Sunday, August 30, 2015


Everyone is blessed with talents.

Mine aren't in the kitchen.

Sure, I like to say I can make a good pie - and once in a while I get daring and try to make something else - like fudge that won't harden.

But my mom and sister have a talent. They can make birthday cakes.

(Yes, they have plenty of other talents - For instance, Lori makes great chocolate chip cookies and enchiladas and chocolate angel food cake.)

Mom has always been crafty. She made all my Halloween costumes. And, when I was little, my mom always made my birthday cakes.

It didn't seem to matter what I requested. Snoopy, Garfield, Smurfs, Batman, George Brett. She made it.

She and my sister, Lori, still do this for my kids. And I appreciate it.

My kids have requested some tough cakes, too - from Snoopy to Cat and the Hat and even a "Three Little Pigs" Cake complete with a house of sticks and house of straw.

Here's the latest - which, according to my sister, was one of the simplest. Jordie, for her fourth birthday, wanted a "Frozen" cake.

Mom took cardboard to make the ice mountains. She ordered the figures. She always makes a great red velvet cake.

Here's Jordie's cake from last year - they made it look like her favorite Hello Kitty.

Could I do this? Well, maybe sort of - but I'm sure my tracings would cause a bigger ear or the coloring would look like a giant glob.

Here's Brett and Kaci's birthday cakes from their eighth birthday in March. Mom somehow made the basketball out of cake for Kaci, who says basketball is her favorite sport. Meanwhile, Brett wanted the Batman cake.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rainbow cupcakes

Good Mom is back. You know - the one that tries to be that great cooking, crafty, June Cleaver type

So, after a long hiatus - I'm posting about the latest thing I've tried on Pinterest.

Ok, so I can't cook. My husband, sadly, is more crafty.

But sometimes I get daring.

Not that this design was very hard.

Jordie turns 4 Aug. 26. We decided to make rainbow "pupcakes" as she calls them. We used strawberry cake mix, cream cheese icing and rainbow Airheads.

And for Jordie, our little chef, the cooking event, at least according to her, was just as great as "Cupcake Wars."

She won.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Goal: Every park in Hutchinson in one day

On Kaci and Mommy play day, we hit many a playground, to say the least
The plan was simple - a day of playing in every park and playground in Hutchinson on a Sunday afternoon.

My husband and I are the parents of three girls - the oldest being our 6-year-old twin girls, Brett and Kaci. Often, the twins get lumped together in many of their activities, whether it is softball or school. However, several months ago while talking during our morning devotions, my husband and I decided we needed to have play dates with our twins individually - one-on-one bonding time with each one of us without the other twin.

The girls love the time alone with us, and we've done a lot of cool things so far. For instance, in

February, Brett and I toured the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, and John and Kaci went roller-skating. We've gone to movies, fished, and spent time at the zoo. But on this warm day in early May, Kaci and I mapped out our mission for our day out - a play date at every Hutchinson park. I knew by the time it was all said and done we would accomplish a daunting feat that few, I'm guessing, have ever attempted.

Hutchinson, in fact, has plenty of places for playing - more than I even realized. There are more than two dozen playgrounds and parks across the city - the majority of which have some type of playground or, at least, a place to play ball. 

While some might complain about our park conditions, I think these parks are fantastic - especially when you have an imaginative, sporty daughter like Kaci. I, after all, grew up in an era of straight slides, swing sets and a few monkey bars - long before the advent of playscapes like today.

I even found my inner child as we swung high, slid down the slides, played in teepees and pretended we were on a pirate boat, garnishing a few curious looks from the parents sitting on the benches.

The day started with a picnic at Lake Talbott at the Kansas State Fairgrounds, then playing at the Fairgrounds Park, which has baseball diamonds, a playground and a free city sprinkler park.

At Grandview Park
Kaci’s favorite parks: 

All of them, of course, she says, recalling different fun aspects of each one we visited.  

n Grandview Park might have been one of her favorite. She liked climbing on the equipment and running around the spacious area. Grandview, once the site of an old elementary school, has a playscape with plenty of activities, along with a climbing tower of sorts. There is also a baseball diamond and swing sets.
n She also loved Rice Park. The park has a walking and bicycling trail by the creek, along with more specialized play equipment, basketball courts, ball diamonds and swings. In addition, you can walk a little ways down the trail and more equipment and fun at a park also known as Vic Goering Park.
n Carey Park has everything a child could ever want – fishing holes, a flowing river, a zoo, water park, skate park, ball diamonds, golf course, Frisbee golf and, of course, plenty of areas with play equipment. 

