Monday, January 16, 2017

Muffin Pan Update

It might seem I'm a little obsessed with my muffin pan, but I received a second one for Christmas. If you haven't been privy to my previous posts about my amazing muffin pans and you want to see more muffin pan action shots, look here and here.

If you don't want to look at the other posts, here is a picture of my new USA muffin pan in action.

Even a 7-year-old can easily remove these muffins!

And look how clean!

The interesting and different thing about this muffin tumbling picture is that when my mother-in-law was here, she asked if we had to grease them. We always had greased them some, so she suggested a scientific experiment to see if they need greased. The next time muffins were on the menu, my daughter and I carried out the experiment, leaving one row in each muffin pan un-greased. And as you can see above, the results were identical-- clean muffin tins with no scrubbing necessary. Simply beautiful. 

Now. Another experiment. Same brand. Different pan. This time it was the lasagna pan's turn. I'd made lasagna one night and reheated it the next for supper. You can see the burnt mess.

Dimly lit, but still clearly burnt

I wondered if these remarkable pans could ace even this horrible mess. After using my plastic utensil (no metal on these silicon-coated pans!) to scrape gently, the pan looked like this:

Impressive results

Then the pan went into the dish water, and after a quick swipe with a dish rag, the results made me happy.

Nice and clean (but still dimly lit) pan

So, in summary, these USA pans are awesome. They are a little more expensive, but if you don't like things to stick and you don't like to scrub pans, they are worth it. Also, unless somebody shows me something otherwise, I'll continue thinking they are not so chemically bad for the body as other non-sticks. And, remember, because I have an audience of, on average, 10 people, nobody's paying me to say it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

_The Hancock News_ Column-- January 11, 2017

I’m a crybaby. While I don’t cry as easily or as often as I used to, every once in a while, those tears just have to fall.

For Christmas we received the Stottlemyer calendar that Aunt Patty makes. The yearly gift has the birthdays, anniversaries, and current pictures of everybody in my husband’s large family. As I eagerly flipped through the months, I noticed that our wedding anniversary looked awfully lonely by itself on that square in August. You see, we were married on Grandpa Bill’s birthday. I was overwhelmed by sudden grief, remembering Grandpa’s passing, and I cried.

Then on Saturday I fought back the tears again, but for an entirely different reason. Our large van isn’t the easiest of our vehicles for me to drive, and let’s just say it prefers dry, paved roads to icy and muddy dirt driveways. For the second year in a row, I managed to get the van hung up in our friends’ driveway for butchering day.

There I was, trying to rock the van back and forth just enough to gain some traction, and all the while I had an audience. I was stressed out, to say the least, and I soon admitted defeat, leaving the van mess for my husband to deal with while I, with my tail between my legs, retreated inside so I wouldn’t have to watch. If my audience hadn’t been kind friends, I’m pretty sure the tears that threatened would have spilled over, and it’s possible I might have died from embarrassment.

And sometimes I cry because of the beauty of it all. That happened this morning at church. I watched as my husband baptized a precious baby. I watched that baby and her family, I held my own squirming and Cheez-It-covered little ones, and I simply couldn’t hold all the happy inside. All the beauty and promise in life spilled right out as tears.

And that’s the kind of crying I like to do. In this new year, may all your tears, or at least most of them, be those joyful tears born of delight and wonder and pure happiness.


At the hog-butchering this year, as usual, pies took center stage (that is, after the contents of the puddin’ pot). I would say my favorite was the raisin pie; this year my friend didn’t realize until too late that she had golden raisins instead of the regular kind, but that pie did not suffer. If anything, it was even better!

I stayed up the night before baking cherry pie, pumpkin pie, and because I had some extra crust and no fruit thawed out, this Bob Andy pie. I think I got the recipe online a few years ago, but I have no idea what’s behind the name. It’s a simple pie filling that’s easy to make, and the best part is that you’ll most likely have all the ingredients on hand.

Bob Andy Pie

3 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (9 or 10- inch) unbaked pie shell

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 325℉. Crack eggs in a medium bowl and whisk. Whisk in milk. Add sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt and whisk into milk mixture.

Pour filling into unbaked pie shell. Bake until custard has set and crust is golden, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven, cool and serve at room temperature or chilled.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Christmas Wrap-up

There are a few stray pictures from Christmas, and since Christmas is now over, it's time.

Since I love Frugal Girl's contest, here are a couple pictures of ours (no contest).

Pretty Snoopy's house


And my favorite gift, a set of hand warmers (for when my hands are freezing in bed).

Pretty pink cashmere

And this morning, we have our first snow! I guess it was waiting for Christmas to be over. The kids are hoping for a day off school. It's not going to happen, but maybe there'll be an extended recess.

Pretty in the morning

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Magic Words

Today our house saw more Christmas festivities since Grandma, Grandpa, & Co. showed up. There were presents, games, and even a play.

During the play, the Christmas Fairy Queen reigned supreme while her servant prepared a feast for their dolls. My favorite line from the play? "Bibbity, bobbity, duct tape! And frogs!"

Kids make Christmas so much fun.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Kindness-- One Definition

There is a lady in our congregation who has decided to give us a most delightful Christmas gift for the last two years. She watches our children so that we can go on a date and finish up our Christmas shopping for the children without them seeing what we're buying.

This year, she stepped it up a notch because when I walked in the door, this is what I saw.

A table set for supper. (And, evidently, a funny blur to the right.)

And this is what I smelled.

Homemade beef noodle soup

Though it is possible that I also smelled these, too.

