Monday, December 21, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column-- December 16, 2015

They say that it’s better to give than to receive, and I believe it. Way back when I was four years old, I remember clearly the pain caused by receiving one Christmas gift. 

Now I’m sure my babysitter, Mrs. K., thought she had found the perfect present for me. After all, my best friend Denise and I spent hours of our playtime at Mrs. K.’s house adorning ourselves with pictures of jewelry we’d oh-so-carefully cut out of fat Sears and J. C. Penney’s catalogs. I’ll bet she figured we would each just love to have a toy jewelry set.

However, I will forever think of that gift as an amateur torture kit. The necklace and ring were only slightly uncomfortable, just a bit of plastic pokes here and there. But those clip-on earrings were another story. They pinched onto my ears so tightly that I wanted to cry.

To make matters worse, my mother insisted I model the whole set for a picture. I did my best not to cry and to put on a smile while waiting for the camera’s flash to warm up, but anybody could notice a difference between the me in the jewelry picture and the me showing off a cheerleader costume, my Snoopy scissors, and my Pepsi toboggan. 

I begged my mother not ever to make me wear those earrings again, but also never to tell Mrs. K. that I didn’t like them. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

Evidently, my son is a bit more blunt than I was. Last weekend my in-laws were visiting. When his grandfather returned from the grocery store and presented my son with the impromptu gift of a packet of seasoning he’d used to make jerky, my son quickly said, “No, thank you. I like Daddy’s better.”

I was horrified.

While giving is important, we should also learn to receive graciously. I told my son that no matter what gift you receive, you should always say, “Thank you.” Even if it doesn’t fit, it’s ugly, or you just don’t like it, a gift is the giver’s way of saying, “I care about you,” and “Thank you” is our way of replying in kind.

No matter how many of the packages you find under the tree end up being returned or re-gifted, remember this holiday season that the thought behind the present is the true gift.

*******************************************************************

One gift I will never, ever, ever re-gift or return is my friend’s candied nuts. They are so good that I can’t thank her enough. These sweet nuts packaged in a jar with a ribbon tied around make the perfect gift for just about anybody, so make enough for yourself and to share with somebody you care about.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I do plan on experimenting with a few more spices. I think a pinch of cayenne might spice things up a bit for those who like some heat with their sweet.

Delicious Nuts

1 egg white
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups pecan or walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt

Whisk the egg white in a bowl with vanilla until fluffy. Add the nuts and egg mixture to a zip lock bag and mix until coated. 


In a small bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add to the nuts in the bag and shake until all nuts are coated. Spread on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 250ºF for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Let the nuts cool before packaging them up.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Peppermint Princess or Candy Cane Queen?

Last week we celebrated our last family birthday of the year, and that means another cake.

The birthday girl had been asking to eat candy canes recently, and that was my inspiration for this cake. That, and her grandmother who really likes peppermint patties was able to be here for the party.

Hello, yummy princess!

Easy yarn sash with bow

When I took the pan out of the box to make the cake part of this, I was totally concerned because the doll insert's arms had broken off entirely. I don't know if one of the kids saw the box in the basement and wanted to play with the doll or if things just broke on their own, but it's safe to assume that poor cake doll will never move those arms again thanks to super glue.

Anyway, all the candies were peppermint, and I added some peppermint oil to the frosting to make it super-yummy, too. The cake inside was a chocolate pound cake. The whole chocolate-mint combo was just about perfect to my taste. 

In fact, this whole cake was a big success. The birthday girl loved it, and it was so easy to just smear on a layer of frosting with a knife and push in the candies to decorate. I even had the right color yarn handy, too.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like. . . ?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas?


"I'll have a blue-berry Christmas without you!"



"Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light!"



"Lo, how a rose e'er blooming. . . "



"The holly and the ivy. . . ?"

Sure, Christmas is only 12 days away, but you wouldn't know it by looking in my front flower beds. We've got blossoms even more than these. The windows are open, and I'm letting the kids play outside in short sleeves. It's that warm out. 

Certainly we're not even close to a white Christmas. 





Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Presents, recommended

Okay. I don't have a large blog following. I don't have any affiliate links (mostly because I don't have a large blog following). But if I did, I would totally link up to those American-made silicone-coated baking pans. You know, the ones with all the funny ridges.

