Friday, March 27, 2015

Let Them Decorate Cake!

Sometimes we like to watch various cooking shows that show all those fancy cakes. My children would absolutely love to try their hand at decorating a few, but I want to stay sane and not have the mess.

The children have come up with an alternative.

A bee-you-ti-ful cake--thanks to my daughter!

This is a much neater version, I believe. They even have their own "cake" competitions with timers and all. While Legos and Duplos can certainly be underfoot, I much prefer that to frosting smeared everywhere and a messy kitchen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

They're Back!

If you've read this blog much, you probably think I'm obsessed with robins. I'm not actually obsessed, but I do look forward to spring enough to get excited when I see this:

Pretty robins!

And to give you a little perspective:

Hundreds of them!

And that was only on one side of the driveway. After a bit, they flew away, but I know some of them will settle down around here.

I'm sure my cats are counting on it. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why I'll Never Be A Big-Name Blogger--Reasons #1 and #2

While I'd love to be a big-name blogger who makes a nice extra income on her blog, I just don't see that happening.

For starters, such people post holiday ideas before or, at least, on a given holiday. Here I am posting St. Patrick's Day stuff a day late.

Yesterday I was feeling like my homeschooled children might turn out a little culturally illiterate because they weren't used to making green decorations, and most of them didn't know what a leprechaun was. I decided that, while we needed to be getting ready for company, we were learning about St. Patrick's Day for school. We read library books and talked about the history behind the holiday. In the afternoon during baby's nap, the children colored shamrocks and did various St. Patrick's Day (educational) worksheets I happen to have stowed away. We even listened to Celtic music.

We ate some themed food during the day. We had a Mexican Irish themed breakfast because we had green avocado. For lunch we had some Irish cheese we found at Sam's Club. But supper was the big one and new to us-- corned beef and cabbage.

Our favorite-- by far-- was what we ate for evening snack-- Irish Soda Bread and green milk.

A slightly sweet and delicious version of Irish Soda Bread.

And this picture brings me to Reason #2 about why I'll never be a big-name blogger. I am not a photographer. Yesterday I attempted to follow advice I'd found on the internet and use natural light for taking my awesome blog photo. Unfortunately, by the time the bread was done, it was evening, and there wasn't much natural light left in the house. I took the bread outside.

Once outside, I was met with a few other problems. Namely, cats. And children who were worried sick that birds would poop on it.

And then there were the long shadows. No matter how I placed my bread and my camera, those shadows were there. I took the pictures anyway.

I also took more advice and lightened the picture artificially. I'm not trained in this. I only had my photo browser's editing tools, and while I'm not tech savvy, I don't think they're advanced. I lightened the shadows. I'm not pleased with the results.

That's okay. The bread was delicious anyway. If you'd like, you can make it with this recipe, but I wouldn't wait until next St. Patrick's Day. It was yummy and gone by morning!

Irish Soda Bread

3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2 cups sour cream
1 cup raisins

1. Mix together all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
2. Fold in beaten eggs and sour cream to flour mixture.
3. Stir raisins into dough.
4. Mold dough into a round loaf and place in a greased 9" pie plate.
5. Sprinkle loaf with flour and cut a cross in the top of the loaf with a knife.
6. Bake at 350F for about an hour until loaf is well browned.

Recipe Note: This was the first time I made this, and the dough was quite sticky. At least the dough is tasty, so feel free to lick your fingers.

Friday, March 13, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column-- March 4, 2015

Sisterhood of the Maternity Pants

My friend and I lead different lives. She is a successful career woman; I am a stay-at-home mother with below average housekeeping skills. Her children go to school; my children are homeschooled. She’s a sports fan; I enjoy taking a nap during Sunday afternoon football. She can do taxes; I can’t even think about doing taxes without severe anxiety. 

We do share common ground. We are both pastors’ wives. Our husbands are close, and our children play together nicely with almost no fighting.

We also share a deeper bond-- the best pair of jeans ever. You see, my friend and I wear close to the same size, and when she knew she would be having no more children, she passed on all of her maternity clothes to me.

In this wardrobe was a pair of jeans so amazingly comfortable that she later admitted she almost kept them for herself. The look and the fit is perfect for all stages of pregnancy, and there’s just the right amount of stretch to ensure comfort. Over the years, that pair of maternity pants has become one of my favorite possessions of all time.

I’ve worn those Levi’s through three pregnancies. Now we are expecting our seventh baby, and a couple of weeks ago I did a little happy dance as I pulled those jeans on for the first time. Wearing them lifted my spirits, despite my expanding waistline and the nausea that is now my constant companion.