Chocolate chip cookies that she also baked at our house.

I didn't, however, smell this because it's artificial. Our kind friend not only rushed to make food with the children to surprise us, but she also helped them make our personalized wreath.

How did she know I've been wanting a wreath for on our door?

The kids had a blast, and we did, too. What an amazing Christmas present! 

And because I didn't post a Merry Christmas post. . .

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Vacation Leftovers

I thought a few other vacation pictures were noteworthy because they were taken by my children. I don't know why they chose their subject matter, but it's an interesting insight into the minds of boys. So, in no particular order. . .

Braum's was a fast-food joint we visited twice on our journey. Only my husband ran in, but we all enjoyed their burgers and shakes. But not their fries. I wasn't impressed by their french fries at all. If you see this one along the road, try it out.

The only fast food place we stopped on our trip.

Punch Buggy!

A giant gold dome

I'm guessing this one is because it's not Hardee's.

Oklahoma's capitol building


I'm sensing a vintage vehicle theme.

My fault. I thought it was a cool fence.

Historic Route 66 sign

Old school I didn't notice when we were driving

We actually stopped at this next one. Pops it was called. Giant soda bottle and. . .

. . . super cool soda store!

Cool architecture and pretty displays.

We went in for a potty break and to buy Daddy some souvenirs for his 40th birthday. I was more than nervous taking the little ones into a store with so many glass bottles, but we didn't break anything. AND if you're ever driving by, it had the coolest bathrooms of our entire trip. Cool faucets. Cool architecture. Tourist trap, but a must see.

Friday, December 16, 2016

_The Hancock News_ Column--December 14, 2016

My first year of teaching, a fellow teacher assigned her students to create a “50 Things To Do Before I Die” list. I hopped on board and made my own bucket list. I don’t know what notebook or box it might be tucked away in now, but if I ever find it, I can cross off one more item; this weekend I made a gingerbread house.

I took full advantage of my daughter’s birthday and convinced her she needed a cake with a gingerbread house on top. I didn’t have to twist her arm for her to agree to a cake topped with huge upright cookies covered in frosting and candy.

Visions of five lit candles on a pile of crumpled cookie walls flashed through my anxious head, so multiple times I ran to the computer to see what kind of advice I could find from the total strangers online. Miraculously, I managed to construct four standing walls topped by a roof tiled with chocolate nonpareils. A gingerbread girl wearing a pink sugar dress stood in the snowy frosted front yard surrounded by a white chocolate pretzel fence. Even if it looked like it was made by a preschooler instead of for a preschooler, I was proud.

Even better, the kids were wowed. (It doesn’t take much to wow kids.) The preschooler was thrilled with her cake. What they didn’t know was that while the outside looked nice, inside the house a bottle of balsamic vinegar was propping up one side of the heavy roof to keep it from caving in.

So often when people hear that we have seven children they exclaim, “I don’t know how you do it!” So here’s the magic answer: I have lots and lots of bottles of balsamic vinegar. If you know me, you’re probably one of those bottles. 

None of us can build the gingerbread houses in our lives without a support system of some kind. I have a husband who fixes breakfast so I can type up a newspaper article. I have a mother who entertains the little ones by “pretending” to take a nap while they play house so that I can make ready for a birthday party. I have a father who teaches my sons to play cribbage because I don’t often have time for games. I have children who walk the dog, feed the guineas, and unload the dishwasher.

In our church, I have friends who teach my children music. I have friends who always have an empty lap and a willing ear to listen to the little ones. One friend who sits behind us in church always lends his watch to quiet the baby; while my babies have proven that those watches can literally take a licking and keep on ticking, he is sporting his third watch in twelve years. 

I see bottles of vinegar every time I go to town. When I visit the library, the librarian helps me as I juggle overdue books, oversee book selection, and change baby diapers. The lady at the bank is so kind to remember my children with a lollipop each time we go through the drive-thru. People at the grocery store are nice even if my frazzled brain is distracted, and I nearly collide into them with my cart.

Then there are those bottles that I don’t see often or at all. I have one far away friend, a mother of eight, who calls whenever she has a semi-quiet moment. She sweeps her kitchen while I rock a baby, and together we try to support each other in friendship. Other “friends” are people online who write knowledgeable articles about cooking, stain removal, or homeschooling. A quick call to my mother-in-law answers any questions the internet doesn’t know.

That bottle of balsamic vinegar didn’t have to do anything special to be helpful; it just had to be its own sturdy self. Sometimes we think we need to do something extraordinary to be helpful, but I think that most often we just need to be ourselves. 

In this time leading up to the holidays, it’s easy for stress and chaos to reign. As you prepare for all the fun, remember that ordinary little acts of kindness by ordinary people add up. Holding the door, not scowling when you are cut off on the road, or offering your place in line to somebody with little ones grabbing at candy bars could be the one small bit of support that keeps a stranger’s day from crumbling around her shoulders. I never thought I’d give this advice, but go ahead and be a bottle of balsamic vinegar!


I could offer you our gingerbread cookie recipe, but after digging into that house and cake several times now, I’m tired of sweets. I imagine you will be, too, before the season is over. Instead, here’s a balsamic vinegar recipe. While balsamic vinegar is a bit sweeter than others, it’s still healthier than cookies when you pour this basic vinaigrette over a salad. We often add our favorite herbs or seasonings to change things up a little.

Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil

Add all ingredients to a small glass jar. Screw the lid on tightly, and shake it up until it’s mixed well. For variations, add 1 tsp. dried herbs, dijon mustard, minced onion or garlic, or curry powder.