Tuesday, April 28, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column-- April 22, 2015

Not a red bud, but still a sign of spring!

On the first really nice day several weeks ago, the children were itching to be outside playing instead of being cooped up inside doing math problems, grammar, and phonics. I had a bad case of spring fever myself, so I took pity on them and sent them outside for some nature study. Their science assignment for the afternoon was to find signs of spring and report back to me.

They earned a passing grade that day, for sure. From the obvious shrinking piles of snow to the more difficult-to-notice swelling buds on trees and shrubs, the kids reported that spring was all over the place.

Their most exciting find, however, they refused to put into words. They dragged me outside to show me the first golden crocus blossom they’d found hiding under a blanket of leaves. After the cold, cold winter, it was a treasure to me, too.

Ever since that day, we’ve been on the lookout for more signs of spring. Our house practically buzzed with excitement when an entire flock of robins dotted the yard and field in front of our house.

Unfortunately, there is one sign of spring that is becoming annoying to me. My eyes used to search it out eagerly, but nowadays I sort of dread it. A few years ago we pointed out the beautiful redbuds to the children as we were driving. I challenged them to see if they could find some, too.

The words that followed can be ranked right up there with “Are we there yet?” as the sure-fire way to drive Mom and Dad crazy in a vehicle. Our children ended up being quite observant and began shouting out, “Redbud! Redbud! Redbud!” almost constantly since most of the drive was lined by the trees. It wasn’t a short drive, and even the little ones picked up the mantra.

Every spring since, they’ve needed no reminder, and until the purply blossoms are gone, as well as any other tree blossom that might be mistaken for one, my husband and I are driven to near-insanity by the redbud chorus anytime we go somewhere with the children.

I have always hoped that my children would grow up to be aware of their surroundings and to be observant of the goings-on around them. Now I find myself sometimes hoping that they might be a tad more ignorant or at least more selective in what they deem important enough to report back to me.


In honor of spring and Earth Day (but certainly not in honor of the beautiful redbud), I thought I’d share one of my “crunchy” recipes. This recipe for granola comes from my mother-in-law, and it is a fun one to make with children because, as long as you have the time to pay attention to it in the oven, it’s a tough one to mess up.

This granola is great with milk or as a topping for yogurt or ice cream. I also enjoy it by the handful as a snack occasionally. What I love the most about it is that it is so versatile; if I don’t have one ingredient on hand, I can simply substitute another that I do have. I’ve made it so many times, and I like using a mixture of whole wheat flour, milk powder, sesame seeds, and about a total of two cups of whatever nuts I have on hand for the non-oat part of it. Sometimes I don’t have enough of any of those things to make 6 cups, so I just add more oats to make up the difference. You can also easily tailor it to your family’s own personal tastes or dietary needs. It’s definitely a recipe you can play around with. Have fun!

One-Pan Granola

6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
Total 6 cups any of these--  (soy flour, whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, sunflower or sesame seeds, dry milk powder, unsalted almonds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, or pecans)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 cup oil or 2 sticks butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup honey, molasses or maple syrup
1/2 cup water
2 cups dried fruit

Heat on low in a large roaster pan: oil or butter, honey, molasses, or maple syrup, water and vanilla. When mixture is warm and thinned, add dry ingredients for a total of 12 cups. Add salt and cinnamon. Stir well with wooden spoon. “Too many cooks are an asset, let everyone have a turn!”

Put mixture on cookie sheets. Bake at 250〫F for approximately 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes. Watch carefully so it doesn’t get too dark and burn. Granola will become crispier as it cools. When cool, stir in 2 cups of mixed dried fruit (raisins, apricots, apples, dates, prunes). Store in an airtight container. Makes about 14 cups.

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


  1. It's amazing how much excitement signs of spring can bring after a long, cold winter!

    The granola sounds delicious. I love that you have some wiggle room for what ingredients you can use.

  2. Shannon, I hope you enjoy the granola and the springtime, wherever you are :)