Saturday, April 29, 2017

Making Lemonade (or Rhubarb Custard Bars)

Dressed in my pajamas and an early morning sleepy stupor, I wasn’t the most aware Mommy. I suppose I knew the two preschoolers weren’t happy with each other, but their argument hadn’t yet penetrated my mental fog. It’s possible I might have mumbled out of habit a half-hearted, “No fighting, kids,” but I didn’t pay attention until 3-year-old Peter asked a big question.

“Mommy, is I the boss?”

I focused my brain and guessed that his older sister had just told him otherwise. I tried to break the news to him in a gentle voice.

“No, Peter, you are not the boss.”

He was completely unconvinced.

“Yes, I is! I is the boss!” he insisted.

Poor kid. Life’s lessons are not easy to learn. I’m still trying to figure it all out. I want things to turn out a certain way, but then I can’t make it happen no matter how long I plan or how many lists I make. What then?

Well, today my daughter attacked a cardboard box and a couple of toilet paper tubes with scissors, tape, and her vision of creating a car, complete with a steering mechanism, for her little brother to drive around the house. She worked on it all day long.

By evening, after several different designs failed, she realized the truth: those toilet paper tube wheels simply could not provide the support the car needed. 

What did she do? Well, she cried out her broken heart. Then she came up with another design-- a cardboard box car powered by the driver’s feet instead of wheels. She accepted reality and made lemonade out of her lemon car.

So when life throws a wrench in your plans, remember who’s the boss. Here’s a hint: it’s not you. Some things are simply beyond your control. But you can choose to salvage the broken pieces of your dream and shape them into something even better and more beautiful than the original.

Everybody knows that when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade, but what do you do when a friend hands you bags full of rhubarb? I suggest trying this recipe for Rhubarb Custard Bars. My daddy made them for Easter, and they were delicious. His special tip was to keep the butter cold or the crust will turn out too hard.

Rhubarb Custard Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter

2 cups sugar
7 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 large eggs, beaten
5 cups finely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb (thawed and drained)

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped

In a bowl, combine the 2 cups flour and 1/4 cup sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Bake at 350℉ for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, for the filling, combine sugar and flour in a bowl. Whisk in cream and eggs. Stir in the rhubarb. Pour over crust. Bake at 350℉ for 40-45 minutes until custard is set. Cool.

For the topping, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth; fold in whipped cream. Spread over the top. Cover and chill. Cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 3 dozen.

*This column ran in The Hancock News on April 26, 2017.

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

An Addiction?

Last week we went to one of our favorite book sales at Booksavers. We bought books for 40¢ a pound.

This kind of sale is dangerous for us because it is mostly books discarded from school libraries, and we are a family of book lovers. And there are simply piles and piles and boxes full of good books!

We ended up with 129 books. We figured out that each book cost us about 54¢, and I had no buyer's remorse, not even when I realized we had a few duplicates of ones at home.

Piled up on the table to sort and count

The boys rejoiced! A new book to memorize and quote at will!

We added to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys collection.

There were just too many good finds to highlight. We are now only one book short in a Time-Life Civil War series, but we do have several duplicates that need a new home.

Now, if we could just find a sale this good for bookshelves.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

New Adventure

Last week we opened up an Etsy shop. To be honest, I like the idea of making a little extra money. I want to save up for a trip "out west" for our family. So I took the plunge.  I don't have everything listed yet because there's a learning curve for me with all the photography and computer-y stuff. I'm just not a natural.

But if you're interested, our shop, SidelingViewCrafts is open for business. I'm listing (for now) a crochet pattern, already-made hats from said pattern, other crocheted items made by me or my eldest, and items from nature that people like for crafts and decorating (feathers, acorns, etc.).

Hat/bonnet pattern

Bonnets for sale!

This basket reminded me of Dr. Seuss.

Lots of acorns around here

Feathers from our guineas

In an effort to somehow promote the shop, I signed up for Pinterest. Really, my effort is laughable because I can't really figure it all out the way I think other people have it figured out. I think I mentioned that I am not tech-savvy. At least I'm enjoying searching for ideas for birthday cakes and pretty quilts.

If you do have the means and know-how to promote this new endeavor, I won't be upset if you do whatever it is people do on the other social media sites 😊.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter, Most Egg-cellent!

He is risen!
He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

I love that part of Easter- the very best part!

Around here we also dye Easter eggs. Yesterday our dining room table looked like this:

Some notable eggs:

With a Dr. Who marathon on TV, I suppose this TARDIS was inevitable.

Pretty two-tone

Pretty two-tone with "Love"

Have you ever noticed that "Mom". . . 

