September Royalty

September Royalty

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

After my walk, I stopped at the pear tree to pick a few stranglers. I used my t-shirt as a make-shift gathering basket, and when I glanced down after one slipped from my grasp, I saw the monarch butterfly at my feet.

It was feeding on a rotting pear that had fallen from the branches. Even a pear barreling toward it didn't move it from the sweet treat. The sweet nectar had also attracted a bevy of other marauders. Even with the striking orange and black of the majestic butterfly poised there, I couldn't get past the ugly insects, despite the green iridescence on paper-thin wings.

I'd seen another butterfly float on the wind currents as I'd walked down the road earlier, but it didn't sit still for a close-up. Arrrgh, I thought! Why couldn't it have perched on a branch or found a flower from which to draw its sustenance? Who wants to look at a rotting pear and dirty flies, even when they have a beautiful visitor in their midst? Certainly not me!

It finally lighted on a leaf long enough that I could snap a more pleasing fall portrait, complete with green pear leaves and a yellow cottonwood leaf. I could still hear the buzzing of the ravenous insect world, chowing down on the rotting fruit, but I could ignore it through the view finder, focusing instead on the stained-glass-like traits of the royal butterfly as it paused before migrating on.
So what's the message? Should I be overlooking the "ugly"? Or is it more honest to report the bad with the good? Nobody has a Perfect 10 day all the time, but I tend to report the more positive spin on life, rather than focusing on the negative.

I saved an email devotional awhile back. It said: 

The only difference
between stumbling blocks and stepping stones
 is the way in which we use them.
Taken in Yellowstone National Park - 2011
So maybe it is better to see the stepping stones and the butterflies in life, even when they come disguised as stumbling blocks or complete with pesky flies.

A Time to Pray (also from the devotional):
God, just for today, let me see only the good.
Give me the eyes of faith, the heart of hope.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Snapshot Kansas: Black and White

Sunlight and dandelions
There was something magical about sitting in my grandparents' living room and watching Tinkerbell dart across the television screen, turning a black and white image into "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" with a touch of her wand. Instead of eating at the kitchen table as we usually did, we had our chicken pot pies on TV trays, ready to watch the latest episode in living color. Later in the evening, Grandma might fix some popcorn on the stove and serve it in the brightly-colored metal bowls. (I always wanted the bright blue one.)

Grandpa Neelly didn't retreat to his recliner in the other room. He seemed just as anxious to see what Walt had for us on a Sunday night. (He was equally as enamored with Lassie and Rin Tin Tin.) I'm sure we watched those programs at home, too, but it was somehow different at Grandma's and Grandpa's house.

My natural inclination is to view things in "living color." I guess I'm still the little girl who first watched television on a black and white set in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Boy, were we lucky when we got that first color television set!

Even though Kansas was portrayed in "The Wizard of Oz" as black and white, I like my Sunflower State in full color. But the challenge this past week for Snapshot Kansas on Facebook was black and white images.(Today, there's a new challenge, but I'm still focused on black and white for now.)

Wheat on a dewy morning
There is beauty in black and white, too. However, I must admit that I didn't like every photo I tried converted to the starkness of black and white.
A neighbor's cattle drive on horseback
Moisture on white spring flowers
A cross found in an old falling-down barn
Sunlight on another old barn
A lonely tree
Cottonwood canopy - the road to the Rattlesnake Pasture
An old Aermotor windmill
Most of my black and white images are from rural Kansas. But I also liked this image of the Keeper of the Plains in Wichita, one I took while on a morning walk during a Kansas Wheat conference there.
Maybe seeing things in black and white helps me "listen" in a new way.

Monday, September 15, 2014

We Are Family

Cousin photos by Jillian Ladd
 With apologies to Sister Sledge ...

We are family,
I've got all my cousins with me.
We are family.
Get up everybody and sing.

Kinley and Brooke won't be lonely at gatherings on their Daddy's side of the family. They have built-in playmates.

Kinley is 1 month older than her cousin, Hannah, and they are best buddies. I shamelessly used Hannah to "turn a frown upside down" when Kinley woke up a little grumpy from a nap last week. A promise to see Hannah was an instantaneous mood brightener for Kinley.

Not to be left out, Brooke also has a cousin just her size. Hannah's brother, Henry, was born 6 weeks before Brooke. The day after Brooke was born, Hannah and Henry came to meet their newest cousin. (Oh yeah. They brought their parents, too, Eric's brother, Brian, and his wife, Jillian.)

After the two youngest were nestled together on the bed, the older girls were encouraged to "touch their baby." (Jillian got the best photo, which I shared above.)

If these two are as chatty as their older siblings, family reunions will be lively indeed.
The older two had their own bonding moment back in 2012, while Hannah was still in the hospital and Kinley came to visit. 
Kinley on the left and Hannah on the right.
Eric's parents get to witness the Kinley-Hannah interaction more than we do, but I enjoy every moment when I get to watch them together. 
It's so much fun to listen in on their toddler conversations and watch them giggle and play.
It's a reminder about how quickly time flies, too. Just about a year ago, they were flower girls for their Uncle Drew and Aunt Kate's wedding.
Look how much they've grown (along with their hair. See Mommies: We told you it would happen.)!

