Thursday, June 30, 2016

_The Hancock News_ Column-- June 29, 2016

Folks say that corn should be knee-high by the Fourth of July. Miraculously, except for where the deer nibbled, our popcorn measures just up to my knee. Unfortunately, the weeds do, too.

At our house this week, we’ve been waging a war on weeds in the garden. We’ve almost reclaimed the five varieties of beans and rescued the tomatillos and ground cherries from certain destruction at the hands of tough crabgrass, prickly horse nettle, wild blackberry brambles, and a thick carpet of purslane.

That purslane is a traitor in the garden. I read a little bit about it on the internet a few years ago, and supposedly it is a “good” weed for the garden-- drawing up nutrients to the top of the soil. It’s edible, too-- high in omega-3’s. So this year, I treated it like a friend.

Never again. That sneaky little plant not only started to crowd out everything else, but it hid beneath it other hostile weeds taking firm root.

Somehow those weeds have enlisted the rocks in their army. Before we planted, the kids removed buckets and buckets of rocks, but the heavy rains uncovered more reinforcements. Because of them, weeding by hand produces sore fingertips, and I’m afraid our poor nicked-up hoe will soon succumb to it’s battle injuries.

The invading weeds are also helped by our guineas, pecking here and there and leaving fertilizer behind. I had read on the internet that these birds leave the garden plants alone, but last year my kale fell to the birds. And just yesterday they started in on my beautiful bed of lettuce!

So I continue to struggle on in my quest for the perfect tomatoes for our summer B. L. T.’s and the prettiest lettuce for our salads. However, I am not alone; I have strong allies.

You should see my dear volunteer troops, brown from the sun or dirt or a little bit of both. My children are such hard workers. Over the last few days and independent of any chores, they have decided that my garden will be saved. They’ve hacked away with hoes and scratchers and fingernails. They’ve chased guineas and dumped more rocks. They’ve been so determined to keep at it that I’ve had to order them inside for breaks.

My little (and, I must admit, not so little anymore) troops have suffered bee stings, gnat bites, scratches, and thorns, but they have not backed down (unless it gets too hot or if it’s their turn to play a video game).

With help like that, I’m almost certain to prevail. By August I’ll likely be up to my eyebrows in zucchini, beans, and other garden treats, but only if I stop believing everything I read on the internet!


With the holiday weekend upon us, I decided to make a treat for my troops for breakfast today--some red, white, and blue pancakes. The recipe for the red velvet pancakes is below, and the blue and white were provided by some fresh blueberry sauce and whipped cream.

The red in these pancakes comes from pureed beets, so the red color is light; if you want a bright red, you’ll need to resort to food coloring. But the beets are much healthier!

Red Velvet Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 heaping Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 cups buttermilk (or milk soured with lemon juice)
1 cup pureed beets

Stir together all dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg, butter, buttermilk, and beets.  Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until incorporated. Fry pancake batter on a hot, greased griddle and enjoy with your favorite toppings.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

On the Menu

We tried out a new restaurant recently, and it was pretty good. We even shared some dessert. The caramel-chimi was super-delicious-- wimped cream and all.

Read the tiny print.

This menu blooper made me miss Jay Leno's headlines. Those were the highlights of my television viewing week. Jimmy Fallon just doesn't quite measure up. Oh well, at least I can go to bed earlier.

*If you happen to live near Hagerstown, Md., and want to try a good taco joint, go here.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

_The Hancock News_ Column-- June, 15, 2016

A curious thing happens when my in-laws come to visit. My father-in-law sprouts a second shadow. This shadow happens to be a 2-year-old grandson named Peter.

Peter was a little slow to warm up to people who don’t live under our roof, but from early on he seemed to have a special connection to Grandpa. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Grandpa enjoys taking in the beautiful view out on the front porch.

I love the view. And the clematis. 

You see, Peter loves the front porch. Peter loves the front yard. Peter loves the backyard, the driveway, the woods, and any other place, so long as it’s outside. If there’s a grown-up outside, Peter wants to be there, too.

Grandpa and his little shadow can be found outside nearly any time of day. They greet the new day together from the front porch in their pajamas. Mid-morning you might see Peter “helping” Grandpa in the garden. After nap time, a walk to the playground is a treat. Even after dark, Peter and Grandpa find refuge in the darkness to listen to a baseball game on the radio.

Grandpa’s shadow follows him around inside, too. My heart just melts when I walk past the open bathroom door and see the toddler standing on the wooden bathroom stool and looking in the mirror at his own shaving cream face. Then I hear the giggles as Grandpa scrapes the white stuff off Peter’s face with the back of the razor.

Some lesser men might be a little intimidated or even annoyed by having such a constant tagalong, but not my father-in-law. He takes it all in stride. To be honest, I would guess that, like Peter Pan, he misses his little shadow when it’s not there. 


Because just about the entire state of Ohio is in the way, we won’t be able to celebrate Father’s Day with my father-in-law, but he was able to be here to celebrate a birthday with us on Memorial Day weekend. 

Hotdogs with chili were on the menu. I’d never made the recipe before, but it turned out great. Some of the ingredient amounts are inexact, so it is easily tailored to your own taste. It also serves quite a few-- perfect for your big summer get-togethers.

Hot Dog Chili

5 lbs. hamburger
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
5 Tbsp. sugar (or to taste)
2 med. bottles catsup (72 oz.)
4 Tbsp. prepared mustard
2 Tbsp. vinegar
garlic salt and pepper, to taste
chili powder, to taste
1 dash ground red pepper

Brown hamburger and drain. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer (on stove or in crockpot) for 4-6 hours.

Monday, June 13, 2016


My aunt and uncle recently sent our children gifts from their trip to China-- little magnetic panda bears!  They've been hanging around everywhere.

Who would have thought they'd hang on the arch to the living room?

Climbing the coat tree. . . 

Hanging out on the fridge. . . 

Chilling' on the couch. . .

All of my kids have had so much fun with these pandas!  You never know where you're going to spot one, but when they surprise you, you just have to smile. 

So if you ever see any little magnet things like this (certainly they make other animals, too), they do make a good souvenir for kids. Good job, Auntie!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Spring Birthday Cakes

I like posting pictures of our birthday cakes. Are they Pinterest-worthy? No. Do we like them? Yes. Things don't have to be picture-perfect to be delightful anyway.

So without further ado. . .

Super-easy M&M flowers

She requested chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (and a creamy-cream cheesy filling) and flowers made of M&Ms. That's exactly what she got. Mission complete.

The eldest son wanted to make his own entirely. He asked for a boxed strawberry cake mix because he'd never made one from a box before. I helped him a bit with the baking and frosting making because on that day he'd played three games in a soccer tournament and was bumping up against bedtime. The next day he got a little help from his aunt with frosting some of the parts, but the ideas were all his own. . . his favorite animal, the giant panda.

The panda is eating green bamboo, in case you're wondering.

I think it turned out quite well.

And now I'm tired of eating cake. Until September.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Before and After ( or Massacre Redemption)

Remember that Easter Massacre of my Willow figurines?

Visual reminder

A while ago, my husband remedied the situation with a tube of crazy glue. They look pretty nice back up on their shelf,  I do believe.

So happy together!

Alas, this last one may never be the same again. There are just so many little, tiny, and minuscule puzzle pieces to fit back together! It is still in a box awaiting more time, patience, and crazy glue.

Sleepy, baby, sleep. . . 

So, to re-cap, Willow figurines do break, but they are fixable by crazy glue. But it's much better not to knock them off shelves in the first place.