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Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 4:54 pm

Two teenagers missing from their homes in Ellsworth were located this afternoon in Wichita.


Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 4:43 pm

It seems like yesterday rather than twenty years ago when I met Steve Jennings as he was harvesting his first crop of grapes for his winery.  It was a volunteer effort with all those who contributed time and effort in planting and harvesting were rewarded with a fine dinner at the end of the season.   He put his heart and soul into this business.  It’s such a lovely place.

From the Salina Post:
Smoky Hill Vineyard And Winery On Auction Block

An established winery in Saline County is up for sale.

The 20-year-old Smoky Hill Vineyards and Winery is located on 40 acres north of Salina. The Salina Journal reports that bids for the winery and its assets are being auctioned online through most of February.

Norm Jennings and his wife have run the winery since his father, co-founder Steve Jennings, died in 2005. The couple announced last March they planned to sell the operation and embark on a career in lay ministry.

The assets for sale include the intellectual property — the names of the wines and production methods. Jennings told the newspaper about a dozen people are interested in the name brand property.



Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 8:16 pm




PLEASE SHARE THIS FLYER! Katelyn aka Nikki McKinney (13) has been missing from Ellsworth, Kansas since January 16, 2012. She is thought to be with her boyfriend Connor Creech (16) who is driving a white 1998 2 door white Saturn with temporary tags. Katelyn is 5′ 3″ tall, 120 lbs with brown eyes and brown hair. She has a birth mark on her right wrist. Connor is 6 feet tall with a slender build, brown hair and hazel eyes. Anyone with information on their whereabouts should call the Ellsworth Police Department at 785-472-5110 or Ellsworth County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. Download flyer here available in vertical, horizontal and 4 per page of each.
By: Help Find Katelyn “Nikki” McKinney and Connor Creech



Filed under: prairie musings, Mackenzie — Peg Britton @ 11:16 am

Anyone looking for a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom/1 den apartment within three weeks  in Richardson Texas …See More/Click Here

My granddaughter is going to make a quick move to Illinois for employment and would like for someone to pick up the remainder of her lease.  It’s a unique apartment that has a den along with one bedroom and bath, granite counter tops and all the extras.  It’s very secure and well located at 2301 Performance Dr.  #231, Richardson TX 75082  It is in the luxury Galatyn Station Apartments (run by AMLI).
For other information,  contact Mackenzie at  214.621.8185



Filed under: prairie musings, Mackenzie — Peg Britton @ 10:17 pm

January 27th…Happy Birthday wishes, Mackenzie.  Enjoy a fabulous day that may offer many surprises.  Your first days were spent at the home of our friends, Betty and Jack Gillam in Salina, as deep snow and a horrendous blizzard stopped all traffic in its tracks.  You were relegated to a Bond…or was it Meade?…paper box until your parents could bring you home to Ellsworth.  It was only one of many times Betty and Jack came to our rescue.

Love and hugs…




Filed under: political musings — Peg Britton @ 12:57 pm




Filed under: political musings, print news, Civil/Gay Rights, Jeffee Palmer — Peg Britton @ 3:36 pm

By nowandthenadays

Jeffee Palmer … lawyer, historian, writer, mother, grandmother, native Texan, UT grad, and proud Austinite!

Paging through the December 28th Austin American Statesman, I skimmed headlines until  I was stopped on page A-7.  Catching my attention was “Israeli girl’s plight highlights religious extremism” headlining the story of an 8 year-old American immigrant, sporting a pony tail and eyeglasses, who was spat upon as she walked to school by Ultra orthodox Jewish extremists.  They would yell and call her a “whore” for dressing immodestly, even though she wore the standard dress for mainstream Jewish religious schools, a dress with long sleeves and skirt.  She sobbed on her way to school. “They were scary,” she said.  “They don’t want us to go to school.”

As I finished that horrific story, my eyes wandered upwards to the “World Digest” section where I read that an Egyptian court had banned ‘virginity testing’ of detainees.”   I discovered that the Egyptian military had put female detainees through virginity tests so that it could defend itself from accusations of rape.  The purpose of the tests were “to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place.”  Obviously, once a woman is determined not to be a virgin, she could not prove that she was raped while in custody, in essence, separating those who could not be raped with impunity from those who could be.

