Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bales of Cotton in Kansas

Last week, before Thanksgiving, my brother Mountain Man was in the area for about a day. With the boys in school and DR at work, Mountain Man and I decided to take a drive through the countryside. We came upon a cotton field that had just started to be harvested.

Check out how big these bales of cotton are!! There was some farm equipment sitting in the field but no one was around so we didn't get a chance to ask anyone cotton picking questions or see anything being done. But it was kind of fun to walk around and check out what a field of cotton looks like.

It was a cold morning and there was still a hard frost on the ground but what you see above isn't frost but cotton! It seemed to be scattered everywhere.

Here Mountain Man and I walked into the field and he's standing at the edge of what had been harvested.

I'm not sure what kind of conditions are ideal for cotton but I never expected to see any grow in Kansas. I also thought it would have been harvested before now too. But I'm glad there's cotton here because I think it's beautiful...all that snowy whiteness.

Here's the empty pod (I guess that's what you'd call it) the cotton grew inside of. A pretty little star. Maybe next year I'll be lucky enough to see a cotton harvester in action.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Marker Monday - Simple Christmas Gifts for Teachers

I never really looked forward to Christmas when I was a teacher because inevitably Christmas in a school meant candy and cookies in the teacher's lounge and Christmas gifts of candy and cookies from students. I'm all for candy and cookies but sometimes teachers get hit with an overload of sugar!

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, after Yip and Yap and I were sufficiently stuffed with turkey and pie and needed something to keep us busy during Yahoo's naptime, we sat down to work on some teacher Christmas gifts not loaded with sugar. I actually got this idea from Pioneer Woman last Christmas.

A nativity set! We spray painted some sanded scrap 2x4's and then hot glued scraps of fabric, felt, pipe cleaners and ricrac. I think we made 4 or 5 sets and it went much quicker than I anticipated.

Yap also found some ceramic floor tiles left in our garage from the previous owners. For the last couple of weeks he's been making tons of coffee coasters out of them; this is just a little sample of his creations. He covered them with watered down glue and tissue paper. After they dried we added a layer of polyurthene on top and glued felt to the bottom.

I've really enjoyed working on these projects with the boys. First of all it gets them really thinking about giving to others without just buying something off a shelf. Besides these gifts cost us practically nothing to make.

What about you? Are you making any handmade gifts to give this Christmas season?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Devotions

He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate-bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. Psalms 104: 14-15

I wouldn't describe our little corner of Kansas as a bustling metropolis. On most evening everyone is off the street by eight in the evening so the sidewalks can rolled up. Our town is pretty quiet. Our corner of Kansas isn't full of luxuries like Starbucks or big movie theaters or lots of shopping plazas. The only thing we have in abundance is grass and cattle.

But our little town does have the basic necessities. Within a five minute walk from my house I have a grocery, hardware, doctor, post office, bank and library. There's nothing big or fancy about any of these businesses but they usually have just what I need.

I've learned that the basics are all I really need to be happy. Even though Starbucks is a nice treat now and then, I don't need it every day in order to find joy.

King David knew this too. In Psalms he tells us man is given wine, oil and bread....the necessities. But beyone those necessities God gives us a gladdened and sustained hart and a shining face. It's not a millioin dollars or Starbucks that we need to bring us joy. It is the basic little things we need and that we are blessed with by God that will make us truly happy. Because with just the basic necessities, and without luxuries to distract us, we can truly focus upon God's Word and His Love.

Dear God, Thank You for the basic gifts of life; wine, oil and bread. Thank You not for riches but for the joy that the "little things" in this world gives me everyday by Your hand. Amen.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Hello again Readers!!

I'm back!! I finally have a computer again. I know it only seemed like a few days in the blogging world that I was gone but in reality I was computerless for 12 days!

I never realized how much I relied on the Internet for day to day things. Recipes, driving directions, phone numbers, news and weather, answers to my kids' questions. I felt like I had blinders on for the last 2 weeks. Of course, the time was a nice reminder that I can live without the Internet.

Anyway, I'm back to blogging. I've got a new Sunday Devotions post ready for tomorrow and some Christmas themed posts planned for the upcoming weeks. I really enjoyed reading all your comments from the past couple of weeks! Thanks for sticking with me and my little ol' blog. It's nice to know someone is interested in my ramblings.....ha ha!

