didn't get any photos at all of Kinley decorating bookmarks, though it kept her occupied for a long time. I didn't expect her to decorate all 25 in the package. But she loved picking out which stickers she wanted to use and then decided which bookmark she wanted to share with other people.
While the Valentine's projects were a hit, the baby calves were less of an attraction than we predicted. Brooke is an expert animal sound imitator. And she did do her share of mooing in the cattle lot. But neither of the girls was wild about touching the baby calves. Kinley had her eyes on the big mama cows that were too close by to suit her. None of the heifers were aggressive. But they are pretty big to a 4 year old and a 17 month old.
The girls liked watching them from a little further away! I'm guessing the mamas felt the same way.
The girls also checked out the head stall in the cattle shed and explored the other outbuildings.
They much preferred seeing the cows and calves from the pickup window
The next day, they checked out the cattle trailer. (At least the cattle poop was dry, Mommy!)
The cats continued to be the star attractions at the farm. Kinley was reunited with her favorite, Cozy. When I looked at the photos later, their connection was further cemented because of their big, beautiful eyes. (But, true to form, it couldn't happen in the same photo.)
Brooke liked whichever cat was nearest to her at the time.
Unlike Kinley, she doesn't play favorites in the feline department.
We read every story in the Fancy Nancy book collection. Brooke sat there for a few of them.(We used a new Valentine's bookmark to keep our place between reading sessions!)
Kinley was such a big help with Brooke. When Brooke was inconsolable, wanting Mommy at bedtime, my singing of Sunday School songs only worked for a little bit. But having Kinley lying beside her finally calmed Brooke down enough for her to fall asleep.
As the oldest sister myself, I know that little sisters can sometimes want to do whatever you're doing. They can mess up your stuff. But there's also a bond that never ends. They are fortunate to have one another.
And we are blessed to have them both (though I am definitely reminded why God made it so that you parent when you are young).

Monday, February 8, 2016

Maternity Ward

Would you like a little fiber with your baby? As this new mom licked her baby clean, she took in a little roughage from the bedding straw in the shed. It was just a little bonus for the mama with the first baby actually born in the calving shed. 

Every year around January 1, newspapers feature the first New Year's babies born in the local hospitals. So our first little baby born in our new "maternity ward" should get a little press, too, don't you think?
Actually, Randy proved his worth as a cattleman that night. During colder weather, Randy and I separated out a few of the heifers who looked like they might be closer to giving birth. (I just ran the gate. I was not the decider in this venture.)
That particular night, we ran three heifers into the calving shed. Two of the three had calves overnight. Impressive powers of deduction or a lucky guess? We'll go with educated guess (and not talk about running a red heifer into the shed several nights with no baby the next morning.) As I said, I'm not the one making the call, so I can tease the cattleman a little. But I need to give him credit, too.
The mom in the adjoining "suite" evidently had more time to clean up her baby for visitors. Randy tagged each of them and gave them a shot to prevent scours (diarrhea).
Then they were ready to leave the "hospital."
On wobbly legs, they were off to explore life outside the shed. 
Evidently, the shed got good reviews since babies and moms are thriving.
(I am behind posting this. It happened the end of January, but I still wanted a record of the first babies born in the shed.)

We had a population explosion on Sunday. It truly was a Super (Bowl) Sunday. We had eight new babies, a couple more from heifers and the rest from cows. This won't be the last calf photos you'll see.
Also included in my Saturday and Sunday agenda was helping Randy get feeder cattle off wheat. It really wasn't a bad weekend to have a couple of 4-wheeler rides.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Super Bowl Winner

Need a super sandwich this weekend? SCORE!

I don't have a favorite in this year's Super Bowl ... unless you count the commercials. Once the Kansas City Chiefs are out, I tend to cheer for teams that have former K-State Wildcat players. Sadly, none remain this year. I have friends who are die-hard Broncos fans, but I don't really care who wins. Sacrilege, I know!

I saw a recipe for Cheesy Pull-Apart Sliders on my Facebook feed this week and thought they'd be a perfect addition to a Super Bowl party. The sauce is reminiscent of the one used for Funeral Sandwiches, a recipe that has quite a sad name for such a delicious end product.

