Friday, October 31, 2014

Almost Over

Today I noticed our baby ramming his head into the wall in the hallway.

"Do you see him doing that? Why do you think he might be doing that?" I asked my husband, worried that baby had some medical problem.

Wise husband replied, "I guess he's just seen one too many political ads."


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Baby Quilt Time

Our youngest tot just turned one. It always comes as such a surprise, and I'm not sure why. Before that birthday, they're babies. Just regular old babies. Then it seems they hit that big birthday and all sorts of growing up happens, and they are a totally different kind of bigger baby.

That's what happened with my baby.

Oh, well. At least the "new" baby is still special and cute.  In some ways, he's even cooler because he's started doing all sorts of baby tricks.

One thing he's into now (if I put it down) is his new baby quilt that my aunt made for him and arrived last week.
I think it looks like the frogs are playing Ring-Around-the-Rosie.

Each time I have a baby, I look forward to the quilt. Every quilt is one-of-a-kind with their birth information recorded on the back. She even made one two for me--but that's a blog post all by itself. She is a great quilter, in my biased opinion. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Three Cakes

We just survived another birthday season here at our home. Three boys, three parties, and three birthday cakes. I do enjoy a good birthday cake, and while I get stressed out sometimes about the making of the cake, I get a kick out of making them.

That being said, not all birthday cakes are created equal. This beauty was a pumpkin bundt cake with some simple fall decorations for my new one-year-old. Not only did he chow down on it (after we showed him that it was supposed to be eaten), but he also wasn't smeared up so much that he needed a bath before opening presents. Please note that the final version showcased a hollowed-out-pumpkin-candy candle holder for our one candle.

Our next cake wasn't quite as perfect as the one above. The birthday boy played soccer this fall and wanted a soccer-themed cake. He requested the same teddy graham-ballfield concept that he had last year for his football field cake.  This cake had a few rough edges, but overall, it wasn't too bad. The boy was pleased even if a few party guests didn't eat it because they don't like chocolate cake.

Now the next cake I was truly excited to make. My almost 9-year-old son had requested a black forest cake. I'd seen them before, but as I hate canned cherry pie filling, I'd never partaken. I knew there had to be a better way to go than with cherry pie filling, so I searched the internet for recipes. It's surprising how many completely different recipes claim to be the only way to make authentic black forest cake. I selected a few to be my guide.

I ended up with this monstrosity.

Yep. You saw that right. I had cherries sliding everywhere, even with a frosting dam piped around the top. And have you ever seen those television cake decorators pressing sprinkles, crumbs or whatever onto the sides of a cake? Well, let's just say our chocolate shavings graced about every surface in the kitchen by the time I was through with them.

And just in case you didn't get enough of that first picture, here's one just after the candles were removed.

Painful, isn't it? My son was a good sport about it, though. I was proud. He wasn't even very fond of the taste of the cake because it had whipped cream between the layers and under the chocolate shavings. I didn't even know he didn't like whipped cream. I, on the other hand, loved the chocolatey richness of the amazingly yummy cake. If, however, I make it again, it will be in the form of a trifle and look a lot prettier.

Note: I give you permission to bookmark this post for the purpose of making yourself feel better whenever you think you've failed in the kitchen, perhaps with something you'd wanted to share at a party or potluck. All you have to do is look at the black forest cake and say, "At least it wasn't THAT bad!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

_The Hancock News_ Column-- September 24, 2014

I was almost six when I started kindergarten. My class was the first in my town to go to kindergarten all day long, but for some reason, we only attended every other day. So on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other Friday, I stored up a whole lot of fine memories.

I still remember excitedly climbing on school bus #5 with my Snoopy lunchbox and my Miss Piggy binder. I’m not certain, but I think on my first day I wore a cute little school-themed dress with ABCs, pencils, and apples all over it. 