Solitary no more,
Prairie Mother

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer
We humbly ask Thy blessing,
on the turkey and the dressing,
on the yams and cranberry jelly,
and the pickles from the deli.
Bless the apple pie and tea,
bless each and every calorie.
Let us enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.
Tomorrow we can all get thinner.
For all Thy help along the way
we're thankful this Thanksgiving Day.
We're thankful too, for all our dear ones,
for all the far away and near ones.
Although we may be far apart,
we're together in my heart.
Keep us in Thy loving care,
This is my Thanksgiving prayer.
P.S. Anyone who wishes may help with the dishes.
Author Unknown

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love Yap, Yahoo and Yip

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dear Loyal Prairie Mother readers,

Last week I had to take my computer to get worked on. It was running a fever and swearing at me in another language! I think my computer has a bad case of goblin infestation.

This little bump has stalled my blogging for a bit, which is probably a good thing considering Thanksgiving is less than a week away! You'll probably find me knee deep in flour in my kitchen right about now.

I'll be back as soon as I have a healthy and well mannered computer. Take care and if I don't talk to you soon have a great Turkey Day!

Isolated in Kansas,
Prairie Mother

Monday, November 22, 2010

Turkey Day Decorations

Do you need some last minute Turkey Day decorations? Here's a few you can whip up from stuff you probably have laying around the house!

No long tedious instructions, these pictures tell their own story. Grab your glue gun and craft stash and put your kids to work. You know, kids, those little monkeys who have the day off from school. Keep em' busy until the feast is served!

Construction paper, scissors, glue

A lone knit glove, fabric, glue gun and plastic lid.

Pinecone, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, fabric, puffball and hot glue gun.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Devotions - Gray Hair is a Crown of Splendor

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness. Proverbs 16:31

I recently had a new follower on my blog, the Old Geezer. The header of Mr. Old Geezer's blog contains this quote, "Do not resent growing old....many are denied the privilege." That really struck me. Many are denied the privilege.

It seems to me that our society resents growing old. We dye our hair, get Botox injections and plastic surgery all in order to fight to keep our youthful appearances. What is so great about youth really? Okay the young have lots more energy but as I grow older I look back on my youth and realize how stupid I was! The Bible tells us that age is to be respected. I shudder to think of all the wonderful experiences I would have missed if I were stuck in my 20's.

Every Sunday Yap sits in the back pew of church with 4 or 5 elderly men all in their 70's or 80's. These old men relish my little boy's presence. Yap sings and prays with them while they gently guide him in his behavior during service. These men hold a crown of experience reflected in their gray hair that they are passing along to my children. How blessed!

Gray hair is attained by a life of righteousness the Bible tells us. There are many things we can learn from those "gray hairs" around us if we take the time to ask and listen. How I wish for just a few more hours with my grandparents who have passed away; there is so much I should have asked them. Remember too that those gray hairs popping up on your head (and most definitely mine) are a symbol of life experiences. Gray hairs shouldn't be feared but celebrated as a crown of splendor from God.

Dear God, Thank You for Old Age! It is a blessing and thank You for reminding me that it isn't to be feared but celebrated. Amen!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My favorite season...

Fall is by far my favorite time of year.

I love the cool air whipping my dark hair around my face.

I love the soft whisper and aroma of the leaves.

I love the way fall weekends allow to you relax like no other season.

I love how fall is Mother Nature's meditation.

I love how easily children play in nothing more than a pile of leaves.

I love Thanksgiving more than Christmas.

I love hunting season and all the men decked out in camo and bright orange.

I love how the blazing warm fall colors contrast the cool fall evenings.

I love fall....what's your favorite part of this time of year?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Foody Friday - Polenta (fancy for Cornmeal Mush)

When I was a kid my dad ate cornmeal mush whenever he could get it. Which meant he only ate it when my grandma made it for him.
Mush; cornmeal boiled in water and salt, poured into a bread pan, baked, sliced then eaten with butter and pancake syrup.

I never ate cornmeal mush as a kid, gross. I still don't. I mean, how bland can food get?

But Dad, today I apologize for sticking up my nose and one of your favorite dishes because I've discovered that cornmeal mush isn't so bad....if you doctor it up a bit.

So in steps a recipe for POLENTA. (Another recipe swiped from Purse Gurl's culinary cookbook by the way.)

In saucepan, combine 1 1/2 quarts of chicken broth, 1/2 cup butter and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat to a boil.

Next, SLOWLY pour in 2 cups of cornmeal while stirring slowly.

(I didn't pour it in slowly...stupid me dumped it in all at once and I had giant clumps. But I switched to a whisk and all was right with the world.)

Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until polenta is very thick. Stir constantly to prevent the bottom from sticking.

When the polenta is thick taste and adjust seasonings (salt, pepper).