But instead of using ham as the main attraction, these sliders use ground beef. How can that not appeal to a Kansas beef producer? Since I have ground beef readily available in the freezer, it's a win-win.

You won't fumble your Super Bowl party with this easy, tasty addition to the game plan. (You can add Sweet and Sour Beans to the party line-up, too.)
Cheesy Pull-Apart Sliders
Adapted from my Facebook feed
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 10-oz. can diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained
1/4 cup ketchup
12 slices Cheddar cheese
12 dinner rolls or slider buns
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. prepared mustard
1 tbsp. sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown beef with onions and garlic. Drain fat. Stir in seasonings, diced tomatoes and ketchup, mixing together well and heating through.

Slice dinner rolls or slider buns in half. Place bottom half of rolls in a 9- by 13-inch pan which has been sprayed with cooking spray. Top with beef mixture. Top with sliced cheese. Add the tops of the buns.

Glaze: Melt butter in microwave and add all other ingredients. Stir together until smooth and well combined. Pour evenly over the buns. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. I covered with foil so they wouldn't get too brown.

Today, I'm linked to the Weekend Potluck. Check out the hosts of the weekly recipe swap at:

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Want to Have a Little Ground Hog Today?

Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow this morning. That will probably come as good news to the people scooping snow out of feed bunks this morning. We got 0.40" of rain and no snow here in Central Kansas.

I don't know how much I believe a weather forecast from a furry rodent surrounded by cheesy guys in top hats and tails. However, it may be as accurate as forecasts this winter from the pros ... just sayin'!

Today is Groundhog Day. This was the 130th time that Punxsutawney Phil (or his ancestors) had made the February 2 prediction. According to legend, if Phil sees his shadow, there will be 6 more weeks of winter. If the day is overcast and he doesn't see his shadow, there is supposed to be an early spring.

This morning in Punxsutawney, Philadelpia, the groundhog came out of his burrow at Gobbler's Knob. The world - or at least the TV morning shows - watched. No shadow! Spring is on the way.

Well, we'll see.

The celebration of Groundhog Day began with Pennsylvania's earlier settlers. It stemmed from a combination of religious beliefs and facts associated with hibernating animals. They brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day.

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

We got a jump on Groundhog Day around here yesterday by eating a little "ground hog." I fixed breakfast for lunch. Phil had nothing to fear. It was really sausage.

I have fond memories of Batter-Dipped French Toast as a Kansas State University dorm resident. I usually showed up for breakfast. (It is the most important meal of the day, you know.) But on the days when Batter-Dipped French Toast was on the menu, there was even more incentive.

I lived in West Hall, which was served by the Derby Dining hall on the K-State campus. When my dorm put together a cookbook in 1978, Batter-Dipped French Toast was one of the recipes included. I haven't made it for years, but I saw it when leafing through the old recipe book and decided it would be a great accompaniment to my "ground hog."

I am a big proponent of breakfast for any meal of the day. So, whether you eat it for breakfast, lunch or supper, it's sure to warm you up on a cold day. Enjoy!
Batter-Dipped French Toast
from the cookbook, The Sun Rises In West Hall's Kitchen
2 eggs
1 tbsp. oil
2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp. milk
2/3 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups flour
2/3 tsp. baking powder
6 slices of 1-inch thick Texas toast bread
Oil for frying
Powdered sugar
Syrup & fruit, as desired

Heat oil in deep skillet to about 400 degrees. Beat eggs on high speed for 2 minutes. Add milk and oil on low speed. Combine dry ingredients. Add to egg mixture; mix until smooth. Dip bread slices in batter, coating both sides. Deep-fat fry until golden brown on both sides. Cut into triangles. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with warm syrup and fruits, as desired.

(Note: I did sprinkle with powdered sugar, but it melted on the hot toast. I should have sprinkled a bit more for the photos.)

Today, I'm linked to the Weekend Potluck. Check out the hosts of the weekly recipe swap at:

Monday, February 1, 2016

Army Truck 101

With the departure of our long-time farm employee, I got a crash course in Army Truck Driving 101. Wait, let's not say "crash course" when we're talking about vehicles.
In a former life, it was an Army truck. We purchased it and had the feed wagon added to the back in 2014.