When I was in kindergarten, I remember playing with blocks, pegboards, and coloring with chunky crayons. I remember making windsocks out of bread bags and playing with a parachute in gym class. I remember Mrs. Junkins, my teacher, somehow knowing my friend Keri and I were the ones secretly peeling the plastic coatings off the covers of all the Little Golden Books. 

I even had a wooden cubby-hole with my name on it, my own place to hang my coat and to store my other belongings which included a change of clothes since kindergartners are still prone to having accidents now and then.

My favorite memories center around the Letter of the Week activities. Each week’s activities related to that letter. “Aa” week brought an ambulance to our playground, “Ff” week saw us climbing on a real firetruck, and so on. My favorite week was “Cc” week because one day we got to dress up like cowgirls and cowboys, and I just so happened to have a pair of cowgirl boots. Our teacher even brought bales of hay into the classroom. We pretended they were our horses.

Maybe that’s why I like having a letter of the week for our kindergarten at home. Kindergarten is so very different for my children since we homeschool. They don’t have the bus ride or the lunchboxes or new clothes, but I do try to keep it fun with plenty of play mixed with the learning. 

This year my oldest daughter is my eager kindergartner. She loves writing, worksheets, and learning phonics. Best of all, she really gets a kick out of experiencing books, toys, games, words and field trips that match each week’s letter. For me, it’s like being in kindergarten all over again--minus the lunchbox and cowboy boots.


Last week was “Dd” week at our house, and I took advantage of some aging bagels to make one of our favorite snacks. Don’t let the name fool you; these are really meant for people. I’m not sure what the original recipe called them, but one of the kids saw a picture of a dog on the page and thought I was making dog treats. The name stuck. You can use any flavor of bagel you like that would be good with cinnamon and sugar; this is a good way to use up day-old quality bagels that might be a bit stale. While not necessary, I find using my electric knife is much easier and quicker for the cutting.

A little messy, but certainly finger-licking good!

Dog Treats

2 bagels 
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Toast the bagel halves. Using a bread (or serrated) knife, slice the bagel halves into small strips (1/4-1/2-inch-wide).
In a large bowl (or zip plastic bag), coat the bagel strips with the melted butter. 

Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the bagel strips. Stir or shake to coat the bagel pieces. Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

_The Hancock News_ Column-- September 17, 2014*

When we first moved to Hancock, the oldest person in our congregation was a gentleman by the name of Clarence. He was 103 years old! I once heard Clarence talk about his longevity, and he partially credited oatmeal. You see, he ate a bowl of oatmeal everyday. 

That health benefit might be the only reason my husband forces the stuff down when we have it for breakfast. Give him oatmeal in granola or cookies, and he loves it. And he likes almost any other hot cereal--cornmeal mush, cream of wheat-- you name it. But when it comes to hot oatmeal in a bowl, while he puts on a good face for the children’s sake, I know he’d possibly rather be eating dirt.

It’s a shame, too, because we eat oatmeal at least once a week. Our oldest son cooks up a mean pot of oats with raisins and his own proprietary blend of spices. If that doesn’t sound good enough, I try to make the oats even more palatable for my husband by setting out yummy toppings like butter, cream, blueberries, sliced bananas or apples, toasted pecans or walnuts, and brown sugar or maple syrup. Sometimes our oatmeal breakfast is a true feast. Sometimes it’s plain with just brown sugar and milk. Occasionally I’ll beat up an egg or two and stir that into the pot at the end of cooking time for some unnoticed extra protein. Simply blending in some peanut butter is another one of our higher protein variations. 

While all these additions up the protein to help us stay feeling full longer, nothing helps. My husband will agree that the porridge tastes better, but he still doesn’t like it. Therefore, if I really want to please my husband with oats, I’ll just need to stick to putting them in his absolute favorite-- Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed (I prefer dark) brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups oats 
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350℉. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside. In another bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well. Add the flour mixture, mixing well. Stir in oats and raisins. 

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool one minute on cookie sheet, then remove to a cooling rack.

*The actual date on the paper was marked September 10, 2014, but this was an error and actually came out on September 17, 2014.