Straight from the Heart

Holiday Movies Add to Christmas Cheer

Ever since I was a child, I have loved everything about Christmas – decorating, gift-giving, get-togethers with family and friends, candlelight services, parties, baking and cooking, music and movies. This year I was especially looking forward to seeing my favorite Christmas movies. Like most people, I watch classics like White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life every year. I also like to see Scrooge (the musical version of A Christmas Carol with Albert Finney as Scrooge, 1970), but it’s on VHS and my tapes are packed away, so I’m less likely to watch it. Besides, it’s rather long and I don’t always have the block of time I need to watch it.

it's a wonderful life

Both Lifetime and Hallmark channels have a lot of holiday movies that I enjoy seeing every year. Some of my favorites include A Christmas Card (Alice Evans, John Newton and Ed Asner, 2006), Silver Bells (Anne Heche, Tate Donovan, 2005), A Boyfriend for Christmas (Kelli Williams, Patrick Muldoon, Charles Durning, 2004), Comfort & Joy (Nancy McKeon, Steve Eckholdt, 2003), Holiday Affair (Cynthia Gibb, David James Elliott, 1996), An Accidental Christmas (Cynthia Gibb, David Millbern, 2007) and A Christmas Wedding (Sarah Paulson, Eric Mabius, 2006).

the christmas shoes

Years ago, CBS had several Christmas movies that I now count among my favorites. I sometimes can catch Borrowed Hearts (Roma Downey, Eric McCormack, 1997), The Christmas Gift (John Denver, Jane Kaczmarek, 1986) and The Christmas Shoes (Rob Lowe, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, 2002) on other channels. However, Christmas in My Hometown (renamed A Holiday Romance on DVD) with Melissa Gilbert, Tim Matheson (1996), I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Ann Jillian, Robert Hayes, Jack Palance, 1997) and A Christmas Romance (Olivia Newton-John, Gregory Harrison, 1994) are only available on DVD.


Growing up, I loved watching the stop-motion animation programs The Little Drummer Boy (1968) and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). Sadly, The Little Drummer Boy is no longer shown on TV, but CBS continues to air Rudolph every year. I confess I still like to watch it and the song, “There’s Always Tomorrow” still makes me cry. More recent favorites include Elf (Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, 2003) and The Holiday (Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black, 2006), which I can watch anytime of the year.

I’m more inclined to watch Christmas movies that emphasize faith and/or romance. I’m not big on the Santa Claus thing. I believe in the spirit of Santa Claus, but he’s not the reason we celebrate Christmas. I recently bought The Nativity Story (2006) on DVD. I saw it in the theater when it was first released and thought it was better than most Nativity movies I’ve seen. I plan to watch it on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

There’s always a new crop of made-for-TV Christmas movies every year, but I haven’t been able to catch very many new ones yet this year. I’m sure I’ll be able catch the ones I’ve missed next year as the same Christmas movies seem to come back around time and time again.

What Christmas movies are on your must-see list?


Remembering Veterans Past and Present recent shooting at Fort Hood last week has made this week’s observance of Veteran’s Day especially somber. It’s a vivid reminder of not only how fragile life is and how quickly it can be taken away, but how sometimes we can take our national security for granted. None of us ever expected something like this to happen at one of the most secure places in the nation. It’s easier to accept soldiers being killed in action on foreign soil, than it is for them to killed by one of their own on a U.S. Army base. It’s difficult to comprehend.

My dad was stationed at Camp Hood (as it was known then) in the early 1940s. So on this day, I not only pray for those who lost loved ones at Fort Hood, I also remember my dad, who was a veteran of World War II. I used to love looking at pictures of him in his uniform (and still do) and hear stories of his army days.

Sgt Kipp in CalifDad was drafted in 1941 and went through basic training at Camp Robinson in Arkansas. He was hoping to put in his two years and get out, but the bombing at Pearl Harbor changed everything.

In 1942, while Dad was stationed at Camp San Luis Obispo in California, he and my mom were married at her uncle’s home in Riverside. The following year, Dad was transferred to Camp Hood. In 1944, he was sent to Europe. Dad was a mess sergeant (with the 635th Tank Destroyers Battalion), so he was behind the front lines, but it was still a dangerous place to be. Dad lost one of his cooks to a landmine on Omaha Beach about two weeks after D-day.

