Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hello, Friend!

I'm behind on this one, but I always feel a little springy when I see the first robin. Well, that was a couple of weeks ago at my parents' house. Then I saw a few closer to home when we were shopping on Friday. But it was today that the robins flocked in our yard.

They might be a little hard to see since they're scattered among the brown leaves, but there are at least 5 robins in the picture. 

I know yesterday was the first official day of spring, but it's not spring in my mind until the robins arrive. So, welcome, Spring!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Very Good Pi Day

Tuesday was a good day in our home. 

For starters--


We finally got some snow to enjoy. Our total (before it quit snowing) was somewhere between 8 and 10 inches. Yes, we like to do things properly and exactly around here. 

So the kids celebrated Pi Day by playing in the snow in the morning.

We also celebrated Pi Day by having circle waffles. Except they mostly broke apart into fourths. But, hey, we were able to fit them back into circles on our plates. And that counts. 

We also ate chowder in bowls which are circles on the top, and the kids' individual pizzas for supper were in a sort of circular shape. Again, I'm not really precise with everything.

But, by far, the very best thing about Pi Day was that we got to see pictures of and hear all about our new niece who was born Monday evening-- all healthy and cute. And that was the exact and precise thing I had prayed for. Well, not exactly. I only prayed for the healthy part; I assumed the cute part.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

_The Hancock News_ Column--March 8, 2017

I grew up in West Virginia, and I’m proud of my heritage. But when I was young, once in a while I did feel self-conscious about my home.

For example, when I visited my family on the west coast, I often met new people who, upon hearing I was from West Virginia, immediately looked at my feet. I always assumed they were checking to see if my hillbilly self was wearing shoes.

Maybe I was oversensitive and imagining all of that. But I did not make up my aunts and uncles teasing me about my accent. That was real, and in my travels out-of-state, I met up with many others who commented on my way of talking.

Several years later, my self-consciousness about how I talked caused me to pick Latin in college over the French I’d studied for three years in high school. I figured the professor might not appreciate my French accent with an Appalachian twist. I knew Latin was a dead language, and I wouldn’t be required to converse in it.

So that is why I didn’t learn to speak a second language until recently. Now I am quite fluent in baby talk, and, boy, am I thankful. My sweet little daughter jabbers at lightning speed sometimes. Please allow me to translate for you.

Many of Anna’s words are almost the same or identical to what we say in English-- apple, cracker, cookie, and eat. Perhaps her favorite word is the emphatic, “No!”

“Bonk!” means that she just bumped her head, sometimes on purpose so she can say, “Bonk!” “Up” means that she wants picked up. However, “Da-da” can also mean she wants to be picked up, or, more obviously, it can mean Daddy.

“Be-be” is what she calls the baby dolls she drags around. “Na-na,” accompanied by a finger-shake, is what she says accusingly when her brother naughtily steals one of those be-bes away. A heavy panting noise with her tongue hanging out means she’s telling you about Calvin, our dog.

“Pant-pant na-na be-be bonk!” means Calvin is naughty because he whacked her with his tail and caused her to drop a doll and fall down and hit her head.

However, she still lacks the words to say, “I am the queen, and I haven’t invited you to look at or speak to me. Remember my superiority.” When she wants to say something along those lines, she scrunches up her nose and puckers up her mouth in a sassy, exaggerated kissy face; I call it her snooty face. And, because she’s my daughter, I like to imagine she snoots with a little bit of hillbilly West Virginia twang.


In our great United States, lines blur between languages and cultures. That’s why a West Virginian (who was born in California and lives in Maryland) can give you a recipe for Mexican pot roast modified from an African-American cookbook.

The original recipe calls for some flour and for browning the meat up on all sides before roasting it, but I simplified it by throwing it in the crockpot as is. I’ve tried it both ways, and I see no difference. Our favorite way to eat this is to shred the meat, spoon a little of the juices over it, and eat it on tacos, but it’s also good served over rice.

Mexican Pot Roast

chuck roast
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
2 medium onions
10 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup water

Combine chili powder, paprika, and salt. Rub mixture all over the roast. Then stud each onion with 5 cloves. Put meat, onions, cinnamon sticks and water in a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours until tender. If you have a chance, turn the roast over after a couple of hours.

Serve meat sliced or shredded with some of the juices spooned over the top.

*This post has been shared at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth for The Art of Home-Making Monday.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Around Here

Around here life has been happening. Chores, school, and even some fun.

My eldest one day wanted to make breakfast for me. It was his "food helper" day, and he wanted to make pancakes. This was the "Good Morning Sunshine" pancake he produced for his family.

Blueberry pancakes with yellow maple whipped cream smiley face

Back in January I bought a pair of leather black boots for $10 at an outlet. I was pretty excited about the price, but the bonus was that my girls also have black boots. Last year we enjoyed a pink croc date, so the new boot situation seemed to call for a Black Boot Date. And that's what we did after church on Sunday. We went to Buddy Lou's, a new-to-me local restaurant. It was delicious with generous portions. I want to go back often, but I won't because it is a little on the upscale side for around here. But if I had lots of money, I'd willingly spend it because the food was really a step or two above average. The girls' mac and cheese was the best, and it was a kids' meal.

We let the black patent leather shoe come along, too, because she's a girl.

Next was a project on the to-do list for quite some time. The U. S. map that kept falling off the dining room wall because poster putty didn't work needed a solution. After more than half a year, this is our  (cheapest) solution.

