Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Hancock News Column-- February 22, 2017

This afternoon I walked outside without a jacket. The sun was warm, and I noticed tell-tale signs of spring-- yellow crocuses, swelling leaf buds, and tulip leaves popping up. 

Normally when I see these things, my spirits are lifted. I become giddy. I start searching for seeds to stick in the warming dirt. But this year I seem immune to that sort of spring fever.

I want nothing to do with spring yet because I feel cheated. What happened to winter? Where was the snow so deep we needed shovels? How about some snow cream and hot chocolate? And where, oh, where did all the snow angels go?

Don’t get me wrong; I hate cold. I dread dangerous roads, and I do not need the extra work of wiping up puddles of melted snow and drying all the snow clothes my children wear.

But there’s something about the absolute quiet of a deep snow, something pure about a white blanket tucking us all into our snug homes. I have missed that feeling this winter, so I’m not putting away the boots. The hats, gloves, and scarves still litter the living room floor when the baby drags them out of the tote that’s supposed to contain them. I refuse to give up hope that maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to enjoy one big snow before spring comes to stay.


In a pastor’s household, spring is pretty much synonymous with Lent, a busier season with more church activity. In our house, we celebrate Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (or whatever you call the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday) by making donuts (or pancakes if we’re running out of time or counter space). We’ve tried lots of different recipes, but this one is special because it is the one my grandmother used.

While I don’t remember having them at Grandma’s, my mother remembers Grandma making these glazed donuts by the tableful on baking day. That’s impressive because, if you’ve never done it, frying doughnuts is time-intensive.

There’s also a learning curve with frying doughnuts; the oil needs to be just the right temperature. Grandma’s recipe doesn’t have a cooking temperature, but if you look around online, most opinions center somewhere around 375℉. We’ve found that if it’s too cold, the doughnuts become saturated with fat, and if it’s too hot, they brown too quickly to be done on the inside. Also, lard is our favorite oil for frying, but I’ve read that fat that’s solid at room temperature is best. So, if you don’t have lard, solid shortening will work fine.

If you’re up for the challenge and great reward of homemade doughnuts, enjoy! Feel free to update Grandma’s recipe if you have a stand mixer with a hook attachment instead of stirring by hand. Remember, this is a time-intensive recipe due to the rising times for the dough, so unless you plan on getting up before the crack of dawn, don’t plan on making these for breakfast before school or work.

Grandma’s Raised Doughnuts and Glaze

1/4 cup warm water
1 pkg. active dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)
1/4 sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/4 cup soft shortening (or butter)
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups sifted flour
fat for frying

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add milk, sugar, salt, egg, shortening and half of flour. Mix with spoon till smooth. Add remaining flour: mix with hands. Grease, cover, and let rise until doubled.

After dough has risen, roll it out on a floured surface to a thickness of about 1/4”. Cut out doughnuts in whatever shape you want. Let the doughnuts rise until doubled. Heat oil in a heavy and deep pot or deep-fryer to about 375℉. Fry donuts 2 or 3 at a time until browned on both sides, flipping once (about 2-3 minutes). Remove from fat with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. (My directions--not in Grandma’s recipe.)

To glaze doughnuts: add 1/3 cup boiling water gradually to 1 cup confectioner’s sugar. Mix thoroughly. Dip warm doughnuts into the warm glaze.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Embarrassing Hot Dog Chili

I figured out a big blog and newspaper column mistake today. I thawed out more hamburger than I needed for supper, so I decided I would use the extra for some hot dog chili. I figured I could look at my recipe online quickly. I looked here and became embarrassed because I'd completely left out the cooking directions.

So, if you like hot dog chili and was disappointed in the recipe before, here it is again. I'm also correcting it in the original.

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.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Math Riddle

My oldest son came up with this riddle:

Boy: How many inches are in 24 feet?

Mom (who was just too lazy to do the math): I don't know, how many?

Boy: I can't tell you. It's two gross.

Ba-dum bum!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day Boxes

I'm not into the paper, glue, and glitter sorts of messy crafts around here, but I do let the kids cut loose for unfettered tape, glue, paint, what-have-you to make boxes for their Valentine's Day greetings. These are the results.

