Saturday, August 20, 2016

Bad News, Good News

The bad news is that the two-year-old has learned how to lie-- on purpose.

The good news is that he's bad at it. A twinkle in the eye and a mischievous grin give him away.

Friday, August 19, 2016

_The Hancock News_ Column-- August 17, 2016

Every time I open the door lately, I’m met with a blast of hot air that sucks all the energy out of me. This kind of weather is enough to make a body feel downright miserable. In fact, violent crime rates soar when the temperatures do. I guess we all feel a little extra ornery when the heat and humidity get to us.

But to be honest, I have plenty more reasons to feel cranky.

For starters, my dear husband found a few travel books at the library he thought I would enjoy. He was right, but as I paged through them, I was more than annoyed when I discovered somebody had torn out the pages I most wanted to read. What kind of person tears pages from library books?

Next on my cranky list is shopping for shoes. It seems all the summer sunshine makes more than just weeds grow, and what better time to buy than when taxes don’t apply? I truly dread dragging all the kids into stores and trying on about a gazillion different pairs of shoes to find the right fit, but I did it today. It was hot, crowded, and one of my daughters had to try on about two gazillion shoes to find the perfect pair. I didn’t like it one tiny bit. Why in the world did I think it was a good idea?

And the last reason I feel cranky has to do with watermelons. We love growing melons in our garden. The children plant the seeds. We water them. We weed them. We try to keep the preschoolers from trampling on their sprawling vines. And we check them often for the first signs of ripeness, but it is so hard to wait for that ripe and sticky sweetness that drips down your chin on a hot day.

Well, a couple of days ago, my son noticed our biggest watermelon was missing. There were no animal tracks, no plants torn up or nibbled, no tell-tale broken rinds anywhere to be found. Only the empty spot of dirt and the stem remained. What kind of person steals watermelons from little kids?

I hope it was a truly poor and hungry soul who really needed it.

But if it wasn’t, that ornery part of me that’s under the influence of the sweltering temperatures is glad because I’m fairly certain that watermelon wasn’t even ripe yet. 

Not the watermelon, but a honeydew I picked before it was ripe last week.


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There. Now that I’ve vented my steam a little, I’m ready to move on to more pleasant and cooler things like this ice cream pie recipe. While you may use whatever flavor of ice cream you like, I think mint chocolate chip is the best to beat the summer heat.

Ice Cream Pie

1 graham cracker pie shell
1 quart ice cream, slightly softened
2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate
4 Tbsp. butter

Spread softened ice cream in pie shell and freeze hard. Then beat the egg whites until foamy and stiff. Add the sugar, 2 Tbsp. at a time. Beat until peaks form. Spread meringue over frozen pie and bake at 400℉ for 3-5 minutes. Remove pie and place directly in the freezer. Remove pie from freezer about 10 minutes before you plan to serve so it can soften enough to cut.

Serve slices of ice cream pie with chocolate sauce. Make sauce by melting chocolate squares with butter in the microwave, stirring frequently until smooth.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

_The Hancock News_ Column-- August 3, 2016

I love quilts. I love the fabrics, the patterns, and the history behind each quilt. I love how each quilt is like a piece of art, only better because it’s pleasing to both my eyes and my cold toes when I crawl under it at night.

While I love quilts, I’m not a quilter yet. I have many quilting hopes and plans, but over the last decade almost the only pieces of cloth I have a chance to pin together are the diapers covering babies’ behinds.

But my Oma was a quilter. Her daughters, my dear aunts, turn out amazing quilts, and their daughters do, too. I’m lucky enough to have several examples of their handiwork in my home.

One aunt has even sewn a special baby quilt for each one of my children. To be perfectly honest, I look forward to seeing each new quilt almost as much as seeing the new baby.

Each of my children like their special quilts, but one quilt seems a little more loved than the rest. It’s quite an impressive design. Jar-shaped fabrics with bugs, frogs, and other creepy-crawlies sit on brown cotton shelves adorned with an embroidered spiderweb. For more than ten years, my son has kept his bug quilt close by, and while he doesn’t drag it around like Linus in the comics, let’s just say it is showing its age.


Bug Blankie all fixed


One evening last week, I sat down to an overflowing basket of mending. Near the top of the heap was dear bug blankie.  While looking it over, I noticed faded and worn fabric, a torn seam, stains from bloody noses, and small holes caused by a rough spot in the bed frame. 

The words my aunt wrote on the quilt label tell the story of my son’s birth--his name, the date, weight, and height, but if bug blankie could talk, it would tell the story of my son’s whole life. It has been there for his tears and sickness, his giggles and dreams. It’s seen him play, read, and grow too big to fit beneath its edges, and it’s seen him grow up too big to need his blankie the same way he once did. 

The hard thing is that I know one day I will be like that old quilt. I’ll probably need mended, too-- maybe a hip replacement or a new knee. My hair is already fading to gray. Before you know it, my son will no longer need me for all the day-to-day things. My hugs and words will no longer be able to comfort his grown-up hurts.

The thought of that is sad enough that I almost need my own special blankie. Lucky for me, my son’s not the type who easily throws away well-loved, tattered old things.