After that discouraging report, the next digested world news was headlined “Somalia women face growing rape dangers.”   In Somalia, I read, the Islamic militant group al-Shabab is seizing women and girls as spoils of war, gang raping and abusing them. Other armed men are also preying on women and girls.  In the past two months, from Mogadishu alone, the UN has received more than 2,500 reports of gender-based violence.

If the newspaper layout editor was seeking to make the point that women are under siege by placing these articles all on the same page, he/she was preaching to the choir.  Yes, indeed, there is a war on women and we are not winning.  Even in this country we experience blips of progress, only to see them chipped away by legislators and judges who would steer us back into our “proper” female roles, living at the mercy of our biology and the male libido.

My hopes for women being treated as citizens with equal rights have been strapped in on a long roller coaster ride since those heady days in my 20s when I thought American women had achieved equality in the courts and congress with Roe v. Wade and decisions and legislation preventing gender discrimination.   But it didn’t take too many years before the backlash started and the ride began its downward trajectory.

For you who would remind me that it could be worse, I do consider ourselves in America fortunate because we aren’t subjected to direct assaults, batteries, and rapes that women in other countries experience.  American women are merely threatened with losing their rights as Congress, legislatures, and courts become the guardians of our wombs and ensure our status as baby makers.  Yes, there are worse fates, but it’s a bad one when you were raised to think we were going to have educations, careers, and be equal in all ways to our male counterparts, in addition to being mothers when the time and partner was right.  Instead, there are great numbers of folks who want to force baby-making no matter how the baby seed was planted, e.g., by knife to the throat or advantage-taking of a child.

If this isn’t an exercise in controlling women, it must be a strange womb fetish because these babies aren’t valued much once they depart the womb.  And as a mechanism to control women, these officials and their pep squads seem to be aiming at the wrong demographic.  Maybe those conservative men just get all flustered thinking of vaginas and uteruses, because the women who are most threatening to their control agenda are those who can afford both birth control and abortions, as hard as they try to make them.  Instead, they wage war to cripple (or preferably, dismantle) Planned Parenthood, often the only refuge for low-income women.

But, maybe I judge too soon.  Maybe those Republicans running for the presidential nomination have figured that womb-control via abortion rights doesn’t hit the right target, so they’ve come out against a better tool:  outlaw contraception!!  Wow!  That would hit where it hurts!   But would the sexual revolution that was birthed by “the pill” go back into the box?  I have to wonder whether American men would be happy living in a country of chaste females, waiting to wear wedding rings before sex.

Perhaps this prospect could be the hook to entice our 20-something male population (50% of that undependable voting demographic) into guaranteed participation in the political process.  I’m willing to try anything to stop this onward march against women’s rights.  Wouldn’t it be the height of irony if our freedom from reproductive fascism were achieved by enlisting the forces of our youngest, most libidinous male citizens?

Fortunately, women can still vote, too, and for that I am eternally grateful to those women in the late 1800s and early 1900s who fought the fight to obtain that right.  In that regard,  the movie Iron Jawed Angels starring Hilary Swank and Frances O’Connor, should be required viewing.   This movie tells the story of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns who put their lives on the line to fight for American women’s  right to vote.  While picketing for women’s suffrage, they are arrested on the trumped-up charge of “obstructing traffic,” even though their picket line is on the sidewalk.  Refusing to pay a fine for a crime they didn’t commit, the women were sentenced to sixty days in a Virginia women’s prison.  Insisting that were political prisoners, Burns demanded the warden respect their rights, only to be cuffed with her arms above her cell door.  In solidarity and defiance, the other suffragettes assumed the same painful posture.  Thrown into solitary confinement for breaking a window for fresh air, Paul went on a hunger strike.  She was then denied counsel, placed in a straitjacket, and subjected to examination in the psychiatric ward.  The doctor told President Wilson that Paul showed no signs of mania or delusion (that would justify keeping her there), and she is returned to the prison’s general population, where she led the suffragettes on a hunger strike.  The warden then started force-feeding them, but never broke them.

Every American should see this depiction of feeding by force.  I had often heard of the process, but I had never seen how it was accomplished and I will never think of it in the same way again.  More importantly, since seeing this movie, I have never cast a ballot without recalling what these brave and passionate women experienced so that I could vote for the people who govern my life.

And as we select our leaders in this election year, let’s not lay down and enjoy it.  Instead, reject any candidate who would continue to imprison us in our biology and restrict us from the scientific advances of the last century that prevent unwanted pregnancies.  It is not a far step from imprisoning women and sticking funnels down their throats to supporting a return to the old days of back alley abortions and requiring women to carry the children of their rapists.  Furthermore, we can’t pretend that forcing women to hear pre-abortion lectures and view sonograms is not a part of that goal.

