Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rise and Shine!

Thursday morning I was awakened by little ones helping a not-quite-as-little one quietly bring this into our bedroom. (I thoughtfully remembered to call for the camera before I devoured it all.)

"For me?!" I whispered in an exclaimy kind of way so as not to awaken the curly head nestled close by. The grins told me it most certainly was. The little grins and excited whispers stayed to watch me. The bigger one ran back and forth down the long hallway to alternate making crepes with changing the baby's diaper so I could enjoy the feast.

"What is this feast?" you may be wondering. Well, my favorite mug is filled with coffee and resting on the red coaster my kindergartner just finished making this week. The practically-gone stuff is a blueberry and cream cheese filled crepe. The other plate holds a crepe wrapped around a slice of ham with an egg baked into the top of it. I don't really know the actual name since it was all my husband's doing, but it was quite yummy.  Or the one that I ate was yummy; I was too stuffed to eat this one, too.

The next question on your lips is most likely, "What was the occasion?" The obvious answer is that it was my niece's birthday. At least, that's the only thing I could figure out that was special about the day, but I don't think anybody else in the house knew that. So I'm not certain why they did it, but I sure was surprised and happy that they did.  Thank you, family.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Syrup and Glass

Monday we went on a jaunt to Garret County, Maryland, a place most people associate with Deep Creek Lake and skiing. But for us, it was time for our annual maple syrup shopping spree. We've found a farm that sells at prices that allow us to buy real maple syrup for less than anywhere else around. We bought more than 10 gallons!  Now, not all of those are for us; our parents and some church members asked us to pick up a few gallons for them, and we gladly obliged.

After we picked up the syrup, we were off to our field trip destination. Simon Pearce has a showroom and what they call a "manufacturing facility" in Mt. Lake Park, but that sounds too much like a factory. When I think of factory, I think of automated machines doing most of the work. That's not what's going on there.

First, you walk to the back of their showroom/store. Make sure you prepare your children NOT to touch anything while walking through the displays; hands must be in pockets at all times. All the beautiful glass creations do not sell cheaply; even the "seconds" are out of my price range.

Next you open the big gray double-doors, walk into the "manufacturing facility," go up onto the substantial catwalk, and be mesmerized by the glass blowers. We have been here several times, and the children love guessing what each blob of red-hot molten glass will become. This time we saw free-form platters, two kinds of vases, and a pitcher being made. Teams work together to form each component, constantly twirling the hot glass, re-heating, blowing and so on. While not made of metal, they do work like well-oiled machines, never seeming to miss a beat.

If ever you have the opportunity to go there (or any other glassblowing workshop), I highly recommend it. Enjoy looking at all of those beautiful and functional pieces of art. I do, and I plan on saving up for a special piece or two--but not until the children are grown and less clumsy!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

5 Reasons to Bake After Children Go to Bed

I'm a big supporter of having children in the kitchen. They learn valuable skills for life. Children who are involved with planning and cooking their own healthy meals are more likely to eat them. Kitchen time together is also quality family time.

But there is an argument to be made for cooking without the children. Here are my top 5 reasons to wait until after the kids are asleep.

5.  There's no fighting over who does what job. 

In our house, the children don't always want to help with the cooking. Face it. Some cooking is boring and not within the skill set of your average preschooler.  My children are not really interested in flopping raw meat around in a pan; nor are they really able to be safe around a hot skillet. However, pull out the measuring cups and spoons, a bowl, and a big wooden spoon for mixing up some brownies, and everybody wants a turn to scoop and dump. When 5 children want to split 7 jobs up equally, problems arise, words are exchanged, tantrums thrown, and nobody has fun.

4.  There are fewer distractions, so you're less likely to mess up.

When small children are asking questions, making suggestions, and "helping" in countless other ways, sometimes a teaspoon of salt is left out, and an eggshell might find it's way in. It's bad enough to forget whether or not you've added the vanilla, but completely disastrous to accidentally add 1 Tbsp. of baking powder three separate times.