Lightly oil a sheet pan with 1/2" - 3/4" high sides.
While hot spread the polenta onto the pan.
Allow to cool completely.
I cooked the polenta in the morning and stuck it in the fridge until I was ready to make dinner that evening.
When polenta is totally cooled cut into desired shapes. We used biscuit cutters and gingerbread men but it would be just as easy, with less waste, to cut the polenta into squares.

I let the boys spread pizza sauce and cheese on their gingerbread men. Yip and Yap always tend to eat new dishes better when they get to help prepare it.

I combined a can of diced tomatoes, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of parsley. I sprinkled some shredded cheese on top of the polenta then added a spoonful of the tomato mixture on top.

Place polenta into a 350 degree oven and heat throughout, about 20 minutes or so. Serve warm.

Polenta was very good and very filling! Surprisingly leftovers heat up well too. Enjoy!

Yes Dad, I'm eating cornmeal mush. See? We're more alike than you thought!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Sometimes taking pictures of my kids gets kind of boring.
I mean, after a while, they start all looking the same.
It's not like I can get them to pose for me either; they are too busy playing and being goofy and I'm just trying to catch any good shot I can.
But I've found that I can get some interesting effects when I use the sun behind them. I position myself so the sun just peaks around them but not quite a silhouette.
Sometimes I get a new starburst effect but sometimes I get a neat halo/outline thing going on.

Sometimes sunspots appear in odd places, like on a face, but I think it makes for an interesting composition. It's fun to let go a bit and let the sun create the photo.
I'm trying really hard to stay away from editing photos for a while because I want to rely on my camera rather than fixing everything. There are a lot of things about these photos I could change but these are unedited. I'm not happy about how I filled the frame in the middle two and I'm pretty sure my ISO was too high on Yip's. But hey, it's fun and they are pics of my kids so who can complain?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Unemployment and Illegal Immigrants....wanderings of my thoughts.

Have you heard about this little immigration issue (argument, problem...whatever you want to call it) we have in our country? Maybe you've heard some rumblings going on down in Arizona? Have you heard about that law passed that would increase enforcement of the deportation of illegal immigrants? I know, I know...it's old news. But I'm not writing this post to argue about illegal immigration...really. It's a hot button issue and I'm sure there is someone out there who could begin a great discussion with me about the error of Arizona's ways. No, instead today I'm writing about unemployment.

The topic of illegal immigrants and their deportation came up in a conversation I was having with DR the other day. Honestly, I expected him to voice his support for the crackdown on illegals. He's a black and white kind of guy if you know what I mean. ("Follow the law!") But he surprised me.

DR's stance was this; if illegal immigrants are forced to return to their home country, wherever that may be, then who'll do the work? Yes, unemployment is high in this country but not everywhere. Here in our part of Kansas (as DR tells it) in some businesses there are too few workers for available jobs. Even he has had difficulty hiring qualified people at the grain elevator. In DR's case qualified applicants includes the ability to speak English. But there aren't tons of English speaking people knocking on his door to work at a grain elevator. If mass numbers of immigrants are deported and numerous jobs open up across this country, will people (unemployed US citizens) really move to where the jobs are?
DR's not so sure they would.

He got me thinking so I did a bit of research about unemployment in our country. According the the US Dept. of Labor last month Kansas has one of the lowest rates, about 7%, of unemployment in the country (North Dakota is the lowest) while Nevada has the highest jobless rate at 14%. But those rates don't necessarily reflect the available jobs that aren't being filled because there aren't qualified applicants. (I'm speculating a here; I haven't found any reports on it.)
It is over 1,200 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada to Wichita, Kansas and over 1,300 miles from Las Vegas to Bismarck, North Dakota. If those are the states where the jobs are, like DR suggests, that's a long way to pick up and move your family to find employment...if you are qualified.

My question is this...How far would you move for a job? And what would it take for you to pick up your family and move over 1,000 miles? If you were unemployed would you move out of state, away from family, for a job, any job, if the opportunity presented itself? Why or why not?
See, I don't think I have an objective view of this because I've lived in 5 states in 7 years. Moving for DR's job just doesn't bother me anymore but that is probably because we are fairly stable in our finances. Would I be so willing to pick up and move out of state if we were living paycheck to paycheck? Would I be as willing to move away from my family, who are all in Indiana, if I didn't have the ability to go visit?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

FREE Holiday Cards from Shutterfly

Who doesn't like free stuff? I LOVE free stuff....it can't be beat.

Shutterfly is giving away 50, FIFTY!!, free holiday cards to bloggers. Check out this link and sign up to receive your free holiday cards.