Happy 39th anniversary of making a difference in women’s lives, Planned Parenthood!


Filed under: political musings, print news, Barack Obama — Peg Britton @ 10:11 am


Andrew Sullivan: How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics
Jan 16, 2012 12:00 AM EST

The right calls him a socialist, the left says he sucks up to Wall Street, and independents think he’s a wimp. Andrew Sullivan on how the president may just end up outsmarting them all.

You hear it everywhere. Democrats are disappointed in the president. Independents have soured even more. Republicans have worked themselves up into an apocalyptic fervor. And, yes, this is not exactly unusual.

A president in the last year of his first term will always get attacked mercilessly by his partisan opponents, and also, often, by the feistier members of his base. And when unemployment is at remarkably high levels, and with the national debt setting records, the criticism will—and should be—even fiercer. But this time, with this president, something different has happened. It’s not that I don’t understand the critiques of Barack Obama from the enraged right and the demoralized left. It’s that I don’t even recognize their description of Obama’s first term in any way. The attacks from both the right and the left on the man and his policies aren’t out of bounds. They’re simply—empirically—wrong.

For the rest of the story…click here…

Obama Promises:
Throughout his 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama made more than 500 promises to our nation, according to PolitiFact, a service from the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times that assesses the truth behind politicians’ statements. As the president, hampered by a stubborn economy and lukewarm approval rating, vies for reelection this year, here’s how his 2008 promises have so far panned out.  Click here….



Filed under: political musings, Sam Brownback, LGBT — Peg Britton @ 10:33 am

Kansas Law on Sodomy Stays on Books Despite a Cull
Published: January 20, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Gov. Sam Brownback created the Office of the Repealer to recommend the elimination of out-of-date, unreasonable and burdensome state laws that build up in any bureaucracy over time.

For gay men and lesbians, there seemed one particularly obvious candidate: Kansas Statute 21-3505.That would be the “criminal sodomy” statute, which prohibits same-sex couples from engaging in oral or anal sex. The law was rendered unenforceable nearly a decade ago by a United States Supreme Court ruling, but it remains enshrined in the state’s legal code.

But on Friday, when Mr. Brownback, a conservative Republican, released a list of 51 laws to recommend to the Legislature for repeal, the sodomy statute was not among them.

The decision, despite public and private lobbying, has angered gay leaders here. “We were pretty much the first in line with our request to have this unconstitutional ban on gay and lesbian relations repealed,” said Thomas Witt, chairman of the Kansas Equality Coalition.

“This isn’t just some archaic law that’s sitting on the books and isn’t bothering anyone,” Mr. Witt continued. “It’s used as justification to harass and discriminate against people, and it needs to go.”

Mr. Brownback, who is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage on religious grounds, declined to comment, and his spokeswoman would not say whether he would support repealing the law against same-sex sodomy, a misdemeanor that officially carries a prison sentence of up to six months.

For more in the New York Times, click here.


Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 8:43 am

by Kim Hynes KWCH 12 Eyewitness News

5:57 p.m. CST, January 20, 2012
(WICHITA, Kan.)—
The Ellsworth Police Chief is asking for help to try and find two runaways.  16-year-old Connor Creech and 13-year-old Katelyn McKinney ran away Monday.  They are driving a relative’s vehicle.  It’s a white 2 door 1198 Saturn with a Kansas 30 day temporary tag.

The teens were last seen at Wichita Towne West mall Monday night.  They also attempted to uses a credit card Tuesday morning near Central and Ridge Road. The police chief says he doesn’t believe they are in extreme danger but they’ve exhausted all other leads to find the teens.  He says they left a note saying they were going to runaway together.  He says they’ve also deleted their Facebook pages and email accounts.

If you have any information about the runaway teens, you’re asked to call Ellsworth Police Department at 785-472-5110 or Ellsworth County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or



Filed under: political musings, Samantha Finke — Peg Britton @ 10:05 am

A couple years ago the White House put together a short behind the scenes video showing a glimpse of what “Presidential advance” teams do in preparation for the President’s visit. Since one of Ellsworth’s “own”, Samantha Finke, is a member of this team, you might enjoy knowing exactly what her job is. She has the opportunity to travel to the far corners of the world to prepare for President Obama’s official visits and be a part of the activities during his visits.