I'd received a gift card to King Arthur flour once and bought a jelly roll pan with all its waves. Then I received a 9 by 13 inch one as a gift, and let me tell you, nothing sticks to that thing. No ruined cakes! Amazing. The only truly non-stick I've found. And it would seem they are not so chemically yucky as those other alleged non-sticks. (Tell me if you find out otherwise.) So, of course, I've been begging for more.

Especially the muffin tins. I like to make muffins, but I hate the waste of those buying those paper liners. BUT I hate scrubbing all those individual muffin cups if you don't use the liners. I tried silicone liners, but then I just had to wash those, too.

Well. No more.

For my birthday I received a new muffin tin, and for you viewing pleasure, I will present why I love it.

Muffins, ready to be removed

In the back, one of my old muffin tins, my best old one. In the front, my beautiful new muffin tin.

Now watch as my lovely assistant tips the new muffin tin.


Watch out below!

Would you look at that?  All I did was lightly grease the tins, and they just tumbled out. Easy peasy. No torn up muffins.


Check out that empty muffin pan!

Do you see any nasty crumbs on that empty pan? I didn't. It just took a quick dip in suds with a little swipe of the dish cloth to make it all clean. Ain't it a beauty?

And in comparison, here I am tipping the old muffin tin, greased exactly the same as the other.


These muffins are holding on for dear life!

It took some prying to get these out. It wasn't horrible, but one muffin did suffer extensive injuries. And then there was more elbow grease necessary to get the pan cleaned out.

So there you have it. Buy these new wavy pans. They are worth any extra money. Trust me. I'm not getting paid for this. But if you make these pans and you want to pay me, I'll gladly accept :)

And if you don't know the type I'm talking about, here they are on Amazon.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column--November 25, 2015

My first teaching job was at Edgewood Middle School in Edgewood, Maryland. I was given a few pens, a pack of chalk, and not much else. I had no textbooks, and the desks in my classroom were too small for any of my 8th grade students who’d already hit their adolescent growth spurt. It wasn’t the worst school in the world, but let’s just say there wasn’t much to be thankful for.

That didn’t stop one of the more veteran teachers from being thankful anyway. Each year he gave photocopies of his gratitude list, several pages stapled together, to each staff member. It was the kind of list that was a gift in itself, thoughtful and sometimes funny.

I was encouraged and uplifted by his efforts. Occasionally all we need is a few reminders that life isn’t so bleak as the television news tries to make us believe.  On that note, I offer up my own gratitude list, circa 2015.

I’m thankful for a 3-year-old curly girl who loves “ska-betty” but would rather eat pancakes at every meal. For her big brother who loves being able to make pancakes all by himself.

I’m thankful for the son who can tie his own shoes now. For the shoes on his feet. For the girl who works at Stride-Rite because, for Pete’s sake, I still can’t figure out by myself how to pick shoes for my kids that fit. 

I’m thankful that despite some health hurdles this year, my parents are still alive and kicking. Mom’s still spoiling the grandkids, and Daddy still gives everybody a hard time, just for the fun of it. Also for my mother-in-law who is anything but the stereotypical mother-in-law.  Ditto for my father-in-law who’s been taking good care of her through two shoulder surgeries this year.

I’m grateful for the pumpkins and winter squash that grew in our garden because their colors and shapes are so pretty. And there’s my son’s first deer hunting success; thanks to him maybe more pumpkins will survive next year.



I’m thankful for my rambunctious toddler who doesn’t have Lyme Disease after all. I’m even thankful for those crazy guineas that run around eating ticks and hiding their eggs.


I’m more thankful for the young man who is kind enough to trek to our house morning and night to take care of those birds when we are away.

I’m thankful beyond words for the friends who came running at all hours to watch our children when our baby was born. And for a chubby, smiling baby girl who is nearly smothered by kisses every waking hour. And for the new van that carries all nine of us about, even if the toddler gets carsick all over it nowadays.

I’m thankful my daughter is excited to be learning to read. And that my sons could hardly believe there might be people out there who didn’t enjoy reading.

I’m super grateful for an editor who is nice about my ramblings and for generous readers who have shared recipes, fun educational materials for my children, and tips for combatting poison ivy.

I’m thankful for my best friend, my dear husband who feeds me Lorna Doone cookies when I’m in the hospital and spoils me whenever he can. He encourages me in all my endeavors and makes me feel beautiful even when the mirror tells a different story. 