Yard stick frame!

Kids are now free to learn U. S. geography at the dinner table again.

We took advantage of nice weather last Friday to get out and hike as far as 3-year-old legs can hike. My husband took us on some beautiful country roads up into Pennsylvania to a pretty place. I honestly can't remember for sure the name of the location. . . Buchanan State Forest? Dickey's Mountain area? The map said this:

I hope that helps you out if you want to go.

The kids liked crossing over Cove Creek on a bridge. There was lots of fishing happening. We even heard spring peepers. In February.

With mostly flat terrain, we didn't really see much other than some wet spots, the creek, vines, and trees. I did hear something scurry off into the underbrush, but I didn't catch a glimpse.

Vine grown around tree

Incidentally, we also learned that the baby also gets carsick on twisting roads. And she won't wear the SeaBands yet. Yay! If you're keeping count, that means four out of seven kids get carsick to some degree.

And we had a fat, fat Tuesday this week. Homemade apple fritters, doughnuts, and bacon for supper. Afterwards, I felt fat.

Fritters and doughnuts frying

I can't imagine why.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Hancock News Column-- February 22, 2017

This afternoon I walked outside without a jacket. The sun was warm, and I noticed tell-tale signs of spring-- yellow crocuses, swelling leaf buds, and tulip leaves popping up. 

Normally when I see these things, my spirits are lifted. I become giddy. I start searching for seeds to stick in the warming dirt. But this year I seem immune to that sort of spring fever.

I want nothing to do with spring yet because I feel cheated. What happened to winter? Where was the snow so deep we needed shovels? How about some snow cream and hot chocolate? And where, oh, where did all the snow angels go?

Don’t get me wrong; I hate cold. I dread dangerous roads, and I do not need the extra work of wiping up puddles of melted snow and drying all the snow clothes my children wear.

But there’s something about the absolute quiet of a deep snow, something pure about a white blanket tucking us all into our snug homes. I have missed that feeling this winter, so I’m not putting away the boots. The hats, gloves, and scarves still litter the living room floor when the baby drags them out of the tote that’s supposed to contain them. I refuse to give up hope that maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to enjoy one big snow before spring comes to stay.


In a pastor’s household, spring is pretty much synonymous with Lent, a busier season with more church activity. In our house, we celebrate Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (or whatever you call the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday) by making donuts (or pancakes if we’re running out of time or counter space). We’ve tried lots of different recipes, but this one is special because it is the one my grandmother used.

While I don’t remember having them at Grandma’s, my mother remembers Grandma making these glazed donuts by the tableful on baking day. That’s impressive because, if you’ve never done it, frying doughnuts is time-intensive.

There’s also a learning curve with frying doughnuts; the oil needs to be just the right temperature. Grandma’s recipe doesn’t have a cooking temperature, but if you look around online, most opinions center somewhere around 375℉. We’ve found that if it’s too cold, the doughnuts become saturated with fat, and if it’s too hot, they brown too quickly to be done on the inside. Also, lard is our favorite oil for frying, but I’ve read that fat that’s solid at room temperature is best. So, if you don’t have lard, solid shortening will work fine.

If you’re up for the challenge and great reward of homemade doughnuts, enjoy! Feel free to update Grandma’s recipe if you have a stand mixer with a hook attachment instead of stirring by hand. Remember, this is a time-intensive recipe due to the rising times for the dough, so unless you plan on getting up before the crack of dawn, don’t plan on making these for breakfast before school or work.

Grandma’s Raised Doughnuts and Glaze

1/4 cup warm water
1 pkg. active dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)
1/4 sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/4 cup soft shortening (or butter)
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups sifted flour
fat for frying

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add milk, sugar, salt, egg, shortening and half of flour. Mix with spoon till smooth. Add remaining flour: mix with hands. Grease, cover, and let rise until doubled.

After dough has risen, roll it out on a floured surface to a thickness of about 1/4”. Cut out doughnuts in whatever shape you want. Let the doughnuts rise until doubled. Heat oil in a heavy and deep pot or deep-fryer to about 375℉. Fry donuts 2 or 3 at a time until browned on both sides, flipping once (about 2-3 minutes). Remove from fat with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. (My directions--not in Grandma’s recipe.)

To glaze doughnuts: add 1/3 cup boiling water gradually to 1 cup confectioner’s sugar. Mix thoroughly. Dip warm doughnuts into the warm glaze.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Embarrassing Hot Dog Chili

I figured out a big blog and newspaper column mistake today. I thawed out more hamburger than I needed for supper, so I decided I would use the extra for some hot dog chili. I figured I could look at my recipe online quickly. I looked here and became embarrassed because I'd completely left out the cooking directions.

So, if you like hot dog chili and was disappointed in the recipe before, here it is again. I'm also correcting it in the original.

Hot Dog Chili

5 lbs. hamburger
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
5 Tbsp. sugar (or to taste)
2 med. bottles catsup (72 oz.)
4 Tbsp. prepared mustard
2 Tbsp. vinegar
garlic salt and pepper, to taste
chili powder, to taste
1 dash ground red pepper

Brown hamburger and drain. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer (on stove or in crockpot) for 4-6 hours.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Math Riddle

My oldest son came up with this riddle:

Boy: How many inches are in 24 feet?

Mom (who was just too lazy to do the math): I don't know, how many?

Boy: I can't tell you. It's two gross.

Ba-dum bum!