Filed under: prairie musings, Kansas — Peg Britton @ 9:45 am

Only Jayhawkers will truly understand the humor.

The year is 2036 and the United States has just elected  the first woman as President of the United States ..

A few days after the election,  the president-elect calls her father in Kansas and asks, “So, Dad, I assume you will becoming to my inauguration?”

“I don’t think so. It’s a long drive;  your mom isn’t as young as she used to be,  we’ll have the dog with us,
and my arthritis is acting up in my knee.”

“Don’t worry about it, Dad, I’ll send Air Force One or  another support aircraft to pick you up and take you home,  and a limousine will pick you up at your door,” she said.

“I don’t know. Everybody will be so fancy.  What would your mother wear?”

“Oh, Dad,” she replied, “I’ll make sure she has a wonderful gown  custom-made by one of the best designers in New York .”

“Honey,” Dad complained, “You know we can’t eat those rich foods  you and your friends like to eat.”

The President-elect responded, “Don’t worry, Dad.  The entire affair is going to be handled by the best caterer in D.C.  and I’ll ensure your meals are salt-free.  Dad, I really want you to come.”

So her parents reluctantly agreed, and on January 20, 2037,  arrived to see their daughter sworn in as President of the United States.  The parents of the new President are seated in the front row.

The President’s dad notices a senator sitting next to him  and leans over and whispers,  “You see that woman over there with her hand on the Bible,  becoming President of the United States ?”

The Senator whispered in reply, “Yes I do.”

Dad says proudly, “Her brother played basketball at KU.”



Filed under: prairie musings, Authors, Rev. Kathryn Timpany — Peg Britton @ 7:10 pm

Rev. Kathryn Timpany,
First Congregational UCC, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
January 18, 2012

In November 1941, shortly after invading Czechoslovakia, the Nazis transformed the ancient walled town of Terezin  (Theresienstadt) into a holding pen for Jews until they could be shipped east to the death camps which were by then running at full steam. They billed it as a “model camp”, presenting it as a facade to hide the truth of their campaign to exterminate all those who didn’t fit into their utopian scheme to start the human race all over again.

As they claimed their exclusive prerogative to define who was perfect and who was subhuman, they infected all spheres of human activity, including music. Many musicians were yanked from their creative lives and sent to Terezin as the Nazis attempted to rid the German world of any influence from any other culture than their Aryan one. One of the things they did at Terezin was encourage the playing of music they sanctioned. They would allow the musicians to gather and rehearse, and then they would film the concerts and show them to the world as if to say, “See, we’re not treating them so badly here. We have given them a city. They are having a good, safe life with us.”

The truth was a bit different than they presented. More than 140,000 men, women and children were sent to Terezin between 1941 and 1945. Only 11,000 survived. Karl Berman was one of the survivors. He was sent to Terezin at age 22. His job was a “garbage collector”, which meant he carried corpses he found in the streets to the crematorium. Since he had been a professional musician before he arrived, he was eventually transferred to the “sanctioned cultural activities” work force. He was commanded to conduct, compose, sing, and organize public concerts.

In September 1943, Berman was the bass soloist in one of the most incredible concerts presented at the camp, a production of Verdi’s Requiem. The inmates defiantly sang of death before their executioners. They sang of the hellish punishment in store for evildoers, and of the power of faith to liberate humanity from its mortal fate. They rehearsed in cramped corners for hours. They never knew from week to week whether their fellow performers would show up for rehearsal, or if they had been sent to the death camps in the East.

“We rehearsed in a very small basement,” Karl Berman said in an interview after the war was over. “The entire chorus was squeezed in there, Gideon Klein accompanied the rehearsals on a harmonium….For the concert we moved to a hall with a very nice new piano…The story of these rehearsals and performance is unique in the history of music. The production had three performances, and always after a performance half of the chorus was transported to Auschwitz and was gassed… After the third performance, Gideon Klein, Raphael Schaechter, and I were transported to Auschwitz. Now I am the only eyewitness alive who can tell about what happened there.”