But most of all I’m thankful to our Father, who provides all that I need to support this aging body and the life I am rather happy to be living.

*******************************************************

Cranberries are one Thanksgiving Day staple I am thankful for. We usually stock up this time of year on big bags of cranberries and throw them in the freezer for future use in smoothies and muffins and such. I am aware, however, that many people won’t let cranberry sauce pass their lips. Maybe this version, smoothed out by sweet Jello, might change their minds.

Mom’s Cranberry Salad

2  packages (3 oz.) red jello
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 can jellied cranberry sauce
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
finely chopped apples and walnuts or pecans (optional)


Dissolve jello in boiling water. Break up sauce with a fork and add to jello. Chill until very thick. Fold in apples and nuts. Chill.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Aged

It seems this year we've seen a lot of change. I didn't have a difficult time (emotionally) giving up the old broken washing machine. I didn't sniffle at all when we moved the carseats to the new van. But there was a bit of inner struggle when we packaged up this old thing.


Thanks for the memories. And cookies.

This was a gift to me from my grandmother, my Oma. Oma, who taught me how to use it and how to make bread and who knows what else. This trusty old mixer still works, but our family has outgrown it. I've packed it in its box to await a time when it may be needed again-- by myself or one of the next generation. 

It was replaced by a newer, larger model. It even has the whisk attachment (I broke my last one early on in our marriage).


Hello, new friend with the different shaped dough hook!

This sleek machine came as an early birthday present for me. For quite a while we'd been planning on getting it with our accumulated credit card points, but sneaky husband ordered it on the sly. I was surprised when the delivery man carried the box up our walkway.

I deliberated for a few days about what should be the first thing made with it, mostly because I didn't have a spare minute to bake anything. But then on Sunday I finally settled on what I've been wanting for four years to try to make; I had the pumpkin, I had the cream cheese--


Pumpkin Roll!

It turned out quite well despite all my fears.

Next up, a cake. I'd been saving this recipe for quite some time, too. I finally decided my "Lordy, Lordy" birthday would be just the right occasion. This, my friends, was worth the wait-- a pecan pie cake.


Yes, each layer is pecan-encrusted and brushed with a maple-molasses syrup. 


Somebody call the fire department, quick!


All 40 ablaze.

So the new mixer is doing a great job, and it'll be further tested tomorrow with dough for rolls and pecan bars for Thanksgiving Day. The old mixer is safely packed away. I'm just thankful nobody's decided to trade me in for a newer model.



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

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Heat Is On!

Temperatures have dropped, and this morning, we finally turned on the heat. I am satisfied, especially because we made it three days past the goal I made last year. . . and more than a week past last year's Heat Day. 

What's even better is that we didn't suffer trying to "hold out." While there were two mornings with a slight chill to the air, it was all good once the sun rose and we started moving around. We baked a few things and made bone broth all day once, but I think we would have been fine without it. 

But this morning when we got out of bed, we just knew it was time. The guinea water was frozen, we were all cold, and I don't think even baking all day while stewing something on top of the stove and drying 7 loads of clothes in the dryer would have heated things up enough. It was just time.

Bring on the Earl Grey!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Out of the mouths of babes. . .

Cute 3-year-old saying (upon seeing pasta on her plate):  "Ska-betty!  I love ska-betty!"

I am pretty sure I'll cry when she stops saying this.

Not-so-cute 3-year-old saying (upon trying to walk past me):  "Mom, your butt is really big!"

I am pretty sure I won't cry if she never says this again.


Bonus cool link:  Paper Cut-out Luther Rose-- I haven't tried it yet, but it's on the mental "someday" list.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Funnel Cakes

A few weeks ago, my husband saw a small bag of mix for funnel cakes and brought it home for a treat. On Saturday morning, while the children were enthralled by cartoons, we got to work with the messy deep-frying.  We surprised our children by having this ready on their plates when we called them to breakfast.

You can make them at home!
Yes, I know you should have a healthier start to the day, but really funnel cakes aren't very different from doughnuts. Besides, never mind the cheese and bacon, you do see that green spinach in those scrambled eggs, right?

This was meant to be a treat, one I'm not sure we've ever even indulged in at the fair for the kids. If we have, I'm certain they've never enjoyed a whole funnel cake all too themselves.

