Sunday, October 30, 2016

Chopped Up Pumpkins

We don't really do Halloween, but this year we did carve up some pumpkins. The kids had excitement, then frustration, then fun, then pride at the end.

First up, the one I made from a template I found online here.  I was impressed by how it turned out, and it wasn't really hard with the $4 carving kit my husband bought.

Lamb with lion

Next up is the pumpkin designed by the girls. I drew what they wanted, made a template and transferred it, and Daddy helped them carve it.

A tulip and a cross--simple and effective.

Finally, after way too much deliberation, the boys settled on Luther's Rose. Now, I was quite impressed with this one because they did it all by themselves. They started from a coloring sheet of Luther's Rose and had to pick out what they should carve out. It's not perfect, but they have ideas already for how to make it better next time. 

Luther's Rose, minus a few features

Saturday, October 22, 2016

_The Hancock News_ Column--October 19, 2016

At last the leaves on the trees are figuring out what I’ve felt in my bones for a few weeks; it is finally fall. 

I love the change in seasons. It doesn’t matter which one it is, I get excited as one season gives way to the next. Maybe it’s the newness of the new or maybe I’m plain tired of the old one. Regardless, I never regret moving on to colder or hotter or wetter tomorrows.

But we also order our days in seasons that have nothing to do with the weather. Our family is in the midst of our fall birthday season. With four kids’ birthdays in as many weeks, I struggle to continue liking cake. It is also school season, which means times tables, poems, and lessons about the fall of Rome fill every spare minute. Thankfully, I have more time to devote to our studies now that the garden season is winding down.

Cooling temperatures seem to mean allergy and cold season for us. This last week we came down with some sort of coughing, sore throat, and stuffy nose sickness. Nobody was too sick-- just sick enough for me to allow a few extra cartoons and fewer chores and grammar lessons.

Unfortunately, our little sick season meant that planned visits with my parents couldn’t happen; since my mother has COPD, our sniffles can easily land her in the hospital. 

We’ve all had to adjust to this new season of Grammy’s severe COPD. Tears of disappointment sometimes accompany these adjustments. It’s a big downer for us when we can’t be with my parents for fear of sickness or when Grammy can’t do what she wants to do because it’s too strenuous. 

But think of those big snows in winter, the ones that cause accidents, halt emergency services, and bring us all to our knees. Isn’t all that devastating snow so beautiful! The whole world, it seems, is cozied up in a fluffy white blanket that muffles all the noisy busyness of our lives.

My mother’s condition is awful, but God still works good through it. My mother may have to limit her activities, but that gives her more time to sit in her chair, a lukewarm mug of coffee in one hand and the telephone in the other, simply listening to her grandchildren.

She listens to them read, complain about their mean mommy, and rattle off their Christmas lists as well as their dreams for the future. Because of COPD, my mother, though far away, is available for her beloved grandchildren-- and they know it. And to be honest, that is more beautiful than the purest of snows, the reddest of autumn leaves, the coolest splash in your favorite swimming hole, or the most playful lamb frolicking around the greenest spring pasture. 

I love all things autumn-- the bushels of apples, the colorful displays of pumpkins and winter squashes, and the smell of all those wonderful fall spices. My husband created this recipe, and I think it is the quintessential fall meal. I like it for the orange colors, the salty sausage, the sweet apples, and those lovely spices baked in a warm oven on a chilly autumn day. My husband likes that it only dirties one pan. The kids just like that it’s yummy.

The measurements on this are approximate. My husband has never measured, but he adds one layer at a time with these proportions, depending on the size of the baking dish. This is so easy to tailor to the taste of you and the crew that you’re feeding, so add your own favorite twists and fall flavors if you wish.

Fall Harvest Supper Bake

In a 9 x 13 casserole dish, layer the following ingredients in the order given:

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
4 apples, cored and quartered
1 onion, cut in 1-inch chunks

Sprinkle this with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and ground cloves, to your taste.

Next, crumble one pound raw bulk sweet Italian sausage over the top, topped by 1/2 stick butter, cut into small cubes. 

Bake, uncovered, in a 350℉ oven until sweet potatoes are almost tender. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with about 1 cup of Craisins (dried cranberries). Gently stir before returning the pan to the oven to bake until sweet potatoes are soft. Serve with toasted pecans sprinkled on top, if desired.

*This post was shared at Strangers & Pilgrims at Home for The Art of Home-Making Mondays.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fall Birthday Season

It's that time of year again; time to post pictures of birthday cakes.

Happy 1st birthday!

A breakfast birthday requires muffins, of course. They were applesauce spice muffins with some cream cheese drizzle. The baby was about as impressed with them as she is with any food-- not very. The rest of us liked them though, and I was happy to start our birthday season off with a non-cake cake.

Later that day. . .

Garden birthday cake

The new 9-year-old had this cake designed (actually on paper) since we planted our garden. It is a rough diagram (missing a few things) of our own garden. Clockwise from the upper left hand corner: ground cherries; pumpkin patch complete with straw, vines, and deer poop; beans on a cattle panel trellis; popcorn; more pumpkin patch; and tomatoes. Even the deer poop was tasty. My son not only designed this cake, but he helped make it to his specifications, too; he was happy with the result.

Next up, an unadorned pumpkin pound cake.

Plain but perfect. . . 

. . . as an ice cream sundae topping!

Again, the new 11-year-old was extremely specific about his birthday "cake" desires. He wanted lots of toppings, and he was not disappointed-- even if we forgot to get the toppings out of the cupboard.

And finally, the newly-turned 3-year-old loves him some Paw Patrol, so that's what he got.

Chase is on the cake!

My husband helped me out with this one by buying the toy. Those toy cakes are so simple! The kiddo especially appreciated the extra dollar I spent on the themed plates. He was so cute with the whole birthday routine since he was well-rehearsed from his siblings' parties. 

And, I'm not sad to say, birthday cake season is over 'til spring, but apple dessert season is in full swing. . .

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Time for Poe

Halloween isn't our thing, but Edgar Allan Poe has made his scary appearance in our house recently.

Three book about/by Poe

We recently checked out three Poe-related books from the library. On the left is a kid-friendly biography (as much as Poe's dismal life can be kid-friendly). On the far right is a collection of his tales; again, only as kid-friendly as Poe's classic tales can be. These tales aren't adapted, but the book is easy to hold and has an audio CD (which we didn't make use of).

But in the middle is an awesome introduction for the littlest ones to Poe. It's called Edgar Gets Ready for Bed, and Jennifer Adams has a new fan in me. My 3-year-old has memorized the book about Edgar, a little raven who really doesn't want to get ready for bed. Truth be told, Edgar's repetitive "Nevermore!" reminds me of my 3-year-old's "No!"

The illustrations are so cute and bring in ideas from Poe's poetry and stories without all the scary and weird. 

Above the chamber door

Okay. These might be construed as weird, but. . . cool!

I searched the author (Jennifer Adams) and found out there are more Edgar books-- plus other "classics" for wee ones. I definitely want to get my hands on these because all the kids loved that book.