We stopped at almost every spot in the park with equipment. Kaci liked the tall metal slides, which had plenty of zip on this day. There also is a cool climbing rock near the zoo. We spent a majority of the time, however, playing in teepees and on a homemade covered wagon. This spot also had a wooden fort and a spinning top that Kaci could lay on or sit on and spin around and around.

At Elmdale Park - her least favorite park.
Worst Park: Besides the ones with no equipment – George Pyle, Crescent, Centennial, Ashmeade, Harsha, Martin Johnson and Green, to name a few, Kaci didn’t care for Elmdale, which has a small play set with a space theme. It was too childish for her, she said, telling me she was sorry we even stopped.

Other parks with equipment
n Bernard White Park, 600 W. Fifth Avenue: It has a playground, picnic area and basketball. The playground was small, so we decided to move ahead to our next spot on the map.
n Farmington Park, 3009 Farmington Road: This is a park we missed – but I know Kaci would have loved. It has a playground, basketball and volleyball, along with a picnic area.
n Herman Bunte Park, 35 Circle Drive: There is a playground, and picnic area.
n Garden Grove Park, 3108 Garden Grove: It has a picnic area and playground.
n Shadduck Park, by Boys and Girls Club on West Second: We didn’t stop at this park, thinking it might be trespassing onto Boys and Girls Club property, but according to the city, Shadduck is open to the public and has playground equipment, picnic area and volleyball.

Other parks in town
n Avenue A on Main: The city operates a free water park here. Follow the creek under the bridge to the grasshopper park. Kaci climbed up on the giant grasshopper so I could take a cool photo with the huge Hutchinson mural in the background.
n Dillon Nature Center, 3002 E. 30th: we didn’t make it here on this day, but it’s a park we love. The natural playscape is a great addition and there are ponds to fish, walking trails and, of course, the nature center.

Reno parks tour
It looks like we'll have to continue our park hopping to Reno County. Moreover, Brett has decided that her "Mommy and Brett" play date later this month will be the same as Kaci's.
Reno County Extension is again doing its Parks Quest 2013.

Between June 8 and Aug. 10, hit the road with your family to explore six parks and communities in Reno County. Enjoy the parks, complete the quest form (your passport), then meet up at the Hutchinson Zoo on Aug. 10 with your stamped passport for snacks, activities and prizes.
Parks include Pretty Prairie, Haven, Nickerson, Sylvia, South Hutchinson and Hutchinson.

For more information, call the extension office at  (620) 662-2371 , email, or stop by the South Hutchinson location to register and get a passport.
I don't know if we can do all those parks in one day, but I guess we sure can try.
Spinny thingy at Carey Park. It makes you dizzy.

Spinny thingy at Carey Park

A tunnel at Carey Park

Friday, May 17, 2013

The glory of mustard

School lunch with mustard before I learned more ...

Brett and her corn dog WITH mustard
Little did I know I was carrying contraband.

But I should have known better when I saw the looks from the wistful children as I squirted mustard on my school lunch tray. Or maybe I should have noticed there was no mustard in the serving line or situated at any table. 

Caught red-handed, I stashed the bottle back in my purse - feeling somewhat like I had brought a pack of cigarettes into the school instead of something as healthy as mustard.

It was corn dog day at Burrton Elementary School, and Kaci - my kindergarten daughter who would eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I would let her - wanted me to join her and her twin sister, Brett, for lunch.

I hadn't had a school lunch in years - in fact, probably not since junior high school, because I hardly touched them in high school. Nonetheless, on a recent late spring day, I found myself standing in line 
with those half my height, waiting for my tray of food. And deep in my purse was the bottle of mustard.

I've read the stories about Michelle Obama's renovation of the school lunch program in an effort to tackle obesity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants more vegetables and fewer fats. This school year, federal officials set limits on calories and sodium and phased in whole grains. They set limits on meat but expanded portions of fruits and vegetables.

I've heard the complaints, as well - largely that there aren't enough calories for active high schoolers, that the portions are too small, and that some condiments like salt are frowned upon.