Dad in Germany

Dad returned to the states after the allied victory in Europe in 1945. His battalion was scheduled to go to the Pacific, but before they could be shipped out, the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, which ended the war.  After Dad was discharged from the army, he and Mom settled in Topeka, Kan. and eventually bought the house where my mom still lives.

As a child, I remember being fascinated by the German gun Dad had brought back from Europe and wondered about the fate of its previous owner. It wasn’t until after Dad died that my brother told me what happened to the bullets. Dad threw them overboard on his voyage back to the states. He knew he would have children someday and didn’t want a potentially dangerous weapon in the house.

Dad in La

Dad remained close to his army buddies up until the time his death in 2004. It was one of those experiences that galvanized a group of young men for a common goal. I’m proud of my dad and his service to our country. I’m also grateful to live in a country where men and women are willing to put their lives on the line for my freedom.

Next time you cross paths with a veteran or someone currently serving in the military, shake his or her hand and thank that person for their service.

If you’re interested in obtaining the military records of a loved one who has passed on, visit:


Baking for a Good Cause

For the third year in a row, I coordinated the United Way campaign here at Ogden Publications. Each year, I try to think of new and exciting events to raise money for the United Way in our area. This year, my committee and I came up with an apple recipe contest. At a dollar a vote, our employees enthusiastically tasted each entry and voted on which one was the best. It was a hard decision because all the entries were quite pleasing to the palate. They were also pleasing to the eye, but you’ll have to take my word for it. I didn’t think to take pictures until it was too late.

We had 10 entries. They were: Ozark Apple Pudding, Humble Apple Bread, Sweet and Sour Ravioli (yes, it did have an apple product in it), Apple Crisp, Spectacular Apple Bread, Apple Crunch, Easy Apple Cake, Apple Cobbler Cake, Easy Apple Coffee Cake and Caramel Apple Cream Cheese Cookie Bars.

One of our marketing managers won for her Apple Crisp recipe. It had a unique flavor that everyone loved. Several people wanted the recipe for it and others that were in the contest, so I compiled all the recipes and made copies for anyone who wanted them.

These apple dishes were so delicious, I thought I would share some of them with you.

Apple Crisp

This one won the contest.


  • 5 granny smith apples, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1½ cups light brown sugar
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • Dash or two of allspice
  • ¾  teaspoon salt

To make filling: Preheat oven to 375˚F. In a casserole baking dish, toss apples with brown sugar and cinnamon. Add cornstarch, lemon juice and vanilla to the fruit and stir well.

To make topping: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, mix ingredients together until large crumbs form.

Sprinkle topping evenly over filling and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325˚F. and continue baking for about 30 minutes longer, until fruit filling is bubbling and topping is nicely browned. Let set for 10 to 20 minutes before serving.

Apple Cobbler Cake

This one was taken from the pages of CAPPER’s.

  • 6 cups sliced apples
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 box cake mix, yellow or white, divided
  • ½ cup chopped nuts
  • 1 stick butter or margarine, melted

In a bowl, combine apples, sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle with ¼ cup dry cake mix and toss until apples are evenly coated. Spoon mixture into a buttered pan and cover with foil, securing edges firmly. Bake at 350°F. for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven.

Combine remaining cake mix with nuts and drizzle with melted butter; mix until large crumbs are formed. Sprinkle over partially cooked apples in pan. Return to oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until topping is puffed and golden. Cool slightly. Serve warm with whipped topping or ice cream.

Apple Crunch

This was mine, taken from our church’s 100th anniversary cookbook.

  • 5 cups flour  
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 to 4 unpeeled apples, sliced                 
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups oatmeal                                     
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon               
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg                              
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups butter, melted

In a bowl, combine 1 cup flour with sugar. Arrange apples in buttered 9x12-inch pan and cover with flour mixture. Add a little water. Mix together remaining flour, brown sugar, oatmeal, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; pour over apples. Drizzle melted butter over flour mixture. Pack down topping. Bake at 350˚F. for 45 minutes or until apples are tender. If desired, melt a bag of caramels over a low heat and drizzle over the top of apple dessert. Serves 20 to 25.  

Sweet and Sour Ravioli

Our most unusual entry.