It was a treat the children were delighted to see, and they loved tearing into the powdery sweets.  And they were filling, too, I might add. I am not sure that any of them finished off an entire one. We had LOTS left over.

What was intended as a treat also served as a lesson. Funnel cakes really pick up lots of grease in the frying process, and our tummies were not appreciative. These fun fair foods aren't all that healthy (surprise, surprise!). Those of us old enough to express it felt icky and sluggish all day. Two of my children are swearing off funnel cakes for life.

Now, I still like funnel cakes, but I don't think I'll ever attempt to eat an entire one by myself again. I think the fun of funnel cakes exists just as much in the atmosphere of a fair or festival and in the sharing of it. Being able to walk it off afterwards probably helps, too.

Was it worth making them? Definitely. My husband and I had fun making them, and seeing the surprise on the kids' faces was satisfying. BUT a little bit goes a long, long way, and I'm not sure we'll ever make them again.

On a healthier note, tonight we had kale with kielbasa. While we've certainly cooked kale before, for some reason the kids gobbled it up tonight. Even my committed carnivore gobbled up the veggie, and he rarely eats veggies of any kind happily. Tonight he went back for seconds of not only the meat; in fact, he fished out a bit of meat and then loaded up on the kale. My husband and I were left with our jaws hanging down in amazement.

So. Even if you've tried cooking kale with bacon and your family hated it, try it with kielbasa. I just sliced up the kielbasa and some onion, fried it up a little in the bottom of a pot, and then loaded on the kale, adding more once it cooked down enough to make more room in the pot.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Update, with picture

So today is November 14, and no heat. While I'm silently celebrating (because the baby is napping), I'm still pushing for the 20th.

And here's a picture of my dear husband's request for a birthday cake last week:

Pumpkin cheese cake with maple pecan topping

It was yummy. The recipe is Paula Deen's. But I made up the idea for the topping all by myself. It takes some skill, but I'll bet you can do it. Put some maple syrup in a saucepan. Put in some cinnamon and toasted pecans. Heat it up a little bit. That's all there is to it.

Coming soon (or as soon as I get to it)-- The story of one family, consumed by the desire to consume funnel cake at a non-fair/festival setting (their home) and not for a snack but for breakfast. It's a heart-breaking tale, or maybe a heart-clogging tale. Whatever. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Picture-free update

Well, we've been busy. We've been sick. We've celebrated a birthday with yummy pumpkin cheesecake. This week we even finished lots of school early and spent the whole afternoon today learning to crochet chains and sew doll's pillows and make bead necklaces.

But we haven't turned the heat on yet. If you're keeping track (and I know you likely aren't), we've almost beat last year's record.  Tomorrow would tie it. Sunday would be great, but I'm still pushing for the 20th.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column--November 4, 2015

I’ll be 40 this month, and already my memory is failing. Sometimes when my young children reminisce, their stories from the recent past only faintly ring a bell.

The last few weeks I’ve been trying to recall events and details from 30 years ago, a time that made a big impression on me.

It was 30 years ago this week that my hometown of Petersburg, West Virginia, experienced the Flood of ’85. The waters of the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River (along with numerous creeks and streams) swelled with inches on inches of rain and changed lives--both those who lost almost everything and those who lost nothing.

I was one of the latter, a fourth grader, excited and a little scared. Thanks to the local radio station, WELD, we knew ahead of time that the waters were rising. I was big enough to realize that my own home was safe. Although we lived less than a half-mile from the river, we were on high ground.

I was more worried about the safety of my truck-driver Daddy and what would happen if he weren’t able to make it home like my Uncle Randall who was stranded at our house. The electricity flickered and failed, and I was relieved when my father finally pulled into the mud-puddled driveway around dark. 

Then there were six of us sitting in the darkness of our living room and listening to the rain pouring down and to the battery-powered radio that kept announcing when and where the river was cresting and how far above flood level.

I slept that night, but in my troubled sleep I dreamt about the waters rising around my bed. When I woke, I heard a new sound with the rain-- the sound of rushing water.

That next day, people ventured out, trading their battery-powered radios for the ones in their cars and trucks. They were greeted by a changed world. The river had completely swept away roads and bridges and buildings, covering everything with inches and feet of mud and debris. It eventually retreated to the new banks it’d carved out for itself.