. . . is "Wow" upside-down?

And in unrelated-to-Easter egg news, we found the first guinea egg of the year on Friday, April 14th. If you dig back in the archives (and I'm sure you won't), you will notice that we've found the first egg of the year always on April 14th or April 15th. What an amazing internal calendar! Unfortunately, we didn't find any eggs yesterday, so we need to be on the lookout.

First guinea egg of the year

May your entire Easter season be joyous and egg-cellent!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Theme Song & Salad Dressing

I need to lose a few pounds. It seems most of us say that at some point in our lives, but as for me, I’ve been saying it since before I was ten. I’m fed up with my personal war against fat.

However, to be healthier and to lose those pregnancy pounds that are sticking around longer now that I’m past 40, I decided I probably should do a little more than just wish the weight away. So now I have an action plan for the latest battle in my war against extra weight.

My action plan starts with a goal. When I reach my weight goal, I am going to reward myself by traveling to a museum I’ve wanted to visit for a long time; joining me will be my two best friends from high school whom I haven’t seen in years. 

The next step was to pick a theme song because nowadays all big campaigns have theme songs. I picked a peppy song that had been running through my mind a lot. The only problem was that I didn’t know the title or the artist or the words. All I did know was that it sounded like a British pop tune from the 1980’s and that the chorus went like this: “Wo-oh-oh-oh-oh, wo-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!” 

I wasn’t sure how to google that one, so I called up a friend who has vast pop music knowledge and attempted to sing it for him. Lucky for me, he was able to help out, and soon, thanks to my more tech-savvy husband, “Things Can Only Get Better” by Howard Jones was loaded on our iPod. 

In order to help me get my heart-pumping and to motivate me, I’ve been blasting my theme song each morning after breakfast. The little ones and I dance like crazy to it, and believe me, my moves that are a cross between aerobics, Olympic baby-lifting, and fun girly-twirls are nothing short of crazy. As an added bonus, my antics torture the pre-teens, who, both annoyed and horrified, run away to hide. 

Other than that, I’ve been walking several times outside and enjoying the nice weather. I’ve also been trying to avoid taking extra helpings and nibbling the yummy bits left on the little kids’ plates as I clear the table. 

Our church’s monthly potluck worried me a little bit. With all the delicious dishes and desserts, I was certain it would throw me off my weight-loss game, but thanks to my two youngest children, I didn’t have to worry. 

The two toddlers were so rambunctious that I had the opportunity to leave my plate and run up and down the church’s stairs multiple times chasing them. By the time I had a chance to sit down and finish eating uninterrupted, most of the food, including the tempting desserts, was packed away, so I didn’t have to worry myself about heading back for seconds. (I may have, however, tasted the food left on my kids’ plates as I cleared them!)

Will any of these methods help me shed my pounds? I don’t know, but at least for the current battle of my bulge, I’m determined to include a little more fun so it’s not such drudgery.


Nothing says “diet” like a big plate of salad. This salad dressing has even the kids asking for seconds of salad. It’s one of our favorites, and while it’s good on any salad, it’s especially tasty when the salad also has some chicken breast and mandarin oranges. Also try it drizzled on cooked greens.

Sesame Ginger Dressing

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup vinegar (I use rice wine vinegar)
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Place all ingredients in a blender and give it a quick whirl to blend and thicken it up a bit.

*This column ran in The Hancock News on April 12, 2017.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Sesame Street Book

My daughter wrote a Sesame Street book. I am proud of it, so I'm sharing it with you. All spellings and such are original.

a reding book
for little kids

a sesame street book

He is green. 
He likes mud, rocks, rotten apples, trash cans and shoes. 
Guess who he is
he is Oscar!

he is yellow.
he love bottle cap. 
he love pigeons. 
guess who he is
he is Bert.

he is orange. 
he loves rubber duckie.
Guess whe he is.
he is Ernie.

I'm blue.
I love you.
I'm cute, furry lovable Grover.

I'm blue. 
I'm furry.
I'm not cute or lovable. 
I'm just Herry.

Me is blue.
Me is furry.
Me love yummy cookies.
guess who me is.
me is Cookie.

I'm yellow.
I am tall.
I am a Bird.
I am Big Bird.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

On Pop-Tarts and Butter

Our family has failed to reach consensus on the proper way to eat a Pop-Tart. All of us agree that it is best to lightly toast them and to spread butter on the un-frosted bottom to melt. However, some maintain that one should bite into the tart with butter side down, and others insist the buttered side should face the roof of the mouth.