  • 1 box dehydrated mincemeat
  • 1 box phyllo pastry
  • 1 egg white
  • ¾ cup apple cider or juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • Melted butter or nonstick spray

Leave phyllo in refrigerator until ready to use.

Prepare mincemeat as per directions; cool. Prepare one sleeve of phyllo as per directions. Take half the layers and carefully place them one layer at a time on waxed paper. Brush with melted butter between layers. Immediately cover with a damp towel. Repeat steps with the remaining sleeve of phyllo.

Spread mincemeat on top of one layer of phyllo, leaving about a quarter of an inch space at edges. Brush egg white on top sheet of other half of phyllo. Carefully invert brushed layer on top of mincemeat, keeping edges aligned. Using fingers, mash down where cuts are to be made in the phyllo (this also pushes the mincemeat into the middle of each square). Carefully cut into pieces with a ravioli cutter or knife, pinching edges to seal. Using a fork, place each piece onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 375˚F. for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

To make glaze: In a saucepan, heat honey and corn syrup over a low heat until thin. Add apple cider and lemon juice, stir until blended. Bring to a boil until mixture thickens (about 30 minutes), stirring constantly. Glaze should be thick enough to pour easily. Once ravioli is removed from oven, drizzle glaze over each piece; cool.

I got a lot of positive comments after the contest (anything that involves food usually goes over well here). I’ll have to think of another food contest for next year’s United Way campaign.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we did! If you’d like the other recipes from the contest, you can email me at


Lamenting Summer’s End

A photo of Brenda KippNot since I was child have I been sad to see summer end. By nature, I’m not a summer person. I dislike hot, humid weather. But this summer was unusual. June was quite warm, serving as a prelude for the coming heat. However, the uncomfortable, suffocating temperatures didn’t come. July and August were unusually cool and wet. That’s not to say it didn’t get hot on occasion, but those days were few and far between. We usually have several days of triple-digit temperatures at least once during the summer, but we never even made it to the century mark this year.

A few times during July and August, I turned the air conditioner off and opened up the house. If you’ve ever been in Kansas in the middle of the summer, you know how stifling it can be. It’s like sitting under a wet blanket out in the sun. Air conditioning is a must. So to be able to turn the A/C off and open up the house during what’s normally the hottest months of the year is highly unusual – and to do it more than once is unheard of!

Fall is my favorite season and I eagerly await its arrival after a long, hot summer, but to enjoy a summer such as the one we just had was so refreshing. It was like being in the Rocky Mountains! I talked to my brother, who lives in Colorado, several times this summer and he complained about how hot it was out there. Thanks to a dip in the jet-stream, we were enjoying their normal summer temperatures.

One of the benefits of having a cooler than normal summer is being able to get out and do yard work. Normally, I don’t get out in the yard at all during the summer months. This summer I was able to get out in the yard three times. It feels good to have a head start on the yard work I want to get done this fall. By the way, our grass usually dies at some point during the summer because of the heat and lack of moisture. We had green grass all summer long.


Another reason I hated to see summer come to an end is the availability of fresh garden produce. Several of my co-workers shared bounty from their gardens including tomatoes, zucchini, okra and sweet corn. I couldn’t help but grab several ears of sweet corn – and I picked up a couple of tomatoes for my mom.   

Now that September is here, I can look forward to leaves turning color and crisp autumn temperatures. As I look back on the summer of 2009, I’ll be able to remember it as a pleasant season I actually enjoyed instead of being eternally grateful that it was finally over. The cool, wet conditions we were blessed with this summer should allow for some spectacular fall colors. I hope you had a pleasant summer and you’re looking forward to a fabulous fall.


A Touch of Dutch

A photo of Brenda KippEver since I can remember, I’ve been interested in everything Dutch. It may have something to do with the fact that both sets of my Dad’s grandparents came from Holland. I grew up identifying most with my Dutch heritage since my Dad’s parents were the only grandparents I knew. They lived in a small town in western Kansas that was settled by Dutch pioneers, including my great-grandparents. When I began doing family history, interest in my Dutch heritage intensified. I developed an affinity for windmills, wooden shoes and anything that looked Dutch. 

Several years ago I began visiting local antique stores just for something to do on my lunch hour. When I go to antique stores, I’m not usually looking for anything in particular. I just like to browse. Its fun to find items that might have belonged to my parents or grandparents, or something I remember from my childhood.