Not quite sure what I was up against, I decided it was better to be prepared than suffer. Corn dogs, after all, can hardly be digested without a generous helping of mustard.

The family school lunch outing began my quest to find out what Mrs. Obama has against mustard, among other condiments. Mustard, after all, doesn't have calories. It's known to boost metabolism and it's helpful for digestion.

Moreover, it gives a little zing to bland foods. OK, so it is true. I have a zealous love of mustard - from mustard sandwiches to mustard with a little corn dog, hot dog or French fry.

So I sat in Burrton head cook Debbie Matlack's office last week, watching her pore over a book as thick as any college chemistry book. It was laden with recipes and guidelines for three different ages - outlining how much fat, sodium and other measurements she has to maintain per lunch each week.

For instance, a student in kindergarten through fifth grade can't have more than 643 calories per lunch and a weekly sodium level of 1,202 milligrams.

Grades 6 through 8 can have 667 calories and 1,223 milligrams of sodium. High school students are limited to 814 calories and 1,339 milligrams of sodium.

Thus, it's all about the weekly numbers, said Matlack, who notes she's still trying to get used to the new school lunch rules. It's not that mustard is bad, but following the USDA recipes closely, it's easier to leave out mustard rather than go over on sodium for the week and get in trouble.

One teaspoon of mustard has 56 milligrams of sodium. One tablespoon has 169 milligrams.
It's not just counting sodium in mustard, she said. She no longer puts salt in mashed potatoes. For a few main courses, she puts a tablespoon of salt in a recipe that serves 220 students. She can serve dressing with salad - but students can't have more than an ounce and it has to be fat-free.

They can't have butter on their rolls, but jelly is fine, she said. In addition, in the next few years, things will only get tougher.

The federal government's nutritional guidelines are expected to get stricter, she said.

The 1A school's head cook admits she never expected to be a dietitian or nutrition director when she took the job.

Yet at many small schools, head cooks are now learning the ropes of a nutritionist - a position most large Kansas schools fund to staff, said Burrton Superintendent Jeff Shearon.

And Matlack said that as she learns more, she can adjust the recipes so she can serve more mustard with corn dogs or butter for a roll. In coming weeks, she will take a class to learn more about the government lunch and breakfast regulations. Breakfast guidelines will be implemented next year.

Do new school lunch rules go too far? Not necessarily. I can see why some things need to change. 

However, it doesn't address the fact that kids these days are more sedentary and many are likely to go home after school and eat unhealthy snacks as they watch television and play video games.

I will admit I'm glad my school lunch days are over. Moreover, I'll still smother my corn dogs with mustard.

Read more blog entries at

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Help a local child

Smalltown Kansas.

This Third-Thursday seems to be dedicated to a fictional superhero. And while it's all fun, I want to stress a real-life situation going on in our town of 40,000-plus.

There are 179 children in foster care in Reno County. That's a lot of kids not living with their biological parents - kids with troubled pasts, kids who need someone to look up to - a strong guidance from solid, caring adults.

There are 34 licensed foster care homes in Reno County. But that is not nearly enough.

Of those 179 children - 73 are placed outside of the county due to lack of licensed foster care homes in Reno County. Another 42 homes, at least, are needed. And sadly, the need continues to grow in our county.

It is National Foster Care Month - and sometimes, I think, it's easy to "dehumanize" the situation that surrounds us in our fair city. But these are children - real children with dreams - children who need a push in the right direction to help them realize those dreams.
Also some people think foster parents are in it for the money. I won't say those situations don't happen, but the funds received is barely enough to cover a child's needs.

The word "foster" means to help someone, or something, grow and develop. It also means to take care of someone's needs. Foster parents, then, are people who provide a safe place for kids to be cared for. And Reno County needs more good, quality people to take the reins.

Why is it important to keep these 73 children in Reno County? The goal is to keep as many children in their home county to keep something in their life constant when everything else in their life is mixed up. Moving can just add struggles and challenges to the issues they already face.

Keep the child in the same school and activities and sometimes the school is the most stable thing they have. They can stay close to their friends. And, when working with the family to get them back into their home also means less travel and is easier on the family and child.

My husband works in this field, trying to find foster parents for Saint Francis Community Services. He works across our central Kansas region. And Hutchinson, at present, is one of his biggest challenges - it is a one of the larger need counties in the western half of Kansas.