I'm definitely in the ranks of buttered-side down. But, then again, I prefer the Pop-Tarts that have no frosting. 

In other news, I've had more time lately to ponder important questions like whether or not one should eat Pop-Tarts buttered-side up or down.

I've had time to enjoy giant block castles-- watching their construction, not making them. This one utilized several different kinds of blocks and Thomas toys. Too be honest, what I enjoyed most was that my almost teenager was the one who built it; I'm so glad he still enjoys playing with something not dependent on electricity.


I've also had time to enjoy the bits of the outdoors brought in by my adoring fans. To be perfectly honest, the blooms pictured below were actually brought in as love offerings for Daddy because the girls were mad at me for some reason I now forget. I enjoyed them on my kitchen window sill just the same.

Pretty spring posies, a little wilted

Now that we had a chance to enjoy some snow, I'm enjoying our spring. Even the dreary and rainy days have been delightful inside. When things aren't so cheery around here, when they are crazy and chaotic, I want to remember these times.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Celebrating Whisper & Cinnamon Biscuits

The first time it happened was a chilly day in March when I was in 4th grade; I was bouncing off the walls at school all day. It happened again in 6th grade on a warm day in September; my mother had to pick me up from school. Then in high school, my friend’s mother had to take me to the hospital after a long weekend of marching band activities. The last time it happened was a long and difficult school day during my first year of teaching.

These days stand out in my memory not because something bad happened to me, but because they were miraculously wonderful. They are the days my sisters gave birth to my nephews and nieces, the most precious treasures of my life before I became a mother.

But my sisters have five children between the two of them, and I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t remember a single blessed detail about the day sweet Whitney was born. If you were to ask 100 people who have known her throughout her life to describe my niece, I’ll bet at least 80 would use the word “quiet” somewhere in their description. The other 20 might use “shy.”

When Whitney was a baby, my father resorted to using ice cream to trick his timid granddaughter into coming near him. When she was old enough to walk around, she scared the living daylights out of my mother regularly by wandering off to play in some hidden corner and by keeping completely silent while we frantically searched the entire house for her. At a later age, she’d do this hiding bit on purpose. She was also adept at scaring you by creeping up on you undetected. Because she was the master of hush, I nicknamed her “Whisper.”

My Whisper is now a woman, twenty-seven years old today. In my opinion, she is an amazing woman. And, yes, she is still quiet and reserved. She is peace-loving and tender-hearted, kind to animals, the elderly, and children.

My niece is smart, sincere, and hard-working, holding down two jobs to pay the bills and working an internship to help her earn a spot in the graduate program of her choice. Although she is quiet, she has learned to be assertive and to speak up for herself and for others. I’m proud of her.

I know she’d rather blend into the background and stay unnoticed much of the time, but I think she stands out. In our “Look at me! Look at me!” culture, so few are willing to work hard, help others, and also keep quiet about it. While I might be the negligent aunt by not remembering anything about the day she was born, I can’t help but pay attention to the fact that she is beautiful both on the outside and on the inside. The woman my Whisper has become wears a quiet dignity that will not go unnoticed in today’s too-loud world.


I love talking to my Whisper. We share several interests, not the least of which is food. We love cooking for others, and we can both get excited about something as simple as caramelized onions. I asked Whitney if she’d share with me one of her favorite things to make, and this is what she sent me. Although she lives too far away to come over to share them with me, maybe I’ll make these to celebrate her birthday anyway. Just remember that these are best eaten while warm; they don’t keep well.

Hot from the oven. . . mmmmm. . .

Cinnamon Roll Buttermilk Biscuits

1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons butter, cubed and chilled
3/4 cup buttermilk

Cream Cheese Icing:
3 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 450℉. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together and set aside.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
Make a well in the center of the butter and flour mixture and add the buttermilk. Gently mix until buttermilk is combined into the butter and flour. Do not over mix. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using your hands, pat the dough into a rectangle 1-inch thick. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon sugar. Fold the dough in half and again, pat into a rectangle 1-inch thick. Repeat 2 more times.
Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut the dough into biscuits. Place biscuits on prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with more cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly.
While biscuits are baking, whisk together cream cheese, vanilla, and milk. Add in powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.

 Spoon or pipe icing onto biscuits. Sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar.

*This column ran in The Hancock News on March 29, 2017.
**I tried this recipe after it was published, and the biscuits were delicious at breakfast when I made them and not horrible at lunch either. I bet that if you can't eat all of them at once, you could probably freeze them before baking them, thaw them out, and bake them when you want them (because you can with regular biscuits). Also, I didn't have time to pipe the frosting, but I think it would work better and look prettier.