Recently, I was on my lunch hour and had some time kill after picking up a prescription. The pharmacy was in a shopping center, so I decided to visit a small shop at the opposite end of the shopping area. I never made it. I passed an antique store and doubled back to go in. I had no intension of buying anything, but I spotted a small pitcher and basin with a Dutch windmill on it. From that moment, I was on the hunt for Dutch items. I scoured the shelves and discovered a small ceramic “wooden” shoe, a tiny pair of ceramic “wooden” shoes and a ceramic windmill. All of the items were reasonably priced and two of the items were Delft (pottery made in the Netherlands), which made my discoveries even more thrilling.

dutch items

I felt a rush of excitement as I walked up to the register. As the items were being totalled, I had to stop and wonder about the history of these items. Where did they come from? Who owned them? Why did they or someone in their family choose to give them up? If only these pieces could talk. One can only imagine what stories they could tell.

When I got back to work, I proudly showed off my treasures. I felt as if I’d purchased a piece of history and, in a sense, a connection to my past.

Photo by Brenda L. Kipp

Taking a mental vacation

I took a long-awaited week off from work last week. I never seem to get everything done I want to do on the weekends (even if it’s a long holiday weekend). So, I took the time off to work on some projects I’d been putting off.

One of my major projects was to scan my dad’s slides (taken in the late 1960s and early 1970s) and save them to my computer. My goal was to scan at least four trays and I got six done. Most of the slides were of our vacation to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. It was the first vacation our family took without my older brother. Although we missed having him along, it was one of the most memorable vacations our family ever had. As I looked at each picture, it immediately took me back to our trek out west.

The first leg of our journey led us through Western Kansas and the northeast corner of Colorado to Cheyenne, Wyo. We stayed with my cousin’s in-laws. After a tour of the capital city, we enjoyed rainbow trout for dinner. My sister and I slept in the family’s camper and we thought that was a real treat.

After we left Cheyenne, we headed north. We stopped at a tourist attraction called Hell’s Half Acre, 40 miles west of Casper. It’s not the kind of scenery you’d expect to see in the high plains of central Wyoming. Hell’s Half Acre is a horseshoe-shaped gorge with jagged spires and eerie rock formations.

Hell's Half Acre

Our next stop was Dubois. I fell in love with this authentic western town nestled in the valley between two mountain ranges. My parents, sister and I took an evening trail ride. I pretended to be a rancher’s daughter surveying our vast Rocky Mountain empire.

I hated to leave my little hamlet in the mountains, but the best was yet to come. We headed further west to Moran, a small community just outside of Grand Teton National Park. The motel where we stayed looked like a log cabin with a rustic décor. The view of the Tetons from the motel was spectacular, but the mosquitoes were so thick, it was impossible to sit outside and enjoy the view. 

Our time in the Tetons was one breathtaking sight after another. We toured the park, stopping at various turnouts to enjoy views of Jackson Lake, Wind River and alpine meadows. We also took a shuttle boat across Jenny Lake. The spray from the alpine lake hit my face – and it was cold!


Dad by Lake

One of my favorite places was the Chapel of the Transfiguration. The tiny log cabin structure, built in 1925, is owned and operated by the Episcopal Church. A picture window in the front of the chapel frames the Teton Range. I thought it would be a perfect place to get married (they do have weddings there).

Another day found us visiting the town of Jackson Hole. We had a picnic in the park that features an arch made of antlers. We also took the tram up Rendezvous Mountain, but it was so cold when we stepped out, we quickly looked at the spectacular view and immediately stepped back into the tram.

Our travels next took us to Yellowstone National Park. What amazing sights awaited us there!  We saw Old Faithful and other geysers, Mammoth Hot Springs, thermal pools, a mud volcano and sulphur caldron (it smelled like rotten eggs – Eww!). We also took in the grandeur of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone complete with spectacular waterfalls. We had heard that there were a number of black bears in the park, so we were disappointed that we only saw one young bear.


After we left Yellowstone, we spent the night in West Yellowstone, Montana. I felt like I’d stepped back into the 1800s. We took a day trip up to the area where the largest earthquake in Montana history struck in 1959. A vistor’s center told the history of the quake and the area showed evidence of its destruction (a huge landslide and damaged houses) and the beauty it created (a peaceful lake).