 A TARDIS from my Dr. Who fan

A steamship from my Titanic fan--complete with googly eyes

A rendition of a stringed instrument with beaded heart

Number stickers AND beads on pipe cleaners


Stickers and toilet paper tubes

As always, the kids had way more fun with this than I did, and I only helped with the 3-year-old's some. We had a few bumps, some design flaws (no slot for Valentines), and a couple of regrets, but mostly it was smooth sailing. And most importantly, they did clean up most of their mess. I'm a proud Mama.

Monday, February 13, 2017

_The Hancock News_ Column--February 8, 2017

The view from our front porch is a million dollar view. I’ve often bragged that of all the parsonages in all of America, we’re blessed to live in the one with the best view.

But it’s not just me. When people visit our home for the first time, they stop, look around, and enjoy their view of layers of hills and mountains. Sometimes people take pictures. They always comment about how lucky we are to be surrounded by such beauty, and they are right. We are lucky.

So it might surprise you to know that none of those breath-taking views are my favorite. For more than a decade, my rocking chairs (I’ve gone through more than one) have faced our living room window. For hours and hours, I’ve rocked my babies, held them while they slept, and stared out that window into our tree-surrounded backyard. I’ve memorized the green leaves and grass of summer and the brightly-colored and blowing leaves in fall. The bare tree trunks bend in the winter winds and green up again in spring.

Occasionally, in my window I see a flower bloom or a bird swoop. Deer, stray dogs, and even a bear have wandered into my view. Often children quickly pass back and forth across my field of vision, chasing, throwing, jumping, or wrestling.

That view is not exactly the stunning one I’d see if I stepped out the front door, but it’s my companion. It’s my comfort zone. It’s my normal.

And sometimes, after holidays and trips to see family, after meetings and general chaos, I crave normal and quiet. That is where my mind is now-- savoring the routine, enjoying the plain, rejoicing in the mundane.

The time will come again when I seek out a little more excitement, but for now I’ll sit a spell and enjoy the view out my back window.


I feed my kids “mule slop,” and they love it. “Mule slop” is only what the kids like to call it; it’s really called muesli, and it’s a quick and healthy make-ahead breakfast for when you’re so busy you have no time to enjoy any view.

This is one of those recipes you can make your own. Add whatever you like, take out whatever you don’t. I usually add in whatever fruit we have on hand. We also like to add coconut, chopped nuts, or pumpkin or chia seeds. If you don’t like honey, try maple syrup or sugar. If you can’t have dairy, use almond or coconut milk. If you don’t have the yogurt, substitute more milk. This recipe is forgiving!

Muesli (aka, Mule Slop)

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup milk
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup or more dried, fresh, or frozen fruit (chopped apples, raisins, blueberries, etc.)
1 cup or more seeds or chopped nuts, optional
2 Tbsp. honey (more or less, to taste)

Mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate overnight. If you’d like, you can serve with additional toppings.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mark This Well

Hear ye! Hear ye! Take note that on this, the 11th day of February, 2017, at exactly 11:37 a. m., both my kitchen and dining room floors were pretty near spotless!*

Feels better than chocolate

Thank you for allowing me to share this joy with you. 

*No children were hurt in the execution of this great labor. However, a few may have been bribed into helping, and one who wanted so badly to help may have been marooned on the dining room table with a piece of styrofoam to shred to keep him out of the way.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Gotta Love Family

Since it's closing in on Valentine's Day, I figure I needed to send some love to a couple of my family members.

First up, my sister-in-law just started a new blog. She has some great pictures of their travels all over the place and some cute pictures of her and my brother-in-law. And their feet. And, believe it or not, their feet are cute, too. Anyway, you can check out The Rested Wanderers here if you're interested.

And next up. . . my brother-in-law! It's a different one. I have a lot. Ten of them so far. The brother-in-law got an idea for his business after working in different nursing homes as a social worker. He started CheerCrates, a subscription box service geared toward those in nursing homes. Basically, you pay the subscription fee, and he boxes up appropriate gifts each month to send to your loved one. I've heard of such things for college students, but this is a great idea for people who are far away from Grandma and can't visit often or who just want to make sure Dad knows he's not forgotten. If you are interested, visit CheerCrates here. If you don't need this service but know somebody who might appreciate it, please pass the link along!