I don’t remember exactly how long it took for life to return to normal. I don’t think we were out of electricity as long as we were without drinkable running water. It was quite a while until roads and bridges were rebuilt. Both grocery stores in town were hit hard, so we traveled 45 minutes away for food. A temporary post office was established. My school had been flooded, and I’m certain we missed more than a month of classes.

 Many businesses were closed permanently, and high water marks were visible on buildings for years.

At the time I thought I’d never forget any of it. Now much of that time period is blurry to me. Through conversations with friends and family, I’ve discovered some of the memories that remain are distorted or entirely wrong. It’s safe to say if my brain were a computer, I’d have more than just a few corrupt files.

But, you know what? I’m fine with that because in the course of my chitchats about the past, I noticed my loved ones came up with just as many blank screens and error messages, regardless of age.

**************************************************************
I’ve been trying to do better with planning our meals because it saves so much time, money, and stress. One of my struggles in meal-planning, however, is remembering all the favorites, not just repeating the same 4 dishes over and over.

One meal that I usually remember and that nobody minds having frequently is Sloppy Tots (or Sloppy Taters). Basically it consists of tater tots (or roasted chunks of potato if I don’t have tater tots) topped with sloppy joe meat and shredded cheddar cheese. I know that around these parts sloppy joes are called steamers, but for kids, “Sloppy Tots” sounds more fun than “Steamer Tots.”
   
Sloppy Tots

Tater tots (or oven-roasted potatoes)
Shredded cheddar cheese
Mild banana pepper rings

2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 lb. ground beef
6 Tbsp. ketchup
1 tsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Prepare tater tots according to package directions. If you don’t have tater tots, wash and cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces, coat with olive oil, sprinkle with a little seasoning salt, and bake in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 400ºF oven, flipping twice with a metal spatula, for about 30-45 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. I make sure to poke them with a fork to test for doneness.

While potatoes are roasting, saute onions and peppers in a skillet with butter until translucent. Add beef and brown. Drain off the fat. Add the ketchup, chili powder and brown sugar, stir, and cook uncovered until heated through.

To serve, top each serving of tater tots (or taters) with a helping of meat. The shredded cheddar goes on top, and garnish with the banana pepper rings, if desired.  (Note: Use this recipe for tasty sloppy joes/steamers.)
   

Friday, November 6, 2015

Something new, something old

This week we said hello to the new. New carpet, that is. It looks nice with the new paint from a week or so ago.

The color is Warmed Cider. It looks nice with the Pumpkin Pie Spice in the hallway.

Of course, the whole room and closet was torn apart.  We made some hard choices before returning things to the closet. Surprisingly, what follows was not a difficult choice for me.

Mushy pillow was made by my Oma for me when I was about 3 or so. I think. It's hard for me to remember. It was my security thing. No blanket. Just a plain pillow.

Mushy pillow didn't start out that way. It was a normal home-made pillow. After lots of huggin' and squeezin' and cryin', it became Mushy. I slept with it until I got married. And maybe after for a bit.

At some point after we moved here, I was able to put Mushy up on the top shelf of my closet, but only because whenever it was moved it left a trail of pillow dust. I just wasn't ready to give it up.

Yesterday I was. I tossed it into the trash without a blink of the eye. No tears.

Lucky for you, I did take pictures.  Over the years, I had to add more pillow cases so that Mushy didn't leak out everywhere. So, here is Mushy, unwrapped.

Layer 1:  A yellow t-shirt pillowcase, circa 1999-ish

Layer 2:  Striped pillowcase from extra-long twin set bought for college, circa 1994. If you look closely, you might notice some of Mushy's dusty yellow innards leaking out.

Layer 3:  Some plain white thing I don't remember, circa ?


Layer 4:  Sesame Street pillowcase from my earliest childhood memories, completely faded and threadbare.



Layer 5:  A wicked-cool crazy green case that went with the sheets on my older sisters' beds when I was little.



The core: Here it is, bare-naked Mushy with some innards dusting the front walkway.



A closer look:  Notice the pretty fabric Oma picked out for me.

The fabric on Mushy said, "There's a rainbow in every raindrop."  Funny, but that is pretty much how I look at life.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Leftovers


Things have been a blur, but I wanted to capture a few things for my blog.  I've finally written a few blog posts to catch up, but there were some leftovers I didn't want to forget.

