Kansas: There's no place like home...
--Guest Blog Post By Suzanne Parsons
Greetings, Dear Readers! I'm Suzanne, Tina's sister-in-law in Kansas--yes, I sew and quilt and make things. My tools are sewing machine, needles and thread; my materials are wool and cotton. It's not a hobby; it's something I need to do.
If I showed you my sewing room--you'd think you'd into stepped into an episode of Hoarders. (Oh, wait, I might need this pink and grey toile for something later on!) We just aren't going there. But, I digress ……
What's not to love about a place where the state flower is a sunflower?
Kansas Fast Facts:
Capital: Topeka; 122,103
Area: 82,277 square miles (213,096 square kilometers)
Per Capita Income: U.S. $28,838
Date Statehood Achieved: January 29, 1861
Cattle towns such as Abilene have long since given way to manufacturing centers. Wichita turns out 70 percent of the general-aviation aircraft produced in the U.S.; Kansas City makes automobiles. Among the top states in crude-oil production, Kansas also banks on one of the nation's largest natural gas fields. Salt deposits near Hutchinson are the remnant of a shallow sea that once submerged the Great Plains. Although no other state grows more wheat--Mennonites from Europe introduced a hardy winter variety in the 1870s--livestock earns more for Kansas.
Industry: Aircraft manufacturing, transportation equipment, construction, food processing, printing and publishing, health care
Agriculture: Cattle, wheat, sorghum, soybeans, hogs, corn
—From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition
WHY DID WE COME HERE?
I was a newly-married Army wife when my husband, Jim, explained he'd been selected for the US Army Command and General Staff College (a pre-requisite for his career advancement) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. "What the heck, why not?," I said. " After all, home is where the Army sends you, right? It's only for a year, right?"
US Army Command and General Staff College
That was 31 years ago. We've built a home and life here. We've lived here through Jim's countless overseas deployments (in the pre-Internet years, before e-mail, texting and Skype, when communication was limited to snail mail and once-a-week, 30-minute phone calls). We've continued to stay here through Jim's military retirement and a new career, and my retirement from federal service. That's why we came to Kansas, but now I'll tell you a few of the reasons why we stay in Kansas.
The Seasons. I grew up in Miami, Florida, where the seasons are either wet and warm, or not wet and warm. From day-one in Kansas, I experienced the seasons as if for the first time. I was hooked. Here, seasons are not subtle. In fact, nothing about the weather in Kansas is subtle.
According to Wikipedia the temperature can be minus 40 degrees in February, to 121 degrees in July. And let's not forget the torrential downpours of 4-8 inches in hours, ice storms, blizzards, lightning, hail storms, buffeting wind and, of course, the tornadoes. Living in tornado alley, you get used to the Dorothy / Wizard of Oz comments.
The unpredictable weather phenomena means we must be prepared at all times: we have emergency supplies, an action plan. We respect Mother Nature. We realize that unpleasant weather can happen any time in any given location and we accept that fact, knowing that tomorrow will be a different story.
Winter sunrise after light snow.
Spring. My peonies in bloom.
Summer. Jim has salmon on the grill!
Fall. Enjoying the leaves before we rake!
Natural Beauty. Kansas is a beautiful state. From here in Leavenworth, in the northeast corner of Kansas, we can practically SEE the Missouri River. The geography in Leavenworth--elevation 840 feet--consists of rolling hills and forests. Manhattan, in Central Kansas (elevation 1020 feet), boasts the flint hills and natural prairie grasslands. Traveling further west, the land rises in elevation toward the Rocky Mountains. Mount Sunflower, near the Colorado state line, is the Kansas' highest point (4039 feet). Kansas is NOT FLAT. Florida is flat!
Birds and Other Wildlife. Sitting on our deck on a warm evening in spring, we've counted 24 different types of colorful songbirds. We also have squirrels, raccoons and opossums, coyotes, bobcats, groundhogs (ugh), moles, beavers...more animals than we can name. Our pond is host to a pair of Canadian geese, mallard ducks, wood ducks and my personal favorite, an elegant grey heron.
Friends. I'm proud to say I have an amazing sisterhood of friends. A few months ago, seventeen of us traveled together to Illinois for a week-long quilt retreat. We don’t share the same politics, religion or economics. Some of us are retired, some still work. Some are young, and some, not so young. The one thing we have in common is the love of our craft, the need to create, and the respect of each other.
Those, dear readers, are the primary reasons I love Kansas. In keeping with "China Ate My Jeans," let me introduce a few of the products Made in Kansas that I really like:
Hudson Cream Flour I don’t bake a whole lot, except during November and December, just like everyone else. One of my best friends recommended this flour about 15 years ago. I was going to put a lot of work into baking; so I decided to use the freshest ingredients possible. I've been using this wonderful flour ever since.
Hudson Cream Flour
Hemslojd Inc. Years ago, on a weekend retreat to central Kansas, my quilting friends and I took a side trip to a wonderful little town called Lindsborg (known as "Little Sweden"). I'm not Swedish, but watching the artisan paint these signs I just had to have one! It's about 15 years old, and has been hanging outside since I brought it home...(remember my Kansas weather reference above). It still looks great!
Our apparently-weather-proof sign, made in Lindsborg, Kansas.
Jinks Traditional Fruitcakes. OK, forget all those jokes about fruitcakes traveling around the world for an eternity. Some people (like me) REALLY like fruitcake! In ambitious years, I make my own from a forgiving recipe. Friends and family receive one for Christmas. But it's a big job. Thanks to Jinks Traditional Fruitcakes, there's a DELICIOUS alternative that tastes as good as homemade. Mike and Bonnie Ingram introduced me to this wonderful fruitcake a few years ago (below are their pictures from a fruitcake run). Check out the website. They are open October through December. As you can see in the pictures, it's a small business. I called Cheryl Jinks to make sure I could reference them for this blog. Then I told her to get a glass of water and sit down as I explained my "China Ate My Jeans" guest blog gig, the idea of Quilting America back together again, and especially, the Buy American concept. She listened and laughed, delighted to share and be part of this blog post.
Bonnie and Mike Ingram at Jinks Fruitcakes.
Cheryl Jinks out front.
Vi and Jerry Jinks making fruitcakes!
In closing, everyone has reasons for living in a particular place, from proximity to family to career moves. But sometimes, it's because you really love a place and its quality of life. Each and every time we return from travels to faraway places, as we descend through the clouds in preparation to land at Kansas City International Airport, Jim and I hold hands, look at each other, and say: "There's no place like home." (Thank you, L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)
Kansas may not be for everyone--but it is exactly where we want to be.