One other survivor, Joseph Bor, also wrote about the experience. He described the extraordinary moment when the performance began:

Schaechter looked at his choir and soloists….; he knew every one of them, he knew what they could do, he could rely on them…. “You must not think of parents and brother and lover,…remember the others, too, all those beaten and tormented and massacred, they will unite for you into one great mass, you will not even recognize individuals among them, and so much the more clearly you will be aware of the true face of the murderers. You must not show fear or weakness before them. Today you will be singing to the murderers, don’t forget that.” He took up his baton. The auditorium fell silent. A strange, a special silence, unusual in the camp. Not the silence of bare walls and secret dread. The silence of quivering anticipation…Almost imperceptibly the baton moved. Almost inaudibly the first notes of Verdi’s Requiem stole through the hall.

from “Music in the Holocaust” by Joshua Jacobson, Choral Journal, December 1995
Terezin Clarinetist

This is why music and all the other creative arts matter so dearly. They are our best defense against evil. They allow us to live fully into our imago Dei, bearing the image of God the Creator as our defining characteristic. When we fund education and provide bonuses for teachers, let us include the music teachers and the art teachers and the writing teachers and drama teachers in our plan.

Science and technology will help us compete on the world stage. But only the arts can unite us and make us fully human.

may you find a way to sing today, even if it is only in the shower



Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 11:04 am

From the AGURBAN, Jan. 17, 2012.

We receive a great newsletter, the Youth Engagement Update from the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship. The November 2011 issue arrived with a terrific message for small town community leaders. What are you doing to encourage the young people in your community to stay or to come back and raise their families there?

Six Steps for Inviting Alums and Young Families Home

Many rural leaders view recruiting alums and young families to their community as vital, especially if they are facing population decline and aging population. However, taking on this work when economic development resources are stretched and plates are already overflowing with priorities can be a real challenge!

This month I want to share with you six steps to help you create an effective alumni and young families recruitment strategy that is also realistic in terms of staff and volunteer commitments.

The first step is to inventory any existing alumni recruitment activities in your community. Ask yourself what’s working and what can be improved? It’s often easier to build upon what you have than to begin a new program, especially if it puts you in the position of supporting duplicative efforts.

Next, consider how current alumni-focused events can be used to send clear messages about opportunities to move home. Also think about how you can make spouses and children of alums feel welcome. Brainstorm simple ways to welcome young families when they are home for the holidays and community festivals. For example, host an open house or booth where visitors can interact with local leaders about their interests in moving to your community.

Another important step is to determine how best to communicate to graduating seniors that their hometown cares about them and invites them to return to live, work and raise their families in the future. This message should be personal and the capstone of the graduates’ experiences as young people. Thank them for being part of your community, remind them of the investment made in them and their future, and invite them to come back to their hometown and contribute to its future.

It’s also important to maintain periodic and sustained contact with alums, especially those who are considering options to move. This includes college students who are pursuing their first career, couples beginning a new family, and young adults undergoing economic distress and looking for new opportunities. Evaluate how this work can be accomplished without significant additional staff time. For example, writing short articles for the alumni newsletter or a social media site that already connects alums with former classmates.

A parallel and vital step is deciding how to make follow-up contacts with alums that respond and express interest in moving back to your community.  Consider recruiting several volunteers who are outgoing and would enjoy visiting with former classmates, hosting community tours and introducing alums and their spouses to community leaders.

The last step I suggest you think about is how recent returnees, and newcomers, are made to feel welcome and invited to get involved. A disappointment I sometimes hear from young adults who have moved to a small community is that they do not feel welcome. Often community leaders are surprised to hear this and tell me they simply didn’t think about being proactive in reaching out to them.  This frustration can result in young families leaving again, so it’s a very important issue to address. This welcome does not need to be complicated, but it does need to be deliberate. A simple greeting of, “We’re glad you’re here!” can make a big difference in how alums and their families feel about making the decision to move home.

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: prairie musings, Artists, Ellsworth Art Gallery — Peg Britton @ 5:24 pm

We have a new display at the Art Center.

Now showing are the seldom seen arts of Charlie Rogers and his wife, Ruth Rogers.
The “nonobjective” paintings were painted from 1953 to 1965, while Charlie Rogers lived in California.  These are not the western themed nor landscapes or seascapes that we normally put on display.  In fact, they have seldom been seen in the last 20 or more years.

The needlework and handiwork of Ruth Rogers is now on display.  She received her degree in design from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 1942.  Many samply pieces, and some clothing will be on display through out the month of January at the Ellsworth Area Art Center, 223 N. Douglas in Ellsworth, Kansas.  We are open Monday to Friday, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Please stop by and see these artist’s work, and also woodcarvings by Glen Knak from Salina.

