Sunday, September 7, 2014

_The Hancock News_ Column- August 27, 2014

One of the mysterious truths of life is that less is more. I’ve been trying to remind myself of that this busy, busy summer. Why is summer vacation so full of work and activities?

By the end of July each square of my calendar held activities or appointments. Dishes and green beans from the garden were piling up on the counter. Soccer practices and the arrival of guests began filling up August’s days, while more green beans began vying with tomatoes and zucchini for prime counter space. 

Before I knew it, it was time to prepare for school. Since we homeschool, that doesn’t mean buying new clothes and book bags for the kids. While we do need to buy paper, crayons, and such, I also needed to plan and to compile a list of textbooks and other resources to order. Then this year, since my daughter is starting kindergarten, I needed to rearrange our dining room/ school room to make space for more books. 

Then there are the guineas. The whole summer we’ve been learning about, building for, and taking care of 14 guineas we bought as babies (or keets). They are loud and messy and stupid, but in a few weeks, we’ll release them during the day for their intended purpose-- free-ranging on ticks. We didn’t want to spend more money and time on extra responsibilities, but after several cases of Lyme Disease in our family and a spring filled with picking ticks off of even the refrigerator, we were ready to do about anything to prevent the sickness. 

With all of the “more”-- activities, visitors, garden, animals, and work-- I started feeling like I was running on empty. I wasn’t the only one in my family overwhelmed by all the extras. We needed less.

That’s why my husband and I decided to deploy the secret weapon we reserve for times like this. It’s a simple and cheap tool, but a highly effective one. Everybody should know how to wield this mighty protector of sanity. It is the word “no.” 

It sounds easy, but saying “no” sometimes hurts. This summer we ended up using it for a couple of family get-togethers  and library programs we really didn’t want to miss. We were disappointed, but I can say without a doubt that it was the best decision for our family. 

There’s just no sense in having so much and doing so much that you can enjoy nothing. Less is definitely more.


While I’m on the topic of saying the tiny word that works like magic, I should probably learn how to say it to these sweet Magic Bars. Unfortunately I’m weak-willed, so I try to make them only when I can take most of them to somebody else or to a covered-dish dinner. But if you’re feeling brave, go ahead and make a pan of them; it’s a great opportunity for you to practice saying “no.” 

Note that one time I didn’t layer the ingredients in order, and it ended up a mess. Luckily it was a tasty mess that worked really well as an ice cream topping, but I just wanted to warn you that the order does matter. Also, feel free to substitute butterscotch chips or M&M’s for the chocolate chips.

Magic Bars

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk 
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch pan (or use cooking spray).
2. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter in a small bowl. Press into the bottom of the pan. 
3.  Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture. Layer evenly with chocolate chips, coconut and nuts. Press down firmly with a fork.
4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Loosen from sides of pan while still warm; cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

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


  1. Good morning Jody! Very true about saying "No"... Sometimes, we just need to scale down to stay sane! Magic bars are a family favorite too! So easy and so tasty!!! Thank you for sharing last week on the Art of Home-Making Mondays! Please join in again this week as the new link up is up and running :)

    1. Thanks, JES. I enjoy sharing, and I hope to be able to link up more frequently (and post more often to my blogs, too) soon because we'll be getting faster than dial-up internet finally! So far, it takes so very, very long just to do one thing.