Fairy house

My daughter has spent a good amount of time arranging sticks and rocks and flowers and such on the back porch to make a fairy house. She was inspired by a library book.



Truly dead now

The children had a blast tearing apart the old washing machine and learned that washing machines might just have a little water left in them.



Rough, but good

We've been wanting to start butchering. My aunt and uncle kindly passed along my grandfather's butchering kettle, but we needed a second for what we want to do. My husband found these two this fall at an auction for a good price. The last things we need now are stands for the kettles. 



Muddy Creek Falls @ Swallow Falls State Park

Last Sunday we had an interesting trip to Garrett County. By interesting I mean that we were able to see these pretty falls AND clean up vomit four times since our 2-year-old recently took up the fun hobby of "motion sickness."



Exterminate!




I am not a sci-fi fan, but my husband has passed on his love of the genre (in general) and of Dr. Who (specifically) to the children. Here, one son payed homage to the Doctor on our school's white board.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Autumn's Progression

Some folks like to drive about to see fall's pretty colors. I'm not saying that we're not those folks because we've been known to plan field trips around fall foliage, but really we wouldn't need to since we have such a wonderful view from our front yard.

Here's a view of fall coming to our corner of the world.

A few weeks ago



About two weeks ago


Earlier this week



More of earlier this week

It seems that today, however, I suddenly realized we were just past peak color. The children had so much fun today raking the leaves together in a huge pile and jumping. Or burying each other in them. Except for the daughter who wanted a leaf fort instead of the leaf pile everybody else was making; she was quite disappointed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Just have to share

Boy 1:  "Mommy, do you think there's anybody who doesn't like to read?"

Mommy: "Yes. In fact, there are many people who don't."

Boy 1: "That's crazy!"

Boy 2:  "Reading's the most awesome thing ever!"


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Abide with Me (the garden remix)

Since our baby's been born, I've been snapping away at the pictures, and not all of them are of the baby. In looking at a few, I was reminded of one of my favorite hymns.

******************************

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day,
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away;




Change and decay in all around I see;








O Thou who changest not, abide with me.





I fear no foe with Thee at hand to bless; 
Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.





Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?





I triumph still if Thou abide with me!
 



*Notes: The leafless pumpkin vine's foe(s?) was the deer who would keep finding its way into the garden.  You may notice a bit of deer damage on one of the pumpkins in the picture (bite marks).

The grave was really a large trench the children decided they needed to dig in our dirt pile. They were remarkably dirty afterwards, but it was good for them. They've since enlarged it a bit, I think.

The cornucopia of squash was created by my son. After harvesting them, he wanted to display them to surprise me. When cleaning out the garage this weekend, another son arranged them differently and I took a picture of that, too, but those haven't been put on the computer yet. They were both quite proud to please Momma.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Birthday Season


To prove I'll never be a big-name blogger, I submit these three birthday cakes I made/helped make this last month.


Do you feel the force?

Well, the first birthday boy wanted a Star Wars cake, and I have this pan that looks like some sort of rocket/space plane thing that I bought at a yard sale. I didn't really know how to make something that looked like a Star Wars cake and I certainly don't think it actually looks like anything Star Wars-ish, so let's just say I'm glad my child has imagination because he was happy with it.




Anything with candy corn is a winner in my book.

Next up. . . the boy who just wanted to help make his birthday cake. He wanted a "harvest" theme to his so he could put candy pumpkins and candy corn on it. He decided on a garden with corn and pumpkins. Since gardens have dirt, graham cracker crumbs made an appearance. Note to self: when a cake is topped with graham cracker crumbs, it is nearly impossible to write on with frosting. Also note that graham cracker crumbs, while amazingly delicious, scatter like crazy when the birthday candles are blown out.



Super-easy apple cake
And last, while the new 2-year-old is perhaps the most difficult child to take care of (with diaper changes and an insistence on attempting to escape outdoors constantly), he is also the easiest to please when it comes to a cake. The cake was even easier because my sisters-in-law surprised us with a visit and helped me make it. Because I thought the apple cake would be really sweet by itself, I only smeared frosting on the top. Then I stuck a toy train on it. And because it seemed too plain, I quickly added some writing with frosting from the freezer.