Tonight during Third Thursday, amid the hype of Superman, he'll be having an event at Grasshopper Park to raise awareness during National Foster Care Month. There will be a gallery of Kansas kids who are up for adoption. And, there will be an event taking place about 6:30 p.m.

Just to give you a hint, the community theater will be there telling us all that these children need "A Hero" in their lives.

For more information visit

Here's a list of children waiting for adoption

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happy 60, George Brett

Here's to George Brett, my all-time favorite KC Royals player, who turns 60 today.

George storms the field.
In honor of the day, let's go down memory lane. It's crazy, but it was 30 years ago this season that George Brett and pine tar became one and the same.

George smacked a two run home run in the top of the ninth inning, which gave the Royals a one-run lead. The umpire, however, after being alerted by the Yankee's manager, ruled Brett out for having too much pine tar, which would have caused the Royals to lose the game.

The Royals protested, the homer was restored.

It has become the "Pine Tar Incident" ever since.

And, 30 years later, the Royals are doing pretty well -- only 2 1/2 games out of first place.

Kaci and Brett, right. Yes, they are named after my favorite baseball team - The Kansas City Royals. Both are Royals fans. This picture is from a game last season.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day! May Day! May Day is a fading rite of spring

It might be the only day it’s appropriate to knock on your neighbor’s door and dash away.

However, you have to be quick.

It’s a tradition I grew up with here in rural Kansas. My mother and I would make cone-paper baskets and fill them with fresh-cut flowers from around our home, as well as homemade cookies. I’d creep up to the neighbors’ doors and ring the bell and hide, thinking they surely couldn’t fathom that it was the little, brown-haired, four-eyed girl from next door who had left them a gift each May 1.

Yet fewer children these days know of the tradition of leaving a construction-paper basket filled with flowers and cookies on someone’s doorknob then running for cover.

The centuries-long spring custom of May Day, it seems, is fading away.

“It makes me sad it might be a custom going in fashion,” said Karen Madorin of Logan, who recently talked about the disappearing annual rite on her blog and during her Saturday program on High Plains Public Radio. “It’s a tradition I had growing up.”

The May Day tradition, after all, is steep in history – the reasoning for the celebration lost years after our European ancestors first settled here, she said. She grew up knowing a little about its rich roots, that it was related to the Gaelic festival of Beltane – a pagan celebration honoring the beginning of the pastoral summer. And, according to several historians, the day is half a year from Nov. 1, another day of neo-pagan festivities.

Historians also associate it with other pre-Christian festivals, such as the festival for Flora, which honored the Roman goddess of flowers.

However, because the Puritans of New England considered May Day to be pagan, “They forbade its observance and the holiday never became an important part of American culture,” according to the 

Encyclopedia Britannica. In the late 1800s, May 1 in many countries honored International Workers Day and the fight for workers rights, including an 8-hour workday.

Nevertheless, the tradition still stayed with some families as they migrated to America and the Midwest. But in my quest to find people who still celebrate, it became difficult. However, I was amazed at the many memories people shared and the excitement in their voices as they recalled the tradition.

Those memories are still being made at my house.

On Monday, my 6-year-old twins, my 1-year-old and I made May Baskets out of construction paper. With the cold April, there are no flowers blooming in my yard, but we baked cookies and the girls filled the cone-shaped baskets with candy.

On Tuesday, we began the tradition of knocking and running although the girls weren't too sneaky. They squealed as they ran from each doorstep - running just far enough away so they could see each neighbor receive his or her gift.

As I watched my girls, the event reiterated something Madorin told me in our phone interview. Put the history of the day aside. It doesn't matter if May Day has a lengthy Paganism tradition or that it has strong political meaning in some countries. May Day is about giving. It's about showing friendship. It's about doing it because you want to, and not expecting anything in return.

But as we walked home from our first day of May Day basket giving, one of our neighbors walked out of her home with her own homemade basket. She gave it to the girls as a thank you. She recalled her own May Day experiences and those of her children.

Maybe the tradition will be revived.

Brett and Kaci ready to deliver baskets.

Brett colors on her cone-shaped basket.

Jordie wants to try to make one, too.

Jordie is 1 1/2.

Kaci and Jordie making baskets.