Sharon Haverkamp
785 472 5682


Filed under: prairie musings, recipes — Peg Britton @ 11:56 am

This is one of my favorite recipes for a special occasion.  It’s not all that difficult and the results are well worth the time it takes to put together.  I like to serve it with a  bowl of French baby greens topped with with a drizzling of oil and vinegar dressing.


Food blogger Jenna Weber channels Julia Child with her take on beef bourguignon. Jenna shares her inspiration for the dish in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.


2 lbs beef stew meat, chopped into bite sized chunks
¼ cup flour
2 tsp salt, divided
¼ tsp pepper
3 tbsp canola oil, divided
1 tbsp butter
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp fresh minced thyme
3 cups dry red wine
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 lb small yellow potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
sea salt + pepper


Combine the flour, 1 tsp salt and pepper in a large Ziploc bag and then add the beef and shake well so all the beef has been covered by the flour.

Heat 1 tbsp oil and butter in a large cast iron (or heavy bottomed) pan over medium high heat. Once the butter has melted and is sizzling, add the beef and cook for about 4 minutes per side, until just browned. Remove beef and place on a plate.

In a large pot, heat the other tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, carrots and celery. Sprinkle vegetables with a pinch of salt and sauté for ten minutes (adding the minced garlic after five minutes) until onion is translucent and carrots have started to become tender. Add the minced thyme and stir to combine.

Then, add the beef to the vegetables along with the wine and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer (put heat setting on low) and partially cover pot, leaving about a half inch open.

Slowly simmer beef for three hours. After three hours, the wine should have reduced to a thick, velvety sauce and the beef should be very, very tender. Season with the additional teaspoon of salt and a pinch of black pepper.

Near the end of the simmering process, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, and sauté for ten minutes until tender. Stir cooked mushrooms into beef at the very end.

To make the roasted potatoes, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash potatoes and chop into fourths. Lay potatoes on a foil lined sheet tray and drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes, tossing occasionally, until crisp and golden.

To serve, remove bay leaf from beef and serve beef alongside roasted potatoes with an additional sprig of thyme and a hefty glass of red wine.

Yield: 6 servings



Filed under: prairie musings, Authors — Peg Britton @ 6:34 pm

Rev It Up
reflections on faith and life
Rev. Kathryn Timpany,
First Congregational UCC, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
January 4, 2012

I don’t know Rev. Kathryn Timpany, but she is a good friend of Greg Edson who is a good friend of mine.  From time to time, Greg sends one of her articles to me when he knows it will be something I would enjoy.  Whatever your social or religious preferences might be,  I think many of you will like this too.

There are some really good stories happening all around us. Sometimes they are buried beneath the ash fall of the political scene, but if you take a minute and have some idea where to look, you can find them.About 40 miles from Oslo, Norway there is a prison that doesn’t look like a prison, doesn’t act like a prison, and doesn’t fight the high recidivism rates of other prisons. It is Bastoy Island. It is hilly and heavily wooded and there are typical Norwegian wooden houses nestled in the folds of the hills. There is a church and barn with stalls. 115 prisoners live there, and they are not “mere rascals, but murderers, rapists, smugglers and con men,” according to the article in the December issue of Ode magazine (

As Rene Kars was preparing to depart after serving a seven-year sentence, he remarked, “In the evenings, they come and count heads and wish you a good night. This doesn’t feel at all like jail. I’ll still miss the work, the people.” That’s because the prisoners aren’t locked up; instead, “they form a village community. In the first weeks of their stay, the prisoners are brought to a large house where they receive social training and learn how to cook and clean. Afterward, they go to smaller homes and work from 7:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. on the organic farm. In their free time, they swim or fish. There is a library as well as educational and fitness facilities. Once a day, the prisoners receive a communal meal; otherwise, they must care for themselves. They run a store where they also shop. Says prison director Arne Kvernvik Nilsen: ‘Who would you rather have as your neighbor? Someone who’s set free after years behind bars – or a prisoner who for such a long time has had the chance to be part of a community?’”

In Cattaraugus, New York, there is a family-run community bank that is the smallest in the state – one branch, 8 employees. In its 130-year history, the bank has rarely booked a profit for itself in excess of $50,000, according to an article in the New York Times on Christmas Day. Last year it made $5000. Nothing much has changed at the bank since 1882, when 20 prominent residents established it to safeguard the townsfolk’s money and to finance local commerce.