But jeans don’t last forever. During my last pregnancy, they suffered what looks like a small pick on the left front pocket. When I saw it, I panicked and maybe crossed over the line into Crazyville.

I called Levi’s customer service line to ask where they sold their maternity jeans. I was told they no longer make maternity clothes, but I didn’t give up.

“Is it possible you have some left over and  packed away in a warehouse somewhere?” I asked hopefully, and then I strained my eyes to read off any identifying marks on the faded tags inside the pants. The representative suggested I search online at eBay, and after urging her to pass on to her superiors that they would probably make millions of women happy by reviving their maternity line, I thanked her and hung up.

That kind, kind customer service representative didn’t make fun of me outright, and for that I’m thankful because, after a bit of time to put things in perspective, I now realize exactly how desperate and nutty I must have sounded.

When I told the whole story to my friend who’d gifted me with these perfect pants, when I opened up, admitting my desperation and craziness, she laughed. But she wasn’t laughing at me, she was laughing with me because she understood exactly how I felt about those jeans we’d shared. She could see herself doing the exact same thing if she were in my situation. We laughed so hard we cried. Now that’s real friendship!

These days I have an aversion to even thinking about cooking. During the first trimester I avoid grocery stores and meal planning. 

I do have some cravings. When my husband made pork ribs, I just had to have a vinegar BBQ sauce for it. My son mixed up this recipe for me, and since then I’ve actually eaten spoonfuls of it for a snack and splashed it generously on slices of pizza. I know, I know-- pregnant ladies eat strange things; at least it’s not ice cream with pickles.

Vinegar BBQ Sauce

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
3/4 cup cold water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. hot pepper flakes
1 1/2 Tbsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together until sugar and salt are dissolved. This can be stored for a long time in the refrigerator and is wonderful on pork.

I store it in a squirt bottle, but a jar would be fine, too.

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

In The Air

For science class yesterday, I sent the children outside to see if there were any signs of spring, mostly because I am really tired of winter and needed the encouragement. What they found did not disappoint.

First up, shrinking piles of snow from the plow.

The biggest pile left will be gone today, I'm sure.

Then were the various green things popping up. They had to rake leaves away to find most of these.

Snow Glories

The irises Grandma and Grandpa planted a couple of years ago

The tulips on the side of the house that have needed dividing for years

They also found some swelling buds.

My lilac

And best of all, the one thing they dragged me out of the house for, the one that had them all giddy and in giggles. . . 

Announcing. . . 


A most welcome crocus

I think they all deserve an "A" for this science assignment.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Eating Yellow(ish) Snow

Yesterday we got about 5 inches of snow. I called a snow day for school, and the kids went outside to play. But not before my husband set aside some clean snow in a bowl and put it out of kids' and dog's reach outside.

Fluffy, clean snow.

While I was waiting for their hot chocolate to get warm on the stove, I mixed up a concoction of evaporated milk, sugar, and vanilla. Then after supper it was easy as can be to pour the concoction over the snow.

Yellowish snow.

And stir it up to make a delicious and once-a-year treat for us all.

Snow cream!

While I have made snow cream many different ways, this was my favorite. I think I will experiment no more.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

It's a Sssssnap!

I'm not especially keen on handing out parenting advice to people without being asked. Sure, I have more than the average number of children, but parenting styles are so different. I might think I have the best way to feed my child, but you may do the complete opposite and have a healthy child anyway. 

I hope it's not too obnoxious for me to offer up this advice. You see, I've lately been reminded of the usefulness of one of my favorite parenting "tricks" because my little one is at the stage of refusing to lie still for an entire diaper change no matter what toy I give him for distraction. 

For those of you who are charged with keeping squirmy bottoms clean and dry, I have one more weapon for you to add to your arsenal. This trick of the trade has been about 75% effective for all of my children.

If you've finished up with the diaper itself, and baby just won't be still to be snapped up (onesies, sleepers, etc.), try this. Say the word, "snap," but emphasize the beginning sound. Sound like a snake, and only finish the word just as you're snapping that particular snap. Repeat for each snap. I get quiet attention, giggles, and sometimes they even hiss along with me, but I almost always get a still and cooperative baby.

It's worth a try. If it doesn't work, you're out nothing. If it does, your day is that much simpler. 

Do you have any other simple parenting tricks that are free and easy that have really worked for you? Please comment and let me know because I need all the tricks up my sleeve I can gather.