3.  There's more counter space. 

In our kitchen, the youngest helpers always demand to be "up counter." Translated, that means, "I want to be up on the counter where I can stick my hands in the cookie dough and stir the flour and drop eggs at will." Not only is the counter now occupied by diapered bottoms, but I also must move anything that can spill out of reach. That leaves me with approximately 1 square inch to do all the work. 

2.  It'll get done more quickly.

Without bickering and distractions, those yummy baked goods will be gracing your countertops so much more quickly than if you'd had many hands working with you.

And the most important reason to tuck your tots into bed before you tie on your apron. . . 

1.  You get to lick the spoon all by yourself! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring, Revisited

Could it be possible that the crocuses, robins, and such didn't get the memo about spring not coming quite yet?

St. Patrick's Day, our backyard

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring Fever

The joy of spring is bubbling up in me and spilling out all over the place. The laundry is piling up; that's okay. The children bicker; I can deal with that. I lost an hour of sleep in the time change that my body will not stop looking for; yep, that's all good, too.

Why? Because it's spring-- if not by the calendar, then at least by

the melted snow

and crocuses

and buds on the trees

and the wild mustard and the robins and earthworms and tulips and the warm sunshine.

And in my heart spring is here. It's pumping through me to my hands that want to dig into the dirt to plant things, to my feet that want to tramp through the yard and woods, to my nose that breathes in all the smells of green and dirt and freshness, and to my ears that listen for the next squeal or shout from a child just discovering another sign of new life in the great outdoors.

Like Christmas, spring is a time that is internalized, so anticipated that it isn't just about a date on the calendar anymore. It more like a promise of joy and life. And that promise lifts the weight of winter off my shoulders, making me near giddy.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Just Like Grandma Made

How many times have you heard somebody yearn for some tasty dish that their grandma made years and years ago? I've heard people complain that they follow Grandma's recipe, but it just doesn't taste the same. Well, now I have the answer. It doesn't taste as good because you're not using the same ingredients as Grandma!

I've made plenty of biscuits, but these were the best. I used lard (fresh from butchering)  and fresh whole milk (right from the farm). No, I didn't grind my own flour from a local wheat field, but I might if I had it available!

Just as homemade bread tastes so much better than store-bought, biscuits and pie crusts are better with lard. I know that lard has a bad reputation, what with clogged arteries and all, but if you have access, give real lard (not the highly processed stuff sold in most grocery stores) a try for a treat. You won't regret it. I promise.

If you don't know where to find the real stuff, ask a local butcher. You may also find it at some bulk food stores in the refrigerated section, especially if they have specialty Amish goods.

The biscuit recipe? It's simple. You may want to halve the recipe if you don't need an entire tray of biscuits.

Best Biscuits
4 cups flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup lard
1 1/2 cups whole milk

Stir together the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut the lard into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs (it's okay to have a few larger clumps--up to about 1/2 inch). Add the milk and stir gently until the mixture comes together. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead a couple of times. Roll or press the dough out until it's as thick as Grandma's biscuit cutter (about 3/4 inch) and cut out biscuits. Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet at 450 degrees (F) for 10-12 minutes, until golden on top. Brush with melted butter, if you want to.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Life Choices

Our children have memorized the end of a speech attributed to Patrick Henry.  A couple of days ago, our 4-year-old daughter ran screaming into our room. She was being chased by her 6-year-old brother.

"What is going on?!" we demanded.

Said brother, "Well, she said, 'Give me liberty or give me death!' I chose death."

Maybe it's good I had no brothers.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Stinky Addendum

My husband came across this article  about stinkbugs and shared it with me.  Although I am yearning for spring, I suddenly rejoiced in the colder than normal weather we're still having. You see, I think writing about the stinkbugs made me dislike them even more. That's why there's now a price on their heads in our household--one minute of electronics time earned for each annihilated stinkbug.