“My examiners always ask me, ‘When are you going to grow?’ said Patrick Cullen, the current president, who got his start wrapping pennies for his father at age 5 and helped repossess a car when he was 9. “Where is it written I have to grow? We take care of our customers. The truth is we probably couldn’t grow too much in a town like this.”Some of the ways they have taken care of their customers include giving a $300 loan to a retired secretary named Carol Bonner. She is 61 and cares for her disabled sister, Jane. She receives $417 a month from her pension account. She needed new tires which cost $244. She knew where to go when the numbers didn’t add up. A few years earlier she had fallen behind on her property taxes and was forced to sell her home. Patrick Cullen, the banker, held the mortgage on the house. He called his son Thomas who lives in Chicago and sold him the house, so the Bonner sisters could continue to live there as renters.

“The whole thing was incredible,” Ms. Bonner said the other day, a single pine branch hanging in her living room in lieu of a full Christmas tree, which she could not afford. “I just didn’t realize there were people like that in the world, people who would help you. Especially a banker.”Then there was the Amish customer who wanted $85,000 to consolidate his debts. He only earned $2300 a year, but Patrick Cullen gave him the loan. “If you know Amish culture, you know his sons work and that everything they earn goes to him until they’re 21 or married,” Mr. Cullen said, observing that the man had eight sons, each earning at least $10 an hour. “So he was fine, but none of that shows up on a credit score.”

These are great stories. They aren’t religious stories, per se, but they are also excellent examples of the heart of the Sacred Story that defines us as the people of God. Love God with all you are, and love your neighbor as yourself. These commands are part of the Torah, the Hebrew scriptures, which are also foundational for Islam and Christianity. When Jesus was asked which of the more than 600 commands contained in the Torah were the most important, he named these two.

It’s really pretty basic. They will know we are Christians by our love, runs the refrain of a popular song from a generation ago. If you want to have a good life, if you want to be a genuine person of faith, you can start by taking care of each other. You can focus on building true community. It doesn’t matter what religion you claim, or whether you claim one at all. If you take care of each other, you will become as fully human as it is possible to become.

May you notice your neighbor in every face you see today.



Filed under: prairie musings, Tyler Britton USAF, Barack Obama — Peg Britton @ 7:28 pm


AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari
Grandson Tyler Britton met the President of the United States at Shaker Heights High School (OH) after the President’s speech on the economy. Obama also looked at Tyler during his speech, and in general terms, thanked him and other military personnel for their “service to the country”.  He asked Tyler what his first name was and where he was stationed and visited for a few minutes.   This is a day Tyler will always remember…and so will his family and friends who are thrilled for him.

Thank you, Haraz…

Another photo from the Plain Dealer, Cleveland newspaper:


By Plain Dealer Photography Staff

January 04, 2012 5:35 p.m.

President Barack Obama greets an Air Force sergeant and other supporters. (Thomas Ondrey/The Plain Dealer)



Filed under: prairie musings, MetaPro totals — Peg Britton @ 2:05 pm

3,639,376 METAPROS TOTAL HITS during 2011.  Two days stand out from the others…Dec. 3rd and Dec. 24th.  There were 16,326 hits on the 3rd for the greatest number during the month.  1,869 numbers of sessions on the 24th.  I never know what creates the spikes in activity, but I appreciate it.  I’m not as diligent as I once was in posting entries, probably because of sedate lifestyle changes. Thank you for stopping by Kansas Prairie.



Filed under: prairie musings, recipes, Jeffee Palmer — Peg Britton @ 8:27 am

New post on Now and Thenadays

Jeffee Palmer
Lawyer, historian, writer, mother, grandmother, native Texan, UT grad, and proud Austinite!

Observer of life who writes about language, literature, history, and politics. I have worked in state government for over 35 years, nine years in the Legislature, nine years in the Comptroller’s office, and 20 years practicing law at the Attorney General’s office.


The Proof is in the Pudding
by nowandthenadays

Food goes hand in hand, or hand to mouth, with the holidays.  In our family, we generally choose the traditional holiday fare, coming together for Thanksgiving at my Uncle Bob and Aunt Jerilyn’s house to eat turkey, her inimitable cornbread dressing, and real giblet gravy.  The rest of us bring all the other traditional meal components – a baked ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, broccoli/rice casserole, fruit salad, green salad, etc.