One of the biggest challenges for this new job was getting in the truck. Hard to believe, but I'm not as nimble as I once was. And my legs are a lot shorter than Randy's.

So the first stop was the local lumberyard to purchase a small step ladder.
The second obstacle to the successful completion of this new task is fearing unwanted passengers. (And, no, I am not referring to my instructor, Randy.) Finding mouse poison packets scattered along the floorboards does not inspire a lot of confidence that I won't have a stowaway. (That actually happened in a grain truck during wheat harvest once upon a time. I got the truck stopped and then stood outside the door, shouting, trying to get the mouse to leave the premises. Thankfully, no one but the mouse witnessed my unusual method of evicting an unwanted passenger.)
To start the feeding session, I had to zero out the scale. We add grain to the bottom of the feed wagon. Randy augered it in from our storage bin. I watched the scale, and I moved the truck forward a few feet at the 200-pound mark and again at the 400-pound reading. And in our high-tech operation, I honked the horn when the scale got to 600 pounds. (My auger operator can vaguely be seen through the dusty rearview mirror below.)
It takes awhile for the auger to empty, so I ended up with 750 pounds of grain. 
It requires a little maneuvering to make the turn into the pasture. To make sure we don't end up in Peace Creek, we come in from the north.
These photos were obviously taken on a different, sunshiny day!
There are no guard rails on that wooden bridge, you know!

 Once in the pasture, I parked the truck just outside the trench silo.
Two scoops of silage were added on top of the grain already in the truck.

With the silage loaded, the scale registered 2,655 pounds.
Then, I drove to another pasture to fill the bunks for our feeder cattle's dining pleasure. That morning, they were out grazing on wheat, so I didn't have to dodge cattle at the bunks - probably for the best on my maiden voyage.
Mission accomplished! I even got the truck parked back in the shed where I could use the step ladder to get back down. Beginner's luck? I guess I'll find out.
As it turns out, my lessons may not have been needed. We hired someone who starts today. But knowledge is never wasted. I'll be ready if called into action!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Happy 155th Birthday, Kansas!

A Kansas sunrise is like a fingerprint. No two are exactly the same. But this morning, I thought about sunrise on January 29, 1861. On this day 155 years ago, were the settlers even aware that January 29 would become a momentous day for their ancestors?

The trees I often use as silhouettes in my sunrise photos likely weren't there. Many of them were probably planted as part of the timber claims by Kansas settlers. But as men and women left their humble houses on a vast Kansas prairie and ventured out to feed or milk cattle on a brisk January morning, did they watch the clouds illuminated as the sun made its way toward the horizon?  Did they appreciate the beauty of a new day, a day that would become an important part of their heritage?
This day, I thought about my family members who packed up their families and moved across the nation to Kansas for new opportunities for themselves and their families.

On my Dad's side, Kentuckian James T. Moore (my dad's great-grandfather) came to Kansas in the late 1860s, spending a brief time as a helper to a buffalo hunter. He was impressed with the potential of Kansas for cattle grazing and went home to tell his wife, Chalista, that "the grass stood as high as the stirrups on a horse."

In 1876, he and Chalista brought their family to Kansas in a covered wagon drawn by oxen. They arrived in December of 1876 in Sodtown, Kansas, later known as Stafford. (And isn't it ironic that his great-great-granddaughter ended up later calling Stafford home!)

A hotel proprietor there mentioned to J.T. that he might do well to homestead in Pratt County. And so he did, 15 years after Kansas became a state.
The Moores filed a claim which lay 3 miles east and a half mile north of what is now Byers in northern Pratt County. They began living on the claim in the spring of 1877. They later filed a timber claim which originally gave them a total of 320 acres of land.
My mom's grandfather, Charley James Neelly, came to Pratt County from his native Missouri in 1898. Charley went to work for a farmer. In 1900, he married Ethel Denton, and they had 10 children, including my grandfather, Shelby Neelly, the second oldest.
So, on this Kansas Day 2016, I thought about these pioneers, the people in my family who saw opportunity in the Central Plains. As a jet stream pierced the canvas of Kansas sky, I thought how incredulous they'd be at the changes to this place they called home. And I was thankful for the vision that brought them to this state I love so much.