Shutterfly Holiday cards giveaway.

Tangible proof that my mother loves me...

Yep, that's right. These four boxes of Washing Soda proves that my mother loves me!!

Ha, ha! You see I make my own laundry detergent which includes washing soda. Do you know I can't find washing soda anywhere in the state of Kansas!! Well, at least not in this part of Kansas. About a month ago my brother Mountain Man went home to Indiana and my wonderful mother sent washing soda back with him. How sweet!!

I got this recipe from Country Girl in Maine.

2 cups grated bar soap
(I use Zote because it's in my little grocery and it makes 4 cups when I grate it but any bar soap would work.)
1 cup washing soda,
1 cup borax

Use 1 1/2 - 2 Tablespoons per load.

Thanks Mom! These boxes should last a while!

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Heart Faces Silhouette Contest

This is my entry into I Heart Faces Silhouette contest this week.

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Marker Monday - Thanksgiving Garland

We've found yet another craft to put to use our pile of pinecones.....
a pinecone garland.

Yahoo and I used floral craft wire and wrapped it around each pinecone one time at intervals. After we strung it up over our living room windows we cut out leaves from construction paper and taped them between the pinecones.

Pretty festive and it didn't take long at all!
The boys and I are planning on making another for the outside of the house, minus the leaves.
We'll keep the garland up for Christmas too and take the leaves down and replace them with something else. Snowmen or snowflakes or something like that...any suggestions?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Devotions - I have plans for you.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

If you had asked me ten years ago to list my plans or goals for my future I probably would have come up with something like this.

1. Teaching art and coaching at the same middle school where I was.

2. Travel a bit, maybe a road trip with my sisters.

3. Buy my first house and make it into a home I could live in for many years to come.

4. Married? We'll see..

5. Run a marathon.

A friend of mine recently posted this verse from Jeremiah on his Facebook page and it got me thinking about how my plans and God's plans had differed in the last ten years.

Here's what God had in store for me in the last ten years.

1. Get married and before you can blink, BAM! get ready for twins...100% wild boys, by the way!

2. Spend my life with a hardworking, caring and ambitious man who makes me feel like the most beautiful woman everyday.

3. Move around the country every couple of years in order to meet some of the wisest, kindest people who have nurtured me and my relationship with God. As well as seeing God's beautiful creations found in this country.

4. Nurture, teach and love three of the most unique personalities I've ever met in my children by being a stay at home mom.

5. Run a couple half marathons.

You know what? I think God's plans were better than mine. Scratch that, I know God's plans were better than mine. Geez, I'm glad he's in charge and I'm not. Who know's what kind of mess I'd be in if I planned my future rather than God. It's not that my plans were or are bad. Maybe God knows it wasn't then or isn't now the time for me to teach or run a marathon or do all the other things I had in mind ten years ago.

For I know the plans I have for you.....plans to prosper you and not to harm you...

Indeed, what comforting words! God will take care of us and he will open or shut doors for opportunities that we need or don't need....no matter what our feeble human plans may hold. It's much easier to be flexible in this life knowing that God cares for us and wants us to prosper.

Dear God, You are in charge in my life. Thank You for caring for me and looking out for my well being. Thank You for giving me what I needed rather than what I wanted. Amen.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thanksgiving Batik Table Runner without Wax!

I have been busy decorating for Thanksgiving. This is my favorite holiday! Yes, I can honestly say I enjoy Thanksgiving more than Christmas. No presents, no trying to get all the gifts in the car, no trying to hit all the relatives in a few short days.

Thanksgiving for me growing up was a huge dinner organized and overseen by my grandmother and her five sisters. Every Thanksgiving was spent with tons of family (I'm talking 50 or more people) and lots and lots and lots of food.

With this being our first Thanksgiving in Kansas without being surrounded by family, I decided to spruce up our new dining table to keep things warm and cozy.

I had an old, heavy, canvas seed corn sack in my fabric stash. I cut the apart the back and the front and sewed them together at the bottom to make a long runner.

I just love the stripes on the bag. To create my design I found some leaf patterns online that I used for stencils. I traced each stencil with glue and then added glue leaf veins. I let the glue dry for about 24 hours.

Using watered down ACRYLIC paint I then painted in the leaves and let it dry overnight. It's important to use acrylic because it's latex based and won't wash out if you need to throw the runner in the washing machine.

The next day I used watered down blue and green for the background and allow to dry overnight. I added a few glue accents in the background for more visual interest. Be careful how watery your blue/green paint is because it will bleed under the glue into the leaves if you aren't careful. I had a lot of bleeding but I actually enjoyed the way it looked in the end.