We left Montana and drove down through Idaho to Utah. We spent the night in Ogden, then toured Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Aside from the inspiring temple, I was most impressed with the acoustics inside the large tabernacle (built without any nails). Our tour group stood in the back while our guide stood in the front with his back to us and whispered. We could hear every word he said!

The last leg of our trip took us thorough familiar territory in northern Colorado (a favorite vacation spot for our family) to visit some friends and then back home to Kansas.

As I finished scanning these slides, I felt as if I’d been on that wonderful vacation all over again. I’m glad my dad took so many pictures of that and other family vacations. It allows me to not only relive the good times we shared, but take a vacation without ever leaving the house!

How do you take a mental vacation? What is your most memorable vacation?

Photos taken by Kenneth and Velma Kipp

Birdwatching of a Different Kind

A photo of Brenda KippIn the last few weeks, I have been entertained by a bevy of birds both at work and in my backyard.

Late spring in Kansas is the time of year I see baby birds old enough to try out their wings, but still young enough to rely on their mothers as a source of food.  I was on the phone with my aunt the other day and something in the back yard caught my eye. On closer inspection, I could see it was a baby robin. I wondered where the mother was. About that time, I saw a female robin hop through the bushes. The baby robin fluttered over to her and opened its mouth. Mama robin obliged by pecking at the ground and coming up with some nourishment to put in her offspring’s mouth. I felt sorry for the little one when the mother flew over the fence and the baby couldn’t fly over or squeeze through. The pair was eventually reunited.

A few weeks earlier, I had the back door open, enjoying the beautiful spring temperatures. Even from the front of the house, I could hear a wren chattering. Wrens have a melodious song that I never get tired of hearing, but they also have a scolding chatter. I went to see what the commotion was all about. I saw a male sparrow sitting on the perch of the wren house, thus blocking the entrance, and the wren was in the tree scolding the sparrow. I pounded on the screen door and the sparrow flew away. Minutes later, I heard the wren chattering again. I went to look and that darn sparrow had returned to the wren’s perch! I pounded on the screen door again and the sparrow flew away. This scene played out two more times before the sparrow gave up and went on his merry way. Once the wren flew after the sparrow, but broke off its pursuit and returned to the wren house.

This wasn’t the first time I’d seen a sparrow do this. Last year I witnessed the same scenario. About the time I was going to pound on the screen door, however, a robin swooped down and scared the sparrow away. I’m sure the wren was grateful to the robin for coming to its rescue, but I have no doubt that in spite of its size, the wren could have handled the situation on its own. 

 I’m beginning to wonder if each spring the sparrows are attempting a hostile takeover of the wren house, but they should have learned from one of their predecessors that the opening is too small for them (besides, they’re not cavity dwellers). I can remember my dad having to rescue a sparrow who had its head stuck in the opening of the wren house.


When I’m out doing yard work, it gives me the opportunity to observe birds more closely or hear calls I wouldn’t normally hear in the house. Once when I was cutting off flowers that had already bloomed, I noticed a robin had been hanging around. After I finished and sat back, the robin came over into the dirt, pecked at the ground, extracted a juicy worm and promptly swallowed it.

Recently, I’ve been able to observe birds of a different feather at work. The editors of Mother Earth News, one of our magazines here at Ogden Publications, have been trying out a new incubator. Over 200 eggs of different varieties were ordered from hatcheries in Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas and placed in the incubator. We not only have a variety of chickens – Babcock Browns, Golden Comets, Dominiques, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons and White Silkies – we also have ducks and quail.   


Each day more and more eggs hatch and they are transferred to the make-shift “nursery” (a cardboard box with a heat lamp). The box doesn’t stay occupied for long though. Several of my co-workers have taken chicks home. I would love to take some of them home myself, but my current living situation isn’t conducive to having chickens.

I never thought I wanted chickens, but the longer I work here, the more I learn about the benefits of owning chickens. Now I’m interested in learning more about the different breeds and which ones would suit my needs. Thanks to some of my co-workers, this city girl (I’m really a country girl at heart) is learning about more than just the birds in her backyard.

Are you a birdwatcher? Do you have chickens? I’d love to hear about your experiences with birds.