Then I look back even further, and see the two at Kinley's first birthday party ...
On the other side of the family, there's a baby boom, too. My parents will go from five great-grands last Christmas to eight this year. My sister, Lisa, goes from four to six grandchildren in a matter of a couple of months.  I tell my folks that by next year, we're going to have to move the gift opening at Christmas to the shed to have room for everyone!

It's a great "problem" to have.
Jill, Kinley & Brooke pose with Grandma and Grandpa Moore.
Family: A link to the past,
a bridge to the future.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Purple-Ribbon Cookies: Snickerdoodle Brownies

I went to the Kansas State Fair yesterday and didn't get my camera out until the grandstand show. I watched other people take cell phone photos of the giant pumpkins. I contemplated trying to get a shot of the butter sculpture through the glass reflecting another bevy of fairgoers snapping away. I didn't get a photo of the winning Governor's Cookie Jar or the Best of Show quilt. I didn't click away at the State Fair train as it rounded the tracks or snap a shot in the beef barns.

But as I shivered during the grandstand show with Aaron Watson and Jack Ingram, I kept glancing over at the midway rides which created a track of color as the lights bounced off the metal grandstand bleachers. And I finally got my camera out of the bag for a few shots. 
If Kinley and Brooke come to the fair next year, I'm guessing the camera will be a lot busier. But this year, I had more photos of the state-fair-purple-ribbon-winning Snickerdoodle Brownies that I'd made in my own kitchen earlier in the week.

The recipe comes from "Favorite 4-H Recipes" compiled by the Stevens County 4-H Council. (Thanks, Amy, for the gift!) As I was looking for a bar cookie recipe to take to the field for corn harvest earlier this week, I chose the Snickerdoodle Brownie recipe. You can't go wrong with a purple-winning fair recipe, right?
It would probably be more accurate to call it a "blondie," since it's not a chocolate brownie. Instead, it has a ribbon of cinnamon-sugar running through the center.

The recipe calls for an icing, but it's not a requirement. If you don't frost them, you can see the cinnamon-sugar layer bubble up to the surface in a few places.
I like bar cookies because they are quick to put together and throw in a pan. That's handy when you're already making two meals to take to the field for harvest.

Take this state-fair-winning 4-H recipe for a whirl in your own kitchen!
 Snickerdoodle Brownies
From Favorite 4-H Recipes: Steven County 4-H Council
2 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Cinnamon Mixture:
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. cinamon
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. melted butter
1 tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch pan with cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a larger bowl, mix together softened butter and sugars  until well blended. Add one egg at a time, blending, then add vanilla. Add the flour mixture; blend well.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread evenly, using an off-set spatula. Make the cinnamon mixture; sprinkle evenly on top of the batter in pan. Using the remaining batter, drop by teaspoon-size dollops over the top of the cinnamon mixture, covering all the pan, as best you can. You will be able to see some of the cinnamon mixture peaking through.

Bake for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven. Don't overbake. (The original recipe called for 25 minutes, but my oven bakes hot. It only took 20 in my oven, and next time, I'll check them a couple minutes earlier than that.)

Cool completely for at least 1 hour. Combine icing ingredients and drizzle over the brownies. (I used a decorator tube on part of the bars to make them pretty for a photo, and then I just spread the glaze over the remaining bars to take to the field.)

I modified the icing recipe to include butter because it's better with butter, don't you think? If you want to use the original recipe, use 2 tablespoons of milk, rather than one tablespoon each of butter and milk.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Sun Sets on Corn Harvest

The sun has set on the County Line's 2014 corn harvest. What would harvest be without a little drama at the end?
As I arrived to bring supper to the field Tuesday evening, storm clouds floated on the horizon. We were on the final field, and Randy was hoping to get harvest finished before it rained.
After supper,  I climbed into the combine cab to take a final ride for the year. We got about 200 yards when there was an ominous clanking. The combine had a problem. Thankfully, I was already there in a pickup, so we drove back to the farm for tools.

As always, I offered to "hold stuff" during the repair, since that's about the extent of my mechanical ability. My offer was politely declined, so I did what I always do: I took photos. You might as well find the silver lining. In this case, the silver lining was right there in the western sky, though the peace and tranquility may have been somewhat shattered with the blast-furnace wind howling from the south and the clanging and muttering going on at the combine header.
The guys finally got the offending part removed, and Randy determined he could run without it. He filled both trucks, but, since the co-op was closed, he couldn't finish the field.
We got 0.10" of rain overnight, but Randy was able to finish Corn Harvest 2014 Wednesday afternoon. This was only our second year to raise corn on The County Line, so we are admittedly novices. Last year, during a drought, our overall average was 57 bushels per acre, with a low of 18 bushels per acre on rented ground that is primarily used for hunting.