For Christmas, we’ve occasionally gone “alternative,” but invariably, we return to the traditional fare for the next Christmas.  The turkey/dressing and all the rest is our comfort food, partly, I believe, because Christmas can get so complicated, it’s a relief not to have to think much about at least one element of the holiday.

Also, it’s comforting how the traditional fare, with its tastes and smells of holidays past, summon the memory and spirit of the women cooks in our clan, long deceased, who used to cook these same dishes.  My grandmother, Madeline, in particular, is the one who taught my aunt to cook, and they both taught me (with minimal input from my mother who hated to cook).  My aunt has been my main resource for the last 20 years or so on culinary issues, as she owns a prodigious number of cook books and seems to have a personal relationship with Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray.

And now she is passing her expertise on to an even younger generation.  This Christmas was significant because my nieces took over preparation of the turkey and dressing with my aunt’s supervision.  In years to come, whenever they prepare these for us and/or their own families, they will no doubt think solely of her, having never met Grandmother, of course.

But they need to thank my grandmother (their great-grandmother) for my own year-end, year-out contribution to the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners:  one of her desserts, which she called “Angel Delight.”  She didn’t start making it until after she relocated to Round Rock from Dallas after retirement.  When I asked her for the recipe, she wrote it out on a piece of paper, leading me to believe that she might have invented it.  After she died, I found it on page 185 of the 1978 edition of The Round Rock Official Good Eat’n and General Gourmet Cookbook, which was among her books.  Called “Four Layer Delight” in that book, the recipe calls for ½ cup more of flour than Grandmother called for in hers.  I assume she thought it was better with less.  She also tweaked the pudding layer.  Instead of 1 large package of chocolate pudding mix, she called for two small packages, one chocolate and the other vanilla, mixed together.

In the many years since her death, I took over the production of what many in the older generation informally call “Grandmother’s pudding dessert,” partly because it was so popular and partly to keep Grandmother with us during the festivities.  It’s popularity has only grown among family newcomers and the kids that have grown up and passed on the pudding dessert craving in their DNA.   As the years go by, there’s little doubt that the dessert will be linked to me and referred to as (cousin, aunt) “Jeffee’s pudding dessert.”

Strangely enough, a few years ago, a colleague at the Attorney General’s office was raving about a dessert that was made for office parties by one of his division’s secretaries.  His description sounded eerily familiar, so I asked if he would ask her for the recipe.  He did and, sure enough, it was the Angel Delight, although she calls it “Chocolate Supreme Dessert.”  She makes it with the same amount of flour as my grandmother, but has innovated a bit by mixing some of the pudding from the pudding layer with the cool whip used for the top layer.

While Grandmother’s top layer was always white (hence, the angel name), her top is a muddy chocolate color.
So, after such ado about this pudding dessert, you will be glad to read that I’m providing it here for you, dear readers and family members.  I am calling it “Madeline’s Angel Delight,” but if you dare to make it and serve it at your own gathering, you are obviously free to call it by any of its other names or make up your own.  I say “dare” because you may be unwittingly starting a tradition and making the dessert for the rest of your cooking life.  You think I exaggerate, but I’ve often thought of the disappointed faces (or lynch mob) I’d face if I dared to make something different.  On the other hand, it’s nice to be appreciated.   So, without further ado:

Madeline’s Angel Delight

1 cup flour
1 stick margarine, softened
1 cup chopped pecans
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 8 oz carton cool whip
2 small pkgs of instant pudding (1 chocolate, 1 vanilla)
3 cups milk

Mix together first 3 ingredients and press into bottom of 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 15 to 25 minutes til lightly brown around edges. Cool before spreading next layer.

Mix cream cheese and sugar; fold in 1 cup of the cool whip. Spread carefully over crust (which will pull up if you over-manipulate it as you spread).

Mix the vanilla and chocolate pudding mixes with 3 cups milk (instead of the 4 cups on box instructions).  Spread pudding over cream cheese layer.

Spread remaining cool whip over pudding layer.  Refrigerate well.

I will note for those of you who are not wed to a family chocolate tradition, that butterscotch, lemon, or vanilla pudding can be substituted for the chocolate, according to the office secretary.  She has also been known to sprinkle the top layer with chopped pecans or crushed peppermint, and recommends freezing the dessert overnight and removing it to the refrigerator several hours before serving.

Just remember, you have been forewarned.  Here’s wishing you a bon appetit and a happy and healthy 2012!


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