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My almost 11-year-old is not ready to leave me behind yet, and I’m glad he still needs Momma. He is, however, gaining many skills for grown-up life. One of them is cooking, and one of his favorite things to make is breakfast cookies. He makes them in the evening so they’re ready for the next morning, and he likes to experiment and make them different each time. Here’s one of his favorite variations.

Nathanael’s Breakfast Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup of your favorite goodies (nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, M&Ms, or chocolate chips)

Cream butter, sugar, and honey. Add eggs and yogurt. Mix well. Mix in soda, spices, and flour. Then stir in oats and goodies.


Preheat oven to 350℉. Drop onto a greased cookie sheet (about 1/4 cup at a time) and bake for 10-13 minutes.  These are large, hearty cookies-- delicious with milk or coffee!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A While Back


This picture has been sitting on my desktop for some time. My husband took it earlier this summer/spring(?) when we had a big storm come through. From up on our hill, we have a great view of the weather rolling through the area, and I thought this storm looked so neat-o.


Watching cool clouds 

Friday, July 22, 2016

_The Hancock News_ Column--July 20, 2016

Overwhelmed. That word perfectly describes me last week. My husband attended a weeklong church convention in Milwaukee, and I held down the fort with my little troopers.

I have no idea how single moms manage because by day two, I was ready to wave the white flag in surrender. That afternoon, most of the children were playing nicely together in the basement, and it was finally quiet enough for the baby to fall asleep in my arms. 

Then the boy in the shower started hollering for help. I hurried to him with the awake-again baby crying on my hip. After navigating the hallway cluttered with boxes and piles of junk from the girls’ newly-carpeted room, I learned the shower head had fallen off. Then the rest of the children, now rowdy and fighting, came thundering up the stairs.

Somehow I managed to fix the shower head but not the fussy baby or the wild children. With no adult backup, I had a meltdown.

Less than 48 hours into my week, I was sobbing with hungry children who still needed to eat supper, take baths, and dig paths to their beds. I was overwhelmed by the work and chaos and had no clue how to carry on.

I pulled myself together long enough to do what was right in front of me-- set the macaroni and cheese on the table, and that felt a little bit better. How can homemade mac and cheese and full bellies not make life a little better?

And then, because the food-covered toddler was about to throw yet another tantrum, I distracted him by suggesting he go splash in the bath with a big brother. The girls stopped fighting when I turned on the television.

As I scurried to get the little ones bathed and supper cleaned up, my eldest organized the mess that was flowing out of the girls’ room into the hallway and beyond. The next oldest washed dishes.  All by themselves and without being asked, they made things right in at least two parts of the house. I was overwhelmed by their thoughtfulness. 



Girls' room--painted, carpeted, and cleaned!


The next day a friend brought fried chicken for lunch and made brownies with the kids. In the evening we were treated to a cookout with swimming-- such a wonderful help for me and a delightful distraction for the kids who were missing Daddy terribly. It was overwhelming generosity.

Throughout the rest of the week, I was on the receiving end of phone calls checking in to make sure we were okay. On short notice, a friend babysat so I could take my daughter to have a painful cavity filled. My husband sent flowers. Overwhelming kindness.

My week wasn’t easy, but with the help of others, we managed. Now, most thankfully, I am just overwhelmed with relief that the week is over, my husband is home, and everything is back to normal. 

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Overwhelming isn’t always bad. Now that gardens are producing, overwhelming can be quite yummy. While there is a time to give away the bounty, excess in the garden forces us to get creative. I found this recipe on a blog written by a lady who was swimming in garden treasures. It’s different, and I can’t wait to try it.

If you don’t like spicy jalapenos or feta cheese, feel free to leave them out or improvise with some other garden delight (blanched green beans or sliced zucchini?). Don’t have white wine vinegar? Try whatever vinegar you have. Also, if raw onions are too hot for you, try soaking your cut-up onions in a dish of water for a few minutes and then drain them before adding them to your salad. I learned this trick recently, and it really does take out the hot and leave the onion flavor.

Summer Corn Salad

6 ears of sweet corn
1/2 large red onion
1 jalapeno, seeds removed
1 red pepper
1/2 cucumber
1 can black beans, drained
1 cup feta crumbles
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper


Cut corn from the cob. Dice onion, jalapeƱo, pepper and cucumber. Mix in a large bowl with the black beans. Whisk together the vinegar, oil, lemon juice and spices.  Stir into vegetable mixture. Stir in feta. 


*This post has been shared with Strangers & Pilgrims for the Art of Home-making Monday.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

You Little Snake in the Grass

I awoke this morning to some high drama.

A scream! (from the boy returning from feeding the guineas upon seeing a snake in the garage)

A snake! (boy warns)

Let's get it! (from the other boys)

No! (from me in bed)

When I made it outside, this was the scene.



Hello, Mr. Ratsnake. Why are you in my garage?


Enter Ms. Ninja Cat



Black Snake vs. Black Cat?

Cat and snake struck at each other. Both left to regroup.


Exit snake.



Followed by the cat.



Face off, again.



Ninja strikes!



Enter reinforcement(s)?




That might be tasty. . .




. . . provided you do all the work. Yawn.




Ms. Cat is ready to strike again, confident in her approach. . .




. . . but the snake holds the field/lawn. 

The cats lose interest. Their kibble is waiting. Then it's time for bagels and cream cheese for the rest of us.