This year, with good and timely rains, the overall average was 108 bushels per acre, all on dryland fields. We had a high of 145 bu/acre and a low of 82 bu/acre.  We know others who've had higher bushel totals for the year, but we are thankful for a good harvest.

And now here's a photographic recap of of 2014 corn crop:(Click on the blue links under each photo to read more about each stage of the corn life cycle.)

I used my human measuring stick throughout the five-month journey.


Another season comes to a close on The County Line. Today, it's time for a trip to the Kansas State Fair. I think I'll take a jacket - and that's a good thing!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


No good Mommy or Grandma makes comparisons. Honestly, we girls seem to do enough self-evaluating as it is: Is she prettier? Is she smarter? Do people like her better? And on and on and on.

So I realize I am on shaky ground when I put newborn photos of Kinley and Brooke side by side. But I also know how my memory fails me. In many ways, it seems much longer ago than 2.75 years that Kinley was this itty-bitty. I'm used to a big girl who asks questions right and left and blows bubbles on the back deck.

So, yes, this Grandma did the unthinkable: I found a photo of Kinley wearing her Powercat stocking cap and took a similar one of Brooke. Kinley weighed just less than 6 pounds when she was born, and Brooke was 7 pounds, 6 ounces. So there are some differences in size. Still, I do believe there is some family resemblance, don't you?

I also did the same dolly experiment I did with Kinley, though I got Brooke her own doll. (Every little girl needs her own Dolly.) On the first weekend of Kinley's life, I took a photo with a doll my parents gave her. During her first year, Kinley and Dolly starred in several photo shoots (here and here, among them.) I started the same tradition with Brooke last weekend. I'm guessing her Dolly will do a fair amount of "shrinking" this next year, too. (And, again, I think there is some family resemblance in these two photos, though some differences, too. 
FYI: Brooke's doll is a little shorter than Kinley's.

I know all about family resemblance. I am the oldest of four children. I became a big sister to Lisa at age 15 months. I was 4 when my second little sister, Darci, was born, and 9.5 when my brother, Kent, arrived. 
I could give Kinley lots of advice about being a big sister. (No comments from my three siblings, please!)

A big sister is part of the welcoming committee to this big old world.
It's good to share toys and make sure the younger one is well-entertained. It keeps both of you out of trouble.
It's advisable to be a good helper to your Mommy and assist with important things like hat placement and fetching needed items.

Mommy's and Daddy's budget gets a boost when sisters share clothes and shoes. (That works for a while anyway.)
They look less alike in these photos: Brooke is on the left and Kinley on the right.
It's important to know every aspect of diapering so that you can be Mom's righthand girl when the time is right.
But most of all, you just have to love them.
As I drove back home this Sunday evening, I tried to remember the words of an Irving Berlin song called, "Sisters," from the musical, "White Christmas." I think there's some truth among the lyrics.

Sisters, sisters
There were never such devoted sisters ...
I'm there to keep my eye on her
Caring, sharing
All kinds of weather, we stick together
The same in the rain and sun
Two different faces, but in tight places
We think and we act as one
Those who've seen us
Know that not a thing could come between us.
Selected lyrics from Irving Berlin's song, "Sisters, Sisters"

I hope it's true for Kinley and Brooke. (There are some lyrics that deal with men coming between sisters, but let's hope it's a good long time before any of that happens.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Introducing Brooke!

Welcome to the world, Brooke Jaylin! Our latest family member arrived at 6:57 AM, Thursday, September 4. She weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces, and was 20 inches long. She may be little, but she's already stolen our hearts.

I kept telling Jill not to expect to deliver early. Even though Kinley entered this world in 2011 when we were expecting 2012, there was no guarantee that the newest member of the family would be in a rush to enter this big old world. Even though I was "preaching" that to Jill, I subconsciously expected another early delivery. I was ready to meet our newest little blessing, and I was anxious to learn her name.

Her Mommy was supposed to be induced last Thursday morning, but Brooke decided all on her own that it was time to join the rest of us. I like a girl who is an independent thinker.

You'd think that watching a baby sleep would be about as exciting as watching paint dry. But, with their facial expressions, little noises and sighs, and it's better than a movie - at least for a Grandma ...
... or a Grandpa.
Throw in a Big Sister named Kinley, and it means hours of wholesome entertainment for the grandparents.
One is definitely more quiet than the other. I'll let you guess which one is which. Who knows? It may change.

Kinley is 2 3/4 years older than Brooke, so there is the same age difference between them as there was between Jill and Brent. One of my favorite photos has always been this one of Jill smiling at Randy when she met Brent and took on her role of Big Sister.
Jill holding Brent, May 1988
It was so much fun to see Kinley beaming as she held her baby sister for the first time.
Having a sister can be full of joy one minute - and full of contemplation the next. I know. I'm a big sister, too.
Kinley's Mommy and Daddy did a good job of helping her face her new reality. What? You mean that baby is going HOME with us?
Welcome home, Brooke Jaylin!
We're so glad you're here. You chose a pretty amazing family, if I do say so myself.