Et voila! Birthday season is done.  Of course, next year, there will be 4 cakes to make in a month's time. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column-- October 7, 2015

It seems to me, the more you do something, the easier it should get. Riding a bike is a good example. Sure, you fall off a few (dozen) times, but soon it becomes no big deal.

So why is it that having a baby seems more difficult each time? You’d think that by the seventh birth, I’d have this job down pat. But no, it’s still a mightily daunting task--downright scary.

For me, the whole pregnancy started out tough. Instead of my normal three months of constant nausea, I suffered through almost four months of being sick.

Then soon followed some painful varicose veins in my feet.

Then there was the poison ivy incident.

Then I had to prick my finger four times a day to check my blood sugar to keep gestational diabetes in line. My summer was not filled with many ice cream cones.

Then there was the heartburn that during the last month had me up for an hour or two most nights.

And then came a couple of contractions that had me so excited I could barely sleep a wink. That happened for a few nights in a row.

Then as the sun came up on my son’s 8th birthday, it dawned on me that this might be the day our new baby was born. I kissed my birthday boy, and fearful of a labor progressing too quickly to get to the hospital, my husband and I headed to Hagerstown to walk around until closer to delivery time.

Our fears were completely unfounded, and after a day of stop-and-go labor pains, I finally found myself in a hospital room, discouraged, impatient, and just plain tired. 

Then the water broke, and I was thankful labor finally progressed.

Then I wanted it to stop.

Then I irrationally insisted that somebody make it all go away, just make the labor pains stop!

Well. Then they stopped. 

Then there was a full head of dark hair, ten fingers, ten toes, 9 pounds, 2 ounces, that first blessed cry, my complete joy.

There was my daughter. The center of my universe. The only thing I could see, hear, touch, or smell. It’s funny how quickly all those pregnancy complaints disappear, replaced by the very bundle of near-perfection that caused them in the first place.


Still cute under the crazy lights.



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Our sweet daughter ended up not being born on our son’s birthday, and he was happy to retain the day as his own special one. Instead, she was born just before 1:30 a. m. In fact, all three of my daughters have been born between 1:20 and 1:30 in the morning. What are the odds of that happening?

My favorite eats after giving birth are Lorna Doone cookies--perfect for a midnight (or a little later) snack. I’d never heard of them before I had children, but the hospital where my first son was born had them available for new parents. Those cookies have became part of my birth routine. However, if you’d like to make some shortbread cookies of your own, this recipe is mighty yummy, too.

Butter Pecan Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour until blended. Stir in pecans. Divide dough in half and chill at least 1 hour.

Roll dough to 1/4 inch thick between layers of waxed paper. Cut to desired shapes. Place greased baking sheet on top of cookies, invert, and remove waxed paper.

Bake at 300ºF for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove immediately to a wire rack to cool.


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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Room With a View

While I don't always have a picture with each blog post, I do think those posts are more fun to do. Lately I've sort of been preoccupied with our family and the new baby, so most of the pictures taken in our house have been of our little ones-- and little ones holding the littlest one. And since I don't like to post pictures of our children online often, I don't have many pictures to post. 

However, in looking back at photos of the past couple of weeks, I came across one with no kiddos.

The helicopter at the hospital

This was the second time my hospital room had a view that included where the helicopters land. During my stay I saw three helicopters come and go. Each time, as the helicopter came in, I found myself praying for the person on board, and each time nobody was on board. I couldn't figure out why they would keep landing helicopters with only some cargo. Then I asked a nurse, and I was told that sometimes they fly out different organs and such that have been donated. That made sense.

Unfortunately, the children weren't visiting when the helicopters were around; they would have been thrilled to see the landing and take-off. As it was, I was thankful to have the change of scenery once in a while to break up the monotony of hospital walls.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Our Baby


We finally welcomed our new baby, a beautiful daughter, into our family last week. After my lengthiest hospital stay yet, we finally arrived home on Saturday.


Dear daughter spent some time under the lights for jaundice.

But she finally wore this cute sleeper that Daddy picked out when she came home.

Now that we are home, we are adjusting (and sleeping) relatively well. The other children are as in love as her parents are. Even the former "baby" doesn't seem jealous at all. He picked up on all the baby routines quickly and now instructs me as to what I should do to change diapers, feed her, etc.--all with points and grunts and simple words like her name.

I must add how very, very, very thankful we are to all of those who helped us with childcare. I don't know what we would have done without such kindness being shown to us.