After the runner is dry, soak the whole thing in warm water for 20-30 minutes. This will loosen up the glue to be removed. I found a butter knife scraped under (not across) the glue worked well at removing the glue. You could also try wiping it off with a damp rag.

Once the glue is wiped off (you aren't going to get every bit off), allow runner to dry and iron it flat. Enjoy a beautiful piece of artwork on Turkey Day!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Annette's Amish Oatmeal Bread on Foody Friday

My cousin Annette sent me this wonderful yeast bread recipe that makes three loaves of bread! One problem...it doesn't last more than a couple of days.
This is YUMMY bread and you need to make it today!
I mean, what's better on a cold autumn day than a warm, cozy house filled with the aroma of fresh baked bread.
Mix together 1 c. oats, 3-4 T. butter, 1/2 c. whole wheat flour, 1/2 c. brown sugar, and 1 tsp. salt.
Pour 2 cups boiling water over mixture and cool for 15-20 minutes.
In another bowl mix 5 tsp. of dry yeast in 1/2 c. warm water.
When both are cool, mix together
Add 5 cups of bread or unbleached flour, 1 cup at a time. Knead in the last cup.
Place dough in a HUGE well oiled bowl, oil the top of the dough.
Let it rise 90 minutes, punch down and rise again for another 90 minutes.
Divide dough into thirds. Shape into loaves, place them into greased loaf pans. Let rise 30-45 minutes. Bake at 350 for 27-35 minutes. Butter tops and cool on a wire rack. Loaves keep for 1 week...if they last that long!
Mmmmm....all I need know is some fresh butter!
Thanks Annette for passing on this wonderful recipe.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Cultivator

I set off through the countryside around sunset last week and came upon a cultivator outside a farmer's machine shed. "What beautiful silhouettes!", I thought.

So I jumped out of the car and started snapping away...or tried to anyway.
My camera was set on manual; ISO 800, SS 1/80, F5.6
but the light kept tricking the camera and wanted to focus on the sunset rather than the cultivator. I moved the camera focus to manual but didn't really know what to do from there. I tried adjusting the lens to focus but it doesn't seem to help. I'm still learning.

I think it's kind of hard to tell in some of these photos whether it's in focus or not but this one definitely isn't.

Any suggestions out there from those camera people who know what they are doing? How do I focus on manual in low light? Did I just need a tripod?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wood Smoke...a memory.

I wish I could photograph smells. Through the years I've found various smells to be very nostalgic for me. Someone in our town has a wood burning stove and I can smell the distinct wood smoke outside on these chilly fall mornings.

Our family had a wood burning stove when I was a child. I learned early, especially because I was the oldest, the best way to build a fire.

A tight crumpled pile of newspapers are banked by two stout pieces of wood. Twigs are laid in perpendicular layers over the paper. The layer of ash from previous fires held just a hint of smoke already gone. The touch of the quick flaming match....just one match, no more....and the flame is quickly caught by the paper and the fire grows. The twigs are slower to accept the flame but once they take it on they burn stronger and longer.

The smoke is sucked through the open damper and out the chimney but there's enough of its hot acrid warmth to fill my nose.

Wood is added in increasingly bigger pieces, carefully so as not to smother the tiny flames. Until the iron box of a wood stove is full of roaring hot flames! Shut the door! Close the damper....but not too tight. Smoke that flies up the chimney is good. If the damper is too tight, smoke fills the house like a ghost which results in shrieks.....from Dad.

"Who checked the stove last??? The damper is too tight!" Numerous pairs of feet gallop to the basement....open the damper.....let out the smoke.

At times, I recall, my clothes would be saturated with the aroma of wood smoke. The smell was soothing and comforting; a smell that filled my childhood winters.

It's been fifteen years since my winters have been filled with checking a fire day and night. Ages ago since I had to trudge through the January snow to help load a trailer full of wood and haul it to the house only to unload onto the frozen ground. Splitting wood in the barnyard, while being whipped by the winter wind, is no longer a mandatory weekend chore.
But this morning I stepped outside. My breath hung white in the air. I inhaled the neighbor's wood smoke until it filled me up and I was twelve years old again and slowly, patiently building a wood stove fire.

It's been many years since the jobs of filling and maintaining a wood stove were mine. I'd give almost anything, for just one day, to go back and have all those responsibilities again. What I'd give to have the wood smoke wrap around me like a wool winter scarf.
This post was written as part of SITS November Content is King Challenge.

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